Lifestyle Eat

Sensational Saag

Written by The Panda

This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2013 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Spice Garden
Shop G23, G/F, East Promenade, Galaxy Macau, Cotai, Macau
Monday to Friday
12:00 to 15:00 and 18:00 to 0:00
Weekends and holidays
12:00 to 0:00
+853 8883 2221

The Panda and The Dragon found themselves strolling around the shopping precinct of Galaxy when they decided it was time for a feed. Macau is one of the places in Asia where everything is available, and since I had never done Indian in Macau we headed straight to Spice Garden.

The Dragon had eaten here before and was keen to show his culinary-critic expertise to me. And while The Dragon is not an expert, I have to say he is more often right than wrong.

I have never had the pleasure of travelling to India so I can only base my research on Indian restaurants I have tried outside this huge country of many contrasts. Indian is one of the most respected cuisines on the planet, and Spice Garden certainly looked and smelled the part. I love the unique smell of ground spices you find in good Indian restaurants. Spice Garden should know what they are doing as they have seven restaurants in their chain in Malaysia alone.

Spice Garden is tastefully decorated in a Macau casino style. There are lots of curved arches near the ceiling, with an extensive selection of Indian and Middle Eastern brass and copper statues sitting on a perfectly designed display area on a far wall. The open kitchen has become a common trait of Indian restaurants, as the chefs love showing off their skills with the tandoor oven.

This restaurant features both Indian and Middle Eastern food. This was cause for a little concern, but considering we were in Macau you can understand the need for diversity. We decided to concentrate on just the Indian side of the menu. Kewel Singh, one of the restaurant managers, joined us for a while and talked us through his menu. Kewel originally hailed from Kashmir in the north of India, where the majority of familiar Indian cuisine comes from. Kewel told us:

We serve very authentic food. We want to bring the real flavors of our cuisine to the rest of the world. We specialize in northern Indian cuisine. We use lots of thick, creamy sauces and the tandoor oven. Masala and other traditional spices are what we specialize in. My personal favorite is the chicken masala and I think we do an excellent saag.

This was good information, as they were two of the items that had attracted my attention while I perused the menu. For some reason, I tend to avoid drinking alcohol while eating Indian cuisine. I don’t know why, but I just prefer to wash this style of spicy fare down with a lassi, a wonderfully refreshing yogurt based drink. The mango lassi here is first rate!

We tried the onion bhaji and a few other starters, but I must also point out this is not my normal go. An Indian feast for me consists of main courses, naan bread, tandoori meat and sides. We tried the chicken masala, saag paneer, prawns jhinga peshawari and some tandoori prawns. They were all very good with the saag being a standout for me. Thick and rich with a smooth texture – this was as good as saag gets. Kewel pointed out why their traditional favorites hit the spot:

I started in the kitchen before I moved to service. I personally make sure that we get the very best ingredients. If I can’t find something locally then I will import it in. There is no excuse not to make a dish as good as it can be.

We had some dahl (spelt “dal” on their menu for some reason), raita and mushrooms to go along with our mains. They were all good. There is no excuse for a bad naan, and I went with an unusual fruit naan, which was superb. The Dragon and I even ordered a second serving of the garlic naan.

From left to right: Chicken Tikka Masala, Palak Paneer and Dal Makhani

From left to right: Chicken Tikka Masala, Palak Paneer and Dal Makhani

After another mango lassi, it was time to enjoy desert. Normally, I head straight for the gulab jamun and stop there. Kewel was having none of that, and insisted we try a wide selection of deserts.

Home-made mango ice cream, rice pudding with a strong cardamom flavor and steamed gulab jamun were all very good. Their traditional gulab jamun was sensational and I would have been happy if that was all I had. I was stuffed, and that is the way it should be when dining on Indian fare.

I had one major criticism with this restaurant. I have eaten strong spicy Indian for many years and I like it hot and exploding with flavor. Another manager, Deepak, who originally hailed from Kathmandu in Nepal, explained, “We have found that the majority of patrons in Macau don’t like it too spicy like they do in India and the Middle East.”

You can’t condemn a restaurant for doing what the majority of their patrons want, but if you are an experienced Indian cuisine connoisseur, tell them you want to be blown away and to go heavy on the spice. After all, you can always have another lassi or add a little raita if your taste buds are being blowtorched!

Spice Garden is an excellent restaurant and a pleasant addition to the Macau culinary landscape.