Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chilli India

Billy and I got very excited recently about the "Supper Market" opening in the basement of the new Westville Central development.  We began daydreaming of the clang of wok sang on huge, blackened wok, great licks of flame being thrown in the air lighting up the faces of the hawkers, the scent of wok hei rising up the escalators.  After a minute I raised my eyebrow though.  "Um...  I reckon they mean supermarket."

July to Sep 089

Well, at least I have Chilli India.  Tables crammed into the tiny passageway leading into Melbourne Central, buzzing late at night, it's as close to an authentic hawker centre I'm gonna get anytime soon!

CP queue

The only eat-in area at Chilli India is sort of outside, yet under the covered walkway.  It's packed with students, smoochy couples and big families tucking into silver-trayed thalis.  As we sat, there was a non-stop, steady stream of hungry people queuing to order at the register.  You can still have friendly, efficient table service and they will bring you booze from the main Chillipadi next door.

July to Sep 102

Right next to the register is a huge flat-plate BBQ where this rockstar chef whips up dosa and freshly-made roti before your beady eyes.  MMMMMMM!

The drawcard here is not only the freshly-made Malaysian-Indian street food but the biryani.  Commenter Make Best West had informed me that the biryani at Dosa Hut is far from the real deal and indeed "the worst biryani I ever had.  I can say that because I hail from the land of biryani (Hyderabad) and this place is making a mockery of such a beautiful cuisine. Authentic biryani is light in spices and has a nice balance of important ingredients such as yoghurt, mint, lime and golden-coloured fried onions - none of them could be found in this version.  This lame version was floating with chillies, cloves, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon and less-meat-more-bone cheap meat."

July to Sep 094
Special Hyderabadi dum biryani (chicken)

I am always up for being corrected and when the suggestion is this good, I am profoundly grateful.  This was a very special biryani.  The rice grains are totally separate, non-greasy and underneath are pieces of supremely tender marinated chicken.  I still detected hints of spice but it did indeed have a lemony fragrance.  It came with pots of sweet raita and an almost peanutty sauce.  As we sat, waiters brought out brass pot after brass pot of this obvious crowd favourite.  The chicken could get a bit bony but the flavours were all there.

July to Sep 093
Chilli chicken

I love Indian-Chinese food - it is a total mindf**k.  Confronted with battered meat or vegies in sauce that looks like bland suburban Chinese food, your head says no, but your heart asks, "Why does it taste so bloody good then?"  Indian-Chinese takes the battered nuggets and thick sauce of "bad Chinese" and switches it up with heaps of chilli, tang and spice in true Indian style.  This was delicious, really spicy and zingy with green onion and ginger.

July to Sep 095
Vegetable avial with plain roti and roti Chenai

Avial is a very southern-style curry with fresh vegetables, coconut and yoghurt.  This was delicious with fresh, tender broccoli, beans and carrot.  The sauce was thick and creamy but not naively, suburbanly so and highlighted with curry leaves and mustard seeds.  The breads were fantastic - the Chenai was flakier, more pastry like while the plain was like a well-fried chapati.  I find it very hard to eat roti now unless it has been made fresh in house.

I know the Chillipadi brand often divides opinion quite sharply but I thought this meal was fab.  Everything was fresh, cheap and tasty, it had a real buzz and we had great, friendly service.  I might be cynical about the soon-to-open "Supper Market" but Chilli India is a great street-style option in the meantime.

Chilli India on Urbanspoon

Menzies Alley, Melbourne Central
Phone:  9669 3866
Hours:  Mon-Tues 11am-3.30pm, Wed-Sat 11am-3.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm

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  1. I had the chilli padi supper hor fun and it was pretty overly salty, though it had good breath of the wok. I think this place does better food during more holy hours, definitely!! ;)

  2. I ended up there at 3am recently, after a drunken karaoke session (of course). I tried the nasi goreng Pattaya, which was good, but I think loses out to the version at Nasi Lemak House. But the chances of Nasi Lemak House being open that late are non-existent.

    I'm still hoping it's a Supper Market in Westville.

  3. I think you are both talking about the original Chilli Padi next door - I haven't been there, but this is separate. I have heard the CP is not that incredibly amazing but I like Chilli India.

    I am dreaming the dream with you Billy!!!

  4. Lol at supper market. Haha!! This place isn't on my wishlist yet cos I keep thinking good Indian food places should be in a dusty dingy suburb rather than a slick CBD location. So biased, eh? :p maye I should visit sometime.

    Speaking of visits, shall we try the laksa bar one day?

  5. Lauren - I found it very interesting that you happened to post my negative comments about "Dosa Hut" while writing about the best biryani (in my opinion) in the town. I'm happy that Chilli India made it to your blog. West is changing and you don't realise how influential your blog is in inviting food aficionados to give our local food-joints a try.

  6. Interesting discussion about biryani, Have always found it disappointing in the places we eat at, though am keen to try the version discussed on this post. However, from what little I know - mainly, I have to confess, from TV shows - this dish at its best is a special celebration thing in which no expense is spared. I doubt any restaurant has the ability or budget to do it as found at weddings and so on.

  7. It looks great! What are the prices like - and is it BYO? (I swear it's not about being a cheapskate - don't you think there's something exciting about a place that isn't overtly commercial? Maybe it's just nostalgia for old Melbourne family-run BYOs ...)

    Biryani should be layered, shouldn't it? Not just a pilaf with things mixed in?

  8. Kenny - You are right; making a good Biryani is expensive and it's not economically viable for restaurants, especially in western countries as basic ingredients are expensive here.

    James - Biryani is layered with marinated meat at the bottom and basmati rice on top while cooking, but everything is properly mixed before serving. But again, Biryani enthusiast can easily identify the versions that are just a pilaf mixed with things.

  9. Make West Best, I think it was you who gave me the Chilli India biryani tip on another post! I'm always grateful when people correct me. What little I know is gleaned - the only food I can speak semi-authoritatively on is what I was born into (Anglo Australian). Everything else is learnt, a lot of which comes from other blogs and helpful comments. So keep 'em coming!

    James, you got me - I didn't write the prices down that night! They are very decent, however (the ones on the website are wrong, that much I remember). I don't think it's BYO though and it doesn't really have a family-run vibe (Chilli Padi have I think at last count three restaurants). That said, I think it is yummmmy. I do love family-run BYOs, especially ones with no corkage! Now that's old school.


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