Madhumoti, a pleasant but simple restaurant in Footscray serves up an interesting (if not exhaustive) list of favourite Bengali dishes. When a friend and I visited recently, we started off with one meat roll each, a Kolkata street-stall classic. Grilled marinated chicken is slathered in a semi-sweet lemony sauce, some chopped vegetables are added and the whole thing is rolled up inside a paratha – a type of buttery, flaky bread. Pure heaven – and very filling too (perhaps ordering one between two is a better idea!).
For mains, we were treated to a Bengali take on saag chingri (prawns in curried spinach gravy); the gravy was still deliciously chunky, as opposed to the regular paste-like consistency served in many Indian joints. Our only complaint about this was the amount of oil used. Begun bhorta is a mild mashed eggplant dish which can either be taken as a snack, or used to pad-out a large quantity of rice. The star of the meal was easily the fish bhuna; chunks of tender fish in a tangy, spicy sauce. Although the recipe doesn’t call for either, I could swear I tasted the fruity-yet-sour delight of tamarind, or possibly even coconut in there! The tantalising flavours escape description for someone accustomed to ‘mainland’ Indian food – not quite Indian, but definitely not Asian.
The only drawback about Madhumoti is the limited range of desserts. When we visited, only the standard gulab jamun was on offer; this is particularly disappointing considering Bengali is home to the widest range of sweet dishes in South Asia. Alas, we’ll need to go somewhere else for our mishti doi (Bengali caramelised yogurt)! Additionally, food takes a while to arrive – but it gets there in the end. Don’t visit if you’re in a rush – it’s best anyway to savour every delicious bite of this very different cuisine.
Madhumoti also offers a range of standard Indian dishes, and promotes itself as a Bangladeshi/Indian Restaurant – presumably to entice less adventurous souls. But really, if you’re prepared to try something different – and why not – then Madhumoti present’s Melbourne’s best chance to taste the peculiar but seductive smash of flavours turned out by Bengali kitchens.
Cost: Appetisers and bhorta are under $10, mains are roughly $10 – $16 (not including rice).
95 Irving Street, Footscray (corner of Albert St), Melbourne
(03) 9942 5702, 0401 643 935
Times: Open daily 11am – 10pm