DAN STOCK REVIEWS GAJA BY SASHI
GOLDEN and steamed tender, slightly nutty with a hoppy tang, the crunchy nuggets of beer-battered cauliflower are great as they are, but they’re hands-down winners when dunked into the chilli-spiked mayo that’s served on the side.
These beauties were stand-out signatures of Sashi Cheliah in the Masterchef kitchen, so it’s no surprise they’re on the menu at Gaja by Sashi.
The prison officer turned Masterchef champ has opened his début restaurant at funky Asian food centre HWKR in the city, taking over from last year’s winner, Diana Chan, who ran her Chanteen pop-up there for the past six months.
It’s the ultimate millennial eating hall, for with a rotating calendar of tenancies that changes every few months there’s little room for what-toeat boredom within its coloured neon surrounds. Grab a table (remember the number) and order at one of four stalls which include Son in Law Thai.
At Gaja, you’ll find a small selection of dishes that draw on Cheliah’s TV hits and his Malaysian-indian-singaporean food memories.
Curry puffs – crimped crescents of buttery pastry enclosing mildly spiced vegetable or chicken – are good openers along with that crisp cauli, while bigger dishes include a deeply rich, coconutsweet beef rendang and the powerful KPC (Kerala pepper chicken) that comes with a proper black-pepper kick and lingering heat. Both are served with fab sweet pickled pineapple (achar). Orders for drinks – including Furphy and Kirin on tap and a few wines by the glass – are taken tableside.
Afterwards, the shaved ice flavoured with squiggles of syrup – rosewater and palm sugar – on red beans in green jelly, the lot topped with chunky sweetcorn, won’t be to everyone’s taste; it wasn’t to mine. But for a cauli good time head down to HWKR where Gaja is open until November.