Birthdays are a fabulous time of the year. Family, friends, presents, people you haven’t heard from in years writing on your facebook wall, food, more presents, more food and everyone doing as you ask. Except that this year I was given direction by my mother that it was time that her and dad met Ollie’s parents, so it was up to me to choose an appropriate venue for the big event. After days of indecision I finally committed Sauma, a new Indian restaurant on the corner of William and James in Northbridge. It’s a little bit different to your average Indian joint, with a playful and inventive menu and a spacious, on-trend interior with a pleasant mix of traditional and modern decor.
I spent about 5 weeks in India at the end of 2015, and absolutely fell in love with the food there. It was a month of full vegetarianism, partly because most Indians are herbivorous which means there is an amazing array of vegetarian dishes turning the Western meat-to-vegetable ratio on a menu on its head, and partly because seeing chickens stretched out on the roadside in 30 degree heat didn’t inspire the greatest confidence in food sanitation.
The story is a little bit different back here in Perth though, and in this case there was no shortage of meat dishes on the Sauma menu designed to tickle your tastebuds and we got to try almost everything thanks to our large group – the best way to have Indian! Highlights of the street food/smaller dishes section of the menu were Ollie’s single oyster which was chai-smoked with shallot dressing, the onion bhaji, and those lamb ribs twice cooked with sweet tamarind, chilli, mint and coriander which just melted in your mouth. Other dishes of note included the raita, tandoori chicken and the beef samosa with earthy beetroot ketchup. The only thing that didn’t quite hit the mark for me was the octopus salad – with a little too much puffed rice it tasted more cereal than seafood.
In Indian mythology, sauma was the name of a forbidden drink consumed by the gods, and the cocktail list here has a few beverages that I think the gods would be keeping pretty close to their chest. I tried a sassy lassi (mango, coconut water, yoghurt, kraken rum and pistachio shavings) and although the rum flavour didn’t shine through too much I really enjoyed the strong yoghurt and pistachio combination, which might not be to everyones taste. My other choice, the chilli mojito, was delicious – tart and minty, it didn’t have as much of a chilli kick as I was expecting but it was a nice fresh way to end the meal.
Moving onto the main dishes, we tried butter chicken – because that is what everyone does when the eat Indian in a western country right? This was Ollie’s favourite dish, I enjoyed it but didn’t think it was as good as Aunty G’s chicken curry with cardamon, chilli paste, caramelised onion and tomato. The duck curry with coriander seeds, dry chilli and fennel, spicy Rajasthani sauce and potato was a hit with most, rich tender duck falling of the bone into an even richer sauce. I didn’t try the shark bay prawn curry with fenugreek seeds eggplant, tamarind, dry chilli and spicy cumin but it seemed to go down a treat, while the general consensus on the cone bay barra fish curry with shallots, ginger, green chilli, curry leaves, beans and coconut milk was that the fish was a little bit overpowering. My favourite by far was the mountain style goat curry cooked on bone (so tender!) with ginger, turmeric, chilli tomato and beetroot. The naan bread was pretty out of this world as well.
After all this was done, all of us were feeling a little bit more than full. Our waitress had different ideas though, bringing out a surprise (and free of charge) dessert for me after realising it was my birthday. A treat most pleasant, it was pears that tasted like they had been soaked in spiced rum, chai icecream, mint and candied nuts. The creamy ice-cream was the star of this dish, but the fresh strawberries, mint and pear set off the flavours perfectly. I managed to get through it all, much to the surprise of those sitting around me – a full stomach never got in the way of good food!
Sauma was some of the best Indian I have had since departing the sub-continent a year and half ago. Admittedly not as cheap as you might get down the road at old Shanghai you certainly get what you pay for – the high quality ingredients are prepared with care and the flavour combinations certainly wont leave you wanting. Worth a visit any day of the week, and make sure to check out the cocktail list!