Hotel restaurants are expensive. That is a mindset that has sunken into the minds of people. Inevitable. I don’t blame them. Because really, what sets hotel restaurants apart from most shopping mall restaurants is the attention to detail in terms of decor, service, and presentation of food. All these contributing factors add up to a generally positive dining experience, and they are undoubtedly important to me.
21 on Rajah @ Days Hotel Singapore is like a deceiving dish of perfectly 63 degrees sous-vide poached eggs. It’s being dealt with utmost care to produce an indulgent though simple dish. When you look at it, it’s pleasantly surprising to find how affordable it actually is.
Helmed by new Executive Chef Melvin Lim, the restaurant has undergone a menu-change earlier this September, incorporating a wider array of Mediterranean and Asian fare.
Appetizers :: Up first were three new appetizers from the menu that was revamped nearly de novo. Served with cucumber salad and given the oriental dressing, the Soft Shell Crab Salad ($13.90++) wasn’t my favorite, despite the unconventional mix. It is largely because these soft shell crabs are naturally dry and pricky, but the accompaniments did not aid the situation.
I thought the Salmon Gravlax ($9.90++) was average at best, but spiced up with their homemade dill mayonnaise. I like that the raw spiced salmon wasn’t too salty, For the price, it’s worth your stomach if you are a Salmon Gravlax person. I was taken aback that the ’21 on Rajah’ Bruschetta ($7.90++) sat the best on me. A very simple dish, but refreshing; just the kind you need as an appetizer – bruschetta well-toasted and not hard to sink your teeth in at all.
Estofado ($18.90++) :: These pork meatballs with squid stew did not change my unfavorable opinion on meatballs in general. There was nothing to rave about, likewise for the stew. Though I have to admit that the squid done with an apt springiness.
Slow-baked Norwegian Salmon ($19.90++) :: Now they started talking. The salmon was slow-baked at 40 – 60 degrees to ensure that every inch of the sea creature breaks down and becomes incredibly tender. Well, as cliche as it may sound, or as exaggerative as you may think, it really melted in my mouth. The light and sweet balsamic glaze gives the fish a very gentle flavor, just like what the buttered mashed potato that it’s sitting on did. I can safely ask for you to dump the mustard sauce that comes along; it’s not needed. A must order.
Slow-braised Australian Beef Cheek Paella ($22.90++) :: Similarly, preparing by slow-cooking makes it especially delicate. This Australian beast is braised 130 degrees in rioja wine, and presented with paella rice. Frankly, I’m no fan of paella rice, but 21 on Rajah’s rendition was an exception. The restaurant takes pride in that they use genuine, quality Spanish paella rice and not long rice, and that changes how the entire dish tasted. Beef cheek was also used instead of other parts not only because of its high collagen content, but also that when braised for a long time over a low heat, the tendon-rich cut of the beef becomes really flavorful and cut-with-a-spoon tender.
Oven-baked Chicken Breast ($18.90++) :: Another shocker proves that the patient cooking style of the Kitchen Head works impeccably. It’s Chicken Breast, and like many others, I see chicken breast meat as inferior. Thus by oven-making it at 65 degrees and making it relatively velvety, the meat achieves a point of appropriate thickness with a bite + moistness. Because the meat is cut such that a majority of it are exposed, the flavors of natural jus and buerre blanc could easily get in. A noteworthy course.
Desserts :: I’m glad that the Gianduja Shortbread Cake ($11.90++) is introduced. 75% dark chocolate feuilletine, chocolate sponge cake, and chocolate mousse make up the three layers of the homemade treasure. It’s evident and brilliant how the three different textures; crisp, rough but soft, and creamy smooth gel together as one here. A must order.
The Dark Chocolate Fondant ($8.90++) from the preceding menu, on the other hand, fell a little short of impressive and was nothing to yell about. The Mango Savarin ($11.90++) has raspberry bits that have dehydrated for about 5 days in it. The sharp sweet and sour touches gives the dessert an oomph. Save for that, the rum-flavored syrup-soaked yeast cake was run-of-the-mill.
It’s a pity the restaurant is not accessible by MRT. But because I think this is a hidden gem and that it’s more affordable that what is widely perceived as expensive as a hotel restaurant, I am going to let you in on something even though I was told that it shouldn’t be publicized. The restaurant operates a shuttle bus (get off at the second stop at Days Hotel) that travels to and fro Novena Square (from level 2, office lobby of Novena Square). But because the shuttle bus isn’t one that sits many, they have decided not to scream about it in case the queue starts to get long. Hush hush.
Special gratitude to Stephanie, Exec. Chef Melvin and the 21 on Rajah team for the hospitality and hosting the invited tasting.
Address: 1 Jalan Rajah Road
Telephone: 6808 6868
Click here for opening hours.