SINGAPORE — The day before I wrote this review, the government announced the resumption of dining-in at restaurants and food outlets across the island. As a collective sigh of relief echoed throughout the now-shuttered spaces of dining rooms, big and small, I am reminded of my visit to Coriander Leaf at Singapore Polo Club, a mere 10 days before Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) descended upon the nation.
It is here within the bowels of horse-riding, pool-splashing, and general club activity merriment that Coriander Leaf has set up its second outfit after its indisputable success at Chijmes—a fact I discovered only at the end of my meal while chatting with Founder and Culinary Director, Samia Ahad.
As someone deeply entrenched in the dining world, it perplexes me that an institution such as this that has stood the unforgiving culinary test of time since 2001 is not more popularly or prominently featured and splashed all over social media. The success of Coriander Leaf, I found out, lies in repeated patronage of loyal customers who see the restaurant as a gastronomical secret to be kept safe from fleeting eyes and transient appetites.
I hope this review changes all that because the food here, served up by Executive Chef Iskander Latiff, is the pinnacle of excellence. The food is served communal-style and categorised by flavour verticals—Fresh, Familiar, Spicy, Umami, Sweet—which naturally gets me giddy with excitement. It’s an academic discourse on dining that brings into play specific cooking elements that I’ve longed believed to be the key to any restaurant’s success.
Your culinary journey at Coriander Leaf starts with choosing at least two plates from each category, which will be served in sequence from light to heavy and then grouped by cuisine and flavour profile in service of a well-composed meal of complementary flavours.
It starts with a kindergarten of snacks that aims to line the appetite with wistful expectations. There’s the Muhammara and Labne served with pita chips (S$16++) that are a dutiful exercise in contrast with the Labne carrying most of the richness and complexity of flavours while the Muhammara dwells in the realms of fresh flavours. There’s also a Watermelon and Turkish Cheese Salad (S$14++), which was quickly polished clean because what’s there not to love about creamy Turkish white cheese and incredibly sweet watermelon cubes that have been infused with rose water?
Though snacks feel like a paean to the Mediterranean, the menu here reads like a rich and diverse culinary map of Asia with dishes that take inspiration from the South, Southeast, and Western parts of the region. The Chicken Haleem (S$20++) is a Pakistani original with five different varieties of lentils and served with rice and cracked wheat. There’s green chilli in this, evident by the delightfully growing spice intensity in the mouth.
Also from the Familiar vertical—similar to the Chicken Haleem—the Ginger Butter Prawns (S$26++) comes with a consistency that’s great for dipping things with, perhaps, some fluffy Naan, baked fresh in the Tandoor oven in the kitchen. Given its moniker, I expected this to be thick like the ones I’m used to. Instead, it leans towards being a breeze to slurp without veering into the ‘soup’ category. The addition of fried ginger strips is a brilliant way to cut through this dish’s inherent richness, not that it’s in any way too cloying by any measure.
Light bites come by way of the Nepalese minced chicken momo dumpling (S$18++) from the Umami section of the menu, which comes served on a Kashmiri roasted tomato relish in a shocking hue of orange. The Sichuan peppers creep up on you, as they are wont to do, which makes this quite an intoxicating experience if I do say so myself. Elsewhere, the Crab cakes (S$16++) come served with chunky and crab fillings with the loveliest textured breaded exterior. It sits on a homemade tomato chutney—delicately tart and patiently seasoned such that the downside is that there’s not more of this to go around.
And then there’s the Grilled Angus beef shoulder (S$29++) which I refuse to order out of principle given that Angus is already such lovely meat to start. But the treatment at Coriander Leaf sees it dressed up fabulously with Indonesian Kecap Manis and grilled in the tandoor until a fierce char forms on the exterior. It’s so faultlessly tender, and when eaten wrapped in the leaves of lettuce, make for such a praiseworthy homage to comfort food.
To end, I implore you to order the White Rabbit Ice Cream Sandwich (S$14++), a beautifully crafted dessert that leans on nostalgia and succinct memories of childhood. It’s subtly sweet, creamy, with a nuanced simplicity that might make you feel like that kid sitting by the tire swing, sand between your toes, enjoying a midday treat—stresses of future adulthood be damned.
There’s also a Ginger flower & Lychee Sorbet (S$16++), which takes judicious inspiration from the local Rojak dish with a flavour-forward ginger flower-infused sorbet served with lychee, chunks of smoked pineapples, and a bright pineapple jam. On the side, a roll of love letter tuile lends textural variance, which makes this the peak dessert par excellence. Everything comes together so beautifully with a mouthfeel that’s complex, intense, and incredibly powerful.
I patronised Coriander Leaf, wanting desperately to like what they do here—especially given their somewhat secluded locale. Places like this have a lot more to prove to convert casual diners to rabid fans. Instead, I left loving everything and desperately wanting more. The next day, I promptly shared these food pictures on my personal Instagram page, where other food writers I respect said they will drop by for a visit. Some restaurants have fame thrust upon them, while others, like Coriander Leaf, have celebrities hiding within plain sight. You just need to know where to look.
Singapore Polo Club, 80 Mount Pleasant Road Singapore 298334
Tue to Fri: 6pm - 10.30pm (Non-members of Polo Club)
Tue to Sun: 6pm - 10.30pm (Members of Polo Club)
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