I wish Dahl Daddys was my local curry shop.
I wish more cooks went to the same effort to make their own condiments like the Dahl Daddys crew do. I wish more hospitality operators decorated their venue with interesting books about art and photography, primarily salvaged from op shop bookshelves. And I wish they sold the shop’s warmth and good energy by the litre, primarily so I could recreate that Dahl Daddys atmosphere at home while also showing others that you don’t need big-budget fit-outs and marketing budgets to maketh the vibe.
But it isn’t. And they don’t, to all of the above. So if you or I want that Dahl Daddys experience, we’re going to have to find our way to the Margaret River Skate Park and Youth Precinct where, after 4pm on selected days, the park’s cafe wipes the sleep out of its eyes, pulls up the rollers and re-emerges as a spirited curry canteen serving a tiny blackboard menu of bold South Asian food. (Perhaps you ate here while the cafe hosted Northern Mexican pop-up Nortena?) Yes, it might be some distance for us folks in the big city to travel for a feed, but considering the journey Dahl Daddys founder Corey Rozario has made to get here, it seems fair that we reciprocate.
Born in Mandurah to a Burmese father and a British mother, Rozario grew up eating Asian food. Trips to Perth to play soccer were bookended by homecooked curries at Burmese uncles’ and aunties’ places; the city also offered opportunities to eat dim sum, hawker food and other Asian food that was thin on the ground in Mandurah. At home, his dad cooked Burmese for the family including, you guessed it, dal. After qualifying as a boilermaker, Rozario wanted a change of scenery and took on an apprenticeship at a major restaurant. Although things didn’t pan out, the six months our man spent in a commercial kitchen inspired him to spend three years travelling and eating through Asia – a formative journey that took in Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and his father’s homeland, Burma.
Back in WA, he relocated to Margaret River where he added Glenarty Road, Cowaramup cafe Black Sheep Deli and a stint with native pop-up Fervor to his CV. Earlier this year, he caught wind that the aforementioned cafe at the skate park was interested in having another tenant take over the space after hours (the cafe shuts daily at noon), Rozario and his partner Imogen Mitchell applied, and at the end of May, Dahl Daddys came into effect. But while Rozario’s Asian heritage is Burmese, his menu is a little trickier to pinpoint geographically.
“I didn’t want to be like just Burmese, Indian or Thai,” he says of Dahl Daddys’ broad South Asian focus. “I felt that encompassing that whole region made sense to me and I just want to let people know roughly what we’re doing. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. I mean, on opening night I did (the Indian-South African dish) bunny chow.”
Dal, unsurprisingly, is a mainstay of Dahl Daddys’ clipped blackboard menus and Rozario’s version is a winner. A nourishing mass of slow-cooked legumes (red lentils primarily with the occasional handful of pigeon peas thrown in) finished with fried curry leaves, the recipe is based on the dal his dad cooked growing up. But as great as the dal is, it’s the house-made condiments where things really take a turn for the interesting. Need a cooling counterpoint to your meal? Go the herbed yoghurt. Want to ramp things up a little? The sambal balachan – a crunchy mass of shrimp and fried onions – is ready to spring into action, as is Burma’s pungent fermented tea leaf salad, laphet. House pickles such as sweet, vinegary brinjal (eggplant pickle) come standard issue. Deliciousness aside, the dal also scores highly for plant-based nutrition (the use of grass-fed ghee, however, means the dal isn’t vegan) and value for money.
“My intention is that you can get a healthy wholesome meal without breaking the bank and have a good conversation and sit in a nice space and enjoy something that’s different to what the town’s used to,” says Rozario.
Not that Rozario is averse to cooking with (thoughtfully sourced) meat and fish. When we visit, a gently spiced kangaroo curry was also on the menu. Recent trials with mohinga – Burma’s legendary fish stew – have also proved promising. While all curries come with rice, flaky parathas are also available while guests can either takeaway their order or enjoy it dine-in in the outdoor (albeit undercover) cafe space. The soundtrack grooves, the counter is littered with cool art books and the food … well, you know about the food. Like I was saying, I wish Dahl Daddys was my local curry shop.
31 Walcliffe Rd, Margaret River
Thu to Mon 4pm–10pm