Fine Dining Indian, Crows Nest, Sydney NSW 2065 Australia
Address: 2 Burlington St Crows Nest
Phone: (02) 9436 3669
Hours: Dinner Seven Nights 5.30-10pm, Lunch Thurs-Fri 12.30-2.30pm
In 2002 Indian master chef Ravi Gandhi came to Australia for a holiday and while here he dined in a couple of dozen Sydney Indian restaurants ... he found them a long way from his view of authentic Indian cuisine. "There's no such thing as "mango chicken" in India," he says.
If only standard-bearers of other cuisines were so outright direct about how their cuisines are presented here in Sydney, then we might truly rise to the international standards achieved only by the few.
Being the sort of progressive fellow who doesn't stand around criticising for too long, but is much more inclined to lead by example, he returned to India, handed the reigns of his two award-winning restaurants (The Great Punjab in Mumbai, and The Great Punjab in Pune) over to his brother (Ravi is a third generation restauranteur - and his extended family now owns 73 restaurants between them), and he packed his bags for Sydney, finally choosing a spot in Crows Nest to launch Raavi's Cumin two years ago.
This new antipodean adventure was never set for a cliche presentation, either, apart from a statuette of Ganesh overseeing things from the bar. Mr Gandhi sought out the talents of designers Jim & Karmen of 3R Design, creators of the interiors of Olio and Sky Phoenix. The result is a contemporary re-take on the more subtle colours of North Indian cuisine, the deep moody khaki of the side-walls and ceiling contrasted with the bouyant red of the rear wall. Nice work! And so good to eat the most authentic Indian cuisine in a modern room far beyond the usual outmoded interiors of Indian diners.
And what then of the food? It's certainly divine, yet our genial host recommended it be consumed with beer! And to our joy, he has Indian beer in the house - and it's an awesome drop. Kingfisher beer, owned by a man considered the "Richard Branson of India", Vijay Mallya. In Ravi's restaurants back in his home country, they get through 20 cases a day. Of course, for people who increasingly don't drink beer because of the gluten-intolerance factor, there's further good news - the menu states that "all curries are gluten-free"! "Original Indian food never has gluten in it," Ravi illuminates. Also because they make everything fresh as you order, if you're allergic to dairy let them know - they will substitute coconut milk.
Dishes that you're simply crazy to miss are the Chicken (Murg) Peshawari (their signature dish as it's Ravi's grandfather's recipe), the Baaga Maachi (a beautiful fish curry), the Lamb Saagwala (such a smoothly sublime version of this spinachy dish), and the very fine Beef Do Pyaza. Despite these dishes being at the pinnacle of Indian food in Sydney, they're still very much affordable, most being around 17.90 for a dish in which any lover of Indian food will find they're ascending to foodie nirvana. For something truly different, go the Cumin Special Prawns (pictured above-right), not everyone's cup of tea but a taste sensation for those who like to walk on the wild side of the global culinary path.
Finally we rounded out our night with the Anjeer Kulfi (pictured below), it's pretty much fig ice-cream with a wonderfully honey tone - I'd never had this before but I hope to have this delicacy many more times. What a fantastic night, only made possible by a man who's been doing great food for 25 years, and will no doubt be still at it 25 years hence. And sure enough, the accolades are already flowing, with news that Raavi's Cumin has recently been placed as a Finalist in the 2008 Restaurant & Catering NSW/ACT Awards for Excellence.
If, like many of us, you'd lost interest in Crows Nest as a culinary destination, there's now the very best of reasons to return ... - Stewart Dawes.
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