I would have never thought that I’d have to spend so long thinking about how to write about Firangi Superstar. The new opening along Craig Road (taking over the space once occupied by the now-defunct Trattoria Pizzeria Logic) is essentially a “modern Indian” joint – but with a healthy dose of self-awareness that brings to mind all sorts of questions. For one, the name: Firangi Superstar, taken from the possibly-slightly derogatory slang – similar to Thailand’s farang – term for caucasians. It’s a cheeky jab at themselves, given the lens that they’ve decided to adopt: “A foreigner’s love letter to India”.
And just like love, the rose-tinted glasses used to conceptualise the space has resulted in a pervasive sense of exotic whimsy. Entering the restaurant, one gets blasted with pastel-shaded, detail-packed tableaus a la Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited was reportedly one of the visual inspirations) – with each of its four sections boasting a different theme. From a train car that doubles up as a private room, to a World War 2-era British army officer’s lounge – each distinct corner of the restaurant oozes exotic whimsy.
Helming the kitchen is yet another happy contradiction: an Indian chef that’s Western trained, and – while growing up the flavours – had never prepared Indian cuisine. Head chef Thiru Gunasakaran was last the executive sous chef of Spago by Wolfgang Puck, which shows with a tendency towards multi-part plated dishes; and an adeptness at finding commonalities between both Western and South Asian cuisine.
Octopus, for example, is particularly suited for grilling – so it gets the tandoori treatment and is served on lime aioli and topped with green chutney and naan crumbs.
There’s also the This Is Not Aloo Gobi – a potato and cauliflower construction that refuses to, well, be aloo gobi by appearing as cubes of crispy layered potato and cauliflower in couscous, puree, and floret forms. Cashews, raisins, mint, and a masala compote ties everything together.
We’re particularly fond of the Indian Saddle – where a perfectly cooked lamb saddle – pink edge to edge – is made to belong with an Indian-inspired chermoula (does that make it a chutney? We can’t answer that.) confit garlic sauce, and crispy curry leaves. For sides, there’s a mash and gravy-like combination of moreish smoked potato puree, dhal and tadka that’s simultaneously novel yet familiar.
Perhaps the most traditional things on the menu are the flatbreads: a perfectly serviceable of naan brushed with ghee; and a mixed basket of various papads and crackers served with jackfruit-cucumber raita, a tamarind gourd chutney, and an uncommonly smooth tomato, garlic, and dried chilli chutney.
For dessert, there’s gulab jamun – but balanced with a mess of complementary flavours like chocolate mousse, crunchy chocolate crumble, rose creme patisserie, and vanilla-cardamom ice cream.
Don’t forget take a gander at the cocktail menu: options are arranged by alcohol level and include two chai-inspired tipples – a gin fizz and a milk punch – as well as a curry leaf boulevadier.
For other examples of modern Indian cuisine: