Now well into the third week since the first “circuit breaker” was announced, we no longer know what it’s like to eat out of restaurant dinnerware. When they say dinner is served, it means ripping the lid off yet another biodegradable takeout container.
The upside is that we’ve been hopping from one cuisine to another with a simple swipe of the smartphone screen – a veritable culinary tour from Italy to Japan just by tapping on the “Delivery” menu. This week, we decide to head to India, via Thevar and Tiffin Room.
The mod-Indian eatery on Keong Saik Street has been garnering buzz for over a year since the Waku Ghin-alumnus Mano Thevar made the right call to open his eponymous restaurant serving food inspired by his family’s cooking and his own travels to India.
His recipes don’t veer far from the real McCoy, although he dabbles with Western cooking techniques and presentation, so you get some deliciously quirky mashups like beetroot chaat – tangy spiced chopped beetroot mixed with crunchy cassava and potato chips for a textural treat.
The restaurant’s delivery/takeaway menu is dominated by set menus with only a few a la carte options. That makes it a little restrictive if you want to be able to curate your own menu but at the same time, it does give you a quick overview of what the chef has to offer. There’s an express set lunch for S$40 or a set menu for one person at S$68, but the two-person set at S$158 offers a lot more variety and can easily stretch to feed three people if you add an extra portion of naan (S$8).
Besides the beetroot chaat, tapioca and lentil croquette is a dense ball of spiced mash with a chewy mild flavour contrasted with the crumbed coating that you dip into a sweet pomegranate and date cream sauce.
One inspired highlight is Chef Thevar’s take on sashimi – he cures raw hamachi and rolls it with some toasted crumbs and sweet pomelo, and pairs it with a refreshing light yellow coconut milk broth.
He also takes a detour to Sri Lanka with his crab curry rice – heavily spiced basmati that’s fried with toasted shredded coconut and flaked crabmeat that gets extra oomph from a thick crab bisque-like curry sauce. And for some reason, the very tender marinated pork chop with a date and tamarind sauce reminds us of charsiew with an Indian accent – a lovely inter-racial match. The food doesn’t end there – there’s Chettinad chicken roti or pulled curried chicken folded into a thin naan; spicy crispy pork smothered in a sambal aioli wrapped in a betel leaf; thick buttery mushroom creamy stew topped with a layer of paneer cheese to be mopped up with naan, and a scented masala caramel tart and ginger chai doughnuts for dessert.
In other words, this is not a meal for delicate palates but for hearty appetites ready to dive into a world of spice and more.
Raffles Hotel is dipping a toe into the takeaway zone with its “Grab and Go” meals from selected outlets such as yì by Jereme Leung, Tiffin Room and Butcher’s Block. Tiffin Room is an all-time favourite and its Northern Indian specialities hold up very well even if you don’t eat it the moment you get it home. A quick zap in the microwave and its rich curries and biryanis are as good as if they’ve just come out of the hotel’s kitchen.
To start off, Tulsi Paneer Kebab (S$15) are firm triangles of paneer cheese brightened up with basil paste and served with a perky tandoori pineapple salsa. But you can easily give it a miss and dive straight into the mains because the real stars are Tiffin Room’s curries and gravy dishes that go so well with its fluffy, chewy naan.
Macher Jhol (S$40) is a comforting braise of tomatoes, onions, spices and fish stock that cuddle pieces of barramundi so well that the fish stays moist and supple – a perfect foil for garlic or butter naan (S$5 each).
But the raison d’etre still remains its signature Lucknowi Murgh Biryani (S$28) which always hits the spot with its light grains of saffron-speckled rice fragrant with a mystical mix of spices, chicken pieces and a salan gravy to moisten although the rice is perfectly fine as it is.
For dessert, there’s kesar rasmalai (S$14) – light, spongey cottage cheese dumplings floating in a not-too-sweet, rose-scented milk.
Be prepared to do a takeaway unless you want to pay S$25 for delivery (free for orders above S$200). But if you need an excuse to get out of the house for a quick drive-thru, thoughts of biryani and naan (see if they will throw in some papadum too) should do it.
(Related: Tiffin Room: a multi-layered experience)
Thevar: Visit thevar.sg or call 6904-0838 / WhatsApp 8429-9296
Tiffin Room: Visit rafflesgrabandgo.com
This article was originally published in The Business Times.
(Related: Takeaway is the new fine dining)