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A review of Not Just Curries, a newcomer to the Indian restaurant scene
We’re warmly greeted on our arrival at Not Just Curries in Harris Park. With antique Indian art adorning the walls, and a soundtrack of Bollywood and western music, the atmosphere is buzzing. The restaurant is busy with the lunchtime crowd – a mixture of families, couples, and Australian and Indian clientele.
Often referred to by Sydneysiders as ‘Little India’, for a first time visitor, the choice of restaurants in Harris Park can be overwhelming. Voted on Trip Advisor as the number one restaurant in Harris Park and the number one restaurant in the Parramatta region, Not Just Curries is the new kid on the block but already it has made a big impact.
The trio of owners, Vivek Gulati, Digvijay Ranawat and Deepanshu Gambhir, are all in today and share the philosophy behind their new venture: “When you want people to enjoy your food, you also make sure it’s served with love.”
You can see the passion on each of their faces as they emphasise the need to not only focus on fresh, quality meals but also ensuring efficient service with a smile.
Vivek is no stranger to the restaurant business, having owned three previous eateries in the area. He explains how the chefs in his restaurant don’t tone down the seasoning or spice in their cuisine. This restaurant will not be accused of ‘westernising’ its food. “If you change the spices in your cooking, then it’s not authentic Indian,” he says.
“Indian food is always tagged as ‘curries’,” Vivek continues. “But the different parts of India have different types of food. Walk into an Indian shop and you’ll find 30 plus types of curry powder, but we also want to showcase other styles of Indian food – sambal, dosa, chickpeas, lentils, that’s not just a curry!”
Indeed the extensive menu offers a range of vegetarian options as well as more than enough to satisfy the most ravenous of carnivores.
We begin our meal with the Punjab delicacy aloo parantha, flatbread stuffed with seasoned mashed potato and served with pickles and yoghurt. It’s incredibly tasty, but very filling. You can see why they are often made for breakfast; a hearty parantha would certainly keep you going for the day ahead. The buttermilk lassi is refreshing with a fine balance of flavour.
We then move on to the lunchtime special, and a unique feature of Not Just Curries – all you can eat, silver service thalis. Available in vegetarian and non-veg options, we choose one of each to share. The menu describes the thali as “Chef’s selection of two non-veg dishes and two vegetable dishes, daal, bread, rice, raita, pickle, pappadums and a dessert.”
The empty metal plate is set down in front of us. Suddenly waiters bring out the ‘buffet’ and fill each compartment to the brim – chicken curry on the bone, lamb Rogan josh, black lentils, bitter gourd, aloo bhaji and paneer makhani along with the accompaniments.
Prepared in the traditional fashion on the bone, the chicken curry is flavoursome and the meat falls away with a gentle tug. The Rogan josh is melt in your mouth tender lamb with a perfect balance of spices. This is authentic Indian fare bursting with flavour. The black lentils are rich and buttery but don’t taste as though they’ve been drowned in ghee.
Though the name says it all, for my taste, the bitter gourd was a little too sharp while the aloo bhaji (potatoes tempered with spices) could have packed more flavour.
The paneer is made in the traditional way and you can taste the freshness. The texture is soft and pillowy. After being simmered in a rich tomato and butter sauce, each morsel of cottage cheese oozes with flavour. A definite favourite.
The accompanying pappadums are light and crispy, not soggy or greasy, and the rice is light and fluffy.
We also opt to sample the popular chingari tikka, Vivek’s own creation, which certainly packs a punch. A homemade recipe of tender chicken pieces, cooked in a traditional Tandoor oven, it is served, still sizzling, with a fiery yoghurt marinade. It’s hot and spicy and delicious, but those who can’t handle the heat should keep a sweet mango lassi nearby!
Though we don’t have alcohol with the meal, we take note of the restaurant’s liquor licence and basic but well-chosen wine list. The BYO option would be perfect for a larger group.
The waiters keep returning to top up our thali and we definitely eat our fill. It’s enough to have us questioning dessert, but who can go past the kheer included in today’s lunch special?
A traditional mitha, the kheer helps cut through the feeling of having overindulged. The fragrant rice pudding has a beautiful cardamom flavour; it is not sickly sweet and the nuts add an element of texture. It is a tasty end to our meal.
Most Indian restaurants in the area are a cut above your usual takeaway fare, but what sets Not Just Curries apart is authentic food combined with first rate character. Service is friendly, personal and attentive, and pricing is competitive.
As we grab a handful of refreshing fennel candy from the counter on the way out, we know we’ll be back again soon.
Not Just Curries
66 Wigram Street, Harris Park
Ph: (02) 9893 8202 E: firstname.lastname@example.org