After Babu Ji (meaning 'father') in St Kilda and New York and Bibi Ji (meaning 'grandmother'), in Santa Barbara; and Don't Tell Aunty (Sydney) - Jessi Singh has added a new member to the family: Daughter in Law.
"She's a strong and modern woman who wants to create something new. She doesn't mind bending traditions," says Singh of his new restaurant in Melbourne's CBD.
"She doesn't mind cooking steak, cooking pork. And most Indians I know, they do eat oysters now and eat steak and drink nice wine and cocktails."
Born to a farming family in Punjab, Singh moved to Melbourne where he opened his first restaurants, before spending several years in the US. Now he's back in the city he calls home, he's more committed than ever to what he calls "unauthentic Indian-Australian cuisine", blending the flavours he grew up on with local ingredients and new cooking techniques. "I like working with what surrounds me. Yes, I'm Indian, but I live in Australia and I'm also Australian," he says.
At Daughter in Law, you can expect Singh's so-called "unauthentic" dishes like beef tartare in papadum cups, and oysters with green mango pickle butter.
"It's a thing in India, if the papadum is not good, the restaurant is not good."
You'll also find traditional dishes such as a papadum flight, which features papadums from different parts of India. They'll come with a selection of colourful chutneys and pickles. Singh says it's the best way to start a meal while you peruse the menu: "It's a thing in India, if the papadum is not good, the restaurant is not good."
In addition to two tandoors, a charcoal grill and a sigri grill, the kitchen has also been fitted with a pizza oven to dish out naan pizza. Your options: masala paneer, tandoori chicken, spiced prawn and garlic, chilli margarita and blue cheese & garlic.
"The garlic naan and blue cheese go together perfectly, and who doesn't like garlic bread? The pungent blue cheese, the smokiness of the bread and garlic… It's such a comfort food and the perfect dish to share," says Singh.
The chef brought his signature curries to the CBD, but he has given most of them a new twist. His vindaloo comes with pork neck, while another curry is served with slow-cooked lamb shank. "My butter chicken had to stay the same though. It has no butter, no ghee and no oil. It's one of those dishes that everybody loves," says Singh.
If you're after a good deal and would love to sample a few curries, go to Daughter in Law for lunch and get in on the $15 thali, which can be made pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan. It includes four curries, basmati rice, raita and papadums.
"My butter chicken had to stay the same though. It has no butter, no ghee and no oil. It's one of those dishes that everybody loves."
While the lunch deal is great, the fun really starts later in the day. From 4-6pm on weekdays, the happy hour menu features $10 tropical cocktails and snacks like curry chips, and sweet and spicy fried cauliflower. If you'd prefer a beer, just grab a local microbrewery tinnie from the self-serve beer fridge.
At night, a DJ plays 70s Bollywood tunes, and Bollywood movies are projected on the pink walls. Green and blue velvet seating, handmade glasses with rainbow peacocks, gold touches and a pink neon sign add to the buzzing space.
"We don't take things seriously, but we're very serious hospitality people. That's the goal; to be fun and relaxed, not to be stuffy," says Singh.
37 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Mon–Fri 12–3 pm and 5pm-late | Sat-Sun 5pm-late
Shadow, smoke and sweetness make black cardamom the sexiest of Indian spices. Realise its potential in this recipe for twice-cooked spiced cauliflower (Kashmiri gobi sabji).