Herald rating: * * * *
Address: 17 Great North Rd, Ponsonby
Phone: (09) 361 3612
Web: www.time2dine.co.nz/review.php/satya
Open: Lunch Mon-Sat, dinner 7 days
Cuisine: South Indian
From the menu: 80-plus ideas
Vegetarian: All over the shop
Wine: We like Taj Mahal beer

Key Points:

Always read the fine print. The fine print was on page 4, or it may have been page 6, of Satya's menu. "We recommend lassi for hot eaters and to dilute intoxication," it said. Not that Jude was in need of diluting intoxication; it was the other piece of advice that would come in handy.

This is Satya on Great North Rd, latest outpost of the empire that started in a little temple to Ayurvedic cooking in Hobson St, near the City Mission, much worshipped around the turn of the millennium.

But like everything in Auckland, it had to make way for apartments. So the Satya people packed up their gorgeous silks and even more gorgeous food and headed to K Rd. There's one in Sandringham too.

Satya 3 is among the caryards just past the traffic lights at the Newton Gully-Ponsonby Rd corner, next to the Irish Club's former home. Begorrah, we are a multi-cultural city.

When Jude, Sian and I pitched up there, the first thing I noticed was that it looked so much like the original Satya: a tiny 19th Century shop, walls stripped back to the brick, wooden floor, gorgeous silks trussed from the ceiling and around the chairs.

The first thing Jude noticed was that it was full at 6.30 on a Sunday night, having just opened with - as usual - no advertising.

The first thing Sian noticed was that the 80-plus items on the menu are the same as the other two: deja vu and vindaloo. Which was cool, because she could order her favourite dosa and know they would tell her it would take 20 minutes, and she'd get it in 10, because that's what always happens.

I asked for dahi puri, because people who have been to Satya before know that's what they should do. There is no argument that the little finger-food of yoghurt, potato, chickpeas, tamarind and spices is whoever your god may be's gift to Auckland.

And Sian got that killer cashew rava masala dosa, stonking rice and lentil pancake packed with cashews, filled with potato and onion curry, and we dipped it in the sambar and the coconut and we were well pleased, or whatever it says in the Old Testament.

In spite of The Lady Editor insisting this was Viva's Veghead issue and demanding we go gluten-free, tofu-friendly, green-topped milk and all that carbo- and taste-deficient palaver, our next courses were chicken korma (moi) and prawn maharajah (Sian and Jude).

"We'll have our curries medium," we said, in a momentarily lapse of remembrance about Satya's Theory of Relative Hotness as applied to curry. Underneath the tantalising prawns and nuts and cucumber and carrots are searing spices.

Jude was overcome and reached for the copper mug of iced water. Sian and I dived to stop her. "Wrong!" we said. "It'll only make it worse. What you need is lassi, the yoghurt will cool your mouth." And Sian should know, for she makes a mean one.

We are not even going to mention wine - oh yes, we are, because it's a bit rich that Satya charges $4 per head corkage, which means if the student flat from Arch Hill wants to lash out, their $10 bottle suddenly becomes $26, and that's over the top. Jude and I settled for Taj Mahal beer, brewed in India and recommended over Kingfisher, which comes all the way from Papakura these days. Nearly the Bombays.

Wrap it up like a dosa. Satya 3 has all the authentic ingredients of the first two - superb tasting and fresh food at ridiculously good prices; idiosyncratic service: it can blow hot like its curries or cool like its lassi; and, frequently, real difficulty in getting a table.

Ah well, at least there are two within walking distance of one another now.