By Franz Scheurer
Crows Nest is full of eateries of every imaginable flavour including quite a number of Indian restaurants and Banjara has been there for quite a few years. This says less about the quality of the restaurant than it does about some diners’ lack of discernment.
Banjara is a sort of ‘Subway’ for Indian food, although the décor and the prices do not match. You can choose goat, chicken, lamb or beef with ‘mix’n’match’ sauces for a number of meat main courses, which is about as authentic as a mix and match pasta and sauce exercise. According to the dryness in my mouth afterwards and my aching joints I suspect MSG is used.
The best thing on the menu are the ‘Dosai’, a crisp, golden brown rice and lentil pancake served with either a potato and pea filling, a tandoori chicken masala, spiced lamb mince or finally just topped with onion slices, tomatoes and masala. We chose the vegetarian option with the potato and pea filling and they were beautifully thin, crisp and unctuous. However, another entrée called ‘Aloo Tikki’, mashed potatoes mixed with spices and deep-fried, was far from crisp and very oily. Our meaty mains, ‘Chicken Chettinadu’, and a ‘Lamb Curry of Chennai’ sat in gluggy, thickened sauces, and although well-spiced, tender and juicy, were hardly ‘hot’ as described on the menu. The vegetarian mains, a ‘Palak Paneer’ was flavourless and too creamy and the ‘Malai Kofta’ a collection of squishy tastless dumplings (the consistency of overcooked commercial gnocchi) in a similarly bland heavy sauce. The breads we ordered, a ‘Peshawari Naan’ (filled with raisins, nuts and desiccated coconut) and a ‘Puthina Paratha’ (layered wholemeal bread topped with fresh mint leaves) were acceptable, although the coconut was not integrated into the bread and spilt everywhere and the fresh mint turned out to be dried mint flakes.
Service was elusive and slow. Value for money unacceptable and the whole experience reminded me why I hated Indian restaurants in Sydney before places like Oh! Calcutta! and Qmin arrived on the scene. They are worse than the Chinese restaurants that insist on a ‘Guaylo’ menu and serve unauthentic dishes in their belief that this is what Australians want to eat because they use all the correct names and descriptions then bastardise the dishes to an extent that is unacceptable. Why?
For more information or bookings:
Banjara Indian Restaurant
57 Willoughby Road
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Tel.: 02 9436 4032