In Short: Come to Urban Tadka for a journey through India via their extensive menu. Beautifully spiced dishes with incredible depth of flavour. Meticulous preparation and presentation are the hallmarks of an experience at one of Sydney’s very best Indian restaurants.
Terrey Hills holds on to it’s acreage lots steadfastly, and in this green belt you will find an Indian oasis that is Urban Tadka. You can forget you’re in Sydney as you step in. The big Urban Tadka mural is loud and spectacular, but as I stepped in, the contrast was stark. It reminded me of the boutique hotels of Asia.
We’ve just come back from Luang Prabang, and the emphasis on wood here really transports me back there. Copper pendant lights and shades emit a warming glow. Urban Tadka’s popularity cannot be questioned as the restaurant packs in a crowd. It’s no fluke either, as I can attest, because you see I was here just 12 months ago and at that time the lounge and foyer was filled with patrons hoping to nab an elusive table. The crowd is an endorsement of the venue. It’s a mix of Indians and the diverse demographic that makes up Sydney.
Another facet that impressed was the service of the servers. They were attired in their ties for the gents and each of the staff sport aprons and were constantly engaging and looking after their diners.
An impressive restaurant, that has been carved out of the Australian natives that cover the this part of the northern beaches, the driving force behind this Indian dining juggernaut is Inder Dua, Dimpy Singh, and Mandeep Rana. They have been in the game for a while and have not only grown Urban Tadka into what it is today, their enterprise includes catering for many of Sydney’s hotels and function venues that require an Indian feast.
While waiting for the first of what would be a cavalcade of Indian treats, we quickly came to learn that Urban Tadka is not just a one trick pony. An extensive cocktail list is also on offer. Even more impressive, Urban Tadka has a roving sommelier of sorts by the name of Steve, who ensured glasses were topped up throughout the night and for the designated driver, ensuring that I was not going to be left out either with a couple of superb non-alcoholic treats.
Fellow Coco and Viner Mavis delighted in the passionfruit martini. She loved it for the light and citrus flavours that left a refreshing mouth feel. To her, it almost tasted like fruit punch that made for such easy drinking, it’s easy to forget that’s it packed with alcohol.
For myself, I had previously sampled the mango lassi on my first visit to Urban Tadka. At the time I was struck by how different it was o the standard lassis available around the city. It was exactly the same as I remembered it. There’s that beautiful mix of tanginess from the yoghurt with the sweetness of the mango. I can’t explain it, but there’s almost effervescent feel to it that really elevates above all other lassis I have tried. To really top it off, was the crumbed pistachio on the rim. Dispense with the straw, and drink it straight from the bottle, because that texture and nutty flavour of the pistachio crumb with the lassi is pure gold!
By the time I had returned from taking a couple quick snaps of the restaurant, Mavis was already onto her second cocktail. An espresso martini was a bolder cocktail offering with a heady mix of vodka, Kahlua, Baileys and Cointreau with a well pulled espresso shot. This martini contrasts the first cocktail as it’s warming with a beautiful fragrance and silky smooth texture.
To keep the effects of the alcohol at bay, there was a beautiful assortment of dips accompanied by pappadums. I loved the mint chutney. It’s a vibrant green with a beautiful flavour of mint and spices. Not far behind is a beetroot raita which is a beautiful pastel pink . Pappadums are thin lentil wafers that were superbly crispy. I only got a few cracked-off pieces as little Sammi went through them like it was a packet of chips. Truth be told, her first foray into Indian food was via pappadums, so I totally get why she loved Urban Tadka’s crispy fried wafers.
At Urban Tadka, there’s no slow build crescendo to the dining experience, rather it’s show-stopper after show-stopper. For example, the kurkuri chat is beautifully assembled. Was there an engineer or two lurking in the kitchen? The crispy wheat wafers form a pyramid-like structure that gives the dish height and presence. I loved the textures of the chickpea with a mash. It’s an explosion of flavours. I loved the mint, yoghurt and tamarind chutney combination. It’s creamy, cooling with hits of tanginess, sourness and sweetness. Our palates were alive after this entree. It’s a perfect entree to share amongst four to five people.
The kitchen continued with the high calibre entrees with The Urban Agari lobster. It was pretty special, with morsels of lobster sitting on petite, round, crisped up garlic naans. Each lobster was quickly flash fried to seal in the lobster flavour and coated with a special house sauce. The result was a beautiful burst of Indian spiced flavour but the sweet flavour of the lobster is not lost either. Crisped up naan was a delicious accompaniment. It’s a different way to treat lobster ,yet I wholeheartedly approved.
Continuing with the seafood theme, and perhaps my favourite dish of the night, was the Zatar Lasooni Jhinga. Tandoor smoked prawns which were plump, sweet and juicy. I loved the spicing that gave the vibrant colour that is emblematic of a tandoori fired protein. Take the best ingredients from the sea, apply a bit of the Tadka magic and you have this entree that bubbles to to the top.
Switching from sea to land, but continuing with the tandoor flavours was the Tandoori Achari Chooza Spatchcock. The meat was cooked on the bone, which enhances the flavour of the meat and kept it moist and succulent. Prior to the cooking process each spatchcock was marinated in yoghurt with garlic, ginger and Urban Tadka’s suite of spices. Lightly charred, crisped up skin. Boxes ticked!
I had to loosen a notch on my belt as the dishes kept moving from the pass to our table. To ease our way into the mains was one of Urban Tadka’s signature dishes Paneer Launglata. Cubes of home made cottage cheese were soft and silky, absorbed the flavours of mildly spiced sauce, fried onions and green chillies. A beautiful play of textures and flavours really do tingle the palate.
If you want a 5 star take on dhal, Urban Tadka is definitely the place to audition this staple of Indian cuisine. Amritsari Daal Tadka has its origins from the Punjab region of northern India. The base is a combination of lentils and split peas. I love the tempering process that adds an added depth of flavour. The daal had the perfect consistency. Not too thick nor too runny, it bursts with flavour. It’s rustic and comforting.
A constant theme that ran through the night, was the flavours of the protein not lost in the sauce mix. Machi Kulambu Narial is all about the flavour of the barramundi. I loved the theatre as the gravy is poured over the fish. The mild flavour of the barramundi is not lost, and the cooking of the fish is perfect with the flesh flaking apart. Coconut milk is prominent in the sauce as is the flavours of curry leaves and mustard.
Our final dish of the night was Meat Moradabadi. Tender fillets of lamb was cooked with a paste of ginger, fresh coriander, spring onions and Urban Tadka’s spice mix to deliver. I love the complex depth of flavour. There’s fragrance, there’s a little heat and it really is the exclamation point of a fine night of Indian cuisine.
It was our first Indian feast of 2018, but we left with little doubt that this is some of the best Indian food you will find anywhere in the city. Each of the dishes respected the key ingredient and we weren’t overwhelmed by the spicing. Take your tasting buds on a tour of India, by heading to Terrey Hills and Urban Tadka.
Update November 2019
We returned to Urban Tadka for another foray into the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. In the paragraph above I had mused that you would not find any better Indian food in the city. As we head into the 20s, the same hold trues. The team continues to :
- Listen to their customers and tweak the menu where appropriate
- Return favourites to the menu
- Innovate with modern twists on old favourites
- Complementing the food with a curated wine and cocktail list
I mention innovation and that’s on display with even the venerable Papadums. Made with rice rather than lentil flour, these present as crispy as the traditional papadum. It was even lighter than the traditional papadum and even has tinge of popcorn like flavour, with spices that ensures you are definitely eating an Indian snack. Accompanying the papadums are a trio of Indian dips including a mint and coriander, chunda mango chutney and salsa.
Last year we absolutely loved the theatre of the Kurkuri Chat. The towering assembly has been replaced with a playful taco arrangement. Crispy wheat wafers are fashioned into dainty taco shells and holds the ingredients, and in two mouthfuls you get the same flavour explosions of mint, yoghurt and tamarind.
The kitchen doesn’t have it all their way, and the bar shows that it can mix it, with their Blushing Mumtaz cocktail. It’s an elegant cocktail resplendent in red which is a combination of rose sherbert and rose water drops. Shaken with Hendricks gin it’s delicious cocktail with shards of coconut and ice refreshing the palate. It’s the perfect interlude before the action goes into overdrive on the food front.
Beautifully presented, with a quenelle of coconut chutney, is the Machi of barramundi. Fish that’s delicately spiced with dukkah and fried, it just flakes with the prod of the fork. It’s refined, pretty(especially the balls of pumpkin puree) and is so good to eat!
Continuing with visually delightful dishes, is the Murgh Malai Tikka. Cast aside any preconceived notions of what you may think tikka may taste like. Urban Tadka’s chicken tikka has that fragrant flavour of the tandoor imparted on the marinated breast of chicken. It’s sublime, with exquisite spicing. Then there’s mint sauce which tames the heat of the spice and the most succulent corn on the cob.
We quickly divert from the meaty proteins, to a dish filled with texture and a vegetarian stunner. Shahi Patyala Baingan starts with the textures of almond and dried fruits mixed in with the eggplant. The heat builds on your tongue and it will tingle a little, but overall it’s sweet, sour and spicy and I have little trouble scoffing a few spoonfuls quick smart!
The night’s most visually striking dish was the Highway Nalli Gosht. Served tall with one shank and flanked with fillets with cute little chat potato balls floating on the gravy. Eating it was somewhat emotional as it brought back memories of my Mum’s lamb curry. She passed away last year, and while I still have the recipe, there was just something about the way she cooked it, that I could never replicate. Well, here at Urban Tadka their gosht definitely has those mysterious techniques, that replicate the flavours I remember from my Mum’s lamb curry. It is packed with flavour, yet the lamb is just so tender. For obvious reasons, it was my favourite dish of the night, and one I will be looking for each time, I return to Terrey Hills and Urban Tadka.
Like our previous visit, my belt needed to be loosened a couple notches yet dessert was still on its way. Inder, Dimpy and the team sure do spoil us! Extraordinary desserts shows that Urban Tadka does not rest on its divine entree and main laurels. A Fig Date Walnut Kulfi, Red Velvet Tear Drop Chaser has fellow diners turning their heads. A striking red velvet drop is joined by the kulfi. It’s sweet from the mousse, and balanced out with the strawberry compote rounded off with the coconut dacquoise. Spectacular!
Just as good, is the Creme Brulee Rabri. With vanilla anglaise matching with a milk chocolate twill, and then rockstar component of the creme brulee. Creamy, rich, and just so comforting. It has the flavour of payasam. An Indian dessert steeped with French technique, what’s not to love!
We wandered out of Urban Tadka again utterly blown away with the quality of food. A restaurant that continues a tradition of fine Indian dining with a foundation of dishes that is familiar, innovative new takes on Indian classics and refreshing new creations that will you rushing off to tell your friends that you must head to Terrey Hills for a night at Urban Tadka. Just don’t forget to book as it fills up quick from Friday through to Sunday.