Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Bollywood Spices, North Perth, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Whenever I get back from India, I always feel like I need a serious break from Indian food. Eating a food heavy on the ghee and spices everyday is decadent and delicious, but after a few weeks it becomes all a bit too much. Add to this the impossibility of finding Indian in Australia that can match the delicious seafood (and our all-time favourite naan) at Trishna and the refined quality of the food at Dum Pukht (our all-time favourite biryani) in Mumbai, and getting me to go out for Indian food can be a real challenge. With no dinner reservations on a Saturday night, and all the hip 'no reservation required' casual eateries likely to be packed, Alissa's suggestion that we visit Bollywood Spices seemed sensible. After some final cajoling to push me over the line, we hopped in the car and made the drive to North Perth for our first meal of Indian food since we left Mumbai last year.

Located in North Perth, Bollywood Spices is confusingly one of three Indian restaurants located near the intersection of Charles and Angove Sts, and unfortunately its not the most visible of the three from Charles St, as its the best rated on Urbanspoon. When Alissa lived on Angove, her and her housemates tried quite a few of the different Indian restaurants in the North Perth/Northbridge area, and Alissa and I felt that Bollywood Spices was probably our top pick. The restaurant is fairly small but it is nicely decorated and comfortable. When we arrived there were no other customers dining in. While there were more dine in customers as the even progressed, the kitchen was largely kept busy by a constant stream of take away orders.

When we arrived, we were given the customary Papadums and Mint Raita to snack on while we waited for our order. The Papadums were the seeded variety I generally prefer, and the cooling Mint Raita had been blended to a perfectly smooth consistency. Together there was a nice spiciness and flavour, but it was very much as we would have expected them to be.

When placing our order, I hadn't immediately thought about drinks but the mention of Mango Lassi had me sold (surprisingly, Alissa decided to stick with the tap water instead). The Lassi was nice and thick as I like it, with the straw standing upright without a trace of motion towards the edges. The flavour had the trademark mango tang and sweetness, and as with how its served in India, it was cold without being freezing cold. This was as good as Lassis as I've had in India.

But of course the main reason we were here was for the naan and curry, and for our meal we decided to go with a fairly classic selection - Garlic Naan, Chicken Tikka and Lamb Saag.

The Chicken Tikka had a lovely, rich tomato flavour. The combination of tomato, spices and the smokiness of meat cooked in a tandoor has this almost Vegemite-like underlying umami taste in the best Tikkas I've tried, and I could taste this desirable flavour in Bollywood Spice's version - something that I unfortunately rarely find in Perth. The chicken pieces were cooked perfectly, and were juicy, plump and in a more generous serve than we would have had in India. The quality of meat in India is nowhere near as consistent as in Australia, and this was one area that the dish outshone similar dishes we've eaten in India. Where the versions we've eaten in Mumbai or Udaipur had the Bollywood Spice's Tikka beat was in the sheer amount of ghee used in Indian restaurants, and the rich decadence that this gives dishes. For example, compare the oily sheen of the Tikka at Delhi Darbar in Mumbai with the photo above and its clear which of the two is healthier. Still, while I long for the heart attack levels of ghee used in the old subcontinent, Bollywood Spice's healthier version is probably better for the everyday - and a very good example of this classic Indian dish.

For our other main, we went with another recognisable favourite in the form of Lamb Saag, and again Bollywood Spice's version was a very good example that was a lot healthier than the richer versions in India. The lamb had been cooked beautifully, with a nice dark pinkish colour and a meat so fall apart that our forks had to do very little coaxing. The spinach had a freshness of flavour, maintaining that distinctly spinach flavour and not becoming the homogenous green sauce that sometimes passes for Saag. Alissa and I agreed that the more mellow Saag both complemented and contrasted with the Tikka, however as much as I liked the lamb I think I prefer the winning classic combo of spinach and cheese in Saag or Palak Paneer.

Having decided to save Biryani for another time, Alissa and I went with an extra large serving of Naan. With our last meal in India being at Trishna, I think we were a bit spoilt by their trademark Butter Garlic Naan as Alissa and I felt that Bollywood Spice's was no where near as butter and garlic drenched. I also felt that the bread was maybe a little blonde and not as crispily baked as the best that I've had. Small points aside however, this was a very commendable example of Naan that we both felt was far better than most Indian restaurants we've tried in Perth.

The Verdict: Very Good
Small and unassuming, Bollywood Spices definitely punches above its weight, making authentic tasting Indian food that is some of the best we've had in Perth, certainly at this price point and in this rustic style. It may not be as rich and decadent as what we've had in India, but while the percentage of ghee content is a lot lower, the balance of spices and that delicious smokiness from the tandoor are right on point. Along with competitive prices and quality food, Alissa and I were impressed by how friendly the staff were in spite of being really busy with takeaway orders. While there are more refined Indian restaurants in Perth like Maya in Fremantle, at this more affordable family end of the market Alissa and I are more than happy to continue making the drive North of the River whenever the curry cravings kick in.

Bollywood Spices Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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