Zaffron Kitchen, East Coast Road

Q: Did Zac Efron open Zaffron Kitchen?
A: No, he didn’t but he might as well have. The restaurant is as pretty as him.

When I stepped in, I was taken aback at how gorgeous the decor is. It has a very Parisian feel to it, with French jazz playing in the background. The modern chic decor is very similar to the French restaurant, Cocotte, except Zaffron uses more colors (orange, grey, brown) boldly. It’s contemporary Indian food in a Parisian setting – why hasn’t anyone think of it earlier?? The decor allows friends to gather at the communal table; lovers in cosy corners and families–there is a play area for children. The decor is classy without being pretentious.

Unlike Zac Efron, Zaffron has looks and substance.

For starters, we had some papadum ($4) and Papdi Chaat (pictured above, $6). My tall, dark, handsome and RICH–most important factor according to Chiobu–date preferred the non-oily papadum, which comes with two delicious dips (mint and mango chutney) and also comes in two flavors, normal and with black pepper. The black pepper one was fiery, man. However, I preferred the more complex papdi chaat, a North Indian street food, with a potato-chip-like base topped with murukku, sweet yoghurt, mint and tamarind. So it was crispy and soft, sweet and sour and tart. Super appetizing! I felt like I could eat 10 million papdi chaat.

Mains: The dum chicken briyani ($11) was extremely exciting. The dish of spiced chicken thigh and hard boiled egg with basmati rice is sealed by a thin layer of prata. Merry Christmas! Unwrap your present. At the side is yogurt and curry underneath the papadum.

This dish was both visually and orally pleasing. The chicken thigh was so tender. Drizzle the fierce curry over the rice – all the spices burst in the mouth!

To add some protein to our meal, we had the tandoori mixed grill ($25) consisting of (in order of the photo) chicken tikka, chicken malai tikka, fish tikka and seekh mutton kebab, good for 4 persons to share. Each tasted distinctly from the other in a wonderful way but it was mixed feelings for us. The two types of chicken were very tender. We both enjoyed the chicken tikka which really had the punch of the gingery tumeric and hot paprika. But my favorite had to be the malai tikka, which my hot date disliked. Malai tikka is marinated with cottage cheese, coriander and yoghurt, giving it a very earthy and charcoal-ly taste. It’s like eating very good BBQ chicken wings, the kind that slightly chars at the edges. AWESOME right?? The fish tikka was too light in spices for me but my date liked it.  We both didn’t take to the unique taste of seekh mutton kebab–it was overwhelming for us.

Kadhai Jhinga ($15), shrimps in onion tomato masala, was too salty for us but the Khatti Meethi Gobi ($8.50), cauliflower cooked with about 10 million spices, was fabulous. (Note the trend here? I only like intricate, complicated food with million spices.. like my love life.) It tasted almost like mashed potato with spiced tomato sauce on it, slightly sweet, slightly tomatoy-sour. I’m salivating as I am typing this.

We ordered two naans to go with the above dishes. The selection of naans is innovative. Aside from the plain, butter, garlic, cheese naans, there are masala kulcha (with vegetables and carrots), keema (a thin layer of mutton inside the naan), and kashmiri. We had the cheese naan ($5), made of mozzarella cheese!, so it’s like the Indian version of pizza. We also tried the kashmiri ($6.50), which is the Indian version of nut and raisin bread. Very tasty, I ate it on its own.

My philosophy is no meal is complete without desserts. Moong Dal Halwa ($9). Shan, the manager, told us that the dessert is made from moong dal lentil, a variety of lentil. I heard “moon-dial.” So romantic right?

Does anyone know what lentil is? I don’t. Sorry, very suaku. Wikipedia says it’s a legume family, so it’s pea-like? Moong dal halwa is cooked with milk, sugar and butter. To me, it tasted like fried fish skin but to my RICH date, it tasted like coconut bits soaked in milk.

The honesty of the restaurant is very endearing. Unlike other eateries that dish out lies and manufactured ice cream pretending that they made their own ice cream, Zaffron’s menu clearly states that moong dal halwa is served with Ben & Jerry ice cream.  How refreshing is that!  Not only is Zaffron Kitchen honest, the chef from India tries to make the ice cream his own–like a rendition of an American Idol song–by sprinkling some unprocessed lentil (I think it’s lentil) on the ice cream and the cooked lentil. Full marks for effort and thoughtfulness.

Speaking of thoughfulness, the concept of the restaurant pays so much attention to details. On the napkins and the aprons of the servers, there are slogans like “the devil wears prata,” “your food is cumin,” “thyme for curry,” and “I clove Indian food.”

The service was good too, especially by our knowledgable manager, Shan. And when I wanted something, I just looked in the eyes of another female server, and waved. Eye contact is so important for service.

Vegetarian options and wine and beer available. A Malay couple sat next to us, so although it’s not halal certified, I think if you’re not too strict, the food is ok for Muslims.

Last words: I think Indian food will never be the same again after Zaffron Kitchen. There is authentic Indian food here but there is also contemporary Indian food that tries to surprise the customers. Lots of thought is put in. And bringing delicious and very affordable Indian food in such a chic restaurant–that’s just brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?! I wish more places could put in more effort like Zaffron.

Zaffron Kitchen
135/137 East Coast Rd Singapore 341137
T: 6440 6786

T-S: 11.30am-10.30pm
Closed on Mondays

Rating: 3.787/5 palik paneer

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