Monday, July 22, 2013

Restaurant review: MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms), Singapore

This is one restaurant that I have been eagerly waiting to review. Hearing about the opening of this restaurant in Singapore was music to my ears! Before I proceed with my review, here is some history about MTR. 

MTR has served world class Karnataka cuisine since 1924. Don't you love food establishments which have such a long and rich history? I most certainly do! The founders of MTR originally hail from Dakshina Kannada (just like yours truly) so understandably, I have a soft spot for anything associated with the brand. For me, MTR is a brand that is synonymous with good quality food and culinary products. My pantry is filled with their range of spice powders, instant mixes and snacks. It is something my kitchen just can't do without. I cannot remember if I've been to the MTR restaurant in Bangalore or not but my hubby has and he was reminiscing about how much he had enjoyed the food there. 

I should tell you the events surrounding my first visit to MTR in Singapore. I was beginning to think that I was going to be the last among the Kannadigas in Singapore to check out this restaurant since I had been frequently seeing MTR-related Facebook updates from family and friends living here. Naturally, I had been yammering about the same for a while. It so happened that a few weeks ago, my hubby had a charity marathon at the lovely Gardens by the Bay on a Saturday morning at 7:30 am and he had been nudging me to tag along for company. Not being one to be deprived of my beauty sleep over the weekend, I of course said a firm NO at first. But then he said the one thing to completely change my mind - a promise of breakfast at MTR after the marathon (a little bit of bribery goes a long way now doesn't it?!). I wanted to review the restaurant as well so I was looking forward to going there very much. One of my husband's friends was also running the marathon so we asked him to join us.

That's the heading over to MTR

The menu at the MTR restaurant in the Singapore outlet is not very extensive but the good thing is that they do offer specials during different days of the week. It seems like a good business strategy to get patrons to go back because I for one will definitely be going back to try some of the items that were not available during this visit! A special shout out to fellow akki rotti lovers....go on a Tuesday or Saturday

The restaurant is small, modest with a minimalistic decor. However, the placards on the wall with images and tidbits from their culinary history and the color monitors with a slideshow of photographs and detailed descriptions of each item on their menu is inspiring and brings in a sense of nostalgia.

Vada ($2)
The vada was everything you could want for in a vada - hot and crispy served with coconut chutney and a distinctly Karnataka-style sambhar. This is a novelty for me because most restaurants in Singapore serving South Indian food and breakfast in particular, have a pronounced Tamil influence. Not that I'm complaining, but once in a while, I find this a welcome change. 

Masala Dosa ($6)
The masala dosa was excellent. Clearly, one of the best masala dosas I have had anywhere in Singapore hands down! Move over KFC....this is what finger licking is all about! It is rare that you get a nicely brown dosa in Singapore and this one was brown, crispy and had the unmistakable aroma of ghee. It seemed to me like the batter itself was brown in color which is not the case when I make dosas at home. Got me wondering how they make their dosa batter. Well, I guess that would be a closely guarded secret that no one will be finding that out anytime soon! 

Kesari Bath ($4)
In general, I'm not a huge fan of kesari bath but I did like this one. It didn't look very appetizing despite the eye popping color, but it was sweet, had good texture and you could smell and taste the ghee in it. You should know that everything at MTR has generous amounts of ghee in it so if you are a vegan or not a fan of ghee or on a strict diet of some sort, you could find yourself in a dilemma. But I overheard (on more than one occasion) for customers requesting for certain items to be prepared without ghee and the management was very obliging. 

Khara Bath ($4)
The khara bath was really good. I couldn't stop digging my spoon into it. It wasn't saturated with vegetables (which I liked), it was subtly spiced, had great creamy texture as with the kesari bath and you could tell that it had a copious amount of ghee in it. Ghee makes everything taste 10 times more can't help it! The tomato served on top was a great addition both visually and gastronomically. I'm going out on a limb to say that the khara bath is one among the best dishes here.

If you want to sample both the kesari bath and the khara bath, I would recommend ordering the Chow Chow bath which consists of small portions of the two served side by side. 

Bisibele Bath ($5)
The second the bisibele bath hit our table, we could see the steam arising from it and smell the spices and ghee which combined to form an tantalizing aroma for the taste buds. The ghee is served in a small steel bowl so adding it into the bisibele bath is optional (no prizes for guessing what we did!). As we expected, the bisibele bath was delicious with the perfect blend of spices, the right balance of sweet and sour and mixed vegetables that were soft and tender (I loved the pearl onions in particular). For me, the raita served on the side was unnecessary. I enjoyed the bisibele bath just as it was. Some khara boondi (small savoury deep-fried balls made from chickpea flour) would have been perfect for that added crunch but that's just me being greedy

Filter Coffee ($2)
I'm surprised that I'm saying this but I wasn't as impressed with the coffee as I thought I would be. I was expecting to be blown away by it and I wasn't. I love the filter coffee at Anjappar and I would definitely rank it better. Here they serve the coffee without sugar so you need to add sugar according to suit your taste. I think my indifference towards this coffee also has something to do with the way it is served. I like filter coffee served the traditional way in the Madras-style steel tumbler and dabarah because it reminds me of the frothy filter coffee that my mum and grandmothers serve back home. Oh well, you can't win 'em all!

My husband's friend ordered a dosa to take home to his wife and it came packed so nicely that I was compelled to take a picture! It reinforces the impression that MTR adheres to high standards to hygiene and cleanliness. 

This next part of my review is from several subsequent visits to MTR on weekdays. There were so many more dishes that I wanted to sample that I decided to publish my review only after I had included a few more of them.

Here is a round up of the additional dishes that I sampled.

Rava Idli ($4)
1 pc rava idli served with potato sagu, coconut chutney and a small steel bowl of ghee on the side. The main reason to try rava idli here is because MTR is said to be the inventors of this humble dish, the origins of which can be traced back to World War II. The rava idli was soft and quite flavorful on its own with the mixture of herbs and seasonings. I had a few bites of it without either of the accompaniments and I really enjoyed it.

Rava Dosa ($4.50)
I can be highly critical of rava dosas in general because I happen to be good at making them myself! (yes, modesty is my middle name *guffaws*). The rava dosa at MTR is super thin and crispy and served alongside a delicious vegetable stew and coconut chutney. This rava dosa wholeheartedly gets my stamp of approval!

Poori Sagu ($4)
This came with 2 pcs of poori served with potato sagu (stew) and coconut chutney. In keeping with the overall quality of dishes at MTR, this was again a good dish. The pooris were fluffy and had not soaked up excess oil (which otherwise would be ugh!). The sagu and chutney were the same that were served with the rava idli. I actually liked the pooris with the vegetable stew that they served alongside the rava dosa. That combination was a winner.

Onion Dosa ($4.50)
This item is available on Wednesdays. I would go back again and again for this one. I'd rank it right among my top dishes at MTR along with the Masala Dosa. The onion dosa had great flavour and texture, the roasted red onions being the pièce de résistance! It was served with green chutney and a mixed vegetable sagu. The combination of the onion dosa and the green chutney did it for me. It was lip-smacking good and I could have readily eaten more!

Neer Dosa ($4.50)
There is just something so wonderful about the simplicity of neer dosa. This white handkerchief like looking dosa  has its origins from Tulu nadu region of Karnataka. The neer dosa at MRT which is a Thursday special, reminds me of the neer dosa that I have back home. Served with a sweet mixture of jaggery and coconut as well as savoury chutney, this is a good dish. The chutney was different from the one that was served with dosa. It seemed to have the flavour of raw mango but I could be mistaken on this one. Anyway, thumbs up to the neer dosa!

Shavige Bath ($4.50)
I enjoy shavige bath for breakfast. This South-Indian style of noodles is mildly spiced, light and yummy. I had an idea of how the shavige bath would be and once I sampled the dish, it tasted exactly like how I imagined. The homely taste is what makes this dish appealing.

Dahi Vada ($3)
I found the yoghurt in the dahi vada a little too sweet for my liking but it still was good dahi vada. The boondi provides a savoury crunchiness against the creamy sweet yoghurt and soft vada.

Akki Rotti ($4.50)
The akki rotti comes with 2 small rottis. The rottis were soft and smooth and frankly not what I was expecting. I'm used to akki rottis being a little more crispy and layered. I also love akki rottis because of the sabsige soppu (dill) and avarekai (hyacinth beans) that are popular components in masala rotti. The akki rotti here was slightly more plain as you can see from the pic but I still relished it because it had good flavour and the red chutney was amazing.

Bonda Soup ($4)
The bonda soup consists of three small round vadas dipped in a lentil based soup. I sampled this dish on a Thursday. The vadas were good as expected and so was the soup although it was slightly on the zingy side. That being said, this dish is warm and comforting so a big thumbs up!

Tea ($2)
The tea was your typical no-frills home style tea. Like with the coffee, the tea is served sugarless so you can add sugar to suit your taste.

Badam Halva ($4)
On our first visit, we wanted to sample at least one of the sweets so we ordered the badam halva. As you can see from the picture, the serving is minuscule! The halva was warm, sweet and gooey and had the rich aroma of ghee along with a subtle essence of almonds. I would have liked the consistency of the halva to have been a little thicker since I found it a bit too syrupy. At a price of $4, I did feel that this dish was overpriced. Not worth it in my opinion.

Gulab Jamoon ($3)
My hubby loves jamoon so we happened to order during one of our habitual visits. The jamoon turned out to be a great end to our meal. It was sweet and the pillowy soft interior had a delightful melt-in-your-mouth quality to it. The sugar syrup did have the predominant flavour of cardamom but we didn't mind it that much.

So, my closing statements - MTR is a wonderful restaurant that serves authentic Karnataka-style food. As I've mentioned before, this restaurant is small so it is important to note that it can get crowded especially on weekends. The menu options aren't plentiful but whatever they have to offer is exceptional. Keep your eye on the monitors on the wall to find out the specials are served on different days of the week. My favourite dishes at MTR are undoubtedly the Masala Dosa, Onion Dosa, Bisibele Bath and the Khara Bath. I would recommend these four as the must-try dishes. Coming to the negative, the only issue I had was with the service during our first visit. We had to serve ourselves with water, had to wait a long time for our orders and had to repeatedly remind the waiter for our coffee but considering that it was a weekend and the restaurant bursting at its seams, that may be overlooked. In all fairness to MTR, the subsequent times that we were there for dinner on weekdays, the service was nothing short of impeccable. The prices are extremely reasonable with an average price of $10-15 per person. I can't speak for anyone else but I most certainly will be going back again and again! I would strongly recommend this restaurant for couples and families.....wait what the heck....I would recommend it to everybody!

My overall rating for this restaurant is 4 out of 5 stars

If I was rating only the food, I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars!

MTR 1924 Vegetarian Restaurant
#438, Serangoon road
Opp Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple
Singapore 218133

Phone : +65 62965800
Website: Click here

​​Breakfast: 8:00 am to 11:30 am
​Lunch: 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Tiffin & Snacks: 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Closed from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm and closed on Mondays

Further information:
Payment modes : Cash Only
Private party area : No

Note: This is not a sponsored review. The comments and opinions in this post are solely my own.


  1. Good to see MTR going places!
    Well reviewed

  2. Hi Megha, I am one of the owners of the MTR chain of restaurants. Thanks for a splendid review.

    Your criticisms have been noted and we are working towards ironing out all issues at the earliest.

    I'd like to make one small correction - although the Shivalli restaurant sells MTR packaged food products, they are in no way associated with MTR. All our restaurants are mentioned on the website. We'd appreciate it if you could correct that information as we don't want more people to have that misconception.

    Thanks once again for the great review and hope to read some more follow up reviews about our restaurant :)

  3. Thank you Magiceye :)

    Thank you Mr Arvind for stopping by my blog. I have made the change that you mentioned. I wasn't aware that the Shivalli restaurant wasn't part of your establishment so I appreciate the correction :) You can be sure to see me again at your wonderful restaurant!


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