Some Like it Hot: Review of Cafe Sarawan, Clayton.

UPDATE 28.08.2010: Cafe Sarawan has changed ownership and is now Anshumann Da Dhaba. Initially, I was sad about the loss of Sarawan – until we tried the new place today and I was blown away and delighted about the arrival of Anshumann Da Dhaba. Look forward to a raving post in the very near future!

I’m going to go right out there and say it: come to Cafe Sarawan in Clayton and you may be having the best Indian food in Melbourne. And I know that my last post spoke about the best gelati in Melbourne, so you may be thinking that I’m biased or soft, but I’m not. I love my food, and I just happen to be privileged enough to be surrounded by fantastic food spots. And Cafe Sarawan is right up there.

Last night my boyfriend and I were celebrating my missing out on a job. It was one of those situations where I would have accepted it had I been offered, but I had a small niggling feeling in the back of my mind that it wasn’t quite right. These past few weeks have been busy because they drag out the recruitment process, and we had relatives visiting from Scotland to boot. It was all happening! This is why I have been a bit absent on here, so my apologies for that. But let’s get back to Sarawan – we felt like a great meal, and we got one.

It’s a no-frills cafe/restaurant which doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. In the heart of Clayton, it would almost be easy to miss. Had I not been with my boyfriend, who has opened up my eyes to the wonderment of curries and spicy food, I probably wouldn’t have walked in. And that would have been my grave loss. Last night it was the busiest I’ve ever seen it – a packed house. Right now I have Rick Stein on in the background talking about his respect for food lovers who appreciate simplicity, and in a way this applies to Cafe Sarawan. Curries are of course subtly complex, but the simplicity of the venue and the service (self-service cutlery and water, but friendly staff all the same) really highlight the quality of the food.

I was craving a hot, spicy meal full of garlic and chilli, which seems to be a Sarawan specialty. We received two papadums to start with, and then ordered the lamb bhusa and chicken karahi with two servings of garlic naan and one serving of rice. We were both famished by the time the food came, and it was so, so satisfying. One curry would probably be enough for two, and we didn’t really need the rice, but we were in an indulgent mood and went all out. The chicken was beautiful and rich, nice and saucy and with onions and capsicum. Such a strong, heavenly flavour and so many herbs and spices. Perfect.  The lamb was soft and tender, and as ‘yummy’ as the menu says. It was strong and subtle at the same time, again loaded with herbs and beautifully saucy. The garlic naan was delicious as well. Thick, toasty and garlicky. Yum! The quintessential Indian meal, and all for $10 each. I could feel my immune system rebuilding itself as we ate. Divine!

Cafe Sarawan is a genuine Indian gem that focus on the food, and it shows. It was packed out inside last night, with people sitting outside on a relatively cold night waiting for their takeaway. The last time I dined here the meal was too hot for me – I don’t think my taste buds had matured enough. But that has changed and I now crave this food. If you’re looking for a delicious, authentic Indian experience, come to Cafe Sarawan (Bollywood clips included). The decor may not necessarily be to your taste but the food sure will be. If you do one good thing this year, make sure it’s dining at Cafe Sarawan.

Cafe Sarawan on Urbanspoon