Review: Hanuman

The location of this extension of Chef Jimmy Shu’s national restaurant empire seems a little strange.

South Terrace hotels are not the most inspirational of Adelaide’s accommodation, and the Grand Chifley Hotel’s dated exterior and tired entrance lobby doesn’t give a good first impression when entering the restaurant sited just opposite the reception desk.

Moving through the refurbished dining space is a little more rousing but even a fresh coat of paint and some Danish-style imported furniture can’t help you shake the feeling that you’re about to dive into the hotel’s weekly buffet special. The idea of ‘views over the hotel pool’ would usually add a touch of grandeur, if only the pool wasn’t surrounded by chunky with plastic furniture overshadowed only by the unpleasant façades of nearby buildings.

We can’t always choose our neighbours, I suppose. We arrive during a very quiet lunch hour, confirming that although the location may help keep the overheads down and be convenient for after-hours parking it is not attracting the daytime crowd of more centrally-based dining haunts.

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Only one other table is occupied and the food and beverage staff seem a little surprised when we arrive, continuing to set tables rather than show us to one. After a little confusion we are seated and service picks up, with menus and wine landing promptly and some menu suggestions offered by the staff and accepted by us; their knowledge of the dishes gave reassurance that we made a good choice and were in for a gastronomic treat from across the seas.

Six little tapered earthenware lids surround a pool of lime and chilli sauce, each one hiding a succulent seafood surprise. Lifting the lid reveals fresh oysters swimming in a subtly sweet and slightly spicy liquid. Simple and delicious.

This is Hanuman’s signature dish, and one that I’d happily eat by the dozen. Lingering tastes of lemongrass and ginger get the taste buds dancing and the heat from the chilli is enough to notice but not to undermine the oyster’s delicate flesh. The first sign of the Indian influence to the Hanuman menu comes next: a Kashmiri chicken tikka marinated with yogurt, ginger and Kashmiri chilli, balanced thoughtfully with a fragrant rose petal garam masala.

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I imagine that better can only be tasted alongside views of the Himalayan mountains, and this dish is best eaten dunked in the minted yogurt and wrapped in the most delicious roti bread served alongside. It’s here that you really begin to realise that with food like this as the focus, interior (and exterior) design struggles of this oriental haven can be forgiven (even the preformed sandstone deities that I just noticed lining the purple fluorescent lit walls).

It is a difficult challenge to make a curry look photo-worthy but the duck, roasted then simmered in a coconut and red curry sauce, infused with kaffir lime leaf and Thai basil and topped with a sprig of a chilli bush, makes this one the exception, and dare I say it kind of ‘cute’. Strike a pose, you delicious looking dish. Delicious tasting too.

hanuman-restaurant-adelaide.jpgLarge chunks of pineapple and lychees sweeten the flavour and while perhaps could be seen as a little common, there is nothing like a good classic that is executed well – especially when served with a lemongrass martini, it was past noon, after all. Less attractive, but still on the mark with flavour and balance, is a combined seafood dish, wok-tossed and seasoned with hot basil and oyster sauce.

Lovely and succulent scallops are the heroes here, with the delightful sauce greedily mopped up with leftover roti – both of these too good to waste. Hanuman is decidedly the best house on the worst street based on its culinary delights. Fresh, fragrant and exciting dishes meld Asian cuisines in perfect cohesion; it’s just a shame about the view.

Hanuman

226 South Terrace 8359 3500
hanuman.com.au

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