the halia, raffles hotel

still very good food at the halia – a little expensive, a little exclusive, just the right spot of uppity for a dressed-up weekend lunch. it’s been a while since I last came here, and I’m impressed: they still know how to strike the right balance of intrigue and classic, and prices are just high enough to keep the atmosphere classy.

there’s just something about the way they blend their dishes and flavors that feels interesting, but at the same time hits all the right (comforting) spots.

I’m not too impressed with the photos I took this round, so unfortunately what isn’t displayed is the halibut en papillote, of delicious, tender white fish cooked under parchment in this CRAZY delicious soup of incredible savoriness.

served with sushi rice, you’ll need to grab a smear of the truffle aioli (which imparts yet another savory, umami note) and a mouthful of fish and soup to truly get the experience.

then and only then, do you truly get the experience.

what is pictured here is off their weekend brunch menu, three fluffy pancakes topped with bacon, maple butter, strawberries and what seems like crispy iberico. that last component makes a lot of difference to the dish, bringing quite a bit of sweet pork goodness to already properly-fluffy, well-cooked pancakes.

good food, but definitely on the pricey side – although I can’t help but feel that if I had to spend money, this is a good place to do so.

Halia at the Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Road, #01-22/23
Singapore 189673
tel +65 9639 1148
$$.5: 20-40 per person

my awesome cafe, tanjong pagar

I think it takes guts to use an adjective like awesome in one’s name – especially because it invites comparison where there might not have been any.

like, do I usually give cafes concessions for serving not-nearly-up-to-the-mark food? yes – because they pander to the hipster and the cool, and so sometimes the food gets overlooked for the decor or the drinks. but when a place calls itself awesome, it sets up expectations that might be difficult to fulfil.

but that’s not to say that the food here is bad, because it isn’t: it’s hearty and quite filling and rather delicious, BUT the name just makes me wonder if I’d have naturally said that it was awesome (or would anyone, unless they had lived as a or was stuck in the persona of a teenager in 90’s america).

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dessert at, palais renaissance and tiong bahru

judging by the number of posts I have on this blog – four at last count – it’s pretty apparent that I have a soft spot for this chain.

I’m also going to summarise all the posts so far with this one – slightly pricey, big mains, hefty-and-satisfying-and-rich desserts, and beautiful, characterful restaurants. it’s an institution for brunch and lunch (not that dinner falters, by any means), and caters primarily to the yuppie, yummy mummy kind of crowd.

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ikyu, tiong bahru

quite pricey, but also rather homely japanese dining in hipster tiong bahru – those two characteristics seem incongrous, but the restaurant manages to feel both a little exclusive and quite familial.

as with most upscale japanese restaurants, the lunch set makes for the most value – and unlike most upscale japanese restaurants, this place extends that offer even on the weekends. how good is that?

and because I was there for lunch – admittedly much less expensive than their regular à la carte menu – I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to say that the food is pretty much just about okay. it’s not particularly overwhelming or special, but the atmosphere makes it a good place for a meal to catch up with friends.

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the new black, (now at) republic plaza

ok, it’s been long enough that this place has moved since I went there – but I thought it worth letting you know that there’s a slick, modern coffee place that is more yuppie than hipster (it’s a nice change), done up in chrome and bright colours.

I’m not big on coffee – starbucks and sugar being the order of the day – but tea is my thing, and this place has some interesting brews. with bombastic names like FREAK OF NATURE OOLONG (their editing, not mine), and long vino-style descriptions, it’s quite a lot of hype for what is really water flavored with leaves.

I did like that oolong though – so I give it to them, and the blood orange pu-erh is nicely drinkable, as well.

and also, and this is a big ALSO, they serve drinks in beautiful semi-disposable cups (semi, because it really depends on whether you get the plastic or stiff cardboard cups) that really prove how important packaging is.

so pricey, but hey – if you’re coming to these places, surely you didn’t expect anything else? and it’s almost quite worth it, given the drinks are intriguing and the cups takeawayable (that is to say, that they are recyclable and also pretty enough for you to want to use it – which is not often the case).

The New Black
Republic Plaza
9 Raffles Place
Singapore 048619
(also Centennial Tower)
$$: 10ish per person

kiseki, orchard central

not really a very good japanese buffet – but if you aren’t too fussy and want a buffet, this one gives you an option at a pretty decent price.

buffets are a difficult format to serve, in any case – food gets dried out from constant cooking by the ambient heat of the foodwarmer, the spread tends to be unimpressive unless you pay quite a lot, and quality gets overlooked in favor of quantity.

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babette, jalan besar

ah, the by-now-famous flowing green matcha lava cake at this small restaurant in jalan besar. it’s a bit of a seedy area interspersed with these hipster, modern places – not the most comfortable area for ladies to be walking about late at night, but at least it’s relatively close to the main road.

I thought the food was just about alright – good for a first visit, and the cake was pretty good, but the food came very slowly, so we rather lost our patience.

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the plain, craig road

good, homely little cafe along craig road, nearish the chinatown area.

this place has been around for ages, and might be called an institution: it’s small and cramped, it’s barely furnished, and the menu is small – all characteristics that fulfill the requirements of what it is to be a cafe in our modern age. but while some places go off the mark and irritate you with their too-cool-for-school ‘tude, this one maintains a pretty relaxed, chilled vibe that doesn’t annoy.

there doesn’t really seem to be much to say about this place – it’s a cafe, and it fulfills its functions well. the coffee is decent (or at least the brew that went into my affogato was strong but not tannic), and if you can find seats, it makes for a decent place for a chat with friends (except that if you’re sitting at the back, the lack of air-conditioning makes for sweltering conversation).

there is a tiny menu that includes eggs and soldiers (if you’re the sort that knows this as set A, this place is going to be overpriced for you) as well as cute little bowls of bircher muesli (such a rarity in this country – done here a little on the small and sweet side, but otherwise inoffensive).

communal sitting is the name of the game – unless you’re in a big enough crowd that you can edge strangers out – which I feel is optimistic in asia, where we whip out our phones to avoid eye contact and speak softly and impersonally when amongst strangers.

but, cute cafe and really rather cosy, and there’s bircher muesli. I’ll probably be back.

The Plain
#01-01, 50 Craig Road
Singapore 089688
tel +65 6423 9918
$$: 50-15 per person (depends on whether you’re eating)

blue ginger, tanjong pagar

happy national day, all you guys! I’m back from the americas (photos to follow) to celebrate this fantastic day with my favorite little nation, and it seems appropriate to restart programming with this little gem serving up a very local, very traditional cuisine.

blue ginger is an institution for peranakan eating – the result of a fortuitous hodgepodge of cuisines that originated from our forefathers-of-many-lands. reservations are a must for this small two-storey restaurant in a restored building along tanjong pagar, and the food is delicious and authentic.

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