Abhi's Turns 25

Rebecca Varidel
18th Jul 2015

It was twenty five years ago that Chef Kumar Mahadevan opened his Indian restaurant.

"When I had my first son, Abhi, I soon after opened my first restaurant in North Strathfield which I named after him. Six years later, when I had my second son, Aki, my wife Suba was very vocal in her desire to have another restaurant named after Aki to avoid any perceived favouritism between our sons. Luckily I had my eye on a Woolloomooloo site and Aki’s opened in 1994. Needless to say, I am not in a hurry to have any more sons!’

My restaurant Abhi’s in North Strathfield showcases my brand of contemporary Southern Indian cuisine, but in a casual, family friendly environment, with affordable prices. I opened Aki’s in Woolloomooloo to provide Sydney with a truly fine Indian culinary experience. From the immaculate table service, award winning local and international wine list, to the modern interpretations of traditional Indian recipes, Aki’s reflects the finer aspects of Indian cuisine."

This week, I was over the moon, totally stoked to be invited to sit in on the Abhi's special anniversary celebrations. The charming Chef Kumar Mahadevan started us off with the very first dish from the very first day at that first restaurant Abhi's, Mulligatawny Soup which is made with spiced lentils. It was just as rounded and tasty as I remembered. To this he added a play on the traditional 'Bhel-Puri' as a Scallop and Kingfish Bhel, with puffed rice, wheat crisps, and chilli onion vadagam (rice crackers).

There were three of his showcase dishes combined on one plate as our next course, and although each are delicious unto themselves, they worked beautifully in this family of Gucchi Paneer Khichidi (morrels, cottage cheese and mung bean ‘khichidi’ with pomegranate pearls and lotus chips), Chicken Palli Palayam (crispy chicken with pounded green chilli, ginger and black pepper crust), and Beetroot Porrial (diced beetroot tossed with mustard seeds, fennel, shallots and fresh coconut).

And with the next new creation, came a marriage of old and new. The sensuous spicy sauce is a recipe from his maternal great grandmother. The addition by Chef Kumar Mahadevan of the fish is new. It worked. And it worked very well. The orange grabbed our attention from front to back. The tamarind caressed us. Salmon Kothmiri Tikki (salmon roulade cooked souvede with green chutney, accompanied
with spicy tamarind and chickpea ‘kozambhu’) was the hit of the night.

Yet there was more to come. Mains arrived to the centre of the table for sharing, the first of which were traditional Tandoori Jumbo Prawns, plump and moist and marinated with yoghurt, garam masala, mace threads and saffron. Then followed, Chooza Masala (spatchcock rubbed with a Goan spice mix and oven cooked with chat potatoes, malt vinegar and pearl onions), Lamb Kari Kozhambhu (home-style dish of ground coconut, cassia, fennel, turmeric and poppy seeds), and Keerai Pappu (spinach and yellow lentil with browned garlic, cumin and dried whole chillies) with accompaniments, Ghee Rice and Veech Parantha. The final course, and plated individually, was a luscious dessert compilation of compressed raspberries, goats milk sorbet, vanilla custard, yoghurt shards and saffron honeycomb.

It's been a long association. Five years ago we were able to grab this recipe >> Madras Prawn Vendakai << with its wonderful heady mix of mustard, fenugreek and cumin seeds, tumeric, coriander and chilli powders, which Kumar cooked as a guest on the first series of MasterChef Australia. Before and since, we have enjoyed many wonderful meals at both Abhi's and Akhi's. To share in such a special night was a great honour and privilege.

Here's to many more years!