Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Aki's Indian

All right this one is about Aki’s at Woolloomoolo. Now, many years back, in one of my travels from Delhi to Sydney, I had heard one British lady travelling to Australia and talking to a Malaysian lady and stating that the best Indian restaurant in Sydney is one at Woolloomoolo called Aki’s. Talk about a multicultural scenario. But as I heard Aki’s, I wondered, which one this was. Being the food connoisseur, I was surprised that I hadn’t been aware of this one. Now to me, there were two points. Either the British lady dint know anything and that Aki’s was another cheap restaurant or that she didn’t know about Zaffraan or Nilgiri’s, the ones which I thought were best.

Now I did look it up once and saw that it was in Woolloomoolo and I had no clue and I gave up. Now many years later, a few dynamics changed. I had become a food blogger and started reading reviews. I got the entertainment book and saw this same restaurant in the fine dining section.  As I looked up the map, I realized, I had been to this part of the city a few years back with one of my friends. Of course when I went last was a very memorable and blissful day, which was very special because I went with one of my best friends.  For those who know Sydney, after Circular Quay, there is the Opera House and the Botanical garden. Right beyond the botanical garden, there is the navy base with all the submarines. Right next to it is the wharf with loads of restaurants. There is also the Blue, which to my surprise was a Taj Hotel property.

Anyways, enough of foreplay. Lets get to the real stuff. Now it’s a Saturday evening and I am walking from St James and I call them and decide to make a reservation. Apparently, even when I am asking for a reservation for an hour later, I am told that they are fully booked out for an outside seating, They say that they can try for indoors and ask me to come. So, to start with, please do make a reservation.

As I reach the restaurant, it’s a beautiful Saturday. Evening 7:30,  the wharf is full of people as if there is a party. We come into Aki’s and settle down our corner seat. The interiors are descent. It has a silver designed wallpaper on the corner. The restaurant is quite full. Very soon we are greeted and the menu is placed. The menu is not too diverse. I like this. Unlike restaurants which offer everything and then its so confusing to choose.

We order for the crab with iddiapam, the murg malai tikkas and the namkeen squid for starters.  It’s a very difficult decisions. I usually go for two starters. Now in this case, I really wanted to order the squid and crab, but there had to be chicken as well. So at the end, I made it simpler, and ordered all three.
Crab with Iddiappam

In the main course, there is a lot of confusion and difficult decisions to be made. The railway goat curry is already decided. The decision is between the seafood rezalla or the chicken curry. We decide for the Karaikudi Kozi Curry.

Well to begin with after ordering, we waited for some time before the starters appeared. Now I had done my research and I was told that the crab with iddiapam is the specialty. At the time of ordering IO had ordered for an extra portion, as we were three people dining and the usual plate offers two servings. As it came through I can definitely tell you that it looked gorgeous and very different. After a very long time, I had the feeling that I was having something new. It’s basically the signature dish here. Its basically got portion of vermicelli which is also called as hoppers in Sri Lankan cuisine. Now apparently if you go into any regular Sri Lankan restaurant, they serve hoppers with a creamy sauce. The hoppers are like small net mesh, more like a mat. On top of the hoppers were a mixture of blue swimmer crabs, cooked with black mustard and tomatoes and turmeric. Now as I took a spoonful, the taste is very mild.  You top it with the creamy little sauce and its yum. I mean its got a mix of mild tastes and creamy tastes and with some Indian spices. I’d definitely recommend this dish. Quite different.

The next was the namkeen squids, which is basically the aki‘s version of the salt and pepper squid. Its again not too spiced, but lovely dish. Squids dusted with spiced flour, lightly pan fried and topped with ginger strands. It is served with a sweet tamarind or imli chutney and a red chilli. Now, this dish was my favorite among the starters. Very delicious. The fried squid was not over cooked and so the squid was soft, and with the flour batter, which was quite light and fluffy. The squids with the sweet chutney and the ginger was a riot of taste. And finally when the red chilli which I thought was for garnish, was the hidden revolutionary, cos it was so hot and re-energized the taste buds.

The chicken malai tikkas were great. Relatively more spiced, but not spicy. Very well marinated tender chicken morsel and grilled. Served with a green chutney, which wasn’t too sweet. I loved chicken and l loved the tikkas, although I would have thought the malai tikkas would have been with cream and without the turmeric, if I were in India. But very good again. I cant coplaina nd this was yum as well.

Chicken Malai Tikkas
Next coming to the main course, there was the koraikudi kozhi curry. Now this was the dish of the evening. It came on a wooden board with a small steel pan with the curry and a big semi spherical rice flour pancake which is called as the appam. Man, this was the dish. Now I have had various variants of the south Indian chicken but this dish hit the spot. It was creamy, spicy and quite exotic to be honest.  It had the distinct flavor of a south indian cuisine with the curry leaves and with cashew and poppy seeds, it gave a wonderful texture to the curry. A beautiful dish and very highly recommended. Specially with the appam.

Moving next to the railway goat curry, it was well presented in a thick brown curry topped with garnished coriander and ginger strands. Now the curry was very very good again. Being a strict connoisseur of goat meat, I usually look out for perfect cut goat, goat meat which is soft, tender, juicy bones and well cut and cooked with the gravy. Now in this case of the dish, all this seemed to match to be honest. Very beautifully cut portion of goat meat, with a little bit of fat and really juicy meat. So all in all it did pass the test. The only thing which was a bit minor is the smell. I mean I am from India and I usually have goat meat there and usually I don’t like lamb because it is more chewy and it has a smell to it. Now I know for the lamb lovers they might say that it’s the fragrance of the lamb. Now in this case, the curry, meat everything was great, but there was very slight smell, which did seems to bother me just a little bit. But nonetheless, loved this dish as well. In fact that night I could finish it and did a take away. Next morning, when I heated it up, the aroma and the fragrance was intoxicating and out of the world. So full marks from my side on the goat curry as well. The breads were fresh and crisp.

The service was spot on. It was quite busy but the service was impeccable. The young guy attending to us turned out to be the son of the master chef and the restaurant is his namesake- Aki. He was quite chatty and we did discuss at depths about the Indian cuisine in Sydney and how there are so many variations.

All in all a great evening and a great place. Would I visit again? Most definitely yes. Would I recommend? Very much.  Price- Well it is on the pricier side, considering its fine dining and with a great location.  Average starter cost is about $20. Average Main course is about $34 approx. So a meal for two can range from $ 80-140.
Aki’s Fine Dining Cuisine
1/6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
T: (02) 93324600

Aki's on Urbanspoon

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