“Squeeze a bit of lemon juice onto the steaming hot chicken pieces and let the tandoori spices do its work. When I think of Indian at home, this is one dish I would replicate.”
~ Chopinand, co-author of ChopinandMysaucepan
You only need to follow your nose when you are walking along Wigram street because the aromas of spices, herbs and Indian curries in the air will lead you to what must be at least ten restaurants along this restaurant strip in Harris Park.
I have never been here during the day but by night fall, each restaurant seems to have its own version of ornamental fairy lights to attract customers.
So how do you choose a good restaurant from so many in the area? I am told it can be a hit-and-miss affair if you are not familiar with this area. One restaurant that appears to have stood the test of time here is Billu’s, a Harris Park stalwart that’s been here for more than twenty years. It has been years since I visited this restaurant and I remembered the food to be honest, tasty and best of all cheap and cheerful.
I guess another way to find out if the restaurant is good before committing is to have a look at the customers.
And tonight, there are no shortage of Indians tucking into naan bread and all kinds of delectable curries. To me, this is a dead giveaway the food hits the mark with those in the know.
The entree and dessert bar at the front counter are filled with some of the popular foods of that you may find in the streets of Mumbai, Karachi or Dakha.
A pani puri is deep fried to a golden crisp and when filled with tamarind water, chaat masala and chickpeas, it’s a crunchy and tangy mouthful to start our meal.
We are drinking a luscious 2010 Main Divide Pinot Noir from New Zealand and some icy cold beers with our curries tonight.
A serve of plain naan bread comes piping hot and it’s good enough to eat on its own but it is also the perfect mop for the curries.
You can also order garlic, butter or cheese naan from the menu too and come to think of it, why didn’t we?
I remember Billu’s biryani rice to be fragrant and tasty and it does not disappoint tonight.
The long grain basmati goes exceptionally well with Indian spices and the heady aromas of cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and garam masala make this one of the classic and great dishes of Indian cuisine.
Throw in the sweetness from raisins and the crunch of cashew nuts, I am already in heaven with this first dish.
I like the bindi do piyaza because okra is such a good “sponge” for absorbing the flavours from all the spices and chilli. I’m a meat lover but I can eat this mild vegetarian dish any day.
We tell our waiter the palak paneer could have been a lot better than what it is. The paneer or cheese is fresh but dull green would be a lot more vibrant in colour if the spinach was fresher.
Should chicken Madras be called chicken Chennai?
Probably not since restaurants don’t name Peking duck as Beijing duck on the menu.
This curry is good but it’s not spicy enough for me. It’s very meek and my fiery version at home will make this one look like Donald Duck.
I’m not a big fan of Paper Masala Dosa because the coconut chutney and dahl sauce is a little mild for my liking. However, it’s done well – crispy thin with a good chunk of potato, onions and spice filling inside.
My favourite dish for the evening is a half tandoori chicken and for $8.90, it must be among the tastiest and cheapest half chicken in any Sydney restaurant.
Served on a hot cast iron plate under a bed or chopped cabbage, the chicken pieces are garnished with coriander and sliced Spanish onions.
Squeeze a bit of lemon juice onto the steaming hot chicken pieces and let the tandoori spices do its work. When I think of Indian at home, this is one dish I would replicate.
The damage for the four of us tonight is $89.90.
Tasty and reasonably priced Indian food at Billu’s – what are you waiting for?
So dear readers, do you have a favourite Indian restaurant and if so, what is your favourite Indian dish?
62 Wigram street
New South Wales
Tel: + 61 2 9687 7789