Halia (Raffles Hotel)

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Yeah, um. You see that? I’m not even starting with a decent introduction to the place. Instead I just thrust their sticky toffee date pudding in your faces because I believe that’s what you deserve as a perfectly decent introduction. So now yes, I proclaim this a decent introduction. I hope that’s alright. And because I believe in revolting carnal pleasure before anything less provocative gets in the way. Halia at Raffles Hotel, or in other words that place I always pass by whilst brisk walking with my Dad in the Botanic Gardens, except this time it’s at the oldest hotel in the country. I’ll just run you through this pudding real quick.

Sticky toffee date pudding –$10

Honestly one of the best I’ve ever had. Ok so, when it came, I thought it looked a little boring. Average-sized flattened cuboid with some probably average vanilla ice cream for tradition’s sake. Ha, wrong again. It undoubtedly beat the one from Marmalade Pantry, in terms of texture and sweetness level. This tongue can’t take too much of a sugar overload, I swear. Yes, even I. It could shrivel up and die. This was surprisingly moist, although the banana bread appearance could be refined. Moist, dense, with the right amount of aeration to soak up all the cool vanilla and warm, sweet caramel, like a brown child grovelling on sticky ground for some fair-weather pleasure. I particularly enjoyed the slight addition of sea salt and homemade (yes, yes) butterscotch.

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Chilli crab dip with toasted baguette– $14

Deep fried squid, with spring onion lime syrup dip and piquant mayo– $14

Pork sausage and mash (from kids menu)

Fried bocconcini, roast red onion, capsicum and mesclun salad with balsamic – $17

Alright, I didn’t know the fare here was going to be that impressive. The mother and I shared the three starters; that chilli crab dip was divine- mildly spicy, creamy, well-textured with the even slivers of fresh crab meat. Ugh, yum, especially with the oh-so sophisticatedly toasted baguette. Eat it slow, or you may get a crabby overdose with no room for any of the other rather amazing stuff. The bocconcini (mozzarella) salad was a perfectly petite size, offering crunch and serious stringiness, as you may see in the photo above. Yeah, that was vulgar stringiness. Thank goodness for the tart and lemony salad, or the little fried balls by themselves would have been plain, old, trite things. As for the squid, what was most intriguing was the sauces they served it with. Hello, sweet pairings (?). I was confused, then intrigued, then pleased. I used the two dips as an excuse for the baguette, because I thought it’s toasted, airy texture fit the soaking process more, and made the whole experience of dip and eat more enjoyable. I picked at some of my sister’s sausage and mash, almost scoffing at the putrid size (who was I to judge, it was a damn kids option for goodness sake), but was shocked at the aromatic, whipped velvet of white, speckled mash, and juicy, well done pork sausage. It didn’t even need a sauce reduction!

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62.5 degrees C poached eggs with roma tomato, baby spinach and herb butter sauce on toasted brioche– $20 (my mother is a vegetarian so we passed on the extra mortadella and pistachio ham).

Basically one of the highlights of my life. I mean, of the day. You know, it runs the same route.

Here’s another one of my little stories. So I move the golden slab of brioche a little, very, very little on the plate, and then boom. The beautiful little pregnant egg, so delicate and translucent that you can feel the yolk tremble and weep underneath the 0.01mm thick membrane of white, dropped its belly to the white ground. These guys were so careful to poach it at this precise temperature, under such precise conditions, yielding the most vulnerable, scared little egg. Oh, poor egg. Oh, beautiful, poor egg. But weak it was not. It survived not just one, but two falls, after some clumsy knife handling on my part once again. It finally let its inhibitions go once I stroked the surface with my knife, as if that force alone actually beat that of the ground-hitting phase. Really. Yolk everywhere. It was a beautiful, carnal mess.

Mushed it all up. I let the brioche go soggy, let the tomato and spinach drink up the sunny hues of yolk, yolk and more yolk. The fresh, cooked vegetables, bouncy, lovely-textured mushrooms and balsamic-glazed red onions paired the rich egg-and-herbed butter combo perfectly. Every moment was one spent in sanctimony, I tell you.

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Rating: 4.83/5 (I like complicated decimals)

The Halia at Raffles Hotel

1 Beach Road
#01-22/23 Raffles Hotel
Singapore 189673
Tel: +65 9639 1148

Guys, I love eggs.

Wild Rocket at Mount Emily

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Ashamed.

Close the curtains, whip out the knives. Attack the Alex.

Where on earth have I been? Well then, I believe life takes over sometimes. Over even what I wanted to ascertain as good old routine. And so I have been swayed from conformity and ended up on the wrong road with a heavy heart. I missed this. The whole process of writing and a-pouring-out. Quite a lot.

Back to this review. Wild Rocket was a place I visited may, many weeks ago. A sophisticated place for all things delectably local, with a Singaporean touch on every invention and mish mash of stuffies, like mahogany on green with a dash of pink. I believe my first time was some sort of celebration with the paternal side of the family. A set menu for a party of at least 10, the appeal established on the grounds of a romantic and dimly lit cove casually thrust in the centre of the place. Oh right, and good food. Come to think of it, I should like to visit this place in the daytime, for all I remember were shades of burgundy and brown- why, even the waiter seems to have a black face. Literally, from the stretching shadows.

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pomelo coconut salad

Airy fairy, light and cold, cold, cold. The pomelo offset the creamy sweetness of the dish doused in this wonderful coconut cream. The oriental factor settled in so appropriately and wasn’t at all annoyingly out of place. A petite starter to get the juices flowing. I actually didn’t expect it to be so tantalising, but it was and I was happy and so I looked forward to the next seam of depth in this intriguing menu.

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Stuffed pepper with crabmeat and potato mash

This was a filler move.

For the vegetarian maman. I myself was surprised at how well it turned out, with succulent crabmeat and a textured mash.

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nori tsukudani spaghettini with arabian white prawns

Tingling, delicate, al dente, perfect. It was a tiny twirl of local goodness on a vast white thing of a plate, with the very arabian prawn (yes, the names of things alter my perception of them) sheltering each strand from any damage (oh God forbid.) But do go ahead, I implore you to not take a bite of this mini mountain of stringy bites. Isn’t the feeling of an explosion of skinny winny noodles the best in the world? When you’re in such a restaurant as this, at least, with the dim light caressing your hair and the moon watching over with a white jealousy. What can she do, for now you have are the king or queen of spaghettini treasure. The flakes added gorgeous spice, and the portion was perfect in the 10 course meal.

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Wild rocket chendol

May I just say the best twist on this local dessert. Ever. Ever. The coconut cream shaved ice was glistening with the shower of thick gula melaka sinking into the smooth, shaven surface of the sphere, hiding the little worms of green chendol and multicoloured treasures. A local sea, if you may. I think I was halfway through when I realised that this was the one time whereby I wasn’t hit with an ounce of slight sugar-induced sickness, since all the components did not rely too heavily on each other and so the balance was absolutely spot on.

Missing these treats already. Such finesse within obvious complexity, and yet everything retained an air of refined elegance. More would be good, thanks. Brilliant, brilliant.

Rating: 4.7/5

Wild Rocket (at Mount Emily)

10A Upper Wilkie Road

Hangout Hotel

Tel: 63399448

New Ubin Seafood

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My uncle and aunt are lucky enough to stay literally approximately and at most two stones’ throw away (remember I said literally, in a very literal sense therefore it is only right for you to take my advice in the most literal way possible, am I clear?) from this rugged local eatery.

You get hot, you get sweaty and sticky and maybe a little bothered sitting there under the 50-year old fan, waiting for the delights of local cuisine to magically pop up in front of you to savour alongside the people who have known and loved the place since they were wee bits of human.

Don’t you worry. Sit there and enjoy that still breeze, the looks of rosy assuagement once folks of young and old get their garish orange platters of deliciousness. Stimulating the appetite and nourishing the heart, rekindling local flavours and embracing the all-Singaporean flavours and textures.

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smoked duck fried rice
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fried honey brinjal

I can already hear all my friends.

Ew, eggplant! Or brinjal, or solanum melongena, whatever you call the slimy ghastly things.

Stop. See those brusque edges of golden wafer? An almost-burnt triumph, if you ask me. You hear the crackle and soft dup as you take a little bite. Just a little one, before you stuff your face with more and more. Really though, it’s 10 times more addictive than chocolate potato chips (which i had the chance to sample at Royce’s a few days back). A slight warmth and aroma permeates the dish, whetting your appetite and wetting your palate. Sweet, softly spicy, with burnt and caramelised bits dotting the perimeters of each juicy and fragrant slither of brinjal. It’s just so perfect, and one of the best parts of the meal each time I go with the fam.

You could call the fried rice normal, with the exception of the smoked duck. Tasted like duck alright, but it’s plain to see that that was perhaps added to give the otherwise plain-as-a-white-whistle dish a bump up from its sombre status. Only good when drenched in sauces like this beauty right here:

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chilli crab

Looking at it tickles me silly.

Could it be?

Yes, chilli crab. I love it way too much for my own good. I might die in a grave with my hair sprayed with a chilli crab perfume with notes of perhaps oyster and uni.

The sweet, pungent river lies fluffed and plumped up around the king crab like its melting carpet of red sea gold. It has been stolen from its throne in Crab Land and plopped on this platter, with everything in tact, legs, claws, eyes and all. Take a bit of mantou (squares of fried white bread) and thoroughly soak each square inch in the thick orange gloop. This one is better or perhaps comparable to the one at Chin Huat. The sauce is less hot but more addictive, I find. Drip it over everything and anything and bathe in it while you’re at it. I mean it’s pretty simple when you’re an idiot like me and decide to wear white stripes in the soft moonlit outside, dressed in blue-highlighted lights up top. I may be an idiot but I try not to think too much about my level of intelligence when I’m going through bouts of painful pleasure.

Down to every plump and white flake.

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foreground: salted egg yolk prawn bites with petai
background: sambal kai lan

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I told you it’s painful pleasure. Salted egg yolk is one of the most divine things to ever exist and please the mundane nullity of mankind.

The bites are chewy, though of course are absolutely nothing if it were not for the lovely salted egg infusion, to provide a soft saltiness with miniature granules of pulpy yolk.

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pork lard black fried rice

Diets begone. This wildly seductive creature shall come knocking at the doorstep of your dreams in the depths of the night and have you on your knees, begging for just a spoon. It gleams like a dark knight. Honestly I was really only expecting a nice spoon of hot and dark fried rice. What you see is what you get.

But my first taste of that heavenly rice fried in the glorious fat of poor piggies was so wonderfully sinful that I had to take a bit more.

And a bit more.

Each grain is bursting with such a woody, scented flavour. It screams and shouts the wonders of pork. I usually take fried or steamed fish over the former, but this was too good, too, too good. it’s just really good all right? There are even some crusty bits for the sake of painful pleasure and calorific content. The sort of thing which looks a mess when eating but nullifies all one’s worries, at the same time keeping your heart’s rate up because it’s right there in front of you and you can’t stop wondering at how such an ugly black thing could prove such al dente perfection in each fluffy bite.

I mentioned something about having some chilli perfume in my dead hair, didn’t I.

Well I should also like a light backdrop of fish head, thanks.

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steamed soon hock in a mildly sweet soy broth
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beef with potato wedges

Damn right you see those gorgeous rings of caramelised onions. No one else bothered with them so I grabbed the lot. The meat is bold and tender and juicy. You are welcome to dismiss the plain wedges, though.

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What was left in front of me. The remnants of my gluttony.
Yes, I ate the whole crab and fish head.

There’s something about heads of any kind of animal which I take a gross pleasure in tucking into, whether I’m at an upscale Thai restaurant or local hawker centre.

C-can I have the fish head?

Go right ahead, Alex (my uncle speaking).

You sur-

Yes yes just take it I know you love it you may thank me later now eat please go on.

So I tucked in and gnawed away at the gooey eyes and crisp tails and liver and that really sweet spot right between the fish’s cheeks. It’s a small, grey ball of moist sea sweetness which gets me so high each time. If I did have a picture of it on here I’d probably be banned from accessing the Internet since little children might think it something else like drugs or poop and so the world carries on.

And if no one’s going to pick at the sweet and delicious crab roe hidden in the little crevices of its sharp interior features then can I also take the cra-

TAKE IT.

And so I did, and I was happy. I prefer wet and lumpy roe more than doing biology internal assessments for school but this was severely lacking here. The roe was stiff and quite resembled lifeless orange slabs. But dip in it the chilli and you’ll survive. And I tell you, it’s all pure adrenaline. The licking, the cutting of the fingers, the chilli dipping, the water breaks and hand washing in between.

Love it love it love it.

The place was so crowded I was scared the bolting waiters might crash and burn each time they took a new set of orders. Good food, noisy local atmosphere, hot and humid but altogether so strong at heart and stomach-pleasing.

Rating: 4.7/5

New Ubin Seafood

27 Sin Ming Road

#01-174 Sector A Sin Ming Industrial Estate

Tel: 64669558