One of the newer additions to the Orange dining scene has emerged from the COVID-affected economy in late 2020 to shine a bright light in a tough year for our restaurant industry.
Helmed by chef patron Sanjay Paswan, cooking alongside his wife Sarita, Maithil Rasoi produces a standard of Indian cuisine that is rarely seen in this part of the world.
The restaurant is named after his home province of Mithila which encompasses parts of northwest India and Nepal.
With rasoi meaning domestic kitchen, Maithil Rasoi offers a unique opportunity to feast on regional specialties as cooked in the home.
When I came here I really loved the place and the people. People here greeted me with open arms and I love to walk to the shops, to the butcher and just speak with people.Sanjay Paswan
Indian restaurants have become a staple fixture of the Australian dining landscape, happily embraced by expats, migrants and natives alike.
Whereas many such venues often produce cookie-cutter selections that offer very little in variation from place to place, Maithil Rasoi breaks the mold with it's unique and personally expressive cuisine.
Everybody's favourite classics such as masala curries, vindaloo and korma are still available and the ever-popular butter chicken is offered in either western style or Desi style.
But it's a large blackboard menu of unique dishes which sets Maithil Rasoi apart.
Regional specialties of Mithila such as Bachka (chickpea battered fritters) sit alongside fresh seafood options and special dishes that include treasures of local produce such as saffron and truffles.
Great effort is made to ensure that almost everything is made from scratch.
Curries are slowly cooked according to personal recipes, spices for garum masala are carefully selected and blended, and even the yoghurt is cultured in-house.
Diners are also treated to a complimentary appetiser, or amuse bouche, that evolves with the seasons.
Currently a velvety pumpkin soup, laced with turmeric, enlivens the palette before a meal in these cooler months.
Paswan brings a wealth of experience to Orange with more than 25 years in the trade that has seen him cooking in a great variety of kitchens all over the world.
Having trained under Michelin starred chefs Gary Rhodes and Vineet Bhatia, he has opened restaurants for them in both Doha and Dubai, represented award winning Indian cooking teams in international competitions, as well as running kitchens as executive chef for the world's largest catering company, Sodexo.
Five years ago a move from Mumbai to Brisbane seemed to be short lived after a frustrating two months and a new opportunity back in Doha had appeared.
But a trip to Orange and the inspiration provided by Sarita to start something of his own has seen Sanjay happily settle here with his family.
"When I came here I really loved the place and the people. People here greeted me with open arms and I love to walk to the shops, to the butcher and just speak with people."
With a maximum capacity of only 22 seats, Mithail Rasoi is a far cry from some of the large resorts and catering kitchens that Paswan has previously run.
However, the intimate space on Summer Street with husband and wife cooking and their children helping on the restaurant floor, is an ideal setting for a truly personal and unique expression of delicious Indian cuisine.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Bisaanr Bachka - Pan Seared Lotus Root with Chickpea Batter and Caraway Seed
- 1cup chickpea flour
- 1tsp turmeric powder
- 1tsp caraway seed
- 1tsp cumin powder
- 1tsp coriander powder
- 1tsp ginger paste
- 1tsp garlic paste
- 2Tbs mustard oil
- 1Tbs lemon juice
- 2Tbs fresh coriander leaf, chopped
- cup water
- Pinch salt
- 400g lotus root, sliced
- 2tbs vegetable oil or ghee
- Sautee the spices, ginger and garlic in the mustard oil for one minute and add to the chickpea flour.
- Add lemon juice, salt and coriander then gradually add the water, stirring until a thick batter forms.
- Apply this batter to lotus root slices and cook in a medium-hot pan with the oil until golden brown on each side.
- Drain on a paper towel and enjoy while warm.
Richard Learmonth is an experienced chef and will be writing a food column for the Central Western Daily every second Saturday.
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