Saturday, March 20, 2010

Birthday celebration #1: Party at Garuva

Garuva Hidden Tranquility Restaurant and Bar

About a month ago, I started planning out my birthday in advance. Because it so happens that a whole bunch of my friend's have birthdays around this time, it gets a bit tricky as to when we can place our parties to avoid clash. I got in early and decided to celebrate 2 weeks prematurely.

For the past 3 years now, I've been having largeish parties at bar-type venues. This year, I felt real lazy about it so I thought to just pick a location and keep it small with minimal planning.

Cocktail carcasses

Garuva was the venue of choice simply because I asked a mate of mine who lives at New Farm (and knows the local beat well) "where should I have my birthday party" and this is what he suggested. I did next to zero research about the place and was happy to take his word.

Up to the last couple of days, I didn't really know how many people were going to turn up but Garuva called me to ask for a more specific number. When I hazarded a guess at 30, they said it'd be impossible to fit that many into the space that was originally booked for me. There was however, a function room with a private bar window which normally has a minimum spend but because they got a cancellation on it and I was being offered on short notice, that rule was omitted.

The main feature of Garuva is it's unusual atmosphere. It tends to get busy Friday and Saturday nights so the restaurant portion holds 2 'sittings'. We were there for the 7-9pm sitting and got there a bit before 7. Walking into Garuva, we felt like we were entering a cave (in fact, that's how I described the place to newcomers: "the entrance looks like a cave") and then you enter through to a room with veils everywhere. I thought it was quite enchanting but then my housemate commented that it was like a room from the movie 'Taken' and didn't have the same positive associations.

We stopped off at the bar for a bit and the bar room is like a large den: dark, cosy with a slight wooden cabin feel. The floor is strewn with cushions and bean bags which is good in theory and upon sitting but awkward when you're maneuvering around them in heels. BTW, the ATM machine there is ancient and an excellent test of patience. We just made it for happy hour and I got my first of many drinks to come.

Out of the cocktails we tried, I liked the Garuva Grabber (mango liqueur and peach schnapps blended with milk, cream and mango pulp) and Cookies and Cream (Frangelico and butterscotch schnappes blended with cookies, milk, cream and ice). They were ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. Better than dessert both in terms of taste and the fact that they were alcohol-containing.

After hanging out at the bar/lounge, we were lead to the function room. It had 2 long tables and you basically sit on the ground to eat. This was my least favorite aspect of the experience. Sure, it makes Garuva unique but you reaaally got to:
a) be comfortable with kicking the person you're sitting opposite of
b) not have sharp footwear on
c) not have inflexible clothing on

I threw dignity to the winds and took off my shoes and sat cross-legged. Ah, the luxury of wearing a floaty dress

The menu is really straight-forward with a general pan-Asian influence. There's a few dishes to chose out of categories of: meat, chicken, seafood, vegetarian and salad. All are priced at $23 with serving sizes described as 'large entree'. Rice and bread are extra.

Few examples of what I tried (snapping photos of my dish and those around me):

Saffron Hipon - coconut based saffron prawns & squid sauteed with mushrooms, sweet potato & beans

Turkish Octopus - matured pieces of baby octopus sauteed in cream, garlic & lemongrass served with a turkish dipping sauce

Cajun Blackened Chicken - baked chicken breast covered in a spicy cajun mix, served with a mango chutney & herb mayo

Yakitori Sticks - Japanese style chicken kebabs BBQ’d to perfection in our delicious yakitori sauce

Melting chocolate mud cake - served warm, topped with hot chocolate fudge

To be honest, I kind of went in with low expectation of food (based on internet reviews) but I was impressed with the taste of everything I tried. The octopus was standout and it was a fairly large serving too. It was saucy and tender and the flavors were just glorious. We were joking afterwards that a bucket of Turkish octopus would be worth mugging someone for. The yakitori was delicious but quite a small portion. I thought the chicken was acceptable but slightly dry and the saffron hipon had a pleasant, mild sauce but I couldn't detect any saffron.

I wasn't too bowled over by the service. Since we only had the room until 9pm, they might have been eager to get us out on time. That is fair enough, but it seemed a bit too 'obvious'. The lady looking after us was a bit persistent and hasty in her mannerisms.

Labour of love

As part of my ploy to put in minimal effort into planning, I delegated the task of cake production to my friend. She baked a glazed caramel cheesecake. Garuva has a small cakeage fee but they added on some decoration and provided candles etc too.

My impression of Garuva was overall, good. I'd love to go back but on a weekday when everything is less rushed. The atmosphere is lovely - far more relaxed and memorable than your conventional valley pub. Food's a bit pricey but at least it was on the most part, easy on the palate.

Garuva Hidden Tranquility Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. The cajun chicken wast cajun at all! its dry and flavorless 22 dollar crumbed chicken breast. Octopus good!!

  2. Correction: $23. You know many online rec it as the best menu item? They be optopus-phobes huh. I don't remember the flavor of cajun chicken but it wasn't crumbed. And I want satay.