There are always standout memories when you travel and eating at the Khansama Tandoori Restaurant Singapore was one for us on our trip to Singapore and Langkawi, Malaysia. Not for the food, (although it was delicious) for one of the standout staff who works there.
Ashka is the Maitre D/Waiter/Salesman, eternal optimist and great storyteller at Khansama. He belongs to the group of passionate people working in Hospitality. The ones good at their jobs and who fill you in on what it’s really like to live in the place you are visiting (and sometimes fantasising about living), their story and how they came to live in the country.
We first encountered Ashka on our trek to the famous Mustafa Centre in Little India we’d read so much about. He met us with a cheery hello, big smile whilst flapping the restaurant menu in our direction. We politely said hello and stopped briefly to peruse the menu. We knew we would eat somewhere in Little India although at that point didn’t know where.
The menu contains many Indian favorites at great prices, decorated well, had a view out to the street downstairs for people watching. Although open to the streets on the corner where the restaurant is located, the restaurant had the prized drawcard in Singapore, air conditioning!
As we walked off Ashka cheekily called to us, “We have ice-cold beers and glasses of wine too.” I laughed and nodded my head with a thumbs up and crossed the road to continue our search for Mustafa Centre.
Mustafa Centre Singapore
The Mustafa Centre is a large, no make that humongous department store on Sayid Alwi Road in the middle of Little India. The building dominates the landscape stretching almost a block.
Mustafa’s humble beginnings started in 1971 selling clothing in Campbell Lane. They moved into a 900 sq ft building, then moved into electronics, bought old shop houses next door and then built the centre you now see on Sayid Alwi Road. Did I mention there are not one but two buildings?
You’d be hard to please if you couldn’t find something you wanted to buy. Mustafa’s carries over 300,000 items in 400,000 sq ft across 6 stories ranging from groceries to thumbtacks and everything in between. At one stage they even imported cars, however, that arm of the business ceased in 2005.
We were enticed into the second building with a sign promising a beautiful Indian lunch. Finally we found the restaurant on the top floor, however, the service was far from friendly. The food didn’t look that appetising and they didn’t serve cold beer and wine. It’s rare that we walk out of a restaurant but we had no hesitation heading for the door and schlepping down the umpteen escalators to street level.
There are many Indian restaurants on Sayid Alwi Road, some were closed and most were vegetarian only. As we wanted something a little more substantial and a cold beer and wine, we headed back to Ashka at Khansama on Serangoon Road.
Khansama Tandoori Restaurant Little India
Of course, Ashka remembered us and looked pleased we’d returned. He made a fuss of seating us in the coolest part of the restaurant with a great view of the street. As we browsed through the menu Indian patrons came and went. Some disappearing what I now know to be the upstairs dining area. We didn’t venture up there but Ashka did tell us that it’s fully air-conditioned.
The beer was not only cold Ashka also arranged for an ice bucket to keep the bottle cold.
We decided to order two small entrees and a main to share. Chicken Tikka and Mutton Kebabs for an entree and Butter Chicken with steamed rice for our main. Accompanied by garlic naan bread and a refreshing cucumber raita. All were delicious and to our western pallet although neither of us finished the kebabs as they were a little on the firey side for us.
It was after the meal that Ashka engaged with us and only after we asked a few questions. He explained he was from India and had lived in Singapore for 5 years. He liked living in Singapore as the city was clean and easy to get around due to the public transport system. Plus, it was a very safe city to live too. Singapore has a very low crime rate as the government have no tolerance for violence, theft, etc.
He decided to move to study and work and filled us in about working conditions and wages. He was happy where he worked, although he did know students that worked for peanuts, just $5.00 per hour cash in hand.
Ashka felt there were more opportunities in Singapore to get ahead and improve his life. Hence he said goodbye to his home country, India and headed for the big smoke. Fortunately, his family are friends with the owner of the Khansama so he found employment easily and studies Hospitality at College.
He is very keen to visit Australia, especially Sydney and Melbourne as he’s read so much about the two cities. He likes Aussies as he thinks we are a friendly bunch.
Once we ready leave and move onto Arab Street, Ashka helped us map out a walking track on the local map we were carrying with us. He encouraged us to walk as we’d see more and it was only 15 minutes or so away. He was right, it was an easy walk, although pretty hot and humid. Something that can’t be avoided when exploring Singapore.
We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Khansama Tandoori Restaurant Singapore and meeting Ashka. If you are exploring Little India Singapore be sure Khansama makes your list of places to visit in Singapore. Say Hi to Ashka for us, he’ll look after you.
Khansama Tandoori Restaurant Singapore
166 Serangoon Road
Opening Times 10am – 12.30 (midnight) 7 days per week
If you love authentic Indian food makes sure to include Khansama in your restaurants to visit in Singapore