Sunlight was waning as I wandered along Bussorah street, having some trouble finding this week’s restaurant visit. As the day turned to evening, Kampong Glam was waking up; people begain filling up the Turkish, Lebanese, and other Middle Eastern restaurants. I myself was looking for the Flying Monkey, a recently opened restaurant and bar serving pan-Indian cuisine and spice-inspired cocktails. I finally discovered it under an awning, as there was no evident signage on the façade of the building. Only when coming closer did I see its neon name blazing on the back wall of the restaurant.
Varun, my plus one, arrived soon after. With an extensive history of eating Indian food and imbibing alcoholic beverages, he was there to provide a informed second opinion of the food and drink that we were about to taste.
The eponymous Flying Monkey
We were then introduced to the face of the bar, Kannan “The Beard” Pillai. A bartender with a unique sense of sartorial style and a creative concocter of novel cocktails, Kannan began preparing a selection of four cocktails for us. He started with the eponymous Flying Monkey ($18), a mixture of monkey shoulder, ginger liquor, and bitters of orange and mango syrup, smoked with cherry wood and garnished with a stick of cinnamon and a slice of blood orange. A warming and spicy whisky.
Mind It! A cool, refreshing beverage.
The Flying Monkey was followed by Mind It! ($18). At the bottom of the chilled metal bucket heaped with ice was a sweet and refreshing Monkey 47 gin that had been infused with jasmine for 2 weeks. With maple syrup, mint, and lemon added, the result was a cooling beverage that reminded me of elderflowers.
Served in a small clay pot was the Yo Yo Mani ($18), a gritty mixture of two rums: Plantation 3 Stars White & Overproof Rum, and Koko Kanu Coconut Rum. With extra coconut water and cream, as well as some 5-spice Kerala Rice Syrup added for measure, this gritty concoction tasted of the seaside.
Kannan “The Beard” Pillai torching the Monkey on Fire.
The Beard showing his skill at pulling the flaming drink.
The Monkey on Fire, still on fire!
For the Monkey on Fire ($20), Kannan added grand marnier, maraschino, honey, coconut water, and spices to monkey shoulder whiskey, then torched the drink, setting it on fire. He then proceeded to ‘pull’ the flaming drink ala teh tarik. The azure liquid poured from cup to cup, and finally settled down with the signature cinnamon stick garnish. With some alcohol burnt off, the Monkey on Fire wasn’t as strong as the Flying Monkey, but was additionally warm and smouldering from the heat.
With plenty of alcohol in our bellies, it was time to fill the remaining space with some good Indian food. Nothing is a more classic staple of Indian restaurant cuisine than Tandoori Chicken ($10). After their marination of the chicken overnight with their house spice blend, the chicken turned out very succulent and fragrant. Such succulence, Varun told me, could only have been achieved with yogurt in the marinade.
You would normally expect to find a dish like Calamari 65 ($10) at a British fish ‘n’ chips establishment, but given the informal appropriation of chicken tikka masala as Britain’s national dish, an Indian adaptation of fried calamari could be a welcome and tasty addition to the cuisine. The batter uses flour that is traditionally used to make poppadum, and acquires a curry kick from the curry powder in the batter. Crisp curry leaves as a garnish finish the dish.
Truffle Naan ($14)
We caught a strong whiff of the next dish before we even put it in our mouths: Truffle Naan ($14). The naan is slathered with truffle cream and served with pear chutney and paneer mousse on the side. Varun was not a big fan of the truffle, but I personally thought it was an adventurous offering that I was unaccustomed to finding in Indian restaurants. The side dips were also savoury enough to be eaten on their own. We felt that the naan could have been nicer if it was oilier like most naans, but we find out later from the boss that truffle cream was used intentionally instead of truffle oil to reduce the pungency of the truffle flavouring.
The Tulsi Cod ($15) was immaculately plated and served on a black stone tray, with clearly charred edges from its time in the tandoor. However, the crispy exterior gave way to super soft flesh that had retained its juices. Every bite left a taste of lingering spice.
We were provided fair warning that the Nargisi Kofta ($24) might prove too pungent for some, especially ladies. Nevertheless, Varun and I were game to try it. According to the lore shared with us, this dish was created for a young Indian prince who had to have the mutton minced 13 times to create the smoothest texture possible. The kofta certainly proved to be very fine, like a pate, and the taste of mutton was intense. It can be a bit too strong for those used to lighter flavours, but mutton lovers should give this a go.
Quail Musallam ($26) featured a whole quail and chicken egg placed on top of a bed of flavoured basmati rice and smothered with curry gravy. While most of us are used to eating briyani-style rice with chicken or mutton, the quail proved to be a delicious, if more diminutive substitute.
Our second dish of naan came with the Nalli Gosht ($26), a lamb shank braised overnight, the bone sticking up in the middle of a bowl of garang masala gravy. “This is more like it!” Varun said as he tucked into the garlic naan, which he found sufficiently oily. It seemed to have just left the tandoor, as it was still warm, fluffy, and crispy. It was also good for dipping into the gravy. I also enjoyed the naan with the lamb meat: fall-off-the-bone softness that disintegrated in the mouth upon touch.
Dessert came in the form of Jalebi ($10), a crispy, ultra-sweet, deep-fried snack that is commonly sold on the streets of India. Varun remembered eating a lot of these in his childhood, and finding good jalebi in Singapore, he told me, was elusive. Already, Flying Monkey’s version was promising, as they were made fresh instead of being left in the open like many street stalls, where they quickly become stale. The jalebi on our table shone with oil and edible silver foil. Its sweetness was initially overwhelming, but I grew to enjoy it like a sweet biscuity pretzel, that went well with the accompanying cream. However, both Varun and I felt that it could have been slightly less oily, a sentiment we mentioned to the owner, who was ready to hear our feedback.
The Flying Monkey is a very new establishment, and the second floor is still under development; Kannan shared with us that they were considering making the second floor more lounge-like, maybe even installing a PS4! That would certainly be a very novel concept for an already avant garde restaurant and bar like the Flying Monkey. I look forward to further developments in an already fantastic purveyor of next-generation Indian cuisine.
Thank you Flying Monkey for the invitation
67 Bussorah Street
Reservation: 6291 0695
Opening Hours: 12-2.30pm; 5.30pm-11pm