Last Updated: June 2, 2018
They say all the best food lies in the East of Singapore, and having been a West-sider all my life, even I admit that when I traverse to the other end of the country, I’ve never been disappointed by what awaits my hungry belly.
Now, East-dwellers can rejoice as a new upmarket halal foodcourt in Tampines Mall serves up Western takes on local dishes. Makanista, opened by the same people behind Food Junction, takes familiar Singaporean favourites and puts unique spins on them, be it a Western influence or creating a fusion of Asian flavours.
The space isn’t as large as a typical food court, but the service works the same way; you order your food and drinks at the stalls and you’re given a buzzer to let you know when your order’s ready for collection.
If you’re looking for a small bite, the Spicy Honey Mustard Wings ($7.50 for six pieces) will surely satisfy. Although there was little spice or any semblance of mustard, the flavours reminded me very much of Korean fried chicken. It also helped that the chicken was deep-fried to crispy perfection.
The Beef Hamburg & Fries ($10.90) arrived looking quite sad, but then again, what is one supposed to expect when it’s a dish that’s meant to have a burger patty atop a pile of fries and melted cheese, and topped with a fried egg?
The patty was juicy but tasted quite average; I think it would have benefited the entire dish if more spices were added during the making of the patty or perhaps if a really rich, savoury sauce was served along with it.
Makanista’s French Chicken Curry Pasta ($7.50) is a curious one, as I discovered that what makes this recipe French is its use of whipped cream.
Yes, you read that right. The attempt to make the sauce lighter with this unique choice of ingredient failed to impress me at all, as it resulted in a very one-dimensional flavour profile that reminded me of Maggi’s curry instant noodle.
Also, there was a very obvious layer of oil that made the dish look quite unappetising, to which I commented could be due to not cooking the rempah (a paste of spices) long enough so that it ‘cracks’ and absorbs all the oil.
I love Yong Tau Foo (when I’m trying to eat healthily), so when I heard that they have a variety of choices to go with the yong tau foo here, it piqued my interest.
All the sauces go for $7.50 each, and I tried different sauce bases such as Mee Siam, Curry, Soto and Satay.
Out of the four, I would say the most promising was the Mee Siam. It tasted authentic and had a really nice spicy-sour profile to it that kept me coming back for more.
The most peculiar one was the Curry sauce. When I first sipped it (without knowing it was Curry), I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s really good laksa!”.
But when staff double and triple checked, they affirmed that it’s supposed to be Curry. All I can say is, if it’s meant to be laksa, it was pretty bloody good. But if it’s meant to be Curry, then the Curry tasted like laksa.
You won’t be able to find this Indonesian snack easily, so trying their Bakwan Sayor ($2.80) (vegetable fritter) is an absolute must. Thankfully, it was also done really well, having both crunch and flavour with very little grease.
Another dish that Makanista is really trying to push is their Chicken Rice. I had the Combo Meal ($16.50 for two) and tried both the Mala and Thai. Other flavours include Hainanese, Signature Roasted and Fragrant Garlic.
At the office, we try and make it a ritual to have #MalaMondays, so my expectations for this flavour were pretty high. Sadly, it didn’t have any kick nor did it give me that familiar numbing sensation on my tongue.
In fact, I wasn’t sure what it tasted like, because it barely had any flavour. The dish’s saving grace was the piquant rice.
On the other hand, the Thai option was really fragrant and had a potent taste of garlic and basil. The chicken was utterly tender and juicy, and all the flavours went really well together. Definitely go for this!
Fans of prata will really enjoy the numerous choices on the menu, for both savoury and sweet. The Mutton Prata Burger ($8.50) that I had was stuffed with minced mutton, onions and eggs.
I wished it was more indulgent, because, on a whole, it was rather lacklustre in taste. Even the complementary sauce couldn’t help boost its flavour. Save your stomach space instead for some of the sweet options for dessert.
I didn’t expect to love the Peanut Butter & Jam ($2.80) prata, simply because I may be biased towards the savoury kinds. But the sweet and salty combination was very satisfying.
The flakiness of the prata made every bite balanced, so the sticky textures of the jam and peanut butter weren’t overt. This is quite genius!
After sampling a fair number of Makanista’s dishes, the only things that really stood out for me was the Mee Siam Yong Tau Foo and Peanut Butter & Jam Prata.
I guess I won’t be missing out on much, given the distance I’d have to travel and the few dishes that I’d return for. But hey, variety is the spice of life, and if you’re ever bored of traditional local eats, this place might just leave you satisfied.
Expected damage: $5 – $10 per pax