date of visit: Saturday 16 March 2013
No picture today, I’m afraid. Mitran da Dhaba is a tiny, almost nondescript restaurant that sits on Anzac Highway, opposite the bright lights of the Highway Hotel. We’d been over at the Highway’s Craft Beer Festival (write up to come) and needed some dinner. The options were to head home and order pizza or to try out this vegetarian curry house.
When we walked in, the restaurant was empty. It only has a handful of tables and it’s all quite basic. The room is, rather unfortunately, dominated by a massive television (during our visit, we were able to watch a good chunk of Antiques Roadshow …). That’s about the shiniest thing there: a couple of specials were written on a blackboard and a small counter sits at the far end of the room.
The menus were a bit tatty and the selection of dishes is, unlike many curry houses, quite limited. All the dishes are vegetarian so you don’t get the endless permutations you do elsewhere (chicken madras, beef madras, lamb madras, prawn madras – yes, we do get the idea!). The descriptions aren’t particularly wordy but if you’re not overly familiar with Indian vegetarian food the woman who served us was lovely and I’m sure would be happy to offer more detailed explanations.
Despite being an avowed omnivore, one thing I could do is be a vegetarian in India. Indian vegetarian food is not vegetarian food that’s trying to taste like meat (something I never get) and it’s not trying to replicate meat based dishes without the meat. It’s all about singing the praises of the raw ingredients and, I guess over centuries, it’s a style of cooking that’s very comfortable in its own skin. It shows.
I didn’t really need to think about what I was ordering: dahl makhani, my favourite dahl dish ever was on the menu. One of those, a plain naan and a mango lassi and I could have been back in Bradford or Leeds. Mitran da Dhaba isn’t licensed (I’m not sure about BYO – if you’re that bothered, ring in advance on that point) but there was a selection of Indian drinks as well as water on the table.
The dahl makhani was very good: spicy, hot, tasty and creamy. It’s been a while since I’ve had Shabab‘s version but I’d say that this came very close and that Plympton is a lot handier than Leeds! The naan bread was also good, served with lashings of butter.
Andy ordered the malai kofta which I’m sure is a dish I’ve tried somewhere before and decided isn’t quite my thing. The kofta are potato based and they are served in a rich, creamy, nutty sauce. The sauce was redolent with cardamom and had a slight sweetness to it thanks to sultanas. This is not a dish I would ever eat (I have issues with sultanas in savoury food, to start with) and while Andy enjoyed it, he did say that he thought I’d won.
The portion sizes are not huge. I finished my dahl, lassi and naan and still felt able to move, which I think is a good thing. Too often with a curry the table groans with dishes and you end up rolling out of the restaurant feeling vaguely like you never want to see food again. However, I would say that if you arrive at Mitran da Dhaba absolutely famished, you should probably order a side dish.
But don’t worry – because ordering that side dish won’t break the bank. Our meal cost just $24.
That’s right: $24 for two people, for dinner.
My tip: don’t be put off by the fact the restaurant may be empty when you arrive, don’t worry about the TV (though it will compel you to gawp at it) and don’t be put off by the fact that Mitran da Dhaba isn’t licensed. Just dive in and try a few curries you don’t see on every menu.