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It's not often that a restaurant review starts with dessert, but it's not often that the reviewer is eating the soft and spongy, sweet yet spicy gulab jamun of Tandoori Village. The fluffy innards of these sticky, amber rice bombs absorb the golden cardamom spiced sugar syrup that they swim in.
Tandoori Village sits in a village of its own at the foot of the Blue Mountains and yet it rivals the best Indian in Sydney. Those balls of sweet gold were praised by Taste food critic Simon Thomsen and are too by Tandoori Village devotees. The little corner restaurant serves untamed Indian dishes that bring a little spice to this quaint, town. Mother and daughter-in-law of the family restaurant take orders, serve, clear and chat with diners, while out back, nephew and son fry, flip and tend the tandoor oven. Drawing from their Punjab heritage, enticing and different dishes become delicious blackboard specials that, while inspired by their former home, are founded on the vegetables and meat of local Hawkesbury farms.
The simple setting sees white and brown linen draped on the tables with the colour scheme following through to the walls and forgetting the stereotypical Indian-restaurant memorabilia. Yet décor isn't the focus when cumin-spiced lamb rissoles from the tandoor oven grace the table with crunchy naan wedges that have blistered with bubbles. Large white square plates hold lamb chettinad – the meat, having been roasted in cumin seeds, paprika, turmeric and chilli, leaves a lingering heat that is cooled by mint yoghurt. Soft and spongy cubes of eggplant in its curry have soaked up the strong spices making them juicy morsels of flavour, while their jus is mopped up by sunny saffron rice. And finishing with those syrupy gulab jamun is reason enough to start the courses all over again.