Race Course Road is home to some of the behemoths of Indian eating in Singapore. I’m not just talking brands, but real estate as well. Muthu’s Curry, Banana Leaf Apolo, Sakunthala’s, Komala Vilas and, of course, Gayatri all boast humongous outlets that are all rather similar in their neon-fuelled glossiness (and grease-streaked windows). These are the flagships of Singapore’s Indian culinary empires, and they compete not just on size and taste, but on garishness and gimmickry as well.
Gayatri was full of gimmickry, but none of it behaved as it should. An auto-sliding door that partitioned off a private eating space released a flood of noise whenever triggered (which was often); tablets were pre-loaded with the menu, but the ordering function didn’t work (neither did the “call for service” console); a wall of neatly displayed wine bottles was offset by hawker-style containers of forks and spoons and bottled water atop each table; both restaurant and kitchen overflowed with service staff, necessarily so given the shortcomings of its technological infrastructure. I think you get the picture. It was flashy and tacky and inefficient; but strangely enjoyable at the same time.
Whilst Gayatri may be known for its fish head curry, it retains a good balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes that span the gamut of north and south Indian cuisines. Whilst the curries appeared to be quite well priced, it is clear that the starch, drinks, and desserts are where the margin is made. I shouldn’t complain, as we were given a free basket of papadums, despite them being listed in the menu as costing SGD 1.20. Wahey!
122 Race Course Road
The vegetarian set meal comes with white rice, two vegetable curries (pumpkin and bitter gourd), raita, rasam, a coriander-style rasam, and a sour yoghurt-like drink. My favourites were the rasam (more so because i’m not usually a fan – this one seemed slightly thicker than usual, and had a smooth, peppery taste), the bitter gourd curry (which had enough richness and character to be served as standalone dish), and the raita (which was refreshing and crunchy). The attention paid to the flavours of each dish was noticeable; one of the best vegetarian set meals I have had in a long time.
The photo doesn’t do this dish justice. The flavours of the curry were quite unique; in particular, it had a rich, almost caramel-like sweetness to it that was as surprising as it was enjoyable. Unfortunately the paneer let the dish down – it was far too soft, and resembled tofu more than it did a dairy product. Also comes in a larger size for SGD 13.00.
Expensive and uninspired, the naan was the most disappointing part of the meal. It looked and tasted like it had been heated up in an oven, and the presentation, as you can see, was devoid of panache. I would give this thing a 5.0, if only it wasn’t quartered. Why?!!
My favourite dish, although probably the least visually appealing. The rava was incredibly tasty, thanks to the generous inclusion of chopped onion, green chilli, and (whole) black peppercorns into the (nicely charred) batter. The masala filling was plentiful, and the three chutneys punched well above their weight in terms of flavour and freshness. It was served with a side dish of rasam, which had an inferior (and more sour) taste to that of the set meal.
Gayatri @ Race Course Road is one of those places where I like the food more than I like the restaurant itself. I wish they would stop trying to impress the customer with gimmickry, and focus on doing what they do best: providing good food at a good price. A tasty but slightly nonsensical experience overall.