Much as I love trying out food in restaurants, I feel there’s a lack of privacy unless one is dining in a private room. If you’re the “been there, done that” kind of foodie, then you’ll constantly be in the look-out for new, unusual and unique ambiances. This is where the underground supper club fills a niche. These clubs are popular in Western countries but we have yet to read much about them here.
Last week I was introduced to Chyuan’s Tiffin Underground Supper Club located at a secret location in the suburbs. Well I am not about to reveal the hosts’ residence here, am I? Yes, underground supper clubs are typically held at the chef’s residence so it’s a home-cooked meal. Unlike being in a restaurant, there’s no menu. You and your group of friends would have agreed on the menu with the host and depending on your budget, you can have a very plush meal but regardless of budget, you can be guaranteed a much more decent meal than at most restaurants which cater to the masses.
My hosts are brothers, Eddy and Raymond Kwong and Raymond’s culinary accomplished wife, Muk who hails from Bangkok. Eddy and Raymond have full-time jobs not in the F & B industry but they are very skillful chefs and their passion for cooking is evident in the spread they laid out that night for a group of food bloggers (I know, I seem to be infiltrating food blogger territory these days but they’re really a nice and friendly lot).
The apartment in the suburbs wasn’t difficult to locate since I know the area pretty well and had done my reconnaissance earlier in the day. After all I wouldn’t want to be unpunctual especially when there’s the promise of good food to be had. Underground supper clubs would appeal to those who enjoy dining in a home environment. Of course you can always foist cooking duties on one of your friends but that friend would be so hassled and then there’s all that cleaning up to be done so why not leave all the cooking and cleaning to someone else while your group catches up on the gossip?
Although compact, the apartment is lavishly furnished with objects you’ll normally see in antique shops and flea markets. It’s a beautifully decorated apartment, it’s as if my hosts are interior designers by profession. A sewing machine that looks startlingly similar to my grandmother’s sits in one corner while the shelves are full of cutlery, a gramophone and old clock. Everything looks very nostalgic preparing our senses for the feast that is to come. The hosts grow some of the herbs used in their meals which has a combination of Chinese, Peranakan and Thai nuances. Relax and wind down to the strains of old Shanghai jazz and enjoy the view of the city from the lofty heights of the balcony.
They cater to groups of 4-12 pax and you won’t be dining with strangers. At Chyuan’s, they cater to one group at a time so you don’t have to strike up conversation with diners you don’t know because we all know how awkward that can be, eh? In fact it’s also awkward being in the same room as people you see regularly but pretend you have vanished into thin air. Ouch! Nothing makes me flee a meal faster than bad company even if the meal is free because some people should not be endured. However if there’s even one person there with intelligent conversation, I could be there the whole night since the brain needs nourishment as much as the body. Unfortunately quality conversation is in short supply these days but that’s another story.
The steamed herb white tilapia was very popular and was eaten wrapped in the greens – lettuce, daun kesom (laksa leaf), mint and basil. From Raymond, I learned that white tilapia is ideal for steaming while black tilapia is more suitable for deep frying. White tilapia flesh remains firm even after steaming. This fish is wrapped in banana leaf and there weren’t many bones to contend with. Wonderful combination when wrapped within the greens.
Taufu pok or deep fried beancurd is made with fried tilapia and dipped in cincalok (fermented shrimps or krill). Cincalok might be an acquired taste but I like it a lot. The taufu pok wasn’t oily and with the cincalok, it was perfection.
Judging from the speed with which the prawns disappeared, this has to be one of the more or most popular dishes of the dinner. You dip the prawns in the basil pesto which is a tangy tip. I think this dip would go with a myriad of other food, breads and chips.
What’s this, you ask. This is a sardine laksa that goes with the vermicelli and surprisingly, despite the amount of sardines in it, the scent of sardines is not strong or overpowering. Too bad I didn’t have enough room for more than 2 bowls as it’s very very good, rich without being too much to take in, if you know what I mean.
For petai lovers, this dish will send you straight to petai heaven. It’s lightly stir fried and it’d be great eaten with rice.
Fried chicken with lime juice and garlic – juicy and quite delectable especially if you love fried food with slivers of garlic.
Instead of a papaya salad, we got little bowls of fruit salads with strawberry and apple. I think this would be perfect for breakfast, nutritious and yummy.
I have 3 favourite desserts at Chyuan’s and their coconut cake is one of them. It’s light, not too sweet and I can feel the crunchiness of coconut bits on top of the cake. I love coconut and this one is truly the best coconut cake I have ever had. If I had another dinner at Chyuan’s, this would be on the top of my must-have list. It looks like a simple, not much decorated cake but the taste is superb. I almost wanted to ask for a doggy bag to take one slice home.
These are my other 2 most favourite Chyuan desserts. On the left is coconut marshmallow? It’s light, fluffy, airy and oh so divine. On the right is steamed coconut kuih which has just the right amount of sweetness.
Overall, I enjoyed my Chyuan’s Tiffin Underground Supper Club experience very much. It didn’t feel strange being in someone’s living room and kitchen as the hosts are extremely affable and approachable. They are generous with information on the ingredients and a delight to be around. My favourite part of the dinner was undoubtedly the lovely desserts. They are quite incomparable and I doubt I can find anything similar out there commercially. For a dinner party that will remain in your guests’ memories for a long, long time, you might want to consider this venue. For more information, please visit their Facebook page. Prices start from RM65 per pax and you can discuss what you want or not want on your menu with them.
Many thanks to Chyuan’s Tiffin Underground Supper Club for this unique dining experience and warm hospitality.