Food in a business park - what springs to mind? Bowling ball-sized muffins, hot dogs in a water bath? It did to me at least. Who would have thought the unprepossessing Cafe Centro on semi-industrial Ashley Street metamorphosed into a Nepalese restaurant by night?
These guys need to do some serious marketing. On a cold winter's night, the lights are dim and the entry concealed. No one would think to visit unless you had a hot tip (thanks Chris!) There's no helping the corporate vibe once inside but at least the cavernous space means the kids can run around without upsetting anyone.
The menu has Indian overtones but with some Chinese accents, reflective of Nepal's location sandwiched between India and China. Complimentary pappadums to start with a quite lovely sauce made from ground sesame, chilli and tomato.
Spring rolls, $5
These spring rolls were quite nice, evidently home made and served with a light plum sauce. The deep fryer needed to be a bit hotter as both these and the pappadums were a little oily.
Pleasant chicken wingettes with a spice mix that was quite unique - I tasted cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper. One was a bit underdone, but Grandpa still ate it!
Momo veg, $6.95
I think momo are so cool - they are a bona fide fusion food and are so delicious. They look like Chinese dumplings but inside these vegetarian ones is a very Indianesque spiced, mashed vegetable filling. These were good but the steaming seemed inexpert as the skins had cooked unevenly and split in places.
Momo meat, $6.95
You can find good momo in Footscray at Fusion Cafe and Momo Bar. These meat momo didn't stack up to Fusion's, however. The filling was tasty with ginger but somewhat heavy and the skins had split. The price is also vastly incongruent - 10 for $8 at Fusion.
"Matar paneer" (sic), $11.90
Things picked up with the main courses. This was great aloo matar (incorrectly called matar paneer or peas with cheese on the menu). Unlike some more Northern-style Indian versions that have a thick brown curry sauce, the sauce was light, tangy tomato with a sprinkle of fenugreek leaves. I liked the addition of capsicum a lot. I actually got a child to eat this which is testament to how yummy it was.
Excellent okra, diced and dry-fried with tomato, onion and chilli. This was simple and tasty with quality ingredients. Props that they had okra - in so many places when you order the more obscure vegetable dishes, they don't end up having them in stock. The menu says that "meals are served mild to fit local taste" - ask for spice levels to be authentic and you will be rewarded.
Goat curry ("mutton curry" on menu), $13.95
Boneless goat pieces in a very rich, thick curry sauce spiced with cardamon. This was good - some pieces of goat were fatty, others meltingly tender but I think that is authentic - the textural variation is part of the appeal and goat always seems very rich.
Oiled, seasoned saffron rice that was quite delicious. I liked the crunch of the cashews and peanuts. We had gorgeous, deep-lipped brass trays to eat our meals from.
Roti baber, $3.90 (2 pieces)
This was yummy roti, I think house-made, cooked as is traditional on a somewhat dry griddle so you get the contrast between the dark, flaky spots where it has touched and the tender pastry in between.
Masala roti, $4.95
Roti stuffed with spiced mashed potato. This is really a meal in itself rather than a bread to mop up sauce. The potato was thick, tasty, spiced with cumin and well seasoned.
As is often the case in Indian restaurants, the price here really added up fast once you add in all the entrees, rice and breads. I did really enjoy the main courses - it seems like really authentic food, not overpoweringly rich like some restaurant Indian that is so inflated with ghee and cream. The prices seem steep for the location and atmosphere, however. Next time it would be worth trying the thali-esque dhal bhat masu or dhal bhat tarkari ($15.95) for variety but lower price, or one of the banquets which start at $20 per head.
9 Ashley Street, Braybrook (map) - if coming from Barkly, go straight over Ashley and turn right at the security gate
Phone: 9396 1400
No Wheelchair access
No Wheelchair access