It felt strange to return to an old favourite to write a review. We’re not regulars anymore, and the new waitress didn’t recognise us. I kept wondering what it would be like. Were we coming home? Would it be the same?
The restaurant we were visiting was the Vasanda Bhavan in Homebush. When we lived in Strathfield we would visit almost every week. Some weeks we tried to break the routine and eat something else, but the Vasanda was our favourite. Coming back and stepping into the dining room, decorated with Christmas baubles and nondescript Australian landscapes, I did feel a sense of familiarity. The laminated menus hadn’t changed either. You can still get the same selection of curries for the same good prices between $10-15. Some things have changed though, and I was pleased that the jugs of water had lost their refrigerated taste while we were gone.
If the restaurant is making small changes, so are we. In the old days we would routinely order one lamb dish and one vegetarian. Now we’re trying to be more vegetarian and on this occasion we chose both our dishes from the vegetarian section of the menu. We didn’t change all our habits though. Rice for two, Garlic Naan for James and Raita for Arwen were must have dishes.
The Paneer Tikka Masala is a dish I used to love, and nothing has changed here. The rich tomato sauce with a touch of cream is really tasty. I also appreciate having some vegetables with the paneer. The paneer, an Indian cottage cheese, is tasty and not rubbery.
The Aloo Muttar was chosen to satisfy James’ love of peas. The sauce is a creamy curry. Interestingly tonight it’s not spicy, and neither is the paneer dish. We mustn’t have looked like we could handle a hot curry. I’m surprised we weren’t asked how hot we wanted the dishes actually.
While the dishes we ordered this time weren’t spicy this isn’t a good representation of food at the Vasanda Bhavan. It can be hot – seriously hot. One night when we were feeling particularly adventurous we ordered the Lamb Pepper Masala. Our waiter cautioned us that this was an authentic South Indian dish. He seemed to be asking if we thought we could handle it, and the answer was yes. How wrong we were. It was so hot that it was hiccough inducing. James thinks we were being taught a lesson, but perhaps South Indian food really is that hot.
When I was eating that red hot dish I remember thinking that it was a pity that the Raita wasn’t more cooling. You see, the Vasanda’s Raita contains raw onions and mustard seeds as well as cucumbers, so it’s not the cooling yoghurt you’re used to. With our mild dishes at this recent dinner it was perfectly refreshing and I rather enjoyed the onion hit. The agreement with ordering the Raita is basically that it’s my compensation for James being able to eat bread. I’m always terribly jealous when I smell the warm Garlic Naan, so I need a consolation Raita. The Vasanda’s Garlic Naan was a crispy one and it was fresh out of the oven. It certainly smelt good.
If you don’t want to eat in the Vasanda Bhavan does take-away as well as eat-in meals. One night an Indian family (eating in) had brought a casserole dish along with them which they had filled to take home. It’s really great for the environment to bring your own container like that. I’ve never tried it myself, but it’s a brilliant idea.
Returning to the Vasanda Bhavan I was pleased to find I still love the place. It’s a great restaurant for a low key, inexpensive Indian meal. I almost felt as if the food had improved, but that was probably just in comparison to our local desperado Indian joint. Maybe I’ll have to go back for another taste, just to make sure.
Ratings (out of 5 snorts)