Gertrude Street’s Tandoori Times has had a rebirth. A few months ago, the owners chucked the onion bhajis for pan-Asian snacks, threw in a tuk tuk and put whipsmart hospitality talent Jordan Rusev in charge – last seen charming the pants off drinkers at the short-lived Virginia Plain. The result is Rickshaw: a culture-jamming eatery pushing everything from DIY Vietnamese rice paper rolls to pretty plates of miso-poached cod with good booze thrown into the mix.
It’s a broad offering, but the bitty menu works for this ‘hood where one-drink-and-a-snack grazing is a way of life.
Crisp, buttery roti squares come with a nutty chicken mince curry and a tangle of green papaya licked with chilli and lime for scooping and crunching. We’re big fans of the tiger prawns too – each spicy sucker is grilled, crowned with chilli-spiked mayo and delivered on a little disc of pickled cucumber. The vegan rolls are a little wan – a mix of shitake and enoki mushroom, rolled and cooked in wombok leaves – but overall, this is fresh, fun and interesting food that doesn’t get too creative for its own good.
Service can be a little bipolar. On the one hand you have Rusev, enthusiastically dissecting the menu for anyone who’ll listen and pouring interesting stuff like a bone dry Sutton Grange rosé by Victorian wine boss Gilles Lapalus, and Freyeisen German cider. The other servers are less intuitive, and we have to give a friendly nudge for waters and menus. But we kind of like that this place isn't polished and stiff. Beyond the superficial modern details – there are bare bulbs and chainmail netting hanging from the roof – Rickshaw still has the feel of a casual local, right down to the rustic toilets, stuffy room and red and green chairs from its time as Tandoori times.
Take a group for one of the best value tasting menus on the strip ($35 for four courses) or rock up solo for a plate of drunken noodles – a sort-of chicken pad Thai with broader noodles and fresh peppercorn sprigs – and a beer on a quiet Tuesday. Either way, don’t miss the barely stable panna cotta in a bitter tea syrup. Great stuff.