I was discussing a few of my latest gourmet experiences with dad on skype on Friday night, when mom prompted… “Go vegetarian for a few days now! Next weekend, the auspicious Ganesha festival begins…”.Stifling a groan I gave her a thumbs up… It’s not like I dislike vegetarian food. I love vegetarian! It’s the overall knowledge that I shouldn’t eat non-veg that got me groaning internally. “You haven’t reviewed a single Indian restaurant yet, why not spend some time exploring the Indian options?” dad smiled knowingly.
So come Saturday noon, during one of those rare grocery shopping trips to Mustafa Centre, we decided to try out a pure vegetarian Indian restaurant, which wasn’t a south-indian speciality. Walking down the Syed Alwi road we stopped outside “Namastey India.” Browsing through their menu we were quite pleasantly surprise… “They have a thali and chaat…” my husband prompted. “And north Indian food too.” I smiled. “Let’s try it, I wouldn’t mind a thali!”
Personally, I am a huge fan of those ‘simple dining’ Indian restaurants, which hit the sweet spot between a food court and the expensive fine dining ones in terms of both quality and bang for the buck! Namastey India is a quiet restaurant off the busy Syed Alwi road. The place is bursting with typical Indian décor, colours and light. It is quite a welcoming ambiance, one that makes you feel at home instantly. Right from the Indian flag and colourful painted wall endowing one corner, to the white wash of the rest of restaurant, the comfortable seatings, it brought out a nice neat look.
Browsing through the menu, I realized, that the all vegetarian restaurant has quite an elaborate menu. They start elaborately with soups (from tomato dhania soup to Indian-Chinese manchow soup), starters (veggie kebabs, chaats, salads and raita), to mix of Indian mains, Punjabi, gujarathi, loads of bread options to select from the normal roti’s and naan’s to specialized ones like Kurmi Naan and Rogni Naan, and finally the desserts… What intrigued us was the fact that apart from such an elaborate menu… they also have some specialized thali’s. Overall, a complete menu! Here’s what we tried…
 Bhindi Jaipuri: The Bhindi (Ladies Finger) Jaipuri was quite nice. Well seasoned batter and crispy Bhindi was a great starter. What was surprising was that the colour of the batter looked just like what mom would make at home. It wasn’t the usual bright red that we often see in restaurants that make you wonder if additional colour was added.
 Dahi Poori: I have not had Dahi Poori at too many places in Singapore, as I am more a fan of the drier chaats. Further I get a little perturbed if the puri’s go too soggy… However, it was nicely balanced. The curd wasn’t too tangy or too sweet. The puri’s were crisp enough, despite being dipped in the curd. Overall a well put together dish.
 Thali: My hubby dearest was quite excited seeing the Daal Baati Churma Thali, but had to be disappointed when they informed us that it was available only on pre-order. He went instead for the Sunday Special Thali, and was quite happy with the outcome, especially considering the price. It included 5 veggies + daals, 1 dessert, 2 roti’s, rice and buttermilk. Quite filling.
FOLLOW-UP: Sept 25, 2013
[1.1] Daal Baati Thaali: After the review, the owner of Namastaey India kindly invited me over to try the Daal Baati thali… the thali which is still available only on pre-order. “We make the daal baati fresh… and that takes some time and effort… as we do not want to do a sloppy job of it. I get a lot of delivery orders for daal baati churma.” Said the owner Neelendra Jain. For those unfamiliar with Dal Baati, it is a popular dish from Central India (namely parts of Rajasthan and also borders of Madhya Pradesh states). It comprises of dal (lentils) curry and baati which is a hard Indian bread in shape of small tennis balls. It is made up of wheat flour mashed with little bit of salt and water. The rolled wheat dough is cooked golden brown in tradition ovens and is best served hot.
Well, I have had the dish just once before, and at that time, it was quite heavily oily… well, not this time. The daal baati was quite nice and tasty… the accompaniments of daal and kadhi were quite complementary. There was a aalu ka bharta… which for Jain special, is replaced by some other veggie. Finally, to finish off the meal there was wheat laadu… The serving size was too large for me to finish it off alone… Having said that, there’s a caveat. I do not know if this is the best Daal Baati I would have, but given the limited options available in Singapore, this overall thali was nice.
 Yellow Daal tadka: The daal tadka was quite nicely cooked and blended… the only real colour I saw was the tadka and red chilli colour, which was all natural. It was a nicely balanced daal, with distinct flavour of the daal and not too many spices to cloud the taste. Simple and neat.
 Shaahi Paneer: The Shaahi Paneer gravy was quite delicate to taste, various spices coming up well in the blend of cashews… Probably the only issue I had here was with the paneer… the same issue I have everywhere. I do not like the paneer to be fried. The natural consistency and juiciness of the paneer is best maintained without the frying… of course that’s my personal opinion. Other than that the dish was very palatable and we enjoyed it.
 Aalo Paratha: The Aalo paratha was good… not oily and the added tinge of coriander on the top gave it a nice flavour.
Desserts & Drinks:
 Coconut Milk Coffee: By the time we reached the end of the meal, hubby dearest has already eaten the rosgulla that came with the thali. I was quite full myself, but couldn’t resist ordering the coconut milk coffee. It’s a perfect coffee for someone who enjoy’s vegan food. Coconut milk, although very unlike milk substitute, just worked very well and the overall drink was just as delectable. A must try!
I have started seeking out owners of restaurants I visit, especially if I like what I have eaten… and on cue I asked the manager who was the owner of the place and if I could talk to him. A pleasant looking gentleman by the name Neelendra Jain, owner of Namastey India made his way to our table. During the course of my conversation with him I realized that he is actually a qualified engineer with more than 20+ years of experience in companies like GE and Shell. “However, my calling has always been food. Therefore, while I was still at Shell in 2010 that I decided to finally take the plunge and start my own restaurant. For over a year I was playing a dual role, one of Information Management Controller at Shell and one of a struggling entrepreneur. But it was all worth the effort.” On prompting how did he manage the elaborate menu, he said, “I have been blessed with a great chef. Akash Deep, the head chef of Namastey India has over 24 years of experience. He used to work with Oberoi in Delhi and in Raffles, Singapore as a Curry Chef.” With such an experienced chef, I queried why stick only to pure vegetarian? “I am a Jain and do not consume non-vegetarian food. I wanted the restaurant to reflect me and my family values. We also cater to Jain audience where we cook without onions, garlic. Plus, I know that Indian vegetarian has so much to offer that I knew I could create an interesting menu out of it.”
Well we weren’t complaining, except maybe the fact that we couldn’t taste the Daal Bati Churma Thali. “That is available only on pre-order. You can call us a day in advance.” He suggested. “Well can I order it? Do you do home delivery?” I asked hopefully. “Yes, you can. We have tied up with Foodpanda in Singapore, and you can order it!” Well maybe soon.
How much will it cost me: A meal for 2 (dinner/lunch) can cost you anything from S$ 25 to S$ 75, depending upon how many courses you select. A special Thali costs you just S$ 11++.
The Verdict: For the sheer variety of menu, this place is worth the visit. The food was good, tasty, and as I mentioned, I didn’t have those bright red stains of curry on my fingers at the end of the meal. Thumbs up… especially for the Thali!
Address: 80 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207269 Ph: +65-6392 2445