Showing posts with label wagyu beef. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wagyu beef. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Halia at Raffles

Halia at Raffles is all decked out for Christmas. For the festive season, they have rolled out a "Communal Feast Menu" that serves up to 4 guests and features over ten items and three side dishes  (priced at $360++ per set, available til 25 Dec 2013). It's quite a lot of food, as you will see.

Communal dining is something Asians have done for a long time. Everyone partakes of the food placed in the middle for sharing. We value it because it helps people bond together.

And a table laden with food that keeps on coming is simply a celebration of abundance.

So we brought the family to try the feast. Plus it was Jolie's birthday (she turns six today). We thought we'd try dining out for once instead of celebrating at home as we usually do.

Jolie happily coloring the activity panels for kids at Halia
Turns out Halia at Raffles is quite kid-friendly. The waiter brought us coloring paper and materials. When you finish, they will put it up somewhere in the restaurant.

We started with the Chef's soup with bread basket. The soup may vary from time to time.

Chef's Soup - Carrot Soup but tastes more like tomato
It was a Tomato Soup, drizzled with herb oil. Light-bodied, smooth and very tart. This soup really jolts the tastebuds and perks up the appetite.

Bread basket - so delicious, we wanted more!
Oh we loved the bread basket. It has half a dozen warm and toasty well-made pieces that were perfect companions to the soup.

Nadine took to the food well!
Nadine surprised me by how well she took to the food. Yes, she of the fussy tastebuds. She loved the soup and bread. Later on she ate almost a bit of everything, including greens!

Prawn Cocktail - romaine lettuce, horseradish, lemon, piquant mayo
Prawn Cocktail - romaine lettuce, horseradish, lemon, piquant mayo
Oooh, this was spicy! The horseradish added serious kick to the piquant mayo. Good portion for four persons.

Brussels Sprouts, with dried iberico, spiced almonds, red onion and sesame
Brussels Sprouts, with dried iberico, spiced almonds, red onion and sesame
I also liked this, but felt it might not be enough to share if you have four big eaters. Then again, there's quite a few salads in this line-up.

Goats cheese mousse with heirloom tomato, olive, brioche, wild honey
Goat's cheese mousse with heirloom tomato, olive, brioche, wild honey
This looked so pretty. The goat cheese was not too strong, and was interestingly sweetish. The highlight? Definitely the heirloom tomatoes so naturally sweet and dense with flavour. They proved refreshing with the cheese.

Those are the starters. And now for the mains.

Yellowfin tuna loin (served rare), with smoked avocado, dried apricot, red pepper and orange
Yellowfin tuna loin (served rare), with smoked avocado, dried apricot, red pepper and orange
Thick slices of tuna really done just on the surface and still raw inside. And they built a garden right on top.

House smoked duck breast (Challans from France)
House smoked duck breast (Challans duck from France) with parsnip, chestnut, cabbage and redcurrant
Challans duck is a premium duck breed from France that reputedly tastes like steak. These have been lightly smoked with the skin just a bit crispy. I also like how the little details like the sliced chestnut actually contribute to the flavour contrast.

Turkey breast, chicken leg, bacon, brussels sprout, cranberry, puff pastry, thyme cream
Turkey breast, chicken leg, bacon, brussels sprout, cranberry, puff pastry, thyme cream
It's hard to make turkey interesting, but they made the salted skin totally crisp and flat. Awesome treat. The meat wasn't too dry but the thyme cream helped to jazz it up.

Sous vide wagyu rump, with truffle mash, celery and carrot jus
Sous vide wagyu rump, with truffle mash, celery and carrot jus
This was tender and nicely seared but still pink in the centre. I forgot to ask where the wagyu is from, but tastes like it might be Australian beef. The smooth truffle mash is awesome.

The side dishes were a hit too. Well, two out of three.

Side dish (to die for): Potato fries, with piquant sauce and truffle aioli
Side dish (to die for): Potato fries, with piquant mayo and truffle aioli
Yes, I would willingly shorten my life for some of these! Divinely crisp, hot and perfectly salted. Amazingly light and not grease-laden. You just can't help reaching for more. The dipping sauces are also excellent - a gently spicy mayo, and a robust truffle aioli.

Side dish: green beans and portobello (awesome!)
Side dish: green beans and portobello (awesome!)
I took this shot in a hurry - it just smelled so good, and the taste totally delivered. Beans and mushrooms sauteed in butter, garlic, salt, pepper and I don't know what else. This is almost our favourite of the lot! I would make this a main dish!

Side dish: feta, tomato, cucumber, mesclun
Side dish: feta, tomato, cucumber, mesclun
Well, it wasn't that this was bad - it was just that the other stuff was so stellar, this mesclun salad just paled in comparison. It's the "I have to eat my veges" motivation that makes you finish it. Love the tomatoes though. Beautifully sweet.

And now for dessert. We had originally wanted to adjourn somewhere for cake, but the meal took a while and we weren't sure what good cake there was nearby. So we secretly asked for a candle to go on the Christmas pudding.

The staff were so obliging; they sang a happy birthday song
The staff were so obliging; they not only gave us a candle but sang a happy birthday song for Jolie as they brought it out.

Birthday girl gets candle!
Birthday girl is very pleased!

My kind of dessert - a selection of hard, soft and blue cheese (90g) with quince, chutney, housemade biscuit and lavosh
Apart from the Christmas pudding, there was my kind of dessert! A selection of hard, soft and blue cheese (90g) with quince, chutney, housemade biscuit and lavosh. On the platter is Gorgonzola, Pont-l'Évêque and smoked cheddar. You will be quite full at this juncture, but nibble and savour this slowly over a good chat.

There are some festive drinks to go along with the Communal Feast menu too.

Festive mocktails - Candy Cane (left) and Santa's Hot Chocolate
Mocktails - Candy Cane (left, S$12) and Santa's Hot Chocolate (right, S$10). One is cold, and one is hot. The Candy Cane is a bit sourish - it has Sweet n Sour, Angostura Bitters, Grenadine, Sprite and Mint Tea. Santa's hot drink is made with cocoa, milk, Grenadine and whipped cream.

White Christmas festive drink
The cocktails - we only tried one. White Christmas (S$18) is a concoction of Baileys, Kahlua, apricot brandy, milk and sugar syrup. The sprinkles make it look cute and festive, but also dangerously attractive to children. Haha. Fortunately, this is very mild.

We had a marvellous time. The food is good with stunning presentation, and the service exemplary.

The Christmas Communal Feast menu is available for order from now till 25 December 2013. Check out their other Christmas promotions here.

#01-22/23, 1 Beach Road,
Raffles Hotel
Singapore 189673
Tel: +65 9639 1148
Open daily
Mon - Fri: 11:30am - 10:00pm
Sat, Sun & PH: 10:00am - 10:00pm

Thanks to FoodNews and Halia for the invitation!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Marble Lounge is open 24 hours a day, serving buffets, light snacks and drinks

The Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku is lovely. It's everything you'd expect of a four-star hotel, and more. Looks like in Japan, they do four-star with quality that would blow some five-star hotels elsewhere out of the water.

As many of you know, I'm always happiest when I'm in Japan. This is my 10th trip here (seems like a lot, but you really don't feel like going anywhere else after you've had a taste of Japan), and my sixth one to Tokyo. But because my last Tokyo trip was in 2007, this latest jaunt was much welcomed as a refreshing update. 

Dennis, Adrian, Irene and I at Narita Airport

I had wonderful travel buddies on this trip to Tokyo! Here are Dennis and Adrian (Superadrianme), and Irene (Moonberry). Check out their blogs too.

We had just arrived at Narita Airport. This is the first time I am taking the airport limousine express buses to the hotels (slightly over two hours). I normally take the N'EX to Shinjuku. But the advantage of these buses is they drop you off right at the hotel. If you have a lot of luggage, that might be a good idea.

I was pretty amazed that the ground staff (ushers and luggage handlers) would ritually bow to (the guests in) the buses as they arrived and departed. The Japanese have such incredible dedication to their tasks.

Welcome to the Hilton Tokyo
The Hilton is located in the Shinjuku Skyscraper district just westwards of Shinjuku station. It's walkable, but there are shuttle buses you can take.

Interestingly, I often stay in Nishi (west) Shinjuku as well, but never tried the Hilton until now. In fact, I realise this is probably my first Hilton hotel experience anywhere.

Lobby - Photo courtesy of Hilton Tokyo
Photo courtesy of the Hilton Tokyo

After the long plane journey, it was nice to be embraced by luxury and comfort. This is the spacious lobby that greets you as you enter the hotel.

The Executive rooms have been refurbished
The hotel has 812 rooms and suites. The Executive rooms have all been refurbished. I have to say it was really nice to see such big and spacious rooms in Tokyo! Most other hotels have nefariously tiny rooms that make it a challenge for you to even walk around in.

I also need to get a wide-angle lens to fully capture the size and breadth of hotel rooms! For this trip, I had newly gotten the Canon 5D Mark III (kindly loaned by Canon Singapore), and was just learning how to use it. It's a huge step up from my old 400D. So many new features! First few photos will not be great, I know. Anyway, I have indicated iPhone and official hotel photos where they appear.

Every room has shoji screens across the windows
Each room comes with the trademark shoji screens across the windows. I really like these. They lend a Japanese touch to the contemporary Western design. You can enjoy the view from the writing desk or the smart-looking easy chair. If you stay on the west side, you might see Mount Fuji too.

My Executive King room with see through bathroom!
The beds are comfortable, softly coddling but with enough firmness for support. You can see through to the shower, but of course, there is a privacy screen. Oddly though, it's controlled from the outside, not inside. So make sure you trust whoever you share the room with!

The bathrooms feature a Japanese style deep bathtub
Executive rooms now have the Japanese style deep bath tub. I love these!

The bathwater appears blue all by itself! (iPhone 4S photo)
iPhone 4S photo
I don't know how the water naturally is or turns blue in the bath tub, but it's awesome!

Peter Thomas Roth toiletries
There's a nice range of Peter Thomas Roth toiletries - I like the Body Wash with beads. Smells great.

What a wonderful welcome ensemble! Sweet persimmon, Kyoho grapes, macarons, nuts and premium sake!
But out there is an even more astonishing welcome ensemble. A pretty persimmon, luscious Kyoho grapes that taste like wine jelly, very well-made macarons, chocolates, and a bottle of prized Hakkaisan sake.

How lovely to have actual tea leaves for your in-room tea
It's so nice to find real tea leaves instead of tea bags, for your in-room tea.

Nice turndown with wine and candy
And for the turn-down service, they placed a small bottle of wine, and some exquisitely crafted candy in a box.

Well, it was a pity we only stayed a night here. We didn't get to see what the other rooms looked like, but here are some official photos.

Ex_JrSuite_King_Night - Photo courtesy of Hilton Tokyo
Photo courtesy of the Hilton Tokyo
The Junior Suite by night.

Photo courtesy of the Hilton Tokyo
The City Suite by day.

Exec_Tower_Night - Photo courtesy of Hilton Tokyo
Photo courtesy of the Hilton Tokyo
The Executive Tower Suite in the evening.

Executive Deluxe Suite - Photo courtesy of Hilton Tokyo
Photo courtesy of the Hilton Tokyo
The Executive Deluxe Suite - this has got to be top of the line.

Musashino at Tokyo Hilton
Dinner was at Musashino, the Japanese fine-dining restaurant within the hotel. Most of the restaurants are conveniently located on the second floor.

This is the private dining room at Musashino
Musashino is very traditional in its decor and cuisine. There are three private tatami rooms like this.

Hilton Tokyo's Musashino has dedicated rooms for teppanyaki, sushi, and tempura
They also have rooms specially dedicated to teppanyaki, tempura and sushi. You can also have shabu-shabu or kaiseki, served by waitresses clad in kimonos.

We started the evening with some drinks.

Prized Hakkaisan sake for the night!
They brought out some premium Hakkaisan sake.

We also had a nice umeshu
We also had some umeshu.

But it was really the food that was outstanding. The chef prepared a special kaiseki menu for us to showcase the different strengths of the restaurant.

Seasonal delicacies of boiled potherb mustard with globe fish (fugu!) and skin, egg sponge cake and ginkgo hut, pond smelt, roast duck with cheese
iPhone 4S photo
Our starter of seasonal delicacies included sesame tofu, boiled potherb mustard with globe fish (fugu!) and skin, egg sponge cake and ginkgo nut, pond smelt, roast duck with cheese. And two thick cuts of otoro and chutoro so fresh and sweet. It was a dance of many flavours.

Prime Japanese sirloin steak with vegetables and garlic chips
From the teppan, we had Prime Japanese sirloin steak with vegetables and garlic chips. The wagyu was from Iwate prefecture, and expertly seared to a medium rare perfection. You can almost see how translucent the marbling is.

A second helping of sashimi
A second helping of sashimi after we had the wonderful otoro in the starter. We could not say no to more.

Tempura - prawns, asparagus, pumpkin, Japanese ginger and shiitake mushroom
Tempura of prawns, asparagus, pumpkin, Japanese ginger and shiitake mushroom. Notice how non-greasy it is, with nary an oil stain on the paper.

Assorted Sushi - Semi fatty tuna, flatfish, sea eel, tuna and cucumber roll (iPhone 4S photo)
iPhone 4S photo
Assorted Sushi - Semi fatty tuna (chutoro), flatfish (hirame), sea eel (anago), tuna and cucumber roll. There was a lovely bowl of clear soup to go with this. It had a beautiful smoky hint to it.

Dessert of stewed pear in syrup, walnuts and raspberry
A light dessert of stewed pear in syrup, walnuts and raspberry rounded up the evening.

The Executive Lounge at the 37th Floor helps you with personalised check-in, and offers breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails, with a view of the city
We adjourned to the Executive Lounge on the 37th floor. This is where they earlier did our personalised check-in. There's free wi-fi, access to computers, laptops and a printer, magazines, newspapers and DVDs. You can also get breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails here. But the real draw is the view.

The stunning Skyscraper district in all its night time glory.

You can see the government buildings at night
On the eastern-facing side you can see the government buildings.

Night view of Shinjuku - facing the eastern side
So many people still in their offices at night?

Night view of the Western side of Shinjuku
The western-facing side extends towards a more residential area, so there are less tall buildings.

This is the view from my room the next morning.

The view from my room at Hilton Tokyo
It was uncharacteristically foggy with a bit of rain. The autumn colours were not out in full force yet, despite it being so late in the year (early November).

Oh well. Breakfast!

There's the usual Western breakfast favourites at the buffet
Downstairs at the Marble Lounge (first photo above), you get food 24 hours a day including buffets. The breakfast has the usual favourites for both Western and Japanese palates.

Japanese selection at the breakfast buffet
Japanese side dishes and condiments to go with rice and porridge.

Breakfast carbs
Need carb to start the day? Fret not. Load up all you want on bagels, breads, doughnuts, rolls, danishes, and croissants.

A juice/smoothie bar
There's a nice juice and smoothie bar too. Get your coffee and teas here as well.

They even have takeaway coffee/tea!
What's really considerate of them is the takeaway coffee/tea for those who have to dash off quickly.

My Western Breakfast
A selection from the Western offerings: Omelette from the live egg station. Nice beans not from a can, but done from scratch. Smoked salmo, hams and sausages. French beans and shimeji mushrooms. Mini hash browns. The only thing is bacon in Japan always tastes a bit different.

My Japanese Breakfast (iPhone 4S photo)
Oh I love a good Japanese breakfast. Rice, seaweed, furikake seasoning. Fish, stewed vegetables, pickles, more seaweed, sweet egg omelette (tamago), and salty plum (ume).

Pool - Photo courtesy of Hilton Tokyo
Photo courtesy of the Hilton Tokyo
After all that food, I feel like I need the gym and heated indoor pool. There's a separate gymnastics/yoga area, two outdoor tennis courts, a massage center, traditional Japanese sauna and relaxation zone. The gym runs 24 hours a day and is equipped with 35 PRECOR training machines plus free weights and resistance equipment.

The Hilton Tokyo has 812 rooms and 8 restaurants and bars
But all too soon it's time to leave.

The Hilton Tokyo driveway entrance
But it's with fond memories.

The hotel also helped to arrange some experiences around the Shinjuku area. There are lots of shopping and dining options. I'll show you some (including Menya Musashi ramen) in an upcoming post.

We also explored the Conrad Tokyo the following two days, so more on that later too.

For the best available rates, go to the Hilton Hotel Deals website that cover all the brands within the hotel group. The Tokyo page is here - (For the screenshot, I cut and pasted the Hilton Tokyo details upfront, so you can see the what it looks like, plus sample rate).

I also joined the Hilton Honors program. I have friends on it, some of whom are racking up points like crazy. I'm looking forward to do the same!

160-0023, Shinjuku-ku, 6-2 Nishi-Shinjuku 6-Chome, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3344-5111

Many thanks to the Hilton Hotel Group for arranging this experience. Special thanks to Ms Momoko Gonohe and Ms Kazuko Ogawa for hosting us throughout.
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