Do you ever yearn for home-cooked food but you're too tired or busy to go marketing, prep and whip up something in the kitchen? And then there's cleanup to consider. Or maybe you're on the other spectrum - a passionate home chef who would love to share your well-received dishes with a bigger audience, and maybe earn a little income along the way?
Dine Inn is an online platform for home cooks to offer their dishes at their home, for takeaway or delivery (add $10) to your doorstep. With just a few clicks on the website or on the mobile app (available on Android and App Store), you could be tucking in to a heart-warmingly prepared meal.
Founders Luke Lee (right) and celebrity chef Eric Teo (left) liken this community marketplace to the "AirBnB of the dining industry" - matching food lovers with enthusiastic home cooks. There are even "rent-a-chef" options for special events.
Dine Inn vets all the hosts and also verifies the guests' email addresses when they create an account. This helps transparency and peace of mind for both sides.
The best thing about Dine Inn is that your order can be confirmed instantly. There's no delay in checking with the host as to the availability of the dining date or dishes to be delivered. You pick from dishes from a schedule that the host has made available, much like AirBnB. Delivery is available islandwide for just S$10, and your food arrives in less than an hour.
Guests can leave constructive reviews to help build a safe and positive community by pointing out negative behaviour and complimenting good ones.
You may also have seen Dine Inn events at some community centres. They had one at Hougang and Tampines, where you could meet around 20 of the hosts and try their food. It's a wonderful mingling of food-loving Singaporeans and young aspiring chefs.
Dine Inn is also a little bit like an incubator; aspiring hosts who do well may get to explore a business partnership to help them towards the next level of entrepreneurship. To help them with starting up, hosts get not only a welcome kit but discounts of up to 25% from suppliers.
Food safety of course is paramount. Hosts are required to undertake a mandatory one-day Basic Food Hygiene Course approved by the Workforce Development Agency (WDA). Applicants can use Skills Future Credit to fund this course.
Dine Inn hosts are also protected with a public liability insurance coverage of up to S$250,000 in the event of a third party claim by guests should there be any bodily harm caused by food prepared at the host's premises.
I have tried both the desktop website and the mobile app (above). I really like the app - it's fast, smooth and easy to use. Ordering is a cinch but you do have to order from one host at a time; you can't combine one delivery from multiple hosts. You can also send and receive messages from the hosts via the app.
So far, I have explored the home-cooked food from close to a dozen different hosts, and I am listing my favourites below:
Photo taken using Canon 5DsR
I really liked Melyvn's food, especially the spicy peanut sauce for the Gado-gado Magetan (an absolute steal at S$6.50). I'm glad he sells the sauce by the tub separately now. He also gave me a small sample of buah keluak and it is one of the best I've ever tasted! I definitely want to try the dum briyani, roti jala, mee soto and fried beehoon next.
Christi is a wonderfully versatile cook with a huge repertoire; she has so many dishes listed on her menu! I ordered her Braised Pork Stew (S$29) and was blown away. It's so richly seasoned and spiced, and wonderfully infused with ginger and garlic. Grab this and a bowl of rice - you'll be in heaven.
Nurasyidah lives in Jurong, while I'm in the East, so I got this as a delivery. Her food is, of course, naturally halal, so there are options for Muslim diners too. The Mee Goreng (S$5.50, left) is more intense and spicy than the Laksa Goreng (S$5.50, upper right). The Lontong Goreng Beef (S$5.50, bottom right) pleasantly surprised me - it tastes like a non-tomato based bolognese.
Hea Geong or Eunice Lee is the friendly lady doing the gorgeous kueh lapis cakes ($45-50) on Dine Inn. These are very well-made cakes, fragrant and luxuriously soft but not too sweet or too rich. The layers are beautifully even and baked just right. Eunice uses less sugar and fewer egg yolks, so her kueh lapis is probably a healthier choice compared to commercial versions.
JO ANN NG
Jo Ann is so nice. She has a little cafe at 3 Boon Tat Street, where you can pick up your orders. Her menu items are specially exclusive to Dine Inn. We went for the divine Serrano Ham Grilled Cheese (S$12, above) and two Japanese bentos (S$10 each). Very good value sets indeed, and everything is delicious!
ED'S DAY OFF
Ed's Day Off is based in Bedok. His Steamed Mixed Vegetables and Fungi, Wrapped in Bean Curd Skin is a steal for S$15. Look at how generous the portion is, and it's studded with roast pork slices too. Great way to fill your vegetables quota for the day!
Photo taken using Canon 5DsRYes, Luke, the co-founder is here too. I love the tau suan he makes - wonderfully fragrant and not too sweet. It's also a HUGE portion, as you can see. It's meant for 8 pax, but I think you could feed 20 people with it.
Dine Inn will be adding more hosts in the coming months (they have about 200 signups), so there will be more things to look forward to. There is a nice variety of hosts - from housewives and hobbyists to retired chefs and bakers. I really appreciate the hosts who make possible single portions of their dishes but for others, they need a larger order to make the labour worthwhile. Still, those would be good choices if you need to cater for an occasion or for the office.
This post is made possible by Dine Inn. Certain photos taken using the Canon 5DsR kindly loaned by CANON Singapore