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Kama appeals with its anything goes attitude
13 North Canal Road
Tel: 6221 8116
Open Mon to Friday: 11am to 12am; Sat 4pm to 12am. Closed on Sunday.
GIVEN the grunginess of North Canal Road - with its semi-seedy, gritty hipster, expat bar, office drone I'm-only-here-cos-I-work-here kind of vibe - Kama fits right in. It serves Indian food with an anything goes attitude - officially subtitled British-Indian but in reality it just gives it the licence to be as inauthentic as it wants.
Like the neighbourhood, there's something rough and grubby about it, with its attempt at retro decor resulting in a charming messiness. An elderly chap tends the bar - or rather he makes drinks - and takes your order if the main waitress is busy. And it's buzzing at lunchtime because of the S$15 set lunch.
If you go beyond the set, there's a good variety of easy bites during the day, before it offers more substantial dishes like biryani at dinner time.
There's enough to fill you up with in the meantime. We're not sure if the flatbread is made inhouse but it's got a delicious, pizza-like resilience and the Indian-inspired toppings add to the enjoyment. Our concession to vegetarianism is an easy one with the Baingan Bharta (S$9.50) - a creamy, tangy mix of eggplant puree, garlic confit, tomato and mozzarella cheese. Unlike regular pizza, the tomato sauce doesn't dominate so you get to enjoy the rest of the ingredients on it, with an added hint of spices.
Bread-related items score well here. What's listed as duck confit (S$9) is like a cross between prata and a wrap - a crispy, oil-griddled sandwich oozing shredded duck meat and melted cheese. Pickled ginger on top is a perfect counter to the grease.
Table tandoor takes the form of a cute metal habachi brought to your table but with no fire burning in it. Purely ornamental, you can pick smoky grilled prawns (S$14.50) that are not at their peak, or dry gamey lamb sausages (S$14.50), pork sausage or tandoori chicken.
We're ambivalent about the lamb shank pakoras (S$8.50) which are like fried wontons made with lentil flour wrappers filled with heavily spiced braised lamb and a squirt of mint aioli. Same with the wagyu sliders (S$12.50) that are really just spiced meatballs on toast.
The kitchen lets us order some chicken biryani (S$16.50) which isn't on the dinner menu. It's more tangy than we're used to, with a yoghurt-based chicken curry that is served separately from the rice. If you're more of a dum biryani fan, this may not be to your taste.
Kama's not slick and the service is perfunctory but its easy pricing, decent food and complete confidence in its lack of style gives it a genuine character and appeal of its own.