Singapore - Gajalee Seafood Restaurant
One of the distinct joys of dining out in Mumbai, India, had been their incredible Maharashtrian seafood dishes, combining the freshest ingredients with piquant spices, resulting in some truly amazing culinary delights. And Mumbai boasts of several extraordinarily good restaurants - Trishna, Mahesh Lunch Home, Konkan Cafe and Gajalee.
Now, Gajalee has gone one step further - it's opened a branch right here in Singapore!! Imagine my delight when I came across this new, hardly month-old branch last weekend. The evening I dined there, we had:
- Grilled butter-pepper pomfret. The fish fillets were subtly marinated then grilled. Textures were perfect - it was melt-in-the-mouth & was truly culinary nirvana;
- Green chilli crabs. This was the one extraordinary dish which I remembered from my pilgrimages to two of Gajalee's Mumbai outlets in Vile Parle and Andheri East. Glad to note that the taste here was exactly the same! Unfortunately, the crabs used could have been fresher - whilst the meat from the huge pincers were nice, the flesh from the other parts of the crab tasted slightly powdery. Also, unlike in Mumbai, where one could request for the crab to be de-shelled before cooking- you don't have such luxury here.
- Mutton dum briyani, which was probably one of the best in town. Warning: the briyani, with its robust assertive mutton flavors, don't really match the green chilli crabs' taste, you can't have the two dishes together. Order some plain naan breads to sop up the green chilli gravy of the crab dish.
- Tandoori chicken - the version here is spicy (!!), the Marathis do love their food hot & full of flavors.
- Paneer makhanwala, which was good & quite spicy to boot.
A couple of minor disappointments when we dined last evening: (1) the restaurant does not serve papads (strange: those were a fixture in their Mumbai outlets & a rather common fixture amongst Indian restaurants in Singapore; and (2) the Bombil (or Bombay duck) were not available as, according to the maitre'd, their shipment did not arrive on time.
The pink-colored, harmless-looking but sharp solkadi drink, made from kokum, yoghurt & spices, were also available. It's an acquired taste. But to me, it was also emblematic of the Maharashtrian presence which Gajalee symbolizes when it opened its doors in Singapore. Now, we no longer need to take that long plane trip to Mumbai to taste its culinary pleasures, we just need to go down to Orchard Road.
Gajalee Coastal Foods Ltd
Unit-17/19, Cuppage Terrace
Cuppage Road, off Orchard Road
Tel: 6733 3278
Just went back to Gajalee for lunch today - they had the Bombay Duck on their menu this week. Gajalee's the only restaurant in Singapore where I've found Bombay duck being served, and theirs was absolutely divine! Fresh, crisply battered & served hot with a tasty chutney dip, the Bombay duck tasted even better than the cold, chewy version I had at Gajalee's outlets in Mumbai, and was even tastier than my previous fave place for Bombay duck - Konkan Cafe in the Taj President, Mumbai.
Gajalee's S$14 lunch-time thalis were also good value. I really liked the chicken thali, but a friend who had the mutton thali was totally bowled over by the subtlety and complex layers of flavors in their curries. The thali sets come with chappati breads & white rice, and a tasty vegetable side. Sol kadi, a kokum-flavored, pink-colored aperitif - a Mumbai staple - was also served as part of the thali set. Mind you, the sol kadi drink is an acquired taste - I gacked the first time I tasted it in Mumbai years ago. Despite looking like a harmless strawberry milkshake, it's got a strong, obnoxious scent & sourish/spicy taste. Mumbaikars drink them by the pints, whilst foreign visitors will just pinch their noses & look on incredulously. Again, Gajalee's the only place in Singapore where I'd come across the sol kadi.
As one of the most active members on the Singapore Board, you should try to join our first ever chowdown organized in Singapore: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7228... . It is time active members meet to chow and have some fun. "Klyeoh", "Sg_foodie" and I will attend this dinner. This may turn out to be like the annual event organized by "CharlesYu" in Hong Kong. Please email to me if you are interested. (email address on my profile)
Given its heritage in Mumbai, one would have only expected the best from the Singaporean branch. Sad to say, it was an utter disappointment.
The service will really poor. We ordered dry mutton liver, Kombdi chicken, Kadahi paneer, breads, rice, etc. The food came in batches, and was really slow. It took nearly 45 minutes for all the good to arrive, with my wife and I having to eat one dish at a time, which was rather strange. This circus was occurring not only at our table but at others' too (with one patron sarcastically clapping his hands, when food finally arrived at the neighbouring table him !!!"
Worst, the food did not taste well. I think, of all that was consumed by us, the diet Pepsi tasted the best!! The dry mutton liver order came with a gravy, which when highlighted to the manager was promptly taken away, but was still wet when re-delivered 15-20 minutes later. Basically, they just dried off the curry, to leave an atrocious balance of ingredients. The Chicken was bland, and the Kadahi paneer was sweet.
While we were curt in our feedback to the manager, we gave him the opportunity to explain what went wrong. Nothing came back, except for a 10% discount and "sorry". On being cajoled he said "Coming here or not is your choice". We promptly paid the bill and left. It was obvious that the manager was not dealing with a special situation but something that occurred regularly at his restaurant.
We all have, in our lives, come across restaurants with bad food and service, but have we ever come across a restaurant where the restaurant manager is detached and indifferent to his patron's agonies/complaints. His time, in his good judgment, was better spent standing outside his restaurant, talking on his mobile phone.
Needless to say, yesterday was my last visit to the place, a restaurant with the tag line "More than just seafood".
How interesting. I was just at Gajalee on 7 August for dinner - we were the party of 4 near the window upfront.My experience appeared to be different from yours, Dhruv. We rather love the spice level as, being Eurasian I like my curries extra hot, and the multi layers of tastes in Gajalee's dishes.
I didn't have any problem with their service either: the waiter & waitress who served us were Filipinos and, although not the best around, were adequately polite and friendly. I'm shocked that the same manager we met can be rude to you.
Obviously Gajalee's food must have been different to what you are used to. I'd been to Mumbai only once a few years ago, and I remember the food very well, and Gajalee actually reproduced those tastes here quite well.
Out of curiousity, can you tell me which Indian restaurant in Singapore is your favourite one? Maybe you were looking for Tamil, Gujerati, Punjabi or Bengali food specifically.
I am glad you had a good time. I have lived in Mumbai for 7 years, and am quite well versed with the food type. I went there to eat the malvani konkan food that is a Mumbai speciality, and what Gajalee prides itself for.
Believe me, Gajalee Singapore's food and service paled in front of even the most basic in Mumbai. What you call "Multilayer of taste" was not apparent to me. Food, to me, was below average in taste, presentation, and quality. But then, if you liked it, there is a reason for Gajalee to exist. Respect your thoughts.
While everyone needs to have their own experience to like or dislike a resturant, I would recommend prospective patrons to look before they leap into this one.
I'd certainly like to know what happened to you there that night, Dhruv. I dined at Gajalee's branches in Mumbai as well, and also at the Singapore branch 4 times already, but didn't have the kind of negative experience as you did.
I thought their Bombay duck was even better here than the ones I tried at their Mumbai branches (even compared ones at Taj President's Konkan Cafe), perhaps because the ones in Singapore were fried fresh, whereas the ones in Mumbai were fried in batches then served later.
The only "complaint" I had about Gajalee Singapore was that they did not de-shell the crabs for us. And the prices are much higher, of course.
For me, I personally liked Gajalee Singapore, because they bring a taste of Mumbai to Singapore. Whereas previously, I can only dream of the Konkani flavors which Mumbaikars get from Mahesh Lunch Home, Konkan Cafe, Trishna, Masala Kraft and also Gajalee, I have the opportunity to taste them here now. Like, M_Gomez, I also find their mix of spices more complex than the ones I usually get at South Indian restaurants which I liked here (Ananda Bhavan, Madras New Woodlands, etc).
Service-wise, I did not have any problems with their service staff as well. I do understand from the manager that their current chef came from one of the Mumbai branches. The way dishes were cooked & served were a bit slow (compared to Chinese, Western restaurants), but I thought it was no different from other Indian restaurants I regularly patronised along Syed Alwi Road.
Tell you what, Dhruv, maybe you should organize a Chowmeet on Indian food, and we can get other Singapore-based CHs to come. It will be interesting to meet other Indian food fans & exchange views on the best Indian places to eat in Singapore.
Your experience at Gajalee Singapore sounds more like an exception than a norm (my experience has been more in line with that of M_Gomez). I have been a long time Gajalee patron both in Mumbai (since 1990) and now in Singapore. There is one thing that I crave for is the taste and flavor of their food. The consistency in their food quality is perhaps unmatched. Your critic about the food is misplaced in my judgment since I believe it is the same chef making the same recipe that they serve in their uber popular Mumbai locations.
As to the service, I have found their staff (albeit slow during rush hours, but then, all good things come to those who wait) including the owner to be very courteous. I'm surprised at the service you received. Nonetheless, to your own admission, the manager did offer you an apology along with a discount despite your curt feedback.
Who knows, with your strong feedback, you just might have cost the poor guy his job. I believe you should give them another chance.
Everyone's entitled to their judgement....and my experiences at Gajalee Singapore have been near-perfect. Save for an insipid oyster curry, every other dish I had at Gajalee stood out from the other Indian restaurants. Don't miss the marsala-coated deep-fried Bombay Duck, tandoor-based Sri Lankan crabs, prawn biryani, dhal fry and Chinese Pomfret grilled with garlic butter.