GAJA in sanskrit गज means ‘elephant’, which symbolises strength, wisdom, royalty and solidarity in Hindu culture. Befitting, given that Sashi’s food will be authentically true to taste, bold, robust and full-to-the-brim with flavour. Sashi Cheliah was the 2018 winner of Masterchef and has just launched a restaurant in Pirie Street Adelaide. Eventalaide was invited to the VIP launch on Friday night. With an arch of balloons at the door and homemade chutney parcels to take home, the excitement was building from the get go. Sashi was at the door greeting guests as they arrived.
The décor is a modern adaptation of Indian style, think bold colours, minimalist contemporary styling and bold textures. The rear of the restaurant is affectionately known as the birdcage, with half birdcage hanging chairs and shutters on the rear window. In a former life Sashi was a prison officer and a policeman and has dedicated this space to helping youth. The enthusiasm and warmth that Sashi has is palpable and infectious.
Back to the VIP opening night; wandering magician Baenedict entranced with his close up card skills, a young singer entertained the throng and food and wine flowed freely. The open plan kitchen is in the centre of the space and is fitted with an impressive array of stainless appliances. Watching the food being created is a joy to behold and the morsels of deep fried chicken, beef satay, and curry puffs were tasty, with the right amount of flavour and spice.
During the night Sashi took to the microphone and opened a space in the crowd for a traditional Indian blessing dance which was both poetical and moving. The dance reflected the attitude of Sashi to this restaurant, both embracing the traditional values yet giving new life and excitement to the venture.
Gaja by Sashi is an exciting new addition to the vibrant restaurant scene in Adelaide, and the location in Pirie Street points to a resurgence of the area. This is definitely a place to visit, with a modern fresh approach to food with a nod to the past.
Review by John Goodridge