PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Putting up a modest facade to the unassuming pedestrians of Christie Street, from the outside Nilgiri's could be mistaken for a plain restaurant. It could even be mistaken for a place that doesn't serve some of Sydney's most awarded Indian food. But it is neither plain nor without accolades. Inside its humble doors, if you ignore the daytime eatery where you can grab a window seat, purchase a curry or one of the restaurant's cook books to take away. Ah…stop. Right there is the first hint that Nilgiri's is nothing to poke a papadum at. Owner/chef Ajoy Joshi has published two successful books. Anyone who gazes past the bookshelf will also spot the fully-equipped kitchen encircled by a moat-like bench and seats (intuitive minds will deduct this is where cooking classes take place). Those blessed with x-ray vision may also see through the back wall to a banquet room draped with Indian silks, statues of Ganesh and a canopy of fairy lights.
However the real cuisine magic happens upstairs. Diners who follow the stairway to the restaurant's first floor walk into a spacious room infused with warm colours, cheerful tables and the scents of Indian cooking. Cumin and turmeric have a home here among constantly evolving dishes. Nilgiri's menu travels to a different part of India every month and excavates the intense cuisines of each region, unearthing little-known secrets. Some dishes, like the masala dosai (rice lentil pancake), never leave while others can be recreated on demand. But my favourite part of Niligri's are the private rooms fashioned to represent the four elements (air, water, earth and fire). Each of these richly-cushioned rooms looks like the interior of a genie bottle – spectacular! Overall Nilgiri's proves you should never judge a restaurant by a chili sign that hangs outside its doors.