Yantra Celebrates Durga Puja with a Special Menu
Defining and Redefining Indian Cuisine
Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival which pays homage to the goddess Durga. Yantra’s Executive Chef, Phinaki Ray, (pictured) explains that Durga Puja is the biggest and most important festival that is celebrated in his home state of West Bengal. This year, the ten-day festival takes place in October and gives the Chef the opportunity to showcase the food that he enjoyed growing up in Calcutta.
“Along with friends, in 2003 we opened a Bengali Restaurant in Calcutta called 6 Balligung Place. At that time the city didn’t have a single stand-alone eatery exclusively serving Bengali cuisine,” Chef Ray explained. “The reason was that every family has their own recipes. So, if your food isn’t up to their standards, they won’t go. We researched every dish and recreated them with exacting care.”
Almost 20 years later 6 Balligung Place is still serving food with unparalleled tastes, which is created with fresh herbs and the best of local produce and seafood. It is that attention to detail that results in these engaging dishes.
Chef Ray wanted to see the world and so, with his wife, moved to Singapore. Among other places, he worked at Raffles Hotel before arriving at Yantra. “I spent 3 ½ years at Raffles Tiffin Room,” he relates. “We served very traditional Indian food and it was always considered one of the best Indian restaurants in Singapore.”
At Yantra they also do traditional North Indian food. “We don’t do fusion,” he points out.
For Durga Puja he created a special menu to give a variety of dishes and different tastes. The menu has options to choose from, but Farah and I were given every item on the list. In addition to making us very full it gave us an idea of what makes the food Yantra serves so special. If you think you know Indian food Yantra may surprise you.
Gusztav Toth, Group Beverage Operations Manager (pictured), recommended white and red wines to go with the meal. He presented us with a glass of white; Clarendelle Blanc de Haut that is a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle. “It has aromas often found in sweet white wines, with hints of apricot, white peaches, and grapefruit,” Gusztav explained. From my first sip it impressed me as ‘cold sunshine.’
The red was Botter Borgo Del Mandorlo Primitivo, Italy. "This is a full-bodied, rounded, and well structured,” Gusztav stated. “It is surprisingly soft and smooth. It is complex with tones of black fruit."
It was the complexity that impressed as did some of the food we were to enjoy. It also had that complexity that when slowly savoured presented layers of flavours.
But not all the dishes were like that, and it was their lack of complexity that proved to be their charm. It was so with the Doi Bora, which is noted to be ‘Kolkata’s favourite’. The
Doi Bora is yogurt with strawberry served in a small copper bowl. The strawberry not only adds colour but a hint of sweetness in the yogurt that is neither sweet nor savoury. Farah’s refined palate detected the cumin.
“Well walk me to the front door and back,” I think as the prawn and crab steamed in banana leaf (Kankra chingri bhapa) catches me by surprise. This is where the depth of flavour comes through as it does with the Chanar Paturi that is cottage cheese and mustard steamed in banana leaf. It is the mustard that really adds the zip to the subtler ingredients.
“The British brought mustard to Calcutta where, of course, the local ingredients and herbs and spices altered it to this more complex form.”
We are presented with the set that has ‘Slow cooked mutton bone’ (Kosha mangsho) which is close to what you would expect of traditional Indian food, as is the saffron rice with cashews and raisins.
The bread, like everything else, is perfectly done. It is light, soft and chewy. It goes so well with the dish, whether it is spicy or not, that you could easily consume it like your favourite snack food.
Discovering the fresh cottage cheese dumplings (Chanar Kalia) reminds once again that you are in the presence of a maestro who has created a symphony of tastes and textures. The sweet pulao, the Bengali luchi, cholar dal, chickpea panisse and home style mango chutney provides contrasting and balancing dishes. The mango chutney is cooling to the more spicy offerings.
It is not a crescendo that wraps up the meal but harmonious and silky tones of the cottage cheese dumplings in reduced milk (rosogollar payesh, lobongo lotika) drifting into the twilight.
Yantra combines modern with traditional. With food served in copper pots and on copper trays it lends an additional visual impression that is an important part of the presentation of the meal.
We highly recommend Yantra for dinner - at any time of the year.
163 Tanglin Rd, #01-28/33,
Tel: +65 6836 3088
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