Back home, I frequented this little (or what used to be) a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant down my block. It started out in a small space in the not-so-fancy outskirts of the Central Business District, then it moved a few buildings down my street where it started out with plastic chairs and vinyl-top tables, and the last I saw was a new branch had opened in the upscale mall of the city. All three branches were always packed and had a steady stream of patrons at all hours of the day up until closing time — the only testament needed for good food.
Here in Singapore, I’ve discovered my own little gem of an Indian restaurant in the East Coast, hidden in a quiet patch somewhere on East Coast Road. My husband has very low tolerance for curry and coriander, which is why last night’s meal at Chat Masala was a milestone in our marriage as it was the first time I’ve seen him enthusiastic about an Indian feast. When I told him that there are so many dishes on the menu that are not curry-based and that they have a good variety of naan, he was sold!
My first date to Chat Masala was with my Singaporean friend Debbie. Even though she lives on the opposite side of the island, she doesn’t mind driving all the way to our area because she said she loves the food and charms of the East Coast (yipee!). What we had last night was pretty much a replica of the meal I had with Deb. It was an impromptu dinner last night as I found out Nikki was free for dinner AND she was going to suggest Indian food — so that panned out quite well.
Of all the dishes on the menu, I tend to gravitate towards Northern Indian cuisine, which, if I have my info correct, focuses less on the strong curries. For the record, I LOVE curries— from Indian, Japanese to Thai curry anything. However, when it boils down to ordering a curry meal, I tend to crave only two kinds: Japanese curry (which is sweet and actually has a strong hint of masala) and Thai green curry with basil leaves.
The hubby was actually craving tikka. Many years ago, I used to tutor the niece of an Indian friend. It was so difficult to concentrate on our lessons because my friend’s mom would start preparing our snacks in the kitchen as soon as we began — and the smell wafting all around was just absolutely wonderful.
It was also in that kitchen that I learned to eat and make a chicken tikka.
Nikki added something new to our roster: a fenugreek-based dish called Mushroom Methi. It was a great addition to another favorite vegetarian gravy-based dish: Palak Paneer.
I honestly don’t know why it’s called Butter Chicken. After checking the recipe, I was amazed that this unassuming but very tasty dish actually uses almost 30 ingredients (!)
While my two foodies last night opted for naan, I decided to indulge and order this:
an aromatic and very hefty serving of Chat Masala’s Vegetable Biryani. Both of them couldn’t resist so they helped themselves to scoops of this long-grain delight.
My husband tried EVERYTHING on the table (I’m so proud!) and he liked everything he tasted If I could emphasize more reasons to visit Chat Masala, it would be these:
1. The default spice level of all the dishes we’ve tried is very mild. Though my spice tolerance is relatively high, I’ve been experimental with Indian restaurants and have come across places where even basic appetizers scorched my throat. Sometimes, too much spice can be distracting and actually takes a toll on my mouth where my lips actually chap.
Whereas most Indian restos are considerate of tolerance and will ask your spice-level preference, those who can only have minimal spice can enjoy their meal comfortably at Chat Masala.
2. The place is quiet and cozy, like eating in someone’s dining room — and they serve alcohol
Oh, and the place is tucked behind some lush trees right by a bus stop.
3. The food, hands-down, is all about simple goodness and gives “Happy Meal” a new meaning.
The place tends to get packed with a busy turnover. Be sure to make reservations so you don’t disappoint a growling tummy.