47 Chander Road
Call +65 6392 0513
As we take in this small 40-cover restaurant, a plate of crispy papadooms arrives with our order of the famous Indian Kingfisher beer. Bronze lamps bedecked with flowers remind us of Kerala, the fountain fringed by coconut palms as soft Indian classical music plays.
Running through the menu, we spot Indian staples like tandoori chicken and chicken butter masala. But the owner, Mrs Bindu Anil Kumar, presses us to try the Kerala specialties. We learn that all the spices are specially imported and ground to create masalas for each dish.
Our beer glasses are removed to make way for spiced buttermilk as we start off with a simple fish fry accompanied by light appams and crispy multi-layered Kerala parathas. Bubbling in its clay pot, the Malabar meen curry is placed at our table and the air fills with the fragrance of ground coriander seeds, roasted coconut, curry leaves and chillies as we sample this spicy, tangy fish curry with steamed rice.
Though not a fan of biryani, I am tempted to try it when our host explains that the South Indian version is quite different from the North Indian one, using the fine and delicately flavoured jeeraka chamba rice in place of long-grained basmati. Our thalaserri chicken biryani is light and moist, though the fish and goat biryanis are said to be more popular.
I survey the restaurant and notice that most of the diners are served their meals on banana leaves. I select the vegetarian meal, leaving the fish, chicken and mutton for another day. My leaf is filled with a mound of steaming nutty brown rice, three vegetables, some chutneys and pickles, a bowl of curds and a bowl each of sambar and rasam.
Swaadhisht, meaning tasty, is run by a housewife. What it lacks in bling and style is made up for by the warm and homey atmosphere, where the emphasis is on good food.