The exotic tastes of Sri Lanka at Spicy Corner
Just a short 5-min detour off the Mickleham Road exit but somewhat hidden within suburban Tullamarine is an inconsequential but surprising little Sri Lankan cafe and Takeaway named, 'Spicy Corner'. The eatery is located in a small quiet residential street and the corner tenant of one of those typical outer-suburban shop-rows that last saw heyday back in the 70's. From memory there's also a languishing fish & chippery there, a video store and the ubiquitous milkbar among a few other businesses. One certainly wouldn't just find yourself there unless you lived locally, or were told about or taken to Spicy Corner! So how did I come to know of this little Sri Lankan gem? Well I used to work close-by in a previous job and we visited it frequently for lunchtime take-aways and a regular Friday lunch eat-in. That was then, but even now KB and I will occasionally make a special visit out that way whenever we're hit with a craving for great tasting and terrific value Sri Lankan curry and rice.
The friendly 'ammaa' of Spicy Corner dishing out your curry of choice
The cafe itself is nothing much to look at of course. There are a few tables set for eating in and a large bain marie adjoining the counter to one side. But don't be discouraged by the bain marie (it's a curry place after all) or if there happens to be no one else dining there at the time, the majority of its trade is from takeaways to locals and workers from the numerous factories and warehouses located in the area. Having been somewhat of a regular there in the past, I can confidently assure that the food is fresh and prepared in-house daily. In fact, visit around noon on Fridays and be prepared to wait patiently in queue. Word of this place has definitely made its rounds among the local businesses. The food is genuine Ceylonese/Sinhalese home-style cookery (confirmed by a Sri Lankan friend missing his mother's cooking) with the 'small-plate' of the Daily Chef's Choice of curry (choice of chicken, lamb, beef or veg) served over rice together with an assortment of vegetable sides and condiments like mango chutney, pappadum, mallung, and coconut (pol) and chilli sambols, being the most popular. My fav is the chicken (skinless but on-the-bone thigh/leg meat) but the lamb or beef (cubes of meat) are probably most popular. And all for $7 for a great lunch! This is a genuine value for money 'Cheap Eat'. One can't even get a lousy regular burger meal at any of the multi-national burger joint-of-your-choice for that, and I certainly know which meal I'd prefer. Don't let the recommended choice of 'small' fool you either, it's a generous serving whether heaped on a plate or squeezed into a takeway container! And the curries, whatever your choice, are redolent with fresh aromatics like curry leaf, mustard seed, cardamon, cinnamon, green chillies and dry roasted coconut to name but a few I'd recognised. Vegetarians certainly don't miss out here either, their plates are heaped just as high as anybody else's. For the uninitiated, Sri Lankan dishes are unlike most Indian curries we in Australia may be more familiar with. Often spicier with chilli, more aromatic with coconut milk and lighter in taste and texture. In a word, delicious!
The 'small' beef curry and rice served with delicious sides and condiments!
Aside from the curries of the day, Spicy Corner also offers moreish finger foods including Vadai (fried spicy dhal 'cookies'), crumbed capsicum chillies with a spicy fish filling, Godumba and Pan rolls (spiced meat-filled rottis and pancakes) and Samosas, though at times these could be past being at their best (gone cold and soft) if you get there late. And for folks booking their visit on Saturday evenings, there is a Hopper Meal Special which includes a selection of curries and all-you-can-eat hoppers (fermented rice flour crepes shaped into a bowl with a crispy exterior to accompany the savouries). We are yet to try this, but certainly plan to do so soon!
Food: 16/20 - Fresh tasting spicy food just like home, if it was Sri Lanka.
Service: 13/20 - Family-business-friendly though can get confused and befuddled when busy.
Value: 17/20 - Difficult to name somewhere else better value for money.
Returnability (R) Factor: 15/20 - Though out of the way, we have, many times.
Spot Score: 15/20
(Note: I have decided to alter the sub-scoring criteria from this post onwards to allow more scope, though it likely remains just as subjectively meaningless)
49 Dawson Street, Tullamarine (Melway Ref. 15H1).
(Closed on Mondays)
Note: I am happy to 'promote' this place more than usual as Spot4Nosh admires examples of genuine and unassuming small businesses such as Spicy Corner that offer great value for money 'real' food while seemingly resisting the easy temptations of lazy short- and cost-cutting. These places deserve to be customised and succeed to survive for us to return time and again.
This article has been cross-posted in Very Cheap Eats.