I stumbled upon Brinda’s after an aimless wayfaring spell brought me to the heart of Bukit Merah. Tucked in a corner of Blk 162, its cool blue was in glaring contrast with the other shops along the same stretch. And like how the colour screams at you to take notice, their logo has distinct blue lettering wrapped in a clashing yellow.
A short perusal of Brinda’s Google listing determined that this was no ordinary diner. It touts a comprehensive list of services — everything from corporate events and catering to weddings and 24-hour island-wide delivery — with their Bukit Merah restaurant as the nerve centre. All Halal-certified.
For a restaurant serving so many functions, you’d expect a grander entrance. Yet, it’s fronted only by 2 small tables, presumably for outdoor dining, and a promotional sign.
The decor within definitely shows its age — or longevity — linear canteen-style seating, a lurid mix of their trademark blue-yellow, all under the watchful gaze of a portrait of the late PM Lee Kuan Yew. If you haven’t guessed it already, the restaurant was opened in the early 2000s (specifically, 2003) and it’s certainly retained an old-school charm.
What I tried at Brinda’s
As this is chiefly an Indian eatery, I opted to have their Chicken Keema Thosai (S$6), which was served on a plastic plate. This rather jarring choice caught us by surprise and I made an offhand joke along the lines of a catering-themed presentation (beyond earshot of the staff).
Brinda’s Chicken Keema Thosai is made with a thicker batter to accommodate the keema layer within but at the cost of the crisp and airiness characteristic of plain thosai.
Alongside the thosai (which looked like it was peering limply over the dismal crockery) sat a shallow pool of coconut and tomato-garlic chutney.
A surgical slice through its keema-filled crust exposed the air to the first of many spice salvos, the subsequent mouth-watering aroma immediately triggering our salivary glands.
We cautiously lifted the mantle only for it to fold with some crackle, indicating to our delight that not all crisp had been lost. I enjoyed how the soft skin returned a crunch here and there, working with the rich chicken keema (like a saucier minced chicken masala) to deliver a one-two punch of savoury and sour.
As the acidic notes intensified, we further elevated the thosai with a dunk in both chutneys. It’s here that I began to feel the heat rearing its ugly head and the need for a palate cleanser became evident. If there was any hint of sweetness, it was drowned out by the torrent of salt.
We shifted our attention to the 2-Prata set (S$5.80) of Cheese (S$1.80) and Potato (S$1.20), with Vada and a complimentary canned drink. This is a good time to mention that all our orders were served with a small bowl of fish curry.
The vada had a doughnut-like texture on the outside but was ridiculously fluffy after we bit through. I was hit with a potent aroma and peppery kick, amplified by what looked to be curry leaves clinging to its surface as I chewed. Drenching the savoury fritter in curry mellowed the initial bombardment but the combined piquancy became a stronger constant.
With the addition of cheese to any recipe comes the obligatory ‘cheese pull’. There was nothing spectacular in its presentation, but we noted it was extra doughy and had considerable stretch.
Despite my preference for a balance of a thin, fragile exterior and softer insides from a prata, Brinda’s use of mozzarella cheese as opposed to cheap American cheese slices between the thicker dough is commendable.
Instead of the brazenly artificial taste you get at run-of-the-mill joints, the doses are restrained and pleasant. I didn’t mind that it was partially un-melted. Much more filling than regular crispy thin pratas, I would add.
The potato masala had a significant amount of lentils, and much more evenly spread than the cheese. I liked that the mushier masala worked in tandem with the chewier dough to lengthen their stay. After eating through thosai and prata, the potatoes were good carbs to switch things up.
Thanks to the break from a saturated spice shower, I could afford to dunk the pratas in salmon curry. There were ample onions for some modicum of sweetness, though the prevalent savouriness remained. Sloppy, dripping-wet helpings of prata don’t get any better than this, especially with fillings like cheese and potato masala.
Our Mutton Briyani Meal (S$10.60) was served on a banana leaf atop the tray, ergo no disposable plate for me to comment on.
Compared to other nasi briyani I’ve had, Brinda’s is less flavourful in all respects. Not a demerit per se, as some prefer their breath not to smell like lunch afterwards. I would rather have fragrant, rich rice on my briyani than not, though.
The sturdy mutton, on the other hand, was hard to justify. After judging a significant sample size, I concluded that most pieces were tough the whole way through, not helped by a mostly dry gravy. Not in the mood for prolonged attrition, I skipped them entirely. A real shame, as the serving size of mutton was massive underneath all that rice.
On the side was some runny mutton curry and raita. The curry made a decent addition to the blocks of toughened meat and the over-boiled egg. I was looking forward to a proper palate cleanser in the raita, but it was somewhat watered down.
The papadums were still crispy after almost 15 minutes, a good contrast to all that soft, soupy action we had been embroiled in. Unfortunately, it did nothing to change up the profile we had been subjected to till then.
Our final undertaking was an Omelette at S$2.80. I could no longer enjoy the flavour of salt, but its size does justify the price. As some form of pittance, the slices of onions graced my palate with a much-needed earthy, mild sweetness.
A Lassi (S$3.80) is discounted to S$2.20 if you tack one to a meal. Our Mango Lassi was thick and creamy with just the right ratio to guzzle down. Ultimately, they could do with more volume, as they’re about the height of a can but with a smaller circumference.
If you can look past the disposable plates (not a tough ask), Brinda’s is another place to have a hearty meal or get-together any hour, any day. With an expansive menu of North & South Indian cuisine, there are choices aplenty. It just so happened that we made the mistake of picking distinctly savoury dishes to crash our palate.
Google reviews for Brinda’s are quite mixed, so I would caution to expect some variance in quality. My opinion? Perfectly adequate. For a 24-hour eatery open 7 days a week and offering a multitude of other food services, quite respectable.
Two salient things to note: Water is free flow, and there’s a self-service condiment station. Hopefully, no one’s as oblivious as I was.
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 3.5 / 5
162 Bukit Merah Central, #01-3533, Singapore 150162
162 Bukit Merah Central, #01-3533, Singapore 150162