With one-Michelin-starred Meta’s move down the street, 9 Keong Saik Road transforms into modern Indian restaurant Thevar.
Mano Thevar is the eponymous head chef of this restaurant owned by the Meta Restaurant Group. He says “smoky, refreshing” black cardamom is one of his favourite spices. He loves experimenting with others like cumin too, each time he tops up his stash from trusty Mustafa Centre.
But working with spices wasn’t always chef Thevar’s major preoccupation. The Penang native was trained in modern European cooking techniques and had stints at restaurants such as the former Guy Savoy, Waku Ghin (where he met chef Sun Kim of Meta) and Meat Smith. It took a journey through India, discovering and re-discovering myriad spices, to set him in this direction. Enter Thevar and the chance to cinch all his influences on one plate.
The space remains largely unchanged from its days as Meta, so expect dim lights, dark walls and shiny steel accents for company. At the bar, cocktails such as star fruit gin with elderflower tonic greet those winding down after work or even catching a late dinner, as the restaurant opens until 12am.
First up on the short dinner menu of small and large sharing plates are the Canadian oysters topped with a heap of rasam granita ($5 each or $28 for six). A nod to the South Indian soup dish known as rasam, this combination’s a novel touch that highlights the restaurant’s theme, but slurp these with caution for the ice-cold bivalves give you two jars—one icy, one spicy—and little time to recover between the two.
If there’s a must-try here, it’s the crispy pork, samba aioli ($14) where pork jowl is brined, slow-cooked then deep fried with sambar spices—a blend of spices used to make South Indian lentil-based stew. This is then served with jalapeño pickles and a coconut sambal aioli in a betel leaf. The juicy pork jowl is crisp and tender, with any lingering greasiness warded off by the nutty, herbaceous notes of the betel leaf.
Other bites that go well with drinks from the bar include the butter mushroom naan ($16), where light, fluffy naan accompany a savoury mélange of enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and roast potatoes served on a bed of butter chicken curry paste. Or go for the grilled Spanish octopus ($36) with masala-spiced yellow dal purée and tomato confit, which comes with just the right proportion of savoury, tart and spice.
For a heartier main, opt for the pork ribs ($35), seasoned with a blend of cumin, mustard seeds and garam masala, cooked sous vide, grilled then brushed with a medjool date glaze. Served with a side of carrot and cucumber pickles, the tender meat easily falls off the bone and has a smoky, mildly sweet flavour. Close on a fruity note with a cempedak puff dessert ($6).
At the end of the meal, we get the sense that this is early days and chef Thevar will be refining the menu and testing out his ideas over time. For the adventurous, that alone is reason enough to drop by.
9 Keong Saik Road. Tel: 6904 0838