Nestled along the stretch of Balestier Road – where the ample choices of local food allure you with the wafting fragrance exuding through door-less coffee shops – a juxtaposingly ravishing dining option awaits at the comforts of Days Hotel Singapore.
Stroll in to 21 on Rajah, where a soothing sanctuary provides you with the cooling comfort of air conditioning to beat the excessive humidity and heat. Dine leisurely and unhurriedly in the spacious and modish setting that accommodates to large crowds during peak hours, beating the overwhelming masses at the neighbouring sweaty joints.
This restaurant is one-of-its-kind at the Balestier precinct. The number “21” in its appellation represents the 21 Mediterranean countries; its menu is immensely inspired by Mediterranean flavours and local favourites, highlighting the concept of “family communal dining”.
As a start, a delightful serving of homemade focaccia arrives with an olive dip that’s seasoned with sea salt.
Poele of Duck Liver with Sweet Pears ($14.90)
Many items on the menu come in platters that encourage sharing. From the tapas section, the Poele of Duck Liver is playfully paired with a slice of slightly caramelised pear for a delightfully sweet contrast, and complemented with a light drizzle of sweet and sour glaze beneath that provides the plate with a greater depth.
Prawn and Bacon Roll ($13.90)
Prawns wrapped in bacon, lightly battered and deep-fried to a golden crisp –what’s not to love? To brighten up the dish, these morsels are topped with a dollop of salsa enhanced with zucchini pesto sauce; apart from adding an invigorating zing, it does well in cutting the fattiness and richness overall. The sesame crackers were a nice adornment and provided the extra crunch.
Crostini of Smoked Eel ($13.90)
The melange of smoked eel, zucchini, tomato and basil salsa crowning a crusty garlic tapenade toast boasts refreshing flavours and textural balance that I enjoyed immensely.
Grilled Chicken Satay in Balinese Spices ($14.90 for ½ dozen)
The satays you normally get at hawkers are a far cry from this Grilled Chicken Satay in Balinese Spices. ‘Skinny and tough’ versus ‘chunky, juicy and succulent’ –I would go for the latter in a heartbeat.
Their satays excel with flying colours, surpassing preceding versions of this time-honoured dish that once used to be a humble dish sold by hawkers.
Accompanying the well-executed satays are the ubiquitous red onion, cucumber, ketupat, and their specially concocted peanut butter gravy.
Maeseilles Seafood Bouillabaisse for 2 ($38.90)
While still piping hot, the ephemeral stew was gulped down mouthfuls after mouthfuls of joyous rich stock full of brininess and intense flavour of the sea. The hearty seafood stew comprises a medley of seafood – fish, mussels, prawns and scallops to name a few – wafting of saffron, pastis and fennel. My favourite component turned out to be the most unassuming-looking one –slices of toasts dunked in a luscious composite of olive oil, mashed potato and saffron. Who would have thought? For a complete meal, saffron paella is served alongside to fill the bellies.
Stewed Fillet of Danish Cold Water Halibut “Lisbon Style” ($22.90)
It wouldn’t be surprising to see me leaving no remnants behind in this dish of Stewed Fillet of Danish Cold Water Halibut “Lisbon Style” –fish lovers will be able to relate. Danish cold-water halibut intermingles with tomatoes, potatoes and onions, in olive oil and beurre blanc forming an inherently flavoured stew.
Jumbo Prawns with Dill and Saffron Paella ($25.90/$44.90)
The Paella kind of disappointed with the lack of socarrat –the caramelised crispy crust at the bottom of the pan. Thankfully they didn’t fall short on flavours. Jumbo prawns, fish, squid and mussels sit atop plump flavourful rice infused and vividly coloured in romesco sauce, and scattered with chorizo.
Moroccan Harira with Chicken and Garbanzo Beans, served with saffron paella rice ($21.90/$32.90)
Tender chicken amped up with a thick and robust Moroccan Harira-inspired sauce speckled with garbanzo beans –this dish makes an ideal poultry option.
Pannetonne Bread and Butter Pudding with Dates ($14.90)
The Pannetonne Bread and Butter Pudding is supplemented with dates and served with a light cardamom crème anglaise for a Mediterranean twist. This dessert is freshly baked upon order; so do allow 20 minutes of preparation time.
Dark Chocolate Fondant with Raspberry Coulis ($14.90)
The Dark Chocolate Fondant with Raspberry Coulis is served straight from the oven, and drizzled with warm chocolate sauce.
I took utmost pleasure in slicing it open and watch the rich molten chocolate flow.
Chocolate Fondue for 2 ($18.90)
As for the Chocolate Fondue, you have a choice of dark, white or milk chocolate, melted down into dulcet fluidness.
Apart from the usual suspects – freshly cut fruits – they have added a few personal touches to distinguish itself from any other Chocolate Fondue, which include homemade marshmallows, chocolate truffles and cookies.
On the whole, desserts did not disappoint. If there’s a secret flair Chef Paul Then possesses behind his exemplar culinary prowess, it is the excellent dessert-making skills. Not so secret anymore, when he proclaimed he made the cookies, chocolate truffles and marshmallows from scratch.
Black & Blue Berries Punch ($10)
21 on Rajah also makes an ideal after-work chill out spot, with its range of alcoholic libations such as sangrias, mojitos, cocktails, beers, spirits, champagnes and wines. For non-alcohol drinkers, recommended mocktails include the Mid-summer Dream, Mint Jam, Mediterranean Sunset on 21.
21 on Rajah
Days Hotel Singapore, Zhongshan Park
1 Jalan Rajah, Singapore 329133