It’s hardly a surprise to hear of new Indian restaurants opening in Singapore but one that marries woodfire with vibrant Indian flavours in a modern setting? Revolver might just be a first.
Set in a shop house on Tras Street, Revolver is unlike any Indian restaurants you’ve seen – it’s both an Indian restaurant and a grill house, albeit an unconventional one where Indian flavours are paired with internationally-sourced produce, cooked traditionally over the tawa (iron griddle), an open fire or in the copper-toned tandoori oven, and plated with contemporary finesse.
Some say that its industrial chic shop house outfit with marble-topped counter seats fronting a show kitchen reminds one of Burnt Ends. Maybe. But Revolver is bigger, roomier (they also offer booth seats and a chef’s table) and more dramatic, with a metallic black and grey palette accentuated with copper tones and an eye-catching copper-tinted cooker hood that will not look out of place as a ceiling decoration.
The fact that it’s helmed by executive chef Saurabh Udinia, a New Delhi native, says much about its gastronomic ambition. Udinia was the former sous chef of Indian Accent before he joined Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. as its corporate executive chef. It was there when he conceptualised, opened and operated a string of restaurants for the group including the lauded Masala Library.
While Masala Library is all about avant garde Indian fare, Udinia goes back to basics at Revolver, fielding dishes with familiar (and sometimes unfamiliar) Indian flavours bearing visible licks of char from his repertoire of Yarra woodfire grills and tandoori oven. Quite unexpectedly, Udinia does so via the tasting menu route.
A slippery slope if you ask me. In less experienced hands, an Indian tasting menu sometimes gets butchered with an overkill of spices but Udinia has it down pat. At Revolver, he offers three affordably-priced menus at dinner – Vegetarian (8 courses, $129++), Discovery (8 courses, $139++) and Experience (9 courses, $179++).; with wine pairing priced at $50++ for 3 glasses, $120++ for 5 glasses and $168++for the Experience pairing.
Judging from our Experience menu, the most extensive of the lot, the New Delhi chef demonstrates a gift in orchestrating spiced flavours to achieve what I consider to be of utmost importance in any carte blanche situation: balance.
His opening course of grilled courgette flower is stuffed with a seasonally-changing farce, during my visit a lightly spiced potato mash of turmeric, green chilli, garlic and shallots. On its stem, Udinia brushes over pickled mango for a whiff of refreshment and garnishes it with fennel pollen for a hint of licorice.
Chicken rarely gets top billing in restaurants. I get it, it’s exceptionally difficult to make chicken shine like a premium piece of wagyu steak does. But Udinia begs to differ with his tandoori skewered chicken thigh. Marinated in yoghurt, cardamom powder, coriander root and cashew nut paste, the reshmi kebab is grilled at a high heat for seven minutes until its exterior is gloriously clad in bits of char and a light crust that gives way to unusually velvety flesh within. Threatening to steal its thunder is the blob of intense Goan sambal – good enough to be bottled and sold, thanks to Udinia’s one-of-a-kind recipe that includes black pepper, curry leaves and balsamic vinegar.
Many guests who’ve been here rave about the wagyu Scotch egg. It’s really quite luxurious but I prefer the simpler appeal of the scallop dish. Hokkaido scallop is cooked directly on hot coals, 30 seconds on each side, and served with beurre blanc sauce prepared with pickled lemon, a traditional Indian condiment. Topped with finger lime and a sprig of ulam raja leaf, it’s not the most visually vivid dish but the scallop’s bright and citrusy flavours are supremely refreshing.
I adore Indian flatbreads and Udinia’s naan-like Parmesan kulchette is exceptional. Kulchette is a name Udinia gives to a smaller version of the unleavened north Indian flatbread usually stuffed with vegetables or meats. Here, he bakes the flatbread in the tandoor with Parmesan cheese so that it has hints of umami and serves it with a luxurious side of shredded Indonesian mud crab drenched in Malabar spices (mixture of coriander cumin, cloves, mustard seeds and other spices) enriched with a hint of coconut milk. The flatbread is deliriously delicious on its own but with the moist and spices-doused crabs, the combo is off-the-charts.
If you’ve not already noticed, Udinia has no snacks, no spheres, no foams and no sous vide machine in his playbook. His Indian flavours are pure and unadulterated, never fused. His plating is wilfully western and decidedly minimalist and on each plate, you will rarely see more than three (or four) core ingredients. His culinary thinking is progressive but his cuisine is down to earth, substantively emphasising substance (i.e. flavours) over style.
Apart from the somewhat restrictive two-turn timing (6pm or 8pm) at dinner, I can’t think of a reason why you should not put Revolver on your radar right now.
56 Tras Street, Singapore 078 995; +65-6223 6812; revolver.com.sg
© Evelyn Chen 2021
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.