Mukka. It rhymes with 'hookah' (for want of a better rhyming word), and it's Hindi slang for a punch. And at Brunswick Street's new Indian restaurant Mukkah, Delhian brothers Prateek and Aditya Dhawan mean to pack a punch — and put new life into Indian food in Australia while they're at it.
The passion and vitality behind this new business is obvious from the moment you step through the door. The space features jaunty colours, greenery hanging from slatted frames on the ceiling and a specials board that revels in its chalky colourfully illustrated invitation: 'Hey, will you share a cocktail jug with me?'
How could you refuse an offer like that? Or the slow-cooked goat curry ($20) and Tibetan momo dumplings from high up in the Himalayas ($10) — written up on the on the other board — for that matter? There's a chalk drawing of flames, for goodness sake, and a note pointing out that the goat has been cooked for a minimum of four hours. Yeah, didn't think so.
But if goat and cocktails don't rock your boat, there's plenty of other goodness to choose from across the menu. Prateek and Aditya want to keep it simple and real, just like their mother's cooking. No, really — their mother helped create the menu, and the three of them work as a team with the chefs, preparing dishes that use home-smoked and home-ground spices, freshly made chutneys, and delicate naans.
A selection of street food forms the basis for the starters, with an exotic selection from the streets of Mumbai to the northern highlands. The samosa ($3.50) is filled with a pea, potato and cashew curry, with a slightly warm earthiness coming from a caress of cinnamon and cloves. Encased in a light and flaky pastry, it melts in your mouth. Amongst the curries from the tandoori grill is a chicken tikka marinated in spices and yoghurt overnight, then cooked in the tandoor oven; it's succulent and full of flavour. The more saucy curries feature vegetarian and meat options and are great for sharing. Our picks? The butter chicken ($17) is like no other butter chicken you've tasted, and the Punjabi bharta is smoky eggplant at its best ($15.50).
If you're dining solo or not in the mood for sharing, you can go it alone with the single serve options that provide everything you need: the curry, the bread and a pickle or salad on the side. Choose from fish, chicken or vegetarian ($16-22).
There are local and Indian beers to wash it down with, a range of Australian wines and a couple of Indian sodas. If you're a lassi fan, this is the place for you; they've got a smooth mango, the original spiced-up minty version, or a rose and cinnamon creation that the menu promises is as 'sweet and subtle as a perfumed love letter'. And, depending on how the day is unfolding, you can make your lassi that little bit more edgy with a dash of vodka or coconut rum.
The delight of Indian food cooked authentically (and well) is that the flavours sing. Each ingredient brings a unique component to the dish, and works in harmony with the others. Not sure what we're talking about? Mukka will show you how it's done.
Images: Jo Rittey