Cravings for a meal of curry led us on a lengthy stroll up Sydney Road one recent warm and sultry Friday evening. The first aim of the walk was to shake out the work-week cobwebs from our heads by soaking in the free urban sensory rush dealt out by this cosmopolitan stretch of Melbourne suburbia, but our end-goal for trekking towards the Coburg end was to get to Bismi Restaurant to satisfy those curry needs.
Respective bowls of Bismi's chilli chicken, prawn masala and vegetable curry enjoyed with roti paratta
The Sydney Road (and original) branch of Bismi serves up tantalising varieties of South Indian, Malaysian and Singaporean influenced spicy dishes and curries. On entry you'll be greeted by some of the staff that hold fort over the large curry bain marie which leads into a smallish front dining space. This room basically consists of a jumble of small tables and wobbly seating cubes that would give any typical dilapidated student sharehouse a run for their money, but no one seems to mind. We're all here for only one purpose, and that's to indulge in the cheap and tastily spiced food. If there are no free tables left in the front room, which is quite typical, you may be led further into the building where more dining space is available. Once we'd achieved a comfortable balance on our stools during this visit, we chose a Mixed Vegetable Curry ($5), the Prawn Masala ($8), and a Chilli Chicken dish ($6). More than enough for a filling meal for two. The two wet curries were heady with cumin, cardamon, mustard seed, and curry leaves, the vegetables in a mild and creamy green-style sauce while the chilli red prawn masala had a hint of vinegary tang. The winner for me however was the chilli chicken, dangerously red chicken pieces that had been marinated with tamarind and a richly spiced chilli coating. Hot stuff in every sense! A plate of plain basmati rice and several of Bismi's flaky and justifiably famous Roti Paratta (Prata/Paratha) ($2 each) were the perfect accompaniment to the curries. A glass of Mango Lassi ($3) helped temper the inevitable sweating and chilli induced lip numbness. Service from the mix of hired help and Indian students was of the untrained variety and easily distracted but all requests could be sufficiently met despite the restaurant's constantly hectic environment. Again, at these prices as long as food was brought to the table nobody seemed to be bothered in the least!
Food: 3.5 spots - For tasty spicy SE Asian and South Indian style curries.
Service: 2.5 spots - Orders are taken, food arrives, leave it at that.
Value: 4.5 spots - True cheap and tasty.
R-value: 5 spots - Definitely returnable.
Spot Score: 16/20
848 Sydney Road, Brunswick, VIC.