Pad Thai (serves 6-8)

This quick pad thai is full of healthy vegetables and proteins and is packed with flavour.

I used a bottle of pad thai mix from my local Asian grocery store but you can either make your own or mix it up using other stir fry pastes or sauces.

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Ingredients

  • 500g thick rice noodles
  • 1/2 small bag bean sprouts
  • 1 handful of snow peas, ends broken off
  • 2 small bunches pak choy, washed and cut in half vertically
  • 1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1 bottle pad thai paste
  • 3 Tbsp kecap manis
  • 5 Tablespoons olive or peanut oil
  • 500grams chicken breast, cut into cubes (roughly)
  • 400grams peeled fresh prawns (tails on)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 50grams chopped cashews to sprinkle on top

Method

1.Prepare vegetables by washing, peeling and chopping (as above).

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2. In a large wok, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and fry off onions and garlic.

3. Add chicken and cook for about 5-10 minutes.

4. Add prawns and cook further for about 2-3 minutes or until it changes colour and becomes opaque.

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5. Push meat to one side of the pan and add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Pour in half the pad thai sauce mix and fry off for about 1 minute, then stir and mix into the meat.  Put meat into a separate bowl and drizzle lightly with kecap manis (about 1 tablespoon).

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6. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the empty pan.  Start to add vegetables, tossing as you go. I added the harder vegetables first so they all cook evenly.

7. Again, move vegetables to the side, add the rest of the pad thai mix and fry off for about 20-30 seconds. Then mix into vegetables.

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8. Add chopped cashews and mix in.

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9. Boil rice noodles until cooked through as per instructions on the packet.

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10. Drain water, transfer noodles to a separate bowl and add remaining kecap manis.

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11. Place noodles in a dish, top with meat and vegetables.

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12. Add beansprouts (you cold also top with sesame seeds) and enjoy!

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Old Town Hong Kong Cuisine, Chinatown Sydney ($)

Address: 10A Dixon St Sydney, NSW

Tel: (02) 9426 4888

* * *

Atmosphere

SenoritaLay, FitnessFanatic and I caught up at a popular restaurant in Chinatown, Old Town.

Located towards the Town Hall side of Dixon Street, it is opposite N2 Extreme Gelato (perfect for dessert afterwards).

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SenoritaLay had been here before and had told us that it was pretty good.  Having done my research beforehand, I was looking forward to trying out the delicious BBQ Pork Buns and noodles on offer.

My first impression of Old Town was that it was a modern taken on a Chinese restaurant.  It was dimly lit, giving it an intimate feel, and had a glass cabinet of Asian sweets by the door and BBQ duck and pork hanging at the back of the restaurant.

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As I got there before the others, I took a seat at one of the wooden tables (sort of like picnic tables), and ordered a Coconut Mango with QQ Jelly drink.

The drink look interesting with a white, orange and red concoction at the bottom and a thick orange mango puree on top.

It was cold and refreshing, perfect for this particularly hot day, and I liked the mix of milky and chewy jelly at the bottom.

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Service

When the girls finally arrived, we had a look through the menu and found it a bit too difficult to decide on what to get.

Old Town has a lot of options to choose from, from yum cha style dishes to full plates of noodles, soups and stir-fries.

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We each chose one dish to try, and soon ordered our meals.

While service was not particularly friendly (perhaps due to the language barrier?), it was quite fast.

Our food came out quickly, although not all at once.

Food

First up were the delicious BBQ Pork Buns and Peking Duck Buns ($6.80 for two).

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The buns were soft, with that delicious almost uncooked dough that the Chinese seem to love so much.  The pork and duck was juicy and tender, well-presented and plentiful for the size of the buns.

The Green Beans came out next. With a delicious hit of spice, they were crunchy and fresh. Perfect to nibble on between bites of the other dishes.

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Following the beans, we had a cool pancake-style dumpling – basically dumplings with batter poured around a pan to give a cool shape.

The dumplings were moist and tender and the pancake was crispy and crunchy, giving a perfect contrast.

The dish was quite nice, but I did not enjoy the sauce which was a little too sour for my liking. A simple soy would have been great.

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We ordered the usual Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (my choice), and they did not disappoint.  There were three, perfect for sharing between our trio.

The buns were light and fluffy like clouds, and the filling was the typical sweet yet savoury BBQ pork mince. As always, I really enjoyed these Pork Buns and gobbled mine down!

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Finally, FitnessFanatic’s noodles came out.  They were seafood egg noodles with prawn, shallots, onion and cabbage.

They were very oily and slippery- quite difficult to eat with chopsticks, and weren’t very flavoursome.  Despite this, the serving was generous and the seafood was cooked through.

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Other dishes I have tried on subsequent occasions include:

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Peking Duck Pancakes

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BBQ Pork

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Steamed Greens

Summary

Overall, not a bad experience and would come here again to try out some of the other dishes. Pretty good value for money as the meal ended up costing each of us about $25.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 4.5
  • Food- 7
  • Ambience- 6
  • Value – 7.5

Old Town Hong Kong Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Khao Pla, Chatswood ($$)

Address: 7/370-374 Victoria Ave, Chatswood NSW

Tel: (02) 9412 4978

Website: http://www.facebook.com/KhaoPla

* * *

One evening MC and I headed to Chatswood to watch a movie at Hoyts Westfields.

Our movie was due to start in about 20 minutes but we still hadn’t had dinner yet.

We were pretty hungry so, after a quick walk outside Chatswood Westfields to see what was available, we discovered Khao Pla, and decided to try it out.

We figured that the movie wouldn’t start until about 20-30 minutes after the set time due to ads.

Atmosphere

When we walked in, the restaurant was already about two thirds full.

People were chatting away enjoying their meals and staff were zig-zagging between the tables, taking dishes to and from the kitchen.

We were soon greeted by a waitress and led to a small table by the very cool printed wall. The wall features photos of various scenes from Asia and adds a funky look to the restaurant.

The decor in Khao Pla is quite modern and I felt that the restaurant was a funky addition to Chatswood which, I feel, has quite a lot of traditional-styled Chinese restaurants.

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Service

Service was pretty good. Considering we had about 30 minutes to get in, order, eat, pay and get out, we were pleased that we managed to get our food with enough time to gobble it down and still make it to the movie in time.

Despite us having to bother the waitress every 5 minutes about how long our food would take, staff were always friendly and polite.

Food

Chef Pla Rajoratanavichai, the owner of Khao Pla, has worked at restaurants including Ms G’s, Spice I Am and Mr Wong. He has now started his own restaurant and made his mark on the North Shore in a big way.

I found the food at Khao Pla equivalent to what I have had at Spice I Am, Mr Wong and Ms G’s, but the service and atmosphere was even better as we did not have to wait long for food or a table.

MC and I were excited to try the food and ordered a couple of dishes to share.

First up was steamed rice, served per person on beautiful black plates.

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Steamed Rice, $2.50

We chose the option of the Chicken Gaeng Panang Curry as Panang has been one of our favourites since we first tried it at Arawan Thai in Ryde.

This curry was rich and creamy, quite spicy and had a strong lemongrass flavour.

We both really enjoyed the dish and I think this will be a fall back that we will go back to again and again.

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Chicken Gaeng Panang

We also ordered a Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab dish.

Being a seafood lover, Soft Shell Crab is one of my favourites. It is a great way to eat crab without the difficulty of getting the meat out of the shell.

This Crab was delicious. Unlike some other restaurants where you get a smaller serving for seafood than chicken, beef, pork or lamb, this serving was large and generous, especially considering the price!

The batter was crunchy and delicious, the seasoning spot on. I loved this soft shell crab and again, I will be back for more!

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Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab

Overall, MC and I had a great time at this restaurant and enjoyed the delicious food, funky atmosphere and friendly service.

I would highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a good Thai meal on the North Shore.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 6.5
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 6.5
  • Value – 8

Khao Pla on Urbanspoon

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Thairiffic, Westfield Sydney, CBD ($)

Address: Westfield Sydney, Level 5, 188 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 8246 7018

Website: http://thairifficnoodlebar.com.au/trnb-westfield-sydney/

* * *

Atmosphere

As it is located in Westfield Sydney, Thairiffic is extremely busy on weekdays, especially at lunch time.

The noisy crowd, combined with the vibrating buzzers and the sizzling sounds coming out of the kitchen make for a pretty exciting environment.

Unfortunately, Thairiffic only has limited seating so the rest of the seating is in the food court, where my friend and I sat.

The atmosphere in the food court was not very exciting and it was quite difficult to find a seat. When we did find a seat, people would sort of swarm around us whenever one of us got up to get a napkin or when we touched our bags, in the hope that we were going to leave.

That said, if you go onto their website you will see that the actual seating area in the shop is quite nice and the warm reddy-pink colours make it feel quite inviting, especially on this particular gloomy day.

Service

Service was pretty minimal as we simply ordered at the counter and were given a buzzer to collect our food when it was ready.

Food

I ordered the Chilli Basil Chicken with Flat Noodles.

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Chilli Basil Chicken with Flat Noodles, $13.50

I was pleased to see a large serving on the plate with plenty of colours: green, red and browns, and lots of chicken and vegetables. The dish was visually pleasing and made my mouth water just looking at it as I was starving!

Taste-wise, it was great. Pretty spicy, but then again it was chilli basil. There was a strong basil flavour, with plenty of dried basil leaves and the noodles had a sheen of oil on them which made them slippery and easy to eat. The chicken was well cooked and the sprouts and snow peas added some crunch.

A very enjoyable dish, and I polished it all off!

Cost

The meal cost $13.50.

As Thairiffic only accepts cash, and I only had $13.20 in cash, I had to borrow $0.30 from a friend!

I found that quite a few of the food outlets in Westfields only accept cash so that is something which is a little inconvenient for those who don’t have any!

Rating

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 2
  • Food- 8
  • Ambience- 7
  • Value – 7

For my review of Thairiffic Double Bay, see here.

Thai Riffic Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Thai Passion, World Square Sydney CBD ($)

Address: Shop 12, 123 Liverpool Street Sydney

Tel: (02) 9264-5665

Email: order@kokorogroup.com.au

Website: http://www.thaipassion.com.au/

* * *

Atmosphere

Thai Passion is tucked in a corner of World Square, behind the Rydges Hotel and some other little restaurants.

While the colours used in the restaurant are warm and inviting, it is not a particularly striking place.

Nonetheless, the space is cosy and at lunchtime is full of busy workers keen for a quick Thai curry or a hot stir-fry.

MC and I were no different, looking for a place to keep warm and stay out of the chilly winter breeze.

Service

Service was average, as we had to look around and wave someone down to get their attention to order, get the bill, get water etc

Other than that we had an enjoyable time as the food came out quickly (very important when you are on the go). There were even a bunch of coppers having their lunch at one of the tables 🙂

Food

We started off with the veggie spring rolls. They were very very hot (almost burn my mouth in my excitement and rush to start eating).

Nonetheless they were great with the sweet and sour sauce. There were quite a lot of mushrooms in there, and the rolls were quite large and worth the $8.50.

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Next up was my choice, the satay chicken with rice. While the satay flavour was nice, I was hoping for a thick, rich, nutty sauce with plenty of chicken pieces and a few capsicum strips and snow peas.

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What we got was more of a stir-fry, with a few pieces of chicken, some veg (including the odd addition of lettuce!?!?!) and a somewhat thin sauce…

That said the sauce has a pleasant flavour and as we were starving, we devoured the meal.

I also loved the white rice as I have a strange obsession with steamed rice, especially the kind you get at Asian restaurants.

2

MC chose the Chilli Basil Beef stir-fry with egg noodles. We got thin egg noodles with the dish. My preference is for the thick ones and these looked like the typical 2 minute noodle packet ones.

That said, the basil flavour in the dish was really prominent and the beef and vegetables were well cooked. While MC left his snow peas and capsicum on his plate, I demolished the veg and really enjoyed the fresh lime over the top of the beef. Great flavours in the stir-fry but the noodles could be better.

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The verdict? Well the place serves up OK food at a good price. While the spring rolls were the highlight, the other dishes weren’t bad but were nothing special.

Rating:

Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 5
  • Food- 5.5
  • Ambience- 5.75
  • Value – 7.75

Thai Passion Plus at World Square on Urbanspoon

Korean Food (KoFoo), Sydney CBD ($)

Address: Shop G02, 35 – 39 Liverpool St, Sydney NSW

Tel: (02) 9261 2465

Website:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Korean-Food-KOFOO/168063346673527

* * *

Atmosphere

Kiwi Kolleague and I decided to check out one of the local restaurants near our workplace. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we decided to head towards Darling Harbour and see what we could find.

On the way we noticed a Korean place with photos of interesting looking dishes displayed in the windows.

When took a seat in the middle of the cafe and were given menus and water.

The place has a pretty unique atmosphere. It’s a dark but funky spot with Korean music playing in the background. There is a somewhat open kitchen from which you can hear the sounds of sizzling pans and the steaming of dumplings.

2

Service

The back wall has a sign saying “Korean food KoFoo – Passionate Staff: Conquers the World.” I was looking forward to seeing the passionate staff in action.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any passion in the staff at all. Moreover, they didn’t even seem that interested in us and they weren’t very friendly.

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Food

There is a special $6.99 deal between, I believe 12.00 to 2.00pm, which Kiwi Kolleague and I just missed by 5 minutes (yes, we had a late lunch!).

We were a bit disappointed about missing this but decided on our meals fairly quickly anyway as there were quite a few mouth-watering dishes on the menu.

After placing our orders we were brought an array of pickles and sides including what the waitress told us were:

  • fish pancake cut into shreds
  • pickled radish
  • soy fish sauce
  • seafood noodle mayonnaise salad

They were pretty interesting for us to try, especially as I had never had the noodle salad and fish pancake before. Kiwi Kolleague is not a fan of fish so she did not really enjoy the seafood noodle.

We both enjoyed the sour pickled radish though, and the fish pancake was not as yucky as it sounds.

4

First up were pork dumplings. These were juicy and moist, although they got stuck to the bottom of the steamer 😦

Kiwi Kolleage lived in China for quite a while and she enjoyed the dumplings too but was too full to have her three (so of course, I ate it!- can’t waste a good dumpling!).

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Pork Dumplings, $6.99

I ordered a sweet chicken Korean bento box.

While the wedges, fried noodle spring roll, chips and fried dumpling were an odd edition to the dish, they were probably the best things in the box.

The chicken was too hard to eat, tasted too much of ginger and a sickly sweet sauce, and was difficult to eat with the flat metal chopsticks.

The egg and rice were….well, egg and rice, and the pickled condiments, mini corn salsa and lettuce with beetroot mayonnaise were quite average.

Nice presentation but the food was not great.

6

Kiwi Colleague’s chicken egg noodles were a bit better than my dish. She said the dish was delicious and really tasty.

It was also well-presented and was a good portion-size.

5

Overall, I was disappointed with my dish but next time would come back to try the noodles and prawn har gow- perhaps when they are $6.99!

Cost

My meal came to about $18.00 all up including a peach iced tea and shared dumplings.

Rating:

I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service-5
  • Food-6
  • Ambience-6
  • Value –6.5

Kofoo Korean Food on Urbanspoon

Flaming Tandoori, Willoughby ($$)

Address: 531 Willoughby Rd, Willoughby NSW

Tel: (02) 9958 8544

Website: http://www.flamingtandoori.com.au/

Opening Hours: Dinner 7 nights a week from 5.00pm

* * *

Groupon

I was approached by Groupon with a voucher to use towards reviewing one of the restaurants offering a deal on it’s site.

I chose a deal for a six-person “All-You-Can-Eat Indian Feast with Wine” in Willoughby, which came to $69.00 (excellent value, I thought).

The main reason that I chose this deal was due to its location in the North Shore, which made it easy for me to visit.

The Restaurant

Atmosphere

The restaurant is conveniently located on Willoughby Road, one of the main roads in the area. It was pretty easy to find and, as we went after 6.00pm, roadside parking was free.

From the outside the restaurant looks like a typical Indian restaurant. Upon entering, the decor is quite dated, with some framed sari-like material hanging on the walls, and stereotypical beaded cushions. I did, however, like the wooden framed mirror with window “flaps” and the two wooden elephant tusks hanging on the wall, which were beautiful and probably should have been given more prominence.

Service

When I tried to book the restaurant a week earlier, I found that there was no way to get through to them via phone, unless it was after 5.00pm when they open for dinner. This seems like a sure-fire way to lose business as, if I didn’t have a voucher, I would have just called another restaurant instead.

I ended up making a reservation via their website. When I did get a call back, the person on the phone was friendly and polite.

At the restaurant there were only two other tables with two people seated at each one. My parents, brother, friend, MC & I were greeted by a waiter who seemed not to care too much whether we were there or not. I told him that we had a reservation and showed him my Groupon voucher and he waved us over to a table on the side.

The table had stools around it which were against the wall on one side, with the beaded cushions propped up against the wall. When my parents, who were seated on the other side of the table, asked for seats with back support, the waiter told them that they couldn’t swap the seats as they “would need the chairs if other customers came in.” I thought this was ridiculous as it was clear that the restaurant was not busy and it was unlikely that anyone else would come in that night. No one else did come in that night while we were there. My parents ended up sitting on the side with the cushions and leaning against the wall.

We were offered a choice of red or white wine, included in the deal. My parents chose red and MC and I chose white. The red wine came from an unopened bottle while the white was from an opened one and tasted a little vinegary. We ordered soft drinks for my brother and friend, at our own cost.

I asked how the “all-you-can eat” worked and the waiter informed us that we would get pappadums first then an entree then mains. He told us that rice and naans were not included, and that we could select up to 12 serves of the dishes in the banquet menu (there were only 6 choices available).

I thought this sounded odd as I probably wouldn’t have purchased a deal that didn’t include rice and naans, so I checked the Groupon website and found that it said “all dishes are accompanied with a bed of rice and naan or roti.” I also noted that “all-you-can’eat” does not mean “all-you-can-eat-to-a-maximum-of-12-serves”.

I ended up showing the waiter the webpage and he agreed that naans and rice should be included. He did not agree that it was all you can eat and said the deal stated “up to x value” next to it and this equated to 12 serves. I told him that I did not agree with that argument as other deals I have purchased have said “up to x value” but this means that you are getting a deal worth x for a lower price. Anyway, we agreed to accept this.

Note: I also found later that the deal said we could choose from butter chicken, rogan josh lamb and beef korma, spicy vindaloo dishes with a choice of meat, prawns marinated in a sweet chilli and garlic sauce or coconut fish fillets, or a selection of vegetarian dishes. The menu we were given to choose from did not have as much variety. 

Food

The meal started off with some pappadums -only 5 despite the fact that there were 6 of us. They were a little stale as well and had lost some of their crunch. To improve, they should make the pappadums fresh and serve them generously- especially as they barely cost anything.

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Zoomed in photo of a pappadum so you can (sort of) see the cumin seeds

Next we decided on the samosas. They came out on a bed of lettuce and the presentation could have done with a little more colour (perhaps some carrot, slices of cucumber and tomato wedges?). They were however, a good size, the pasty was nice and the filling, quite tasty. They were accompanied by a mint raita which was a beautiful green colour. I would have preferred the raita to be colder and more chilled as it is a dairy product, but that is a minor suggestion. Overall the samosas were very enjoyable.

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Samosas, 2 for $6.90

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Raita

The rice (2 plates) and naan (1 basket) were served (no roti), and we were pleased with the amount of each serving. The rice was soft and warm and the naans were delicious and garlicky. We later ordered one more serving of rice (for the bro).

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Rice, $2.00 per serve

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Naan- garlic $2.50 each and plain $2.00 each

For mains we were given a choice of butter chicken, beef korma, lamb rogan josh, garlic scallops, vegetable korma and one other veggie dish which I can’t recall the name of.

To start off we ordered one of each dish to try them out. When they came out, we found that they were quite small portions of each dish, and some had a lot of gravy but little meat.  Some of the dishes took a while to come out and the waiter told us they only had three burners operating in the kitchen, which is ridiculous for a restaurant- we have four at home!

The butter chicken was delicious and we ended up ordering 4 serves of it all up. My brother is a HUUUGE butter chicken fan and ate about 3 serves himself. He noticed that the third and fourth serves were a darker colour than the first and second serves, and that these darker coloured butter chicken dishes were more flavoursome. We all agreed however that the butter chicken was very good, generally.

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Butter Chicken, $16.90

Next was beef korma, It was cooked in a mild sauce which was creamy and rich, as Indian food should be. The beef was soft and tender. We ordered 2 serves of this

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Beef Korma, $16.90

The lamb rogan josh was quite spicy and contained some capsicum (which I really like in a curry). I struggled to eat much of it as it was very hot, but my parents really enjoyed it.

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Lamb Rogan Josh, $16.90

The scallops. The sauce in this dish had a nice garlicky flavour, but was less creamy than the other dishes. It contained scallops and mushroom. Unfortunately the scallops were overcooked as they were hard and chewy. This made them difficult to eat, but if cooked properly this would have been a nice dish.

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Scallops, $17.90

The vegetable korma was delicious. Creamy and tasty and with good-sized vegetables, it was a nice accompaniment to the meat dishes and had plenty of gravy.

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Vegetable Korma, $13.90

Finally, the other vegetable dish was a dry dish, with no gravy, However, it contained a good amount of spices and the addition of some fresh herbs and tomato.

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Vegetable dish, approx $12.90-$13.90

Overall, the food was quite tasty and enjoyable. Although the waiter was a little rude and not very accommodating at first, he later became friendlier and more helpful. We left there feeling satisfied with the food and content with the service despite the issues we had originally encountered. 

The restaurant could do with a slick of fresh paint to update the interior, perhaps some customer service training for the staff (the issue with the chairs was one I was particularly unhappy about), and a better answering machine/reservations system.

Food wise, they should make the pappadums fresh to order (it only takes a few seconds), work on the presentation of their entrees, and get some more burners so the food comes out faster.

Rating:

Overall I would rate my experience (out of 10):

  • Service- 3.5
  • Food- 6.5
  • Ambience- 5
  • Value – 5

Flaming Tandoori on Urbanspoon