Fun fact: Halia at Singapore Botanic Gardens was established in 2001 – that’s a whopping 14 years! Before this tasting, I was oblivious to the rich history Halia possesses, which includes the numerous awards and accolades garnered for its excellence in food, service and unique dining ambience. I have been to its second outlet at Raffles Hotel several times and it never fails to provide a lovely experience there! However, it was my first time at Halia at Singapore Botanic Gardens, which is tucked away in the lush foliage of the Ginger Garden. Just minutes away from Orchard, the restaurant provides a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. This year, Halia unveils a renewed self – with a brand new look and updated menu!
While Halia has maintained the skeleton of its original build, several elements have been updated to reflect their new approach and reinforce “a restaurant in a garden and a garden in a restaurant” concept. The renovation was designed to unite the garden and the restaurant more intimately. Now, guests can enjoy the lush panorama surrounding the restaurant, with a heightened ceiling. Head outdoors and you’ll find a sit-down bar for guests who love to get up close to nature. What’s more, you can now enjoy a live band every Sunday evening, which instantly banishes any Monday blues that may be slowly creeping in!
Chilli crab dip [With crisp baguette] ($15) – This is the same chilli crab sauce used for their signature crab pasta! Now, you can enjoy it as a starter, with the bread slices. Absolutely loved this starter, ‘cos I’m a fan of their pasta! Moreover, now I can get to enjoy other mains on top of this chilli crab dip as my appetiser. Win-win for me!
Lime & ginger yellowfin tuna kinilaw 70gm [Coconut, avocado, tomato, seaweed, chilli oil & crispy wonton skin] ($18) – I arrived late at the tasting, hence I wasn’t able to get a photo of this appetiser and the next salad, but of course I tasted them! Apologies! The tuna cubes were really fresh and being paired with lime and ginger, instead of the usual wasabi and soy sauce really brought out a different kind of freshness in them. The flavours were subtle, yet memorable. There were many components incoporated within this dish as well, from a rich variety of cultures such as avocado, crispy wonton skin and chilli oil.
Lemongrass & ginger tiger prawn salad [Fresh mango & tomato salsa, glass noodle & ginger flower dressing] ($19) – This was one power salad! The prawns were huge, fresh and crunchy. Coupled with some of my favourite herbs *lemongrass*, it was a simple yet ingenious dish. Highly recommended to try!
Spice Islands marinated lamb loin [Curried wild rice, charred chilli, pickled ginger & coconut] ($44) – The latest offering at Halia – the lamb rump was served and garnished with a generous layer of Indonesian spices that was feast to the eyes! It was a pity that the spices overpowered the main star of the dish which was the lamb rump itself. It would have been nice if there was a balance between the use of spice and meat. Although intended to serve medium rare, I felt it was closer to a medium as the meat was a wee bit too tough for my liking. This was served with a really interesting base of curried wild rice and garnished with charred chillies, pickled ginger and coconut!
Paperbag oven-baked halibut fillet [Mirin sake, ginger broth, sesame Japanese rice, wakame & truffle mayonnaise] ($40) – Like what I mentioned in my review of Halia @ Raffles Hotel back in 2013, the fish was absolutely wonderful. Not only was the halibut of top-notch quality, the execution is simply timeless – still so good after a couple of years. The addition of mirin sake made the broth sweet and palatable, and goes great with rice. Baking the fish in parchment paper meant that no flavours are leaked in the process of cooking. What I did was to drench my rice in the broth to soak up all the goodness of the it!
Wild Alaskan black cod [Ginger flower sambal, Chinese long beans & pickled ginger jus] (140gm. $56) – You’ll find some Nonya flavours in this dish as a less-spicy rendition of sambal beans sit as the base, instead of mash potatoes. Something out of the box huh! The cod was smooth and tender, though I find that there was a disconnection between the beans and the fish. Sambal gravy could have drizzled on the cod to bring the whole dish together.
12 hour braised pork ribs [Homemade BBQ sauce, mesclun salad] ($48) – Wow, wow, wow. I promise you this is one of the best pork ribs everrrr! The meat literally fell off the bones with a simple probe of the fork and spoon – yes, no knives needed at all. The BBQ sauce was packed with lots of punch and thankfully, neither overpowering nor too salty. I’d say that this tasted largely different from American ribs as these ribs were braised first and then lightly seared, rather than hitting the grill or oven directly. This ‘Asian’ style of cooking ribs beat American ribs hands down. *waves pompom* No prize for guessing which is my favourite mains!
The Other Harbour [Mango mousse, pomelo, mango, yoghurt sherbet, sable & passionfruit sauce] ($12) – Don’t forget to leave some stomach space for the awesome desserts at Halia! A re-interpretation of mango sago with pomelo, this is the cake version of it! I really love the frozen texture of the mango mousse, coupled with the tasty biscuit crust at the bottom. Special mention goes to the yoghurt sherbert that is so light and pairs extremely well with the mango cubes and pomelo.
Die Die Must Have Chocolate [Chocolate raspberry gnache, cacao nibs tuile, chocolate marshmallow, raspberry sorbet, raspberry sauce, crispy raspberry and chocolate] ($12) – Chocolate lovers will be in chocolate heaven in no time with this dessert. The chocolate was so dark and bitter, and oh-so-good. Just look at it – I don’t think there’s much more to say. Indeed, a die die must have.
“Orh Nee” [Frozen home-made yam parfait, pumpkin puree, candied gingko nuts & lotus seeds] ($12) – Yam paste, done the angmoh way. I bet you can’t get this anywhere else so do try it if you’re a fan of yam paste! The texture of the yam block is quite similar to mousse, but frozen. I especially loved the way it complements with the pumpkin puree. What a pleasant surprise!
Heavenly Halia [Fresh Ginger, Pineapple, Peach Liqueur Blue Curacao & Sprite] ($18) – A signature cocktail at Halia, it sadly did not leave much of an impression on me…
Fresh Mints [Mint, Lime and Apple] ($11) – Perfect thirst-quencher!
Chilled Lemongrass & Ginger Infusion ($8.50) – I guess I’m more of a non-alcoholic person! I loved this to bits! Wished I could have this everyday to detox. A fan of lemongrass like me? You’ll love it too.
Halia has definitely spruced up its offering and the dishes are great for sharing – think generous portions! From appetisers to desserts, they have surpassed my expectations with flying colours! Irishman Ciaran Armstrong has come home to Halia at Singapore Botanic Gardens as Executive Chef, and he and his team has indeed achieved true fusion food – food that melts boundaries between ideas and traditions,pulling together the best of each culture – in this case our local, Singaporean culture. What priviledge!
Many thanks to Cyndiana for hosting us! 🙂
Halia @ Singapore Botanic Gardens
1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden (enter via Tyersall Avenue)
For reservations: (65) 8444 1148 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Reservations not accepted for brunch)
Monday to Thursday (except public holidays): 12.00pm – 9.30pm (last seating)
Friday & Eve of Public Holidays: 12.00pm – 10.00pm (last seating)
Saturday: 10.00am – 10.00pm (last seating)
Sunday & Public Holidays: 10.00am – 9.30pm (last seating)
Brunch: 10.00am – 5.00pm (Weekends & Public Holidays)