A Bollywood-kitsch fit-out and flavoursome, crowd-pleasing ‘unauthentic’ Australian Indian cuisine make Daughter in Law a stand-out destination for a fun night in the city in all kinds of ways.
Daughter in Law Melbourne Location: 37 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9242 0814 Daughter in Law Adelaide Location: 290 Rundle St, Adelaide, SA 5000 Ph: (08) 7228 6182
Restauranteur Jessi Singh and his wife Jennifer are on a roll.
Since launching their vibrant dining empire with Dhaba at the Mill in Kyneton, they have overseen such foodie hotspots as Horn Please and Babu Ji in Melbourne. Then the dynamic couple sold on all of those establishments (but subsequently returned to Horn Please) for a brief sojourn in New York before coming back to Australia, bigger and stronger.
Currently, the Singh stable of eateries includes the aforementioned Horn Please and Daughter in Law Melbourne. Then there’s sister joint, Daughter in Law Adelaide and bubbly Pinky Ji in Sydney. And all of them showcase Jessi’s signature ‘unauthentic Australian Indian bar and restaurant’ concept.
We ate at Horn Please a while back and loved it. However, for this review we’re focusing on our recent meal at the ever-lively Daughter in Law Melbourne.
And just to clarify – the lighting in the restaurant bathes everything in a striking pink hue, hence the woozy photos!
Despite there being a high density of bars and eateries along Little Bourke Street, there’s no mistaking Daughter in Law.
The front windows are festooned with flower garlands such as you find at Indian weddings and the pink glow from the interior spills out onto the pavement. A smattering of tables hug the narrow pedestrian walkway, crammed with revellers sipping exotic cocktails and working their way through bowls of Papadi Chaat ($20).
Even from the outside, it sounds like a full-blown party is raging on the other side of the doors.
For striking decor of a different kind and tasty Indian dishes, read our review of ELCHI restaurant.
Cross the threshold and the interior of Daughter in Law is quite an assault on the senses.
The place is a riot of florescent flamingo-tinged lighting, a jungle of vegetation, heaving tables of chattering diners and more swathes of garlands tenting the ceiling. It’s like walking into a psychedelic Indian wedding staged by Baz Luhrman. And we love it!
There’s a bar to the right with cheerful mixologists desperately trying to keep up with orders. In fact, all the staff look under the pump as they dart around the dining room, yet every one of them has a smile on their face.
Usually, the music bouncing from the speakers at Daughter in Law is 80s and 90s pop classics – think Girls Just Wanna Have fun. Now this might seem like a bizarre choice for an Indian restaurant. But it totally matches the slightly off-kilter, but 100% fun vibe of the place. However, on this occasion, we’re meeting for dinner as Christmas looms on the horizon. The result is a fabulous assortment of Christmas naffness. Honestly, I’m singing along to Elvis’ Blue Christmas before I even get to my table.
For an incredible range of stunning dishes, book a table at Indian fine diner Enter Via Laundry
Much is made of the ‘unauthentic Indian food’ that the kitchen is famous for. But what, exactly, does this entail?
Well the menu reads like all the best bits of popular Indian cuisine with an Aussie-friendly spin, plus the odd touch of Asian fusion intrigue.
If you wish to mix ‘n’ match dishes yourself, the a la carte is split into From The Street/Tandoor & Pots sections plus On The Side. That said, the majority of customers seated around us appear to be leaving it up to the kitchen with the Feed Me Menu. We decide to do likewise.
From The Street
The opener is the much-lauded Ball Of Happiness – Gol Gappa – ($4.5 ea). I know these as a form of Panipuri and the ones at Daughter in Law don’t disappoint. The fragile sphere of Semolina is a one bite canape that explodes in the mouth releasing a smack of Mint, Yoghurt and Tamarind Water. It’s a brilliant way to start our ‘unauthentic’ journey.
For more contemporary Indian magic, see our piece on Atta Restaurant
And talking of not quite Indian/fusion intrusion, next up is the Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche ($28). Dressed with Jalapeno, Lime & Coconut Sauce, each sliver of pearl fishy arrives on a shard of Pappadum. You might not find a plate like this on the bustling thoroughfares of Delhi, but it tastes wonderful.
Similarly less Moghul and more Manchurian is the bowl of Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower ($24). Here, deep-fried floret of Cauliflower arrive at our table, doused in a sweet, sticky, salty sauce and sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds. Thankfully, the portion isn’t huge, as these are seriously addictive lttle nuggets of joy.
Finally, we get a platter of fiery potato cakes whose name escapes me. But no matter. All you need to know is that we all wolf them down.
From The Pots
This time, the Feed Me offers nothing specifically From The Tandoor and we move straight onto From The Pots.
Previously, our main course at Daughter in Law came in the form of a Thali, with everyone in our party getting a circular metal plate loaded with wee bowls of various curries and accompaniments. This time, we receive an array of dishes to share. Whilst it may not be as exciting as meandering around a thali platter all on your tod, it probably reduces food waste if patrons can pick and choose their preferred dishes, rather than having to eat whatever is put before them.
The offerings that appear include the well-loved Unauthentic Butter Chicken ($34). Virtually iridescent in the pink lighting, the Tomato and Fenugreek Curry is rich, silky smooth and very easy to eat. Also delicious is the Lamb Rogan Josh ($34). Packed with tender chunks of slow-cooked Lamb in an aromatic sauce with just enough of a kick for interest, we pronounce it our favourite main.
For succulent lamb and aromatic spicing of a different kind, read our review of Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant
Along with the 2 meat curries, we have a pair of vegetarian options. The Coconut Curry with Vegetables ($28) is gentle and soothing with its notes of Turmeric and Mustard Seed. Meanwhile, the Aunty Dhal ($28) is a thick stew of Slow Simmered Black Lentil, Ginger & Garlic. And as someone who counts a warming bowl of Dhal as being right up there amongst their top comfort foods, this is a good one.
On The Side
The Aged Basmati Sella Rice ($6) with Cumin and Lemon is fluffy and light. And for the bread lovers, the Naan Basket ($12) delivers beautifully charred carbs to mop up any remaining sauces.
I also have to say that as we wipe up the last smear of Lamb Rogan Josh, our delightful waitress materialises and asks if we’d like a top up of anything. How civilised is that? I confess, just can’t help ourselves and have a smidge more Rogan Josh and a couple more Naan!
Lastly, our dessert takes the form of a thin spike of Cardamon laced Kulfi, which our waitress unsheathes table-side.
Daughter in Law continues the spice theme into its cocktail list.
The Orange Sour ($20) is a lively blend of Gin, Bitter Orange and Cinnamon with a pleasing finish of Pink Peppercorn. Slightly more unusual, but just as delicious is the Southern Provence ($20) which marries Cucumber Infused Gin, Curry Leaf, Chilli Peppermint and Lime.
For the the wine quaffers, there is a reasonable range, as well as a good selection of beers.
If you make a trip to the Harbour City, these are our go to Cocktail Bars in Sydney
By shaking up the expectations of both watch an Indian restaurant should look like to what it serves, Daughter in Law Melbourne and the other venues in the Jessi Singh family are creating a unique dining experience.
If you like aromatic, warmly spiced Indian fare spiked with a touch of Chinese influence and enjoy eating in vibrant, bustling dining spots, Daughter in Law Melbourne is the party spot for you.