While curries are undoubtedly a huge staple in Indian cooking, there’s long been a misconception – especially in the Western world – that extremely spicy curries are the epitome of the cuisine. Yes, a flaming hot Lamb Vindaloo or Rogan Josh is almost always on an Indian restaurant’s menu, but there’s more to Indian food than a scorching curry in a hurry.
With greater diversity in Indian cuisine – influenced by geography, ingredients and tradition – we’re lucky to find more eateries popping up around Sydney that hone in on different cooking techniques, flavours and plating styles.
Priding itself on ‘inauthentic’ Indian food, Don’t Tell Aunty has long forged a reputation for surprising diners who’ve first entered the restaurant with a preconceived idea of what they’ll get.
Yes, crispy samosas and creamy butter chicken are served at this contemporary eatery on Bourke Street in the heart of Surry Hills. But chefs Varan Deep and Jai Singh – who decided to take on Don’t Tell Aunty in January 2020 – have risen to the challenge of convincing your tastebuds that Indian food can also be fresh and light.
For just $78 per person, the Chef’s Tasting Menu offers a balanced selection of entrees and mains, with varying spice levels and flavours that I thoroughly enjoyed when I recently dined at Don’t Tell Aunty.
Experience the charred goodness that only comes straight out of a tandoor oven thanks to the succulent Tandoori Chicken. Taste the sweet and sour in the restaurant’s own take on the classic Pani Puri which they’ve cheekily named, Happy Shots, plus the Tso Cauliflower, a unique version of Gobi Manchurian, which fuses Indian and Chinese flavours to create a crunchy, sticky snack. Papdi Chaat provides the ultimate freshness to the palate, served cold as a plate of crispy crackers, chickpeas, yoghurt, tamarind, sev, tomato, cabbage and coriander.
That’s only the entrees by the way. For mains, you’re treated to a generous thali of curries. While I've grown up eating traditional Gujarati food cooked by my mum (that you rarely see served in mainstream Indian restaurants in Australia), I still crave a cheeky Butter Chicken like everyone else. Fret not, the restaurant’s aptly named Unauthentic Butter Chicken makes the cut, along with Short Rib Korma, Lamb Masala, Aunty’s Dhaal, Punjabi Khabhi (onion spinach fritter and yoghurt curry) and Channa Masala (chickpea curry). Never underestimate the power of some delicious sides that can make or break a plate of Indian food. A refreshing raita, fluffy naan and crispy papadums complete the meal.
Don't Tell Aunty limits its dessert options, but I believe it's for good reason. If you're after a warm, super-sweet treat that ventures into very rich flavours, the Gulab Jamun (milk dumplings soaked in rose syrup) is your obvious choice. Like the rest of its menu, the dessert selection offers a lighter, fresher option for those who want to balance out the rich flavours of other dishes. In this case, there are three flavours of Kulfi – India's answer to ice cream. Pick from Honey Crunch, Rose Petal Jam or Coconut Mango to finish your lunch or dinner on a cool, refreshing note.
If this hasn't made you hungry yet, the below video of my time dining at Don't Tell Aunty will surely do the trick: