ISH Restaurant Modern Indian Cuisine
ISH is a lively modern Indian restaurant in Gertrude St Fitzroy sitting at the intersection of old and modern Indian cusiine. The World Loves Melbourne was invited along to experience ISH and we were highly impressed.
ISH Indian restaurant in Fitzroy displays a sense of fun and playfulness as well as a seriously good dining experience. There's fun in the fusion as ISH takes what is great from various regions of India and gives their own interpretation with loads of technique and modern expression.
A surprise possibly for some is the quality of the wine and cocktail list. Never in my Indian dining experiences have I enjoyed spicy Indian cocktail as well as Indian Viognier and Indian Whisky. The spice nuance in several of the cocktails is top notch. The Indian Viognier was delightful and crisp and matched perfectly across the menu. The Indian whisky was also a highlight, boasting caramel nuances. Kingfisher beer is also a must.
Ish’s fit out is dark with accents of light to highlight the red brick, dark timber, smart stools and leather chairs, as well as metallic lampshades. We dined on the first of two levels, it was surprising how big the restaurant really is. Downstairs is a buzz with diners, elongated bar and view to Gertrude St. Music plays distinctive modern Indian music.
The menu is divided up into Peckish then Moorish then Famished then Dessert (could be Finish?) playing on the "ish" name. The smaller dishes are a delight and we started with a medley of these.
Sambar arancini, tempered coconut and tomato relish is a southern Indian lentil and tamarind dish that hits the high notes. Of course arancini is a classic Italian dish so ISH are having fun with fusion in blending with sticky rice, balling and crumbing the lentil and tamarind to the shape of arancini.
ISH free range chicken tikka, caramelised onions, roasted garlic ‘burrani’ yoghurt also hits the mark with succulent chicken and perfect spice execution. The splash of yoghurt is artistic and it complements the chicken wonderfully.
Indian Viognier - highly recommended.
Tandoori lamb cutlets, dill turnip mash is an absolute highlight. Melt in your mouth lamb cutlets (quality of lamb is excellent) with Tandoori nuances. Wonderful caramelisation and char on the cutlets and an element of fat we were happy to see. Delicious with the mash being another winner.
Carolina Reaper spiced Pork and Potato Stew - can you handle it?
Many diners have highlighted the Tandoori cutlets as the hero dish, and for us it was top notch, but the main story for us is the Carolina Reaper Spiced Pork and Potato Stew. (After you try this you'll be saying Vindaloo is for wimps). This stew is hot as anything you've ever experienced but it also has a balanced flavour profile not just the heat. With Carolina Reaper chillis being about 10 times hotter than Habenero's, you'll be reaching for some honey on the tongue. Several diners have completed this dish no problems, but The World Loves Melbourne struggled to complete the whole dish, notwithstanding it was addictive. With one chilli used for every 4kg of stew it packs an amazing heat! The chefs need to wear gloves in preparing this dish we are told.
ISH butter chicken stands out - a butter chicken dish can define an Indian restaurant. We loved the spice element of the creamy butter chicken, bemoaning some renditions across Melbourne who serve this dish in plain boring fashion. ISH delivers in spades for creamy spicy sauce (not overdone) and quality succulent chicken. A highlight to be eaten with Naan bread or with rice (we ordered both).
A top notch feast with a compelling menu.
Kerala Beef Curry unveiled.
Another point of difference is the Slow cooked home-style kerala beef curry, malabari parantha. We love a dry style curry and this curry is a great example of the innovation of ISH. The malabari parantha was an interesting element, served on top. I would like to see the dish served with some of the curry showing if not for photography and Instagram purposes - but some would disagree with me. A generous portion it was tasty as well as a texture triumph.
Saffron sago pearl pudding, jaggery praline, mixed nuts is a more traditional dessert and we love the inclusion of praline.
ISH deconstructed chocolate mess is a joyous dessert and celebration of ganache over fruits and other elements.
ISH is a revelation bringing sophistication, invention, fun and several points of distinction to Indian cuisine. Highly recommended.