Spice Up Your Dining Experience at the Halia (Now Halal Certified)!

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.

The Halia
1 Cluny Road
Ginger Garden
Singapore Botanic Gardens (enter via Tyersall Avenue)
Singapore 259569

Reservations: 8444 1148
Website

Opening Hours:
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

Considering More?

If you own one of these three cards, Triple Three’s Okinawa Food Fest is for you!

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.

Triple Three
Mandarin Orchard
333 Orchard Road

Singapore 238867

Reservations: 6831 6288
Website

Pricing [Okinawa Food Fest]

$108++ for adults and $48++ for children (aged 6-12 years old)

DBS/POSB/UOB credit card members enjoy 50% off every second adult diner (up to eight diners per card).

Sunday to Wednesday [after the Okinawa Food Fest]:

$88++ per adult; $33++ per child (6-12 yrs)

Thursday to Saturday, Eve of Public Holiday and Public Holiday [after the Okinawa Food Fest]:

$108++ per adult; $48++ per child (6-12 yrs)

Considering More?

The $88++ A4 Kumamoto Wagyu Wednesdays Buffet at Triple Three, Mandarin Orchard!

After my first well-received trip to Triple Three, I had been excited to return again. I finally got the chance to do so this month, and while I found that much had remained the same, one thing had changed.

There were now daily themed buffets, including Triple Three’s thematic take on top-grade, A4 Kumamoto Wagyu beef on what it calls Wagyu Wednesdays.

How good is the beef, and is Wagyu Wednesday worth the visit?

Continue reading “The $88++ A4 Kumamoto Wagyu Wednesdays Buffet at Triple Three, Mandarin Orchard!”

Honolulu Cafe: Are its Fabled Egg Tarts Worth The Visit?

Let’s not beat around the bush: Honolulu Café has an unfortunate reputation in Singapore. You would think that an established brand wouldn’t sink to such depths, but it didn’t take long for complaints to pour in about this Hong Kong establishment’s rude staff, mediocre milk tea, and perennially limited stocks.

What can establishments with poor reputations do, besides addressing customers’ complaints head-on? One way, of course, is to hire a PR firm and go on a charm offensive.

Continue reading “Honolulu Cafe: Are its Fabled Egg Tarts Worth The Visit?”

Yantra – A Shining Gem of Fine Indian Cuisine Crafted by Chef Hemant Oberoi

A Wonderful and Happy Lunar New Year to all my readers! After a snazzy 2016 and a month’s break in January, there is certainly much to look forward to in this year ahead. The past one year has been great for this website. After about 9 years running, I am pleased to formally welcome three new contributors to this website. There is Elliot who is both skilled in his writing and as a chef in his personal kitchen. There is Benjamin who delivers fresh insight and a new-found appreciation for food that speaks to his values as he sails the seas. And there is Tom who simply wishes to savour the moment and introduce the best just for you. Look out for their articles as we make our way through 2017! It brings me with great pleasure then to also start the new year with one of the finest contemporary Indian restaurants that I’ve discovered here in Singapore.

Yantra, the eight year old fine dining Indian restaurant at the Tanglin Mall, is now a proud partner with the famed Chef Hemant Oberoi, the former Grand Executive Chef of the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. After a series of chefs that were part of the Yantra mantle, Chef Oberoi has now entered and revamped the menu to feature a more artisanal, contemporary Indian fare that is refined and layered with flavour. For the prestige and nuanced touch that Chef Oberoi inspires into the menu, it is no wonder then that one must be prepared to pay a premium. But for the experience to taste a repertoire that has once graced the plates and palates of dignitaries like the Clintons and the Obamas, this might be a journey well worth it.

Continue reading “Yantra – A Shining Gem of Fine Indian Cuisine Crafted by Chef Hemant Oberoi”

New Healthy Cantonese Masterpieces at Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant!

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New and healthy Cantonese masterpieces are on the menu at Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant at the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel. Crafted by Executive Chinese Chef Brian Wong Shiuh Yean, these new dishes aim to recreate familiar and comforting tastes yet refined with the use of premium, nutrient rich ingredients topped with a touch of modernity. With less sugar, oil, salt and seasonings to be a staple in this refreshed menu, there is a certain appeal for the healthy-eating millennial. While it was a delicious meal overall, there were some hits and misses as both chef and diner had to balance expectations of what defines robustly flavoured Cantonese cuisine.

Continue reading “New Healthy Cantonese Masterpieces at Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant!”