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Published December 25th 2012
If you're looking for authentic Indian cuisine, this is it
Hard to find, but once you've found it, you'll be back, again and again. Located in the cool, green environs bordering the Latrobe Wildlife Sanctuary, Vindaloo Palace is indeed the proverbial hidden gem that you'll be glad you discovered. I envy the student community in the area who get to dine on this mouth-watering selection day in and day out at extremely reasonable prices. Well, bon appétit to them and compliments to Chef Biju John for the marvellous spread he consistently concocts.
John specialises in authentic Indian cuisine and is quite confident of giving it that Sri Lankan or Malaysian twist to suit various palates. He does both vegetarian, seafood, and meat dishes with a panache that you hardly come across in most other restaurants of the same genre. Another thing that sets Vindaloo Palace apart is the fact that the menu represents both North and South Indian dishes. So you can imagine the permutations and combinations that become possible where your taste buds are concerned.
Typically an Indian restaurant caters North Indian food that the uninformed dining public maybe led to believe represents the cuisine of the entire nation. There is a world of difference between the cuisines of the various regions and you can taste it for yourself here. The chef is also not averse to experimenting with an Aussie twist to his authentic Indian by using ricotta cheese in his chilli paneer. Works out just as well as the cottage cheese used in traditional recipes, if you ask me.
Entrees include delectable samosas, pakodas, kebabs, cutlets, vadai, and curry puffs in both vegetarian and meat varieties. Rice makeovers go from Saffron Rice to Nasi Goreng. The chef remains true to the nature of his native flavours in his special crab curry and chilli squid where he doesn't hold back the power of spice. Fortunately these come with warnings for the daring diners who decide to go for it.
In addition to the familiar butter chicken and chicken tikka, there is the more flavourful chicken Chettinad. Other less-familiar delicacies may include dosas stuffed with yummy fillings or served plain with chutney and sambhar, another south Indian dish. Soft, fluffy idly that looks like little scrumptious full moons are perfect with sambhar and chutney as well. According to John, these are best eaten with your fingers to get the best of that finger-licking flavour.
The menu includes a very thoughtful student section as well as a cheap and cheerful kids' section. The dessert section is limited but only to the best of Indian and Sri Lankan sweets. It is all rounded up quite nicely with a range of coffee from espresso to cappuccino.
John has managed to squeeze in a perfect dining experience in his little restaurant/café at very reasonable prices. The food is the best Indian that I have come across not just in this area but in the wider Melbourne area. The only other Indian diner that maybe comes close is the Flora Indian restaurant on Flinders St. But then if you had to choose between a crowded city destination and a quiet, green setting nestling a wild-life sanctuary and a golf course, what would you go for?