If you are a self-acclaimed international cuisine connoisseur with a sophisticated palate, someone who correctly pronounces ‘boulangerie’ and ‘escargot’ whilst sampling morsels of rare meat and delicate sauces – well for once take a break from the lightly seasoned, the poached and the flambéed. Dare to try the loud taste and spice overload of food from the Subcontinent, and make acquaintance with the achari, the makhni and the roghni. Set your belly on fire while your tastebuds do the ‘balle balle’!
With exactly that in mind we set out with some friends to try one of the newer restaurants on the Indian fine dining circuit in Sydney – Urban Tadka in Terrey Hills. A long long drive and a nondescript turn later we waded through a thicket of trees to come upon a sprawling estate housing the restaurant and event hall.
There are a couple of life-size Hindu deities at the door doing namaste, but inside there is minimum kitsch, which is a welcome departure to most Indian restaurants. In fact the red and black themed décor is pleasingly elegant, whilst the mood is romantic with dim lights, tea-light candles and music alternating between soft Bollywood instrumentals and melodic chants. Even the obligatory small television playing videos of gyrating Bollywood movie stars is thankfully missing!
Owner Dimpi is all over the floor, greeting customers, taking orders and giving menu suggestions. When our menus arrive with the pappadums, they are in the form of oversized Indian passports, so you know that they take the word ‘culinary journey’ quite literally!
There is an earnest attempt at creative menu descriptions, with rather verbose names given to traditional Indian dishes, as well as a reference to the region or city the dish originates from. However, it might be hard for non-Hindi speakers to recognise their favourites, with Tandoori chicken skewers presented as ‘Murg ke tikke karare’ and mince kebabs as ‘Lakhnavi seekh Hazarvi’ and so on.
We order some entrées along with an assortment of sauces and dips, and soon the table is filled with nicely presented nick-nacks. The seekh kebabs are a melt-in-your-mouth meaty indulgence, the tandoori chicken is nice but the fish is the winner – cooked perfectly and with a lovely tangy marinade.
The mains are divided into seafood, chicken, lamb and vegetables categories, each offering a mild, medium and hot option. For the little ones we order the mild chicken curry, and for the rest we settle for the medium spiced fish curry and hot lamb balti gosht.
Here again the fish is the unanimous hit, and as for the balti gosht, it will have your eyes tearing up as you reach for gulps of cold water – happily they mean business when they say hot!
Now all this spice overload needs some tempering with some sweetness, so sealing the meal is the syrupy goodness of the ‘heavenly gulab jamun’ and some rather artistically presented kulfis. Perfect.
Our bill, however, ends up being on the pricey side. This is because every small item served from naans to pappadums to the tiny bowls of salsas and chutneys incur a pretty high charge.
Urban Tadka is a brilliant dining experience, with nice ambience, good service and excellent food as well as presentation. However it’s in a slightly hard-to-get location and a bit costly.
321 Mona Vale Road
Terrey Hills, NSW 2084
Phone: (02) 9986 1040
Tues to Sun: 11am – 10pm