Do you get it? This place is Indian-ish. It’s sort of Indian. Almost Indian. A kind of modern subcontinent cuisine swizzled with a bit of Fitzroy.
ISH recently opened on Gertrude Street, a passion project from Indian restaurateur Ganeev Bains. We’re pretty confident you haven’t tried anything like it before.
Let’s start with the menu, which is divided into ‘Peckish’, ‘Moreish’ and ‘Famished’. Interestingly, this doesn’t correspond to the size of your plate. It’s more to do with richness—you could probably smash a few plates of corn and pumpkin pokoras (Peckish), but one bowl of the slow-cooked Kerala beef curry (Famished) will have you rolling out the front door.
First up we tried the chicken tikka, which arrived with caramelised onion and a splat of highly addictive garlic burrani yoghurt. Within two minutes all the chicken was gone and we were using our fingers to wipe up the sauce. We'd definitely recommend.
Next was a challenge. See most of ISH’s menu is pretty mild by design. There’s nothing on there that will send you sprinting for a glass of milk…except the Carolina Reaper spiced pork and potato stew. It almost looks like a dare, sitting there. Of course, we were going to try it. The curry arrived with an evil red sheen, and you should be prepared to sweat, cry, sniff and bury your head in the nearest bowl of burrani.
Last, we had to give the Indian risotto a crack. ISH has a few dishes like this—sambar arancini, chicken Maryland with masala onions—stuff you just never thought you’d see. Turns out an Indian risotto works surprisingly well. The Arborio rice soaks up the rajmah chawal sauce, and head chef Himank Bhardwaj adds some popping pickled onions and a poppadum for good measure.
ISH is deliberately messing with your expectations of Indian food. That’s sort of the point. Now pass the rum-spiked blood orange lassi…our mouths are on fire.
Image credit: Kristoffer Paulsen