Tiffin Elkins Park Review
My family’s go-to lunch spot in downtown Philly is New Delhi Indian Restaurant – we are suckers for buffets. When we are in the mood for Indian food closer to home in the suburbs, however, we go to Tiffin.
I learned about Tiffin from a review of the restaurant in my high school’s newspaper. While the Abingtonian isn’t exactly the New York Times, the review left an impression on me (and I eventually became the paper’s editor in chief). Seven or eight years later, I am publishing my own review of Tiffin.
My mom and I came to Tiffin one night armed with big appetites and a Groupon. For $35, we were going to get two appetizers, two entrees, an order of naan, and two desserts. It was a feast fit for a king. (Note: In the review below, I’ve noted how much each of the dishes would have cost a la carte.)
Tiffin launched in 2006 as an online food delivery service serving the Philadelphia area. Since then, the company has expanded beyond the .com space and is a chain of 10 restaurants throughout PA and NJ.
Tiffin modeled their business off of a popular Mumbai lunch delivery service in which food is delivered to patrons in metal canisters. The word “tiffin” means lunch (or a light meal) and is a nickname for these food carriers.
Whenever I use a Groupon, I always let the waitstaff know that I will be doing so at the beginning of the meal so that there are no surprises. We had a few questions about the deal and the menu, but our young waitress was clueless. She had to have another waiter come over to answer our questions.
For the first course, we started off with samosas and eggplants. The Eggplant Chaat ($7) was an interesting dish. The dish had lots of competing flavors, textures and temperatures. The crispy, battered eggplant slices were drowned in cool yogurt and topped with what was basically pico de gallo. The dish as a whole was watery and facing an identity crisis. What was this eggplant trying to be exactly? The dish could’ve been improved if the battered eggplant had been served warm with a dip of yogurt, tomatoes and onions on the side.
The Vegetable Samosas ($4 for 2) were not the best I’ve had. In the file on my phone where I take notes for these reviews, I described the samosas as “meh.” They weren’t the warm, flaky pockets of potatoes and peas I typically love to indulge on at Indian restaurants. These samosas were barely served warm and the flavor was mediocre. I was able to finish both, but not without the help of the assortment of flavorful chutneys that were put on our table. These samosas had a lot of room for improvement. I much prefer the version at New Delhi, my family’s go-to Indian buffet in Philadelphia.
While Tiffin disappoints with its appetizers, it makes quite an impression with its entrees. I can easily say that Tiffin’s Chicken Tikka Masala ($14) is the best version of this dish that I’ve encountered so far in my life. That is really saying something, because I’ve had Indian food in London’s Brick Lane, which is renowned for South Asian cooking. Even the chicken tikka masala at DC’s James Beard Award-winning Rasika pales in comparison.
The curry of Tiffin’s Chicken Tikka Masala is to die for. The texture is wonderfully creamy, with a few crunchy bites of cashew hidden throughout. The sauce is quite flavorful, with coconut, caramelized onions galore and hints of ginger creating most of the flavor. The overall creation is sweet and smoky. The chicken swimming throughout is tender and soaks up the flavor of the sauce.
The Chicken Korma ($14) pales in comparison to the chicken tikka masala if you try the latter first. There is nothing wrong with the Chicken Korma, it’s just not as exciting once you’ve had the chicken tikka masala. The chicken korma sauce was described as consisting of an onion sauce with cashews. I thought the tikka masala sauce tasted more like onions than the korma sauce. It may have just been the season talking, but to me the korma sauce looked and tasted like butternut squash. The dish was topped with a maraschino cherry, which was an odd surprise. The chicken was of the same quality as in the tikka masala dish.
What is an Indian meal without rice to soak up the delicious curries and naan to wipe your plate clean? The Groupon deal included an order of plain or garlic naan. Wanting to try something new, I opted for the Garlic Naan ($4). I should have gone with the plain naan because this version was a bit too garlicky, which is saying something coming from a garlic lover.
Next came dessert. At this point, my mom and I were absolutely stuffed, but we packed up what was left of our entrees to take home so that we would have some space for dessert. While there were four options listed on the menu, only two were available the night my mom and I feasted at Tiffin. I was familiar with both gulab jamun (honey and milk balls) and kheer (Indian rice pudding) because I’ve had them at New Delhi.
Gulab Jamun is a dessert made of curdled milk that is popular throughout South Asia and the Carribean. To me, gulab jamun tastes and feels like dense balls of cornbread saturated in a light honey syrup, even though no corn is used in the recipe, as far as I know. Tiffin’s version featured a hint of orange flavor. I’ve had two other versions of this dessert elsewhere, and Tiffin’s are the best.
The Kheer, or rice pudding, had a light anise flavor. Because the kheer was relatively mild in flavor and sweetness, it nicely complemented the saccharine gulab jamun. I recommend scooping a spoonful of gulab jamun – syrup and all – and then dipping your spoon into the kheer for a nicely balanced dessert experience.
Tiffin’s interior is tastefully colorful. The walls are painted a fun shade or yellow-orange and adorned with beautiful, colorful photographs of India. The wooden lacquered tables are oftentimes empty, probably because most of their customers order food for take out.
The Bottom Line:
8080 Old York Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027