We begin stomach preparations for our Sri Lanka trip later this year at Mithu's Restaurant in Homebush West \ Flemington.
Mithu's looked like just the right place to start our Sri Lankan education. The menu has plenty of things we've never heard of and the customers seem to be from Sri Lanka or thereabouts. It's a tiny joint with barely twenty seats and a nice laidback family-run feel to it. A super nice lady and gent run the show here, and man, they can cook.
Ready to go pastries in the front counter.
The fish rolls have a nice spicy note to them. The donut shaped vada are plain and simple, best when dipped in the tangy coconut and coriander sauce. Yay.
Kottu roti - $9.50. Finely shredded roti (flat bread) tossed with spring vegetables and lamb (or chicken, fish or vegetables). It's like stir fried noodles but with shredded roti instead of noodles. It's cooked with a loving touch, light and non-greasy. The lamb is excellent. Highly recommended.
String hopper biryani kottu with lamb (or chicken) - $9.50. Similar to the dish above. Stir fried string hopper (steamed rice flour noodles chopped up into small pieces) with veggies and lamb. This dish has a wonderfully light and fluffy texture.
Lump rice - tempered rice with chicken curry, eggplant moju (kinda like sweet'n'sour), frikkadels (fried breadcrumbed meatballs), and shrimp sambal (shredded dried shrimp and toasted coconut). The tempered rice is an eybrow raiser, Google reckons it is steamed long grain rice fried in a little butter. "No wonder it's so bloody nice" says Alison. Charmaine Solomon wisely explains in her 'Complete Asian Cookbook' that tempering comes from Portuguese influence. Another excellent dish, highly recommended.
Pittu set with fish (or lamb or chicken) and dhaal - $12. The boss lady wisely recommends the fish, which is a curry with a spicy flavour we've never come across before that really pops in the mouth, we're amazed. The dhaal is delicious but the fish is the star of the show.
We learn that pittu is made of flour and coconut steamed together in a tube, it's uber yum and filling. It reminded us a little of couscous in taste and texture, but far more flavoursome.
There's a few Sri Lankan soft drinks in the fridge. Alison chooses EGB because it has a hephalump on the bottle. We guess EGB stands for Elephant Ginger Beer. Tops.
Wattlapam - $3.50. Steamed pudding made from palm sugar, coconut milk and egg. Has a wonderful savoury spice flavour to it. A signature dish. Again, highly recommended.
We're not sure what this was called, the nice lady called it 'biscuit pudu' or something similar. It was a rich chocolatey pudding layered with softened Marie biscuits, and topped with nuts. Very western and homely, a big serve for $3.50.
Back again, November 2012...
A week after we get back from our Sri Lanka trip we're hankering for more rice and curry, so we head out to Mithu's the first chance we get:
Veggie curries on rice - about $8. From what saw on our travels this is pretty much the national dish of Sri Lanka: a mound of rice some veggie curries on top, and maybe a bit of chicken, fish or lamb curry as well. Always present were dhal and a green veggie dish that varied in flavour and coconut-iness wherever we went. We couldn't get enough of this is Sri Lanka, and we are over the moon to find it at home.
Vegetable thali - about $10. Similar to the veggie curry on rice only on a fancy tray and with an extra dish: eggplant curry.
Another treat we had in Sri Lanka was Faluda ($3.50) - a bright happy milky drink, pink with rose syrup and dotted with basil seeds, this one has a dollop of ice cream too. These seem very popular at Mithu's.
Mithu's Restaurant wall menu - click to enlarge. There's also a table menu that has descriptions of the dishes, and there's some photos on the wall to help you choose as well.
We've been in some pretty dang good restaurants of late, but Mithu's has excited us more than any. It's partly the fun of learning a new cuisine and trying all the classics for the first time. But we also reckon the folks at Mithu's are simply just very good cooks. Everything we tried was cooked 'just so' with a homely feel to it. We can't wait to get to Sri Lanka.
Mithus is at 105 The Crescent, Homebush West, opposite Paddy's Markets and Flemington Station. Halal and vegetarian options available. Closed Tuesdays.