Flatiron Lunch: Singapura Breaks the Curry Hill Mold…Kinda
Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.
I know I talk about my love of Curry Hill too much, but really, it’s the best (in Flatiron Lunch at the least!) I recently went with a few potential spots in mind for lunch, but willing to make a game time decision. In the process, I stumbled upon Singapura – A gem of a restaurant that adds a new dimension to Curry Hill. Specifically, a Hakka Chinese/Malaysian/Thai dimension.
As a ML contributor, I have become very efficient at scanning restaurant fronts for menus, and specifically, lunch menus. So when Singapura had a regular lunch special menu in their front window, in addition to a plain piece of paper that advertised lunch special for $7-$9 with soup or spring roll and salad, I knew we had a great ML target. (The sign doesn’t clearly state that it is soup or spring roll, but that is the deal. And soup is only available if you dine-in and not delivery or take out, probably to help with spillage…but curry would spill too…so I am not sure of the logic on this.)
The regular lunch menu is quite extensive with 13 non-vegetarian entrees, in addition to vegetable, noodle and fried rice options. It seems that if you order a regular lunch special in the place of soup or spring roll, you get a larger portion which is a good idea for delivery or take out.
When my friend and I sat down to order, I was totally taken by the décor of Singapura. I am not sure it really all goes together, but I loved the abacuses/abaci (Wikipedia says both are correct) mounted on the walls, the exposed light bulbs, and the multi-colored lotus lanterns.
“Sarah, are those massive doorknockers on the backs of chairs?” you ask. Why yes, yes they are! And I love them. I can’t help it.
I started with the corn soup which was offered as part of the lunch meal that day, and it was much better than I expected. It has a rich broth and was much less gelatinous than many Chinese restaurants. There was a modest amount of corn and scallion, but both came through. I noticed a good amount of black pepper and a hint of something sweet. After trying to brainstorm the whole meal what was creating that flavor, and we narrowed it down to almond or coconut milk. But then again, we might be wrong.
I pressured by friend into ordering the spring roll and salad to start. This was the most underwhelming item the whole meal. The spring roll was totally average, and the salad was basically a garnish. Considering this is the only meal option for delivery or take out, I recommend skipping it and embracing a larger portion of your entrée.
Since my friend was bullied into the spring roll, he went rogue and ordered a laksa soup as well ($6), blowing past the ML budget. I shouldn’t complain though, because it was spicy and tasty, with waves of flavor melding broth, peanut, chili flakes, cilantro, thin noodles, lettuce, sprouts, and shrimp. My friend contends that the double order of laksa for $10 could be a meal. I am not totally convinced.
My friend picked hot garlic shrimp ($9) for his entrée. The garlic was perfectly browned and not burnt with lots of chilis. To me, six shrimp seems like a reasonable portion, especially with the rice that comes with both entrees. For my main dish, I went with kari ayam ($8) described as “a classic Malaysian coconut curry, chicken on the bone”. My portion came with three big hunks of chicken and a bunch of smaller ones, but beyond that, it seemed very hearty because of the thickness of the coconut curry. My friend and I agreed that coconut curry is sometimes watered down, and this was more enjoyable.
while enjoying the chicken, I was struck by the philosophical question: Do you de-bone at beginning and throw it back into the sauce to let it continue to absorb flavors and not have to worry about bones the rest of meal? Or do you de-bone as you eat allowing the opportunity to nibble off every last morsel as you eat? In our case, we were too impatient to de-bone at beginning, but I am thinking I need to reevaluate next time.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
• I am always excited to add to my curry arsenal without leaving the curry capital.
• Singapura hits a great note with the right balance of spices.
• Three words – Door Knocker Chairs
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
• Having two different lunch specials is confusing and unnecessary.
• If only Singapura’s lunch meal was executed properly like so many of its neighbors.
• I know I would leave here hungry. The portions need to be bigger.
Singapura, 106 Lexington Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets, (212) 684-6842