Mukka

Colour run: Inside Mukka Indian restaurant.
Colour run: Inside Mukka Indian restaurant. Photo: Chris Hopkins

365 Brunswick St Fitzroy, VIC 3065

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Opening hours Tue-Sun 5pm-10.30pm; Thu-Fri 11.30am-2.30pm; Sat-Sun noon-4pm
Features Licensed, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Cheap Eats
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9917 2224

Eating at new Indian restaurant Mukka is a bit like when you see the movie version of a book: it has elements that are recognisable but it also nudges up to the new.

There are the famous names, butter chicken and palak paneer, and a strong support cast.

But this isn't the usual epic of dozens of curry dishes with north Indian influences. Mukka is more like a garden party and the menu flits through a number of India's regions.

Dosa 'pancake' filled with potato curry, and served with dahl and fresh-coconut chutney.
Dosa 'pancake' filled with potato curry, and served with dahl and fresh-coconut chutney. Photo: Chris Hopkins

You're sitting on blue or orange metal chairs, all hand-stencilled and softened with Velcroed-on cushions.

You're eating off round tin trays and drinking from aluminium cups beneath industrial pallets suspended from the ceiling and woven with creeping plants.

There's hip-hop bounding out of the speakers, and it's sometimes hard to tell where one table ends and the next begins, they're so close.

Chickpea and spinach curry is tinged with garam masala.
Chickpea and spinach curry is tinged with garam masala. Photo: Chris Hopkins

The hand-made vibe is in the big things, like the slap of white paint sketchily coating the brick wall; the little things, like folded-paper flowers in jars on each table; and the important things, like the clean, home-style food.

The dosas are $12.50, which may be a sting if you're used to paying up to five bucks Footscray-way. The crackling-crisp paper-thin "pancake" is filled with a mildly spiced potato curry and comes with tangy dhal and sensational fresh-coconut chutney. As a dish, it may look like shades of brown, but there is space between the flavours, and each is cleanly defined.

Same goes for a spinach and chickpea curry: the light gravy, tinged with garam masala, brings whole chickpeas and shreds of spinach together into a warmly textured whole. You can taste the minerals in the perky spinach puree that binds cubes of paneer.

Street snack: Bhel puri is a mix of pomegranate seeds, peanuts, salsa, puffed rice and spice.
Street snack: Bhel puri is a mix of pomegranate seeds, peanuts, salsa, puffed rice and spice. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Char-tipped butter chicken has all the creamy, oily orange hallmarks of this rich and famous dish. Thin, wholemeal roti and puffy, buttery naan breads are served in loaf tins (cute).

Other than curry and dosa, there is a lamb and a vegetable biryani, a tandoori section with five dishes, including prawn or mushroom, and an Indian Street Food section.

From there, steamed momos, beautifully folded dumplings, pinched up into a whorl, filled with potatoes and cabbage, make a solid starter.

Bombay Falooda kulfi sundae.
Bombay Falooda kulfi sundae. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Bhel puri is a snack of puffed rice, pomegranate seeds, peanuts and rough-chopped salsa with a peppery spice you can taste through the nose.

The tidy little drinks list includes lassi, with or without booze, 10 Australian wines, four beers, including Kingfisher, and Indian soft drinks: Thums​ Up cola and Limca ("contains no fruit juice").

Of the two desserts, the kulfi sundae is for those of us who are suckers for sweet endings.

Do … They have veg and gluten-free dishes? Plenty.

Don't … Be too precious about personal space; the neighbouring tables can be close.

Vibe ... Indian garden party.

goodfoodunder30@theage.com.au

http://mukka.com.au/