A couple of years ago, Mili (a most obliging hostess) and Jeet (talented Chef and Mili’s husband) from Curry Leaf opened up a little take-away joint called Chai & Chaat in the hustling & bustling thicket of Springvale. Knowing our passion for the cuisine, they kindly asked yours truly to give the place a try. So we did 🙂
We will not disillusion you to think Chai & Chaat is anything like the romantic dining room of Curry Leaf – in fact, the atmosphere is a world apart: it’s a small no-frills cafeteria-like spot tucked behind the main shops. But while the dishes here are distinctly different to Curry Leaf’s more traditional fare, Chai & Chaat’s Indian ‘street food’ doesn’t leave the taste-buds wanting in any way. Despite the first impressions given from its semi-hidden location and bare-bones fit-out, we were well pleased to find out that the power-duo Mili and Jeet ensured there was no departure from the flavour we’ve come to associate with them.
Due to the many menu options on offer, we had quite a bit of difficulty deciding what to get. So we asked our server Harpreet, who came complete with the most adorable smile, to recommend some of the more popular dishes for us to try. After innocently rubbing her hands together, indicating some hesitancy, she told us that everything was so good that it would be hard to pick – BUT – that she would try her best. And we must give her serious credit, she delivered in spades!
Our first dish was the Pani Puri, which are thin, crunchy hollow balls (aka. Puri) that you carefully tap / crack the tops open to then fill with a spiced potato, onion and chickpea filling. From there, you add a generous helping of “spicy water” (aka. Pani) and a small dollop of sweet tamarind sauce. The first words that came out of our mouths after the yummmmmmms were: “Why isn’t this a common offering at Indian restaurants?” It’s that good! Spicy and refreshing – definitely a two thumbs up dish and a must-try!
Our next plate of goodness was the Golgappa Chaat, a sort of relative of the Pani Puri we just had. This time the puri balls were already stuffed with mashed bhalla (a sort of daal patty), veg, potato, onion and chickpeas. The sweet tamarind chutney was mixed in with a generous amount of yoghurt – and what flavour this little parcel packs in it! It was great swapping from the Pani Puri to the Golgappa Chaat – one more spicy and pungent, the other more sweet and soothing.
Next up was the classic Samosa, which Harpreet confirmed was hand-made on the premises. The crispy outer shell was stuffed with a flavoursome and fluffy – yet moist – potato filling. Very tasty indeed a must-have if you like this heartier type of snack.
Harpreet delivered the Pav Bhaji next: a plate of mashed vegetable (the brown paste-like stuff in the photo of the same name above), freshly diced onion, tomato and cucumber with a couple of toasted bread rolls. So, we were instructed to slap the mashed veg on the buns, throw in the fresh diced bits, too – and enjoy! And enjoy we did! The great contrast of warm, smooth textures against the cool crunchy vegetables made for a bit of gastronomic fun in our mouths. This would be a perfect cold night snack!
We both think Harpreet had a good chuckle to herself when she saw our eyes pop out as she placed the Gobi Mooli Paratha (Potato & Cauliflower) on our table. Adding to our already growing bellies, we swallowed down the buttered flat bread, stuffed with tasty mashed potato and cauliflower filling, along with very hot-spiced pickled onions — and a generous serve of minted yoghurt to help put out the fire! Getting full…not sure we can eat any more….and then….
….Two Thali plates appeared on our table! For those who don’t know, a thali is a large segmented steel dish often served up rice, paratha bread, chutney and multiple curries. I had the Aloo Gobi curry – potato & cauliflower spiced up with some fenugreek and seasoning, as well as the Daal Makhani – a more mild creamy curry. Hubby Bear had the Beef Rogan Josh, a hearty and deep flavoured curry, alongside the more sweet Butter Chicken. Both our thalis were both very good and well priced at $10 and $11 respectively, but the stars of this show were definitely in the smaller ‘tapas’ styled chaat dishes.
In sum, the service is minimal, yet more than obliging when called upon. The atmosphere is cafeteria-like, but for the price, you can’t complain. The food itself is supposed to basic ‘street fare’, yet it’s complex in its own right – and most importantly, everything was incredibly tasty. The verdict? Go and try something new for dinner tonight.
Address: Shop 1, 308 Springvale Road, Springvale VIC 3171
Tip! You won’t see this place from the street, you have to head towards the Safeway carpark just off Springvale Road, then you’ll see it sitting on the corner behind the main street shops.