Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Feast Review: Halia Communal Dining Menu at Raffles Hotel, Singapore 189673

I had the pleasure to join in the company of some like-minded friends to break bread and share plates at the Halia at Raffles Hotel recently for their new Communal Feast ($260++ for 4 to 5 pax). The restaurant and chef had come up with the communal dining concept as a tribute to the Asian culture, where sharing food during meals is common, and also as a way to stand out from the notion that proper restaurants have to serve properly portioned individual servings. I find myself sharing food all the time as a food blogger even at the most proper of restaurants, so I like the fact that it is being catered for here at Halia. We had so much fun bonding over food, photography and more food!


Here's a look a the menu. There's really plenty of food to go around!

Apparently chef's philosophy is that he loves to see a table groaning under the weight of many many dishes, shared by everyone. Hence the idea.

We had a jug of the very Asian drink, barley, and started with some thick mushroom soup (DELISH!) served in a pot to go with soft fluffy bread (Halia's known for those!)



Next were the starters. Pick and choose what you like, and in this case I couldn't find fault in anything!





The famous chili crab sauce from their Chili Crab Spaghettini, now served as a dip for the toasted baguettes! THIS IS SHIOK max. Why have the crab when you can have the sauce?


Some baked kingfish collar, lightly flavoured with veggies, and so fresh.

And this, which is a modern and healthier take on the Chinese minced meat noodles. Instead of noodles, it comes with strips of finely shaved turnip and carrots! What innovation.


The steak, while spartan looking, is actually roasted with gunpowder, which explains the black exterior. Very interesting method that chef had wanted to try.

Lastly, some fun coconut popsicles, and one of the most delicious sticky toffee pudding I've had recently. I remember the desserts at the Halia Botanical Gardens to be of similar mind-blowing quality. Really, what a kicker to end of the feast!

MUST HAVE.


Here's the young and handsome chef explaining to us about his philosophy regarding food he makes, and experiments with.



Halia never fails to impress with their innovative approach to Asian cuisine in finding new ways to delight and tantalize, while keeping to the basic of very good food. It's definitely a top recommendation from me for anyone in the City Hall or Raffles Hotel area to visit Halia if you'll like to taste Singaporean flavors done in exciting and surprising manners. Go for lunch, brunch and then bring all your friends and family down for a communal feast in the evening!

The Halia at Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Road, #01-22/23 Raffles Hotel, Singapore 189673
+65 96391148
Mon – Fri: 11.30am to 10pm, Sat, Sun, PH: 11am to 10pm
The Communal Dinner is available daily from 6 to 10.30pm and priced at $260++ for 4 pax, inclusive of a communal jug of lemongrass or iced tea.

Thanks to FoodNewsPR and Halia for the invite!

Read more...

Monday, 28 July 2014

Dessert Review: Audacious Cakery at 2 Everton Park, #01-61 Singapore 081002

I was invited to The Audacious Cakery one fine weekend to try out new additions to their range of delectable mini cakes, and everyone knows that cake is a big thing so imagine my excitement. Because cake is the one confectionery that can go wrong so easily, but when it is right it tastes so good you wonder if magic dust has been sprinkled on them. Like all good next-gen cake shops, The Audacious Cakery is situated in the heartland but hipster Everton Park amidst quaint little shops such as Nylon Coffee Roasters. 

The space is not big but I like how the decor made it feel very cottage-homely. Note that they are closed on Mondays!

The space can probably seat 7 people indoors, and about 4 outside, so they do more of takeaways!


And these are the 7 cakes and 1 flavor of macarons that we tried! The owners have two lovely children and 2 of the cakes here are named after them! I like how they have incorporated all the things they like into their creations, and have added new flavours to constantly experiment and delight customers.

Pictured below: 

My favorite of the lot - a cake named Alexiss ($7.80)! 

It was actually named after the owners' daughter. This is a hugely popular salted caramel mousse with dark chocolate banana centre and crumble topping alongside the miniature 'green apple'. I love the play of flavours with the salted caramel and chocolate banana, which is always a good combination. The mousse is so light!

The Kuri ($9.80) below is a special one. It is made of chestnut mousse with chestnut bits and a dash of whisky paired with salted caramel and coffee mousse on a Valrhona chocolate sponge. While I couldn't really taste much of the chestnut upon the first bite, I realized that it grows on you especially when you get into the center. A lot of the cakes here have that special surprise in the middle which I thought is really delightful, so dig deep! The gold flakes were a nice touch too.


We then tried two new creations which might or might not be there when you visit, depending on what's the cake of the week! On the plate on the right below you see the Salted Egg Yolk Cupcake ($4.20). The salted egg yolk frosting with custard centre lies on top of the vanilla flavored cupcake. It's such a great idea to make a salted egg yolk cupcake. I do wish the salted egg taste comes out stronger though, because ours was only a hint of it. We gave feedback, so hopefully it will be stronger next time!

We also tried the lightly flavoured Green Pea & Wasabi Macaron ($2.80). An interesting Japanese-inspired macaron, it had a hint of green peas with a whiff of wasabi. Again, a bit too light on the flavor and can be improved! My sister had loads of ideas on how to make it more exciting, such as taking some of that wasabi pea snack and crushing them to coat around the sides of the macaron. 

We then land ourselves onto the big classics. The cake that ties with the Alexiss in first place for me will be the Foret Noir ($9.80), which is essentially the Black Forest cake made with Valrhona dark chocolate mousse, Kirsh soaked cherries and Kirsh Cream on a dark Valrhona chocolate genoise. The cherries inside were flavor bombs that explode so delightfully among the smooth and rich chocolate mousse. Have a birthday cake to buy? Get a dozen of these and everyone will love you for it!

We also tried the Zacharie ($7.80), named after the owners' son that loves cheesecake (so cute!) It is made of mango passionfruit cheese mousse with a mango passionfruit centre on a ginger biscuit base. Sounds like a mouthful? So is the cake when you stuff it in your face because it is so good! The cheese mousse is light and fragrant, and you can taste all the flavors mixed in it. It is definitely something different from your typical cheesecake!



Last but not least, we tried Elsie's favorite tarts - the Lemon Meringue Tart ($5.80)! This confectionary is quite a big hit nowadays in cafes because it is so refreshing. The tart lemon tart is made with French churned butter on a biscuit base, and the meringue is just nicely formed to counterbalance the sourness with some sweetness. If you are a lemon meringue fan, you must come and try this. 

The Rocky Road Tart ($7.80) was a homage to the Australian class. It's chocolate coated peanuts, marshmallows and coconut on a chocolate biscuit base, and just so rich and indulgent, you'll probably have to limit yourself to just half of it at the most! These cakes all went very well with my TWG tea!


It's audacious to have so many delicious cakes in one shop. If you really have to choose, go for the Foret Noir or Alexiss, but really everything there maintains a good quality. They also do events, catering and are looking for a cafe to supply to, so watch out for these audacious cakes. Otherwise, do seek them out next time you have a craving for cakes!

The Audacious Cakery
2 Everton Park #01-61, Singapore 081002
+65 6223 3047
Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm, Sunday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Read more...

Friday, 25 July 2014

Kiosk Singapore opens at 41 Duxton Hill, Singapore 089619

It's the soft opening weekend! Visit Singapore's first takeaway cocktail and craft beer bar called Kiosk Singapore at the corner of Duxton Hill, just right opposite Lucha Loco. Support support :)


No food or non-alcoholic drinks, but plenty of delicious pre-mixed cocktails in bottles. 



Head down today or tomorrow evening from 6pm till late! 
Read more...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Kitchen Gadget Review: PHILIPS Airfryer Avance XL in Singapore

I am slowly becoming not just a gadget geek, but a kitchen gadget geek! I love how technology just makes everything better, including every day kitchen utensils and items. This is especially so when you consider the PHILIPS Airfryer Avance Collection XL (RRP: SGD539). That little space shuttle was sent to me for review, and initially I thought nothing of it... but turns out it changed my cooking life forever.

Source: Philips SG
I shall proceed to just rave about it, shall I?

I have always been curious about the Philips Airfryer because it really just sounded like a oven with another name, and doubted that anything in there will taste like fried food. But I underestimated the power of innovation, and rapid-air technology. It was only when I tried it did I realize the ingenuity of it!


There's a heating coil at the top of the dome shaped enclosure, of which a basket is placed inside. Then air is made to circulate through the coil in a circular motion around the dome, around and under the food thats sitting on the grill of the basket so you don't have to flip the food or be concerned that it's burnt at the bottom, which an oven could do easily.

Because of the rapid-air, it will 'fry' any food you place in there, as long as there's a thin layer of oil on it, or it contains fats/oils that will sizzle when in contact with heat. That's why it uses 80% less oil. You could put fries in, spray some truffle oil on them and set it for 5 minutes and voila!

In any case I'll be publishing a series of PHILIPS Recipes that I've personally tried, such as Sweet Potato Fries, Chicken Wings, Bacon Avocado Fries and finally, my masterpiece - the Matcha Nutella Zebra Cake.

Sounds yummy? Stay tuned!
Read more...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Healthier Fast Food Review: McDonald’s can be better for you too

I am bracing myself to reactions to this post because it’s McDonald’s and HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme in one sentence. So I’m just going to say it upfront. McDonald’s is probably one of the most sneered upon food places that people see as unhealthy, so isn’t it preposterous McDonald’s to join in the programme?

Well, that’s one way to look at it.
But I prefer to choose to look at it in another way:

That by getting one of the most ubiquitous and popular food restaurants to join in the Healthier Dining movement, consumers now have more convenient ways to be healthier. Because over 120 McDonald’s restaurants in Singapore, of which many are 24/7 is now able to offer people healthier fast food at a very affordable price, conveniently.

Think about it. If HPB did not invite McDonald’s to join because they are afraid of repercussions from the public, we would be 120 restaurants short of places that offer alternatives or lower calorie meals as and when you want it (24/7, or delivery). So bravo to both for making this become a reality!

I went to try out McDonald’s Healthier Options last Sunday morning because I wanted to taste for myself what the Healthier Option combinations are like, for breakfast this time. When I arrived at the AMK Gardens branch (the one with the drive-in opposite the library), I noticed the HPB HDP decal on the door, right smack in the middle at eye level. I was surprised because I’ve never seen a sticker placed so prominently on the doors of any McDonald’s. It’s a good sign.


I had the pleasure to have another friend join me, and together we tried 2 breakfast sets. Both came with the Corn Cup (with whipped margarine on the side), and a black coffee. What is amazing is, I’ve never tried the McD corn cup before, nor the wholegrain Chicken McMuffin. And I almost never get the coffee when I am there for breakfast.


The Chicken McMuffin comes with a wholegrain muffin, something you can opt FOR FREE. To my surprise when I bit into it, it wasn’t hard or dry like one would expect of a wholegrain muffin. Instead it was soft and fluffy and I could taste a hint of grains in it, but it doesn't overpower the experience. It was so good (both taste and nutrition-wise), that I think I’ll order all my McMuffins in future with the wholegrain muffin. Again, it’s FOR FREE. Value for money!


 
Next, corn cup! It might sound weird that I’ve never tried this in my life (I’ve tried their Apple Slices before) but I think its because I’m always distracted by the fries or hashbrown. Again you can swap those out for a corn cup with your meal for free. And I LOVE CORN. Even better when it’s all taken off the cob (so there’s no need for gnawing) and ready to eat with a spoon! I tried it without the whipped margarine, and with it, and found that having it without doesn’t make much of a difference. So skip the margarine and enjoy the corn in its pure salty sweet and fragrant goodness. In fact, I wish they’d serve these plain corn kernels at cinemas in place of popcorn. 


Lastly, I tried the Sunrise Roll Chicken Ham! A relatively new breakfast menu item, I find the Sunrise Rolls to be perfect for when you don’t want too heavy a meal, but something just enough to nibble on. The Sunrise Roll is made with wholewheat wraps as well, which is not dry or tough at all and I always love it whenever there’s eggs and ham for breakfast. So it is a perfect and convenient breakfast!

What’s more, if you visit the McDonald’s website, you’ll see nutritional information for all their items. Here there’s the one for the Sunrise Roll.

 
Check out the Nutrition Calculator on the McDonald’s website now and also find out more about what you’re eating in terms of the breakdown. You can then compare that to your recommended daily intake on the HPB website’s Calorie Calculator (flash-only though).

Thanks to McDonald’s and HPB for introducing me to better alternatives and healthier options, proving that fast food can be healthier too!


This post is brought to you by HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme. For more info, visit eathealthy.sg

Read more...

Friday, 18 July 2014

Restaurant Review: Swensen’s Healthier Choices Dishes Available!

Many people cringe when they think of “healthy food”. I know I did, because the typical image that comes to mind is a celery and spinach-chomping person with no joy in eating. Some readers who visited my blog recently saw all the posts in conjunction with the HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme told me my blog posts are “too healthy, I don’t think it’s for me”. Before you leave this blog from the sheer ‘healthiness’ of my blog posts, I just need to proclaim that I am as unhealthy as every one of you. I enjoy my occasional fast food and usual hawker fare, and wouldn’t want to stop any time soon.

BUT!

Being healthy is not about drastic measures of abstinence from junk food or eating mountains of salad. Keyword is in being informed, and taking everything in moderation. For example, I know now that there are more options when dining outside for me to choose from that is equally yummy but healthier, and I would like to share some of these options with you.

Case in point – Swensen’s. I’m sure many of us grew up with the perception that Swensen’s is the place you’d go for ice cream cakes and the gigantic Earthquakes.

Like this:


But while that’s still available on the menu, Swensen’s has actually gone through a lot of changes to their dining menu. Instead of just ice cream, they’ve expanded to offer savory meals. And beyond just savory meals, they’ve gone the extra step to offer Healthier Choice dishes to join the #eathealthySG programme!


I had the pleasure to try out a salad and 2 mains for it. The Grilled Chicken Salad ($12.50) is filled with crunchy, cold and fresh romaine lettuce (my favorite!) and topped with generous layer of grilled chicken. The thousand-island salad sauce is served on the side and it really depends on how much you’ll need for your salad. If you want to watch your diet, cut down the dressing!



For mains, we had the Grilled Barramundi with Garlic Aioli ($17.90). I can see why the Barramundi is their star dish. Despite how simple it looks, there are 3 big factors as to why it was so incredibly delicious when I tried it. 


1) Super fresh barramundi that is not overcooked. It was succulent, and I could taste the natural oil from the fish that gave it that tender texture. 

2) The garlic aioli dip. DIVINE. I might just start experimenting with how I can recreate that dip, because it is so gorgeous! Super intense garlic flavor that mixes well with the creamy taste for you to dip everything in.

3) Affordable and healthy. Choosing to be healthier does not have to be expensive. And in this case, the combination that Swensen’s came up with both for the calories and the price is just consumer-friendly in every sense!

The Chicken Victoria ($15.90) was really simple, but you’d be surprised at how delicious it tasted! I know I was. When it first came it looked so unassuming and huge for something below 500-calories. I know, how can it be? I gathered that it must be because there was not much fat or oil! The chicken breast was so tender and juicy -- you couldn’t tell because it looked pale in the photo, which we always associate with dryness, so you have to go taste it. I also really enjoyed the baked potato with sour cream too, plus the vegetable sides. I can imagine myself having this every week.


Thanks to HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme for creating Healthier Choices for Singaporeans to enjoy when they are eating out!


I’ll highly recommend for EVERYONE to check out Swensen’s in the immediate future because they’ve really reinvented themselves with awesome dishes, especially healthier choice ones. It’s a great place to bring your family, or for parents, your kids to let them have a good meal and maybe even a small treat after that. Do remember to get your Healthy Go Lucky stamps for the dishes you ordered!

This post is brought to you by HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme. For more info, visit eathealthy.sg 

Read more...

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Guest Chef Restaurant Review: Osia Resorts World Sentosa with Chef Tim Montgomery

I had the pleasure to attend the tasting of a very special guest star's cuisine today at Osia restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa (Festive Walk). The feature is named 'Cooking with Friends' and invites Australian Chef Tim Montgomery's to create food for you from today to this Saturday, 19th July. The set dinner menu (3, 4, 5 courses from $90++ onwards) also mixes in some of Osia's best dishes so you get the best of both worlds.

A celebrated Australian chef, Tim Montgomery was previously singled out as South Australian Chef of the Year and has recently taken on Executive Chef roles at Berardo’s Restaurant and the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival.

The restaurant decor's pleasant, and what will strike you will be the giant open kitchen where you see chefs busying around. There are about 8 of them, which is a lot of people for not many diners! That's the level of work that goes into fine food. Surprisingly there is absolutely no food/grease smells at all, which is magical.

 Here's the special ala carte menu from both Osia and Chef Tim.

What me and my sister had was the special dinner set menu, which is a combination of both Osia and Chef Tim's creations (not pictured above). Prices are actually really reasonable for the quality and effort put into the dishes.

3 courses for $90++
4 courses for $115++
5 courses for $135++

We first had the Stone Hearth Flat Bread ($11) which you can choose 2 from 5 flavors. We picked the garlic butter and macadamia pesto. It came with a "bush tomato" squeeze tube, which is a first for me! It's such an innovative way to serve up a sauce which was so delicious I literally ate it plain. The bread was super soft and fragrant too, like a flat fluffy pillow to rest your head on...



Then for starters

Fjord Trout (Osia)
Foie Gras (Osia)

or Chef Tim Montgomery's Cauliflower Soup with quail scotch egg, pickled mushrooms and truffle oil. Of course we've focused on trying his creations! The cauliflower soup was heavenly. I never would imagine the plain ol' cauliflower to taste so good! It was creamy yet not overpowering or heavy. Couple that with a few slivers of truffle and oil from it, and you've got yourself a comforting bowl of soup. The quail scotch egg I didn't even notice, because the soup was so good!



For Mains
I can't decide which is better, the fish or the steak. But for this 3 nights, I'd suggest you pick the sea bass from Chef Montgomery.

The sea bass comes with brandade, organic scotch egg, smoked potato espuma and avruga. What's really great about Chef's dishes is his use of rare herbs, which gave the dishes a unique, fresh (literally!) edge. That, and the fresh exquisite presentation just takes dining to the next level. The sea bass was a fine example of that. I really enjoyed the smoked potato, that mixed with the yolk from the scotch egg when its broken apart just made it so much more delicious.




The grain-fed black angus beef tenderloin from Osia was also really good too. It is served with with creamed sun choke, basil cepe, acquerello rice 'tomato parmesan' (which is super fun to eat!) and a sweet red wine sauce. I found the beef exceptional - tender and pink inside, and satisfying. Come back next time for it!


For dessert, we had a interpretation of a popular Australian candy called "Cherry Ripe". Since I've never lived in Australia, I didn't know what it was so I googled it. This is what it is like!

Source: Teamlocals

'Cherry Ripe' is made of the 3Cs - chocolate, cherry and coconut. I actually do not like coconut, especially desiccated ones, but my was I wrong when it comes to it being made into an ice cream, on top of a rich chocolate mousse, sprinkled around with dark chocolate dust, and paired with cherry halves and cherry jelly. Cherry jelly. What a great idea.

According to my sister, on Masterchef they always claim that the hallmarks of a great dessert is if it contains these elements - crunchy, soft, sweet, tangy, cold and warm. While the warm part is slightly missing, all the rest were met!



I had an excellent meal at Osia restaurant trying out Chef Montgomery's limited time only set dinner menu, and would hasten anyone who's looking for a special dining experience to visit Osia in the next 3 days! Obviously you can tell that I am in love with the dinner. Call the the number below to make a reservation now.
Osia
Level 2, World Square at Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore 098269
65776560 / 65778888 
Thu - Tue: 12:00 - 15:00, Thu - Tue: 18:00 - 22:30
Closed on Wednesdays

Read more...