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Published May 22nd 2019
Ushering in the new age of Indian-Australian cuisine
Walking into Don't Tell Aunty, you instantly get the sense that Chef Jassi Singh is not interested in serving Indian food as the Australian public has come to know and love it. Everything from the decor to the menus represent a very deliberate attempt at rebellion. The menus proudly proclaim that one should not expect the regular Indian fare here; after all, this is not the place for the traditional food you'd be served by an Indian "aunty."
The menus set the tone for this subversive take on Indian cuisine.
Chef Jassi Singh is no stranger to the culinary world - he's helmed three successful Australian eateries and two equally impressive restaurants in the US. For his fifth outing, he's attempted to create a fusion Indian menu that seeks to modernise a cuisine that's notoriously steeped in traditional methods and flavours.
The decor beautifully meshes traditional Indian artworks with modern interiors.
The menu is unlike anything you'd see in your regular Indian joint. For one, the Butter Chicken is literally called the "Unauthentic Butter Chicken", while the only Biryani option features Sea Urchin as the primary protein.
Since we felt slightly intimidated by the number of choices, we decided to opt for the Chef's Tasting Menu ($65 pp) to get a wide variety of dishes to try.
The Tasting Menu kicked off with an assortment of appetisers, starting with a dish called 'Balls of Happiness.' We came to realise that this was their take on the traditional street food, Gol Gappa, which is generally a deep-fried semolina puff filled with various chutneys, chickpeas and condiments.
While delicious, the Balls of Happiness weren't particularly different to the Gol Gappa you'd find in the streets of New Delhi. While this may be a compliment in most instances, this was a little disappointing for a restaurant claiming to present an entirely new take on Indian cuisine.
Then, we moved on to Colonel Tso's Cauliflower, a fried cauliflower dish coated in an Indian-Chinese Chilli sauce and sesame seeds. This was easily the best dish of the night and had an unexpected crunch that somehow made the cauliflower taste just as good as a piece of fried chicken.
Colonel Tso's Cauliflower was a highlight of the entire menu.
We were then ushered into our last appetiser for the night, a pair of Yogurt Kebabs. These were croquettes made with hung yoghurt, green chilli and cardamom, served over a Beetroot and Ginger sauce. This dish was both visually impressive and tasty, and most definitely another must-try to add to the list.
For mains, we were presented with a huge 'Thali', which is generally known to be a round platter of assorted foods in Indian cuisine. True to this definition, we were presented with a collection of assorted curries, chutneys and dips, some pieces of butter naan and a side of rice on a silver platter. The curries included the aforementioned 'Unauthentic Butter Chicken', a serving of Daal (lentil curry) and a Punjabi Goat Curry.
While the appetizers set up an impressive start to the night, the mains, unfortunately, failed to follow this momentum. The Butter Chicken had an odd grainy texture that made it unpleasant on the palate, meanwhile, the Daal and Goat Curry were simply too forgettable and bland to be called innovative 'fusion' cuisine.
We ended the night with the wonderful surprise of Kulfi as dessert. Kulfi is a traditional Indian frozen dairy dessert. It's kind of like Indian ice cream, although quite different in texture to regular Ice Cream. Apart from the Cauliflower appetiser, this was another shining moment of the tasting menu.
The kulfi appeared in a cold metal casing which we were asked to shake with our hands to warm up. Once the metal was warm enough, the kulfi slipped out of the casing and was ready for us to eat.
It had the distinct, almost magical flavour of tea and biscuits and was a wonderful way to end a night of heavy food.
Don't Tell Aunty is an ambitious attempt to modernise a beloved cuisine with new flavours, ingredients and cooking techniques. For the most part, the food is delicious. Is it flawless? Not exactly, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. If anything, it leaves you hopeful for the future of fusion cuisine in Sydney.