Truffle Hunting in the Tuscan Hills
The thrill is in both the treasure and the chase.
A drink from the bar at Singapore’s Firangi Superstar.
DESCRIBED AS “a love letter to India,” Singapore’s Firangi Superstar is a contemporary Indian restaurant that provides a truly cinematic dining experience. On a recent visit, I found myself completely caught off guard by how uniquely transportive the space revealed itself to be. Moving through the restaurant, each themed room offers a surprise: the stately officer’s club, the old railway room that resembles a moving train car, the plush jungle lodge, and the gold-gilded elephant palace. The entire place is packed with vintage photographs, elaborate bespoke wallpaper featuring preening peacocks and Day-Glo tigers, all manner of animal statuary, deep leather banquettes, velvet seating, and a selection of antique muskets mounted to the walls. It’s an appropriately sumptuous setting for Firangi’s food and drink offerings, which are equally dazzling.
“The design is the culmination of mine and my partner Rohit’s fantasy version of India,” says Michael Goodman, the chief visionary officer behind Firangi. “It’s as if we were making a film set. That’s why there are four rooms to move through; they comprise the four sets for the four acts that tell the story of the space. Each space has its own vibe, its own backstory, and its own color palette. In each space there are unique little bits of our lives interjected … photos that we’ve taken on our travels in India, the fort where my wife and I got married, even little bits of family mixed in. It’s a very personal space, but one that I think everyone else can have their own personal relationship with, whether they know us or not.”
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In keeping with the theme of the space, the menus are also appropriately fantastical. The dinner menu is presented in the guise of a newspaper, the Superstar of India, while the cocktail menu comes in the form of the Poison Manuscript — a small tome that not only includes a wide selection of wines and specialty cocktails, but also an interesting array of American and Indian whiskies. The 12 signature cocktails are described in terms of their contents, as well as according to the vessel in which they are served and their general “toxicity level.” The same thinking behind the restaurant’s dishes (“Our food is classic Indian that has been taken apart and put back together in a new and interesting way,” explains Goodman) also informs the cocktails, which make use of ingredients like dill, saffron, and ghee.
After sampling a few of the Indian whiskies during my meal, I opted to end the night with the Chai Masala Milk Punch, a cocktail quite unlike anything I’ve ever tasted — a seemingly unlikely combination of milk, chai tea, vodka, and gin.
“The milk is infused with chai aromatics, and this is where it starts,” explains Goodman. “Then we clarify the milk, which allows for a lightness and clarity in the drink. It’s mixed with the balance of the ingredients and stirred so we don’t rough it up too much; and it is topped with a Parle-G biscuit. There are a few twists here; of course the lightness is important, but that Parle-G biscuit really hits home for people. It’s something that just echoes childhood and family in a very emotional way.”
While dining at Firangi Superstar, I was advised that my Chai Masala Milk Punch would pair nicely with basically anything on the menu, but that for maximum impact I should go for the Madras-style fried chicken. Served with curry leaves and garlic, the chicken is served on top of a waffle-pressed prata and comes with both butter chicken sauce and some jaggery syrup. It was, without question, one of the best meals I had during my time in Singapore, made more decadent and dreamlike by my own jet lag and the fact that the chef kept sending out extra dishes to try. In the end, it took two of the Chai Masala Milk Punches to wash it all down.
T. Cole Rachel is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media. He is currently an editor-at-large at Departures.
Grant Cornett is a photographer and director based in upstate New York. He likes to take pictures of pristine detritus and austere moments.
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