Winning, affordable Malay-Indonesian menu at Nusantara Singapore
New to the Central Business District is Nusantara Singapore, a casual, wallet-friendly restaurant at Frasers Tower serving Indonesian and Malay dishes curated by chef Firdauz Nasir.
He was inspired by his grandmother and mother, and went through their recipes to come up with a menu of classics.
But of course changing times require updates, so he offers vegan and vegetarian dishes as well.
The visual impact of the food display is great.
The colours are so attractive - the purple of the blue pea rice, the bright yellow of the sayur lodeh, the deep hues from the beef rendang - that much more is not needed to lure the crowd in.
Luckily, the display is not an empty promise.
The food may not be innovative, but it is full-flavoured, comforting and satisfying.
There are a few dishes that when placed in front of us, we forget about diets and resolutions. Lontong is one of those.
I am always on the hunt for a good bowl of it, and Nusantara's version, Nusa's Vegan Lontong Bowl ($7.90), is one I will be recommending.
Do not be put off by the vegan tag. The gravy does not lack flavour just because it does not have dried shrimp. Chef Firdauz replaces it with fermented beans.
The experience is fulfilling, with a creamy, mildly spicy gravy packed with umami. I would have loved to have had an option to add young jackfruit though.
There is also a non-vegan version ($7.90) in case you really do not want to cave in to the vegan craze.
The Mee Siam Santan ($7.90) works for me too. I like that the noodles are strongly seasoned, forming a counterpoint to the milder-flavoured ingredients such as beansprout and boiled egg.
A lot of what Nusantara sells are recognisable dishes that will not confound us. But it does throw in some adventurous items, such as the Belimbing Lamb Bowl ($15.90).
Lamb can be controversial, but for fans, when there is a good version, it is cause for indulgence.
The charcoal-grilled lamb shoulder is aromatic, tender and not overly spiced to the point that the signature gaminess is missing.
Another less common item is duck. The Itik Gulai Bowl ($10.90) features slow-roasted duck cooked in spices, coconut butter and coconut milk. All that sounds wonderful, but it is simply too sweet for me.
If you just want to snack, I was told the potato curry puffs ($1.80) are good, but those were sold out by lunchtime. So instead, I had a UFO-shaped Roti Boyan ($2.50).
It has a bland potato stuffing, which you pair with sambal that you can order on the side.
One of the sambals available is tempoyak ($2), a fermented durian chilli dip. I gave it a miss but my durian-loving family devoured it.
Nusantara is currently awaiting its halal certification. So as of now, it is going the no pork, no lard route.
Let's hope it gets certified soon though, because I think Muslims will enjoy this culinary trip down memory lane.
182 Cecil Street, #02-16/17, Frasers Tower
Opens weekdays 7.30am to 7pm