In Short: Banarasi Babu brings a contemporary Indian menu to north western Sydney. The offerings across entrees, mains and dessert will keep both meat lovers and vegetarians happy. You must try the non-vegetarian platter and the chocolate samosas.
While Harris Park is Indian food central, gems are popping up all over the city. These restaurants are going beyond butter chicken or using the tandoor to deliver platters of red tandoori meats. Earlier in the year, I enjoyed amazing contemporary cuisine at Masala Theory, and just recently, I had an equally eye-opening experience at Banarasi Babu in Dural. Yes, you heard right. Great Indian food all the way out in north-western Sydney, where acreage used to dominate. The landscape and demographic is rapidly evolving and much of that acreage is being converted into new suburbs, with the patchwork of cultures settling into the area.
The food at Banarasi Babu pays homage to the holiest city for the Hindu people of India. Varanasi is an ancient city that sits on the banks of the Ganges, and Hindus believe dying in the city brings eternal salvation and freedom from the cycle of rebirth. Babu is a term of affection usually conferred on males of a family or greeting to an important visitor. Our greeting was extremely warm and welcoming. I observed throughout the evening, as each diner entered, they were greeted in the same way. The restaurant is lit intimately with copper accented shades casting a warm light. Arches and clean painted walls make for a spacious dining space. We arrived early and were among the first diners, but by 7:30pm the restaurant had filled completely. Even when fully booked there’s enough space between tables to stretch out and enjoy a really warm atmosphere.
Flipping through the menu I was glad that there was a description that accompanied each item. It’s refreshing to see “new” dishes to sample. While it was all new to me, the dishes are steeped in the tradition of north Indian cuisine. We began with a sampling of entree items. Our first dish was a beautifully presented Mutter Dhaniye Ki Shammi. Patties of green pea, coriander, infused with cumin and a garlic-chilli yoghurt topping. A crispy patty that exploded with flavour with each bite. I loved the heat of the yoghurt sauce that builds as it hits the palate. It’s nice and light, and before long I had gone through two of them.
From dainty to spectacular was a Khasta Kachori, a popular street food snack. I can see why it would be popular, with the large and puffed puris covered in contrasting coloured sauces and chutneys. There are flavours of tamarind which yield sweet and sour at the same time. There’s a cooling element from the yoghurt, yet contrasting heat that slowly builds in the background. The unleavened semolina and chickpea flour puri look spectacular and a complexity of flavour makes it a joy to cut into and savour.
Our first two entrees were vegetarian, but Chef Kunal Patel showed he was adept with fish and meat too, with a non-vegetarian platter of Murg Kali Mirch Tikka, Bengali Machli, and Adraki Lamb Chops. If you are a fan of the tandoor way of cooking meats, you will love the Murg Kali Mirch Tikka. Tender chunks of chicken with a peppery marinade that tingles on the tongue with the smoky flavour from cooking in the piping hot tandoor. The Bengali Machli was like no other Indian fish dish I can recall tasting. I loved the mustard flavour that hits the palate first and then the coriander and garlic comes through. It was a new flavour and tasted so good! Lastly, unmistakable lamb chops which invites the diner to just pick up the chop and eat the meat off the bone; which I did. Although the fiery reds of the lamb chop could be intimidating, it’s not hot at all, with a balanced harmony between the chilli, garlic and ginger. Finger licking good for sure!
Moving onto mains, our first dish to arrive is a Kaddu Ke Kofta. Smoked pumpkin and feta cheese, that’s fashioned into dumpling-sized balls and presented in a cashew gravy. A beautiful thick gravy, that’s silky smooth in texture, creamy and delicately spiced. There are hints of cumin, and turmeric. The little dumplings are soft and just that little bit chewy with the flavours of the pumpkin and tangy flavour of feta. Again, like the entrees that preceded this one, totally new to me and thoroughly enjoyable.
With our tummies quickly filling, we sampled one last main dish which was a Meen Kuzhambu. Now, this is a dish that had lots of familiarity. These were the flavours of s0uthern India. Curry leaves, chillis, and coconut are flavours in a curry I am very familiar with, and with fish they work wonderfully well. Add in mustard seeds that are flash fried with the curry leaves, you get amazing aromas that come from the fish curry. There are hot and sour flavours with the injection of tamarind. I particularly loved crunching through the whole fried chilli which breaks up the smooth texture of the curry and adds in a layer of heat. Chunks of fish absorb the characteristics of the spice yet maintain the flavours of the sea.
Beautifully presented entrees, and mains packed with flavour, that were beautifully balanced with spices and marinade, had been the order of our evening thus far. It all led up to a spectacular dessert. I loved the presentation of the chocolate samosas with a vanilla bean ice cream. The caramel sugar seat was definitely eye-catching, and sugar work sublime. Not something you would expect on an Indian menu, but then that’s where Banarasi Babu excels. The parcels of pastry were crunchy to bite into, revealing a rich chocolate flavour with chopped up pistachio chunks. Chocolate and ice-cream are perfect partners and the ice cream is smooth and creamy. It’s the perfect, and spectacular, end to our dining experience.
Banarasi Babu has set a standard for others to follow in the north-west. Warm and welcoming service, and the kitchen can cater to those of you intimidated by the heat by dialing it down if need be, or you could do as we did and leave it to Chef Kunal to deliver his interpretation of each dish so that it remained authentic. It’s huge dining area means that it can cater to those looking to host a special event or celebration. I can’t wait to take a few friends or family when they next visit Sydney to Banarasi Babu and try the rest of their progressive Indian menu.