Reviewed by Georgia Cassimatis
Not only has Head Chef Varun Gujral of Manjit’s @ The Wharf restaurant appeared on Masterchef India for his culinary expertise in Modern Indian Cuisine, but this two year old restaurant also happens to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favourite when he visits Australia.
‘Arnold came in one day by chance and ordered chicken. He said to me ‘this is the best chicken I’ve had in my life. Can you bring some food to my boat in half an hour, and join us for the ride.’
Within minutes Varun organized food and staff, and the next thing he knew he was sailing Sydney harbour with Arnie’s family. ‘He’s such a laid back guy. We called each other the Turbinator and the Terminator’.
Such is the response to Varun’s creation in producing modern, fresh, hip Indian cuisine: a far cry from the ‘takeaway only when you’re hungover or desperate’ stereotype, that Manjit’s @ The Wharf is now considered the best Indian restaurant in Australia, second perhaps to his father’s traditional Indian food restaurant in Balmain, which is where it all began.
Manjit’s Indian Restaurant Balmain was established in 1987 by Varun’s father Manjit Gurjal. It’s reputation for delicious melt in your mouth butter chicken and flavours made it an institution. As a child Varun worked in the restaurant and watched his grandmother roast spice blends. She soon became his teacher. Tired of the Indian food stereotype in Australia, he wanted to create own restaurant where he could introduce modern Indian cuisine, with more flair.
Thus was born Majit’s @ The Wharf where dishes are so extraordinary that from go-to- wo one is taken on a culinary adventure. From the rolled roasted naan bread, to the rainbow coloured Fish Malai with its activated charcoal, minted aoli chutney, the culinary explosions are endless. The Dum Ki Biryani, a specialty from the Moghul days, is full of fragrant basmati rice, pressure cooked in stock with tender chicken thigh fillet, saron, sultanas and nuts. Naan bread isn’t an afterthought, but a gigantuous central piece of cuisine around which all is served. All of which is topped off with not only Indian’s favourite ice cream: the mango and pistachio Kulfi dessert, but the Indian Libre cocktail: Indian Old Monk rum with Thumbs Up and fresh lime, infused with smoke.
‘Spice, colour and excitement is the philosophy of Indian cuisine’, explains Varun. ‘Everything here is also fresh. We don’t even have a cool room.’
Says Manjit himself: ‘We create food that makes people eat with the eyes first, smell with their nose second, and to taste with their palette third.’
For more information about Manjit’s restaurants and catering contact www.manjits.com.au