Having “Indian” for dinner tonight?

REVIEW

Pretty Rahman

Walking into Bismillah’s Indian Cuisine is surprisingly comforting. The modest interiors, with basic tableware and chairs, offer an almost warm allure. However one cannot casually make their way to seating without facing a vast variety of curries (and the strong gaze of the owner). Though he has little to say, the owner is more than willing to respond to any questions asked.

Lacking a printed menu, my company and I instead stare at the wall to see what’s on offer. There are merely different variations of ordering vegetarian or meat options with rice or naan. Any Indian street food? Nope. A “please all” thali for the confused, hungry Crown Street wanderer? Nope. A quick pick-me-up dosa? Not a chance. Not to worry- there are over twenty varieties of curries on offer!

The mango chicken was a step in the right direction.

Mildly spicy with an intriguing mustard yellow curry, it was received comfortably by the palette. Though the chicken was a tad undercooked, the refreshing tartness of the green mango almost succeeded in rectifying it. The lamb curry had an appealing, hearty nature about it. The curry was of a heavier weight, infused with staple traditional Indian spices such as cumin, cardamon and coriander. However a common pitfall was not avoided, there was excess fat on the lamb and some chunks of just rubbery fat in the curry. Other than that, a commendable dish. The butter chicken was unremarkable. A tad undercooked, this Westerners’ favourite “Indian” dish lacked all imagination. On the plus side, the curry was very mild which is a welcome change for the spice-wary.

The vegetarian dishes were pleasant enough. The eggplant curry would be appreciated by lovers of the purple vegetable. Generously sized chunks of eggplant in a forgivably oily curry melted in the mouth. However, not much else features in the curry so it doesn’t stand to be a dish of sustained positive effect. The aloo muttar, or potato and peas, was a good addition to the meal. Soft and mildly spicy, the simple curry acted as a good dish to add balance to the flavours of the other dishes. The mixed vegetables were pleasant at best. A mixture of potato, peas, cauliflower and refreshingly fresh carrot slices, the dish boasted no stand out qualities. The unusual sweetness of the dish also served as a slight deterrent. The vegetable samosa however, was a welcome change to the other flavours on offer. The pastry was crispy yet not brittle nor at all oily. The simple filling, a tasty and spicy combination of potato and peas, went well with the contrasting texture of the outer layer.

Surprisingly for an “authentic” Indian restaurant, the meat curries easily outnumbered their vegetarian counterparts. And with one token fish curry on offer, one could conclude that traditional Indian cuisine is partial to red meat, if this selection was anything to go by. The absence of an all-time Indian favourite, palak paneer, or cheese and spinach, should have given off warning bells. Upon learning that the owners of this joint are Pakistani, the whole experience made more sense.

The trend of Pakistan and Sri Lankan food being branded as Indian cuisine by restaurateurs is not a new one. In the UK especially, restaurants often market their dishes as “authentic Indian” merely to gain wider appeal and success. This explains the set up of the menu and the dishes on offer, as the title, not the cuisine itself is pursued. Though how much of this is it our own fault as narrow-minded consumers? Indian food has become a favourite for countless non-Indians though it’s important to note that similar cuisines influence and are influenced by Indian food.

Bismillah’s Indian Cuisine has an unthreatening air about it. At $20 for two, it’s a good cheap eat if you’re passing the shop front. Otherwise, turn any corner and you can find a plethora of better options in Surry Hills.

Bismillah’s Indian Cuisine

518 Crown Street, Surry Hills.

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One Response to “Having “Indian” for dinner tonight?”

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  1. Shelf Picks « The Shelf - October 22, 2010

    […] Having “Indian” for dinner tonight? […]

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