The food’s good, but everything else is rubbish.
Muthu’s Curry was famed for its Fish Head Curry, a dish that’s so not Indian, it was almost uniquely Singaporean (and some would argue, Malaysian). It was the result of the coming together of two cultures who would otherwise never fraternize – the perfect confluence of Indian and Chinese to create a literal melting pot that celebrates the highlights of what the other had to offer. Like a food connoisseur, you used to recommend Muthu’s Curry with pride to the tourists seeking a taste of local flavor.
Banana Leaf crowded? What about the other one up the street? There are two Banana Leaf restaurants, they can’t be all crowded on a weekday afternoon, right? Oh, that’s crowded, too. Erm…Muthu’s Curry is just there. We could, could we? Yeah, they won’t know the difference. Muthu’s Curry’s not bad, too… This way, trust me, I’m Singaporean. It was that runner-up which you justified amongst your local compatriots that it wasn’t too big a step-down from Banana Leaf. It was just as good, if not better, and it had earned its place on the mantle.
Then, everything changed.
Muthu’s Curry remained in the city. You however, still wanted your fairly regular fix of curry. Sunday’s the best for roti prata, isn’t it? An early morning jog – nothing too strenuous, it’s Sunday after all. Then, a mouth-wateringly well deserved piping hot roti prata served with a rich, warm and delicious curry. You began savoring the new-found seeds of the heartland – the stepping-stones of what eventually polished into jewels…Casuarina Curry, The Roti Prata House, et al. They were homely, closer to home, and cheaper, too. Meanwhile, Muthu got starstruck, opened up in malls, went upmarket, and it slowly lost its allure in the hustle of Singapore. Not content with being a Singapore Indian classic, it tried its hand at being actually Indian, and in the process, lost its core audience. Food’s still good, but prices are now driven by exorbitant rentals.
This morning, I was awaken by a seemingly odd What’s App text. It was my mom, and she wanted to meet for lunch. It was her last day in the Marina Centre area before her office joins the exodus of the world’s international financial institutions back into the Raffles Place-Marina Bay district. So, I groomed myself, dressed to the nines, and headed downtown. Not literally, since there’s actually a new district in Singapore called “Downtown”.
Even though she was a little nonchalant about it, my mom seemed to have designated this particular lunch as, symbolic of sorts, insisting that, in her terms, “something we wouldn’t find elsewhere in Singapore”, which is “momspeak” for “let’s eat in a restaurant”. So, we headed to Suntec City, Singapore’s first megamall. Funded by capital from Hong Kong and Mainland China, Suntec City is an integrated development with retail, commercial and spaces for conventions and expositions. It was designed under fengshui characteristics, and its architecture inspired by the human hand, with the skyscrapers resembling the five fingers. The development is anchored by the Fountain Terrace located at the basement level at the centre of the palm, which is described by fengshui as auspicious. Whereas previously it was dark, even on the brightest of days, the refurbishment of the Fountain Terrace with its floor to ceiling windows directs scores of natural light into the food basement, giving it a wider sense of space. However, while the refurbishment is brilliant in parts, one issue continues to plague the mall – the outside. Singaporeans might complain about the heat of the outdoors, but in reality, they want the semblance of having the choice. Suntec City’s cooping up of mall-goers in an endless maze of endless corridors, and halls to yet more endless mazes of endless corridors, however pretty the decor is, is uninviting and claustrophobic.
I suggested L’Entrecote, but seeing the lunch specials of SGD 19.90+ and SGD 12.90+ respectively, she seemed to irk, not at the idea of having steak frites, but the price. We walked, and then some, but with everything else “available everywhere else”, we settled for Muthu’s Curry. The restaurant’s understaffed, and the primarily Indian (not too sure if they’re Indian Indian, Malaysian Indian or Singaporean Indian) staff lacked empathy, initiative or awareness really. They just did their job – as most overworked and underpaid wait staff would be – it was just made worse by the fact that there were no more than 5 wait staff for a really huge restaurant.
If you can stomach the comparatively high prices (SGD 4 for one portion of garlic naan, SGD 8 for palaak paneer, SGD 11 for a few pieces of chicken tikka) for dishes available at a fraction outside, it’s actually rather pleasant. Technically, the dishes were agreeable, and there was nothing that was specifically bad. In fact, the chicken tikka bordered on brilliant if not for the fact that the staff took 10 whole minutes to bring the rice over, causing the chicken to become cold. It was well spiced and well smoked, and the chicken was so tender, I thought it was raw (it wasn’t). The naans served, I’m sure, were excellent despite the price, but I wouldn’t know it because they were served cold, as well.
Chicken Tikka (top), Palaak Paneer (below)
Crispy Ladies Fingers (below)
I’m gonna go Gordon Ramsay on this. Great texture, good spice and wonderfully crisp, but I’m fucking insulted by the accompanying chili sauce served.
Garlic naan (below)
Once again, great spread of onion. The naan’s very Goldilocks: not too thin, not too thick, but this was fucking served cold. Not only is it fucking cold, it tasted as if it had been left for many hours. Come on, Muthu’s Curry! Even The Soup Spoon goes through the motion of warming up its naans in the thing.
All in all, I don’t think I want to come back? Someone should nominate Muthu’s Curry for Gordon Ramsay’s The Worst Restaurant, precisely because Muthu’s Curry has got such a rich heritage, it serves excellent food, but it’s so overpriced, quality control is horrid and the wait staff are hopeless, that overall, even though we’re not in December yet, I’ve to nominate Muthu’s Curry as my 2013 Worst Restaurant.