Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A test of patience at Indus Cafe, Maylands

An hour wait borders on frustration...

Indus Cafe Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Keeping with the theme of bargain meals from my previous post on The Dock in Fremantle, I purchased two coupons for Indus Cafe. They were extremely enticing and drool-worthy deals, offering a 3 course meal for either 2 people ($29), 4 people ($49) or 6 people ($69). Without a second thought, I bought both the 4 and 6 people offers. I was so excited.

Considering Indian cuisine can easily leave you $30 lighter, this was going for considerably less. I wondered about the quality but I decided I had nothing to lose if this was a dud - besides my continued patronage.
Indus Cafe
On our first visit, Indus Cafe was relatively busy. There seemed to be limited numbers of staff serving customers, which left us standing at the entrance for a while until we were seated. The "cafe" is in fact set up like a semi-formal but minimalistic restaurant, with big cushiony chairs to sink into.

The night is off to a slow start, but unfortunately speed never quite picks up for the rest of the night. The time our 3-course dinner took was the same timespan you would expect a 10-course degustation to take, and diners are left unattended for quite extended periods of time throughout the night that we joked we could probably get up and leave unnoticed.
Never a suggestion, just an observation :P
Nargisi Kofta: Egg wrapped in lamb mince and deep fried (8 pc) - $15
Our first entree for the night arrived perhaps 30-40 minutes after we placed our order. These eggs are strikingly similar to scotch eggs, which are usually boiled eggs wrapped in mince then crumbed and deep fried. Indus Cafe's version uses a lean lamb mince, which is only lightly seasoned. The quantity alone makes these pretty moreish!

Whenever my parents made these at home when I was younger, I was always very amused. The literal translation of "deep fried eggs" in Cantonese is "bomb" (yes, really) so once in a while, my parents would tell me they were making bombs in the kitchen. I was young :P
Lamb Chops: Tandoori marinated lamb chops (2 pc) - $10
The next entree was two pieces of tandoori lamb freshly cooked in the clay oven. Wrapped in aluminium foil with the visible parts being grilled to a darker shade of black meant they looked a little unappetising to me (I can't help my unpopular pet hate of blackened grill marks and lines) but the taste was surprisingly uncompromised.

The marinade is strong in flavour and tasty. Definitely use your hands to eat this, and you'll probably find yourself unwrapping the foil so you can gnaw on it right to the bone.
Chicken Pakoda: Boneless chicken marinated with Indian spices and deep fried - $12
Deep fried chicken is a favourite no matter which corner of the globe you come from, but I would probably satisfy my cravings elsewhere. These are slightly bigger versions of KFC's popcorn chicken, but unfortunately tasted quite average.

I usually reluctantly peel off all the batter of deep fried foods, and when I finished taking off all the batter, I was left with a very small piece of chicken that had been completely masked with a thick layer of flour.
Kothu Parantha: Flaky bread tossed with chicken, egg and spicy chilli sauces - $11
When we placed the order for this final entree, we had no idea what we were actually ordering. "Flaky bread" didn't bring up any images to mind and when it arrived on the table, I admit I thought we were given the wrong dish.

The Kothu Parantha is a plate of gluggy, glutinous (I feel inclined to say mess) combination of flatbread, chicken strips and eggs. Its serving size is quite hefty and could really suffice as an entire meal for some. The texture is sticky, chewy and mushy all combined into one dish, and somewhat reminds me of eating chunky mashed potato. Despite sounding like this is grown-up baby food, I actually really enjoyed the taste of this and filled up a sizeable portion of tummy space with this alone.
Bhuthawaa Beef: Beef cooked with chef's special sauce - $17
It was a good thing the entrees were quite filling as the wait time between entrees and mains was another long wait. The portions looked small but the bowls were deep and were filled with a good amount of meat that we had enough for 2 small takeaway boxes to take home.

The Bhuthawaa Beef was a step into unknown territory as the description did not reveal much detail about ingredients. We still could not figure out what was in this "chef's special sauce" - the curry had a thinner, lighter consistency but we all had a preference for other curries over this.
Goat Curry: Slow cooked baby goat meat with bone in curry sauce - $20
The next curry was one that I was eager to try, as I really enjoy goat. The slow cooked baby goat was soft and came off the bone quite easily, but being cooked with the bone unfortunately meant that the ratio of bone to meat was quite high. I really craved for more meat in the dish.
Chicken Tikka Masala: Chicken cooked in oven served with sliced onions, capsicum and tomato sauce - $16
We had an agreement that each person should choose a different meat curry, which resulted in the third main dish of chicken tikka masala. Masala is a combination of various dried spices, which forms the base sauce for the oven-baked chicken tikka. Indus Cafe uses a rich tomato-based sauce cooked with sliced onions and chunky capsicum pieces.
Lamb Korma: Lamb cooked with cashew sauce and cream - $17
I love a good creamy curry and easily decided on the lamb korma. I don't have the best relationship with cream but it doesn't stop me from ordering a dish that is heavily cream based. Korma is usually made with a combination of ingredients that involve yoghurt, cream, nut sauces or coconut milk, which are all already quite rich on their own.

The lamb korma is served with a sprinkling of sliced almonds with a sauce that has a thicker creamy consistency. It is very mild in flavour throughout, although the lamb was a little tough and could have been cooked for longer to reach that softness we all hoped for. However the sauce was one of my favourites, and made a great breakfast for me the next day when spooned over rice :)
Homemade Lassi (Strawberry) - $3.5
Lassi is a traditional Indian beverage, which comes in both savoury and sweet versions. Sweet lassi usually consists of yoghurt blended with fruit in its juice or pulp forms until a smoothie-like consistency. Indus Cafe offers three fruit versions as well as others listed as plain, sweet or salted, which is usually flavoured with spices such as ground cumin.

The strawberry lassi had a really nice sweetness albeit tasting a little artificial in terms of the strawberry, but overall had a lovely smoothness.
Homemade Lassi (Mango) - $3.50
We all had a sip of the mango lassi, which strangely came in a plastic cup instead of the glass cups the other lassi came served in. It also contained a lot less liquid as the cup was only filled just over the halfway mark. It tasted like your run-of-the-mill mango lassi, so I'd suggest trying the strawberry version if you want to try the restaurant's lassi.
Homemade Lassi (Raspberry) - $3.50
The raspberry lassi had a distinctive, intense sweetness to it that made it somewhat hard to drink. It was much, much sweeter than the other two fruit lassi and didn't taste of raspberry at all; if I had to describe it, it is the strawberry lassi only with a generous but unneeded addition of sugar.
Steamed rice - $3
I cannot have curry without steamed rice and ordered a serving of it between four people. Little did I know that nobody else on the table really wanted this, and ended up finishing half of it on my own :(
Butter Naan - $3
The popular choice of side to have with curry that night was naan bread, which was well received by everybody. The naan bread is made with plain flour which is then cooked in their tandoor oven, and comes in plain, buttered and garlic varieties. Our butter naan was served hot and was great for dipping in and mopping clean all the curry sauces.
Gulaab Jamun (with ice cream) - $5
When dessert time came around, we were quite stuffed to the brim. The boys on the table both ordered gulaab jamun, which is a widely popular dessert in Indian cuisine. Gulaab jamun are dumpling balls that are typically made with curdled milk that is kneaded into a dough, deep fried then soaked into a sugary or rosewater-scented syrup, which eventually saturates the ball with sweetness. I think the ice-cream, although sweet itself, is a much needed addition to the gulaab jamun in giving it a refreshing cold hit.
Kulfi (Mango and Pista) - $7
Two of us ordered kulfi, which came in mango and pistachio flavours. Kulfi is a traditional dessert of India that is very similar in appearance and taste to ice cream, in that it is a frozen, dairy-based dessert that comes in many flavours. Unlike ice cream however, kulfi is a lot more solid and does not melt as easily as ice cream would.

There was mixed feelings about the mango and pistachio kulfi, and I ended up finishing both sticks because it wasn't to anybody else's liking. Besides the priciness of the kulfi (I probably would not pay $7 for this), the taste is not eminent and is in fact, rather bland. It has a subtle flavour, tasting very natural and not excessively sweetened, however it lacks that unavoidable sugar hit that many people crave after dinner.

Second visit
Complimentary Papadams
I felt quite satisfied after our dinner and am always craving Indian, so I was looking forward to coming back for a second visit. The power of coupons should never be underestimated, as it gave us an even greater choice of dishes to order - I think I've tried about half the menu after just two visits.

Things were a little different this second time, as we were entitled to any alcoholic beverage off the drinks menu for each person at no extra cost. On top of this surprise, we were given two baskets of complimentary papadams with a vividly green, minty yoghurt dipping sauce.
Omni NV
I opted for a sweet sparkling wine while my family went for whites and reds, such as the Houghton Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon with flavours of blackcurrant, olive and bay leaf. I liked my Omni, which was full of fruity flavours and a good contrast to the rich, creamy curries.
Hariyali Chicken Tikka: Boneless chicken marinated in unique spices cooked in clay oven (2 pc) - $10
The first entree to share was the Hariyali chicken tikka - two boneless chicken pieces smothered in a deep green marinade. The paste's intense green colouring is a result of the mash of green ingredients such as coriander, spinach and mint together to form a marinade for this chicken dish.
Tandoori Chicken: Chicken cooked in clay oven with tandoori spices (full) - $19
Next was a full serving of tandoori chicken served on a hotplate, which counted as two entrees because of its huge serving. As this would most likely fill up a lot of stomach space, you can also order a half serve at $11.
Tandoori Chicken
In addition to side vegetables that almost all our entrees are served with, the tandoori chicken comes with a bed of capsicum and onions. The pieces of chicken are big in size and flavour, and made for a deceptively big and filling entree.
Lamb Chops: Tandoori marinated lamb chops cooked in clay oven (2 pc) - $10
Evidently, no-one can resist the call of lamb chops as these again made an appearance on this dinner. They were as good as I remembered them to be - juicy and full of flavour but this time, they have lost the black grill marks :)
Kothu Parantha: Flaky bread tossed with lamb, egg and spicy chilli sauces - $11
I suggested the kothu parantha again, as I missed its simultaneously mushy and chewy textures and flavours. I ordered the dish with lamb instead of chicken this time but honestly, there isn't a big difference because the meat isn't too distinguishable when the ingredients are in a big mash up.
Nargisi Kofta: Egg wrapped in lamb mince and deep fried (8 pc) - $15
These "bombs" make yet another appearance ;)
Palak Paneer: Cubes of cottage cheese cooked with spinach - $16
My brother made a request for palak paneer - soft crumbly blocks of cottage cheese cooked in a mushy and pulpy spinach sauce. We always knew curry to taste the opposite of what they look like hey?

We were able to try many different curries that night -
Beef Korma: Beef cooked with cashew sauce and cream - $17
Lamb Rogan Josh: Tender lamb in a spicy tomato and onion sauce - $16
Chicken Dhansak: Parsi dish of boneless chicken cooked with yellow lentils and spices - $16
Lamb Saag Wala: Lamb cooked with spinach - $17
Chicken Madras: Chicken cooked with coconut milk and shredded coconut - $15
Garlic Naan - $3
As we ordered garlic naan, I am not quite sure we were given the right naan as there was no sight, smell nor taste of garlic in the naan bread. A little disappointing.
Butter Naan - $3
Let the curry begin!
Kulfi (Mango and Pista) - $7
In addition to gulaab jamun and kulfi, Indus Cafe also offers Ras Malai, a dessert involving soft cheese balls immersed in a sweet, creamy milk. Most of us on the table stuck with the kulfi, sticking with what is (relatively) familiar.

The main difference on this occasion is the different style of presentation, changing from being served on a wooden popstick to chunks of kulfi in a bowl. I do like this change, as it makes way for easier devouring. And yes, I am sure you have noticed that sweet red syrupy swirl has sneaked its way into many dishes - both savoury and sweet dishes are tagged!
The cashier stand doubling as a mini bar
Indus Cafe does not seem relatively well known, and would be able to gain more momentum and recognition if big improvements are made with regards to service. The atmosphere is laid back, casual and the interior adopts a very minimalistic look with basic furniture and not much else.

Although the staff members are friendly, efficiency is a major gripe. This is definitely not a place for a quick meal, as on both occasions we wondered whether we had been forgotten - despite being the only table there. If our meals were cooked from scratch then this is understandable, but the quality of the food hardly reflects this. Not many people are tolerant of a significantly long wait time for food to arrive, and an hour wait borders on frustration.

We arrived for a 7.30pm dinner and left at nearly 11pm, and can honestly attribute at least 2 hours to pure waiting time.
No surprise that the restaurant operates with late trading hours (old signage states that it used to open from 6am until midnight)! Perhaps it is a good option for late dinners when everything else is closed, but who knows when you will actually get your dinner?
Indus Cafe, Maylands
To the right of the restaurant is a drive thru: convenience or laziness?
7 days: 5pm - 11.30pm
Offering drive through, takeaway, home delivery
Signage at entrance states several rules such as the removal of sunglasses and hoodies inside the restaurant at all times

(08) 9370 2689
24/168 Guildford Road Maylands 6051

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