Think of Indian food, and it’s North Indian classics such as biryani and tandoori chicken or South Indian essentials such as dosai and banana leaf spreads that likely come to mind. But that barely scratches the surface of what the cuisine has to offer.
In recent years, modern Indian cuisine in Singapore has taken the spotlight, led by restaurants such as the two-Michelin-star Thevar and Firangi Superstar, which describes itself as “a foreigner’s love letter to India”. While relative newcomers to the scene, their long waitlists and focus on contemporary Indian cooking place them in prime position to broaden perceptions on what defines the cuisine.
These restaurants take bold approaches that allow diners to experience new dimensions to Indian cooking. Whether through pairing uncommon ingredients with traditional techniques or by introducing inflections from an entirely different culture, the mod-Indian movement in Singapore today is anything but predictable – as these seven restaurants show.
1. Ms. Maria and Mr. Singh
For a bicultural marriage of flavours
The vibe: Nestled in the lively Tanjong Pagar neighbourhood, Ms. Maria and Mr. Singh distinguishes itself from the pack with its bold blue walls and laid-back interior that conjure up images of a rustic cantina. It’s clear that this establishment borrows more from Mexico than just its flavours.
The chef’s philosophy: “At Ms Maria & Mr Singh, we are marrying two cuisines, Indian and Mexican, and embracing their culinary diversity to create new taste profiles and approaches. It is the fusion of traditional recipes with international flavours and foreign ingredients such as the Mexican chiles and salsas, which results in inventive dishes.” – Head Chef Hernán Rydo Anton
Star dishes: Start light with the Ms. Maria & Mrs. Singh ceviche – marinated barramundi, Hokkaido scallops and prawns come together in a classic Peruvian dish that’s topped with crispy yam and pickled cucumber. For something that truly exemplifies the restaurant’s approach to fusion, try their vindaloo pork tacos: pulled pork in a vindaloo sauce topped with pineapple salsa and served on a pair of flour-cheese tortillas.
Why it’s different: “We emphasise the use of fresh seafood, local and organic vegetables, resulting in healthier and more nutritious dishes,” explains Anton. “Especially with our salsas and leches (a Peruvian citrus-based marinade also known as tiger’s milk) that are prepared daily to give our diners the freshest taste possible. Aesthetics also play a crucial role in modern cuisine, as food is presented in a deconstructed manner.”
Ms. Maria & Mr. Singh, 43 Craig Road
An intimate affair highlighting Latin-Indian fusion
The vibe: Just around the corner from Ms. Maria & Mr. Singh on the second storey of a shophouse unit, Barood is an intimate, softly-lit space that’s an excellent date night spot for adventurous gourmands.
The chef’s philosophy: “My philosophy for both Barood and Revolver has always been to showcase true Indian flavours and ingredients,” says head chef Saurabh Udinia about his two establishments, Latin-Indian izakaya Barood and open-fire grill restaurant Revolver (next on this list and just downstairs from Barood). “It’s important for the cooking and flavours to be spot on. At Barood, the food is a smart, unique mix of Latin and Indian flavours, with a focus on tawa (hot plate dishes) served in pans.”
Star dishes: As an introduction to Barood’s fusion flavours, opt for the spiced paneer taco – a vegetarian-friendly riff off a street food classic that’s stuffed with mashed paneer and topped with tangy coriander and lime aioli. The duck rice cakes served with tomato chutney is the restaurant’s take on paniyaram, a type of ball-shaped snack usually made with fermented rice lentil batter.
Why it’s different: “I’d say my cooking techniques and flavours help me stand out. I have travelled often throughout India and stayed in different regions. The food at Barood (and Revolver) is inspired by what I have learnt from homes and kitchens where I’ve stayed, cooked, and eaten. Generally, Indian restaurants outside of India only serve a bunch of dishes confined to curries, biryanis, dals and breads. I don’t think that represents Indian food at all. There are hundreds of different cuisines in India which I want to bring to the global platform to show the world what real Indian food is.” – Udinia
Barood, 56A Tras Street
Championing flame-licked flavours anchored by tradition
The vibe: Set right below its sibling establishment Barood, Revolver boasts sleek, stylish and modern interiors – but the main grill is undoubtedly the centrepiece that distinguishes the restaurant. Park yourself at the bar counter for front row seats to the spectacular cooking on display.
The chef’s philosophy: At Revolver’s open kitchen, fire quite literally takes centre stage. It’s reflected in the menu as well, with almost all dishes cooked using fire-based techniques. The restaurant is also helmed by Head Chef Saurabh Udinia, so naturally its offerings are intrinsically Indian in flavour and technique.
Star dishes: For this season, the chef recommends grilled Hokkaido scallops. An uncommon ingredient in Indian cooking, these flame-grilled scallops come served over a classic Kerala-style moilee (a rich, creamy yellow curry). Other innovative dishes that highlight Revolver’s fire-kissed cuisine are the plantain kebabs in kachampuli (a kind of fruit vinegar) sauce and the rock lobster Manchurian with egg fried rice.
Why it’s different: “Revolver is unique because of its focus on fire-based cooking, as well as our dynamic menu, which changes seasonally to reflect the best and freshest produce at any given time.” – Head Chef Saurabh Udinia
Revolver, 56 Tras Street
“Indian flavours by way of the Malay Peninsula”
The vibe: Thevar’s dining space easily stands out among the rows of wine bars along Keong Saik street, with its sharp lines and soft lighting that highlight its striking wood and marble interior. The open kitchen concept also affords diners a peek at the chef’s modern culinary techniques.
The chef’s philosophy: Helming the two Michelin-star Thevar is the eponymous Penang-born Chef Mano Thevar. His recipes are familiar and nostalgic and he describes them as representative of “Indian flavours by way of the Malay Peninsula”.
Star dishes: Thevar offers a seasonal Chef’s menu that’s regularly refreshed. This season, you’ll begin your meal with starters like a blue prawn vada chilli toast and an intriguing strawberry chaat. Mains include Mysore spiced rack of lamb or Tajima wagyu beef served with salna (gravy) and chilli thogayal (chutney).
Why it’s different: Thevar’s cuisine is anchored by the chef’s memories of growing up in Penang. Its menu is inspired by the dishes of his childhood, but elevated through modern European techniques that he’s learned on his culinary journey. While many modern Indian restaurants draw inspiration from the Indian subcontinent, Thevar’s cues come from much closer to home.
Thevar, 9 Keong Saik Road
5. Firangi Superstar
A theatrical Bollywood-inspired dining experience
The vibe: A relatively new addition to the Tanjong Pagar neighbourhood, Firangi Superstar channels old-school Bollywood glamour with a touch of colonial-era design. Its four themed rooms are styled after an Indian palace, a jungle hunting lodge, an officer’s lounge and a Wes Anderson-esque railway car – which should give guests a sense of the fun and flamboyance that await them here.
The chef’s philosophy: “At Firangi Superstar, we want our guests to experience India through another lens. The flavours are authentic to memories of classic dishes and journeys past, but the execution is entirely new. We honour Indian cuisine by evolving it with an innovative eye and a bold modern approach that’s mixed with freshness and creativity.” – Head Chef Raj Kumar
Star dishes: Firangi Superstar’s ethos is most apparent in dishes like the Cheezi Freezi and the Bengal Bake-off. The Cheezi Freezi is the chef’s take on paneer jalfrezi. A creamy Italian burrata takes the place of paneer and the classic jalfrezi sauce is presented in the style of gazpacho, with the addition of charred and smoked peppers and cumin honey. The Bengal Bake-off is a riff on the classic Bengali fish paturi. French seabass is marinated in yellow mustard seeds, mustard oil and green chillies. Instead of the traditional method where it’s wrapped in banana leaf and baked, Firangi Superstar’s version has it baked in a salt crust.
Why it’s different: Firangi Superstar’s flamboyant, whimsical interiors mirror the chef’s culinary journey through India, representing various facets of the country as viewed through the lens of Bollywood films – it almost feels like an attempt to bring the diner on that same journey.
Firangi Superstar, 20 Craig Road, #01-03
Unabashedly playful takes on mod-Indian cuisine
The vibe: Vibrant Pop Art murals and bold retro furniture make it immediately apparent that there’s nothing stuffy about this hidden gem in the heritage neighbourhood of Kampong Glam – they herald the playful, irreverent culinary experience to come.
The chef’s philosophy: For Head Chef Manjunath Mural, Modern Indian is all about taking ingredients and flavours that are not native to the sub-continent and adding a traditional flair to it. Mural also considers sustainability as a core pillar to his approach.
Star dishes: The butter chicken pot pie is a highlight here, especially with its dramatic tableside presentation. “It’s an elevated take on the traditional butter chicken that’s topped with flaky pie pastry and slow cooked in the oven,” says Mural. “We also cut it open tableside and the steam, aromas and the experience of this interactive dish is something guests really enjoy.” Another specialty here is the restaurant’s whimsical take on pani puri which, as a nod to its street food origins, comes served on a little push cart. “This dish exemplifies our philosophy that life is not serious – it’s colourful and fun.”
Why it’s different: Chef Mural emphasises a personal connection with his guests, sharing, “I enjoy speaking to my customers to understand their likes and their dislikes, and using that to inspire my menu creation process. My cooking is thus in part inspired by local tastes, and this gives a modern twist to the traditional Indian flavours that I work with.”
ADDA, 7500E Beach Road, #01-201 Diners Building
A feast fit for Indian royalty
The vibe: Shikar stands as a change of pace among the raucous Korean restaurant bars along Tanjong Pagar. The restaurant leans fully into its Raj-era concept with plush seating upholstered in animal prints of leopard, jaguar and peacock. Murals of hunting parties and gold trimmings add a luxurious flair that will make you feel like royalty.
The chef’s philosophy: Shikar’s Head Chef Surjan Singh (also known as Chef Jolly) has had a storied culinary career that includes a stint as judge for MasterChef India. He’s also been personally tutored in the royal court kitchen of Indian nobility. Naturally, Shikar’s concept is inspired by the grand feasts held by Indian royals in the past.
Star dishes: Shikar’s menu is geared towards communal dining. Highlights of the charcoal tandoor and josper grill section of the menu include lotus leaf roasted whole fish with tamarind, chillies and a caramelised onion-tomato rub. There’s also the Hawke’s Bay New Zealand Green Pastures-raised red deer tenderloin that’s especially thematic for an Indian feast of old. For the curries, opt for something a little offbeat like black tiger prawns, mussels and scallops in a creamy coconut curry.
Why it’s different: Shikar’s dishes might incorporate modern ingredients and techniques, but the flavours here are very much anchored to traditional Indian feasts. Its large format dishes and communal dining experience also distinguish itself from other modern Indian restaurants that favour personal and tapas plates.
Shikar, 2 Cook Street at Maxwell Reserve, Autograph Collection