By Kiran Khurram
The restaurant serves halal meat but is not halal certified.
We love trying new things; new clothes, new style, new hairdo, and new food too. Regardless of how many different cuisines one may try, though, from Italian to Mexican, there is just something that draws us towards the food of our roots and culture. And hence, our love for desi food persists, and no matter how many desi eateries we have tried before, we have to try the next one.
There is something particularly different about today’s restaurant, and it is in the form of desi food with style and contemporary presentation; definitely something new: Zaffron Kitchen
Situated on East Cost Road, Zaffron Kitchen is easily accessible by car, with parking available at the nearby Mall 112 Katong or on East Coast Road itself e.g. in front of Santa Grand Hotel.
The ambience of the restaurant is rather casual, with its high tables and wooden chairs creating an open and comfortable atmosphere. The décor has a modern theme with the walls decked out in posters, and an open-concept working kitchen adding a unique touch. There is also a little play corner for children, making it a perfect place for families. What a great idea!
We went to Zaffron Kitchen on a weekday afternoon, expecting that there wouldn’t be much of a rush. On the contrary, the place was filled with different people, desi and otherwise, suggesting that there is something special about the food.
We enjoyed skimming through the iPad menu with many interesting choices including a wide range of appetizers/light starters, different meat curries, BBQ platters and vegetarian options. We ordered a mix-and-match selection, so to try as many dishes as possible. The menu also has a variety of burgers, fries and vegetarian & non vegetarian wraps for children.
We started with Tandoori Delight Platters, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Tandoori Mixed Vegetarian Platter was barbequed vegetables served with spicy green chutney – the perfect way to start our meal. The crunchy Paneer Tikka, capsicum, gobi and mushrooms were nicely done, original flavours locked in with a pleasant barbeque aroma. The Paneer Tikka was the best I have had in any Indian restaurant – tender, juicy and fresh, with a pleasant buttery aftertaste.
Tandoori Non Vegetarian Platter was a combination of delicious meaty options:
Mutton Seekh Kebabs: Usually, restaurants prefer serving lamb to mutton. I am not normally a big mutton-fan, but at Zaffron Kitchen, I found the Mutton Seekh Kebabs very tasty, without the typical mutton smell. The kebabs were nicely spiced, and delicious when dipped in green chutney.
This was followed by Murgh Pudina – chicken chunks marinated in ginger, garlic and green masala. This was moist and juicy and tasted good, but there was nothing unique about it. It reminded me of hara masala chicken without gravy.
Chicken Tikka and Malai Tikka: These, to our surprise, tasted almost the same despite looking very different. Malai Tikka was creamy white and the Chicken Tikka had a red tandoori look. They were both well marinated and full of flavour, although coming across one piece of fatty chicken left an unpleasant aftertaste in my mouth.
Fish Tikka: The fish was fresh and cooked perfectly. It was neither too spicy, nor did it have the typical smell of fish. The garnishing left a strong aftertaste, though, a little overpowering.
Biryani is a special yet common dish in both Pakistan and India. In dawats, biryani is always a must. The famous Hyderabadi, Sindhi and Bombay biryanis are always superb. The Biryani at Zaffron Kitchen, however, was a big disappointment. It arrived at our table looking like cheese-baked rice, sealed with a crisp layer of dough. With its mildly spiced, tender chicken thigh and hard-boiled egg, it was served with paapad and chutney on the side. For some odd reason, the rice tasted sweet, and the lack of masala made it dry and bland, quite unlike dum biryanis served in many other places.
Chickn Chettinad: This dish was a big disappointment, overpowered by intense garam masala and black pepper in the gravy.
Daal Makhni: This is one of the most popular dishes and instantly became my favourite too. I have tried this daal at many places, but Daal Makhni at Zaffron Kitchen is the absolute winner! The urad daal and kidney beans were well blended, giving a creamy effect, and the flavour of fresh cream and butter tarrka made it delicious. We tried eating this with freshly baked hot garlic naans, but I loved it so much I started eating it out of a bowl with a spoon. This dish is a little heavy on the stomach, though, and should be eaten in moderation, no matter how delicious.
Mutton Masala: This was a tasty gravy dish, somewhat similar to bhuuna gosht. The mutton chunks were succulent and juicy, and the dish was excellent with naan.
Bhindi Masala: Overall, this was nice. Bhindi Masala can be spicy and dry, but the dish served to us at Zaffron Kitchen was somewhat sweet with a lot of gravy. It would have done the dish well to have had crunchy okra.
Prawn Masala: The Prawn Masala was tasty, though a bit sweet. The gravy had a creamy texture and the prawns were well cooked. It came in a relatively small serving, though, with 7 prawns for 6 people.
We spoke to the Chief Chef about the sweetness in most of the food. He said that the basic gravy and marination is done at Zaffron Kitchen’s main cooking hub, with mixing and garnishing done at the restaurant. This might explain the similar sweetness in all the gravies.
No desi meal is complete without meetha. We opted for moong daal halwa which is basically made with moong daal (yellow lentils), sugar and ghee. The halwa was presented in a non-desi style, served with vanilla ice cream and garnished with lots of nuts and chocolate syrup. It looked very tempting and tasted yummy! I have a sweet tooth and enjoyed every bit of it, but a few of my friends found it a bit too sweet for their liking. With small pieces of nuts in every bite, and a beautiful aroma of desi ghee, the scoop of vanilla ice cream made it unique and an absolute delight.
Our lunch at Zaffron Kitchen was a good experience overall. There are also plenty of choices in both curries and tandoor for vegetarians.
We placed our order around 1.30pm, which was a bit late as their lunch starts from 11.30am. From 2.30pm onwards, the staff started approaching us for our last order, and did not serve drinks or tea after this time. This killed an otherwise good experience, and did not make us feel as customers should be made to feel. So if you do want to have lunch there, be aware that they close by 3pm as their dinner starts at 5pm.
Our meal came up to $30 to 40 per person, which is considered a little on the high side. However, it is definitely a must-try restaurant for all those who crave desi food while living abroad.
Must tries: Mutton masala, Daal Makhni, Non-Vegetarian and Vegetarian Platters and Moong Daal Halwa.
Address: 137 E Coast Rd, Singapore 428822
Phone: 6440 6786
Open 11:30 am – 9:30 pm