RESTAURANT REVIEW

Maziga Cafe in Clarke Quay updates traditional Indian dishes while keeping their flavours

Maziga Cafe in Clarke Quay updates traditional favourites without robbing them of their flavour

Cafes often bring to mind a generic menu of sandwiches, burgers, salads, pastas, main courses of pan-fried or grilled fish and meat, and desserts.

But you will not find those at Maziga Cafe, which opened in Clarke Quay last month.

That's because the eatery has an Indian menu created by Javed Ahamad, executive chef of the upmarket Punjab Grill in Marina Bay Sands, a restaurant known for its modern take on northern Indian cuisine.

Maziga Cafe - as its name suggests - is a much more casual place, but the cooking boasts a similar direction: Traditional Indian dishes are updated without being robbed of their flavour.

The cafe is located below the Bollywood Club, which is opened by the same owners, and the menu is planned with clubbers in mind.

  • MAZIGA CAFE

  • 01-10 The Cannery, Clarke Quay, 3C River Valley Road, tel: 6253-7307

    Open: Noon to 1am daily

    Food: ****

    Service: ***

    Ambience: ***

    Price: Budget from $40 a person, without drinks

So you find a selection of Indian tapas or small bites to be shared around the table. However, unlike Spanish tapas, which are served on small plates, the ones here come in more substantial servings.

For the Tandoori Garma Garam Prawns ($18.90), for example, there are four large prawns, each sitting on a mound of bright-yellow seafood pilaf rice and topped with kaffir lime foam.

The rice is cooked softer and wetter than usual, perhaps to make it easier for the lump to stay in shape, but it tastes deliciously of seafood stock.

The flavour of kaffir lime in the foam is not very evident, but the dish works nonetheless, with the tasty, crunchy tandoori prawn going perfectly with the rice.

The Miyan Hyderabad Chicken 65 ($13.90) comes as seven bite-sized pieces, each on a skewer. The meat is fried with chilli and curry leaves and comes coated in what the cafe calls a "bloody merry ketchup", a tomato-based sticky sauce that is sweet and spicy.

Another tapas I order, Jerky Lamb Ribs ($22.90), is a platter of tender baby lamb ribs marinated in spices and roasted in the oven. They are served with crispy masala potato wafers, but the meat is good on its own too. It's best eaten using your hands, tearing the meat off the bone with your teeth - which I do with little effort.

The Burger ($10.50 for three small ones) is filled with lamb galouti kebab in place of the usual beef patties.

However, I am not fond of galouti kebab because the lamb is often ground so finely that the patty dissolves in the mouth. I prefer minced meat that is left with some bite, but if you do not, you may like these mini burgers that are presented in a small chest like treasures.

The burgers come with potato wedges that are lightly spiced, which I like for their crisp edges and fluffy insides.

The main courses appear more conventional at first, served in small pots like in typical Indian restaurants, but look more closely and you find they are not that traditional after all.

The San Marzano Murg Makhai ($15.90), for example, looks like a traditional butter chicken, but it is cooked with San Marzano plum tomatoes, which are used more often in Italian cooking.

It is very good butter chicken, with tender pieces of meat simmered in a rich, creamy curry. The bit of tartness that comes from the tomatoes makes you forget how heavy it is.

Still, do not make my mistake of slurping up the gravy. Because it is packed with butter and cream, I find my stomach soon feeling like there is a rock in it.

The Baked Khumb & Palak ($17.50) is also an unconventional mix of ingredients with ricotta cheese, baby spinach and mushrooms baked with saffron korma. The cheese gets gratinated on top, but dig your spoon deep into the pot and you discover mushroom chunks and soft spinach in a creamy sauce that is comforting and satisfying.

My dining companions and I also dig into it spoon by spoon till the pot is empty. By that time, we are so stuffed, we cannot find any room for dessert.

Which is why even intriguing concoctions such as Rasmalai Tiramisu ($11.50) will have to wait for another visit.


• Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke

• The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'Indian dishes cafe-style'. Print Edition | Subscribe