To celebrate Shawn’s birthday, we booked in at Bhoj Indian Restaurant, a place we frequented many years ago. Previous experience prepared us for being served some great food, and with Shawn’s parents onboard for the evening, we ventured on to Templestowe.
For those of you who’ve never been, Bhoj is situated in an odd spot, awkwardly positioned atop another set of shops in Templestowe Village. You’d never know it was there if you weren’t specifically seeking it out. As we approached the double-fronted restaurant, we noticed their signage boasted food festival awards year on year, but nothing since 2002? Hmmm…is that a good thing or not? Not sure, let’s keep an open mind.
The interior decor, like so many other Indian restaurants, looked as though – at one time in its past – was probably really nice. But over the years, has become worn-down and dated. The place lacked atmosphere, but we got over that quickly because our server was extremely warm & friendly.
We’re here to celebrate, so a bottle of De Bortoli Willowglen Chardonnay ($20) was promptly ordered (and a second came a bit later in the evening!). The lovely wine arrived at our table, but without an ice bucket. It was happily tasted, poured and then placed on the table. Poppadoms were also served, which were crispy and spiced very well.
|Chicken Malai Kali Kebab|
To start, we ordered Onion Bhajia ($6.70/4 pcs), Vegetable Samosas ($6.70/2 pcs), and chicken Malai Kali Kebab ($11.20). The fried onion bhajia came out moist, yet crunchy, which is just right. But for the record, one seemed as though it was missing part of itself, perhaps lost the battle with the fryer? Not sure what happened there, but it didn’t stop us from eating them. The vegetable samosas were stuffed with the usual spiced potato and peas, they were very large, but disappeared quickly! Birthday boy kept the Malai Kali Kebab to himself, boasting it to be the best flavoured entree ever: moist chicken, heaps of spice, and a hint of cheese & yogurt, grilled beautifully in the tandoori oven. Let me note right now that Shawn’s willing to go back again just to eat this entree (and it comes in a main meal, too). Entress devoured, time for the mains.
|Prawn Hara Piaza Mirchi|
|Dal Makhni, Nan, Aloo Gobhi|
What we believe was called something Hara Piaza Mirchi ($20.50) came out full of prawns and plenty of peppercorns. Actually, lots of peppercorns, probably a bit too much, but nice nevertheless. The Aloo Gobhi ($10.90) was a nice mixture of potato and cauliflower, and nicely spiced. It’s important to mention at this point, Shawn’s mother thought she was scoring the singular green bean of this dish (note photo: near the top left of the serving bowl). When I wasn’t looking, it disappeared, and moments later was asked by her if Aloo Gobhi had green beans – of which I replied “I don’t think so” and the culprit was quickly spat out because the little green sliver was becoming increasingly hot. Please note: no green beans in this dish, that’s a green chili!
It was quite unfortunate that the Dal Makhni ($9.90) completely lacked flavour, because it actually looked really good! It’s so strange to ask for salt at an Indian restaurant, but after our first taste of this dish, we just had to. Once our server overcame the mortification of being asked for salt, he brought it to us and wanted ensure he knew which dish it was for. We pointed to the dal and then applied the salt. Bingo! With the salt, it transformed into Dal Makhni – and tasted really good.
The Beef Madras ($16.50) had mustard seeds, a robust flavour, and the beef pieces were quite tender. The Saffron Rice ($5.90/large) was as to be expected, and the Nan ($2.90/ea) and Garlic Nan ($3.60/ea) were very well cooked.
Rating? Entrees 3/3, while mains were 2/4. Add the poppadoms, rice and nans into the mix, and the well-priced wine, makes it 9/11. Deduct lack of atmosphere & outdated decor, we arrive at 9/12 = 75% overall. So, while the experience was okay overall, our expectations were not quite met.
With all that said, we’d say that Bhoj is good. But, not anything like what you’d expect upon seeing those awards listed on their signage.