I’m sure the name rings a bell for the better traveled, or better yet, Mumbai frequenters. Otherwise, it’s never too late to get better acquainted, as is with myself. D’Bell serves up pretty impressive Modern Indian cuisines, and is in the midst of making regional expansion. Several outlets have been dotted on the atlas, and this is their 1st spot in Singapore.
They’ve enlisted the talents of Executive Chef Satish Madaan – a very experienced & award winning chef, who with the executives are responsible for the carefully designed menu, to appeal to the local palates, without compromising the integrity of true Indian culinary.
Settled in the CBD, directly opposite Hong Lim Park, is quite impossible to miss. All the action takes place in the conservation precinct, within a 19-20th century double story shop-house. The structural integrity & textures are well preserved, and decked out to a tastefully dazzling fusion of anglo-indo-chine chic blitz, with elements of blings & silhouette (you really must see it for yourself, and I know the savvy ones would appreciate it much as I did). Dining takes place in the ground level, while lounging takes place upstairs.
Culturally, Indian dining is inclined towards communal style, some consider it feasting. Hence, dining in pairs, or small groups of 4’s should be comfortable. But, I reckon you’ll get to experience more when you’re dining as a football team.
The opener for the evening, some cocktails to set the mood.
Golden Moment – Sweet Hawaiian influence with Citrus Spice, stacked with a little boost from the Vodka. If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face or lift your mood, you seriously need a longer break from whatever got you wound up (get in touch with me, I’ll teach you how to).
Masala Punch – House Bourbon with sweet & sour flavors from the tamarind, coupled with a punch of Masala spices. The Cinnamon stick says it all. Sip on it slow, and let your palates get accustomed, you’ll find it pretty refreshing.
Lamb & Couscous Kofta – something whipped up as a surprise from the Chef. Spiced cooked minced lamb wrapped in a lightly toasted ball of couscous, served with a flute of lime juice (laced with mild mints & sea salt to reduce acidity) was an eye opener for me. It didn’t cross my mind that it could be consumed other than the contemporary messy state.
I initially didn’t know what to expect, but this opener set the pace & raised my expectations for the dishes to follow
A platter of Signatures in tasting portions:
Lobster Bisque – this is good stuff. The toasted garlic bread is crispy to the bite but soft on the munch; not abrasive to the gums, and the garlic flavor isn’t overbearing. Hence, no fear of garlic breath. The soup is thick and soaks well into the bread without making it soggy. I was literally scratching the last drops of it towards the end of the bowl, and I was tempted to do an Oliver Twist “can I please have some more”
Kofta Kebab on Plain Naan – cheese & prunes wrapped in the roasted beef croquette dusted with semolina, goes really well with the Plain Naan. The kebab is naturally flavorful owing to the cheddar & prunes, is good even on its own too.
Tawa Wali Fish-Chennai Express – hot plate grilled Butter Fish cubes, glazed with coconut & curry leaves paste, was more than meets the eye. The humble appearance contrasts it’s fragrance, texture, taste & after taste. I’m not much of a cooked fish eater, but this one’s good on my list.
Tandoori Chicken Tikka – no Indian joint is ever complete without this dish, but this by far gives me a lasting impression of Tandoori Chicken Tikka. The choice cut of boneless chicken leg is naturally bouncier and is juicier, so it doesn’t dry out during the process, the spice fragrance is well balanced. For the record, this is the 1st time I’ve done this dish without the using sauces/ dips… not even the yoghurt served with it.
Crispy Pappadum Cone (Veggie Relish) – is a good snack for any occasion. The cone is filled to the brim with juliennes of bell peppers/ capsicums, carrots, onions & rockets. Consider it the West Asian alternative of nachos. Accompanied with Indian pickles, minty yoghurt (light tinge of herbal fragrance) and Tamarind fruit chutney for dips.
Naan – Chili Cheese Naan, Kashmiri Naan & Garlic Naan
Of the three best sellers, I’m torn between choosing the Garlic and the Kashmiri
The Garlic flavor is milder than stigma, so it goes very well with almost every curry served there after
The Kashmiri bears afghan influence, with bits & pieces of dried fruits… reminds me of the Christmas bread.
Basmati rice – another renowned staple. These long grains are not nearly as starchy as the East Asian short grains, cooked well and lightly toasted with bay leaves, star anise and cardamom. It may seem silly eating it on its own, but I felt it was really that nice.
Amritsari Dal – Black and Bengal gram beans simmered overnight on charcoal flame. As authentic as it gets, traditional techniques haven’t undergone drastic changes for very obvious reasons. It’s viscous and delicious.
Kadhai Vegetable – seasonal vegetables cooked with bell peppers & tomatoes, flavored with coriander. This I find is also another winner for the vegetarian faction. It’s not easy to make a meatarian (me) bend, but this one had me going for seconds & thirds, I almost forgot I’m a meatarian.
Kerala Fish Curry – Butter fish slow cooked in spicy coconut masala curry & curry leaves. The reputation is supposed to bring tears upon mentioning, but the spice factor is refined so that more can accept & embrace it.
Mutton Rogan Josh – a Kashmiri mutton curry. Masala spice & tomato curry base slow cooked for flavor infusion in the meat, as well as retaining juicy tenderness. No prizes for guessing, but it’s a little on the salty side, so the Kashimiri Naan comes in handy. Or if you don’t like complications, you may prefer the Basmati rice.
Hyderabadi Chicken Dum Biryani served with Raita & Pappadum – this is a set made available for the lunch crowd, but due to overwhelming positive responses, there is a possibility of being available for dinner too. If you understand enough of the process of Dum Biryani, I’d usually stick to mutton, because chicken almost always end up overcooked or drier than necessary. However, this is the saving grace of Chicken Biryani. You have to try it, and I don’t take responsibility if you’re addicted to it.
The dessert platter = sugar high!
Ras Malai – Cottage cheese dumplings served in saffron flavored milk, sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts. There’s something nostalgic about this one, along the lines of condensed milk, but has a nice lingering after taste.
Chocolate Brownie – topped with strawberry gelato & glazed chocolate sauce, is a more contemporary selection for confection & chocolate lovers. The cake crumbles nicely in the mouth, so just put the whole thing in at one go.
Gulab Jamun – reduced milk balls; soaked in rose flavored syrup. This one is wicked! I’m not much of a sweet tooth, so I quietly cringed and soured for water. Nonetheless, this I find would be nicely paired with a cuppa joe or tea.
Masala tea – owning to the sweetness of the Gulab Jamun, it wasn’t necessary to throw sugar into the tea. Use the cinnamon stick to give it a thorough stir, and allow the spice to lull the sweetened palates.
Weight watchers & health advocates, know that you can eat your fill without concerning yourself with heartburns & choked arteries, for animal fat or butter have been replaced with healthier choice, in the likes of; extra virgin and vegetable variants. Dairy is inevitable in Indian cuisines, but largely in the form of yoghurt, moderate portions of shredded cheese and occasional dressings. Vegans & Vegetarians will not feel left out; the menu offers a good variety as well.
For those suffering from vein popping, blood boiling & brain frying activities in the office, this is a pretty cool hideout for your lunch, dinner, after office booze & cocktails. The 1st word that comes to mind – CHILLAX… and take it easy on their beverage list (ranging from whiskeys to wines).