A Wonderful and Happy Lunar New Year to all my readers! After a snazzy 2016 and a month’s break in January, there is certainly much to look forward to in this year ahead. The past one year has been great for this website. After about 9 years running, I am pleased to formally welcome three new contributors to this website. There is Elliot who is both skilled in his writing and as a chef in his personal kitchen. There is Benjamin who delivers fresh insight and a new-found appreciation for food that speaks to his values as he sails the seas. And there is Tom who simply wishes to savour the moment and introduce the best just for you. Look out for their articles as we make our way through 2017! It brings me with great pleasure then to also start the new year with one of the finest contemporary Indian restaurants that I’ve discovered here in Singapore.
Yantra, the eight year old fine dining Indian restaurant at the Tanglin Mall, is now a proud partner with the famed Chef Hemant Oberoi, the former Grand Executive Chef of the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. After a series of chefs that were part of the Yantra mantle, Chef Oberoi has now entered and revamped the menu to feature a more artisanal, contemporary Indian fare that is refined and layered with flavour. For the prestige and nuanced touch that Chef Oberoi inspires into the menu, it is no wonder then that one must be prepared to pay a premium. But for the experience to taste a repertoire that has once graced the plates and palates of dignitaries like the Clintons and the Obamas, this might be a journey well worth it.
I was first introduced to Chef Oberoi back in 2015 at The Fullerton Hotel. Impressed by the dishes then, I was yearning for a visit when I heard that Chef was back in town, and this time at Yantra. What is most unique, and important, to note is that Chef’s cuisine has always been about robust flavours carried with a level of finesse. While the dishes at Yantra may oftentimes seem broadly familiar, I must say that I walked away impressed with the cooking style, level of detail and the bold use of a repertoire of ingredients not always traditionally found in Indian cuisine.
Papadums to start the dinner.
These crisp, spiced dough crackers go exceptionally well with the chutney dip in the middle. Made out of fruit, tomato and some mustard sweets, the dip was sweet and tinged with an aromatic heat. Slices of radish, carrot and cucumber complete this starter.
The Assorted Starter is served.
When the Chair Chaat ($16++) was first served, I could not help but be tickled by the novel use of a wooden chair as the base. This momentary conversation starter served its purpose well, and I found out from the wait-staff that Chef Oberoi designed the chair in India, and specially brought it to Singapore. On it comes served elements of Indian street food, modernised. The crispy chaat notwithstanding for its wholesome, robust flavours, I was particularly struck by the use of sweet and tangy mango ‘leather’ in all its symbolic fashion as a favourite fruit of the region.
But for a true eye-opener on the exquisite, it is almost a must to order the Grazing Goat ($45++). Kashimiri lamb chop is served alongside meat khandvi rolls, coconut foam and a goat cheese salad. This was a winner for me. Never have I had a cut of lamb so fork tender that just the slightest pressure was enough to portion out a piece to savour. The first bite was scented with the aromatics of coconut, which complemented and unveiled the deep robustness of spiced, slightly gamey lamb embedded throughout. I wowed and marveled, and the chef was kind enough to share with me the secret of cooking the meat in milk for that much, sought-after texture.
For a main that is good to share amongst 2-3 guests, the Tawa Chicken Pulao ($38++) is one staple to order. Aromatic basmati is cooked alongside seasoned chicken and what I suspect is a good amount of ghee over a tawa to allow a full incorporation of flavours throughout. Delectable!
Alongside the Tawa Chicken Pulao, the Fish Goa Curry ($42++) is an excellent accompaniment. While a robustly prepared spiced coconut curry is a staple in the Indian culinary repertoire, I must admit that I’ve not seen the curry so immaculately glistening in the light. One can only imagine the amount of ingredients, refined, in the dish. One that is also truly reflected in the price. For a lamb curry (yes, another lamb dish) that is worth your attention, do also check out the Martabaan ka Meat ($45++)
Lachaa prata and Garlic Naan
Tandoori Avocado – Buttery, salty and savoury with grilled spices and bits of peppercorn standing out!
Different Strokes ($22++)
Though I’m not a fan of Indian desserts (they can be too sweet at times), Chef’s creation of Carrot Halwa Cigars ($20++) was certainly impressive. Grated carrot is first cooked with sweetened milk which is then reduced to a hearty dessert, before being topped with stuffed spring rolls (termed Cigars here) for that textural contrast. For me, this was an impressive dish as 1) I’ve not had a carrot based dessert so pronounced in flavour before, and 2) because it was served warm, this was an excellent way to end the entire meal.
Mango and Rose Lassi. Go for the mango.
In all, I was quite impressed by the dishes served up at Yantra by Hemant Oberoi. The dishes were well crafted, flavours exquisite, and there was a degree of thoughtfulness and an emotive quotient expressed in each dish.But the biggest value for diners would be the entire experience: the excellent service and knowledge of partaking in Indian cuisine re-invented across a spectrum of flavours and ingredients that demonstrates the chef’s culinary repertoire. It is no wonder that the restaurant was listed by Singapore’s food critic, Wong Ah Yoke, as one of his favourite restaurants for the year.
Thank you Yantra for the invitation.
Yantra by Hemant Oberoi
163 Tanglin Road
Reservations: 6836 3088
Daily 12pm to 3pm
Weekdays 6pm to 10pm
Weekends 6pm to 10.30pm