Sauma is a new Indian place in Northbridge, from the same stable as the long established and highly regarded Maya in Fremantle. It has just opened for lunch on Fridays, so me and a mate went along to check it out – he had been for dinner when it first opened and was impressed, and we came away from lunch with a similar view.
It is well set up place – interesting ceiling decor and some great light fittings – with a central bar area where you can have a drink and snack if you wish.
They also have a Tiffin cart – at least for lunch – where you can grab one of the ubiquitous stainless steel Tiffin containers you see everywhere in India – containing an inexpensive meal – rice, couple of curries, roti – good value.
When you first enter there is a high wooden communal table with stools for those who like that style of dining – then four or so tables are pushed together in lines across the restaurant making another couple of rows of this setup – but with chairs rather than stools. Towards the rear are a number of tables for two or three – and this is where we headed – have to admit I am not that keen on the communal set up – and our area of the room was popular so I guess I am not alone.
The drinks list has 7 or so each of red and white wines, a couple of sparkling, one rosé, some cocktails, beers and spirits. The whites include Howard Park Flint Rock chardonnay, Sevenhills Inigo Riesling and Tomfoolery Sauvignon Blanc, all very good wines; while among the reds are Port Phillip Estate Pinot Noir, Celestial bay Merlot and Frankland Estate Cabernets.
We started off with a bottle of Pierre et Papa rosé, from Languedoc in France. I had tasted this particular wine a couple of months ago at another place and again it pleased. Made from cinsault it is bright pink, with lifted strawberry notes on the nose; has a touch of sweetness on the mid palate, but finishes quite dry with raspberry notes predominating.
The lunch menu, while not large, has a good range of dishes – starters include oysters with spices, Wagyu beef samosa, Goan sausage, lamb ribs, cauliflower salad and chicken tikka. Mains such as goat curry, dhal, butter chicken and eggplant and red peppers are offered.
We decided to have a serve of pappadums with raita, and tandoor roasted field mushrooms to start, followed by malai kofta and Cone Bay barramundi fish curry. A garlic naan and serve of rice completed our order.
The pappadums were fine, not at all oily, nice and crisp and the raita of yoghurt, roasted cumin seed, cucumber and grapes (for something a little different) was a nice fresh accompaniment.
Mushrooms were served in a spicy cashew sauce with chopped sultana dotted across the dish. The mushrooms were well cooked, retained a nice bite, the spice mixture was perfectly harmonised and the flavour combination – fruit, nuts, spices – a good example of Northern Indian, Mughal inspired, cuisine.
The fish curry was excellent; the fish beautifully tender, moist and flavoursome, and the sauce it was cooked in an aromatic blend of ginger, chilli, curry leaves and coconut milk. It was mildly spiced, with delightful creaminess, and a few green beans crunchy and fresh through the sauce. This was a top dish.
Four good sized kofta balls and quartered figs were swimming in a delightful, spicy cashew based sauce and the balls made from ricotta and potato, moist and crumbly although, for me, they lacked a little nuttiness. The figs added another flavour dimension to what was a pretty good dish.
Our garlic naan was top notch – doughy and charred – good garlic flavour and just the thing for mopping up the curry sauces. The rice was, as you would expect, well cooked.
Sauma certainly maintains the standard set by its stable mate in Fremantle; the food is high quality and some of the dishes simply outstanding; waiters are welcoming and attentive; a small, but good, drinks list supports the food; and the set up and location is spot on. Sauma should have a bright future.