A year or two ago there were no Indian restaurants in Melville. This was a sad state of affairs, as quick, tasty, affordable Indian food is a staple in the average South African diet. Sure, Fordsburg is just 10 minutes away from Melville and all the best Indian food in town is there. But it just wasn’t the same as having an Indian joint right in my own neighborhood.
But life has recently improved for curry-craving Melvillians; we now have not one, but two Indian restaurants within our boundaries. I’ve recently eaten at both of them so I thought I’d do a quick double review.
If you’ve ever eaten in Fordsburg then you probably know Bismillah, a Pakistani/Indian restaurant with three different locations on Fordsburg’s Mint Road and another location in Lenasia. But you probably don’t know that Bismillah has now expanded beyond the confines of Joburg’s traditionally Indian neighborhoods, opening a restaurant on Melville’s Main Road last month.
The new Melville Bismillah, in a rather odd location at the corner of Main Road and St. Swithans Avenue.
As soon as I heard the news, I descended upon the new Bismillah with several friends and wrote a review for JHBLive.com. You can read my full JHBLive review here so I won’t repeat myself.
But I will say that the meal was exactly as expected: tasty, plentiful, and cheap, with friendly but slightly incompetent service. In other words, the quintessential Fordsburg experience right here in Melville. I loved it and so did my friends.
A table heaped with food at Bismillah. Note that Bismillah is a traditional Muslim establishment and does not serve alcohol.
When I moved to Melville in 2010 there was an Indian restaurant called Sahib on 4th Avenue, across the street from Café Mexicho. I went there often and enjoyed it, but then the quality began to decline and eventually Sahib closed altogether.
I’m not sure exactly when the closure occurred or how long the restaurant stayed closed, but at some point a new restaurant called Satkar opened in the same spot. The new owners left the Sahib sign hanging and put their new Satkar sign in front of it.
Satkar, previously known as Sahib (see the old sign at the back).
Satkar by night. I think the blue light put me off a bit at first.
I was initially suspicious of Satkar and stayed away for a long time after it opened. But after eating at Bismillah, I decided it wouldn’t be fair to review it on my blog without trying the other Melville Indian restaurant as well. So Ray and I went to Satkar for the first time about two weeks ago.
My first meal at Satkar: a dish called Chicken Kalimeri with yogurt, cream, cashew nuts, and fenugreek. Accompanied by garlic naan and a delicious, spicy cucumber relish that comes with every meal. I eventually got used to the eerie blue glow over the outdoor tables.
Our meal was delicious. Satkar’s menu is more traditionally Indian (as opposed to the South-Africanized Indian food served in Fordsburg) and has a lot of interesting dishes that I’ve never heard of before. The prices are a bit higher than Bismillah’s (Satkar’s main dishes generally range from R60-R90, compared to R50-R70 at Bismillah), but the quality is better and you get more extras with your meal.
Plus, Satkar has a strange yet very charming atmosphere that is difficult to put into words. We went back again a week later.
We ate inside the next time. Satkar’s interior feels a bit like a wedding reception hall, but it’s cheerful and fun. The waitresses wear black vests and jaunty bowler hats. Satkar does serve beer and wine, including this Indian brand called Cobra.
Satkar has one other secret ingredient that makes it awesome: Jacob Kata, its owner. As we were leaving the restaurant after our first meal there, Jacob actually recognized me from Twitter (Satkar recently opened a Twitter feed) and started chatting to us. Jacob is possibly the sweetest restauranteur that I’ve ever met. We took photos together.
You’re awesome, Jacob, and so is your restaurant. (Photo: Ray)
So while I enjoy the authentic Fordsburg feel of Melville’s Bismillah and will go there from time to time, Satkar is definitely my favorite Melville Indian joint. Thanks for the great meals, Jacob. I’ll be back.