March 3rd, 2004

Little India Bistro and Tandoor

I was wandering around Saturday night in Dunedin, looking for an interesting place to eat. As I walked down a sidestreet, I saw that Little India was very busy. This was a good sign, as I'd passed a number of possibilities with very few patrons.

Little India Bistro and Tandoor
82 St. Andrews St.
Dunedin, Otago
South Island, New Zealand
tel: +64.3.477.6559
fax: +64.3.467.2707
mobile: +
lunch: M-F 1130-1430
dinner: 7 days, 1700-"late"

(other locations in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown.)

For a chain, Little India is pretty good. The heat is toned down for the NZ palate, but the food is quite tasty. I ordered "medium", which was only vaguely spicy, but they do anything from mild to very hot.

For a starter, I got the small barra kebab (NZ$8, $5.40), three lamb chops, tandoori style. The large, at NZ$17.50 ($11.80) is eight lamb chops, and is a meal in itself. The chops were tender, juicy, and pleasantly spiced. The chicken korma (NZ$15.90, $10.75) was not as sweet as one finds in the UK, but slightly more so than the US version. In any case, it was also quite pleasant, and came with plenty of basmati rice.
I also got the chicken naan (NZ$4.50, $3.05). There was enough food that I had the naan and one of the lamb chops packed up to take away. It made a good lunch the next day.

Note that *everything* has cilantro sprinkled on it. I should have asked to have that omitted, as should you if you're a cilantro soap-taster.

Volcano Cafe

Victoria and PJ were meeting their friend Helen for dinner and asked if I wanted to join them. Victoria and Helen wandered around Lyttleton phoning and texting each other until they settled on the Volcano Cafe.

Volcano Cafe
42 London St.
Lyttleton, Canterbury
South Island, New Zealand
tel: +64.3.328.7077

The Volcano Cafe is a fairly active bar restaurant with excellent food. Victoria and PJ both got pasta, which looked quite tasty. I got a big bowl of green-lipped mussels (NZ$10, $6.75) in a cream sauce which I didn't care for but which Victoria and PJ eagerly scooped up with my leftover mussel shells. For my main I decided that New Zealand lamb was the right thing to do. A generous rack of lamb was NZ$26 ($17.50). It came accompanied by vegetables and salad, and arrived just right, still pinkish and very juicy.

Local Grill (from October 2003)

I was walking around Melville, one of the many neighborhoods in Johannesburg that have nightlife, sidewalk cafes, and plenty of street-side security to make it all possible. As I walked down the street past bars that reminded me of Georgetown, and funky shops that reminded me of Melrose in LA, I stopped to look at the menu of the Local Grill, a serious-looking steakhouse.

The manager came out and pointed out a few highlights of the menu. I noticed they weren't open yet and asked what time they'd start serving dinner, and he asked if I wanted to book a table. "I'll be back," I said, meaning it, because steak now sounded like a great idea.

I went around the corner to a used bookstore that also had internet. While killing some time I decided I'd check the reviews for the place. They were uniformly excellent.

Well, I thought, I know where I'm having dinner.

Local Grill
corner 3rd Avenue and 7th Street
Melville, Johannesburg 2092
Gauteng, South Africa
tel: +27.11.726.2890/740.9250
fax: +27.11.726.2247
M-F: lunch
M-Sa: dinner (starts around 1800)
closed Sunday

menu visible at:
(private parking available on 3rd Ave, or guarded street parking available on 7th St.)

This is a first-rate steakhouse. The grain-fed beef is aged on the premises, and the staff know their business. The waiters are helpful and polite in explaining the differences between the different cuts of beef. While the menu is simple, it was still extremely useful to have such details explained. The wine steward was equally knowlegable and helpful. She produced a nice local red that really went well with the excellent steak.

I started with their ostrich salad (R38, $5.50), which was much larger than I'd expected. Nonetheless, it was a fine start. After a bit of consultation with the waiter I decided on the 1/3 kg rump steak (R72, $10.25). This was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten. The wine was one of their showcase wines, and a glass was under R15 ($2.15).

Be sure to try their spice-herb rub, a specialty of the house. They sent me home with a small jar of it.

Truly, this was an amazing meal. It easily could have cost double or triple the price back home.

People ask me why I spent so much time in Johannesburg. Go to this restaurant and have dinner. Then you tell me.