10th December 2015
365 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
I have to admit, growing up is a bit of a funny thing. Not that I’m spending 20 minutes doing self-reflection every day, but it is a little amusing to realise that when I’m chatting to co-workers about career paths, investment plans, and SBS documentaries, I am not actually feigning interest. Another thing I’ve noticed is that although I’ve gotten (even) better at portion control, and I’m finally friends with the gym, I have become increasingly reluctant to eat junk food. Now this makes planning a meal out a slightly sticky affair; when you veto meals that are too greasy, too salty, too unhealthy, or don’t have enough vegetables, you’re left with pretty much with only Japanese and Vietnamese food, and maybe a bit of Thai.
No matter how you spin it, Indian food would never make the cut… at least that is until I met Mukka. Indian food in Fitzroy is not something you see very often, but then again, Mukka isn’t your standard curry house. I have always associated cheap Indian restaurants with a stuffy airlessness – the same way I associate dumplings with dirty cutlery and pho with sticky tables, so Mukka is a metaphorical and literal breath of fresh air. The fresh plants and flowers stole my heart, and the stencil art was endlessly charming. Though not overly ethnic with The XX playing in the background and the offer of lassi spiked with rum, the hand-painted mural makes it very clear what this restaurant is about.
The Bhel Puri ($7) is something I had never come across before (though I have had a similar Thai dish), and boy was it something. The mixture of puffed rice and fresh vegetables (including the occasional fluffy chunk of potato), tossed in herbs, spices, and fruity tamarind jam, was an all-out assault on the senses. It was simultaneously sweet, spicy, crunchy, and sour – the layered complexity of the flavours were simply astounding. The description on the menu – cold and crunchy, light and lovely – really hit it right on the nose, even if it doesn’t do it justice.
Spicy Lamb Chops ($13, 2pcs) from the tandoor is something most people are a lot more familiar with. Marinated in a combination of lime juice and warm spices, each piece was char-grilled to aromatic perfection, and delicious with a cooling drizzle of coriander chutney. The radioactive spice rub may look intimidating, but it was actually not that much spicier than the Bhel Puri or the Dosa (spoiler!). The kachumbar served on the side was like an Indian garden salad, except this was spicy, sour, and tossed moreishly with chilli powder.
Although things weren’t too hot yet, it was good to have a glass of Mango Lassi ($6.5) on the side. This yoghurt drink was deliciously thick and frothy, mixed with real chunks of early summer mango. Best of all was the sprinkling of crushed pistachios and cardamom on top, which gave the drink an exotic, floral spin. We were a bit more judicious with our sips, but our neighbours threw down an entire glass and promptly ordered another.
The Classic Dosa ($12.5) is a must-try. Cooked evenly to a burnished gold, every inch of the crepe was simultaneously crisp yet soft and chewy. We tore pieces off with our hands and dunked them in the thick, creamy daal, scooping the soft chunks of vegetables into our mouths.
Or at least we did, until we hit the pocket of curried potatoes. Cooked to fluffy, airy perfection, the spicy potatoes combined fantastically with the coconut chutney for a hint of nutty sweetness.
The Dosa looked small, but it was surprisingly filling. Still, I made room for the Delhi Carrot Kheer ($9) – a cold, sugary porridge of shaved carrots and condensed milk. This was a decadently sweet and creamy treat, garnished with nuts and spicy hints of saffron and cardamom. Hidden amongst the carrot were treats of plump raisins and slivers of toasted almonds; don’t kid yourself into thinking that the vegetables make this healthy, but it is absolutely worth it.
Despite having a good ambience and even better food, what ultimately draws me to Mukka is just how fresh and vibrant the entire experience was. It was refreshing to eat delicious Indian food that was neither heavy nor stuffy, but full of flavour and nuance that burst on the tongue with its vitality. With all the gorgeous colours and smells drifting about, food envy is inevitable. Despite having only been open for about a month when I visited, they have ironed out all the kinks and lured in all the locals. It’s simply a matter of time before people start crossing town to eat here, so be warned.
Rating: 15/20 – indian food like you’ve (probably) never had before.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Mukka.