GDay India

Health Smiles Banner Jul23
Home / Feature / ROHAN JOSH


15-07-2023  Gday India

A chef's energy is translated into a whimsical plate of flavors from India at Crown's Evergreen restaurant.

Childhood memories are always the best, and they become unique if one is bilingual in India. This is especially true when it comes to food, and if you are growing up in Mumbai with a Gujarati father and a Maharashtrian mother's cuisine.

Meet forty-four-year-old chef Rohan Desai, whose childhood is packed with memories of Charni Road in Mumbai and the nostalgic waft from an old Iranian restaurant in Ballard Estate.
For a limited time only this July, Crown Melbourne’s Evergreen restaurant has made these memories possible for their resident chef in a pop-up, titled ‘Flavours of India’.


In 2010, when Rohan first came to Australia, he started his career at Shannon Bennett's Café Vue at Tullamarine. Despite being new in the country, he was quick to seize an opportunity at Crown, where he soon began creating food for prominent Indian corporate travel businesses. These events hosted four to five hundred people, and the buffets overflowed with delicious, robust cooking.

The opulent Evergreen restaurant once belonged to Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. After their departure, the fully functional and well-designed kitchen has consistently hosted pop-ups by celebrity chefs like Sarah Todd and Peter Kuruvita, with Rohan serving as their sous chef. The exponential boom of Indian culture and food in recent years prompted EGM from Crown to take a step back and develop a concept where they wanted Rohan to lead a pop-up. 

So, the rest is history, as his childhood memories took shape behind The Flavours of India. 

Indian food is always considered a shared plate with curries, but the taste of India is much more than just a curry; it has so many layers of textures, techniques, and colours that it's hard to elevate the base recipes with a unique plating.


The parental kitchen in Mumbai was the starting point for this foodie, who grew up watching his mother and grandmother cook dishes from Maharashtra and Gujarat. Rohan's notorious cheekiness often got him into trouble, resulting in him having to sit with his mother in the kitchen, where he would taste her food. Since then, the taste of authenticity has lingered with Rohan, and it truly manifests in this fine dining experience.

"I understand it's all about curries and authenticity in the cooking and everything, but then I've always been trying and getting, you know, inspired by some of the chefs and trying to elevate this cooking and bring it to a level where we can also do plated Indian meals."

    As soon as you enter the restaurant one is welcomed with a vast, colourful bowl of papadums with coriander and peanut chutney dip, a fitting tribute to Gujrat, where papad or papadum is the quintessential snack with every meal. It's bound to make a heart sing. Mixing with the fantastic view of Melbourne city in the backdrop. 

Then came the Murgh Keema Salli/Pav (chicken mince and soft bread rolls). The old Iranian and Parsi hotels of South Mumbai, once a thriving culture were home to Keema Pav, a staple breakfast served in most of these hotels. However, Britannia Café, located in the Ballard estate, known for stately colonial architecture, is still famous for its Keema Pav.


The taste and charm of Britannia café was in that big bowl of chicken mince that twists with fried eggs and chives on top. The house blend spice in the Keema with the soft buns is a gastronomical marriage made in a plate. So, is the second-course Barramundi Pollichatthu, also a recreation of Rohan's Keralite neighbour's Nayyar Family dish. 

Nayyar's grandmother would prepare the fish in a clay oven, slowly cooking the sauce for eighteen hours, and then bake the fish on a banana leaf. The sweetness of the onions shines through in the beautifully cooked fish, which is served with a trio plate of matta rice. The pumpkin raita is a favorite accompaniment.

The third course began with the Pahadi lamb chops, delightfully marinated in mint, which was a specialty of a Taj hotel chef from Himachal Pradesh. These chefs, often hailing from Garhwal in the foothills of Uttarakhand, would send the kitchen staff and sous chefs away so that they could mix their family-inherited secret spice blends into these kebabs. However, Rohan was the fortunate one who received the Chef's secret blends and brought them to the plate in Melbourne.

Similarly, Murgh Parda Biryani, the end of the fourth course, is a generous slow-cooked chicken with saffron and rose-infused basmati rice. An inspiration from Hotel Shalimar’s biryani behind Ballard Estate, cooking in a big brass vessel, layered with curry, rice, and rice dipped in saffron milk, a process that takes nearly hours to perfect. 


Rohan's memories of Shalimar brought the biryani in dumpukht style, cooking in a clay pot, covered with puff pastry crusted with cumin, fennel, and black sesame seeds served with smoked mint and lemon yoghurt.

The piece de resistance was the whimsical childhood memories in a bowl; the humble rasmalai, the surprise element hidden beautifully under layers of panna cotta, rose gel and pistachio ice cream. The beauty of the bowl is the fairy floss on top. 

Inspired by the hot months of April and May in Mumbai, the delicate cold leftover ras malai milk along with the cotton candy and the kulfi man who visits the neighbourhood with his aluminium cones in these summer evenings always took him back to the lanes of Mumbai.

Rohan stuck to originality, not compromising on potion size, plating them with his artistry, bringing the theatre of childhood alive. Crown played along with his ideas, successfully training all the front house team to talk and present the menus to the public. 20

In this two-hour session, every patron is recommended to take a break in between courses, either to enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc 2021 or the Oakridge Botrytis Pinot Gris 2021 with dessert.
Bring along an empty stomach, a loved one, or even a friend, and enjoy this four-course menu that transports you and your senses to the magical place of Rohan's childhood. If you are from Mumbai or even India, you will experience it exactly as he did.

We extend our best wishes to Rohan and his fantastic team, the true artists in the kitchen who often go unnoticed amidst the glamour of the food industry. We also congratulate the entire front-of-house staff at Crown.

Visit Flavours of India, EVERGREEN Melbourne Crown 6TH - 23RD July.

By Tonee & Nandita

15-07-2023  Gday India

SSSL Banner Ad Jul23