An Indian Food and Wine Experience in Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

The first time I heard of Tulsi Indian Restaurant was in 2014. Tulsi had just won the distinguished Victorian Award of Excellence 2014 by Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering HOSTplus Awards for Excellence and I had the opportunity to write a feature about the restaurant and the team behind it for Indian Link.

During the course of research and writing the feature, I got to know more about Chef Devendra and his wife Shashi Singh, their love for food and also their passion for representing India’s rich culinary heritage through Tulsi.

But the surprise factor for me was Shashi Singh, who also happens to be a winemaker; one of the few Indian-origin winemakers in Australia. She owns and operates Avani (The Earth) Syrah, located at Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula.

I got an opportunity to meet Shashi again early this year at the ‘Spice and Wine’ Masterclass held as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Along with Chef Adam D’Sylva of Coda and Tonka, she took us on a learning process of how to match Indian spices and flavours with wine. The first thing that struck me about Shashi was her friendliness and down-to-earth approach. She was so welcoming when I requested that I would love to have a personal tour of her winery.

And that wish of mine was finally fulfilled a couple of weeks ago when I visited both Avani and Tulsi as part of my Mornington Peninsula holiday.

1

Shashi’s home is situated on the vineyard itself; infact, you look out of her living room and you see the vineyard stretching out like a green panorama as far as eyes can see. Totally addictive!

5

We had a small wine tasting session, a very personal one as Shashi believes in small, intimate groups rather than large, commercial ones. I totally agree with her viewpoint especially after visiting a lot of wineries in Australia where sometimes the tasting session becomes so stuffy and formal. Shashi is happy to answer all your questions and she puts you instantly at ease that you would open up and ask the most basic things you want to know about wine and pairing with food.

4

Apart from the Avani Syrah, we also had a taste of the 2015 Pinot Grigio which is yet to be bottled. She was so enthusiastic about this one and wanted us to have a taste. And I am so happy she did. For the first time, I understood what ‘spicy tones in a wine’ means. She later told me that she is planning on calling it ‘Amrit’ (the names of her wines are all Sanskrit and so brilliantly apt).

6

After spending some time at the vineyard, we decided to visit Tulsi for dinner and more of the Indian food and wine pairing experience.

Situated in Somerville, Tulsi might come across as a regular suburban Indian restaurant. But the minute you step in, you realize that this is not your average, pedestrian Indian curry house. The décor is classic contemporary with definite Indian touches in the form of wooden artwork and photographs.

1

The service is extremely professional yet friendly. A relaxed ambience with a view into the open kitchen where you find calm and composed chefs going about their business of sending out delicious food.

There is a good wine list which includes ones from their vineyard; you can also request for matching wines for each course. The dinner menu is a short and limited one unlike many of the Indian restos where you can usually find pages after pages of dishes; a matter of quality over quantity.

86

One among the many awards won by Tulsi!

One among the many awards won by Tulsi!

We started off on hot, piping samosas filled with a savoury peas and potato stuffing. Now, I have had plenty of samosas in my lifetime but what made this one stand apart is its buttery, flaky shortcrust pastry which is really hard to find in Melbourne.

Samosas filled with a savoury peas and potato stuffing

Samosas filled with a savoury peas and potato stuffing

Next, we had the Kesari Murgh Tikka; melt-in-your-mouth chicken morsels with subtle yet flavourful marinade of spices and saffron. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this is the best chicken tikka I have had for a really long time especially in Australia. No artificial colours and absolutely juicy chicken bites. Highly recommended.

We also had a tasting of Tandoori Champ or marinated racks of lamb. Delicious with the cooking of the lamb spot on.

Kesari Murgh Tikka and Tandoori Champ

Kesari Murgh Tikka and Tandoori Champ

For the mains, we had steamed basmati rice and naan/bread accompanied with Saag Paneer (cottage cheese and spinach curry) and Jheenga Nariyal (King prawns cooked with coconut and spices). I hardly ever talk about the naan I eat at the Indian restaurants here but at Tulsi, you will want to. And that’s probably because of the slight twist, the bread is finished off in an oven instead of a tandoor which makes it soft and pillowy, the perfect carrier for scooping the curries.

I am usually not a big fan of saag but this one was delicious primarily because of the quality of the cottage cheese. Anyone who is familiar with paneer or Indian cottage cheese would be able to say that this one is prepared in house as it is soft and crumbly. The dish was mild just as it is prepared in Northern part of India. Definitely recommended for paneer lovers.

And I will not be able to stop talking about the prawn curry. Perfectly cooked king prawns in a luxuriously creamy coconut gravy with just the right hint of spices. Again, totally recommended!

Steamed basmati rice and naan/bread accompanied with Saag Paneer (cottage cheese and spinach curry) and Jheenga Nariyal (King prawns cooked with coconut and spices).

Steamed basmati rice and naan/bread accompanied with Saag Paneer (cottage cheese and spinach curry) and Jheenga Nariyal (King prawns cooked with coconut and spices).

Finished the meal with gulab jamuns (dumplings in golden sugar syrup) with a side of mango ice-cream. The jamuns were warm and fresh but could have been a tad bit softer but paired beautifully with the mango ice cream.

Gulab jamuns (dumplings in golden sugar syrup) with mango ice-cream

Gulab jamuns (dumplings in golden sugar syrup) with mango ice-cream

Now I know the post is getting longer but the experience at Tulsi cannot be complete if I do not talk about another dining opportunity I had at the restaurant. Three days after I visited, Tulsi was hosting a special Diwali dinner series specially curated and prepared by Chef Balaji who specializes in South Indian cuisine.

It was a three course meal with matching wines from Avani. The restaurant was beautifully decked with traditional earthen lamps (diyas) and rose petals.

The first course consisted of Kerala Pan Seared Salmon, Pepper studded Vadai, Madras style Calamari and a shot of peppery Rasam. The accompanying wines were two different types of Pinot; the first one a 2015 Pinot (Amrit) – with spicy notes which matched perfectly with the South Indian spices. The second was a limited edition 2015 Pinot fermented with the skins on which gave the wine a nice rosy hue and a refreshing lightness.

I loved the salmon; crispy skin and perfectly flaky flesh with a subtle hint of spices. Loved the calamari too which was served on a bed of lettuce and sautéed onions. The vadai was delicious but I would have preferred it warm and slightly crispier but then, that’s the South Indian in me talking. All finished off with a shot of rasam, high on flavour and packed a punch.

Kerala Pan Seared Salmon, Pepper studded Vadai, Madras style Calamari and a shot of peppery Rasam

Kerala Pan Seared Salmon, Pepper studded Vadai, Madras style Calamari and a shot of peppery Rasam

Limited edition 2015 Amrit (Pinot) fermented with the skins

Limited edition 2015 Amrit (Pinot) fermented with the skins

2015 Amrit (Pinot)

2015 Amrit (Pinot)

The second course was Kozhi Vartha or Oven Roasted Chicken with Coconut served with Hyderabadi Pilaf and Long Beans Poriyal. Paired with a 2013 Avani Syrah which matched beautifully with the spices in the chicken. The meat was tender and served with a flavourful savoury tomato sauce with the pilaf subtle but delicious.

Kozhi Vartha or Oven Roasted Chicken with Coconut served with Hyderabadi Pilaf and Long Beans Poriyal paired with a 2013 Avani Syrah

Kozhi Vartha or Oven Roasted Chicken with Coconut served with Hyderabadi Pilaf and Long Beans Poriyal paired with a 2013 Avani Syrah

And the final course was dessert which was the most delicious rice and saffron kheer and jalebi which I have ever had. I am usually not the person to rave about desserts but this one was outstanding. The kheer was light, not very sweet to match the sticky, syrupy sweetness of the jalebis. Absolutely brilliant.

Rice and saffron kheer and jalebi

Rice and saffron kheer and jalebi

Tulsi was a delicious experience and a clear stand out among the mediocre Indian restaurants out here in Melbourne. Each dish is carefully prepared with the best quality ingredients and a true understanding of the cuisine which translates into a delicious and memorable experience for the diner.

The Team.....

The Team…..

Making a reservation ahead is advised especially for weekends. Also sign up to the Tulsi newsletter for special dinners, wine matching events and degustations.

Rating – 8.5/10

Tulsi Indian Restaurant

74 Station Street
Somerville
Victoria 3192

Phone no: 0359776733

Website: http://www.tulsi.com.au/

Timings:

Monday – 5.30 pm onwards
Tuesday – closed
Wednesday – 5.30 pm onwards
Thursday – 5.30 pm onwards
Friday – 5.30 pm onwards
Saturday – 5.30 pm onwards
Sunday – 5.30 pm onwards

Tulsi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – We were guests at Tulsi on both occasions but all the views and opinions expressed here are entirely mine.

Advertisements

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 thoughts on “An Indian Food and Wine Experience in Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

  1. […] The Spice Adventuress’ Indian Food and Wine Experience in the Mornington Peninsula. I love the Mornington Peninsula, just an hour south of Melbourne but had no idea there was an Indian-origin winemaker there. I am always a bit terrified by matching wine to Indian food and tend to stick to safe ol’ off-dry riesling, so I am pretty tempted to go and check out the restaurant Dhanya visited too. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. champagnecole January 30, 2016 at 10:29 pm Reply

    This is a fantastic post Dhanya! I have to admit I never really know where to start when matching wine to Indian food. As Louise said above, I usually just play it safe and rock up with an off-dry Riesling.
    The food here looks delicious and I love that someone is doing wine and Indian food matching.
    Thank you for linking up with Winenot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • vanyadhanya January 31, 2016 at 3:29 am Reply

      Even I was surprised Nicole but it was brilliant to watch and listen to Sashi as she paired some great wines to Tonka’s dishes. I had to visit her vineyard and restaurant after that. And also it has set me upon this journey of discovering small boutique wineries that Victoria is blessed with.

      Like

  3. WineEsquire January 8, 2016 at 7:48 pm Reply

    Never thought to pair Indian with wine! Will have to give it a try 🙂 Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Willunga Wino November 16, 2015 at 10:39 am Reply

    I love love love South Indian food! How unique to find an Aussie winemaker who comes from an Indian restaurateur family. I’ve not tried Pinot Gris with spicy food before, but I love off dry riesling, the touch of sweetness helps to metre the spiciness. Great post! Feel free to share your wine related posts on my monthly link sharing party, #WINENOT
    Cheers, Louise @ WillungaWino.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • vanyadhanya November 16, 2015 at 10:41 am Reply

      Awesome; I am not sure if all Pinots would measure up but the ones we tasted both at the Masterclass and at the dinner went amazingly well with the spices in the food. Is the ‘winenot’ event the same as hosted by Nicole Bilson (Champagne and Chips)?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Willunga Wino November 16, 2015 at 12:30 pm

        Yes – Nicole and I are co-hosts 🙂 I’m a huge fan of Pinot’s from Mornington

        Liked by 1 person

      • vanyadhanya November 16, 2015 at 11:21 pm

        I know Nicole well and do read a couple of posts on Winenot Wednesdays. What’s the best way to add my link?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Willunga Wino November 17, 2015 at 5:53 am

        We open the party on the First Wednesday of the Month, and it’s open for a week. Stay tuned, we’ll do a social media shout out when December is Open! Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

      • vanyadhanya November 17, 2015 at 6:46 am

        Sure will keep a look out Willunga; thanks once again.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: