I’m not familiar with Jessi Singh, but after hearing a whisper of the opening of his latest venture landing in Adelaide back at the start of Fringe Festival I did a little research to discover that this chef has what looks like a fairly successful background, having previously opened a string of restaurants in Melbourne and New York. On further investigation, his overseas venues had some pretty sturdy reviews, with one publication stating that Singh’s gol gappa was one of the best things they’d eaten in 2015.
And so, here we are in 2021 – about to put Daughter in Law’s “Balls of Happiness” (its take on gol gappa) into our mouths. These are presented nicely, and we’re told to make sure we eat them in one bite so the filling doesn’t explode. The only thing exploding are our tastebuds, as the sweet and tangy flavour flows from the centre of these crunchy semolina balls. They are, for want of a less inappropriate expression, a little too large. I wouldn’t agree that they’re the best thing I’ve eaten but they’re far from the worst, as I’m about to discover.
Oysters arrive topped with piles of gin and pineapple-infused granita, the shaved ice resembling a green slushie. The granita is overly sweet and sour – the poor oysters themselves have no hope of breaking through the ice. A small pile of caviar adds a little salt but does little to combat the sweetness, or the teeth-freezing granita itself.
Next, Hiramasa kingfish ceviche swims in a lime-infused coconut sauce. It’s a pretty dish but sadly, looks are deceiving. The sauce itself is more a thick soup with a pile of fresh cubed and nicely acidic fish partially submerged in its centre. It arrives room temperature, too. A couple of thin slices of radish offer a little crunch, but otherwise this dish could only best be described as perplexing.
Our next dish is barramundi, which comes with a blackened skin: it proves to be as overcooked as it appears. At a cool $32, the meagre fillet of fish floats in a pool of creamy curry and is topped with shaved carrot. The curry itself is flavoursome but when the first round of plates are cleared the fish is left barely touched.
Papdi Chaat is DIL’s Indian take on take on nachos. Based on the Mexican favourite, this dish is confusing, to say the least. Worse yet, it’s bland. A pile of fried and crumbly wafer-like bread sits beneath a “salsa” of mushy chickpeas that is then piled high with a coleslaw of sorts. A yogurt sauce tries desperately to compete with the otherwise dry dish and a second squirt of sauce (ingredients unknown) resembles barbecue sauce. It’s another dish we leave barely eaten, destined to be scraped in the scullery.
Our last dish is a plate of “Aussie” lamb chops, and here we’re faced with yet another place-of-origin contradiction. These are actually very tasty and cooked in the tandoor to a perfect medium rare. They are flavoursome but not like any Australian-style lamb I’ve eaten before. A supplied minted chutney is nice enough, mixed together with a cumin-infused yogurt that marries well with the smoky flavour of these delectable morsels.
But it’s not enough to recover from a night where the playlist booming ’90s tracks overhead is better than the service. Of note, there was the less-than-friendly greeting, where it seemed as though our arrival had interrupted someone’s night, and then more generally a quite disorganised staff. Missed drink orders, dropped plates and barely any degree of concern as hardly-eaten dishes were collected at the end. One more parting gift noticed later on the receipt is a dish that was paid for, but never ordered, nor arrived.
Unauthentic Indian is the self-declared motto of this chef and restaurant, and I agree. It’s unauthentic, and also underwhelming.
My advice is to find your nearest local Indian eatery and be satisfied with traditional and authentic, where you’re also likely to get service with a smile and without the innuendo. Hold the balls, thanks.
Daughter in Law
290 Rundle Street, Adelaide
Phone: 08 7228 6182
Tuesday – Sunday 5pm – late
Read more of Paul Wood’s restaurant reviews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.