i have this group of friends who are always in the know when it comes to the finest wine dinner in town. 🙂
we got ourselves a table for 10 at the mansard champagne dinner at halia @ raffles hotel on 2.12.2013. halia looked to occupy the previous seah deli space, with a open bar area at the pavilion outside. the acoustic was very poor as 1 of my “expert” friends noticed right away, and we had to “shout” at each other to be heard as the place was full & echoes were flying off all the hard surfaces – walls & glass windows. the din was like fish market – very happening…haha. 🙂
this the second time my wife & i joined the wine dinners. the last one at fordham & grand was one of the best dinners i had. 🙂
i looked at the halia mansard dinner menu & it looked great too. the concept was communal dining so the courses came in platters for sharing for 2pax. i had been to halia @ botanic gardens once, perhaps twice, likely more than 5 years ago. the experience was good, perhaps not compelling. i did remember it served 1 of the best lamb racks then. but halia standard should be fine. 🙂
the oyster gratin was a good, tasty, competent dish. most of us would prefer freshly shucked oysters or sashimi but if you had to have it baked, this was good. 🙂
the spicy prawn salad was 1 of my favourites. very refreshing. love especially the sharp spiciness that added kick to the dish. prawns & salad were fine but nothing special.
the foie gras risotto with apples & duck leg rillette was great too, the duck imparting some flavours to the risotto, which was nicely done al dente. this was perhaps a finer preparation than that served at jamie’s italian & alfresco gusto but taste-wise i preferred the latter 2 which were creamier & more hearty & intense. certainly it was not the best risotto experience i had. 🙂 a few friends did not like the al dente texture. 1 quipped that it was duck porridge..haha. 🙂
before getting on the main, we had a very nice lime sorbet palate cleanser.
the ahi tuna loin was another competent dish (maguro not quite my favourite sashimi as it is plain in taste, not so sweet like hamachi or kajiki or aji). these were very lightly seared. the japanese aburi (torched) sashimi preparation would be better. the capsicum & white beans garnishing were good & complement the fish rather well. overall i liked the dish though i had better ahi tuna loin in california & aburi maguro in japanese restaurants. the dish did not win many votes among my companions though, 1 was shaking his head. 🙂
next was the sous vide wagyu. i thought it was rump as most restaurants served this cheaper cut braised in course meals & confirmed with the server that it was so. it was strange that after sous vide (slow vacuum low temp cooking) the beef was still slightly tough & not tender enough, something not usually associated with the tender consistency if anaemic colour that sous vide produced. it was still not a bad dish for a rump cut, perhaps fine preparation & kind of average taste. 🙂
the dessert was fabulous, especially the white chocolate. the caramel honeycomb had an interesting & pleasant after taste. some of us thought of it as “terng chan po piah” the vanishing food with a honeycomb wrapped in po piah skin. 🙂
many of my friends, having been schooled in (or just “spoilt” by) many good wine dinners, didn’t think the food was great. it was ok though for my wife & me. i guess everything is relative & depends on the point of reference. perhaps many other wine dinner were better & this would not rank high. but i didn’t see much difference between this (comparing over all the courses) & what one could get at oso, otto, absinthe or forlino at S$88 even w/o the champagne, so to me dinner was quite good, & especially fun & enjoyable with the company, though the food at fordham & grand i had last was much better. 🙂
& that’s not the end. there was a lucky draw for a magnum (1500ml) champagne. there were 64 diners so we had 10 in 64 chances, & 1 of our friends took home the magnum, with the few among us trying in vain to coax him to let us do the safe-keeping! hahaha. 🙂