Cafes, Restaurants and Dining in Perth, Western Australia.

Balti Indian Cuisine

3/2 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Phone (08) 9221 3306
www.balti.com.au

Modern vibrancy

Balti is sheer class; it oozes freshness, ambience and above all, quality. Ditch those pre-conceived notions of heavy, spice-laden, lethargic Indian food. Slip into the candy-coloured interior and immerse yourself in stunningly authentic Indiana cuisine.

Ever wanted to dismiss those pre-packaged, preservative-filled jars of curry ‘sauce’ and make one from scratch – but felt a bit intimidated at the long list of spices required? Me too, and that’s the beauty of Indian cuisine; it’s a careful mix of layer-upon-layer flavour, something to really delve into. This complexity of spices originates from having to add hefty amounts of spice to meats and fresh produce in a very hot country where they didn’t have refrigeration (and still don’t) in many places.

At Balti, the art of Indian cuisine is not lost, and quality is absolutely paramount. Forget your thick, stodgy curries, ‘vindaloo belly’ and ‘guess the meat’ games. Balti is the real deal and in a class of its own. I remarked to Balti manager Simon on how modern Balti was, and he said to me, “This is what much of India is like nowadays; you should see some of the restaurants over there! Indian food is more in touch with Western society; it’s very fresh and vibrant.”

The chefs, Mahendra and Rajendar have been cooking since the opening in April 2008. Interestingly, they use separate pots, pan and utensils for their ‘vego’ dishes, something which I think signals a lot of integrity. Their specialties come from disparate parts of India – Chundugi in the North (gourmet curries) and Goa in the South (fresh seafood). Each dish is cooked fresh to order with fresh ingredients. Everything is made on the premise – all the pastes, breads and sauces, and if it can’t be made at Balti, they import it direct from India via specialist suppliers. Also noteworthy is that all dishes are available without oil and butter.

Balti’s menu is well-structured, well-equipped and attentive. Choose from starters and tasting plates- the latter is conveniently priced per head. There’s also chicken, lamb, seafood and an array of vegetarian dishes. Vegetarians really are well looked after here, with dishes ranging from the ‘Punjabi Five Lentil Mix’ through to ‘Roasted Eggplant Crush’ and ‘Stir-fried Okra with Onions’‚Äì not your run-of-the-mill ‘vego’ fare! In addition, there are great side dishes as well as a big selection of different breads, rice and pappadums.

Simon served us the ‘Selection of Four Accompaniments’ to start, which includes pappadums, mango chutney, mint and coriander sauce, and cucumber raita. He said some people order this an accompaniment to their main meal, or as a starter. It was great as a starter and something I wouldn’t normally do. He suggested we take a plate and spoon some of each mix onto it, then take a pappadum and dip it in; it certainly got my appetite going.

Next, we tried the Tandoori Tasting Plate: a selection of tandoori starters. I learnt a lot from my Balti visit, chatting to Simon. Call me ignorant but I didn’t realise that ‘Tandoori’ can also mean the technique of cooking using a Tandoor Oven, and not just the well-known red Tandoori paste. So all these items were cooked inside the Tandoor oven (up to 400 °C!), creating an authentic charred flavour.

The meat was all fresh and coated with different yoghurt-based masalas, and that’s another thing I learnt. Again, apologies – you may know this already – but a ‘masala’ is a mix of spices and there are infinite kinds. I thought it was a specific blend. Anyway, the Tandoori salmon stood out with its tangy green chilli and yoghurt masala. Yoghurt is also a ubiquitous conduit for spice in Indiana cuisine.

For mains I tried the Balti specialty,  ‘Goat Curry’, made using a special, secret masala. The meat was served on the bone but it fell off with a light tap of my spoon. It was dark, thick and spicy. I wouldn’t normally drink red with a curry but Simon said it’s popular at Balti. The 2007 Howard Park ‘Leston’ Shiraz (Margaret River, WA) held up against the spice with its full-bodied berries and fruits.

Finally, the ‘Prawn Jhalfrezi’ was superb: thick, turgid prawns (tails off, yay!) swam in a delicate, bright orange curry that flushed my cheeks instantly (or was it the wine?). I felt the love that permeated this dish. Alongside, the Hyderbadi-Style Biryani with its vibrantly-coloured mix of basmati rice was light and tasty. With beans, peas, carrot, and the sultry taste of paprika and fresh mint, it made for an excellent accompaniment.

Next time you feel like Indian, think of Balti. It’s slick, inexpensive and guaranteed to please. It’s open daily for dinner and mid-week for lunch and they offer a great lunchtime special. Modern Indian at its best.

Balti has been featured in the Masters of Menu Recipe Book – for more information please click here.

By Shenade Unicomb

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