[Singapore] Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) on Serangoon Road, Little India

After the amazing gastronomic experience at MTR’s outlet in KL two days ago, I was tempted to try out its Singapore outlet on Easter Sunday. I’d never been to MTR’s second foray into Singapore and which opened in 2012. Somehow, MTR’s short-lived, failed first venture here back in 2007 at Le Meridien Shopping Centre on Orchard Road had been expunged from the record books. I’d remembered it back then as I was smitten by my visit to the original MTR in Lal Bagh, Bangalore just the year before, in 2006. The first MTR experiment in Singapore was a very poor effort, failing to deliver on the famed restaurant’s high standards.

This second attempt, strategically located on Serangoon Road, off Singapore’s Little India, is more earnest in its efforts, and has seen packed dining rooms on most days, and is especially busy on weekends.

Unlike MTR Kuala Lumpur, which provides table service, one has to queue up at the entrance at MTR Singapore, then order and pay at the cashier before one gets to sit at the table. Come early - preferably as the restaurant opens at 8.30am in the morning - to ensure that you get a seat. Bring a friend, as one of you has to snare a table whilst the other queues up to order.

  1. Rava idly - the version here seems a bit “drier” than the one I had at its KL counterpart a couple of days earlier. Whereas MTR KL serves its idly warm from the steamer, the one at MTR Singapore is cold by the time it reached our table, eventhough we were there when it opened at 8.30am. Tastewise, the Singapore one seemed blander and did not have as much lentils, nuts or curry leaves in the batter. Two of us shared one rava idly here but we couldn’t finish it, whereas in KL, we had one each and was ready to have more.

  1. White uppit (known as upuma in Tamil). This dish was not available in MTR’s KL outlet, and is always one of my fave dishes to have for a South Indian breakfast. Singapore’s numerous South Indian vegetarian eateries serve very good upuma, which seemed harder to find in Malaysia, where the standards of upuma tend to be rather poor, with the semolina already mixed with other ingredients/fillers.

Don’t miss the upuma here, it’s pretty good eventhough Saravanaa Bhavan serves the tastiest version I’d had in Singapore.

  1. Uddin vada - this savoury lentil doughnut here is as good as the version I had back at its original Bangalore outlet. Do not miss ordering this here. It’s crisp, light and delicately spongy, and was absolutely delicious with the sambhar and chutney.

  1. Chow chow bhath, which is a serving of savoury Khara bhath and sweet Kesari bhath. I didn’t order the khara bhath in MTR KL when I was there a couple of days ago, but the kesari bhath in MTR Singapore didn’t taste as freshly-made as the one I had at MTR Kuala Lumpur. Pretty average-tasting here in Singapore.

  1. Masala dosa - this is one of MTR’s claim-to-fame. The one at MTR Singapore seemed haphazardly produced, not as meticulously made as the one put out by the chef at MTR Kuala Lumpur - so much for MTR’s assurance in consistency of cooking at its different outlets. I’d go back to MTR Kuala Lumpur again & again for its masala dosa as it’s as good as the ones in Bangalore. This one in Singapore, I’m not sure why - chef’s day off, or something wrong with the kitchen? After all, we were among the first customers on this Easter Sunday - why the clumsily put-together masala dosa?


  1. We finished off with MTR’s signature dessert - the Chandrahara, a French-inspired but all-Indian dessert invented by one of MTR’s founder-brothers, Yagnanarayana Maiya, better-known by his nickname, Yagnappa. The dessert consisted of a multi-layered pasty made of maida flour, ghee and which is deep-fried till a golden-brown crisp, then served with a thick, sweetened mixture of milk and a curd known as khoa. Introduced in the 1950s and originally called the ‘French Sweet’, it was renamed Chandrahara after a popular 1948 Kannadiga movie. Sale of the dessert, which was sluggish earlier, took off after the renaming. Today, the Chandrahara is served only during the weekends. I didn’t quite take to the overly-sweet dessert, nor its clove-spiced taste.

Overall, a good breakfast, but nothing which sets it apart from other good South Indian vegetarian breakfast spots around nearby (my fave ones are Madras New Woodlands, Saravanaa Bhavan, Murugan Idli Kadai and the ever-dependable Komala Vilas), and nowhere near as good as its newer KL counterpart ([Kuala Lumpur] Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) on Thambipillay Road, Brickfields).

MTR Singapore
438 Serangoon Road
Singapore 218133
Tel: +65 6296 5800
Opening hours: 8.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-9.30pm Tue-Sun, closed Mondays


The dosa is much more cooked (browner) than I’m used to seeing in the UK. Is that usual or part of your description of them being “clumsy”?

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Yes, that’s one quibble. Plus, the dosa was not folded properly, although you won’t be able to see it from my photograph. But the worst part was that the potato-onion filling was overcooked into a mash and under-spiced. MTR KL’s version, on the other hand, was 100% similar to that of MTR Bengaluru’s.