Now Open: Madam Ji Is the Contemporary Indian Joint Adding Spice to Darlinghurst's Dining Scene

Classic dishes and boundary-pushing fusions are on the menu at a restaurant inspired by the "resilience and freedom" of women in Indian culture.
Maxim Boon
Published on July 03, 2024

As Sydney's Little India, Harris Park in Parramatta is the city's go-to for truly authentic Indian fare. However, in recent years, the CBD's satellite suburbs have produced some of the most innovative Indian diners in town — the likes of Foreign Return and Don't Tell Aunty in Surry Hills, and the superb but sadly recently closed Raja in Potts Point.

The latest addition to these pioneering contemporary curry houses is Madam Ji in Darlinghurst, which has taken over the storied spot on Burton Street once occupied by Pocket Bar — one of the original vanguard of small bars that flourished after NSW's licencing laws were amended in 2017.

Offering a menu that mixes tried-and-true favourites alongside radical fusions, this colourful addition to Darlo's thriving dining scene is ready to welcome those in search of classics like butter chicken and biryani, as well as epicurean adventurers hungry for something surprising.

Somewhat ironically, among those unexpected dishes are riffs on two of the most predictable starters you can find on countless menus across Sydney and beyond. Creamy burrata and its faithful sidekick, tomato, are enlivened by a fiery house-made tadka — a mix of fresh and dried chillies — while a ceviche of kingfish balances its citrus edge with the earthy spice of curry leaf oil.

The restaurant's co-owners, who are also lifelong friends, were both born in India, but cut their teeth in the hospitality industry in top Sydney venues and hotels. While Executive Chef Rakshit Sondhi commands the kitchen, Maninder Singh, who studied at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Sydney before taking on senior roles with the Hilton group, will look after front-of-house operations.

Adorning the walls of the dining room are portraits of Indian women wearing vibrant saris. Sondhi and Singh wanted their new venture to be "a celebration of empowerment and individuality, inspired by the resilience and freedom of women in Indian culture". Beyond these artworks, the restaurant's fitout — much like its menu — is a mix of traditional cues, such as dark-stained wood panelling and mosaic floors, and modern touches, most notably the bar's eye-popping pink neon sign.

In addition to its evening dinner service, Madam Ji will also offer a tasty addition to Sydney's increasingly diverse array of bottomless brunches. On Saturdays and Sundays from midday, guests can enjoy free-flowing house wines for $79 or bottomless cocktails for $99 per person for two hours.

Soaking up those drinks is a multi-course feast with sides, including a starter of papadams served with signature dips and chutneys; the aforementioned tadka-spiked burrata; buttery, flakey parotta drizzled with chilli oil; and ribs of bhutta (a variant of white corn popular on the Indian subcontinent) served with sigdi chicken tikka. The main course stars Madam Ji's signature butter chicken with all the trimmings, including the all-important naan bread.

Find Madam Ji at 13 Burton Street, Darlinghurst — open 5–9.30pm Monday–Thursday, 5–10pm Friday, 12–10pm Saturday and 12–9.30pm Sunday. Head to the venue's website for more details. 

Images: Katje Ford

Published on July 03, 2024 by Maxim Boon
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