The Halia @ Raffles Hotel – Fun Communal Dining Concept

15 06 2014

You would think that for its location in the iconic Raffles Hotel, the Halia must certainly be a fine-dining western restaurant. This “mistaken” mindset has proven to be slightly burdensome for the eatery, which has continually strived to portray itself as a casual-chic restaurant that isn’t afraid to infuse an element of playfulness into its dishes.

Al fresco dining area & bar

The latest concept adopted by the restaurant, which was also the reason for my being there, is the introduction of a communal dining concept, with dishes being classified as “big plates” or “small plates” for sharing instead of the usual appetizers and mains. The general idea is to bring out the scene of a feast where the table is kept filled with a variety of dishes, rather than having the usual course by course meal sequence typical of western meals.

Apart from the ala carte menu (note: prices of the individual plates are listed below), a communal set dinner is also available daily from 6pm to 10.30pm, priced at $260++ for 4 pax. However given the generous servings, my take is that the set can comfortably feed a group of 5, especially if there are females present. What’s included within the set are a kettle of soup with assorted breads, 4 small plates, 4 big plates, 2 desserts and a jug of barley/lemongrass/ice tea.

Alternatively, for diners who might want to sample Halia’s offerings without the full-blown commitment of dinner, the restaurant also offers very affordable 3-course set lunches at $25++, and a lunch communal set for 4 pax at $160++ which includes soup, 4 small plates, 2 big plates, 1 dessert and a non-alcoholic jug of barley/lemongrass/ice tea.

Upon entering the restaurant, the first signs restaurant’s casual-chic nature presented itself with the interesting old school designs on the communal menu and paper sheets covering the tables. Then came the barley water and utensils in old school tin cans.

Cream of Mushroom Soup, Bread Selection

Goats’ cheese mousse, heirloom tomato, olive, wild honey, dried brioche ($18++)

I didn’t quite take to the Oriental Pulled Duck with Soba Noodle ($18++). The meat was seasoned to be sweet, which isn’t something I’m used to.

On the other hand, the House smoked salmon pate ($23++) is a small plate that I would recommend ordering. Compared to the overwhelmingly salty smoked salmon commonly found in supermarkets (possibly to extend shelf life), the smoked salmon here was significantly less so such that you get a better sense of the smokiness and the natural taste of salmon.

The Chilli crab dip with toasted baguette ($14++) makes for a great starter. It stands out from the chili crab sauce from chinese restaurants since it was slightly more sourish, which whetted my appetite for the feast ahead.

For a secondary cut, I was surprised at how much I liked the Baked Kingfish Collar ($28++). The flesh was remarkably tender and I managed to debone it with ease. The light miso marinade also allowed me to appreciate the Kingfish, without overpowering its natural flavour.

While the Wagyu Beef “Zhajiangmian” ($30++) was visually appealing and conceptually interesting, with the “noodles” being replaced by long thin vegetable strips, it didn’t leave much of an impression tastewise. I thought of it as a fancy salad dish.

While the Twice-cooked Spatchcock of Spring Chicken ($35++) might look uninteresting, its execution was flawless and it turned out to be my favourite dish of the meal. The secret lay in it being twice cooked, first in a sous-vide style (slow cooked under low temperatures) to derive that tender juicy consistency, and followed up with some light roasting to attain the crispy skin and smoky char. What was most surprising was how moist the breast meat was.

In the old wild west, gunpowder containing traces of magnesium, potassium, sulphur and charcoal was sometimes used as a seasoning for meats. Inspired with this, the ‘Gunpowder’ Wagyu Topside Mayura Station ($46++) here was seasoned with charcoal. The beef was first cooked in a water bath at 59 degrees celsius before being grilled, resulting in a nice pink hue to the beef. However, for a indicated marbling score of 8-9, I was slightly let down that the beef still retained some bite to it rather than having the melt in your mouth sensation. The seasoning and accompanying sauce was also a little too savory in general.

Coconut parfait, pineapple, gingerflower, chocolate

Of the two desserts I tried, I preferred the Sticky toffee pudding, date, butterscotch sauce, sea salt, vanilla ice cream ($10++). Simple touches like the light sprinkling of sea salt on the toffee pudding did help to distinguish this rendition as an above average one. After all, who doesn’t like salted caramel?

On the whole, the meal was really enjoyable and the huge selection of dishes present in the communal set menu left me with positive feelings. Many of the dishes were rather creative with influences from various cuisines styles. What I enjoyed most however, were the relatively more straightforward dishes like the Roast Chicken, Baked Kingfish, Smoke Salmon Pate and Sticky Toffee Pudding. Regarding the communal dining concept, you can think of it as a scaled up tapas meal, or a chinese restaurant meal utilizing western dishes. Either way, it is a fun concept for group dining.

This meal was sponsored by Halia. Special thanks to Halia for hosting the invitation.

Halia

1 Beach Road, #01-22/23 Raffles Hotel, Singapore 189673

Tel: +65 9639 1148

Website: http://thehalia.com/raffles/raffles/about-the-halia/





Halia @ Raffles Hotel – A Weekend Brunch Menu Feature

7 07 2013

Halia, which means ginger in Malay, is no new kid on the block. It’s flagship outlet in the Singapore Botanical Gardens has been around since 2001 and has been a popular choice for diners out for dates and other special occasions. While it has been on my to-go list for the longest time, its location proved to be the main deterrence (since I stay in the east). That’s why I’m glad they decided to open a much more accessible sister outlet in Raffles Hotel late last year.

Located at the iconic Raffles Hotel, it’s not unjustified to presume that meals here would be priced at a premium so it comes as a surprise that this isn’t so. Case in point, 3-course set lunches are priced at a reasonable $25++ while their pre-theatre 3-course set dinners are priced at $33++.

I like the interior of the restaurant, which I found rather spacious. Alternatively, there’s outdoor seating as well. While the ambience, price point and food quality (which we will cover shortly) are attractive enough, it seems that Halia @ Raffles Hotel is still a relatively hidden gem as there wasn’t much of a crowd apart from a small private gathering gathered to witness a couple executing their ROM on the Saturday noon when I was there.

On this occasion, I was here to sample their weekend brunch and all-day dining menu. Like most brunch places in Singapore, weekend brunch is no longer constrained to mornings, resulting in the brunch menu being made available from 11am to 5.30pm. I will touch on the Brunch Menu items first.

Brunch Menu Items

For those wanting to live it up a bit, what’s better than some freshly shucked Irish Oysters ($5.50/piece) with Lemon & Mignonette, paired with white wine. As a university senior, I’m not at that level yet, so it would seem overly pretentious if I did that now. Guess I will just have to make do with the $1 happy hour oysters at Tanuki @ Orchard Central for now.

The Pancake ($12++) is a classic brunch item but the ones here come with very thinly sliced bacon, which provides a hint of savoriness that contrasts well with the sweet Maple Butter, Fresh Strawberries and Strawberry Puree. I would recommend this.

The Assorted Bread & Pastries ($12++) consist of a Baguette, Sourdough, Scone, Croissant, Danish, Clotted Cream & Jam. I have only tried the scone and it was a little drier and denser to what I’m used to, quite meh actually. On a side note, the people I know who are fanatics of bread always seem to be female. Not sure if there’s a real correlation or it’s sheer coincidence.

Another item that I wouldn’t bother ordering again would be the Heirloom Tomato ($20++) with Red Pepper Gazpacho, Croutons, Jamon Iberico & Balsamic, which comes across as a rather unaffordable salad dish, given the relative pricing of the other items on Halia’s menu. I’m not sophisticated enough to be able to tell the difference between a heirloom vs a common commercial tomato anyway.

One of my favourite brunch menu items would be the Mushroom Capellini ($22++) with Fresh Winter Truffle & Herb Oil. The cream sauce while thick, isn’t too cloying and the mushrooms are just simply delish.

The Grilled Breakfast with choice of Eggs done Poached, Fried, Scambled or Omelette style ($23++) comes with an Italian Pork Sausage (much too salty), Sweetened Bacon, Portobello Mushroom, Vine Tomato and Toasted Sourdough. Kudos to the execution of the eggs, which were perfectly poached and scrambled. One of the best eggs I have had in a while.

I didn’t quite agree with the White Bean Chorizo Leek Stew ($16++) with Egg Sunny Side up, Smoked Chipotle Sauce, Tomato & Fine Herbs. Personally, the stew was too thick and starchy.

All-day Dining Menu

It might not look like much but the Celeriac Lasagna ($12++) with Mushroom, Thyme, Baby Spinach, Lemon & Madeira Cream was the crowd favourite, me included. This says much given that I’m more of a meat lover. It probably had something to do with the mushrooms and the cream sauce, which worked marvelously well together, perhaps even slightly reminiscent of the Mushroom Capellini earlier on. This is a confirm must-order on my subsequent visits.

Fries ($8++) pretty much taste the same everywhere but I did enjoy the Truffle Aioli that came together with the oens here. The orange-coloured Piquant Mayo dip fared just averagely.

One of Halia’s signatures is the Halia Chili Crab ($25++) with Spaghettini, Spring Onion & Egg. It definitely packed a punch with the spices and was executed well overall but my only gripe is that it shows little differentiation from a generic crab pasta one easily finds in a number of Italian joints.

I could feel the Middle Eastern influences in the Sous Vide Baharat Chicken Leg ($28+) with Butternut Squash & Roast, Ginger, Coriander & Red Pepper Salsa. The lightly spiced thigh meat had a smokey flavour and was uber tender. The wonders of sous vide at work again…

Despite being a vegetarian dish, I found the Mushroom, Lentil & Walnut Bake ($24++), Fennel Seed Cream, Sundried Tomato, Mesclun rather intriguing and very flavourful. The walnut and lentil bake looked somewhat like a tempeh but had a much smoother and finer texture.

Overall, a very decent meal at a very decent price. No doubt I will be back shortly.

This meal was sponsored by Halia. Special thanks to Halia and Foodnews for the invitation.

Halia

1 Beach Road, #01-22/23, Raffles Hote

Tel: +65 9639 1148








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