I suppose that communal dining is a pretty Asian thing. Think casual zi char to chinese banquet dinners, dishes are placed in the middle and shared, fostering that unique type of bond by people at the table. On the other hand, western dining is pretty individualistic with its own pros and cons, though you can now enjoy the fun of western communal dining at Halia at Raffles.
The casual eatery at Raffles Hotel shouldn't need too much introduction by now with two previous write-ups, but it is constantly refreshing its menu to keep diners coming back for more. With a brand new 12-course communal dining menu at $260++ (good for 4 pax) and matching communal table mats, Chef Ciaran Armstrong is instilling elements of "sharing fun" into Asian-inspired dishes.
While the communal set includes a jug of barley, it never hurts to have their signature Chilled Halia Tea on a warm, humid day.
Cream of Mushroom Soup, Bread Selection
Thick and creamy with distinct minute pieces of mushroom, this is definitely a hearty bowl to start the meal. The accompanying assorted bread are great for soup-dipping, as well as being paired with olive oil and balsamic, and a certain curry-flavoured oil.
Goats' Cheese Mousse, Oriental Pulled Duck
Pretty garden to look at and equally tasty with dried brioche serving as base for the mix of cheese, tomatoes and honey drizzles. The duck soba was consistently good, being already introduced several times on previous visits.
House Smoked Salmon Pate, Chilli Crab Dip
Trapped in a bottle of smoke, the salmon pate was light and creamy to my liking. Nothing to complain about the other one which is an adaption of their signature Chilli Crab Pasta, perfect for lazy poeple like me who wants their crab meat without the de-shelling hassles.
Baked Kingfish Collar, Wagyu Beef "Zhajiangmian"
With Grilled Hamachi (yellowtail) Collars being pretty common in Japanese restaurants, it was the first time that I had a Kingfish version with plenty of fine meat and refreshing with orange glaze and pickled vegetables. On the other hand, while I usually like all things Wagyu, the "zhajiangmian" (which is really just plenty of vegetable peels with minced beef) wasn't that impressive on texture, but had a nice blend of sweet, savoury meat sauce with greens.
Twice-Cooked Spatchcock of Spring Chicken, 'Gunpowder' Wagyu Topside Mayura Station
Time and again I have little praises for chicken dishes, but this was different as the sous-vide effect produced juice-retaining, tender meat. The last savoury mains was an interesting creation, as the Wagyu topside is marinated to a smokey "gunpowder-like" flavour, then sous vide to break down the tough cut into something more tender. Not your usual steak definitely.
Coconut Parfait, Sticky Toffee Pudding
Moving on to the sweets, the parfait were playfully presented as ice cream popsicles, sprinkled with chocolate balls and popping candy, while the other was yet another Halia classic that could hardly go wrong with.
At about $65++ per pax, the communal dining set is actually pretty good value given the number of courses and portions of food, showcasing several Halia signatures and new creations that are potential crowd pleasers. Tired of sharing chinese stir frys? Give this a go then!
Halia at Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Road
#01-22/23 Raffles Hotel
Tel: 9639 1148
Special thanks to Ivy & Cyndiana of FoodNews for the invite!
Hola! I know I have disappeared since I promised an update two weeks ago, but I will continue the writing break till next week cos
1. Work overwhelms at times
2. My cough is acting up at night these days
and most importantly 3. The girlfriend is leaving for France next week for a 4 month job attachment and am trying to spend as much time as I can with her.
Much more active on Instagram so do add me @memoirsoffood if you wanna see what I'm sinking my teeth into.
You might have notice that I just came back from a Taipei weekend trip, which I had plenty of awesome sashimi and jap stuff in 42 hours (Yes, Japanese in Taipei, you read that right). While good Japanese food is generally expensive in Singapore, Hanare does serve up an excellent chirashi don at affordable pricing.
Located along Tanjong Pagar Road a few steps away from its sister restaurant, Teppei, Hanare is a no-reservations cafe that has simply two sets on its menu; The Japanese Buffet at $19.90 nett which honestly ain't exactly a steal, and the Bara Set at $17.90 nett that most of the customers go for. Occupying an entire shophouse level, seating is limited with almost half the space dedicated to the buffet line and counter, so you might have to try your luck if your weekday lunchtime is tight. Make payment at the counter, find a table and you're good to go.
The Bara Set also comes with free flow of 3 to 4 types of appetizers and miso soup. Nothing particularly outstanding, but the salad and chicken stew made decent nibbles while waiting for the star.
Bara Chirashi Don
Oh the beauty! Be prepared for a visual feast as your don is topped with an overwhelming amount of chunky, soy-sauce marinated raw fish. The checklist? Salmon, Tuna, Swordfish, Scallop, Clams and Roes. Definitely a mouthful as you enjoy every single cube. While it does seem a tad salty on its own, I find it a perfect match with the homemade wasabi (hot stuff!) and plain rice.
I do have one gripe though; The ingredients are probably pre-marinated and jumbled in a huge pot and scooped out upon order, so the quantity of each item can be unbalanced. Several times we had no scallops in one bowl or a large proportion of tuna in another. I also heard that the portions are getting erratic; overflowing at times and with glaring gaps during others. Let's hope they pick up the consistency.
With Teppei fully booked for third quarter of the year and a slot for their Kaisen Don hard to come by, Hanare might be your best bet to have a satisfying bowl of Chirashi Don. Have already lost count the number of return trips made with more on the way.
Hanare Japanese Cafe
99B Tanjong Pagar Road
Tel: 6222 1976
The other place that I finally made an effort to visit on the last Hong Kong trip is quite a legend. Besides the many glamorous, upmarket Cantonese restaurants, there are also plenty of 大排档s (Dai Pai Dong) hidden in neighbourhood wet markets. These Cze-Char-equivalent places usually open at night when the market has closed, where families and friends gather for a hearty meal after school or work. And among these 大排档s, 東寶小館 Tung Po Kitchen has made a name for itself both locally and overseas.
Located at North Point's Java Road Municipal Building, Tung Po takes up most of the entire 2nd floor serving both traditional and innovative stir fry. Reservations are highly recommended else risk being turned away, as my earliest booking at 6pm had me witnessing how fast the place filled up with rowdy fun. Open your eyes wide, you might even spot Hong Kong celebrities among you.
The boss of the place, Robin (if I remembered correctly), is a really witty fellow who can shoot his mouth off faster than you can think, recommending dishes and placing your orders in a jiffy. I even found a instagram video of him doing a robot dance for his customers on a random night!
Kronenbourg 1664 & 战斗碗
Beer in a mug, drank much. In a fighter bowl? That's new. With the word 胜 imprinted at the bottom, it brings a true meaning to yum seng.
卤水大肠 Braised Large Intestine, 南乳炸猪手 Deep Fried Pork Trotters in Fermented Beancurd
Perfect nibbles to pair with the beer. The intestines were slightly chewy, nicely braised and entirely free from porky stench, while their signature trotters had a crispy surface with a thick layer of collagen-ish fats underneath, perfectly paired with fermented beancurd dip. Need more beer, definitely.
墨汁意粉 Squid Ink Pasta, 清炒豆苗 Stir Fried Pea Sprout
One of the new gen dishes, the pasta had a good wok hei to it with the savoury, seafood taste of squid ink, and squid pieces which thankfully weren't rubbery in texture. The other is my all time favourite greens, as winter climate made the quality even more enjoyable.
Oh yes, each of these golden boys were coated with a fine layer of salted egg yolk, being intensively flavoured yet not feeling oily or overkill as in other cases. The carb staple is also one of their signatures with a really strong fragrance of lotus leaves and packed full of diced ingredients such as mushrooms, chicken and chinese sausages. Portion too was humongous as the five of us had plenty of leftovers. Ran out of thumbs to give the up.
番薯糖水 Sweet Potato Soup
A simple yet satisfying complimentary dessert with ginger that keep you warm in the winter.
Can't remember the bill, but I think a meal here costs about 30 to 50 sgd per pax, depending on your orders. Glad to have finally visit the place that is certainly worthy of its reputation. With plenty of items on the menu, I am certain of a return as Tung Po made it to my list of favourite food haunts in Hong Kong.
2/F Java Road Municipal Services Building
99 Java Road, North Point
Tel: +852 2880 5224 (Reservations highly recommended)
Directions: Take the MTR Hong Kong Line to North Point(北角) station, find the exit leading to Java Road Municipal Building (which is really a wet market on ground and 1st floor) and make your way to 2nd floor.
Hong Kong, the place where every trip back is spent on meeting up with relatvies, family friends and revisiting favourite food haunts. Well I did manage to find time to explore two "new" places during my Christmas trip, one involving my favourite beef brisket, 九记牛腩 Kau Kee.
Located in the now-become-very-hip enclave of Sheung Wan, Kau Kee is popular among tourists and locals alike for their beef brisket noodles. A queue is omni-present at the shopfront, which thankfully moves quite fast with its double storey seating. Make a quick decision on what you want before you get the common Hong Kong impatient treatment, which to be fair aint as bad here compared to many other places.
冰奶茶 Iced Milk Tea (HKD20 ~ SGD3.30)
My natural choice of drink, hardly disappoints anytime, anywhere in CantoLand.
And was the signature bowl worth the hype? A resounding yes. In a place where lousy beef brisket is virtually unheard of, Kau Kee manage to stay a class above by using prime parts that has a really good balance of tender lean meat and fatty bits, which is chewy yet not rough-and-tough. The other reason that Kau Kee shone was the usage of Ee-fu noodles that abosrbed the flavourful clear broth well without being soggy in texture.
A meal here will set you back at about SGD10 per person, not that I will complain for its quality. Heard that the curry beef brisket noodles is widely popular too, saved for the next trip!
九记牛腩 Kau Kee Beef Brisket
21 Gough St, Hong Kong
Tel:+852 2850 5967
Directions: Go up the slope (Aberdeen Street) beside touristy-famous 莲香楼, turn right into Gough Street and it will be on your right after walking for a couple of minutes.