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Trekking up the haul of carpeted stairs off O’Connell Street (I later learned there is a lift), you cannot help but wonder what lies at their top, and if indeed it will be worth it. It is. The entry with its polished floor, grand gold mirror, and welcoming statue of elephant-headed Hindu God Ganesh holds promise. Once in the dining room an incandescent, sparkles-on-steroids chandelier takes centre stage. A glass water wall acts as a transparent partition between plush, semi-private booths, and table seating. The latter have refreshingly comfortable chairs, the sheen and colour of melted dark chocolate. Underneath, ruby-red carpet with a gold motif makes for a regal feel. A discreet kitchen window permits views of the proceedings inside. “You will only see one microwave in there” assures owner Vijay Rawat, “not banks of them – all our food is cooked a-la-minute”. He and equally affable wife Padma named their beautiful restaurant Arya - the term for “first born” or “sunrise”. She advises, “Do not expect a watered down menu for Aussie palates!” Thankfully, she does not want to compromise the authenticity of her cuisine.
Royal lamb shank masala is Padma’s signature dish. The slow-cooked meat with tomato and caramelised onions take on flavours of freshly ground spices with ginger, chilli, garlic, and cardamom. Tandoori offerings uniquely include salmon on the bone with a white wine crème sauce. Lobster gets a look-in when in season. There are over a dozen choices of both Indian breads and vegetable dishes. Mushrooms matar tempts with its “spirited” mix of tomato, onion, peas, cream, and dash of lime. Cheese naan makes the perfect mop for its juices. Come dessert I ask Padma how tiramisu came to be on their menu, “Because my husband loves it!” she smiles.