Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Restaurant review + Giveaway: Pavilion Banana Leaf, Singapore

Invited Tasting

I love doing restaurant reviews. Not only can I gorge on sumptuous food but I can also take an avalanche of photographs and then write about my experience. That pretty much sums up the three loves of my life! So, when I was invited by First Gourmet for a complimentary food tasting at Pavilion Banana Leaf located at Jurong Point, I didn't think twice! 

If you have been following my blog, you may have read my review on Zaffron Kitchen back in 2016.  Both me and my husband are loyal patrons of Zaffron Kitchen and have been enjoying their food for years. Pavilion Banana Leaf (PBL) is a restaurant brand under the same company. 

Pavilion Banana Leaf was previously known as Zaffron Banana Leaf. The reason for rebranding was to apply for Halal certificate to cater to muslim customers as well. The casual dining restaurant specialises in South Indian Cuisine. They have partnered with Indian celebrity chef, Dr. Chef Damu, who holds the distinction of being the first Indian chef to received a PhD in hotel management and catering technology and also holds the Guinness Record for the longest cooking marathon.

The menu and recipes of the restaurant have been designed and conceptualised based on the expertise of Indian cuisine operations from First Gourmet, together with Chef Damu's experience in authentic Chettinad fare. 

Jurong Point is one of the most well known malls in the west and luckily for me, located very close to my workplace. So it was very convenient for me to grab two of my foodie friends and head over to the restaurant for lunch. Of my two friends, one happened to be of South Indian origin and a vegetarian and the other was of North Indian origin and a non-vegetarian so I had the perfect company to evaluate the food. 

We reached the restaurant during lunch time. It was still fairly early so only a few tables were occupied. We were warmly greeted by our host and the restaurant staff and shown to our table. 

What struck me immediately was the open-concept of the restaurant. Although indoors and air conditioned, the restaurant is bright, airy and has an outdoorsy vibe. The interiors have a modern yet ethnic vibe with the colour palette dominated by saffron, beige and green hues with pops of blue. Very reminiscent of India's tricolour  flag I must add!

I really liked the banana leaf shaped plates, the statement wall showcasing assorted spice jars, the abundance of indoor plants and the lovely wooden swings adorned with flowers that doubled up as a seating area.

The ambience is casual, cosy and welcoming. Ideal for enjoying a meal with your near and dear ones or an informal business lunch.

We went though the menu and noticed that there were an abundance of South Indian dishes, predominantly non-vegetarian but plenty of vegetarian options too and a decent selection of North Indian dishes as well. You have a selection of starters, main courses, set meals, set tiffins, tandoor items, curries, Indian flatbreads, desserts and beverages.

There are plenty of Indian restaurants in Singapore - both North and South Indian but it isn't very often that you will see regional specialities such as appam, idiyappam and egg thosai served with either vegetarian or meat-based accompaniments on the menu. I would advise you carefully look through the menu as they have a lot on interesting dishes to offer! But note that some dishes are available only after 3pm so you may not be able to enjoy them for lunch.

Here is a round-up of the dishes we tried and what we thought of them,

Mango Lassi ($7)
The mango lassi was how a mango lassi should be - richly creamy yet thin enough to slide down the throat in a pleasingly cooling fashion. And more importantly, predominantly sweet with only subtle hints of natural tartness coming from the mango and yoghurt. 

Buttermilk ($3.80)
Mild, refreshing and cooling on the stomach. This grassy palate cleanser was the perfect accompaniment to the heavy, spice-infused dishes that followed.

Cauliflower 65 ($7.80)
This starter had cauliflower florets marinated with an aromatic spice blend and deep-fried.

The cauliflower 65 had a vibrant colour, was hot, crispy and tasty. The fried curry leaves infused that signature South Indian flavour and the onion rings added good crunch. We enjoyed the dish with generous squirts of lime. 

Chilli Paneer ($9.80)
The description on the menu said this is a dish of cottage cheese cubes tossed with red chillies and spices. But this simple and unassuming dish turned out to be one of our favourites!

To begin with, it tasted very different from the usual chilli paneer that we order at Indian restaurants. The semi-dry side dish paneer was soft and absorbed the earthy, coconut and aromatic spice-infused flavour with both fiery fresh red chilli and the milder red chilli for some heat and overall perfumed with curry leaves. The onions added texture and a nice sweetness too. 

Bread Basket ($4-5/qty)
We were served a bread basket containing butter naan and garlic naan. The naan was similar in quality to the ones I usually have at Zaffron Kitchen (which is a good thing). Buttery, soft and fluffy yet slightly chewy - the perfect vehicle to mop up the creamy moreish side dishes that we were presented with. 

Paneer Butter Masala ($14)
This is one of the more popular vegetarian curries on any menu in an Indian restaurant consisting of Indian cottage cheese (paneer) simmered in a delicate tomato, butter and cashew nut gravy and perfumed with dried fenugreek leaves.

The paneer was soft and flavourful and the curry was creamy and delicious but a tad sweeter than I would have preferred. 

Dal Makhani ($12.50)
This is one of the most loved North Indian dishes and a personal favourite. In this dish, black lentils are slowly simmered in a tomato-onion based gravy containing aromatic spices, butter and fresh cream.

The dal makhani at Pavilion Banana Leaf had a smooth and creamy texture, great flavour, was mildly sweet and a great side dish for the soft and fluffy buttery naan. This one was our top-pick among the curries. 

Butter Chicken ($17)
Another universal favourite North Indian curry which contains chicken tikka marinated in a yoghurt-spice mixture and simmered in a tomato, butter and cashew nut flavoured gravy accentuated with dried fenugreek leaves.

The butter chicken at Pavilion Banana Leaf was rich, creamy, mildly spiced and packed full of flavour. The chicken was said to be tender. But my friend also said that she found it a little sweeter than what she would have liked. 

See how my plate looks? Yum yum!

Vegetarian Set Meal ($9.80)
We were a bit shocked to see this South Indian-style set meal or "thaali" appear on our table (which looked very appetising might I add) as we had already eaten a fair bit by then. But having three South Indian food lovers at the table made it less daunting!

So, this set meal typically consists of white rice, one chapati, two vegetable sides, sambar, rasam, vegetable kurma, curd, papadam, pickle and dessert. The portion is good and will easily satiate one hungry person.

Our set meal had one vegetable side consisting of snake-gourd, the second of cabbage with channa dal and the third consisting of okra, potatoes and chickpeas. All three side dishes were mild and delicious. The sambar reminded me of our Karnataka-style "kayi huli' (coconut-based spiced lentil stew) with its earthy and coconut-infused spice flavour. The rasam was clear, mild and peppery. Good to enjoy mixed with the rice and eaten alongside papadam or even just as a drink by itself. The vegetable kurma had a medley of vegetables cooked in a mild coconut-based white gravy similar to an avial and it was given the overall stamp of approval. The dessert was a sago payasam which had small sago in it, wasn't overly sweet and provided the perfect touch to finish the meal. I would describe this set meal as a lovingly created south-Indian comfort meal. The composition of the platter was perfect, every single item tasted good and was infused with delightful South Indian spices. The only aspect of it that could have been improved was the chapati but I'm just nitpicking here.

Lamb Shank Biriyani ($21.80)
This dish made my non-vegetarian friend very happy indeed! This is a huge portion and can easily serve 3 people. This dish is a Pavilion Banana Leaf special and based on the reaction of my friend, I'd say with good reason! The lamb was said to be very tender and falling off the bone, the long grain rice was flavourful and the side gravy was surprisingly good (which usually is not the case in most restaurants).

My friend's exact words were - "I give this biriyani 12 out of 10 stars". 

I just HAD to do a flat-lay. I mean, it would have been a crime not to! 

Moong Dal Halwa ($5.80)
So even though we had already had the payasam from the set meal, we were served another dessert. But who can say no to halwa right?

This Rajasthani delight turned out to be a warm, rich and buttery combination of lentils, milk, butter and sugar. The addition of nuts made it even better. It was just the right sized portion and the sweetness was just right for me (although I can't speak for everyone else). 

The three of us had a lovely time at Pavilion Banana Leaf catching up whilst enjoying the delicious food. One of my friends was relocating to the US that very same week and so it was a good chance for us to spend some quality time together.

Check out my two lovely accomplices for the afternoon 😊 Thank you ladies for giving me the pleasure of your company and not rolling your eyes at my excessive photo-taking!

A big thank you to First Gourmet and Pavilion Banana Leaf for the invite and your gracious hospitality.

After a very hearty and satisfying meal, me and my friends half-heartedly dragged ourselves back to work.

My Concluding Remarks:
Our dining experience at Pavilion Banana Leaf was overall positive. The restaurant is easy to locate, has a casual and relaxed ambience and the service is courteous, prompt and efficient. The menu is extensive and if you have a preference for South Indian food, particularly Chettinad cuisine, you will be in for a treat! Although there are a lot of meat-based dishes, there are plenty of dishes to keep the vegetarians happy too. All the dishes we tried were good, the portion sizes adequate and from what I gathered, the prices seemed very reasonable too. And the use of spices and chilli is not excessive so even if you are new to Indian food, you need not be intimidated. 

I'd recommend this restaurant for couples, families, business lunches and small gatherings. 

My rating for this restaurant is

Giveaway On Facebook

I am hosting a giveaway of two $50 dining vouchers for Pavilion Banana Leaf on my blog's Facebook page here. Please note that this giveaway is open only to readers who reside in Singapore. Please follow the rules to qualify. Two lucky winners will be announced in the comments section of the giveaway post in a week's time.

Good luck fellow foodies!

Update: The giveaway has ended and the two lucky winners have been notified. A big thank you to all the participants 😊


Disclaimer: This was an invited tasting but I have not accepted any monetary compensation to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

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