The subdued, neutral-toned walls, wooden tables and upholstered brown banquette seats help the recently opened Gajalee – one of Mumbai’s better-known seafood restaurants – blend right in with its Indian culinary brethren in Singapore. From a culinary point of view, the bland interior is rescued by an exemplary kitchen that turns out plate after plate of outstanding Maharashtra-style Indian cuisine – a first in our city. According to Gajalee, the blend of herbs and spices used are native to the state, such as dagadi phool and chakri phool that left us wanting much more.
Yes, they serve seafood, much like the popular Long Beach or Jumbo chain of restaurants, but Gajalee does it supremely well and with full Indian fanfare. Besides the formulaic Indian offerings of kebabs, naan, chapati, chicken tandoori and mutton biryani, a good 50 per cent of the menu is dedicated to fresh seafood. You can choose from clams in coconut and coriander masala, New Zealand-imported oysters in Indian curry, Sri Lankan crabs or jumbo prawns tossed in a tongue-searing green chilli sauce, char grilled lobster tandoori and even Chinese pomfret grilled, fried or steamed with a mass of spices including turmeric and tamarind.
Naturally, there are chicken, mutton and vegetable options too; but the staff at Gajalee is commercially trained to push the more pricey seafood delicacies – like they did with $78 per kg Chinese pomfret – before recommending the wallet-friendly meat options.
Our battered, turmeric-marinated Bombay duck – really, a fish that’s native to Mumbai – was deep-fried tempura-style to yield perfectly crisp and moist bites of pristine fillets. Perfectly cooked plump jumbo prawns were doused in an addictive, piquant butter-garlic sauce and crowned with crushed black pepper. Equally handsome was the broth-like onion and tomato-flecked dhal, which was great with rice but even better when slurped on its own. Even the off-menu butter chicken sparkled with an intensely heady sauce to rival The Song of India’s or Yantra’s offerings.
The standout dish of the evening, though, was the prawn biryani. Normally butchered in less experienced hands, here, every grain of just-cooked basmati rice was coated with the fragrant scent of coriander, turmeric and onions, and the savoury notes of the shellfish. For desserts, pick either the caramel custard or kulfi – the only two options listed on the menu – or skip across to The CentrePoint for more varied sweets. Gajalee’s fine cooking deserves a wider audience; that will probably come with time. For now, just enjoy the fact that reservations aren’t required. Eve C
Drink this: Sokaldi, a refreshing and tangy drink of mangosteen-infused coconut milk
Eat this: Bombay duck, butter pepper jumbo garlic prawns, dhal fry and prawns biryani
Conversation piece: Despite the name, Bombay duck is a fish dish – not a poultry dish!
17/19 Cuppage Road
|Opening hours:||Daily 11.30am-3.30pm, 6-11pm|