For a limited time only from December 15 2017 to January 1 2018, the White Rose Cafe at the York Hotel Singapore will be playing host to the chefs and culinary masters for the ever-popular Penang Hawkers’ Buffet! Priced from $29++ per person, this is probably one of the most affordable and indulgent local buffet spreads this festive season (yes, on Christmas day and the New Year)! Continue reading “The Return of the Penang Hawkers’ Fare Buffet at the York Hotel Singapore!”
When is a mee goreng like a plate of fried hokkien mee? That was the question that befuddled my mind and tastebuds as I sat for lunch at York Hotel’s White Rose Cafe, just behind the Pargaon Shopping Centre in Orchard. Though the dish was called the Seafood Mee Goreng, and with the colour of the dish shockingly vibrant, the flavours were seafood rich, sweet, savoury, and packed full of umami. Have that with a drizzle of lime and ask for a side of sambal belachan, and there you have it, the Seafood Mee Goreng that is almost like a plate of Hokkien Mee, maybe even better because of the bold full-bodied flavours that carried depth in each bite! Continue reading “York Hotel’s White Rose Cafe – Impressive Seafood Mee Goreng Worth The Trip!”
I must admit I’ve always had a soft spot for Halia. Set against a backdrop of lush greenery and ambient birdsong, it’s easy to forget that you’re just a little walk away from urban Singapore. With the botanic garden’s recent UNESCO appointment, the grounds have become even livelier, but never too much so – it’s still the very picture of serenity.
Today, I couldn’t wait to check out Halia’s menu revamp, which it undertook after being awarded a Halal certification. I was eager to see if the restaurant still retained their tasteful flavour combinations and creative use of spices, and in these the restaurant did not disappoint.
Halia couldn’t have been sited at a better place than the middle of a spice garden – the kitchen does an exceptional job at showcasing the wide range of spices available in the tropics, employing them in a number of creative ways (even the restaurant’s name features this play on spices, with Halia being the Malay word for ginger).
Being Halal-certified, Halia no longer serves alcoholic beverages. You wouldn’t miss the lack of booze though, for the restaurant has conjured up an alluring range of specialty drinks and herb infusions that bring together wonderfully complex flavour profiles. Consider tasteful titles like the Grapefruit and Tarragon ($8++), which features Earl grey tea, fresh grapefruit juice, house-made tarragon infusion and soda, or the Cucumber and Basil ($8++), a mix of Tulsi (holy basil) tea, Japanese cucumber and a basil infusion.
But it is with its food that Halia really shines, with its beautifully plated dishes and whirlwind of flavours. Large dishes at Halia are particularly appropriate for sharing, and you may want to select a variety of them to taste all of them with your friends.
Beautifully plated dishes and a whirlwind of flavours
The first dish to arrive was the Lightly Smoked Kingfish ($17++); clean and fresh on the palette, it really gets the appetite going.
Coming alongside was the Caramelized Onion and Beetroot Tart ($17++), my personal favourite of the starters. The beetroot is cooked perfectly, robust, and with a savory, almost meaty texture. It is savory-sweet, pretty as a manicured garden, and sits atop a delightfully crisp puff pastry. Attractive aesthetics, complementary flavours and contrasting textures – this dish is a star example of Halia’s capabilities.
The Charred Caesar Salad ($17++) is an intriguing starter, looking a little like it was doused in squid ink, except for its creamy taste of garlic aioli. It is refreshing and addictive, albeit slightly dangerous for those wearing white shirts.
The first of the large mains to arrive was the Slow Cooked Tender Chicken Breast and Braised Minced Leg Potato Gratin ($29++), a great one for sharing given how it’s practically two dishes in one. The chicken breast is moist throughout, and is accompanied by “wok-hei” cabbage – the veggies are a hit, with their lightly charred flavour and satisfying crunch. The gratin has the character of a shepherd’s pie with lots of gravy, and is hearty and comforting.
The Pan-fried Barramundi ($28++) arrives in a burst of colour and dynamism; the fish sits atop a bed of what looks like risotto, but which is actually pignolina pasta. Fun fact: Orzo is rice-shaped, whereas pignolina has a slightly longer and more slender look that is very similar to pine nuts. It is a thoughtfully balanced dish, ranks for me as the best of the mains.
The Lamb Rack and Braised Spice Islands Marinade Rump Stew ($46++) is our third main to arrive– or should I say, third and fourth main. This wonderful dish comes in two parts – the first is a classic combination of lamb rack and spinach, robust and flavorful. The second is the rump stew, which is reminiscent of a sweet, dry rending, set atop pearly white bulgur wheat.
Desserts that knock it out of the park
Halia’s desserts really knocked it out of the park (or, gardens, as it were) for me. All parts of each dessert were made in-house, and to very high levels of detail. First to arrive was the Yuzu Gateaux ($13++), with the yuzu imparted its characteristic bright and citrusy perfume to the dish.
Second was the Fig Tart ($11++), perhaps the star dessert of the day. Caramelized fig, yoghurt and turmeric foam are arranged delicately on a wonderfully crisp and crumbly speculoos tart base. It is wholly addictive, and took the better part of self-control to not order another.
The Ginger Garden ($14++) is a classic of Halia’s. Here, it’s undergone a re-imagination of the original hit and, in my mind, they’ve taken an already great dessert and elevated it once again. Sporting an intricate butterfly lattice that’s almost too pretty to eat, the garden hid delectable galangal (blue ginger) poached apples. The Ginger flower sorbet is fragrant and refreshing, and was wiped clean by our party.
Patting our satisfied bellies, I think it’s safe to say that Halia’s decision to get Halal certified was both well thought out and executed. The dishes are as inventive and flavorful as they were before, and now even more of us can get a little taste of that creativity. It sure looks like Halia’s set to spice up the dining scene once again.
Thank you The Halia for the invitation.
1 Cluny Road
Singapore Botanic Gardens (enter via Tyersall Avenue)
Reservations: 8444 1148
Mon to Thurs 9am to 9.30pm (last seating)
Fri and Eve of PH 9am to 10pm (last seating)
Sat 10am to 10pm (last seating)
Sun and PH 10am to 9.30pm (last seating)
Brunch Weekends and PH 10am to 5pm
No reservations on weekends and public holidays from 10am to 6pm
What happens when you partner a good buffet restaurant with the Okinawa Prefectural Government of Japan?
You get a good-quality Okinawa-themed buffet, of course. From 6 to 16 July 17, Triple Three is carrying a wide variety of authentic Okinawan dishes daily.
Throughout the food promotion, specially flown-in seafood such as Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna and Mackerel will grace the sushi, sashimi, teppanyaki, and carving stations of the Japanese-inspired international buffet restaurant. The warm waters of Okinawa supposedly yield seafood high in protein and low in fat.
But while I enjoyed these Okinawan ingredients, I struggled to detect a discernible difference between the sashimi I sampled and the sashimi usually served during Triple Three’s regular buffets. In taste, appearance, and quality, I did not find the sashimi uniquely Okinawan.
Likewise, while I enjoyed the Agu pork served shabu-shabu style (it was tender, aromatic, and had a good balance of high-quality and lean meat), I would not have guessed that it was an Okinawan delicacy if I had not known the provenance of the dish.
Luckily, Triple Three’s Okinawan vegetable dishes are more distinctive. Okinawan produce is supposedly richer in antioxidants compared to other Japanese foodstuff, thanks to the mineral-rich sea breeze and strong southern sunlight abundant in this tropical prefecture. I enjoyed the Okinawa Purple Potato dishes because of their creamy and slightly sweet taste; the sea grapes (really a type of seaweed) because of their delightfully salty, yet juicy, profile; and the stir-fried bitter gourd with tofu and egg. A word of advice: the bitter gourd is more bitter than the Chinese ones more traditionally found in Singapore. Steel yourself before you pop a slice into your mouth!
Make sure you also try the following Okinawan dishes: the nicely bite-sized Okinawan Taco Rice bowls; the refreshing Okinawan green papaya salad, the crunchy Okinawa carrot; the savoury Mozuku seaweed; the sweet and creamy Jimami tofu desserts, and the crispy Okinawa pancake.
This wide variety of authentic Okinawan dishes comes at a hefty price. I do not recommend that the average diner pay full price for this limited time food promotion, even though the air-flown seafood is top-notch and the dishes are authentically Okinawan. This is because I do not perceive this Okinawan buffet to be qualitatively very different from Triple Three’s traditional dinner buffets. You will probably baulk at the $20 premium on the regular buffet’s weekday price. After all, Triple Three will continue to feature Okinawa specials every Thursday following the food fest.
But if you are a DBS, POSB or UOB cardholder, you need to make your way down to Triple Three. You don’t have time to lose, because this promotion ends on 16 July 17. With 50% off every second adult diner (up to eight diners per card), this buffet will effectively cost just $81++ a person, if you’re dining as part of an even-numbered group. At this price point, you are getting good value for your money.