Tucked away at a corner of Tanglin Mall, my favorite shopping centre, is Yantra, a 138 seater Indian restaurant. Yantra in Sanskrit means, a medium by which you can connect to a higher power. Yantra certainly connected me to fine North Indian cuisine. The ambience was all energy and mysticism and the décor elegant - mahogany colored tables, immaculate china ware and crisp linen covered chairs. To complete the ambience was the nice looking charming waiters!
The restaurant had an open kitchen and one could see the custom made tandoor ovens standing behind a glass enclosure proudly. The menu was extensive – created by the Executive Chef Chintan Pandya. Chef Chintan in his early 30s is very enthusiastic about Indian cuisine and you can see it in his eyes and hands as he speaks about food and spices. He had his culinary training at the revered Oberoi Centre of Learning & Development in India. There, he trained under some of the finest chefs from the best hotels in the world.
I started off my journey by sipping a glass of Aam ka Panna. Although in theory it sounded very simple to make this drink, you must get it right. The drink was made of cooked raw mango blended together with a hint of cumin, mint and coriander and fizzed up with soda. It was certainly very refreshing on a hot day – well in India they drink this during the hot summers. My lunch companion had the Water Melon Martini that was equally refreshing as an afternoon cocktail. For starters we tried the Yantra Chef’s Platter that came plated tastefully – a combination of chicken, lamb and seafood. The Murgh Malai Kebab was a melt in the mouth morsel of chicken marinated in cream, spices and cheddar cheese and then baked in the tandoor!! This Murgh Malai Kebab is a must have for any kebab lover and is a delight. The Mutton Seekh Kebabs were succulent and flavorful pieces. The Pudina Aur Murabbe Ka Paneer Tikka, an Indian cottage cheese filled with mint and mango chutney and cooked in the tandoor was extraordinarily nice and I wondered why……..at Yantra they make their own panneer, the Indian cottage cheese!! Paneer places an important role in an Indian vegetarian’s life as it is rich in calcium and proteins. Pudina (mint) is also high in iron, phosphorus and vitamins and it is usually made into a sauce or chutney. It is quite common to find tandoori paneer served with mint sauce but at Yantra, the mint chutney is sandwiched in the paneer and then baked in the tandoor – making it extra special. The Burrah Chop was certainly a big piece of tender, well marinated lamb chop. I could taste the warm flavors of garlic, cumin and other spices along with lemon juice.
We also tried some samplings of Chaats. Chaats are Indian appetizers and snacks usually sold in the streets. At Yantra, we tried small portions of attractively portioned Dahi Wada, Sev Puri, and Samosa Chaat. I enjoyed it very much especially the sweet and sour tamarind sauce.
The Lucknowi Dum Chicken Briyani was cooked in a porcelain bowl topped with a pastry. Apparently the mildly spiced chicken and the aromatic long grain rice were baked with a pastry (pardah as it is called in the menu) covering to preserve the full flavor and aroma of the briyani. The Dhuan Gosht sold at $35, immerses savory lamb cubes dry roasted in a pan with freshly pounded spices, cooked overnight over slow charcoal fire and smoked with clove. This was certainly a first time dish for me and I was quite surprised by the fact that there was a piece of glowing charcoal in the pot which was removed by the waiter just before serving us the dish – the meat tasted smoked and had an interesting flavor. The Murgh Makhani, commonly known as ‘butter chicken’ is tender succulent pieces of chicken gently simmered in a rich and creamy tomato based curry. This dish is truly a delicious taste of heaven. The Kadhai Paneer was nothing special except for the fact that Yantra makes its own paneer. The Dal Yantra was made of whole black dhall that had been simmered overnight over charcoal stove with tomatoes and spices and finished with a tempering of ghee and cream. It was very flavorful and rich tasting. Along with the above dishes, we also tried several types of fluffy naans.
Paan is an ethnic Indian chew usually served at the end of an Indian meal and ceremonies such as weddings, receptions. Paan is believed to help in digestion of curried foods and also act as mouth fresheners and it is usually made several flavorful ingredients and betel leaf. For dessert, I ordered the Meetha Paan Ki Kulfi – basically icy cold kulfi flavoured with blended paan items like betel leaf, preserved rose petals, candied fruit and fennel seeds and reduced milk. It was a refreshing taste from the usual mango and pistachio kulfis you get at many restaurants.
My favorite dessert at Yantra was Mango Rasmalai! If I was not full with all the above food, I would have ordered a whole plate of mango rasmalai and ate it all on my own…….mmmm yum yum. Rasmalai is a Bengali dessert consisting of soft paneer balls immersed in chilled rich creamy milk flavored with cardamom powder and chopped nuts. At Yantra, the paneer balls (known as rasgullas) were halved and topped with juicy sweet mango cubes. One bite and I let my senses float – a true sweet tooth experience.
By far, I think Yantra has the most number of Indian desserts in its menu for an Indian restaurant, unless I am proven wrong. The waiters are knowledgeable, engaging and go out of their way to help. This restaurant is ideal for intimate events and large corporate functions with elegant alfresco seating and private dining facilities.
163 Tanglin Road