Charming contemporary Babu Ji shook up more than a few people's perceptions of Indian food when it landed in St Kilda in late 2016. Sibling restaurant Piquancy has done much the same for Hawthorn since opening its doors in April last year. And now, the Bayside suburb of Black Rock has scored a taste of something similar, with newest family member Elichi arriving on the scene.
Named after the Punjabi word for cardamom, Mani Wariach's third venture will again focus on heroing top local ingredients and big-flavoured fare. The seasonal menu embraces both the modern and the traditional, with long-held family recipes carefully revamped, often with ingredients that don't normally pop up in Indian cooking.
Mumbai-raised Head Chef Punit Fernandes is bringing the philosophy to life through dishes such as roasted Jerusalem artichoke chaat, Otway pork vindaloo crafted with sugarcane vinegar and red masala, fig and cauliflower dumplings and a new-school Tandoori chicken teamed with jicama, watercress and yoghurt emulsion. Naan bread gets the truffle treatment, a jangalee mushroom kebab teams wild mushroom, goat's cheese and a parmesan pappadum, and India's go-to gulab jamun dessert is reimagined as a tart.
Of course, that's not to say the purists won't feel equally at home, tucking into classics like butter chicken, dal makhani and warm, homemade naan (which is also available gluten free).
Images: Eugene Hyland