A new restaurant spells good news for fans of authentic Punjabi fare in the eastern suburbs
We stepped into the newly- opened Singh Saab in Chembur on a weekday evening, to find it packed. Despite making a reservation earlier that evening, we had to wait for 15 minutes until we were informed of a vacant table. When we did enter finally, we found the brightly-lit space buzzing with chatter and loud Punjabi Folk music. It was easy to imagine that we were in the middle of a pind (village) in Punjab, complete with a photograph of the popular Majarah of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh staring at us. Giving the place a quick scan, we spotted coloured glass jars, columns wound with thick ropes, and cutesy lanterns that spruced up the plain wood and glass interiors. The menu offered north Indian and Chinese cuisine. The ambiance doesn't inspire you to order from the Chinese section, so we decided to go desi. Unlike most restaurants in the city today, the restaurant does not offer fusion food or a twist to original recipes. We chose to test the chef on staple Punjabi fare.
(Clockwise from left) Makai Roti, Sarson Ka Saag, Garlic Naan and Murg Lababdar
The order took more than 45 minutes to arrive, but all was forgiven as soon as we took a bite of the first dish that we had ordered. The Murg Reshmi Tikka (Rs 285) was tender, mildly spiced, cheesy and melted in our mouth. The Amritsari Fish Tikka (Rs 400), made from Basa, didn't disappoint either. The fish was well marinated and worked its magic on the tikka portions.
As we scoured the menu for traditional mains, the tempo of the music changed. For anyone who enjoyed the golden era of Indi Pop, this place offered many flashback moments. From Daler Mehendi to Sukhbir and Gurdas Mann — the music gelled perfectly with the flavours on the table. Introducing a dance floor would have completed the party.
Amritsari Fish Tikka. Pics/Suprita Mitter
We forced ourselves to end the mental Bhangra and focus on the food. We tried the quintessential Sarson Da Saag (Rs 245) with Makai Roti (Rs50). Both came close to what we have tried in the homes of Punjabi friends earlier. The waiter recommended The Murg Lababdar (Rs 285), a spicy version of the famed Butter Chicken. We wiped the bowl clean with Garlic Naan (Rs 50). The waiters engaged in some Punjab-style indulgence, where they said, 'just one spoon more, madam', when we refused a serving. We needed the spiced buttermilk (Rs 60) to wash this heavy meal down.
What's a good meal without some mithai, we thought. We ordered the Baby Gulab Jamun with Lacha Rabri Martini (Rs 185). The tiny, warm gulab jamuns dunked, in rich, thick rabri and served in a Martini glass were heavenly, but heavy. The light Phirni (Rs 160) and the Mixed Fruit Flambé served with ice cream would be the one's we'd choose to repeat on our next visit to this replica of a lively Punjabi town.
Time: 12 noon to 1.30 am
At: Ground floor, Swami Jayaramdas Shopping Complex, near Basant Park, RC Marg, Chembur (E).
Singh Saab didn't know we were there. the guide reviews anonymously and pays for its meals.