BRIGHT SPARK

A much-missed star of the Mel­bourne din­ing scene, Jessi Singh is back in Aus­tralia af­ter tak­ing the US by storm, but this time it’s Syd­ney din­ers who’ll ben­e­fit as he brings his vi­brant In­dian cook­ing to the Har­bour City.

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Chef Jessi Singh’s take on In­dian food is light, bright and per­fect for sum­mer. Af­ter sev­eral years cook­ing to rave re­views in New York, Singh is pre­par­ing to open his first-ever Syd­ney restau­rant.

Three years ago, while flit­ting around the US, I dined at Singh’s Babu Ji in Man­hat­tan’s East Vil­lage. It was mem­o­rable be­cause it was my first ex­po­sure to the zing­ing fare of the In­dian-Aus­tralian chef, whose sig­na­ture is an ex­u­ber­ant melange of street food, re­gional cur­ries and tan­doori spe­cial­ties. The New York Times de­scribed the dishes at Babu Ji as “el­e­gantly feral plates”, and I also found them to be wildly de­li­cious.

The chef, who once op­er­ated a trio of pop­u­lar Mel­bourne venues, de­scribes his new Syd­ney restau­rant, Don’t Tell Aunty, in Surry Hills as “an in­au­then­tic In­dian” eatery. “I try to bring vi­brancy, colour and sim­plic­ity to the cui­sine,” says Singh, who jet­ti­sons tra­di­tional in­gre­di­ents such as ghee and fo­cuses on mar­ket-fresh produce. The recipes on these pages, from seared prawns to a mango lassi, il­lus­trate his ap­proach.

Ear­lier this year, Singh re­turned to his orig­i­nal haunt, Horn Please in Mel­bourne’s Fitzroy North, this time as a con­sult­ing chef. “I was de­lighted to see how many of our reg­u­lars are still com­ing in,” he says. Be­ing back in Vic­to­ria al­lowed him to re­con­nect with grow­ers and sup­pli­ers, which he rarely had the chance to do in the US. “I’m en­joy­ing mak­ing sim­i­lar con­nec­tions in Syd­ney,” he says. “There are such big South­east Asian and In­dian com­mu­ni­ties and a wide va­ri­ety of in­gre­di­ents.”

Singh and his wife, Jen­nifer, still own their New York restau­rant, as well as one in the Cal­i­for­nia city of Santa Bar­bara. “It was the ease and qual­ity of life that brought me back home,” he ex­plains, though it sounds as though he will be plenty busy with his new projects.

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