14-16 Aurelia St Toongabbie, NSW 2146
|Opening hours||Wed-Mon 9am-10pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||02 8677 0420|
There's a line about 10 people deep at a Sri Lankan takeaway spot in Toongabbie at 3.30pm on a Wednesday afternoon.
From the moment XDream Dine In and Takeaway opens its doors at 9am until it closes them at 10pm, there's not really a quiet moment, but staff churn through customers quickly, spooning piles of colourful curries into styrofoam containers – or metal trays for the handful of diners lucky enough to get a seat.
XDream may be the busiest restaurant in the suburb, but it's far from the only one worth visiting. Most of Sydney's Sri Lankan restaurants are here in Toongabbie, and the smell of spice hits you on arrival. But the "Little Sri Lanka" makeover of this old Sydney suburb is a relatively recent one.
Chef Mitch Orr, who recently closed his Rushcutters Bay pasta restaurant ACME after five successful years, grew up in Toongabbie.
"I don't remember Toony being a multicultural food haven when I was growing up," he tells me. "In the town centre Jenny's Choice Chickens was the go-to takeaway on Friday nights. The peas and carrots were way overcooked, but the chicken and gravy was solid."
Former jeweller Umakanthan Yogalingam moved to Sydney from Sri Lanka as an asylum seeker in 2010 and, in need of a job, began working in restaurants in Parramatta.
He discovered that there were many Sri Lankans living in the area but few authentic restaurants, so he decided to open one himself in Toongabbie, about seven kilometres west of Parramatta.
Inside XDream there is a constant banging of metal as the busy chefs make seemingly endless fresh roti, bundling some into takeaway packages and chopping others into pieces for kotthu roti, a mixture of chopped roti, egg, meat, vegetables and spices, one of the restaurant's most popular dishes.
While many of XDream's dishes are made to order, do not ignore the deep-fried snacks piled behind glass in the enormous warmer.
Where else in Sydney can you get a torpedo of fried bread filled with curried lamb and potatoes, a crisp ulunthu vadai lentil fritter and a Sri Lankan-style fish empanada for less than a fiver?
Head to the bain maries for one of Sydney's best meal deals. Featuring an ever-changing selection of Sri Lankan specialities alongside more familiar Indian curries, $9 gets you one meat curry and two vegetable curries with either rice or two freshly cooked discs of gloriously crisp and chewy roti. Sorry rice, you don't even get a look in today.
Yogalingam's restaurant isn't the only XDream in Toongabbie – a few years ago his brother opened up XDream Jewellery a few doors down. Feel free to spend any money you save on lunch on jewellery afterwards.
XDream Dine In and Takeaway
Must-order dish One meat curry, two veg curries and two roti, $9.
Get more great Sri Lankan food in Toongabbie
Chef Ceylon, 42a Aurelia Street, Toongabbie
The latest restaurant to open on Toongabbie's Aurelia Street, this modern Sri Lankan eatery serves colourful classics on neat ceramics.
Dish Dining and Events, 7-8 Portico Parade, Toongabbie
For a little spectacle with your curries and rice, head to Dish on the first Saturday of every month for their game kama buffet lunch with live music.
Raj Bhavan, 21b Aurelia Street, Toongabbie
Do a roti crawl through Toongabbie, eating flatbread from every restaurant mentioned so far, plus Kiki's Kitchen and Mathura. Just make sure you end up at Raj Bhavan for a sardine roti.