The Chilli Padi group of restaurants have popped up around Melbourne with 3 outlets in the CBD and one in the suburbs. They specialise in Malaysian dishes for the masses for lunch time fixes. Another addition to their chain of successful outlets is Chilli India – a busy little hub in a most unlikely setting offering a variety of very tasty curries and flatbreads. A friend introduced me to Chilli India where she had dined previously for dinner and had good remarks about the food.
Chilli India is located in the CBD’s Melbourne Central shopping centre next door to Chilli Padi, and is accessible from Little Lonsdale Street unless you come through the complex. The first thing you notice is that the shop is somewhat set up as a take away joint. Glass counter over a bain marie. Order taker pushing keys on a register with an extensive menu board behind, that you have to look up to, to peruse the dishes available and make your decision as you queue up alongside eager patrons. There is no seating in the shop. Instead, the walkway from the street entrance is set up with small tables and chairs to facilitate the dine in option. The best part of this set up was the outdoor patio heaters, used at full blast to keep diners warm. This is required because every time the sliding doors leading to the street opened, a chilly brisk breeze blows in and those patio heaters together with some hot curry fit the bill to keep you at a somewhat good temperature.
A feature of the shop is the open grill at the front where a skilled flatbread maker works his magic and comes up with beautifully fluffy rotis, crisp to the touch and melt in your mouth freshness. These are a must at Chilli India – and are great snacked on plain or as a replacement to the rice in your meal as they go fantastic with curries.
I ordered a Roti Platter - with 2 meat dishes and 1 veg dish, served with 2 fluffy rotis (When in Rome! Or India! As they say). At 10.95 this very reasonable as most places only have a single roti on offer in their combo meals for the same price.
The first meat dish was a goat curry – I take the opportunity to eat goat prepared by Indian restaurants when I can, as they have a great way of slow cooking the meat in the spices that really brings out the flavour and tenderness that is most delicious. Chilli India’s goat curry was no exception, lightly spiced and well-cooked it ticked all the boxes. A word of caution when eating goat curry though, be careful of small bones – “shards” as a fellow foodie has once referred to them as. For some reason the preparation of goat meat does not warrant any due care to remove any “shards” of bone and as a result these may end up on your plate at best, between your teeth if you are unlucky – do be careful but otherwise very enjoyable.
The second curry was a Chilli Chicken dish that I held some high hopes for as I saw it as the namesake signature dish. Unfortunately it was very disappointing, basic red chicken with bones intact in a savoury sauce lacking every bit of chilli that my mouth watered for. Hardly a contender for the name – definitely omissible!
The vegetarian dish – Paneer curry, which is made from Indian cottage cheese pressed into cubes – more than compensated for the previous dish. This was a flavour hit with a very pleasing taste. I had had badly made paneer curries before that took away from the smooth supple cheese cubes and it was refreshing that Chilli India was doing this classic ingredient some justice in their dish.
Chilli India also make a variety of popular snacks from the sub-continent – the most well know is the Samosa. The pastry is crisp and tasty (not pasty) and the filling of dry curried potatoes and spices is well balanced and does not fall apart on first bite. Obviously the chef at the back behind the scenes has worked out how to make good samosas worthy of the street sellers’ shops dotted around the bustling laneways and gullies of my hometown Kolkata, India. At under $2.00 a samosa these are a very “snackable” should you happen to crave something so. Ah, but to be in Kolkata snacking on these at a roadside hawker is really something and with the currency conversion rate your same $2.00 gets you a meal size snack – with a signature “chai”
I usually keep my visits to curry houses to a minimum for a few reasons:1. I am from India so it does not take a lot to disappoint me with a bad curry dish – and many have.
2. My dad cooks curries which top most of the ones I have had to pay for
3. The more commercial an Indian take-away get the more its curry takes on a generic taste and smell that become quite monotonous and unworthy of a return visitChilli India is up there as one of the best Indian eateries in the CBD that I have eaten at in a long while. The food is tasty and does not strike that boring curry note I dread. The menu is extensive and inexpensive. Even the a la carte service is reasonable and given the quality of the food – especially the fresh rotis – it makes it great value. If you can put up with a corridor of flowing breeze and unconventional dine in seating then you will be well compensated with good food.
Check out the Chilli India website HERE
Check out the Chilli Padi website HERE