D'Bell: Indian food with a side of good laughs

Indian food for me has possibly been the least inspiring cuisine to date. Hardly ever do the nagging cravings for a good briyani or butter chicken dawn upon my munchies led diet. However, a session at D'Bell soon sorted that out. Right now, I'm hankering after a good Chicken Dum Briyani and I know where to get a mighty fine one.

D'Bell is a modern fine dining Indian restaurant which focuses more on the finesse of North Indian cooking with a little ode to Italian cuisine as well for variety. Governed with an iron rod by Chef Satish who has an arduously long 14 years of experience under his culinary accolades and a bunch of other shiny medals from culinary challenges such as that FHA's East Meets West; the kitchen achieves great things, some of which we got to savour over the course of the evening.

When we arrived at the scene, the end of the dining hall was occupied by a 'laughing yoga' group, their forced cackles that soon broke off into pleats of contagious laughter bouncing off the walls. This 'elephant in the room ' breaking down the steely almost 'too uptight' atmosphere in the dining premises. Upstairs, an intimate cocktail party was in full swing, the sexy bar and VIP lounge filled with office workers clasping delicately to their high rimmed glasses, the music and sophisticated ambiance egging them on, pleading with them to to let their hair down; let loose.

After the laughing in the room had subside, we approached the bar with trepidation. Mainly because we were unsure about the concept of Indian ingredients being fused in classic cocktails. These fears were countered with an overwhelming sense of warmness and generous hospitality provided by and in the signature cocktails.

Tamarind Dream ($20) house bourbon with homemade tamarind mix was a stunning combination of  contrasting notes, the sourness like that from a Chinese sour prune drink giving punchy characteristic to the alcoholic mix.

The Golden Moment ($20) was yet another hit with the diners in the group, as its refreshing grouping of fresh mango with pulp, passionfruit and kaffir glides so smoothly even with the strong presence of vodka. The hint of chili evoking an air of mystery. 

There was no need for grappling for food at the table. The dishes were fastidiously brought to the table in a grand fashion. We kicked off the meal with an array of appetisers. Despite the Lobster Bisqque ($12) won over the hearts of many with its robust flavors and despite it's strange misidentity as Indian cuisine, found a violent death with the continuous clanging of the soup spoon till the bottom of the bowl. Moving to the left, the Kofta Kebab, a beef croquette filled with cheddar cheese, prunes and dusted with semolina failed to maintain charm with it's slightly dry interior made worse only by the coating of semolina on it's minuscule surface. I would strongly recommend the Tawa Wali Fish, Chennai Express though, the butterfish cubes marinated for a good long 3-4hrs being being tossed in charcoal flames, resulting in it being out-of-this-world succulent with a dash of cheekiness from it's caramelised edges. The Tandoori Chicken Tikka did not tickle my fancy as well and at this juncture, my provoked palate, awakened by the depth of spices cried out for more...

We sampled a assortment of dishes fit for a king that night. And I shall present you with an illustrious description of a list that I thoroughly enjoyed; starting with the classic Butter Chicken ($18), the in-house version a bit sweeter and milder than i would normally like, however, the charred finish on the chicken tikka pieces were perfect savored with the lashings of creamy tomato sauce flavoured with fenugreek. Another dish not to be missed is the Mutton Rogan Josh ($20), a well executed dish with a perfect spice disposition rocked out by tender chunks of protein, devour this hearty dish with mountains of basmati rice and I guarantee you a happy man. My favourite dish of the night had to be the Kerala Fish curry ($18), the masala fish curry elevated to the next level with a clever touch of coconut millk. The butter fish fillet gently poached in the rich sauces soaking in the flavors like a sponge. I also loved the Kahdai Vegetables ($12) which injected a bit of sunshine to the otherwise brown on brown color scheme we were seeing a lot of throughout the night, the broccoli, cauliflower and capsicum putting some balance into our meat heavy menu. Aside from the usual suspect of Basmati rice to soak up the goodness of all those sauces, D'Bell serves up a huge variety of Naans which include the Chili Cheese Naan, Kashmiri Naan, Garlic Naan and even the Pudina Paratha, a flaky whole-wheat version of the tandoori bread (ranging from $5-$8).

The highlight of the meal arrived looking deceivingly like a chicken pot pie, the Hyderbadi Chicken Dum Briyani was a sight to behold, break thru the dough crust to reveal a steamy showing of supple chicken pieces with aromatic Indian spiced rice. At this very moment, I'm at a loss for words. But my rapacious repeated attacks at the dish despite my full belly speaking volumes.

Sad to say, desserts were a non-impressive showing that failed to capture the imagination and genuine talents of the Chef. The platter featuring smaller servings of the Rasmalai, Mango Kulfi and Chocolate Brownie was uninspired and honestly a tad disappointing.

Brushing that aside, indulging in the superb fare at D'Bell had provided me with waves of delight and I would strongly recommend it to those who have been jaded by the experience of having sub-par Indian cuisine which have often left us with bloated tummies and unsettled hearts. D'Bell will change all that... I promise.

43 North Canal Road
T: 65364046
Website: www.dbell.sg

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