The wine and good vibes were flowing freely at the opening of Gaja by Sashi. The restaurant is a clearly a labour of love for MasterChef Australia 2018 winner, Sashikumar Cheliah, who was surrounded by family, friends and well-wishers as he celebrated the launch on Friday, 8 November 2019.

Guests were treated to delicious menu samples. The ma hor – a sticky pork and prawn ball topped with lime leaf and chilli and served on a slice of pineapple – was the perfect combination of sweet, salty and spicy. The satay degang – grilled beef with peanut satay and a hint of lime, was moreish, as was the pakoda – spiced crispy chicken served with chilli mayo and lemon. The steak tartare wrapped in betel leaf was a delight: fresh, spicy with an unexpected, warming kick.

To add to the cultural experience, brightly-clad dancers kicked off the official proceedings with a dance to a song of blessings.

Sashi, a former police officer and correctional services officer, said, “I had a small vision before going for MasterChef: I wanted to have a small cafe in Adelaide. After winning the competition, the whole idea changed: a full-fledged restaurant with a full bar.”

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The bar is well stocked with wide variety of wines and cocktails. Guests sipped on Gaja by Sashi’s signature cocktail, the Crimson Sunbird, a cinnamon-infused bourbon whisky, chai vermouth, pomegranate and lemon. It was reminiscent of a warm hug on Christmas morning.

Sashi went on to thank those who brought his vision to reality, from his wife and sons to the wait and bar staff. Sashi spoke of the importance of rehabilitation and giving people a second chance. He said, ‘I thought that when I have this restaurant, I want to make a decent life for someone…that is very close to my heart. I want to give back to the community. Hopefully my dream can go on for years and years.’

If the offerings on the night were an indication of things to come, it looks as though the dream will live on.

Gaja by Sashi (4/86 Pirie Street, Adelaide) will be open to the public from 11 November 2019. Click here to book your table now.

Words and pictures by Leila Hallak-Low