The doors of Passage Thru India were swung open by a cheerful waiter dressed in traditional Indian robes, and gentle sounds of Indian music drifted our way. Spicy-sweet smells came seeping from the kitchen, filling the air with the essence of India. The bright patterned walls, lustrous draperies and colourful stained-glass chandeliers stirred my excitement. My eyes sparkled with anticipation; an authentic Indian meal was sure to follow.
A woven bowl of mini papadums, speckled with black sesame and fennel seeds, accompanied by a lime chutney bursting with zest and heat, and a gloriously green mint raita arrived to whet the appetite. Following that came a duo of standout starters.
The madras bhajji, authentically presented, piled high on the plate (rather than fried into a ball) was a popping red-orange colour from the chilli powder and garnished with crispy leaves of young basil. The onions were soft, mellow and strong with sweet paprika. Alongside was a thick, spicy dipping sauce.
The vegetable samosa was a spiced mix of potato and peas, enveloped in a well-seasoned crust, and served with a sweet mango chutney.
Next arrived three traditional copper bowls brimming with red, orange and pale green. The latter, a navratan kurma, was not greatly appealing on the eye; it was what I can only describe as bland-looking mush. However, the secret behind a great curry is all in the tasting and this was never more apparent that now. Creamy, light and smooth; the pale gravy concealed a complexity of flavour and an assemblage of crunchy, nutritious vegetables that could convert any carnivore. Having said that, I didn’t detect any fruits and nuts as advertised. In the murgh tikka butter masala, an extremely succulent and flavourful chicken shone through a creamy tomato gravy that was fragrant with turmeric, paprika and coriander, and garnished with a swirl of refreshing yogurt. The Rogan gosht contained nuggets of lamb the fell-apart on the tongue. Although still only a mild heat, this was the spiciest of the three dishes.
To absorb the lashings of velvety gravy, we ordered the plain briyani rice, gently flavoured with cardamom; naan, pungent with raw garlic; and a paratha, enticingly waxy, but a little yeasty in flavour.
The mango lassi and masala tea obligingly calmed the heat between mouthfuls and seemed to build in flavour with each sip. The masala tea was milky, sweet and abounding with spices that lingered on my tongue long after my last sip, sending me on my way with a taste of India.
Passage Thru India
No. 9, Jalan Setiapuspa
Open 11:30-14:45 & 18:40-22:45 daily.