Food Review: Hearty Indian Cuisine in a Classy, Colonial-Era Setting

Experience the flavours of India at this cosy outlet.

I still think of the Batata Vada Pav with fondness. When I’m alone and starving, I tend to think of it with greed. The Bombay street food, also known as Bombay burger, comes on a silver platter at Frangipaani, the latest Indian restaurant in town, located at Republik in Damansara Heights.

The Vada Pav is a simple, spiced potato patty sandwich that is served with fresh mint chutney, fragrant fried garlic and sweet, tangy and savoury tamarind chutney. You drench the patty in these condiments, and more of the tamarind chutney because it brings the dish together in a well-rounded balance, and eat it like a burger, in this case, a vegetarian burger. You could take a bite on the fried green chilli, also served on the same platter, for an added punch of heat. Each mouthful is a comforting explosion of delight. I don’t think about how the carb is hitting the corners of my hip, and there are no burdensome thoughts of hitting the gym either. It is this experience that sealed the deal for me at Frangipaani.

My comfort food – the Batata Vada Pav.

The Menu

Featuring predominantly Northern Indian dishes, Frangipaani’s menu also expands to favourites from all over India, including Goa. So, you’ll also see on the menu dishes like Malabar Chicken Kurma, Goan Mango Red Fish Curry, Crab Chettinad and Rasmalai, a Bengali dessert from Kolkata, which features rice dumplings poached in saffron and caramelised milk.

Apart from a sumptuous selection of Briyani, appetizers, grills, vegetarian, meat and fish selections, the food menu also has a section for breads and rice, including grain-free option like quinoa. If you’re looking into indulging in the rich curries without the added carb or have certain dietary restrictions, it’s good to know that you have this alternative.

There is also a kid’s menu if you’re dining with children who may not share your enthusiasm for spices. The one-plate meals on this menu, which includes classics like Paneer Tikka and Chicken Lollipop, are carefully crafted to be smaller in portion, with  lesser use of spices, without flavour compromises.

Read: HOW TO CHOOSE THE HEALTHIEST RICE FOR YOU

Creamy, seamless blend of spices in this Butter Chicken.

What We Ate

Our menu for the review kicks off with the Tomato Soup (RM15), a delicately herbed, warm soup that’s served with a side of toasts. It’s comforting, and the clever uses of spices, opens up the appetite for the rest of the dishes. My colleague, Seema, who is with me at this review, loves the Lamb Galawati (RM34+). The minced lamb, spiced patties, which sit atop dainty taftan bread, topped with pickled onion ring for balance, are soft and juicy, at each bite.

The main spread – Butter Chicken, Dhall, Raita, Lamb Rogan Josh, Mutton Dum Briyani and Malai Kofta.

The main cluster of meals is brought to us on a platter. Two baskets of bread, Mutton Briyani (RM42+), Butter Chicken (RM38+), Rogan Josh (RM45+), Malai Kofta (RM32+) and Mum’s Daal (RM28+).

“Everything is freshly cooked upon order at this restaurant. Even if it’s a simple rasam, the spices are mixed and done upon order. That’s why it’s all very fresh and hot when we bring it out,” says Frangipaani founder, Erina.

We dig into the little (and yet, deep) pots of curries, with a side of bread. I particularly like the Butter Chicken. For one, this version lacks that irksome artificial red colouring, often used in some restaurants to give it that vibrant vermilion shade. Whilst the tomato-based gravy is rich in flavour and creamy, it’s not too much, to the point of making me feel queasy. Seema takes an immediate liking to the Rogan Josh, and I can see why. The mutton dish is so tender and well spiced, and it goes well with everything.

Mum’s Dhall, which has a base of three variety of lentils, is very special to Erina because it’s a recipe used at her household. It’s simple, delicious and hits all the spots for us, and it goes splendidly well with the Mutton Briyani.

Frangipaani’s version of Malai Kofta has a rich gravy base of cashew and almond. The nut base gravy is spiced with herbs like cardamom, cinnamon and clove, and the flavours are very well absorbed into the paneer and potato dumplings that star in the dish. Perhaps, this North Indian dish with origins from the Mughlai cuisine, is a little sweet on the palate for our liking.

Indian-Themed Cocktails

Chai Martini, anyone? The vodka-infused masala tea mix and St. Germain, is a light, easy-to-drink cocktail that actually goes well with the spices of the Indian dishes. For a refreshing pick, go for the gin-based Kachumber Cooler which combines cucumber, jalapeno and fresh cilantro leaves. I find the Indian Passion an acquired taste. The vodka-based cocktail treads between refreshing and savoury due to the Jal Jeera mix infusion and a raw, red chilli, sliced lengthwise that is used as a stirrer in this. It’s mildly savoury on the palate, reminding me of the earlier tomato soup, and finishes off with a hint of heat!

(from left) The Indian Passion and Kochumber Cooler.

The Interior Feels 

The restaurant, which is part of the Olive Tree Group, seats about 90 people. It includes a patio dining area that can take up to 20 guests. With a floor to ceiling dark wood feel, a bar and segmented seating areas, the interior is meant to exude colonial-era vibes. If you’re looking to booking a romantic dinner date, I am told to ask for table number B7, which has an awesome sunset view in the direction of the National Science Centre. Over the weekend, the grand piano that sits at the centre of the restaurant, goes on duty, for an even cosier setting.

Floor to ceiling wooden interior.

Frangipaani is open daily for lunch and dinner. Call 03-2011-0030 for booking.

The balcony sitting area is great for a small, intimate party.