We were looking for a dessert cafe after lunch, and chanced upon The Malayan Council along Dunlop St. Remembering the rave review at The Halal Food Blog, we dove in for their ondeh-ondeh cake ($8.50). It is a little too sweet, but it’s soft, fluffy, and has lots of coconuty wholesomeness. On the spot, we decided we must return to try the mains to give TMC a proper and full review.
According to Chef Hafiz, who also played the role of floor manager that day, whose work experience includes 8 years at PS Cafe and its sister outlet, Chop Suey, the lady boss is a designer. They bake the cakes in-house. On the second floor, there is an event space for 30-50 people. They have catered for the Istana and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The food at TMC is rather refreshing. You may have heard of Mod Sin (modern Singapore) food, which combines modern ingredients and cooking to Singapore hawker or iconic food. TMC is doing something same same but different; they are combining Malay ingredients and Western cooking. I guess you can call it Mod Mal or modern Malay cooking.
Take for instance, the chicken wings ($13). It’s marinated in parsley, thyme, using a kecap manis from Johor, and infused, not topped, with chilli padi. Anything kecap manis is delicious–this tastes like a cross between oyster sauce, sweet and salty, and the Indonesian ayam bakar–although the wings were too thin for us.
There is a salted egg yolk softshell crab pasta ($28), which sounds delectable. But we went for the TMC Burger ($25) and the beef ribs ($39). The burger pairs the Angus beef patty with spicy sambal ikan bilis, fried egg, cheddar cheese and caramelized onions. It comes with truffle fries, which isn’t truffly enough.
The patty is cooked medium, with some pink in the middle, and is peppery. They build the burger tall, giving the illusion of a big portion, but for $25, I thought it is expensive. Actually, I would prefer the patty to be less round, to be flatter, so that it cooks easier and so that the burger would be short and broad, not tall and round as it is now; it would be easier to hold with hands. Burgers are meant to be eaten with hands.
The beef ribs ($39) sounds expensive, but it comes in a gigantic portion for two persons to share. As I was manoeuvering the bone to cut the meat, the bone slid off cleanly, surprising me. It’s cooked for 6 hours, and they aim for a medium texture: a tender bite, which they achieve. It’s doused in a secret sauce, which Chef Hafiz learnt in Dubai, and spices similar for beef rendang. As a result, it tastes like a fiery version of a rendang sauce. At first, it was too spicy for me, but as I worked into it, it was quite delicious.
Finally, desserts. I wanted to order the cempedak creme brulee ($9.50), but for the second time, it wasn’t available. (Is it ever available?) The durian creme brulee is delicious but it is a misnomer, throwing me off the expectations; it’s less creme brulee, it’s more durian pengat. It’s a layer of durian pengat; a thin layer of torched, caramelized custard; more durian pengat; and another thin layer of custard. There is more durian than anything else. If I wanted durian, I would have eaten straight from the fruit.
When the bill came, I was shocked since it was beyond my mental estimation. We paid $96 for two persons, including coffee. Although expensive, the food here is smart, innovative, and delicious; you won’t find similar food anywhere else. Definitely worth coming, and definitely worth returning.
The Malayan Council
22 Dunlop Street, Singapore 209350
T: +65 9002 4414
Decor/Ambience: 5/10 (Didn’t like the weird contrast of neon-colored tables at the al fresco area, like a children’s daydream, with the crate-tables inside, like a construction site. The tables, which are made from crates, are quite irritating because there is a beam across where your feet should be, so the beam obstructs the natural lounging of the feet. Some people have long legs!)
Overall rating: 3/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.