Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
IF you want to tease your tastebuds, treat them to Indian food. It’s a tantalising cuisine in so many ways. Vibrant colours. Sensational spices. An exotic experience.
Kingston has a new Indian restaurant, Punjabi Junction, sister to a place by the same name in Belconnen. It’s in Green Square, where Thai Amarin stood for many years.
We were with a friend who loves flavour but not heaps of heat, which is never a worry given the variety of tastes Indian food is known for. With Punjabi food, onion, ginger and garlic are used extensively and spices range from mild to “on fire”.
The butter chicken ($18.90) was succulent. Nicely cubed chunks of chicken cooked in the tandoor and slowly simmered in a rich gravy created with secret spices, fresh tomatoes and heaps of butter. We dunked pieces of naan into the gravy to soak it up.
Different styles of Indian cuisine celebrate cottage cheese dishes, which I love. The Palak Paneer featured cubes of freshly made cottage cheese ($16.90). You could really taste the fresh, grounded spinach, enriched through cooking with onions, tomatoes and other herbs. Quite addictive. I bet the chilli paneer is, too – deep-fried cheese cubes with green capsicum, chillies, onion, garlic and sauce ($14.90).
A little spicier was one of Punjabi Junction’s special goat curries (you can order as hot as you’d like). The Rogan Josh was our pick of the day ($19.90). The onion-tomato-based gravy was inspiring (we saved some naan to soak that up, too), the meat tender (except for one uncomfortable chewy chunk). It’s fab to have meat cooked on the bone for the flavour, but this dish was pretty loaded with them.
Also on the menu are vegetable and lentil (daal) dishes and faves like Korma, which come with chicken, lamb or beef and mild to super hot. To cool down, enjoy accompaniments such as cucumber raita ($3.90) or a mixed salad tossed in lime juice, Indian spices and black pepper ($3.90).
The interior décor has been revamped. The walls feature a strong black and white Victorian-style print. Tablecloths are a steel grey. Furniture black and grey. Menus are black, too. We found it a bit stark but that’s “so” a matter of personal taste. The most colourful part of the décor was the food itself.
We landed at Punjabi Junction on a quiet night, but the place has just recently opened and word is still spreading.
Punjabi Junction, 48 Jardine Street, Kingston, call 6295 9798. BYO (all drinks accepted). It’s a great place for a large gathering, with banquet menus making life easy. Open seven days (lunch and dinner through the week; only dinner at weekends).