Constant loud chatter greets you instantly as you enter Abhi’s through the half wood framed door. We are promptly attended to by the hostess who gives us our table number and ushered to our table by the head waiter.
The chatter accompanied us throughout the evening. The service is okay – not too fussy yet sufficiently ‘hand and foot’ for my liking. The waiter suggests some specials and we go for it. Our hunger is momentarily satisfied with a complimentary basket of pappadums served with yogurt and sweet tangy pickle.
To accompany your meal, one must have the Mango Lassi. The best Mango Lassi that I have had so far in all of Sydney I found here. It is a yogurt drink made with fresh mango pulp. Normally by the time I get through a mango lassi I have a cloying sense of wanting to put nothing else in my mouth. Abhi’s Mango Lassi is light, perfectly smooth and accurately hits the mango spot leaving you toying with the idea of a second one. Yogurt is a good coolant when subjecting your palette to the spicy notes of a South Indian meal. And mango pulp is well a real bonus.
Abhi’s has successfully combined a popular Australian favourite with core flavours of the subcontinent in the Chatpata Squid. A starter perfect for 3 people, it is your humble salt and pepper squid transformed with the use of tapioca flour and an accompanying ginger and tamarind sauce. The strong flavour of ginger makes for happiness with the crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside squid pieces.
When one thinks Indian food, one of course thinks - curry. The traditional way of eating a meal in India is on a green banana leaf (the only biodegradable disposable plate). No, Abhi’s does not use these but warmed plates instead. The trick is although all curries are served at once, you should try each curry separately with your rice. Our base for the evening is the Peas Pulao (yellow in colour and breathing cumin). The recently famed Madras Prawn Vendakai is served with four jumbo prawns swimming in a bed of coconut and tamarind based curry. The vendakai or ladies’ finger retained its crunch and was delightful (ladies finger can go soggy if cooked for too long).
We stick to seafood and also had Goan Fish Curry. Goa is a west coast state of South India famous for beautiful beaches, grand old churches as well as wild parties and is a melting pot of international tourists. The fish curry is flavoured with the traditional cumin-coriander-turmeric trio combined with a coconut milk base.
Popular Indian desserts complete our meal. And with most traditional Indian desserts, the words sweet and rich are understatements. We have Gulab Jamun, a fried milk dumpling soaked in sugar water and rose water. The chef must like rose flavours because we also try the Rose Pistachio Kulfi on the menu. Cooling, melting in your mouth, crunchy pistachio bits and it looked so pretty in pink. The smell and taste of a rose was a wonderful perfume to end the meal.
The owner and Chef’s name is Kumar Mahadevan and he hails from South India (I'm guessing from his name). Half way through our meal he visits the dining room and greets some of his guests. His guests congratulate him on his recent fame with Masterchef which he humbly accepts. He appears a man who surely knows his food and revels in the joyous faces of his guests.
The volume of chatter around the room gets louder and I found myself almost yelling across the table to have a conversation with my guests. It is clear that although the tables, waiters, wine glasses and napkins make Abhi’s a fine dining place (some of those places people would consider stuffy and uptight and where one needs to ‘mind’ others), the droves of people who ate here (including myself) were so relaxed and had no qualms of enjoying the company of their friends in loud volumes. Perhaps the enticing chilly, cumin, cardamom and tamarind flavours help us all along the way.
You will find this jewel on Concord Rd, North Strathfield just 14 km west of Sydney. On any night, a reservation is necessary to avoid disappointment.