Sunday, 27 July 2008

Forget In-Flight Food, and Detour to - Spicy Corner

Looking forward to that cold and limp herbed chicken sandwich for your in-flight lunch shortly after take-off? Or worst if flying budget, anticipate forking out $7 or more for noodles-in-a-cup and a drink that will leave you feeling even more ravenous? Well here's an alternative if you happen to be on the highway to Tullamarine from late morning (11 am) to about 2 pm, or in the evening (5:30 - 8:30 pm), and have 40 minutes or so to grab a meal before really having to be at the airport.

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)

Spicy Corner
49 Dawson Street, Tullamarine (Melway Ref. 15H1).
Tel. 93355650
(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.


thanh7580 said...

Sounds like a nice place Towser. But I don't know how the other airplane patrons would feel about everyone having curries before a flight. There's a limited number of toilets in the plane, and it's not like you can choose to use another toilet. :-)

Ed Charles said...

Sounds like a great place. Would you like to join the Very Cheap Eats group blog. people can double post and it sounds like a good one for it. Let me know.

Frankster said...

Thanh, don't know about the other patrons but I see advantages to be on a flight after a delicious curry meal like this. Depending on your um intestinal fortitude, they may be forced to allocate you your very own 'spicy corner' at the back of the plane, where you get to fully stretch out your legs over the emptied seats and grab a great snooze! The crew may even speed towards your destination at a greater rate of knots thus you'll arrive not only satiated and relaxed, but also well rested and ahead of schedule!

Seriously though great food, something different, and good value. Ed, sure I'll love to join up and will link the post, cheers.
Was contemplating it as a suitable contribution when writing up this post anyway!

Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious. I wonder how much the taxi driver will charge me if I ask him to detour on the way to/from Tulla...

Frankster said...

Duncan, may I suggest buying the taxi driver the $7 curry meal; and bugger the detour, she/he may just waive the rest of your fare!

ut si said...

Off message a bit but Ramsay's T5 restaurant 'Plane Food' is soon to offer packaged gourmet meals for passengers to purchase pre-flight to eat on board. Gotta be better than the usual BA butty but won't be cheap.

Frankster said...

Thanks for your interesting comment ut si. Geez I wonder what's the final diagnosis, is Ramsay a virus or a tumour?! His Plane Food at T5 seems like a fancier terminus cafe, there are similar venues competing for that travelling demographic. Those that hold up flights over another glass of Cab Sav! As to the gourmet 'doggy bags', I wonder how appetizing the 15 quid salmon will taste after cooling for a couple of hours in the carry-on? Or whether your airline of choice will charge you another fiver to give it an overdone blitz in the micro! Other celeb chefs also dabble in airline food though folks flying cattle class need not start drooling; ie. Neil Perry for QANTAS.

Ed Charles said...

Iwish theair terminals hear would take a leaf out of Heathrow's book. Pre-Ramsay you could sit at an Oyster bar, have a plate of smoked salmon or a pot of caviar if you chose, and a glass o perhaps champagne or chablis. It's so much more civilised than the chips with everything approach here.

ut si said...

One QF to UK last year I swore I would not eat the proffered delights...made it as far as Singapore...pathetic aren't I! Another flight I got bumped to Business...Yay! Neil Perry come to mama. Sadly, the only difference was the way it was plated (meat & veg separated) & posher flatware.
So, last month I ticked the vegan option. Big mistake...101 winning ways with beans!
Bring on the doggy bag I say!

Frankster said...

With the way airlines are cost cutting, they may stop in-flight food service all together. Even the food within airline-clubs have become sparse and uninspiring, with little hot foods (some antipasti and crackers do not make a fulfilling lunch or dinner!).
I won't be surprised if self-purchased carry-on meals (but drinks?)will become the norm. Do you folks know what's the deal with that at the moment re. comfort to other passengers and security? Surely there'll be restrictions on what ppl can bring to consume on-board. One punter's fish curry (re. first comment) or durian butty may be a neighbour's trigger to grab for the barf bag! Perhaps airlines will draw up menu guidelines and interested purveyors at airports (covering budgets from Ed's chip-joints to Ramsay) will prepare and advertise meal-bags conforming to them; probably salads, cold cuts, sangas,charcuterie, desserts and the like. Interesting sideline!

Ed Charles said...

What we need is the Shannon Bennett $15 lunchbox at the airport