A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published April 30th 2017
The restaurant with a menu sure to pique your interest
Piquancy - a pleasantly sharp and appetising flavour; spiciness.
Piquancy is also a new Indian restaurant, which recently opened in Auburn Village, Hawthorn East, just a short walk from Auburn railway station. While there are many cafes in that strip, there are few restaurants, and so I am happy to welcome Piquancy to the neighbourhood.
Piquancy is billed as an Indian restaurant - and it certainly does have some dishes you'd traditionally see on the menu of a typical Indian restaurant in this country, like tandoori chicken, butter chicken and dahl makhani. But it also has some more adventurous fusion dishes. We paid the restaurant a visit last week to check it out.
You can't miss the sign out the front of Piquancy!
Piquancy has taken over the space formerly occupied by Sprout Organic Foodstore and Cafe. The venue has been freshly painted and fitted out, with clean, fresh, almost minimalist lines. Just so you can't miss it, the sign out the front is of an Indian gentleman with THE most impressive moustache.
We started our feast with a range of what are listed as 'street food' dishes on the menu. First up was pani puri ($18) - fried pastry puff balls filled with mashed potatoes and chick peas. These are basically curry puffs - but not as you know them; they are curry puffs with the 'wow' factor! The puff pastry is fine and delicate, and they are baked with an opening at the top, into which, at the table, you pour a liquid that is served separately. You then pop the whole thing into your mouth - and experience a taste and sensation explosion, as this delicate creation melts as it hits your tongue. Tangy, complex and delicious. A dish not to be missed.
Following on from this we tried the Tulsi Nimbu fish tikka ($26) - Atlantic salmon with a dill, lime, garlic and avocado salsa. The first of the fusion dishes, this was a delight. The flavours worked well together and the salsa ensured the fish stayed moist and succulent.
Next up we tried the cauliflower 65 - pan tossed cauliflower with tomato and honey chilli sauce ($19). For me, this dish was a little sweet - a bit too strong on the 'honey' element. It needed a little more fire to balance it out. Having said that, it would work well as a side dish to a more spicy course.
We then had the Seekh Gilafi - charcoaled lamb served on rosemary skewers ($26). This tasted as good as it looked - and it looked great on the plate! What lifted it was a delightful, piquant mint yoghurt chutney.
Seekh Gilafi (top) and the beetroot paneer - tasted as good as they looked
The final street food dish we tried was beetroot paneer - beetroot marinated curd cheese and vegetables, charred in the tandoori oven ($23). I was a little dubious, as I can take or leave beetroot, but surprisingly, this turned out to be one of the dishes of the night, and definitely a dish I'd order if I returned. It is a luscious dish, with the cheese somehow bringing out the best of the beetroot flavours and cutting through the sweetness.
The platter of 'pot food' and accompaniments. Clockwise from back: cauliflower rice, butter chicken, lamb kafirana, anjeer ke kofte, gluten free naan bread, dal makhani (centre).
Moving onto the second section of the menu - 'pot food' - we were presented with a platter of dishes: butter chicken ($24), lamb kafirana - a rich stew of roasted lamb, ginger, garlic, coconut cream and lime leaf ($26), anjeer ke kofte - fig, pomegranate and cashew dumpling curry ($23) and dal makhani, which has been slow cooked for 12 hours ($19). To accompany this, we tried the plain ($5) and gluten free ($7) naan breads - the latter made with quinoa, chickpea and lentil flour with psyllium husk - and the inevitable rice. Except at Piquancy, there is rice with a twist! They have cauliflower rice available (as well as the more standard Basmati rice), that is, 'rice' made from cauliflower florets, with a hint of lemon and cumin. It is super healthy and a great complement to a curry or other dish with a rich gravy.
Of these dishes, I particularly liked the lamb, which was beautifully seasoned and fall apart tender, with a great rich flavour. The dal makhani was probably the best I've tasted. While I don't always gravitate towards vegetarian dishes, the kofta was a winner, too. I loved the subtle fig flavour that came through the gorgeous creamy sauce.
I feel I should give plaudits, too, for the excellent gluten free naan. It is a house specialty and it is delicious. I think I preferred it to the non-gluten free version! It has a great texture and flavour.
Finally, there was dessert. A traditional offering was the kulfi - a house-made ice-cream with cardamom, honey and pistachios. Except again, there was a twist; the kulfi had been shaped like a rolled umbrella, onto a stick. It was brought to the table in a plastic sheath, and we got to draw out our kulfi from the sheath before diving into it. I'd have to say the flavour was a little sweet for my tastes, but I did like the cardamom accents and the nutty texture.
The kulfi - sweet and spicy
This was an amazing feast - and the good news is that there are many more dishes I'd like to try on the extensive, creative menu. I'm looking forward to a return visit. You can see the full dinner menu here, and the lunch menu here.
Piquancy also offers a Chef's Tasting Menu with the option of either four courses ($49) or six courses ($69) (24 hours' notice required).
I should also mention that Piquancy is fully licensed, offering wine by the bottle and glass from a wine list put together by renowned sommelier Jeff Sault, as well as some 40 craft beers available in the 'help yourself' beer fridge. (BYO wine is available, but please note that a $15 per bottle charge applies.)
Piquancy is located at 123 Auburn Road, Hawthorn East. It is open from Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesdays) from 11am - 3pm and 6pm - 10pm. Reservations are unnecessary at this stage, unless you have a party of six or more, or are wanting to try the tasting menu. Click here to make a reservation.
Except where indicated, the images in this article were taken by the writer. They are not to be reproduced in any form without the express permission of WeekendNotes.
Would like to mention, the kulfi is always served the same way in India, it's not a twist but a rather traditional way of serving it..
The cauliflower 65 should be tempered with red chillies , mustard seeds and curry leaves , a classic dish from South India... It is meant to be a spicy dish not sweet , laced with honey.
Apart from that the food looks good👍