Step into the colourful dining room of Rama’s Fijian Indian, with its red and yellow walls and cosy booths, and you quickly see the service out front is as warm and nurturing as the food being cooked up in the kitchen. In its 27th year of business, the restaurant – along with the team behind it – is a cherished member of the Pearce community, with their place taking pride position at the local shops overlooking the square.
Owner Mini Gaundar is out front, devotedly greeting customers, most of whom she knows by name and has formed long genuine affections for; while her sister Daya, along with her husband Parsu Ram, having over 30 years experience cooking, run the kitchen and produce hearty Indian food.
We visit the restaurant on a Wednesday night and it fills up fast. The phone and walk-in takeaway orders are all happening at a steady rate as well, so it is clear that this hearty restaurant is one of the cornerstones of the local community, with Mini saying about the Pearce locals: “They are very supportive and bring new customers and family members with them to share their positive experiences. They choose to celebrate their family dinners, birthdays, anniversaries and all special occasions with us, which is truly rewarding for us.”
Even though she is a natural at ensuring the restaurant runs smoothly, Mini’s career in hospitality was not always on the cards, as she explained: “My sister was already a chef at Rama’s with the previous owners and the business went on sale. The owners were sponsoring my sister for permanent residency and we bought Rama’s to continue their sponsorship. I had no experience running a business; however, I was working two jobs (Commonwealth Bank and at a News agency). These jobs were customer service orientated. I was 24 years old and had finished studying a Bachelors degree in Science and just decided to take the plunge on the restaurant if it would mean my sister and her husband had job security in Australia.”
“The cuisine served is Indian with a South Indian influence. There are some dishes unique to Rama’s due to our Fijian-Indian background,” said Mini, with some of the most popular items over the years being, “Chicken Korma, Lamb Saag, Fijian Pork Curry, Vindaloo, Goat Curry but of course there are too many to mention as everyone has their own favourites.” As for her favourite, Mini said, “at the moment, it is the Goat Curry or Chicken Vindaloo, With a little lime pickle on the side! I like spice!”
For our visit, we start with the very filling mixed entree for two, featuring Vegetable Samosas with potatoes and peas mildly spiced and encased in a homemade pastry and deep-fried, the Fish Pakoras which are portions of boneless fish, marinated in garlic, turmeric and lemon juice, then dipped in lentil flour and deep fried, and the hearty Bhajia which is a deep-fried patty made of shredded spinach, garlic, onion and ground lentils.
For mains, we order two house specialities and dishes we had never tried before at an Indian restaurant. The creamy Potato and Egg Curry dish with hard boiled eggs cooked with potatoes, fresh coriander leaves and coconut milk, along with our favourite of the evening; the spicy Fijian Pork Curry which perfectly balances the fat from the meat with the rich gravy and bites of capsicum and onion.
As to what has kept them in business all this time, Mini says, “We think it’s what hasn’t changed that keeps us going. We prioritise customer service and consistent flavours which customers know they will get every time. We’ve introduced some new dishes over the years but the menu has remained predominantly the same. I’d definitely say that we have grown to meet customer needs and have evolved to meet demand by acknowledging changes like the focus on vegetarian dishes.”
Rama’s Fijian Indian Restaurant is BYO and open Tuesday – Saturday from 5:30 pm.
Located at Pearce Shopping Centre, Cnr Macfarlane & Hodgson Crescent, Pearce – bookings are recommended.
*Sophia dined as a guest at Rama’s Fijian Indian Restaurant.