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Restaurant Review

New chef Hemant Oberoi is Yantra’s winning edge

At Yantra by Hemant Oberoi, you will find ingredients such as quinoa, cod, duck, truffle and asparagus in its dishes

In the eight years since it opened, Yantra has gone through a number of chefs, some more successful than others.

But chef Hemant Oberoi, who recently joined the restaurant as a partner, may well propel it to the top of the fine-dining Indian restaurants here.

He has not only overhauled the menu, but has also changed the name of the restaurant. Reopened about two weeks ago after a month-long renovation, it is now called Yantra by Hemant Oberoi.

The chef, who retired as corporate chef of the Taj Group of Hotels last year after a 41-year career, is based in Mumbai but plans to travel here regularly to check on the restaurant and introduce seasonal dishes.

The menu now comprises entirely his creations, some of which can be found in his cookbook The Masala Art: Indian Haute Cuisine (2011). They are not your usual North Indian restaurant fare, but dishes taken from all over India and updated either in the choice of ingredients or the way the food is presented.

So you find ingredients you do not see in most Indian restaurants here: cod, duck, truffle and asparagus.


  • YANTRA BY HEMANT OBEROI

  • 163 Tanglin Road, Tanglin Mall 01-28/33,
    tel: 6836-3088, open: Noon to 3pm daily, 6.30 to 10pm(weekdays), 6.30 to 10.30pm (weekends)

    Food: 4/5 stars

    Service: 3.5/5 stars

    Ambience: 3/5 stars

    Price: Budget from $100 a person for a la carte. Weekday lunch buffet is $29.50 a person and weekend brunch starts from $49 a person to $115 a person with free flow of Laurent Perrier champagne

In fact, one of my favourite dishes is the Quinoa Chaat ($20), which comprises a refreshing quinoa salad topped with a crispy avocado and tamarind chutney puff.

The puff is a typical chaat, a collective name for the roadside snacks in India. But the salad, though lightly spiced to give it an Indian character, is unusual in the use of quinoa, a very nutritious grain that until recently was found mainly in Peruvian cuisine.

The salad, which also has diced onions and tomato, is delicious, with savoury-sour flavours that are very appetising. It not only tastes better than the chaat, but is nutritious to boot.

Even traditional dishes turn out a little different from what you get at other restaurants here. An example is the Chicken Biryani ($40), which is cooked and served in a glass pot that can withstand high temperatures in the oven. It is delicious, especially when eaten with the accompanying raita or yogurt sauce. There is also a version with lamb - Lucknavi Gosht Biryani.

Like with most of the dishes, the flavours are robust and distinct, but not heavy. The spices add oomph to the flavours, but without overwhelming other ingredients.

If you want something with more chilli heat, I'd recommend the Maartaban Ka Meat ($40), which is a lamb curry simmered in a ceramic jar. The curry is thickened from hours of cooking and the meat is fork tender. The heat of chillies is tempered with a little piquancy, so though you feel the burn, it is not one-dimensional. All in all, this is certainly a winning dish.

For something milder, try the Fish Goa Curry ($42). The pieces of fish are smooth and soft, and the coconut milk-based gravy is light - and good - enough to drink. It is delicious with rice too.

I love garlic and it is showcased well in the Prawns Butter Garlic ($42). The prawns themselves are crunchy in a suspiciously unnatural way, but I will overlook that because they are tossed in an amazing sauce laced generously with minced garlic that has been fried until aromatic, losing its sting in the process.

Only one dish among those I have tried does not work for me - the Chicken Tikka Fondue ($38). The pieces of chicken tikka, marinated in spices and yogurt then cooked in a tandoori oven, are good on their own. And the cheese fondue, lightly spiced with chilli and cumin, is tasty too. But combined, the cheese gets overwhelmed while the flavour of the chicken gets diluted.

So while the idea is novel and the presentation is interesting, this fusing of two culinary traditions sounds better on paper.

But another East-West marriage is a blissful one. In Gulab Jamun Tiramisu ($19), the syrup-soaked balls of milk solids are immersed in the creamy mix of mascarpone cheese, eggs and sugar that is used for the Italian dessert.

The combination is marvellous, especially as the sugar level in the gulab jamun, a popular North Indian dessert, is tuned down to blend with the cheese.

The restaurant serves a buffet lunch and weekend brunch, which offer very good value. But a la carte dishes are where the chef best shows off his creativity - though they do come at a much higher price.

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• 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 May 22, 2016, with the headline 'Indian food gets an update'. Print Edition | Subscribe