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Nov 2, 2010 02:10 AM

Singapore - Fusion-Malay Food at the Tiffin Club

Lunched at the Tiffin Club yesterday. It's nearly 4 years old, but only came to the forefront of culinary news in Singapore when its relatively new chef Iskander Latif won the ChannelNewsAsia TV-reality show, The Perfect Meal Asia. The show pitted 6 Singaporean chefs against each other, with one being eliminated each week. Chef Iskander emerged the eventual champion.

So, we did go there with heightened expectations. The restaurant's bright, airy dining room was extremely pleasant, although a bit spartan in its decor and lacked some greenery/plants.

What we ordered -
1. Tiffin Appetiser Platter, consisting of Laksa Croquettes (loved the concept, but came across pretty bland - we couldn't really discern the laksa scent); Tauhu Telor (crispy egg tofu, with sweet dark-soyasauce & peanut dressing) was fine though not memorable; Chicken Satay (very generous portions of barbecued skewers of chicken meat, served with a thick peanut sauce) and green mango salad. We loved the presentation, just wished the flavors were stronger;
2. Tiffin Satay Platter - these were similar to the satays in the appetiser platter. These were accompanied by cubes of Nasi Himpit rice cakes, and crisp slivers of cucumber & raw onions. The sauce was passably nice: thick & chunky with chopped peanuts - we only wished it tasted better though. There seemed to be a lack of "oomph" in the sauce, the X-factor you find in good satay sauces with that perfect balance of spices.

1. Laksa Lobster, served with poached egg, asparagus spears & tiny potato pearls, sprinkled with orange-colored tobiko (flying fish) roe. Again, the flavors of the laksa sauce was hardly discernible. Perhaps subtlety was the keyword here, in which case, it might not suit local palates which are more adapted to robust local flavors.
2. Duck Confit Rendang, served with Nasi Ulam & Petite Salad tossed in Orange Vinaigrette. Wholly underwhelmed by the duck, which was NOT confit at all! It was pretty tasteless, in fact. The "rendang" sauce was a misnomer, it lacked the punch of a real rendang, which would have been bursting with flavors. Again, nice concept, but very disappointingly executed. The saving grace was the herb-tinged green Nasi Ulam accompaniment - this was great, perhaps one of only 2 items we had which I really enjoyed.
3. Chilli Crab Linguine, topped with quail's egg & tobiko roe - this was the dish I enjoyed best. Again, its flavors were decidedly understated and blander than "real" chilli crab sauce. But the crabmeat was fresh, and the flavors were perfectly balanced. Delicious. If I ever come back here again (not that I would in the near future), this dish would be at the top of my list to order.

We skipped the desserts as the meal was a bit too heavy for lunch. All in all, we love the bright ambience and the wonderfully attentive & professional service. Pity about the food - we certainly expected more from Chef Iskander.

Tiffin Club
16 Jiak Chuan Road
Singapore 089267
Tel: 6323 3189
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11am-11pm.

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  1. An interesting read, thanks - especially after your post reaffirming your misgivings about "high-end Malay food" on this other thread:

    6 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      i believe tiffin club has changed chefs (and menus) many, many times.

      on a (somewhat) related note, i had dinner at the moluccas room last week (modern-indonesian? fusion-indonesian?). it's not as bad as your review of tiffin club (in fact, the food was pretty good, and i certainly won't mind going back again), but it did make me question if malay/indonesian food (as a big, big, generalization) actually benefits from being "glammed up".

      for example, all the parts of the angus beef rendang (served as a sous-vide medium-well steak with a smooth rendang sauce over it) were well-executed, but when put together, just didn't quite gel together - the dish made me crave for the robustness of an actual rendang. a lot of textural interest, i thought, was lost in the translation.

      1. re: akated

        It's a one-year-old thread and, in fickle-minded Singapore, I'd would somehow expect some changes to have occurred. I wondered where Chef Iskander Latif is now? Maybe he's at the Moluccas? I walked past it a few weeks back, but was on my way to lunch at Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza downstairs - it's fast becoming one of the best lunch spots in Marina Bay Sands.

        By the way, the Titanic exhibition opened at MBS yesterday - how I wished one of the restaurants there would also recreate food items from the Titanic's menu on the evening it sank - there's even a cookbook which complied recipes from that last dinner on the Titanic.

        1. re: klyeoh

          nope moluccas is helmed by a female chef - carolyn alicia tivey (who apparently trained under mr tetsuya, and stephanie alexandria).

          i would be interested in the recreation of the titanic meal too! (and it seems like an obvious thing to do). let's hope they have one and we can organise a meal there. lol!

          1. re: akated

            Interesting, I noticed that an Indonesian food blogger from Acheh who'd dined at the Moluccas Room also raved about its authenticity - apparently, some of the herbs used for an Achenese dish there made it taste even better than the versions he could get in Jakarta:


            The writer could hardly believe that an Indonesian dish cooked by an *American* chef in *Singapore* could taste more authentic than what he could find in Jakarta, Indonesia :-D

            1. re: klyeoh

              unfortunately i don't read bahasa (i did google translate it though - marvels of technology!) is the blogger referring to a specific type of curry leaf (temurui)? i thought curry leaf is easily available here in singapore.

              yes; the sauces at TMR were excellent; and so were the textures of the various meats. can't vouch for the "authenticity", but i'm never one to insist on it anyway.

              i've also had a rethink of the whole angus beef rendang dish - previously i felt that the dish was lacking the robustness in terms of textural interest of a classic beef rendang. but then, why should this "robustness" be prized in a fine-dining setting?

              (must admit that i am only partially convinced of the above argument - only way to develop a firmer stand is to eat more often at TMR. hehe.)

              1. re: akated

                Interesting. The blogger appears to say that the combination of pandan and curry leaves gives that particular Aceh dish its authentic aroma...

                It seems to me that "daun temurui" is the alternate name for "daun kari" (quote: "...dan daun kari atau daun temurui...") which is "curry leaves" which surely has to be *karivepillai" (கறிவேப்பிலை) which would be Murraya koenigii:
       (note also the '52 languages' toggle immediately under 'Synonyms' at the top)

                See also:

                I would have thought it would be available in Jakarta? It certainly grows there: (look at the paragraph about her father's garden in Jakarta) Heck, I used to grow it here in Indy too, overwintering it indoors. In NYC you could get live trees as large as 6-8 feet high from a certain supplier, the last I knew of it; let alone in other subtropical zones here in the US. Fresh leaves are readily available in Indian groceries almost anywhere in the US, sometimes even in "Asian" groceries. Surely it must be available throughout SE Asia (besides South India), not just Singapore and Malaysia - where I know it is widely grown.

                Unless, of course, "daun temurui" is another plant altogether.

    2. This restaurant is now closed - sad but not surprised (arising from klyeoh's description of bland food in the OP).

      It's replaced by Jason Atherton's Esquina:-