Curry Night is always a good idea. Doesn't matter whether the curry is goat or fish, or whether it's warmly spicy or "I can't feel my tongue any more". Curry Night transcends all that, as you immerse yourself in tempered spices, scented rice, warm breads, crisp dosas and comforting lentil sambars.
Ah, but do you go northern Indian, with its flat breads, yoghurt, tandoor and samosas, or southern Indian, with its lighter seafood and vegetarian dishes, coconut milk, crisp dosa, and tangy rasam? Or do all Indian restaurants in Australia pander to everyone's tastes with pan-Indian menus? There's only one way to find out.
Gronut from Urban Tadka in Terry Hills. Photo: Jill Dupleix
Urban Tadka, Terrey Hills
The "Tadka Boys", co-owners Dimpy Singh Kanwar, Mandeep Rana and Inder Dua, keep things proudly northern Indian, a little bit fusion, and a lot of fun. Even without the theatrical setting of the restaurant experience, they manage to imbue their takeaway food with a sense of excitement. (Check out the website for more fireworks.)
There's golden biriyani loaded with lamb and threaded with caramelised onions ($21.90), and lamb cutlets pulled from the tandoor ($27.90), profoundly charred yet tender. There's a terrific tadka dhal ($19.90) that goes with everything, and wok-tossed jhinga lasuni tikka masala ($26.90) that's moreishly sweet-and-sour, the king prawns in a rich, tangy, garlicky, sauce of chilli, shallot and green capsicum.
Breads are thick and pillowy, and lasuni (garlic) naan ($4) goes well with the long fingers of finely minced chicken and lamb of an elegant saloni seekh kebab ($15.90). The only dessert on offer is a gronut ($8), a glossy semolina doughnut sticky with rose water and cardamom syrup – add a bottled Old Fashioned cocktail ($17) to your order, to help cut the sweetness.
Go-to dish Saloni seekh kebab, minced lamb and chicken with Lahori spices, $15.90
How Delivery within 10km (call to order), or pick-up from 5pm to 8.30pm, Tue-Sun. Shop 2, 321 Mona Vale Road, Terrey Hills, 02 9986 1040, urbantadka.com.au
Masala dosa at Malabar in Darlinghurst. Photo: Supplied
Good old Malabar does a lot more than that southern Indian favourite, masala dosa, but, my goodness, it doesn't really need to. I'm already a regular for its baby goat mappas ($28) but for this exercise, it's all about the fermented lentil and rice dosa ($12), with its little pots of lentil sambar and coconut chutney.
No dosa is going to survive delivery with its perfect-roll-of-parchment intact, but the end result is a loose scrunch of crispness and softness, with a lovely sourness from its downy, fermented inner lining. Enfolding either a "savoury mince" of lamb, fenugreek, ginger and cinnamon, or a crushed rubble of warm potato, onion and mustard seed, it's proof that you don't even need a curry to have a great curry night.
Go-to dish Kheema dosa, $14 and masala dosa, $12.
How Pick-up noon to 2.30pm Wed-Sun, and pick-up and delivery 5pm to 8.30pm, daily. 274 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, 02 9332 1755, malabarcuisine.com.au. (Also at 334 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest, 02 9906 7343.)
Butter chicken from Abhi's. Photo: Supplied
Abhi's, North Strathfield
You don't last 31 years in this business by not giving people what they want, and Kumar and Suba Mahadevan and sons Abhinav and Aki do so with everything from Goan fish curry to tandoor, biriyani and dosa.
The good news is that they now package up two of their hit dishes for OzHarvest's Harvest Bites, which delivers beyond Strathfield and puts the profits to feeding those in need. Chicken makhni, for instance, comes with beautifully cooked basmati, tomato and onion kachumber, mango chutney, yoghurt raita, and a bag of miraculously unshattered poppadums ($35). It's a rich, bright take on butter chicken, tandoor-roasted then coated with a velvety fenugreek-forward tomatoey cream. Get hold of a bottle of Kingfisher beer ("Most Thrilling Chilled"), and Curry Night is off and running.
Go-to dish Chicken makhni and sides, feeds two, $35
How Order by 4pm Monday for delivery Wednesday through Harvest Bites or call the restaurant to order a la carte for local delivery or pick-up. 163 Concord Road, North Strathfield, 02 9743 3061, harvestbites.com.au or abhisindian.com.au