Being a writer at SethLui.com might be stressful at times, but it is also a job that brings about endless perks and satisfaction. Free food and media tastings aside, there are times where we get to be involved in activities that bring us joy and with it, comes opportunities where we face our deepest fear. But to foodies like me, it’s the chance to feast on dishes out of my comfort zone that keeps my passion for food burning.
Everest Kitchen and Swaadhist are two classic examples and this time around, adding to my list of unfamiliar-yet-want-to-try food was Azmi Restaurant, a said-to-be legend located in Little India best known for their Indian flatbread—the chapati.
What I tried
As a lover of Indian cuisine, I’ve had my fair share of Indian flatbread—prata, thosai and naan. Yet, the chapati remains one that I’m relatively unfamiliar with. Compared to its full-flavoured, rich and indulgent counterparts, this flatbread somehow seems a little lacklustre considering that it is prepared with just whole-wheat flour, salt, and water.
“So, what exactly is its appeal?”, I wondered.
Freshness, for one, is an aspect that makes the Chapati (S$1 each) here at Azmi Restaurant stand out from other Indian stalls. While waiting in line for your order to be taken, witness the chef swiftly flatten balls of unleavened dough into liberally floured discs. They are then placed on a smoking hot round griddle and cooked until little charred bubbles are formed on both sides.
Since the Chapati here is not cooked in butter or ghee, they make for a fibrous and healthy carbohydrate when eaten alone—the kind that will keep you energised and satiated for hours. Of course, in order to justify your trip to Azmi Restaurant, a combination of their Chapati and Mutton Keema (S$3.50) is one that is not to be missed.
A savoury stew of ground lamb flavoured with a mixture of spices, fresh peas, and cubes of potatoes, the saucy Mutton Keema felt like a dish the chapati was made for. Tear off a piece of the flatbread and make sure you scoop a good combination of meat and gravy before popping them into your mouth—simply delish.
To my surprise, Azmi Restaurant’s Mutton Keema was robust, flavourful, yet not overly gamey. Complementing the hearty stew was the subtly smoky, clean bite from the Chapati. Shoving mouthfuls of this heavenly combination became a compulsion, which at the end of it all, resulted in an empty plate and a bowl wiped clean, even on its sides.
The Chicken Briyani (S$6) was another dish that came highly recommended; naturally, it was a course on the cards.
Buried in a heap of aromatic long-grain basmati rice was a hefty piece of chicken drumstick that sadly was a tad too bland for my liking. Despite its tenderness, the spices failed to penetrate its flesh. The meat’s exterior was pleasant but as I journeyed nearer to the bone, the kick of heat faded to nothingness, leaving me feeling a little crestfallen especially after being star-struck by the Mutton Keema.
Whilst the chicken might be a disappointment, Azmi Restaurant’s basmati rice on the other hand had me smiling from ear to ear. Flickering in shades of amber and yellow, the rice was fragrant, soft and undeniably fluffy. Towards the end of the meal, I found myself savouring the briyani rice together with my plate of Mixed Vegetables (S$1.50), with the chicken left sitting on one side.
Yes, those curried lady’s fingers, carrots, and long beans made for better side dishes with the rice than the drumstick did, and I can attest to that.
I plotted my next return to Azmi Restaurant in between sips of my teh peng. The Chicken Briyani here might be a letdown, but when it comes to their chapati, this restaurant definitely knows what they are doing and they are certainly doing it right.
There is an unexplained old-school charm about this place that seems to draw me back; it might be its laid-back atmosphere, or it might be those pesky pigeons that come flying into the eatery at the sight of unfinished food. Whatever the reason, you have to make a trip here to experience this inexplicable peace for yourself.
Expected damage: S$4.50 – S$8 per pax
Our Rating: 4 / 5
2 Dalhousie Lane, Singapore 209671
2 Dalhousie Lane, Singapore 209671