We're not sure why it took so long, but Singapore finally has a contemporary Indian restaurant to call its own. Inspired by his travels around South Asia, his Penang heritage and his time working in Singapore, chef Murugan Thevar has come up with creative yet satisfyingly delicious plates at Thevar.
TRY the grilled octopus ($36) served on a bed of smooth masala lentil puree is topped with a tomato chutney for a burst of acidity. The star of the show is the pork ribs glazed with medjool dates ($35) best served with a plate of berry pulao ($12). Decadent and sweet with a touch of smoke, you might think the combination too rich and cloying – it isn't. Instead the fluffy and flavourful pilaf warrants spoonful after spoonful and the pork ribs that easily slide off the bone disappear much too quickly.
Don’t be put off by the school-canteen vibe,or by the fact that the serving counter is so tiny. The nosh is excellent and incredibly good value. Unless you’re Indian, the names of the dishes will probably mean nothing to you, but just about everything deserves a second helping – including the sambal fish,a densely flavoured chicken curry, creamy dahl, and a wonderfully aromatic butter chicken. Wash it all down with masala teaor lime juice.
TRY the butter chicken (from $5) paired with naan (from $1.20), and if you're feeling fancy, indulge in a garlic, cheese or butter naan.
For a super polished take on North Indian cuisine, this Tanglin Mall eatery Yantra by Chef Hemant Oberoi – one of India's foremost chefs – pays tribute to fine Indian cooking with an adjusted blend of exemplary and contemporary dishes in a trendy setting.
TRY dishes like macchi tukda hariyali (tandoor-glazed cod marinated in mint, coriander and curry leaves), the vegetarian paneer aur anjeer ke kebab (a pan-seared cottage cheese and fig patty stuffed with blue cheese) and various chaat platters.
If, like us, you’re into the origins of ancient recipes and travel vicariously through eating, this Punjabi restaurant by acclaimed food historian and cookery showceleb Jiggs Kalra will appeal. Punjab Grill is the sixth (and Singapore’s only) branch of his string of fine-dining establishments, sending you on a journey through cities from Lahore to Rawalpindi.
TRY the tandoori lobster, dahi ke kebab (yoghurt kebab) and the signature paan (betel leaves, fresh cream and sugar) shot.
We like the basic-but-effective Komala Villas, which has been open since 1947 and has branches on Race Course, Buffalo and Serangoon Roads. The food comes in hearty sets on metal trays, giving it a communal dining feel and everything is vegetarian.
TRY the whopping vegetable biryani set ($7), which comes with chapati, papadum, saffron rice, veggie curry, daal, raita and a whole range of pickles and sauces.
A favourite with many East Coasters since opening, Chat Masala wins big points for both the consistent quality of its pan-Indian fare and the knowledge of the friendly serving staff.
TRY the top dishes to try are the Keralan fish curry (succulent chunks of red snapper in a fragrant sauce) and bindi masala (a spicy mix of okra, turmeric, coriander, cumin, tomatoes and chilli, served in a crisp poppadum basket).
Sitting above the street chaos that surrounds Mustafa, Singapore’s latest rooftop restaurant can be visited in flip-flops, shorts are not frowned upon, the bill doesn’t dig deep into your wallet and children are kept happily amused by jumping fountains. Kebabs & Curries achieves a perfect balance of tacky and charming, with the dining space divided between an indoor space under a glass and steel dome filled with fake flowers and bright neon lights, and an open-air wooden deck offering views of the busy Little India streets from above.
TRY the garlic- and butter-slathered naan and skewers of tandoor spiced chicken roast in the kitchen’s clay oven and creamy dahl makhani. Kebabs & Curries is also booze-free but try the perfectly tart, chilled mango lassi ($3) sprinkled with dried coconut – we’ve anointed it the best lassi in town.
No monkey business, only seriously good Indian food and cocktails at this joint on Bussorah Street. The cocktails are infused with Indian flavours, too. Expect drinks like the Goa Mamma Lassi – an alcoholic twist on the classic mango lassi – featuring a mix of mango, passion fruit, Aylesbury Vodka, Plantation Dark Rum, milk and yogurt. But most of all, stick around for the food.
TRY the tapas-style dishes like tandoori chicken ($10) and tulsi cod ($15) fresh from the on-site tandoor. For big plates, the Nalli Gosht ($26) is a lamb shank dish that’s simmered overnight in a creamy peanut and cashew curry ‘til the meat falls off the bone.
At Kailash Parbat Restaurant, its interiors are as busy and chaotic as its menus. But don't be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices, here's how to narrow it down. Among its signature dishes, the chole bhatura is a hands-down favourite while the restaurant's chickpea curry served with puri is spicy yet sinfully good.
TRY its Sundays-only special, the Dal Pakwan ($7.50). It's a Sindhi dish of curried Bengal gram lentils served with deep-fried flatbreads and sweet and spicy chutneys.
With slick stonework and glass, mood lighting and luxury finishings, this does not feel like your typical Indian restaurant. But the scent of lingering spices – not to mention the tables laden with curries and lassis – gives the game away. Its menu includes luxed up Indian street eats, comforting share plates and a couple of dramatic dishes. The most impressive is the tandoori fondue ($58), where a buttery tomato sauce with five kinds of cheese are served with a variety of flavoured chicken kebabs and cubed garlic naan as dippers.
TRY its rendition of the parsi kheema bao ($55). It's a spicy minced lamb curry served wit homemade buttered buns.
‘Shahi’ means royal in Hindi, so go in with a king-sized appetite when you arrive at this north Indian restaurant. Its forte lies in its tandoor-cooked kebabs, rich curries and frankly, the best Tarka Dhal ($19) in the city. The restaurant's heavy handed with the use of aromatics and spices, and the gravies are rich with cream, nuts and luxe touches like saffron.
TRY the malai kofta curry ($25) where potato, cottage cheese and raisin parcels are swimming in a creamy cashew gravy. Soak up all the goodness with a piece of pillowy butter naan ($8).
Zaffron Kitchen’s East Coast Road outlet boasts a ‘family restaurant’ vibe with its children’s play while its Westgate branch is a tad more trendy and hip. The food however, is consistently good at both. Top picks include the dum chicken briyani ($14.50), which comes in a bowl sealed with dough, that you need to break through the release the delicious saffron-laced aroma of dum-cooked rice and curried chicken.
TRY its chicken tikka wrap ($14) – naan-wrapped chicken kebabs served with chutney and fries – instead of going for the heavy curries and dals. It makes for a great grab-and-go meal.
The spiffiest spot for curries and kebabs at Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, Urban Roti’s quality is affirmed by its lunchtime regulars. The chicken kebabs here are deliciously smoky, and we like the green chilli laced one for the kick it delivers ($16). It also whips up clever fusion such as its Cuba Libre Kebab, where the chicken is marinated with rum ($18). There's also a bar that serves everything from wines and spirits to cocktails and beer.
TRY the Kingfisher ($10). It's an Indian brand beer that makes a great accompaniment to its spicy kebabs.
If you've never tried Bengali food, Mustard's a good place to get started. The mustard oil and paste-laced dishes from the Coastal state of Bengal are authentic in flavour and the menu is varied. We suggest trying every dish but start with the chingri maacher malai curry ($24.10), coconut curried prawns served within a green coconut, and a piece of the macher paturi ($21.10) that' a boneless filet marinated in mustard paste and then wrapped in a banana leaf to steam cook.
TRY cholar dal (spiced Bengal gram lentils sweetened with coconut) and the aloo jhuri ($7.90), a portion of thinly sliced potatoes, deep fried into crisps, to sprinkle over each bite.
Among Singapore’s more unique dining experiences, Annalakshmi is a buffet of all you can eat, for whatever you wish to pay. Its Havelock Road outlet serves a spread of home-style cuisine and is completely volunteer run. Stuff yourself with servings of briyani, poori, appam, vegetable stew, potato palya (dry, spiced potatoes) and cauliflower curry among a slew of other north and south Indian home-cooked dishes. At dinner time, you can even order off a menu.
TRY everything! Because the spread is different each time you visit.
Head Chef Manjunath Mural’s menus are constantly being reinvented with recipes both traditional and adventurous. Indulge in its laksa chicken kebab ($38), succulent chicken tikkas with a subtle aroma of daun kesom, and a caviar-topped Barramundi Kebab ($38), that's fish slathered with spicy sambal.
TRY lamb kofta vindaloo ($41). It's minced lamb in a spicy-sour gravy and finished with dainty quail eggs.
Tandoor has been serving Indian food to loyal patrons for the past three decades. Although the menu and space have undergone plenty of revamps, the quality of the food remains unchanged. Its forte lies in Indian coastal cuisine. Unlike the more familiar North Indian dishes like kebabs and curries, coastal cuisine features seafood, coconut-laced gravies, whole spices and the liberal use of curry leaves.
TRY the tart and sweet Mangalorean mango curry ($30) along with the heavily spiced tawa meen ($40), seabass covered with onion-tomato paste and then chargrilled.
The Singapore outpost of Bangalore institution Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) serves arguably the best thosai on the island. For starters, it's the Karnataka-style thosai ($5 for plain) of fermented rice and black lentils griddle is cooked to perfection. It’s a 60-year-old recipe that needs no modification. Hearty, moreish and sinfully ghee-laced, its served with sambhar and chutney. Don't be afraid to ask for more ghee, the restaurant is happy to serve you more.
TRY MTR serves daily specials on rotation and these include the ragi thosai ($5), which has an earthy taste and nutty aroma unlike any other you may have tried.
A dyed-in-the-wool local institution, Samy’s is as low-maintenance as they come. It’s more of a mess hall than a restaurant with its high ceilings, shuttered windows and ceiling fans. In place of plates are banana leaves, onto which servers slop mounds of aromatic, richly flavoured and head-hurting hot curries. Cool down with some fresh lime juice.
TRY rasam, a tamarind and tomato soup, to finish off any leftover rice.