Anybody that has eaten in Darwin would be familiar with the award winning Hanuman restaurant. With establishments in both Darwin and Alice Springs, it was a bit of surprise to find their Adelaide venue on the ground floor of the Chifley Hotel, on the not so vibrant South Terrace. People searching for this place should note this is different from the “Grand Chifley Hotel” which is 100m further down the road.
Like the other Hanuman restaurants, the food offerings here are a mix of Indian, Thai and Nonya. This is a reflection of Chef and Owner, Jimmy Shu’s love of South East Asian flavours. Each cuisine is headed by a chef that has lived and trained in the region which is important to provide authenticity. I can think of some eateries in Adelaide where this is not the case and this is reflected in the slight alteration of tastes and flavours in their dishes.
The decor at this place has a traditional modern feel and is in stark contrast to the dated hotel in which it is located. The clever use of feature partitions separate the bar area from the restaurant, and are used further to segregate the dining areas. The sandstone deities, the ornate wooden screens and furniture, and the antique opium pipes add to the sense of tradition, while the blue and purple fluorescent lighting increases the funkiness level up a notch or two. The use of earthy colour tones is quite prominent, and the place is tastefully decorated.
The Tamarind Pork came with cherry tomato and red onion, and then finished with a tamarind and honey dressing. The pork was well marinated, lean, tender and succulent and the smokey barbecue flavours were very approachable. The sweetness from the cherry tomato complemented the mild sharpness from the red onion. The crisp fresh lettuce leaves added a nice crunchy texture. Enhancing the flavours further was the light sweetness from the tamarind and honey dressing.
The Eggplant Pachadi is cooked in a spicy tomato onion sauce with tangy tamarind. This was the best eggplant dish I’ve ever had. It was so good, I was almost fighting with another group member to lick the spoon clean. The eggplant was soft and delicate and the flavours from the sweet and spicy sauce were perfectly infused. The eggplant almost acted like a sponge to soak up all the flavours.
The only criticism was that the chilli wasn’t distributed properly in the dish. One person encountered a high concentration of chilli in her serving and was suffering from the effects of the heat.
The Thai Chilli Prawns is a classic dish with ginger, fresh red chilli, spring onion and egg. The prawns were of a decent size and had nice glossy centres which indicated they were well cooked. I would have preferred the prawn tails to have been removed as they became a hindrance while I was scoffing down the food. The vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the sauce had a nice subtle sweetness.
The Kang Kong Greens consisted of water spinach that was stir fried with yellow soya bean, garlic and chilli. The spinach was firm and crunchy, however, it was way too salty. The chilli lacked any heat and whole pieces of garlic were somehow devoid of their strong pungent flavour. This was a dissapointing dish.
The Meen Moolie consists of wild barramundi fillets cooked in turmeric, fresh curry leaves and coconut. The fish was tender and succulent, and was very well cooked, however it failed to absorb any of the curry flavours into the flesh. There’s an inherent problem with using fish, because you can’t over cook it but at the same time, you want the flavours to be properly absorbed. The sauce had a nice thick consistency with mild curry flavours, and would have been perfect on its own.
The Lamb Korma is a classic Indian dish that is made with ghee, ground cashew, poppy seed, coconut, onion and tomato. For some reason, this dish didn’t look very appealing, but then again, curries rely on garnishes and the right lighting to make them look photo-worthy.
With my first serving of this dish, I found the lamb to be tough and overcooked, however, when I came back for seconds, the meat was tender and succulent. I suspect this curry was cooked in a large batch and somewhere along the line, it wasn’t stirred properly. The meat at the base, which is closest to the heat, ended up being overcooked.
The sauce had a nice thick consistency and the flavours were just right, however, it wasn’t the best Lamb Korma I’ve ever had.
The Beef Masaman is an aromatic curry with potato, ginger, nutmeg, tamarind and peanut. The beef was tender and succulent, and the meat simply fell apart with the slightest touch. With my first serving of the dish, the morsels of meat were lean, however, with the seconds, I encountered some fatty pieces that were borderline disgusting. The sauce had a nice thick consistency, and the flavours were just right. The curry was well infused into the meat as well as the soft delicate potatoes.
The Red Duck Curry contains roasted duck that is simmered in a rich coconut and red curry sauce with Thai basil, kaffir lime leaf, lychee and fresh pineapple. The duck was tender and succulent and had beautiful smokey flavours. This was complemented well by the sweetness of the lychee and the contrasting sour notes of the pineapple. The sauce had a nice thick consistency and was full of flavour.
While this place isn’t fine dining, I think it could be based on the ambience and decor. The staff were warm and welcoming, and the service for the most part was very good.
On the plus side, drinks arrived promptly, they were happy to accommodate for a late change in menu selection, and they also allowed us to determine the timing of the dishes due to limited table space. Unfortunately, I felt some of the staff lacked customer service experience. The wine glasses should have been taken away for those not drinking, plates should have been cleared as the group finished their dishes and I thought they were intrusive at times.
For a place that has won the best Asian restaurant award this year, I thought the pricing was very reasonable. The vegetable dishes were under the $15 mark, the curry dishes under $25 and the seafood dishes under $35. With 8 dishes shared between 6 people, we ended up paying $32 each, which was fantastic for value and variety. Half of the dishes were a standout, while the other half weren’t executed properly or failed on the ingredient quality.
A place like this is definitely a bit of fresh air for South Terrace, however, I thought the dishes were a bit hit and miss. The service wasn’t without incident throughout the night either.
WHERE: 226 South Tce, Adelaide