I’m going to blame Helen because I have to blame someone. The Essential Ingredient used to be one of my biggest and most frequent shopping indulgences. And because I lived close to its previous incarnation, I went past it so frequently it was very easy to think of something absolutely … well … ‘essential’ that I needed to acquire for my kitchen or pantry. In the cold light of day, I now realise these things are ‘essendulgences’, to coin a phrase. Now that Satan’s Emporium has moved to Crows Nest, I hardly think about it. I’m not reminded of its existence, way over there on the other side of the harbour. Until Helen put up her post about her shopping trip. Since then I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind, darn it. Crows Nest – hah! – if only it were that hard to reach. Maybe if it moved to Andean Condor’s Nest I’d be ok.
As Oscar Wilde said, the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. So off I went to scratch my itch, as it were. I won’t elaborate on the gory details, for that would be like a recovering alcoholic publicly recounting an ‘off the wagon’ night at a pub. But I will tell you about lunch.
I used to work in Crows Nest, so it was kind of nice to stroll down Willoughby Road and see what’s become of some of the restaurants I used to haunt. Many of them are still there, and they’ve certainly glamorised the streetscape with outdoor seating and clipped potted plants. The restaurant we visited was an old favourite of mine that’s been resident for about 18 years – a real stayer in Sydney restaurant terms. The food was just as fine as I remembered it, although I’m perplexed as to why they garnish everything with red cabbage. Not to worry, I can look past that.
Being lunchtime, we went with a selection of entrée dishes to pick at and share. The garlic prawns ($10.50 for 4) are tossed in garlic, butter and a tomato based sauce, and served on a bed of flat rice (chiwra) which is a snack-like, beaten rice product often used as a cereal. It’s crispy, like a mini rice bubble that’s been run over by a steam roller.
The octopus (picture below, $9.50) is marinated and cooked in ginger and chilli oil, then chilled and served cold as a salad. It’s incredibly tender and redolent of fenugreek and curry leaves.
The koliwara rolls ($7.50 for 2 large rolls, sliced into 4 pieces each) are a Bombay tradition, and can be described as the filling of a lamb samosa but in the shape and pastry of a spring roll, fried ‘til crisp, and served with a chilli tomato sauce.
We couldn’t resist the chicken tikka, (picture below, $9.95 for 4 thigh pieces) fluorescently tinted with the trademark tandoori burnt orange, fresh and hot from the tandoor, with a smooth aromatic mint, cumin and yoghurt sauce. A flaky garlic naan bread ($2.95) completed our little selection of snacks for lunch, and we left feeling refreshed after all that hard shopping…
…but with enough energy left for a spin ‘round Simon Johnson in Pyrmont for the things that TEI doesn’t stock … Ortiz anchovies, Joseph’s first run Olive oil … oh god, I really do have it bad.
82 Willoughby Rd.,
Lunch Tuesday-Friday from 12 pm
Dinner 7 nights from 6pm
Take away Available (10% discount)
Local area delivery available.