When Veera Muduganti left his retail job to run a restaurant for his brother in Melbourne, he didn’t know anything about hospitality.
“My brother was running a franchise and he put me in charge. Then I fell in love with hospitality!” he told Region.
After four years learning the ropes, he and chef Deepak Rachamalla teamed up to open their own business. Initially, they looked at opportunities in Melbourne, but friends suggested that Canberra would be a good option as most of the Indian restaurants here focus on curry and naan dishes rather than the South Indian and Indo-Chinese fusion that Veera and Deepak love to eat.
“Indo-Chinese has a couple of sauces like 65 sauce, Manchurian sauce and chilli sauce. We pan-fry chicken or goat in these sauces,” Veera explained.
“So these sauces are a combination of Chinese and Indian masalas using ingredients like soy which is Chinese and Indian spices like cardamom and everything you’d use to make curry.”
We started with the Indo-Chinese Gobi 65 – fried pieces of cauliflower tossed in the signature 65 sauce. The sauce was exactly the right mix of spicy and sweet, covering perfectly incredibly moreish cauliflower bites. The dish is traditionally made with chicken, but cauliflower is a great vegetarian substitute. There are plenty of competing theories about how 65 sauce got its name.
Veera tells me that despite what most people assume, it’s definitely not because there are 65 spices in the sauce, and instead offers a theory about the dish being created on 65th street in Chennai. But no matter how it got its name, it’s a great dish!
Next, my friend and I shared a dosa, a South Indian specialty. It’s a large crisp pancake rolled, filled with spiced potato, and served with a couple of sambals and a soup. It was a slightly messy undertaking as we were a little out of practice eating with our hands! But we managed to scoop up a respectable amount of the accompanying soup and the especially tasty peanut sambal.
Veera is also very proud of their Hyderabadi-style biryani, which they perfected ahead of opening the restaurant by offering a catering service to the local Hyderabadi community, who have given it their stamp of approval!
“There are lots of different biryani in India. We like biryani a lot. Whenever there is a gathering, if there is no biryani, that’s not a party!”
Veera served the biryani with a flourish, upending a bowl of rice onto a large flat tray to reveal pieces of spiced chicken drumsticks underneath.
An extra bowl of chicken gravy and another of yoghurt sauce make this something of a choose-your-own-adventure meal as you can add more or less of each to alter the spice levels.
The chicken drumsticks were incredibly tender and juicy and were beautifully spiced with whole cloves and pepper. The fluffy rice soaked up the flavours of the gravy and had us grabbing another helping long after we were full. It’s a large serving – Veera said he made the conscious choice to serve big portions – and if I ordered it again, I think I’d have the biryani as an accompaniment to other curries.
7 Hills offers catering services and options for large groups to dine in and would be a great choice to feed a large gathering of family and friends. Just be sure to get the biryani to get the party started!
Find 7 Hills Indian at Shop 2/1, Woolley Street, Dickson. It’s open for lunch from 12 noon to 3 pm, and for dinner from 5 pm to 10:30 pm (closed Tuesdays). Bookings and more information on their website.