Marketing should be followed up with reality, because otherwise you risk confusing your customers. That is something Flying Monkey, an "Indian tapas bar" that opened early this year, probably needs to figure out.
It gets the bar part right. With a bar counter taking up more than a quarter of its shophouse lot in Bussorah Street, and tiny tables more suited to bar snacks than dinner plates, it looks and feels like a drinking hole.
And the drinks menu boasts a number of bespoke cocktails with attention-grabbing names such as Monkey On Fire and Delhi Belly.
But the tapas part is questionable. The menu is divided into small plates and big plates, which is no different from the starters and mains you find in every other North Indian restaurant here. Even the plating looks the same, unlike at, say, Maziga in Clarke Quay, which presents its Indian tapas in creative ways.
That said, Flying Monkey - its name inspired by Hindu deity Hanuman, which takes the form of a monkey - boasts good traditional Indian cooking. The cuisine is pan-Indian, with dishes from various parts of the subcontinent.
The dish that makes my jaw drop, rather unexpectedly too, is Kurkuri Bhindi ($8), a common dish of deepfried okra that you find in many North Indian and Goan restaurants.
I have never encountered a chef who can get okra so crisp without burning it and turning it bitter. But the version here is perfect, the okra is paper-thin and dusted lightly with spiced gram flour that seasons the vegetable without masking its taste.
Another memorable moment comes at the end of the meal in the form of Jalebi ($10), also a common item. The texture of the sweet snack is so light it crackles and dissipates almost instantly in the mouth. It is too sweet for me, yet I find myself eating a whole piece of the golden, pretzel-shaped dessert just to enjoy the lovely sensation.
Other items may not be as outstanding, but are very good nonetheless. An example is the small plate of Tandoori Chicken ($10), with the bird well-marinated with yogurt and spices. I like that the pieces of chicken come on the bone and are firm, not mealy-soft.
Chilli Poppers ($10) are a good idea too. They are a version of Rajasthani mirchi vada, with large green chillies stuffed with potato masala, battered and deep-fried. They are delicious, but fiery.
The main dishes are lovely too, including a fork-tender Nalli Gosht ($26), where the lamb shank is slow-cooked in a spicy curry that you will want to mop up with the accompanying garlic naan.
The Butter Chicken ($18) is comparable to what you find in fine-dining restaurants and the tartness in its creamy tomato- based sauce provides a nice balance to the heavier lamb curry.
I find the fish in the Meen Kulambu ($24) tamarind curry a little too strong-tasting for me, though the curry itself is tasty. It comes with flakey and fluffy Malabar paratha that I heartily recommend.
67 Bussorah Street, tel: 6291-0695, open: noon to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 11pm daily
Food: 4/5 stars
Service: 3/5 stars
Ambience: 2.5/5 stars
Price: Budget about $50 a person, without drinks
Despite the unimaginative plating, the chef does come up with some interesting creations. Tulsi Cod ($15), with the fish fillets marinated with basil and charred in the tandoor oven, is a keeper. The oily fish is not commonly used in Indian cooking, but works well in this dish. It is moist, smooth and wellflavoured by the marinade of herbs and spices.
Given the bar vibe and noisy music, I would not recommend Flying Monkey for a family meal or business lunch. But it works as a place to hang out with friends or chill out with colleagues after work. And you do not have to adjourn somewhere else for a good and proper dinner after your cocktails.
• Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke and on Instagram @wongahyoke
• The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
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