Saha Signature Indian Restaurant & Bar
Our team goes undercover to suss out the latest and most talked about restaurants in town
I’ve only ever visited but not dined at Saha’s Duxton Hill restaurant, so when they moved into their new National Gallery home, it was the only reason I needed to pay an overdue visit, having heard good reviews from industry friends. The vibe is markedly different – doing away with warm furnishings, the new Saha is instead decked out in copper pendant lights, diamond mirrored columns and a row of prominently placed wine cabinets. The only detail that somewhat toned down the restaurant’s glitzier décor was the use of the same tables and chairs from the old premises – chipped or scuffed corners were telltale signs.
The waitstaff we encountered on both visits were not particularly helpful, especially on the wine front. Fingers flew all over the pages as our server bumbled along trying to recommend a glass he clearly had no knowledge of. We eventually settled on a Grover Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc ($16/glass, $78/bottle) with pleasantly pronounced bell pepper notes from their Indian wines selection, which, although limited, adequately brings Indian vinos into the spotlight.
Every meal begins with a palate-cleansing popsicle – ours of apple and lemon was agreeably refreshing. Saha’s dishes, however, left us wanting. While I wasn’t too bothered that the so-called Masala Lamb Tacos ($22) looked more like blinis, my companion lamented that the name was misleading. Six naan biscuits were topped with juicy shredded lamb and a dollop of sour cream – it was tasty enough, but black olive powder and avocado salsa were rendered absent when overwhelmed by the piquant meat.
Goan Prawn Curry, loved for assertive flavours typical of the west Indian region, was disappointingly thin and savoured strongly of coconut milk. Its one redeeming quality was the fresh, not-too-large prawns with sweet tender flesh. Similarly, the curry of the week ($28) – chicken when we visited – could barely compare to the renditions offered elsewhere; we cried foul at what we suspected was frozen then thawed meat. It was the simple accompaniment of Onion & Mint Pulao ($12) that we had second helpings of – fried shallots and whole mint leaves lent the unassuming rice dish refreshing yet savoury aromas, and it would have been the perfect foil to rich, creamy curry. If only.
The best part of my first meal was undoubtedly the Interpretation of Meen Moily ($35), a classic Keralan dish of fish in coconut curry. Flaky grilled sea bass was liberally flavoured with turmeric and paired with tangy tomato chutney and tamarind rice for a deliciously sapid mouthful. My only gripe was the stiff coconut and curry leaf panna cotta – a more velvety texture would have lent the dish the moisture it needed. Sadly, our second visit didn’t leave as lasting an impression with its overcooked sea bass.
Imagine our surprise when our waiter presented the dessert of Mango Signature ($18) by removing a rectangular steel mould with a flourish, just for us to witness the collapse of a mountain of sago. Our expressions of flabbergasted astonishment were almost surely mistaken for delight. Hastily attempting to mask our reaction, I asked what exactly ‘cryo sago payasam’ was, but could only coax out ‘sago’ for a reply. Spooning away the translucent pearls, we found a filo-wrapped mango-ginger parfait that would have worked well on its own as an icy, crunchy treat.
The dessert of Masala Chai Brûlée ($16) during my second visit helped temper my overall disappointment. A slightly thicker-than-ideal browned sugar crust cracked open to reveal creamy insides with a lightly spiced tang and warming fragrance, which I eagerly lapped up with almond biscotti.
I expected to be blown away by novel and innovative interpretations of Indian cuisine’s brilliantly layered spices, intense flavours and the occasional tongue-scorching spiciness, but alas, what I experienced was quite the opposite – overcooked meats, weak flavours and questionable plating. My hopes for Saha dashed, it’ll take more than the Masala Chai Brûlée to entice me back. #01-03 National Gallery, 1 Saint Andrew's Road. Tel: 6223 7321
Average dinner bill for two, without drinks: $200
Must-tries: masala chai brûlée and interpretation of meen moily.