It’s rare to hear a chef touting their “unauthentic” food. But Jessi Singh, the owner-chef behind Adelaide’s new Indian diner Daughter in Law, reckons there’s no such thing as authentic Indian cuisine.
“In my personal belief, there is no such thing as authentic Indian food,” says Jessi. “In most Indian households home cooking is a big thing. We don’t have set recipes of the cuisine because it’s thousands of years old. The only thing that is authentic is what your mum made for you.”
Jessi’s food is the culmination of his upbringing on his family’s farm in Punjab, northern India, his early experiences working in Italian and French restaurants in the US, and the past 16 years he’s spent as a restaurateur.
He’s opened a string of acclaimed eateries in Melbourne with ex-wife and then-business partner Jennifer Singh: Dhaba at the Mill, Horn Please and Babu Ji. They sold them all before moving to the Big Apple in 2014.
The duo launched Babu Ji in New York, and it was an immediate hit. The pair followed it up with a sister restaurant in San Francisco. A year later, in 2016, the Singhs became caught up in legal battles with former employees, who accused them of withholding tips and underpaying staff. The restaurant agreed to settle, and Singh says the claims made against him were found to be untrue.
The pair went on to open Mrs Singh and Daughter in Law in Melbourne and Don’t Tell Aunty in Sydney. Now, Jessi has launched a second Daughter in Law in Adelaide. The vibrant and colourful restaurant opened in late February in the former Taj Tandoor site on Rundle Street.
Daughter in Law is named for the women that Singh considers the unsung heroes of Indian society: daughters-in-law. “Daughter in Law became a big, beloved institution in Melbourne, and when I was talking with partners and friends we said we had to do Daughter in Law because she’s the newest member of the family and we are new members of this city that’s up-and-coming in the food and wine world,” says Jessi, who’s also looking forward to the new relationships the Adelaide location will bring.
“When you’re in a small town you have connections with the landlord, purveyors, winemakers, whereas in the big city everything is corporate, you’re just dealing through emails – there’s no connection.”
“New York doesn’t excite me, LA, Miami – I’ve been there and done that. I want to be part of the community. In those cities it’s just another restaurant.”
Daughter in Law’s menu combines an array of Asian and Western influences with a focus on bold flavours. The “butter” chicken dish is cooked with fenugreek leaves and seeds instead of butter or ghee and is served with a yoghurt marinade, tomato, ginger, and garlic.
A must-try dish is the “balls of happiness” (gol gappa), spheres of fried flatbread and a perfect union of creamy, sweet, sour, and spicy flavours. Another essential starter is Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower, Singh’s best-known dish. The Indo-Chinese creation is a mound of fried sweet-and-sour (and spicy) cauliflower. There’s also a range of naan pizzas, Indian fried chicken, and grilled tandoori dishes such as jumbo prawns, lamb chops, whole corn and roasted snapper.
The extensive wine list includes local producers such as SC Pannell, Jericho and Adelina alongside interstate and overseas drops. All beverages, including a line-up of beers and ciders, can be found in self-serve fridges, while a roving trolley brings champagne and whisky direct to each table.
For cocktails, there’s an Indian spiced sangria – a mixture of red wine, sweet vermouth, and orange – as well as the Daughter in Law, which is made with gin, a tandoori-fired pineapple and cardamom lime.
Daughter in Law’s vibrant and colourful interior is a wash of light pink, with plush blue seating, splashes of greenery, and gold finishes (a colour that traditionally symbolises wealth and prosperity in India) on interior ornaments and cutlery and by the front bar. Silent Bollywood films projected on the walls and contemporary Indian music boost the already-lively ambiance.
Soon to be completed is an upstairs Gatsby-inspired cocktail lounge with a live DJ and seating for up to 40 customers. Singh is also working on transforming the basement into a wine cellar, which will offer a wine-paired dining experience guided by sommelier Bhatia Dheeraj (a former head somm at Sydney’s Merivale Group, he’s also spent time Magill Estate).
Daughter in Law
290 Rundle Street, Adelaide
Tue to Thu 5pm–late
Fri to Sun 12pm–2.30pm, 5pm–late