There’s no ghee in the curry
There’s whiskey in your chai
The woman runs the business
The man does the cooking
Dearest aunty, we are fascinated by your stories of tradition but we live by our own hearts’ beat. What happens at this table, on this day, will surprise us all, because we move forward taking new steps. Dearest aunty, our table is set differently than yours.
In India, a neighbour walks into a home. Chai and snacks are immediately served. They simply cannot be denied. The guest sits, stories are told, children listen, questions are asked, gossip is spread… The life of that cup of chai continues for days and miles.
Jessi and Raj, two men born in India, defied their motherland’s deeply entrenched conditioning around the kitchen, food and serving. Although they were both “told” by their culture that the kitchen was a place for women and that they, as men, were to be cooked for and served to, they could not be kept away. They were fascinated by and drawn to the divine significance of food, beverage and the act of serving others. Serving others, is a gesture India holds sacred.
At separate tables in India, a gathering of aunties, uncles and neighbours around cups of chai, Jessi, Chef Amar and Raj’s journeys all began with hospitality. The life of those particular cups of chai, lived on for years and traveled around the globe….those little boys eventually each reaching either the highest echelons of hospitality circles, leading iconic restaurants in some of the globe’s favourite cities or opening restaurants that appeared in peak rotation on “best of lists” from the top food and wine publications.
Now, the story started with that cup of chai in hand lands us at the Don’t Tell Aunty. There the tables are set with innovative foods and wine driven by creativity and thought, not rule and tradition. The menu is thoughtfully created from high quality ingredients, cooked earnestly, and offered in a regularly changing, rule breaking menu that spans all regions of our beloved India. Vibrant street foods, cross regional curries, tandoori specialties and lots of naan will always be on offer. We’ve stocked the beverage fridges well too with a large selection of small production, local and imported beer and an interesting and approachable wine list, including plenty of natural wines.
Jessi Singh is the man behind the pots, whose collection of acclaimed restaurants span from NYC’s Babu Ji to California’s Bibi Ji, to Melbourne’s Daughter In Law (Horn Please, Dhaba and Babu Ji all of Melbourne and sold before opening in NYC) and now to Sydney. His cooking and approach to dining are known for their signature creative touches of playfulness, vibrancy and surprise. His restaurants and cooking have been celebrated by both global and Australian esteemed publications such as The Age, Broadsheet and The Australian as well as America’s cream of the crop, The New York Times, WSJ, The New Yorker, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, The Infatuation, and more.
Then there is Rajat Parr, our Wine Director. Raj, simply put, is a legend. He is a highly respected sommelier turned winemaker, award winning author and all around authority on wine. Around the world and amongst the wine community, only his first name is required in conversation and that is because he has been a mentor to many and is notoriously generous with his wine knowledge and experiences. Raj joined Jessi as a partner in their acclaimed California restaurant and bottle shop, Bibi Ji and is very excited to be working on Australian soil for the first time at Don’t Tell Aunty.
So, if you haven’t gathered already, Don’t Tell Aunty is a good time place. The food and beverage are elevated, but don’t let that make you think that you can’t laugh loudly here. Come, let us take care of you and let’s see where this table takes us. But please, don’t tell our aunties what we’ve done with the chai.