Halia Restaurant, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Halia, which means ginger in Bahasa, would lead one to think that this place was serving Malay food. Instead, the menu featured fusion. I've never really been a huge fan of fusion (nor Malay food for that matter), although admittedly some concoctions can be good. Unfortunately, this place (1 Cluny Road, 6476-6711) was a bit of a yawner to me.
Our starters included the "crisp black pepper softshell crab with wasabi aioli," "tataki of blue fin tuna belly with arugula, avocado, tomato, kalamata olive, wasabi vinaigrette," and a salad with prawn satay. These were generally better than I thought they would be: the softshell crab had a nice greasy touch, the seared tuna went well with the avocado, and the prawns were grilled just the right amount. But none of it was anything that I would get cravings for.
We shared our main courses too, including the "fillet of char siew salmon with honey soy glaze, haricot beans, arugula and orange dressing," "aubergine & tofu tower - baked eggplant, portobello mushroom, sauteed young spinach, broccolini and agedashi tofu in a light soy broth," "chili crab spaghettini - Singapore-style spicy, sweet and tangy crabmeat sauce," and "linguine vongole laksa - little neck clams in Peranakan-style aromatic cream sauce with blue ginger rempah and laksa pesto." Just as with the starters, they were generally good in their own right, but I had my complaints too. The salmon was prepared delicately but the honey glaze just seemed out of place. The aubergine tower was also very light and fresh yet tasty, but a bit of a bore (and these towers these days are such a cliche!). The chili crab pasta was cooked just right, but lacked the spicy and tangy edge that I'm accustomed to with real chili crab. The linguine was actually probably the best of the bunch with a rich creamy sauce, but I'm not a huge fan of some of those Peranakan (Malaysian Chinese) spices.
The thing that probably bothered me the most about this place was how it tried so hard to be classy. In the process, it just blends in with all those other chichi fusion places and doesn't stand out. It's a bit too snotty for me too (and the service could have been more prompt). The food was certainly above average from a quality and taste standpoint, but the fusion concoctions are simply unncessary to me. I doubt that I'll want to come here on my own accord - I'd prefer to stick to the real McCoys.