Devagi’s Restaurant On Thompson Road


Organizing dinner at Devagi’s Restaurant has got to be the most upsetting experience we’ve had so far. It all started when I mentioned that I was very curious to try Devagi’s as I pass by her restaurant every day, it always seems so empty. Florence immediately seconded the proposal as she saw the extensive advertising on the Asian Food Channel, proclaiming Devagi as the “Spice Queen”. In Asia, if you give yourself that title – I assume it is self-proclaimed because I cannot find any supporting document or article – you have to be really good.

What really piqued my curiosity was that I could not find any proper reviews about Devagi’s cooking. Most write-ups and reviews were about her cookbooks and her wonderful personality. Intriguing no?

Unfortunately, we almost gave up going there.

Making reservations and negotiating corkage was a trying task and we were all grateful that Ganesh took the initiative because he had a bad time doing so. First, corkage was not negotiable as her manager Sanmugam refused to budge. Some one noted pointedly that Devagi was a Sanmugam.

Ganesh then emailed saying that Devagi called to say that we can bring 4 bottles of wine for a corkage of $60, that we must provide our own stemware and we must have at least 8 people.

At this point, we were in an uproar; I was furious at this attempt to “nickel and dime” us and mentioned that the requirement of “8” people was a racial discrimination because most of our group were Chinese. I recommended “7” as the perfect number in line with my Christian beliefs. eslim was suggesting that we go to La Noche instead.

We would have if not for the fact that Ganesh had put in a lot of effort already. I mean, seriously, charging corkage and not providing stemware is just pure profiteering.

In any case, getting there was not easy because all the roads were jammed up and parking there was a real hassle. It seemed like everything was aligned to prevent us from having dinner there.


Anyway, there is nothing like a glass of Champagne and a vegetable Pekoras to settle you down.

Dinner started without a hitch at 8pm. Other guests started to come in around that time too. Eslim, an alleged (because of his love of the cuisine) Indian in his past life, did the ordering. The most disappointing dish of the dinner was the curry fish head.


It was a thin watery gravy that was overly tart without the sweetness and depth you get from using Assam and the fish was either over-cooked or Devagi has to change fish suppliers. It was as tough as chicken without the flavour.

When Taking Photos Of Wildlife, Focus On Their Eyes

I could go on about how mediocre the food was but I think I’ll just stop here.

For something that classes itself as an “upmarket” Indian restaurant, I would say that the food has not attained the same level of sophistication as that of Vansh or Rang Mahal. Or even that of a good down-market Indian restaurant on Serangoon Road. From group consensus, we felt that Devagi’s cooking is more home-style Singaporean than authentic Indian restaurant-level. And from the handling of the reservations and corkage, we felt she’s a better housewife cook (just look at her recipes) than a restaurateur. The use of spices was not as exciting as some of the Indian food we’ve had in other homes or restaurants, in fact, eslim was so disappointed after tasting Devagi’s Biriyani that he wanted to bring us, for lunch tomorrow, to the best Dum Briyani in Singapore.

But that’s a story for another time.

Devagi’s Restaurant is at 200 Up Thomson Rd #01-03 Singapore 574424. Tel : 62552440


Posted on 29th Jan 2008 in Food and Drink, Indian


There Are 28 Comments


sharon commented on January 29, 2008 at 9:52 pm

please please tell me where’s the best dum briyani!


TTC commented on January 30, 2008 at 12:16 am

Glad I had other dinner to attend that evening. Don’t doubt you phototaking skill,but the fishhead curry’s color is yucky and the fish really look dead in it. Sad couldn’t join you guys though at Hyderabad the next day for their yummy dum briyani!


Ivan commented on January 30, 2008 at 12:34 am

@sharon: Coming soon at a browser near you!

@TTC: Yeah, you were missed at the dinner. No worries, we are definitely going back to the Dum Briyani place with you the next time.


imp commented on January 30, 2008 at 1:07 am

we were just talking about trying out Devagi’s, wondering what the fuss was about on AFC.

eiooow. i think we won’t go already. we’ve alot of indian friends in this ‘makan’ group. it sounds like it’s going to be a disappointment because alot of the friends’ moms are excellent cooks who can churn out vansh and vintage india quality.


Ivan commented on January 30, 2008 at 1:19 am

@imp: Hi! Was there a fuss? I thought it was just advertising? The food is very localised Indian, so may not agree with your friends especially if their moms are already excellent cooks. (Just like my group). 😉


Pete commented on January 30, 2008 at 4:43 pm

I’ve been so curious about Devagi’s as I’m also a serious Indian food fan. The only thing detering me from making a trip down to her restaurant was the distance from where I’m staying. But your experience there has really scared me off! Thanks so much for the heads-up though.


Karen Ng Siew Tin commented on February 23, 2008 at 1:52 am

A group of 11 of us had dinner at Devagi’s about 3 weeks ago and it was the most pleasant experience!! I am surprise you guys give such ratings.Firstly, I am not sure which one of you know what authentic Indian food is?! Devagi’s may not be the “pukul makan” type food in Little India with all that bright orange and red colouring and oil floating on the top (if that is Indian food) but food at Devagi’s is certainly wholesome, nutritious, no artificial colouring and best of all LESS SALT. All Indian restaurants boost up their salt. The mutton briyani was so perfect and the Assam Pedas Fish Head was the best I have eaten in the last 6 years in Singapore. Their desserts are to die for and best of all , Devagi is such a pleasant person. Her ever gracious nature is admirable despite her being busy in the culinary circuit. I’ve returned to the restaurant twice since then and so did at least 4 of my friends. Devagi’s is a must go restaurant if you love yourself.


Ivan commented on February 23, 2008 at 2:32 am

@Karen Ng: I’m uncomfortable with your stereotyping of Indians and their cuisine. We tried comparing Devagi’s to Rang Mahal and Vansh which are considered up-market restaurants similar in concept to Devagi’s. We had 4 Indians at our table, none were impressed. I do think that when you try to advertise as “Spice Queen”, you do raise expectations. A lot.

And we, the Chinese (most of whom have been to India) and Indians (who are people) at the table, all agreed that the fish wasn’t fresh. And from the picture, you can see oil floating on top (which we did not mind at all). Hardly nutritious, according to your standard though.

To end, you will find that my entry on Devagi’s is on other things than misguided ideas on nutrition and that your comment agrees with my impression of Devagi but I sincerely hope that you can be less prejudiced and parochial, more open-minded and more accepting of non-Singaporeans.


Karen Ng Siew Tin commented on February 24, 2008 at 10:25 am

Well guys, I am a die-hard foodie myself who never miss any eatery selling spicy stuff. Rang Mahal and Vansh or even forthe matter Song of India are North Indian food and they are what I call ‘play’ food-something you’d would want to spend money on to treat your friends or when you friends treat you. You can’t eat there everyday because they are darn rich and full of cream and nuts and your know what. People want to eat comfort food, like they eat at home and so they patronize restaurants like Devagi’s. You hear kids, grandparents, teenagers, foreigners and all eating happily and they can go back there the next week and the next. But if you eat at those fine dining places like Rang Mahal and the lot, you will probably go there once a year or twice. Oh come on, you test a Spice Queen on her knowledge on spices and not on a poor fish that was found to be not up to your group’s standard – that is nature. Spice Queen can’t taste a portion of your fish before it goes out because they’re not doing degustattion dinners at Devagi’s. I am sure there must have been other dishes that you ate and you liked. where are your feedback for something you enjoyed? If your experience was that bad, perhaps you should forward your feedback to the restaurant and ask for a refund. I am sure they will oblige. BTW I went there last night and found the Assam Pedas tasty as ever and the fish fresh.Did you try their mutton chops in thick gravy or their spinach and dhall?


Philly commented on February 24, 2008 at 10:31 am

Hello everyone, I am an expat Indian who has been living in Singapore for 2 years. My country of origin is Kerala. Since I came to Singapore I have visited and eaten at almost every Indian restaurant at Tekah. When Devagi opened her restaurant my family and I ate there once and till today we must have made an average of 1 trip a month and we have brought many of our Indian friends there. The food there is so home style and clean. It is not like a fine dining place like Rang Mahal but it homely and warm. Sometimes service is slow but the hospitality and the personal attention you get from Devagi herself or her manager surpasses everything. I have not tried the fish head. But I have tried the fish curry and the mutton chops and all the vegetables. You cannot get such fine cooking in any other Indian restaurants in Singapore.Perhaps you should go there and try again. My children love Devagi’s restaurant.


Ivan commented on February 24, 2008 at 10:59 am

@Philly: That’s my point exactly; Devagi’s should not position itself (according to the reviews) as an upmarket establishment if she does only homestyle cooking. When we were there Devagi spent most of her time reading a book in the corner while her staff struggled with the service. We’ve been to restaurants where the Chef (a celebrity Chef and an actual Michelin-starred Chef) helped with the food service and cooking when things were busy. The food that night was really sub-par for someone who is supposed to be highly lauded, at least in Singapore. It’s incongruous.

Unfortunately, Devagi and her manager made such a mess of the reservations and the corkage with so much flip-flopping that going back seems like a chore. You might want to try Spice Junction on Race Course Road for some Kerala cuisine.


Ivan commented on February 24, 2008 at 11:22 am

@Karen Ng Siew Tin: How would you define Devagi’s food, Southern Indian, Hyderabadi or Localized Indian? As you are rambling without getting to the point, so I’ll just list the key issues we had for you to focus on: Making reservations was a chore because of the indecisiveness; Corkage was charged without proper wine service; Service was provided with reluctance; Quality control in terms of freshness was inconsistent according to yours and my experiences.

And yes, we tried the mutton chops in thick gravy and it was neither integrated nor balanced in the taste. The Spinach and Dhal was did not impress. Hence, I was being nice by not writing about them.

Karen, really, you need to be more open-minded in the sense that you have to allow people to have a different opinion from yours. No amount of anecdotal persuasion is going to change what really happened to us at Devagi’s that night. We will not shut the door on Devagi’s, but we will definitely not visit again any time soon. Perhaps the restaurant is too new to have gotten it’s act in order yet.


wei lin commented on February 24, 2008 at 1:22 pm

assam pedas fish in an indian restaurant? the neme does not sound very indian right?


TTC commented on February 24, 2008 at 1:26 pm

[quote=’karen ng”]Oh come on, you test a Spice Queen on her knowledge on spices and not on a poor fish that was found to be not up to your group’s standard – that is nature. Spice Queen can’t taste a portion of your fish before it goes out because they’re not doing degustattion dinners at Devagi’s.[/quote]

After all the persuasion, I am tempted to go try myself, but frankly for this reason alone, I do not think I will even want to go there. I want food, good food, fresh food, well cooked food, not knowledge, there is a whole library and the internet for that.


Albert Tan commented on February 25, 2008 at 12:54 pm

I’ve reading your blog for a long time. Your pictures are awful and your comments are contradicting sometimes. My colleagues and I have been patronizing Devagi’s Restaurat at Upper Thomson for the last one year. We’ve been going there at least once a month during our lunch breaks. So far we only encountered one incident when we had to return a plate of spinach and ikan bilis because we had ordered a spinach with dhall. Trust me, you cannot get that same class of spinach and dhall in any of the Indian restaurants. BTW as far as my understanding goes, Devagi’s is not an Indian restaurant!!! You guys are making a fuss for nothing. The theme is supposed to be “spice” and therefore I think you find Assam Pedas or Belachan chicken or for the matter during CNY when I brought my family there, we had Nonya Chap Chye! The food is satisfactory and their desserts esepcially the pengat ice cream is always tempting. We have always seen Devagi, cleaning, serving and sometimes we can see her coming out of the kitchen with sweat beading on her forehead, obviously cooking.We have seen her working on her laptop and we have seen her with her book and we have seen her being photographed. It’s a great place for my friends. The manager, obviously Devagi’s daughter or niece is very professional in handing people too.


Robert Claes Pfinson commented on February 25, 2008 at 2:35 pm

I had a fantastic dinner at Devagi’s the other day with my Chinese wife. This was our second trip there simply because food is always delicious and light, service is good provided by the manager and Devagi herself, we hear great music, the ambiance was beautifully arranged for the Chinese New Year season. Devagi personally checked how everything was several times at all the tables. We have recommended to several of our friends and they have visited and returned happily.


Ivan commented on February 25, 2008 at 6:11 pm

@Robert Claes Pfinson: I am glad that you, your wife and friends had a great time. I really wish that I can say the same for me and my friends, but alas, I cannot.


Ivan commented on February 25, 2008 at 6:15 pm

@Albert Tan: Thanks for coming back to read despite the “awful pictures” and “contradictory comments”. Do let me know where my comments have been contradictory so that I can address them.

Unfortunately, nothing you or anyone can say changes our experience at Devagi’s and no one has yet to address the list of issues we had in an non-anecdotal manner.

Finally, Albert, getting personal about it (a very childish effort that erodes whatever standing you have) will not change the integrity of my blog entry. At least I have enough self-respect to stand by what I write.


Gilbert Cheng commented on February 26, 2008 at 1:35 pm

what is this fuss about corkage charges? I was a restauranteur for 11 years before I called it a day and retired. I hated to entertain calls from people who asked if we can waive the corkage charges. I used to think “here goes the shameless rich man who can wine and dine but cannot afford corkage charges, just like our friends who can afford and drive a Merc or BMW and will not put a parking coupon because they want to save the coupon”. Looking from the side of a restauranteur, why would want to let anyone drink his wine in my restaurant without paying corkage?


Ivan commented on February 26, 2008 at 1:59 pm

@Gilbert Cheng: Most people are not rich as you state. We would pay corkage if there was proper wine service and acceptable stemware. Which there wasn’t.

If you calculated the corkage per bottle, the corkage charge often exceeds the cost of the food which is ridiculous. We would rather spend more money on the food, which is what a restaurant is for.

If you wanted people to pay to drink wine, you should have opened a wine bar instead.

To get a clearer picture, refer to this


Fritzer commented on February 26, 2008 at 10:39 pm

The way I see it, corkage charge for places without wine service is imposed on patrons to make up for loss of income due to poor patronage because of poor food ( or poor service). Self respecting restaurants who do not sell wine or have proper wine service do not need to impose corkage because they are confident their food is sufficient reason to attract repeats patronage and there is enough profit to make there. There are many such restaurants out there.

Come on even if patron comes in and only ask for plain water with his meal, the restaurants has to serve him as good as other customer who buy some beverages, so what is the issue of not charging corkage? No wonder restauranteur without patron’s welfare in mind gives up soon after.


hi commented on February 27, 2008 at 1:24 am

let me offer my take on devagi’s..

just had dinner there 2 nights ago to see what the big fuss was about.. honestly, the food was nothing to rave about.. thought the assam fish head was okay..but lacked the kick from the extra assam and i would have liked some sweet onions in there to balance out the overly tart gravy.. i think my mom does a better job with the fish though the fish seemed rather fresh (so devagi either changed her supplier or ivan went on a day with leftover fish). The mutton chops were to say the least..disappointing.. tough, bland and inpalatable. I’ve had tastier (and cheaper) dhall at the coffee shops in little india.

And honestly to charge corkage without providing stemware is daylight robbery. Are they going to charge me if i bring in a bottle of green tea and drink it over dinner??? I tried that..and no they dint charge why the difference with the alcohol??!? ivan has been nice and left the doors open.. for me, this restaurant is history.


Fritzer commented on February 27, 2008 at 11:34 am

To hi, drink wine, rich people, can cut throat. Drink tea, not so rich, leave alone. 😀


Bugger commented on February 27, 2008 at 4:02 pm

While I may not always agree with this blog, I have to say that there is nothing wrong with this particular blog entry which is based solely on this one visit by Ivan and his friends. The entry is unbiased and open in its comments and observations…kudos to Ivan.

What I do not get is the attempt to discount or belittle this blog’s opinions. We all know restaurants have their off days and Ivan could have gone on an off day, Or it could be that the restaurant is really not that good. Whatever the case, what is the big deal? So what if Ivan does not return to the restaurant? So what if some readers choose not to try Devagi’s. The way I see it, if the restaurant is really that good, the flood of good reviews should more than negate any negative impact created by this entry. And mind you, when I say good reviews, I mean reviews that are done objectively with no reference to what is said here. Some of the comments here are just targeted at Ivan which really doesn’t say very much of the poster. If you have something good to say, say it. Why does it bother you if someone else says something contrary to your opinion?


wei lin commented on February 27, 2008 at 8:41 pm

looks to me like an attack by the clones


BabaNya commented on February 28, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Hey, this article is certainly increasing sales at Devagi’s!!! My wife and I went there this evening and the restaurant was packed. And we saw and heard diners enjoying their food. The wife ordered the mutton briyani and it came almost oiless and the mutton tender. I ordered the assam slice curry and it was not bad. I observed some wine glasses and cocktail glasses hanging at the bar and a number of angmohs were having a party and drinking wine from their selection. the mango lassi was thick and good. service was slow though, only one waiter and Devagi herself.apparently the manager is on leave.


Tasteless commented on February 29, 2008 at 12:07 am

A mutton briyani without oil or fat would be dry and tasteless. Your tastebuds can not be trusted at all.


Ivan commented on February 29, 2008 at 12:17 am

@BabaNya: Thanks for the report. As far as I’m concerned, this is a closed issue to me. And I have to agree with Tasteless on her views about your tasting ability.

Do check out the salient points of my dissatisfaction with Devagi’s here:

If anyone wishes to comment further, do it here:

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