What’s New at the Indian Fine Dining Restaurant on raffles boulevard
It’s not easy being a celebrated chef in Singapore. Least of all one at the helm of a venerated Indian restaurant. Just ask Rang Mahal’s Milind Sovani.
The award-winning chef has cooked for no less than India’s former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, as well as Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan. His 32-year career also saw him launch the one-Michelin star Song of India on Scotts Road and pick up numerous awards.
Sovani now heads the kitchen at Rang Mahal. The 47-year-old restaurant is renowned for introducing Singaporeans to the concept of Indian fine dining.
Clearly, he’s subject to high expectations, to say nothing of the pressure that comes with having such a pedigree.
So how does one impress a clientele that has been there, done that?
By going back to his roots, and the roots of Indian cuisine itself. At least this is how Sovani does it in his new menu, which is launching this month.
“Eighty per cent of the dishes on the menu are new, but the inspiration comes from traditional Indian cooking. The flavours are intact, they’re originally Indian, but the presentation might be modern,” he explains at a media tasting.
Going back to one’s roots seems to be a recurrent theme for 2018. Facebook is tweaking its newsfeed to prioritise interactions between friends and families, a throwback to the social network’s original function. Nokia is relaunching its beloved 8110 ‘Banana phone’ in a bid to lure nostalgic Gen Xers and novelty-loving Millennials. Dolce & Gabbana and Versace are showcasing their heritage in their current collections.
For Sovani, heritage means incorporating elements of Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, into his cooking. He is also presenting – occasionally reinterpreting – Mumbai’s best-loved street food, a paean to his hometown.
Before joining Rang Mahal, Sovani spent five years (from 2012 to 2017) travelling the subcontinent. There, he researched the Ayurvedic approach to Indian cuisine and refined his understanding of Indian spices. Most of the spices used in Rang Mahal are imported directly from India. They help to recreate the authentic flavours and signature aromas of the subcontinent.
The Ayurvedic element came through in the very first dish I sampled, Tomato Saar with Mulethi Herb Foam ($20). Here Sovani uses sweet liquorice root, which is noted for its antioxidant properties. It is also used to help cure sore throats, coughs and colds.
I found this take on the classic tomato soup to be very agreeable. Light and nourishing with just a hint of spice, it’s a flavour profile I would turn to when in need of a pick-me-up, like a Bloody Mary the morning after.
Another thing I would reach for when in need of a boost: the Butter Chicken Bao ($42). Inspired by Chinese dim sum – indeed, the dish is served in a bamboo basket – the naan baos are pillowy soft. They encase a creamy filling of butter chicken. I figure I could wolf down about 20 of these without feeling too guilty.
Special mention also goes to the Parsi Kheema Per Eeda, Maska Bao ($55), a Parsi invention that originated in Mumbai. Here, soft buttered (maska) buns are paired with spiced minced lamb (kheema). Using the buns as utensils, I mopped up the mince with relish. Comfort food.
Acknowledging how fine dining has evolved to become more casual, Sovani includes several dishes that are meant for sharing. There’s the Roomali Masala Papad ($15), a gigantic papadum topped with a potpourri of lentil crispies, onions, tomatoes and chilies. A toothsome, satisfying treat made from the humblest of ingredients.
If you like interactivity, there’s the Bombay Pani Poori ($25), which you have to assemble yourself. Take a crispy semolina puff, stuff it with mung bean sprouts, pour a vial of spiced gravy into the mix, and eat the whole confection in one bite. It’s a burst of flavours and textures, an experience not dissimilar to chomping on xiao long baos.
Finally, there’s the Tandoori Fondue – An Ensemble of Kebabs ($58). Departing from the typical tandoor platter, here you dip morsels of tandoor-grilled chicken kebabs and garlic naan cubes in a luscious cheese tomato makhni sauce, served in a communal pot. Just as you would with bread or meat cubes in a regular fondue.
Kudos to Sovani for dreaming up this unconventional presentation, though I have to admit that the novelty wore off pretty quickly.
7 Raffles Boulevard
Level 3, Pan Pacific Singapore
Tel: 6333 1788