THE SUNDAY TIMES
NOT having been invited into a Bengali home before, I have not had the opportunity to taste the cuisine of the north-eastern Indian state of Bengal. That changed last week when I discovered Mustard, one of the latest restaurants to open in Race Course Road. A modest establishment tucked in the midst of a row of Indian restaurants, it claims to be the first here to serve Bengali dishes. The rest of its menu features Punjabi fare, which is more familiar to non-Indians as the cuisine found in many north Indian restaurants here. This comprises mainly poultry and flour-based dishes such as tandoori chicken and naan. Cooking from Bengal, on the other hand, is characterised by a lot of seafood and rice-based dishes. What ties the two together, says first-time restaurateur Radhika Abbi, is that mustard seeds and mustard oil are used widely in the cooking. That is why she named her restaurant, which opened last month, Mustard. The menu does not highlight the Bengali dishes, but ask the waiter when he comes over to take your order and he readily points them out. And if you happen to order one on your own, he says enthusiastically: ‘That’s a Bengali speciality.’ Encouraged by his prompting, I pick out some which turn out wonderful. There is the prawn in green coconut ($17.90), which is a fragrant curry served inside a fresh coconut. The shelled prawns are a trifle small, but the gravy is delicious. ‘Scrape off the meat from the coconut to eat with the gravy,’ the waiter urges. It is an excellent idea, as the smooth and soft slices of coconut make the flavour even more fragrant. I am equally happy with my starter of fried fish ($6.90), which are golden squares of fish fillet that are coated with bread crumbs and deep-fried. In the hands of a less skilled chef, they could easily have turned out dry and stringy instead of being smooth on the inside and crispy on the outside, as these are. The Punjabi dishes are equally good. The chicken kabab ($10.90) is grilled perfectly, with the tender meat coated in an intriguing spicy marinade. A vegetarian appetiser called hingerkochuri ($4.90) is worth dreaming about. It is simple fried white flour bread made in the shape of a pocket, but it is so light it melts in the mouth. Stuff one with a spoonful of accompanying lentils and pop it in your mouth. The mix of textures and flavours easily puts a smile on your face. What does not impress much is the cottage cheese simmered in spinach puree ($9.90). It is not bad, just ordinary. I have had better. Still, the overall impression is good. The restaurant deserves to be a hit and I won’t be surprised if it blazes a trail for other Bengali restaurants here.
If you happen to take a walk down Little India and would like to sample Indian cuisine, then head straight for Race Course Road. Located on the eastern echelon of the Serangoon Road enclave, this stretch houses numerous eateries from big names to little known gems. The road is named after the racecourse, which was part of Singapore’s history as early as 1840s.Mustard is located almost at the end of Race Course Road, painted yellow just like its namesake. Upon entrance, one is greeted with sunny smiles while ushered to a table. Noticeably, while the walls are simply dressed with tie-dye divine paintings, the oil lamps that hang overhead cast a warm afterglow in the cozy rustic setting.
Barely a year old, Mustard is one of a handful of restaurants in Singapore that breaks free from the umbrella of “North Indian” cuisine. Mustard prides itself in serving Bengali and Punjabi food, two of the most culinary advanced states in India. Notably, from the name of the restaurant, mustard ( Sarson in Punjabi and Shorshey in Bengali) is liberally used in the cooking of Bengali and Punjabi food. The type of mustard used varies from the tiny, flavoured seed to the aromatic oil to the leaves of the plant.
While the décor may be minimalist, the food speaks volumes. Be prepared to be mesmerized by the redolence of the dishes. For appetizer, why not start off with the KathiKabab Rolls ($6.90), pieces of chicken rolled in flaky Indian bread. Generously proportioned, it must be savoured hot and is a great opening to any meal. Be forewarned that if you are not too hungry, this appetizer in itself would suffice as a main course!
Then, treat yourself to a Bengali specialty – the ChingriMaacherMalai Curry or Prawn in Green coconut ($17.90). Recommended for the adventurous, this dish comprise of prawns simmered in coconut cream with a dash of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. The end product is a house special which is not only intriguing in term of presentation but one that will pique one’s imagination. Try this gravy by itself with a scoop of the coconut meat to your stir your senses and tickle your palate. This gravy also goes well with the assorted naans or Kolkata Mutton Biryani ($12.90). The Biryani is not oily and proved to be a treasure trove with the layers of spiced mutton and potatoes.The MacherPaturi or Boneless Fish in Banana Leaf ($13.90) is another must try from the array of Bengali dishes. Keeping an open mind is almost a requirement here given the unusualness of this dish. The snapper fish is marinated in mustard paste and the end product is a refreshing concoction that is neither too pungent nor too bitter, leaving a mild mustard aftertaste. Ms Radhika Abbi, the restaurant’s director explains that this “taste” has been tailored for Singapore, as the Bengalis prefer a much stronger mustard taste.Roomali Roti or Handkerchief bread ($3.50) is an extremely thin piece of bread folded a number of times, just like its moniker. An art in itself, it must be savoured hot as it will gradually harden when cold. If you have room for just bread, then this has to be it! Team it with the roasted eggplant or BainganKabharta ($7.90) which looks deceptively mild but as one chews through the soft eggplant, a piquant aftertaste will come fore or combine it with any of the aforementioned dishes and you will be assured of a lip smacking meal .On the Punjab side, the Sarson da saagteMakki Roti ($11.90) is another interesting find. Served in a round metal tray, this dish comprised of maize bread, which is surprisingly heavy and very, very filling! Eat it with a puree of mustard greens, sugarcane or jaggeri and onions; to savour it like any true blue native.For a variety of grills, try the Kabab e Tastar or mixed kabab patter ($24.90). The latter is a mixture of chicken, mutton and seafood. What makes this platter different is that it is cleverly orchestrated with fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and natural seasonings to give it an assortment of taste and colour.If you think that your tummy is near bursting but has room for a small desert, then it has to be the Rossomalai ($5.90). The petite, fluffy and spongy cottage cheese ball soaked in milk is not too sweet and is just the right size to finish off a lovely meal.
The SD Food Advisor’s take on Mustard
Mustard’s take on a niche market is indeed praiseworthy. Given the quality and quantity of the food servings, the prices are indeed very affordable. This is alongside meticulous service. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it could give its famous neighbours, a run for their money. On a more cautious side, being in the niche market may also have its downside – the use of mustard, while not uncommon, may not gel with all as many of the dishes require time to ‘taste’ and getting use to. Then again, one could always revert to the “usual” Indian fare, which Mustard also serves. For those who are always on the lookout for new tastes and flavours, this little gem is indeed a rare find. On a final note, go there with an open mind and be prepared to try ‘new’ dishes!
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again — I love Indian food. I personally feel it is one of the most perfect cuisines in the world. But even for me, the gravies somehow taste the same in most dishes after a while. If you are like me, mustard is one Indian restaurant that is refreshingly different. Of the mostly North Indian restaurants along race course road, mustard sets itselfapart by specialising in food from bengal and punjab, two of India’s most sophisticated states in culinary. The key that ties the two together?Mustard, an ingredient that is widely used in both cuisines. This is why the restaurant is named after the yellow spice. Having been accustomed to the bursting flavors of Indian cuisine, I find the food hereto be delicious in a more subtle way. Some of the dishes are very unique and different from what other Indian restaurants offer. Seafood figures prominently in bengali fares. The signature dish of the restaurant is chingrimaachermalai, a bengali specialty of prawns simmered in curry with coconut milk. The curry is an unusual shade of light green, spiked with cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. There are mildly spicy and sweet undertones in the milky gravy. If you are familiar with the Thai sweet green curry, this is like a less spicy version. What’s unique about this is that you can enjoy the curry with a scoop of malai (coconut flesh) scraped from the insides of the shell. Yum! Another bengali dish recommended by the restaurant is the maacherpaturi, consisting of snapper fish wrapped in banana leaf. I was surprised by the generous serving of the fish: a large and thick slab of boneless fish marinated with mustard paste, mustard oil and various spices. Despite the deep shade of yellow, the mustard taste is rather mild, with a slight tinge of bitterness. I don’t particularly like this one, although it’s one of the restaurant’s few signature dishes. For something from the state of punjab, there’s the chicken curry. In stark contrast to the fish, the portion given was extremely stingy with just four small chunks of chicken (and bone). I also found the curry masala gravy to be more salty than anything else. When the waiter came over to ask us about the food, I commented about the taste of the chicken gravy. On hearing this, he immediately brought it back to the kitchen and had it recooked. When he returned, the dish redeemed itself. The thick gravy was nicely spiced in a way that was delicious but not overpowering. Of course, every trip to an Indian eatery should end with a cup of masala chai (spiced tea). It is served unsweetened, which makes me wonder how people can drink it just like that. Sugar in masala chai is a must for me. It makes the drink drinkable and at the same time, brings out the rich flavor of the spices. At the end of the meal, we were given saunf (fennel seed) to chew as a mouth freshener. Having had the unpleasant experience of accidentally chewing on whole spice seeds in Indian gravy, I declined politely. I prefer spice to be all ground up as part of my food rather than a standalone. The box that it came in was very beautiful though, with ornate designs stamped on the metal body. One thing that I must highlight is that the restaurant is an unexpectedly perfect place for an intimate dinner date! The place is small and cosy, with candle lights on the tables and dim lighting from oil lamps hanging overhead. Nice, soothing music plays in the background, creating a calm and homely ambience. You know how bad service can really spoil the entire dining experience? At mustard, the waiters are always attentive, though never intrusive, rendering dedicated service to the diners. Great service is something I always appreciate. Housed in a row of shophouses along race course road with numerous other Indian restaurants, mustard faces stiff competition from bigwigs like muthu’s curry and other smaller players like itself. (Aside: did you know that race course road was named after Singapore’s first racecourse in 1842?) But if I were you, I would really give it a go 🙂
In one corner of Little India, there is a restaurant that uses mustard to add an exotic taste to its cuisine. The gratifying ambiance makes dining a pleasure.
FOR PEOPLE who enjoy Indian food, Race Course Road should be a familiar haunt. Tucked away in Race Course Road is a gem of an Indian restaurant. While finding an Indian restaurant in this area is not something spectacular, what is worth mentioning about Mustard is that it is the first restaurant in Singapore to serve Bengali food, in combination with more familiar Punjabi fare, like tandoor-grilled meat and baked breads commonly found in most North Indian restaurants.
While Bengali dishes differ from Punjabi cooking by its use of seafood and rice, the common thread between these two cuisines is the extensive use of mustard in their preparation, be it the flavourful seeds, aromatic oil, or full-bodied greens. This is also the reason for Radhika Abbi, who trained in Switzerland as a western chef, to name her restaurant, Mustard.
Mustard offers a comprehensive range of dishes on its menu, including a selection that caters to vegetarians. The menu highlights the different Punjabi and Bengali dishes.
For starters, we had Macher Cutlet with Kashundi ($6.90), Bengali fried bread-crumb coated fish-fillet with mustard sauce, as well as a Punjabi dish ReshmiSeekhKabab ($9.90), minced chicken and mutton mixed with spices and skewered and barbecued in a clay oven.
Although they looked ordinary, the generous pieces of fish fillet were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside without a hint of oil, and their flavour was enhanced by the freshly-prepared mustard sauce, which was much less pungent than the usual powder-blended variety.
The kebab would please most meat-lovers. It was cooked to a just-right consistency, without drying out the meat. The spices complemented the two meats well without overpowering their taste.
The highlights of the meal were the Sarson da saagteMakki di Roti ($11.90), a legendary Punjabi dish of pureed mustard greens served with maize bread, jaggery, fresh onion, and green chili; and the ChingriMaacherMalai Curry ($17.90), Bengal’s curried prawns served in a green coconut.
I thoroughly enjoyed the maize bread topped with Sarson da saag and jaggery, although the taste and texture of pureed mustard greens might initially take some getting used to.
The prawns were cooked to the right consistency and tasted fabulous with the coconut flesh, which you have to scrape off the shell. I could not get enough of the curry, gently fragranced with hints of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamoms, which went very well with the selection of naan and roti.
The other main course was the MacherPaturi ($13.90), de-boned fish marinated with mustard paste, mustard oil and herbs, steamed in banana leaf, which looked like Peranakan “Otah”. This dish paled in comparison to the prawns. However, on its own, this dish was cooked to perfection, with just the right mixture of aromas that did not overwhelm the natural flavour of the fish.
Mustard’s selection of Punjabi’s quintessential naan and roti also did not disappoint. Their chefs were not beyond experimenting with new flavours, and along with the usual choices, like Roomali Roti and Butter Naan, we also tried a lovely Pizza Naan that was flavoured with capsicum, onions, and cheese.
As someone who do not take well to spicy and oily food, I was thoroughly surprised that I enjoyed my meal, which was not really spicy and oily.
Mustard’s servings were very generous and most of the dishes we ordered were cooked to perfection, with a balanced blend of flavours that complemented but did not overwhelm the main ingredient. I was delighted to find out from Radhika that her chefs do not use artificial flavourings and preservatives in their cooking.
It is the sort of place where you can bring your business associates and friends, who appreciate cooking that is well executed. Mustard is conveniently located near the Farrer Park MRT station. There are ample parking lots along Race Course Road.
It’s not like there’s a shortage of decent Indian food along Racecourse Rd. But, naming no names (this time, at least), some places have been cruising on their reputation for too long. Eating at the busiest spots is usually a good indication that the place is worth visiting; but sometimes an almost-empty room can simply mean people don’t know what they’re missing out on. So it is with Mustard, a restaurant specializing in Bengali and Punjabi cuisine, occupying a modest space in the shadow of its bigger and better known neighbors. Eating here is a truly delightful experience; it might just be the best mid-priced Indian in town. The two regions are united by their love of one condiment: the titular mustard; but you’d hardly know it from the subtleties of flavor and wonderfully varied dishes on offer. We put ourselves in our waiter’s hands, and he certainly came up trumps (even if he did look somewhat distracted by the cricket world cup final unfolding as we ate: We forgave him, it was a real nail-biter after all). The undoubted star (of the meal, not the match) was the coconut prawn curry ($18.90), a rich and spicy dish served, unexpectedly, inside a coconut, and boasting prawns big enough to have us half-wondering how they’d squeezed them in: A ship in a bottle for discerning foodies. The boneless chicken curry ($15.90) was spicier still (to be fair, we had asked for it that way), but the meat was tender and we were still dipping our tandoori rotis ($2.90) in the sauce long after we should have admitted defeat. After all, we’d already made light work of the koshamansho (sautéed mutton curry, $15.90) which, while less of a spicy showboat, impressed everyone at the table. And the dishes kept on coming: A still simmering aloogobhi ($12.90) with great hunks of cauliflower; and a moreish dal tadka ($11.90), yellow lentils cooked to creamy, cumin perfection, which could have served as a meal in its own right. The food took its time to arrive—a good twenty minutes or more—but the menu had warned of this; and for an evening this good, we’d wait a lot longer. Hell, India waited 28 years for theirs.
$: Less than $40
$$$$$: $200 and up
Price per person, including one drink, appetizer, main course and dessert. Prices do not include bottles of wine unless stated. For 2011, our price bands have been updated to reflect changes in the market.
If you happen to stroll around Singapore and bump to a place like Little India, why not feast yourself for some traditional Indian cuisine then head straight for 32 Race Course Road, Singapore. Located on the eastern part of Serangoon Road enclave, the stretches of houses offers numerous eateries from big restaurants. The road which was named after a racecourse was part of Singapore’s early history in the 1840’s.
Mustard RestaurantLocated at the end of Race Course Road, yellow painted with its namesake, Mustard is a great place to dine for Indian cuisine. With ties of the Eastern State of Bengal and the Northern State of Punjab, the secret ingredient – Mustard is found commonly in many of its recipes. Bringing together the rich cuisines of two of India’s advanced culinary states; Mustard brings together the masterpiece where food is the essence of great food.
Owned and managed personally by Ms Abbi, a professional chef, experience a wide range of authentic dishes both from Bengal and Piunjab. The restaurant has been synonymous of becoming a favorite rendezvous with many of Singapore’s patron guests, tourists and clientele who seeks to enjoy quality food and wine in a cozy relaxed atmosphere.
Mustard is available for private hire for corporate events that includes events, wedding receptions, luncheon meetings, and also for parties.
Here at Mustard, catering is all about creating the right distinct taste suited to many of its patron. It does not only questions to the feeding of people but rather take it as a balance of healthy and tasty diet committed to serve in a comfortable and inviting atmosphere.
Mustard is well established for having a great reputation of fine dining, great food, service, and customer satisfaction in both public and private affairs from society. Mustard caters an impressive client portfolio catering to solutions specifically crafted to meet the varied needs of customers.
With diverse solutions and quality of food being served, Mustard is based on the same values and principles which are matched in terms of food, environment and its employees. For those who are always on a look out for quality food with new tastes and flavors, this little restaurant is rare find.
The name Mustard is not an anomaly for this Punjabi and Bengali restaurant. Mustard oil is the traditional cooking medium here and mustard spice, one of the seasonings extensively used in both cuisines.
But I was interested in the restaurant less for its food history and more for the fact that its food reminded me of a long-gone Punjabi restaurant in Singapore. Ujagar Singh located at the old St Gregory’s Place that used to serve kebabs and deep-fried spiced lamb chops, so well-loved that till today, people reminisce about it.
Despite being housed in a pokey space up some rickety stairs, people used to line up for a table just to eat its grilled meats that was served simply, unadorned with a fresh mint chutney.
Well, the good news is that this Punjabi restaurant, Mustard, also serves lamb chops and while it is not the same, it was as delicious, for the grilled chops masalewaliyanchaampan ($15.90) were fork tender and came smothered with a rich, spicy sauce. I would come back for it.
Their platter of mixed kebabs ($16.90) was also unusual. Mostly chicken kebabs, the seasoning for each version was different. Unusually, fish kebabs were also part of this offering.
By the way, kebabs and food cooked in a tandoor or clay oven are all part of Punjabi cuisine, unlike the food of Bengal, which focuses on fish and vegetable cookery. Both can be found here.
Another difference: the first are bread eaters, while rice is the staple in the second, though a delicious bread of luchi(a round deep-fried unleavened bread, $3.50) much like the puri, are also found on the Bengali table together with pratha, that flaky bread we all love, though these are probably from the north and are of recent advent.
You can get all these (and briyanis) at this restaurant which specialises in the food of these two Indian states. Both are border outposts, touted to be among the more culinary advanced of the sub-continent states.
The meal we had displayed impressive diversity and freshness and aside from the meats, there was also seafood. I loved their Bengali spicy prawn served in a green coconut ($18.90) Called chingrimaachermalai, it was fresh and came lightly bathed in a spicy coconut sauce.
If you are adventurous, try the typical Punjabi street food, sarson da saagtemakki – pureed bitter mustard greens served with fresh corn pancakes ($13.90). It comes on a tray together with raw onions, green chilli and unusually, soft brown sugar. It may sound an unlikely combination, but it tastes heavenly, eaten all together!
Or else, opt for their more-ish battered fish cutlets, macher cutlet with kashundi (mustard) sauce ($7.90) and once you taste the sweet and piquant sauce, you will understand the reason for the restaurant’s name.