Two years of the pandemic means two years of rarely going out for pleasure, let alone eating in fancy restaurants. Somehow I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve learned to eat out with the sole intention of nourishing myself. No new flavors. No photographs. No weird stuff. Just good familiar food that I’m sure I would enjoy and I’m sure won’t cost me a hand or a leg to do so. Or did I just forget? That’s what happened a few weeks ago while Jed and I ate at Indus Modern Indian Kitchen in BGC. Now I remember why I love it so.
It was a spur of the moment. I’ve been craving Indian food but not really sure which new one to go to. We were headed to BGC Taguig because my default happy place is browsing the big-ass FullyBooked Store on High Street. So I searched online for BGC restaurants and randomly found this Tatler Asia article on “9 New Restaurants to Try this January 2022 in Manila.” Tatler, right? I just like to grab every opportunity where I can pretend to be rich for a few hours, don’t I? Then I saw it. Last one on the list was Indus, a modern Indian restaurant that specializes in bold curries and tandoori cuisine. I read they have a tasting menu. Great! All I had to do was manipulate Jed into thinking it was just a “normal” restaurant, not a fancy-schmancy place that’d take him months of convincing. Of course he realized soon after, but more on that later.
The restaurant was—how do I put this—very sleek and modern. Fancy. Even the bathroom caught me off guard. Am I in a five-star hotel? They even have those warm towels by the toilet sink. However, the whole place felt a little too cold with its mod tiles, glass tables and plush leather seats, complete with modern light fixtures, and shiny, sparkling tableware that looked like they were just bought yesterday. Everything felt too design(y), like someone was asked to decorate the place and was given a considerable amount of money to spend on and this is what they came up with—”posh” in the most literal sense possible. Not sure why it made a mark on me but maybe I’m allergic to cold design when it comes to restaurants.
But service was anything but cold. We were greeted with a smile by our server who immediately explained the available options. He was welcoming and appeared non-judgmental, all the while Jed and I were dressed so casually we looked like we were going to, well, FullyBooked. As we settled into our seats and had a closer look at the menu (and the price of the set menu), Jed shot me this incredulous (more like betrayed) look across the table like, “You knew this all along, didn’t you?” All I could say was, “Minsan lang ‘to jusko.” (We seldom do this, come on!) By then he had no choice. I used the pregnant card almost immediately to get my way. In my head, I was hoping and praying this thing we’re about to eat better be epic.
(By the way, Indus also offers an ala carte menu which is more reasonably priced if you’re not up for a whole tasting menu.)
For this first visit, I chose the Taste of Indus menu (1700php per person)—the midrange option which already includes a sampler of their best Kabab and Curry dishes, paired with a selection of Indian flatbread and a dessert sampler at the end.
The first serving came fast. It was an amuse-bouche of what looked to me like a piece of nacho topped with this incredibly flavorful and spicy salsa. Yes, salsa with lots of onions instead of tomatoes. It woke my tongue all right. At the same time, it was too small a serving that, initially, we were giggling at the thought that this might just be it. One nacho! But of course not (thank god). The main appetizer soon followed.
First up for the Kababs, we were served this one piece of boneless grilled chicken (Chicken Malai Tikka) which didn’t look much, at first, but once we got a taste of it, oh boy, it was probably the best dish in a series of unbelievably tasty food that followed. This chicken was obviously marinated in cream or milk (yogurt it turns out) with a mix of fragrant spices and cheese. Imagine that and put it on a grill. With flavors shooting in every direction plus a delicious char, oh what’s not to like?
Next was a delicate pile of homemade cottage cheese (Paneer Tikka) and vegetables, also marinated in cream and spices, served with freshly-made Naan. This was Jed’s favorite. I enjoyed it too. Paneer cheese is almost always the reason I crave Indian food, and palak paneer (spinach purée) is one of my favorite dishes, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this version—a grilled paneer cheese sandwiched in between a tomato and green bell pepper. Like a burger, yes, except that paneer wins with its tofu-like texture and taut creaminess like burrata. A seriously tasty dish!
Now I have to make space for the Naan. This one was something special. It’s the naan bread of my dreams—soft, charred, pillowy with air pockets fluffed to perfection. There was butter all over it too! Every tear and every bite almost brought me to tears. I freaking love this bread!
I couldn’t be more overjoyed when the Curry part of the meal delivered more variations of these flatbreads. When we finished with the kababs, a full platter of dips and sauces was served—good old Butter Chicken, a serving of yellow-orange, cumin-spiced potatoes called Aloo Jeera, and my favorite Palak Paneer, a spinach purée with homemade cottage cheese. Alongside this feast was a pair of Roti and Paratha—fresh, charred, spiced. I could just rub these flatbreads on my cheeks.
Jed and I took our sweet time, like a ritual we tore the soft, peppery bread and dipped them slowly and deliberately onto each dip, savoring every new flavor that hit our tastebuds. I couldn’t get enough of the intense heat of the aloo jeera. I make the potatoes and carrots of my afritada dish the same way, infused with lots of chili and spices for that extra heat that’s not for the faint of heart. The butter chicken was also rich and seasoned perfectly. It tasted like a luscious tomato soup with lots of milk and cheese, basically a creamy hug in a bowl. The palak paneer fell a bit short. The overall flavor was one dimensional, just puréed spinach, compared to the cacophony of spice from the first two dishes.
By the time the Mutton Biryani arrived, we were quite full. Too bad because this dish was the most aesthetically pleasing to look at. The stark yellow of the biryani rice topped with mint and dried rose petals, oh you’d want to dig right in. As much as my stomach would allow me, I scooped a spoonful of this aromatic rice and was surprised by how soft each long grain was. A lot of fragrant stuff went into this bowl. The slivers of marinated mutton were equally tender and flavorsome. But as I’ve said, my digested food was right up to my esophagus at this point. I was, truth be told, saving some precious stomach bandwidth for dessert.
On another note, we also ordered an interesting array of drinks. Jed had this bright red Summer Rose Iced Tea, while I ordered myself an Indian staple—a mango-flavored Lassi. You could tell by the name of Jed’s drink that it would taste (and smell) like a vase of almost dried roses on a Virgin Mary shrine somewhere. It’s the dried rose petals, always the dried rose petals that make drinks like this a nostalgic glass of church on a summer day. It’s an acquired taste. Lassi, on the other hand, never fails to stupefy my expectations. I’ve had it a couple of times before, but I still get freshly disappointed every time I realize how tangy it tastes. Even with honey. Even with mango. Lassi is fresh yogurt in disguise. I never learn.
For dessert, we were served a sample trio of sweets. And when I say “sample” I mean remarkably bite sized. All three desserts were served on tiny matte stoneware bowls all at once.
First was the Kaala Jamun (which I thought was the same as Gulab Jamun), a classic Indian dessert made from khoya or dried evaporated milk solids. Both kaala and gulab are fairly similar but they differ in color and texture. Kaala (which means black) is a lot darker with a slightly tighter and grainier texture. And unlike the gulab, which always seems to be too sweet whenever I have them, this particular kaala jamun achieved that perfect amount of sweetness—not too cloying—doughy and tender like munchkins.
The next sampling was a forgettable piece of Milk Cake. We call this “yema” in Filipino. As I’ve said, forgettable. They shouldn’t have bothered with this one.
And finally, our favorite of the bunch was a scoop of pristine off-white Masala Chai Ice Cream. Now this… this one was an experience. Right off the bat, our waiter stated the obvious, that it would taste like Masala Chai (go figure). We’re not chai drinkers but, of course, we’ve heard of masala chai. It’s tea, right? First bite and I was definitely eating tea. By taste and nuance, it’s a spiced black tea and milk with hints of cinnamon and cardamom. Now the magic happens the longer you eat it. The more I shove this ice cream in my mouth, the creamier and milkier it gets. Half way through, the taste shifts! Now I’m simply relishing the glorious, sweet, richness of good ol’ ice cream, the essence of black tea barely hanging like a whisper. A real sweet treat to close our meal!
After licking the last bits of the magical masala chai ice cream, Jed and I slouched on our chairs, ready to take a nap. What a meal! I have never felt so full and so satisfied in a long time. We both agreed we need a long, long walk after. Before we left, I couldn’t help but chide Jed a little bit, forcing the issue that it was a worthy meal. He smiled and agreed in between burps. We had lunch at Indus and come dinner time, we weren’t even hungry, not one little bit.
Indus: Modern Indian Kitchen (5/5)
Casual Fine Dining (Modern Indian Cuisine)
25th St cor 5th Ave, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Wed to Mon, 12nn to 10:30pm, Tue closed
+63 917 311 1312
+63 917 311 1297
₱1000—₱2000 per person
See full menu here.