378 Bridge Rd Richmond, VIC 3121
|Opening hours||Tue-Sun 5pm-9pm; Sun Mumbai brunch 11am-2pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 7012 3355|
If you're Indian, you already know this, but every Melburnian with connections to the subcontinent is heartbroken and stressed right now. They know people with COVID-19, they know people who have died, they're scared for tomorrow and they're feeling helpless because there's not much they can do to help.
In the midst of such trauma, it's even more impressive that some of these same people continue to deliver great dining experiences – we eat to remember and to forget, and we can also eat to support.
3 Idiots is a passion project from husband and wife team Prathamesh "Pratt" Bhoir and Satham "Satt" Makkad. They came to Australia 16 years ago as culinary students, training in classical European cuisine, then forging careers in conferencing (him) and steak and seafood restaurants (her).
They'd never cooked Indian but when Pratt found the premises that became 3 Idiots, he felt an urge to cook their families' food. Satt thought that was idiotic, but at least they'd settled the name, if not the argument.
Pratt prevailed, they got their mums over to teach them family recipes and three years later 3 Idiots is popular with Indian locals and others for its proud, personal, creative spin on the food of these two Mumbai families.
Every dish is on the menu for a reason. This is not one of those 80-curry restaurants. Pani puri (crisp, hollow spherical crackers) are served with a test tube of coriander, mint and green chilli "water" to add before a speedy one-bite munch.
"Greenish croquettes" are a fancy version of a potato-spinach fritter that Satt's mum makes for parties and tiffins. It's dressed up here with beetroot foam.
Chicken tikka is marinated for a day, cooked in a gas tandoor then given a smoky blast in a glass cloche that's removed tableside for ooh-let-me-video-it drama.
Ghee-roasted goat falls off the bone into dark gravy. Keralan-style meen moilee fish curry is reconfigured with barramundi and prawns in a curry leaf and coconut sauce. It's all delightful, served with obvious care.
That each dish is built on a memory is especially poignant now. The chocolate dessert harks back to a treat Satt used to save her rupees for, walking extra bus stops to reduce her fare. That memory is brought to life in an intense sizzle-hot brownie with oozy sauce.
It's infused with emotion at any time but in this devastating period for India, it's especially bittersweet.
Rating: Four stars (out of five)