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.
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.