While I am on the Indian cuisine high, I thought it fitting to post a review for Indya Bistro, a restaurant in North Carlton that I recently visited (and that isn’t a typo they really spell it I.N.D.Y.A – I think it flows with their modern Indian cuisine motto. We visited Indya Bistro early on a weeknight – how early?? Well, let’s just say there were no other diners there yet. Indya Bistro has ranked highly in the local stakes and was voted Victoria’s Favourite Indian Restaurant in 2010. I just had to visit to see and to taste, just what it takes to be given such a high accolade by People’s Choice. It was time to check out what Modern Indian cuisine actually was. As part of a 7 course banquet we ordered a selection of entrées, a veg and non-veg main dish and dessert to cap off the evening.
For starters we were served a trio of dips accompanied with naan bread to do the dipping with. The slightly unimpressive dips being Cucumber Raita, Mango Chutney and Lentils came in quaint ceramic bowls with teaspoons. However I did feel a little short changed to discover that each bowl had about 3 meagre teaspoonsful of the dip, so literally 1 and a ½ spoonful and it’s over.
Thankfully, the next starter item, being piping hot Samosas had arrived. The spicy potato filling was quite tasty but unlike those Samosas enjoyed at street eateries, where the pastry is flavour full and crispy like a biscuit, these were lacking in the crunch department. Hardly impressed by this “Favourite” of the people, I hoped the upcoming dishes would have more lustre and give credence to the award.
Unconditionally the winner of the night was the Lamb Kebabs – well spiced, delicately textured ground lamb, classically formed around a skewer, but served without it, just for that little bit of modernism – I think anyway! These went down a treat and reassured me of good things to come. The minced lamb was soft and had a welcoming mild Tandoori hint of that was just right.
Chicken Tikka is one of those dishes that you just have to love. The success of this dish, for me, would be measured by the juiciness of the meat and it’s delicate balance of flavours from the marinade to the basting sauce it comes with. I would like to say that Indya Bistro ticked all the boxes on this menu item but sadly this was not the case. What was served was an overcooked and dry piece of chicken that had definitely not been given its due cooking process before it was plated and sent from the kitchen.Entrées aside I was now somewhat anxious for our mains and I would like to think that you cannot go wrong with a serve of Rogan Josh and for something different Malai Kofta from the vegetarian side. Now I may be mistaken, and it is probably going to take a few more visits to Indian restaurants to uncover what Rogan Josh is actually supposed to taste like. The last three places including this visit has dished up a Rogan Josh with very thin runny gravy. I recall cooking the dish myself and also enjoying my dad’s interpretation, which have both been a dish of boneless lamb pieces in a thick and spicy gravy, complimented with a slight tang. Here was yet another version of Rogan Josh that just did not hit the spot. While the lamb pieces were remarkably tender, I just could not enjoy the dish as a soup and where was the spice...nowhere to be seen!
The Malai Kofta on the other hand were quite delicate cheese dumplings with a little spice that were bathing in a bowl of cream – a little too rich in fact but tasty enough to tuck into. With the disappointment in the previous dishes I think it was safe to say I was not going to have a win tonight and this was only heightened by crusty stale textured rice. Now I am not sure if we were unfortunate enough to get the scrapings from the batch but as a frequent eater of rice – this was hardly passable. C’mon, it’s rice – a staple in India – How can you not get it right? At least the Roti was comforting enough to make up the carbohydrate component.
Dessert was a couple of dainty little warm Gulab Jamun – dumplings in syrup, and these satisfied the need for a sweet finale.
As I left Indya Bistro I was still doubtful as to how deserving they were of the award for Victoria’s Favourite Indian Restaurant. I did not feel like I had feasted on Indian cuisine that night. My insides did not hum with fulfilment from a meal well-enjoyed that left a lasting impression on your taste buds. Perhaps I am ill-informed! Perhaps this is what Modern Indian cuisine is all about!!!