At Atta Restaurant, familiar dishes from across India are refined and elevated in a chic, soothing dining space. Once the visual impact of the Entrees is over, settle in for a meal of subtly spiced dishes and arguably the best Naan Bread in town.
Location: 159/161 Victoria Ave, Albert Park, VIC 3206 Ph: (03) 9696 3388
It’s a typically murky Melbourne winter evening when we arrive at Atta Restaurant.
The modern Indian restaurant is a surprise on the outside. Set amongst a hotch-potch of converted terraces and new units, it’s housed in a striking bluestone-fronted building with a simple white sign, the only indication that you’re in the right place. Step closer and you can spy a bright, sleek interior thorough its windows.
The combined efforts of Head Chef Harry Dhanjal and business partner Brij Patel, at Atta, the goal is to take indigenous dishes from across India and give them a contemporary tweak. All whilst staying true to their classic roots. The result, is food prepared according to authentic cooking techniques and with all the layers of spice we’ve come to love in Indian cuisine, but presented in a modern, more sophisticated manner.
Once you enter the venue, the modern intentions are clear.
There’s a counter to the left with the regulation-size Melbourne coffee machine and a couple of shelves of spirits and liqueurs on the wall.
The dining room is a clean, sleek space with the ambience of an upmarket art gallery rather than the Indian restaurants of my youth. And full disclosure at this point – this reviewer is British born and a huge fan of Indian, Bengali and Pakistan food in virtually any form.
There’s a vaulted wooden ceiling, latticed by white beams. To the right, there’s a feature wall of wooden panels hung with contemporary pieces of Indo-centric art. Apart from this, the room is uncluttered, warmly lit and classic in its aesthetics.
We take our places at a table fronting a comfy banquette. The white table cloths seem incredibly brave for someone who knows firsthand how hard it can be to get turmeric stains out of a dress. That said, I applaud the nerve to go full on chic.
The mood is calm and hushed. Diners have sufficient space to talk without fear of eavesdropping. It’s an incredibly soothing room.
Melbourne has some outstanding Indian Restaurants. See our pick of the best, here.
Essentials & Entrees
It’s fair to say that the more obviously Insta-worthy dishes at Atta Restaurant come from these sections of the menu.
Here, something as simple as Pappadums ($12) with Mint Chutney arrive golden and dimpled on a tactile oblong plate.
The Sikandari Raan ($35) veers away from traditional methods by cooking the Lamb sous vide. Paired with Dutch Carrots, Herb Potatoes and Mint Chutney, it is warming and smells amazing.
One of Atta’s most celebrated creations is their Dirty Samosa ($22). A vegetarian-friendly melange of Potatoes and Peas, Chickpea Masala & an Aromatic Chutney, spiked with shards of Pastry. The result is playful and dramatic. It looks as if the classic Indian restaurant staple has been dropped from a height into a pool of yoghurt. And the kitchen get extra ‘Wow!’ points for presenting it on black crockery.
But it’s not all good news. Yes, these dishes look – and taste – great. But you may have noticed that they aren’t cheap. Nor are they generous in terms of portion-size. As a diner who is used to paying a max of $12 for 2 perfectly yummy Samosas, I bulk slightly at coughing up $22 for 1. Not matter how pretty it looks or tasty it is.
Entrees dispatched and discussed, we embark on the Mains.
Our initial selection is the Dal Bukhara ($32), because one of our party follows a strict plant-based diet. Also, I would have a tantrum if we didn’t order a lentil dish. As an ex-vegetarian, I adore a spiced legume. And particularly one in the hands of an Indian chef. At Atta Restaurant, this seemingly humble dish is earthy and cosseting with the Coriander Butter and Cream making it rich and silky.
Next we order the Palak Paneer ($38). A swampy green lagoon of English Spinach raised from sludgy obscurity by the kiss of Tempered Garlic And Green Chilli and the sweetness of Confit Tomatoes.
Let me say, straight up, that I love this dish. But. Once again I have reservations.
The spinach-rich sauce is addictive. And the Panner is up there with the best that I’ve ever eaten. However. There are a mere 7 smallish lozenges of Paneer in our pool of sauce. And 2 Confit Tomatoes. Which given how much they give to the overall integrity of the plate seems miserly.
Finally, we pick the Lamb Chennai ($45). And it’s one of our better moves.
What we get is a silky cacophony of Braised Lamb, Tempered Mustard & Curry Leaves with a Coconut & Tomato Gravy. It’s so good that even our guest who isn’t a sworn vegetarian, but largely avoids meat, declares it the best dish. He also happens to be Delhi born and bred and a man who has dined in many a good restaurant in his time.
For Sides, share perfectly Steamed Rice ($12) and the lightest Naan ($8) to ever emerge from a Tandoor. Seriously, I’d return just to try some of their others breads given how fabulous is one is.
We decide to split the Chidiya Ka Ghosla ($22). This gorgeously photogenic pud features spheres of Blueberry and Cardamom Kulfi in a White Chocolate Nest. Decorated with delicate Fairy Floss and Rabri, it’s as tasty as it is pretty.
There is a false start when the Gin & Tonics that 2 of us order appear as Martinis. However, this is soon remedied.
Sadly, I don’t catch what my companion asks for, but what she gets is a floral-scented mocktail of Green Mango Juice. It’s the perfect counter-point to the spicing in the meal.
There’s a refinement at Atta Restaurant that elevates an evening passed here to a sophisticated dining experience.
Although the visual fireworks are reserved largely for the Entrees and Desserts, the depth of flavour in the Mains shows both skill and knowledge working in harmony in the kitchen.
And the service is sweetly attentive. Our main waiter is a trainee and eager to please, and it’s nice to see her supervisor stepping in an assisting her, without being overbearing.
Yes, a meal here isn’t cheap. But then Atta is at the forefront of the Indian fine dining movement in Melbourne for good reason.