This weekend is my favourite Indian holiday. Holi is best known for the colourful dyes that strangers splash each other with and in my opinion it is the most visually appealing holiday of them all.
To celebrate I decided to indulge in the treats from the Southern part of the sub-continent. If you’re searching South Indian food in Melbourne I generally suggest heading to Dandenong but today was the exception to the rule when I sampled the food at Barwarchi (20 Station Street, Moorabbin). By night you get the standard North Indian curries and tandoori but on a weekend from 11am South Indian food is the go.
My father who spent some of his youth in Madras (now Chennai) pronounced the fare here to be more authentically South Indian than the more Ceylonese style dishes you get in Dandenong. The prices are similar so I suppose it’s just a matter of personal taste. For me Barwarchi came out on top when the chef allowed me to put my head into the tandoor oven so I could eye the chickens roasting away within. I was considering the possibility of a tandoor for my home until the staff told me theirs cost $10 000. You could buy a lot of takeaway naan with that sort of money!
If you’re not familiar with South Indian food I wouldn’t recommend Barwarchi as the menu descriptions border between confusing and misleading. The staff more than make up for this, however. We were off to a good start with the idliis - hot fluffy steamed rice cakes served with a spicy sour dahl and a coconut chutney (3 for $5) and a round of lassis ($3). The masala dosa ($7) was everything you would want. A thin crisp pancake stuffed with delicately spiced potatoes sprinkled with fried lentils. I’m told the fried lentils point to authenticity. For an extra 50c you get it brushed with (extra) ghee.
We finished with a dhai bhalla ($7) which to me really evokes that magical sweet/sour/salty combination we associate with Thai cuisine. Lentil patties are topped with perfectly balanced sour yoghurt, sweet chutney and salty masala spice. The owner’s mother in law is hard at work in the kitchen and producing excellent results. I think I've been converted.