Halia at Raffles Hotel | A Communal Feast

31st May 2014.
This summer, a Halia introduces communal dining with a playful streak. Compared to my previous dining experience at Halia at Raffles Hotel, the atmosphere is significantly more casual and more than just the atmosphere.

Above: 24th June 2014, the designs were done by Firdaus Jaffar, one of the staff in Halia (pictured above).

Think of it of a Madhatter’s party taken out of in the Alice in Wonderland story, with unique use of a Golden Syrup can as a holder for cutlery or a rustic tea pot to serve Mushroom Soup, the theatrics and playfulness in the presentation of food is reflected in the quirky communal dishes such as the re-interpreted Zha Jiang Mian.

It may not be extreme as a Heston Blumenthal but the innovative and playfulness in the cuisine of Halia’s communal menu bears some resemblance to a Heston great feast: that food is more just food on the plate but a whole experience that combines presentation as well.

Introduced gradually into Halia at Raffles Place, if you opt for the Communal Feast, your table will get draped with a colourful table mat filled with whimsical motifs and multilingual renditions of “eat”. The bread basket served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as well as a special curry infused oil.  This is accompanied with some chilled Barley Water, perfect for a hot afternoon.

If the olive oil with balsamic vinegar and curry oil is not your cup of tea, there is also the rather spicy Chilli Crab Dip which you can enjoy with some toasted baguette or bread from the basket.

The starters are a selection of pate, salads and dip which includes a Goats’ Cheese Mousse with Heirloom Tomato, Olives, Wild Honey and served with Dried Brioche which I enjoyed thoroughly. The tangy and savoury goat cheese is contrasted by the sweet Oriental Pulled Duck which was tossed together with gherkins, capers, herbs, soba noodles and sesame oil.

Perhaps the climax of the starters is the Housed Smoked Salmon Pate which was prepared with Hendrick’s gin and beetroot chips, and served with crostini as well as cucumber and served in a glass jar which you could open and watch the fumes coming out.

For something more classic, the Baked Kingfish Collar with Picked Vegetable, Miso, Ginger and Orange is pretty delicious too, covered with a mild and sweet citrus glaze.

The most unique item on the menu is the Wagyu Beef “Zhajiangmian” with iberico chorizo oyster sauce, carrot, bean sprouts and spring onions. However, I would not like to spoil the surprise for this dish except that it is a rich with vegetables and lighter than your usual “zhajiangmian”.

I am pretty impressed by the tenderness and juiciness of the Twice-cooked Spatchcock of Spring Chicken which was served with spiced cabbage slaw, paprika and mesquite. It is easily one of the best chicken dishes I had thus far, the meat, even for the breast part, was glistening with juices and the skin was still crispy.

The fanciful sounding ‘Gunpowder’ Wagyu Topside Mayura Station (MBS 8-9), one of the signatures of Halia is bound to raise eyebrows with the term “gunpowder”. The actual gunpowder tasted “horrible” said Chef Claran Armstrong who devised the communal menu. But rest assured that the wagyu tasted nothing horrible and the “gunpowder” refers to the similar ingredients used in making gunpowder rather than actual gunpowder. It is an old technique that bears similarities to salt baked chicken or fish where a spice rub is used to seal the juices within the meat itself.

Rather than focusing on the expensive cuts of meat, Chef Claran looks at using the often overlooked cuts of beef such as the topside and did it rather decently. The meat was quite tender, the spice rub has an earthy, herbal flavour and it is served with a savour mushroom sauce.

What is a party without desserts? The meal completed with two rather memorable desserts, a Coconut Parfait with Pineapple, Ginger Flower and Chocolate presented like potong sticks and a really good Sticky Toffee Pudding with date, butterscotch sauce, sea salt and balls of vanilla ice cream.

I am glad to see the light-hearted direction that Chef Ciaran Armstrong is steering Halia at Raffles Hotel towards and look forward to going back for a communal feast if possible. The Lunch Communal Feast is priced at 160++ SGD and meant for 3-4 people to share while the Dinner Communal Feast is $260++ SGD.

Ground Floor of Raffles Hotel where Seah Street Deli used to be.

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

Many thanks to Ivy, Hanis and Cyndiana from Food News for the invitation and hospitality!


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