Daughter In Law
Jessi Singh's rule-breaking Indian restaurant has naan pizza and 70s Bollywood tunes.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 2, 2020 — You can celebrate Father's Day with an 'inauthentic' twist, thanks to Melbourne's Daughter in Law. It's delivering $100 banquets complete with its super-popular Colonel Tso's cauliflower, tandoori chicken, short rib korma and Jessi Singh's famed butter chicken, plus rice, raita and naan. Oh, and one-litre growler of Stone and Wood's pacific ale for good measure. This'll get you some extra brownie points. To order, email [email protected].
With its Bollywood soundtrack, pink-lit bathroom with the mantra "you are beautiful" on repeat and a drinks trolley that looks like it came straight from the set of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Jessi Singh's Daughter in Law promises — and delivers — a whole lot of fun.
As soon as you walk in the door, you are assaulted by colour and sound, and you will very likely want to fling off your coat and join in what feels very like a Punjabi disco — with the DJ spinning tunes and old school films projected onto the back wall. Plush peacock velour banquettes run around the perimeter with darker blue booths and millennial pink ones forming a divider between bar and restaurant.
Having been in the kitchen since 6am, owner and chef Singh likes to work the floor during service, weaving among tables, talking about the dishes and treating diners to his twinkly smile.
If you're in between 4–6pm, grab a $10 cocktail, but any time is the right time for a Don't tell Aunty ($18): a riff on a margarita made with mezcal and beetroot juice for an earthy edge. One side of the glass is dipped in Hawaiian black lava salt — Singh says to lick the glass before you take a sip for the full effect.
To eat, you'll be tasting dishes from the street, the pots and the tandoor — all given an 'inauthentic' twist. You can try one of the naan pizzas: chilli margarita ($15), masala paneer ($18), tandoori chicken ($18) or blue cheese ($18). But, whatever you do, order Colonel Tso's cauliflower ($18).
Perfectly fried, spicy and crunchy, this defies any ideas you may have previously held about this vegetable. Balls of happiness ($3.50) are another must. The menu describes them as India's favourite street food and Singh, on his way past, quips, "[they're the] best balls you've ever eaten". We suggest popping the whole thing into your mouth, including the edible flower on top, and you'll have a multi-textured, multi-flavoured mouthful of crunchy, creamy, sweet, sour and spicy, with its semolina flour crust and yoghurt, tamarind and date centre.
Singh is unwavering on his butter chicken ($25) recipe, which has no butter or cream, and is a lighter and popular choice at his restaurants. The cosy and comforting Aunty Dhal ($16) is a great vegetarian option, with its slow simmered black lentils, ginger and garlic. Or try the Aussie lamb chops ($22) served with raita and mint chutney. If decisions are hard and you want a bit of everything, go with the $55 tasting menu and sit back and relax...or keep dancing on the inside.
One wall boasts shelves (and shelves) of wine. And boast it should, the wine list is extensive running the full range of fizz, red, white, pink and skin contact from Australian, French and Californian vineyards. The self-serve beer fridge means there's a big range of craft beer, too.
At lunchtime, don't even think about just wandering in. The team is flat tack serving up thalis ($15 for meat, vegetarian and pescatarian options) and if you don't have a booking or get in early, consider a later sitting. But for five little bowls of tasty curry, rice and pappadums, it's a great deal for lunch.