Traditional dishes cooked with precision
New restaurant Sansara at Grand Copthorne Waterfront serves up North Indian cuisine that does not overwhelm your palate with heat and is easy on the stomach.
Master chef Akhilesh Pathak, 41, who helms the kitchen, pays homage to Awadhi cuisine, which is known for its complex use of spices and emphasis on precise cooking techniques.
The level of spiciness in the dishes here is comfortably mild to moderate, which allows you to better enjoy the underlying aroma and flavours, without chillies overpowering your senses.
Opened on Sept 28, the riverfront restaurant started with dinner service and extended to include lunch service on Nov 1.
It has a variety of vegetarian-friendly dishes, including a vegetarian lunch set menu for $48++, which offers plenty of value for money.
Diners get complimentary housemade pappadum, fragrant with cracked black peppercorns, and three condiments – lime pickle, coriander and mint chutney, and pickled onion – which serve as palate cleansers.
The vegetarian lunch set starts on a high note with the superbly tasty Tamatar Kele Dhaniya Shorba, a tomato soup made using banana stem and tomato broth, which comes with a housemade bread stick. The tangerine-hued soup, garnished with chopped coriander stem, has the perfect balance of savoury and tang, and a touch of heat from green chillies.
The appetiser, Kumbh Ki Galouti, is a vegetarian take on galouti kebab, usually made with finely minced meat. The small disc of minced mushroom delights with its melt-in-the-mouth texture and the taste of cardamom, clove and cumin lingers in the mouth.
The lunch set includes a portion of Barista Matar Pulao. The fluffy basmati rice, adorned with green peas and onion, is infused with saffron and chef Pathak’s beguiling housemade briyani masala. He perfumes his secret spice mix with rose powder, which lends a floral accent without overwhelming the dish.
If you are dining in a small group, it is worthwhile exploring the a la carte menu.
A signature item is Murgh Paan Kebab ($30++), a dish of stuffed chicken breast with peppery betel leaves in the mix. The meat is firm in texture and rich with spices, with yogurt to balance the flavours. Dried mango powder in the mix lifts the dish with its citrusy tang.
A vegetarian version of the dish is the Malai Soya Chaap Kebab ($22++). Instead of chicken breast, the kebab is made with a creamy layer of blended soya beans, cream cheese, cashews and spices.
The vegetarian dishes are so artfully prepared, they are a joy to eat. The Dingari Purvanchal Ka Saag ($24++), made with organic spinach and fresh button mushroom, is tasty, with the mushrooms lending a meaty bite to the forest green-hued dish.
Dal-E-Sansara ($24++), which is black lentils simmered for 24 hours, has a smoky caramelised flavour.
Bite into crunchy prawns doused in a toothsome turmeric-tinged coconut milk and yogurt gravy when you order Sailana Jheenga ($32++).
For those who like butter chicken, the restaurant’s Kukkad Butter Masala ($30++) is packed with smoky flavours from the chunks of chicken tikka cooked in a charcoal-fired tandoor oven and the nutty pungence of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in the gravy.
The restaurant prepares its breads in-house. A must-order is the Paronthia Naan ($7++), a layered bread which has an amber hue from the liberal use of saffron and sweet nutty accents from crushed pistachio.
Where: Sansara, Level 1 Grand Copthorne Waterfront, 392 Havelock RoadMRT: HavelockOpen: Noon to 2pm and 6 to 10pm (Tuesdays to Sundays). Closed on MondaysTel: 6223-1338
Hapiha Mediterranean Taverna
Zesty appetising dishes
Lemon is a recurring motif and ingredient at the newly opened Hapiha Mediterranean Taverna, owned by Albania-born Klevis Shima, 39, who runs hawker stall Hapiha Mediterranean Fast Food at Beauty World Centre.
Tablecloths emblazoned with the yellow citrus fruit and a mural of two lemon trees lend a cheery, rustic vibe to the air-conditioned eatery, which can seat 28 diners.
Occupying the first unit of a row of shops in Ridgewood Close, which are part of the Ridgewood condominium, the new eatery, opened on Oct 21, offers a more extensive menu than the hawker stall.
The cuisine is Mediterranean with Greek, Albanian, Turkish and Italian influences.
For starters, go for the creamy Taramasalata ($11.80+), made with cured cod fish roe and blended housemade bread. Lemon juice keeps the dish from being cloying.
Have it with triangles of housemade Pita Bread ($2.50+), which Mr Shima prepares using premium Italian flour.
Get the smoky, savoury and slightly fiery Peperonata Dip ($9.80+), made from roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, Greek yogurt and mint.
An off-menu item that you should try your luck asking for is the Melitzanosalata ($10.80+), an eggplant dip. Simply flavoured with red onion, garlic and enlivened with lemon juice, the beige-coloured mixture lacks aesthetic appeal, but it is pleasing to the palate. Best eaten chilled, the tender roasted eggplant makes the dip a velvety textural delight.
The simple but elegant Sardine Fritte ($17.90+) is a dish of fresh sardines imported from the Mediterranean and filleted in-house. Fried to order, the battered fish is light and crispy, and the flaky meat is packed with a briny sweetness.
The vegetarian-friendly Falafel ($9.80+) is a dish of ball-shaped fritters prepared from raw chickpeas which are blanched, mashed with herbs, then fried until the exterior is crunchy. Seasoned with a touch of salt, the interior of the fritters has a powdery mouthfeel. The falafel comes with a tzatziki dip of Greek yogurt, cucumber and bright notes of lemon juice.
The Grilled Octopus ($28.90+) comes with a light-tasting Balkan-style potato salad dotted with fresh parsley. Mr Shima, who eschews sous-vide cooking, boils the octopus until it is tender. Grilled to order, the resulting octopus meat is supple with a delectable firmness in the centre.
It is a pity the restaurant does not serve the housemade pizzas, which are a hit at the hawker stall.
Instead, it has three options of pide – Turkish flatbread served with toppings. Handmade from Italian flour, the flatbread is worth ingesting carbs for.
The Kebab Pide ($19.80+) has a luscious topping of mozzarella and slices of chicken kebab. But I would prefer it not decked out in french fries, which get in the way of tasting the chicken kebab and make the dish a carb overload.
The bread quality is exceptional. I heated up the leftover pide in my toaster oven the next day and it was still as light and crisp as when served.
Where: Hapiha Mediterranean Taverna, Unit G1, 5 Ridgewood CloseMRT: DoverOpen: 5 to 9.30pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), noon to 9.30pm (Saturdays and Sundays). Closed on MondaysTel: 8081-9488
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