We’re in a curry house – and we can’t stop making Carry On-style comments about the food.
“Phwoar, what a whopper!” say I.
“Look at the size of THAT” says he.
And I bet you, you too will go all Kenneth Williams if you venture into South Indian and Sri Lankan restaurant Dhanistha’s on Abbeydale Road.
Their pooris – those light, fine, golden bubbles that normally encase mildly spiced prawn fillings – are the size of turtles.
But wait until you clap eyes on their dosas. Ooo-er, missus, they’re three feet long.
The dosa, a fine South Indian pancake made with fermented rice and black gram flour, is normally small enough to pick up in one hand. But the version proffered on an extra-long plate at Dhanistha’s is, as Barbara Windsor would say, eye-watering. A whopper.
And it is by no means a never mind the quality, feel the width story here. The food is fabulous.
Dhanistha’s – named after the owner’s daughter – is a strangely-shaped building. Formerly an Italian restaurant, it sits on a corner plot at the beginning of Abbeydale Road, next to a cul-de-sac, very handy for parking.
The interior is simple, cafe style; it’s all cream and coral-pink tongue and groove.
There’s another small dining room upstairs, which looked quite cosy – but then I noticed that you can see straight into the gents’ toilet when the door is left open.
The place celebrated its second birthday last week.
Early views had reported a bit of a carry on with service and long waits for food. A few organisational teething problems, shall we say.
Happily, things went very smoothly on our visit – although you do still have to wait a long time before your first dishes arrive. Ours took an hour.
To be fair, it does warn you of that on the menu. And the wait is because Dhanistha’s doesn’t have pots of simmering, pre-made sauces waiting to be doled into pans for chefs to pop differing ingredients into and serve up.
Meals are cooked from scratch for everyone.
Once you get yours, you realise it was absolutely worth the wait.
Owner Dharmazeelan Periyasamy, a Sri Lankan who brought his family to South Yorkshire to manage a petrol station in Wickersley, didn’t have any previous restaurant experience when he opened up in 2010.
But he and his wife had missed the South Indian-style food of their homeland and set out to recreate their favourite dishes.
With the help of two talented chefs from Kerala, they are turning out some really stunning and highly unusual dishes for Sheffield curry fans.
No matter how much you adore your Pakistani and Bangladeshi favourites, be prepared to fall head over heels into a whole new curry love affair.
The flavours and ingredients used in the south of India are very different to the smoky tandoori aromas and the rich onion, garlic and tomato laden dishes of the north.
And there are so many new things to try.
Vada doughnut starters made from black gram flour, fish patties, mutton rolls, iddly cakes... And that’s just for starters (which range from £2.50 to £3.50).
Special starters, like Chilli Paneer, King Prawn Poori and chilli-marinated tilappia fish, cost from £5.50 to £7, but as we discovered, these are big enough for two to share.
One of our friends manfully managed the mighty poori starter (£7) solo; the other determinedly polished off the £3.50 small masala dosa starter – thankfully just a foot long.
I went for something I’d never heard of – kadala vada (£2.50), little savoury cakes that looked a bit like Bakewells, made with chickpeas and served with little pots of grated coconut sauce and chilli dips. I quite liked them, although I probably wouldn’t order them again.
My husband had also gone for something completely different (oops, wrong comedy classic); Cashew Nut Pakora, £3.50. It was strange, but more-ish; the nuts had been rolled in spicy chick pea flour batter and deep-fried. He too got those lovely dips.
The four of us ordered a basket of Indian breads for £5.50 – a wonderful assortment of crisp puffs, flatbreads and soft nans – plus a coconut rice, £3, which was nutty, salty heaven.
Poori man ordered a staggeringly huge potato masala dosa (£5) with lots of little accompaniments, and went very quiet as he merrily overdosed on carbs.
And the chap who’d had his dose of dosa as a starter went for 16-spice Chettinadu prawn curry, £7.50, a bowl of deeply aromatic, intense yet not fiery taste sensation.
My husband’s Green Chicken Masala, tender, boneless pieces, tomato and onion laden with ground chick peas and scented with curry leaves, was a £6.50 stunner.
But not as good as my £7 Meen Mango Puli, an exotic combination of succulent white king fish and sharp, almost lime-like chunks of green mango, both of which Dharma brings back from the London importers every week, The tang, the gentle heat, the creamy fish – I can still remember the taste now.
There had been enough food to feed five or six, we reckoned. With Lion lagers and a Barbie-pink and overly sweet rose milk you’d be better off giving a miss, our bill including drinks came to £71.40 for four – just £36.20 a couple.
Maybe Dhanistha’s could come up with some South Indian-style nibbles to hand out while you wait, hungrily, for those starters to arrive?