We met up with my youngest brother and his girlfriend over the weekend for our monthly meet-up at Paragon. Although we don't live under the same roof, we try to keep in touch by making it a point to meet up at least once a month. It's all about effort. Since my mom passed on early, I've stepped in as a surrogate mother of sorts to my younger brothers. And while our relationship has evolved from being that of a surrogate mother to that of a buddy-like older sister, I do want to remain a relevant (and important) part of my brothers' lives. So, we make the effort to meet up regularly and share in our lives. Of course, it helps loads that the Hubs gets along fabulously with my brothers so meeting up with them is always a hoot and a half.
Paragon over the weekend, as with any other mall in Singapore, is unbelieveably crowded, (our little island really is suffering from the effects of overcrowding stemming from a poorly thought-out immigration policy). Despite the variety and sheer number of restaurants at the Paragon food basement, there were still queues at every single restaurant. We finally settled on Tambuah Mas because we were all craving something spicy. Thanks to the restaurant's reasonably high turnover, we didn't have to wait too long for a table. Service was quick, but choppy and flustered, and the food was also somewhat mediocre and inconsistent, which could all be attributed to the overflowing capacity of the restaurant.
Comparisons between Tambuah Mas and its direct competitor, Pagi Sore, will invariably be drawn, as both serve Indonesian Malay cuisine at relatively comfortable restaurant surroundings. While there are certain dishes that Tambuah Mas has an edge, my take is that Pagi Sore is, in general, better than Tambuah Mas.
The Ikan Nila Goreng ($20) crisp-fried red fish, served with a homemade sweet and spicy dark sauce, aka kecap manis, is unique to Tambuah Mas. This was so good there was no need for the kecap manis. The golden exterior was crisp without being dry, with moist flaky flesh and a delicate mild taste.
The Ikan Pepes ($6) spice marinated seabass fillet enveloped in banana leaves and grilled, basically what we know as otah, was terribly fishy. Even the heavy spices couldn't mask its fishiness. We couldn't finish this. Pagi Sore's version is, naturally, immensely better.
The Stir-fried Kailan ($9) in starchy oyster sauce is simple and homestyled. Not particular outstanding but it was nice, basic fare.
The Sate Ayam ($7.50 for half dozen), skewers of marinated chicken charred over open flame served with onions, cucumber and homemade peanut sauce was pretty commendable. Juicy flavoursome chicken, nice charring, and a thick chunky peanut sauce.
The Nasi Goreng ($13.50), while not particularly well-fried, was packed with flavour. The fried egg was rubbery, the ingredients in the fried rice were boring and staid, the keropok was soft instead of crunchy, but the rice, by itself, was the saving grace, this had a robust, well-rounded taste.
The Kari Ayam ($7.50) chicken simmered in coconut milk and spices, also known as kalio, paled in comparison to Pagi Sore's version. This was insipid and weak due to an extremely watered down gravy, and the chicken was unappetizingly dry and tough.
The Rendang Lembu ($8.50) braised beef stewed in traditional spice blend and coconut milk, was on par with Pagi Sore's version. The gravy was potent, thick and rich, while the beef was fork-tender and moist.
The Tahu Telor ($9) fried cubed beancurd and eggs topped with kecap manis, is much fluffier than Pagi Sore's denser and compacted version. This manages an airy and light texture that's so delectable.
Now that Pagi Sore no longer serves this curry staple (their management is apparently of the view that the said dish is not very popular...yeah, I don't geddit either), Tambuah Mas' Sayur Lodeh ($6.50) trumps by default. The medley of cabbage, long beans and beancurd in spicy coconut milk was creamy, spicy and rich.
Standard appetizers, a nutty, slightly bitter Belinjau Crackers ($1.50) were served with a thick spicy potent sambal , which is complimentary (always a plus in my book! Pagi Sore charges a small fee for each saucer of sambal btw).
Tambuah Mas Indonesian Restaurant
290 Orchard Road
Tel: 6733 2220
Open daily from 11am to 10pm