Updated: Jun 15
Tapas, Mezze, Hors d’oeuvre, Palagaram or Palakaaram amounts to (pun intended) eating small portions of food. It answers to the style of eating the food rather than the type of food.
So why Tapas style?
Third generation owners of Komala Vilas, Rajakumar Gunasekaran and Vasanthi Gunasekaran wanted to create a new menu for their newly minted restaurant, Fennel by Komala Vilas situated at the River Valley Road, Singapore.
In Singapore, Komala Vilas, does not need an introduction. An institution since 1947, is one of Singapore's oldest Indian vegetarian restaurants. Fennel by Komala Vilas, shares the same family and value.
The idea was to offer elevated Indian food that is core to the Komala Vilas group but in a format that appeals to the demographic profile of people living in CBD, River Valley, Central Singapore.
Komala Vilas prides of its regulars and Fennel had its share of loyal customers too. The intent was to embrace the plant-based segment along with their traditional vegetarian fanfare and bring in audiences who are looking to try something new!
Universally people loved Indian food. But their definition of Indian food was invariably limited to dishes they were exposed to (most often) by an Indian. When in doubt, people preferred to order a Thali, not because they had a huge appetite but primarily because the Thali consisted of a pre-decided dishes in smaller proportions. While 9 out of 10 times they were not able to finish the food served, they loved the idea of being able to taste multiple dishes.
This was food for thought! Tapas styled menu is perhaps a good way to offer a plethora of dishes for people to try without them overeating or wasting the food. Indian food, Tapas style! And, I got working on the food concept right away!
Working on this project was truly rewarding. I got to meet and work some amazing individuals. A special mention of the brother-sister duo, Rajakumar and Vasanthi. They are the foodpreneurs to watch out. Rajakumar with his keen palate, business acumen and Vasanthi with her sensibilities on the food approach, experience have the making of an unbeatable enterprise. Half the reason, I took up the project was the enthusiasm that Vasanthi shared in the direction of the new menu! Rajakumar's honesty to ensure the family flavours were well represented is something to respect and shows the family values ingrained. It is really very heartening to see "the young blood" of a food generation so passionate and forward looking!
Restaurant Fennel, located in trendy neighbourhood of River Valley, with navy-blue-neon-lit-walls, baby pink bar stools, head by a team of very talented Chefs and the most friendly staff, has the makings of a favourite spot to hang-out. And I have to admit, working on their menu, has thus been the closest to having my own restaurant. Therefore, I consider this as a huge honour and am very thankful for the opportunity!
Let’s talk menu!
The menu is based on #PalaKaaram, (பலகாரம்) Pala means different and Karam or Garam means variety of dishes. Developed with the idea of offering the new using the familiar, infused with a higher quotient of vegetables, colour and fun, Fennel by Komala Vilas is poised to excite your palates.
Tapas, like #Palakaaram is a light meal, designed to be small portions so that you can taste many dishes and in this context, enjoy the many flavour combinations of South of India. Many dishes are focused on the Indian #Sourdough, the #Idli and #Dosa batters. The menu features the Malabar #Parotta or Singapore #Parata in its "#Kothu" format with lots of vegetables paired with Plant-based meat for those carnivores who love their meat in Indian curries. And, last but not the least the formidable "#BeeHoon" even though technically different from the Indian "#sevai", features through the menu in natural colours of beetroot, turmeric and coriander.
The desserts are to definitely worth a try. The popular sweets that are handcrafted by "Sweet MasterChefs" of Komala Vilas have been paired with flavours that make it a #Singapore way to end your meal.
All the Tapas dishes come with a healthy dose of sprinkle, essentially a “Gun Powder” mostly eaten as “podis” aka course spice blends eaten with an Idli or Dosai, but done in a “dukkah” format with lots of Almonds/Peanuts/Pistachio to add that boost of health quotient to the food.
Check out the New Fennel Menu!
Here are some dishes of the menu for your visual delight!
Tapioca Rasam Pani Puri
Tapioca sauteed in turmeric served with Tomato broth and crispy balls called puri.
Mini Dosa Served with Tangy Gravy
Crispy crepes made with rice and lentil batter, an Indian Sourdough mixed with masalas served with a healthy dose of cheese inside.
Roasted Cauliflower with Beetroot Beehoon
Spiced Cauliflower roasted till slightly charred with a sprinkle of fresh coconut served with a beetroot red beehoon.
Vadai Curry with Coriander Beehoon
Komala Vilas Famous Vadai Curry combination served with a coriander slathered beehoon.
Tamil Nadu Atho with Ribbon Pakkoda
Burmese influenced Atho is a noodle dish from Tamil Nadu piled with bell peppers, cabbage, carrot, onions, spruced with peanut, tamarind sauce and crunchy Ribbon Pakkoda.
Spicy Vegetarian Mutton with Set Dosa
Plant-based Fable Mushroom soaked in spicy gravy served with soft & fluffy turmeric-mustard dosas.
Kefir-Curry Vegetarian Chicken Satay
Plant-based Tindle Chicken made in a satay style with Kefir lime and curry, served with a peanuty-sweet-sour-spicy dip.
Spicy Fish Ball Curry with Kothu Prata
Plant-based konjac fish balls by OKK Foods dunk in spicy fish curry gravy served with a crispy prata chopped into strips and sauteed with bell peppers.
Rasam Chicken Mini Burger
Plant-based Tindle Chicken with flavours of a Rasam served with cherry tomatoes, tomato spread, coriander spread and applam.
Prata Vegetarian Chicken Pizza
Spiced plant-based Tindle Chicken with onions, green capsicum, cherry tomatoes on a flaky Prata served with mozzarella cheese.
Kefir Lime Mini Idly
The quintessential Indian Sourdough made with rice and lentil fermented to a fluffy perfection. Spiked with a Curry leaf and Kefir Lime flavours serve with an array of chutneys.
Chocolate with Mysore Pak
Special Mysore Pak made with chickpea flour and ghee, served with a semi-sweet Chocolate ganache.
Adhirasam made with Rice Flour, Jaggery served with a Pandan Chantilly Cream
Rose Sone Papdi
Traditional Sone Papdi aka Indian Cotton Candy served with Rose Chantilly Cream.
Go and try it! Reserve your table!
Credits: A shoutout to Tracy @mik.it.for.thebiscuit @muther_teracy for THE MOST AMAZING VIDEO and FRAME-WORTHY PHOTOGRAPHY
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Ps: all photographs and videos featured on the blog above belong to Fennel by Komala Vilas.