Originally published on Broadsheet.
A self-taught chef serves up sophisticated dishes in a spectacular space.
Atta’s head chef and co-owner, Harry Dhanjal, is entirely self-taught.
“I didn’t go to culinary school,” he says. “I have learnt a lot from eating out in India. I learnt through books, by talking to other chefs, by spending 16 hours in the kitchen experimenting.”
This theme of self-sufficiency extends into other parts of his new Indian restaurant in Albert Park: he and business partner Brij Patel designed the venue themselves. Atta, which is housed in a heritage-listed building, is almost gallery-like in feel, with timber trusses running along the high ceiling, grand arched windows, and sleek modern photographs lining otherwise sparse walls.
Atta joins a number of new restaurants in Melbourne, including Cafe Southall in St Kilda, Bhang in Brunswick, and Piquancy in Hawthorn, which are putting contemporary, idiosyncratic spins on traditional Indian cuisine.
At Atta, each dish is “indigenous”, Dhanjal explains, “but has been elevated with new flavours and ingredients.”
One example is his sikandari raan, a dish dating to 300 BC that translates to Alexander’s Lamb (it is said to have originated as a dish at a feast for Alexander the Great).
Dhanjal has paired his sous-vide lamb with “Dutch carrots, herb potatoes and mint chutney to create a lighter dish”, he says. It’s served in dramatic fashion beneath a large bell jar.
He’s added baby spinach and coriander-infused oil to his murgh tikka (chicken tikka), and for the dessert gulab jamun he “combines the classic milk dumpling with raspberry rosewater gel and vanilla ice-cream.”
As for the not-to-miss dish, Dhanjal recommends the dal bukhara – a slow-cooked black lentil dahl with coriander butter.
“It’s cooked for 18 hours and [is] full of flavour.”
159–161 Victoria Ave, Albert Park East
(03) 9696 3388
Tue to Sun 5pm – 10pm
Image credit: Michael Woods.