Yashpal Erda says there’s a part of India Sydney doesn’t get to see. It’s the new part; young entrepreneurs mixing tradition with globalism and the food of their childhood with what they see on Instagram and eat overseas. Erda is exposing it in his new restaurant, Masala Theory.

“People have a perception of India and Indian food and I want to change that,” says Erda, who runs the restaurant with manager Vittal Iyer. “If you go to a marriage in India, everyone will wear traditional clothes but they'll also have Ray-Bans and be hipsters. We wanted that experience.”

Brightly coloured but deliberately faded murals depict strange characters, scenes from India and colonial antiques. One wall is dotted with black and yellow signs with Indian sayings. It’s chaotic but fun. “It's becoming a trend – there's a whimsical part of modern India.”

From the look of the restaurant, you may expect experimentation in chef Rushabh Rupani’s menu but that’s not the case. There are attempts at it, such as the kaffir lime-and-chutney-spiced chicken sliders; a smoked beetroot-and-buttermilk panna cotta; and tandoor-roasted spatchcock served with corn puree and red-pepper sauce. But most of the menu is made up of more traditional dishes, even esoteric Gujarati recipes (the ethnic group Erda belongs to). These include green lentils with cottage cheese, cashews and tomato chutney; and the chaat with three wafer towers, chickpeas, sweetened yoghurt, a date-tamarind syrup and mint chutney. “The flavours are all traditional, we're just presenting it differently,” says Erda.

The booze-free drinks list (it’s BYO if you do want alcohol) is more creative. Lassis are combined with lavender; a jaggery(a type of cane sugar)-sweetened mocktail is spiced with ginger, pepper and cardamom; and green mangoes are blended with ice to make a tart and slightly sweet aam panna.

Masala Theory
545 Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9699 9444

Tue to Thu 12pm–3pm, 6pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm
Sun 12pm–3pm, 6pm–10pm