Parramatta is a bit of an odd dining area, but this is no reflection upon the tastes of the locals. Rather it’s about the suburb’s massive growth attracting in satellite restaurants of inner city spots with their eyes on profit-driven expansion. Church Street has become a bit of a parade of those brands focused upon the numbers - Bondi Pizza, Coco Cubano, Soul Burger, Harry’s Café de Wheels and Jamie’s Trattoria among them. While I acknowledge that the benefit to Parramatta locals is that they can now access brands they formerly had to drive to the CBD for, when I’m dining in Parramatta myself, I take the time to uncover an independent.
On my last visit to the area, that search led me to Itihaas Indian Restaurant. It’s also part of the all-weather alfresco dining brigade that lines both sides of Church Street. Itihaas uses a two-hour happy hour of five-buck beers and free well-presented pappadums and chutneys to lure in indecisive diners.
After smashing a few Kingfishers myself, I’m finally cool and refreshed enough to think about food. Indian food is great on a hot night, because the capsaicin in chillies gets you sweating, which cools the skin. I kick off gently with a Paneer Dosa ($12.90). This grand-looking crisp, fermented rice and lentil pancake has an interior that looks a lot like bright yellow scrambled eggs, made from a flavoursome blend of cottage cheese and carrot.
As a counterpoint, we try a vegetable curry that is totally new to me. Achari Baingan ($13.90) literally means pickled eggplant. Interestingly though the curry doesn’t employ a pickle of any kind, just the spices one uses for pickling, like fenugreek seeds and fennel. At Itihaas, the baby eggplants are kept whole, with deep slices cut into them so they absorb the tangy, fragrant sauce.
While the chef here is North Indian, the menu journeys all over the subcontinent. From the Southern reaches, you’ll find Kerala Prawns ($21), they’re well presented, with a side jug of extra gravy, just in-case you need it.
It’s creamy with coconut, turmeric and curry leaves, and even better when you drag a Peshwari Naan ($4.50) through it.
From the pleasantly succinct menu we find it hard to go past goat. In the Goat Masala ($17.90) plump pieces of meat are kept on the bone for more flavour. With turmeric, chilli, pepper and coriander powder, this rich masala curry has a good bite, leaving my lips tingling and my skin covered in a glistening, cooling sheen.
Pulao Rice ($5) with cumin, coriander and onion works better than bread to curb the intensity. I leave for a show at the nearby Riverside Theatre with a glow and plenty of impetus to return.
Itihaas Indian Restaurant
325 Church Street, Parramatta
Ph: (02) 9687 3300