Ever since our recent trip to London, we’ve been on the lookout for modern Indian restaurants which could live up to the high standards set by the Indian eateries we tried over there. We found that the main difference between London and Sydney Indian food was how they managed to balance the strong spices used in their cuisine without overpowering the senses, as we’ve generally found that Sydney Indian food often tastes too heavy for us.
Luckily we didn’t have to look for long before we found all that we were looking for at the newly opened Masala Theory, which has taken over the old Red Lantern space on Crown Street. This casual diner has some eclectic decor featuring handpainted mural walls, with Indian style covers of Western electro-pop music playing in the background to set the tone.
It’s a vibrant space and is matched by the contemporary Indian menu which features some interesting dishes you won’t find at your neighbourhood Indian joint. The kitchen has put a lot of effort into creating dishes that draw on different parts of India (via the recipes that their chefs and owners have grown up with) and present them in a modern way.
Take their Three Sisters Chat for example – it’s a sculptural arrangement featuring crispy fried English spinach drizzled with brightly flavoured sauces – date-tamarind chutney, mint chutney and sweetened yoghurt. The sauces all melded together wonderfully with the crispy spinach (tastiest way to eat your greens!) and also went nicely with the bed of garbanzo beans and black chickpeas.
Three Sisters Chat, $15
Our other appetiser was the Masala Dosa, which features thin, crispy (but fluffy) rice and lentil pancakes that are curled around a tasty spiced potato filling. These were served with a cute mini bucket of flavoursome lentil soup which you could dunk bits of the pancake into, and an intriguing coconut chutney for an exotic touch.
Masala Dosa, $16
We couldn’t really decide between their three signature curries, so for mains the kitchen kindly indulged our indecision by serving up a mini portion of each along with some steamed rice and addictive naan (I loved the garlic, but found the cheese, coriander and chilli version too spicy). It was hard to pick my favourite amongst the trio of curries as each were fantastic in their own way – the Butter Chicken was a classic done well, the Village Fish Curry was quite fragrant and appetising, while the Salli Boti (goat curry) turned out to be more tender than I expected with the meat falling apart in the delicious onion-tomato gravy.
Butter Chicken, Village Fish Curry and Salli Boti, $25-$27 for full servings
For dessert, we had their Chai Panna Cotta which was rather intense with the distinctive scent of chai fully infused into the creamy treat topped off with some candied walnuts. It was chai overload for the boy, who had gone for their Kullad Chai tea served in a cute little earthen mug to wash down his dinner – while I had opted for the interesting Bubblegum Lassi (which really did taste like the bubblegum I used to have as a kid!). At the moment the restaurant is still unlicensed so you can BYO if you feel like something more alcoholic with your dinner.
Chai Panna Cotta
Kullad Chai, $5 and Bubble Gum Lassi, $5
Masala Theory is one of those restaurants you can keep coming back to as their menu is innovative, with delicately balanced Indian flavours that tantalise your tastebuds and senses at a reasonable price point for the quality of the food here. They’ve taken a lot of care with their decor as well as their gorgeous matte gold crockery, which gives it a bit of a luxe touch – the result is a nice spot for date night or a catch up with friends.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of Masala Theory
545 Crown Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9699 9444