As the weather cools and the rain starts pouring, our tastebuds yearn for something heartier and richer in flavour. Gone are light summery salads and tiny shorts, replaced with warm, hearty meals and giant, cosy knits.
Maya Da Dhaba in Surry Hills offers authentic Indian cuisine, perfect for the cooler weather.
Maya Da Dhaba on Cleveland Street in Surry Hills is one such place; offering rich, intensely spiced Indian cuisine and curries that'll make you sweat on even the coldest of nights.
In true Surry Hills style, the restaurant is located in a beautiful old terrace.
Located in a quaint little terrace, Maya Da Dhaba draws crowds of locals arriving on push bikes, and distant revellers alike. On this, a rainy Saturday night in Sydney, this terrace restaurant is bordering on critical capacity; with tables full, together with queues of people eagerly awaiting a seat, and delivery orders literally flying out the door.
The crowds at Maya Da Dhaba on a rainy Saturday night
The décor at Maya Da Dhaba is unmistakably Indian, but avoids being gaudy by allowing the beautiful architecture of the old terrace home to shine. The original fireplace, although unused, is flanked by hanging woven tapestries in rich earthy hues; its mantle home to carved brass vases and traditional art. A mosaic of colourful stained glass squares at the restaurant’s entrance quietly alludes to the cuisines vibrant homeland, and the light emitting from decorative, antiqued chandeliers and wall sconces bathes the entire space in a warm, deep glow.
The elaborate menu includes the traditional fare of Indian curries and popular street food accented with fragrant spices, punchy chillies and aromatic herbs; but also showcases a selection of regional Indian specialty dishes hailing from Goa, Chettinad and Punjab not typically featured on most Indian menus.
Crisp, paper thin papadums accented with cumin seeds, and served with a selection of tasty dipping sauces.
On a busy evening the wait for meals can get a little lengthy, but the complementary papadums accented with cumin seeds and served with a selection of dipping sauces including a refreshing yoghurt raita, and a pleasingly sour tamarind sauce, definitely help fill the time.
Crisp, golden samosas and lightly spiced paneer.
The selection of entrées at Maya Da Dhaba is vast, and includes tandoor grilled lamb kebabs, succulent tandoori prawns and crisp onion bhajis. For a taste of the traditional, the vegetable samosas ($7.90 for two) are a tasty option. For something a little more exotic though, the tandoori paneer shashliq ($14.90) sure knows how to make an entrance. The paneer, a soft cheese, arrives still sizzling on a smoking grill plate, served on a bed of smoky chillies, capsicum and sweet onion. The tender cheese, stained with a fragrant spice rub, has a subtle smoky flavour and melt-in-the-mouth texture.
The best way to eat - order a combination of everything and share.
When the main meal arrives, everything is placed in the centre of the table family style, and everyone is encouraged to dig in. In true Indian fashion, ghee, a clarified butter is the cooking fat of choice, and so everything arrives with a slight oily sheen - perhaps not best for those wary of their waistlines. The chicken jhalfrezi ($15.90) combines succulent chunks of chicken in a mild tomato and onion sauce, and the chicken biryani ($14.90) combines golden saffron, sweet dates and pungent cardamom to create a lightly spiced, but flavourful rice dish.
The slightly suspicious looking, but delicious saag paneer.
For those braver souls, the lamb bhuna ($16.90) is morsels of tender, juicy meat smothered in a rich gravy and injected with a combination of chilli and spices that add a great depth of flavour, as well as a serious heat hit. Perhaps the most surprising dish on the menu however is one that most would quickly gloss over; the saag paneer ($12.90), of which is a spinach and Indian cottage cheese curry which truly epitomises the old adage don’t judge a book by its cover. Despite the slightly lumpy consistency and swamp green colour, this creamy, delicately spiced curry with just a hint of sweet smokiness is full of flavour, and is truly delectable.
Indian cuisine has developed a bit of a stigma recently, probably due to its prominence in almost every single shopping centre food court across the country. However for a taste of true Indian cuisine, that includes more than butter chicken and soggy samosas; brave the weather; fight for a car park, and venture out to Maya Da Dhaba in Surry Hills.
Where: 431 Cleveland Street Surry Hills NSW.
Why: Delicious and authentic Indian cuisine with a warm ambience, in a great location.
Cost: Entrées from $6.90 – $16.90. Mains from $11.90 - $17.90. Breads, plain rice and accompaniments from $1.50 - $4.90. Wines (by the bottle) from $17.50- $49.50. Beers, soda and traditional Indian lassis from $2.90 - $6.90.
When: Open everyday from 12pm – 10.30 pm
Good for kids: Yes.
Take away: Yes, the full menu is available for take away. Home delivery is also available in selected surrounding suburbs.