A reader commented on one of our earlier posts calling for reviews to be done on the (few) Halal buffet spreads offered here in Singapore. Now, there may not be that many, but you'd be surprised that some of them are actually quite good. My darling wife and I have been to quite a few but this time we wanted to try out one of the relatively newer buffets to offer a Halal spread - Aquamarine.
So we made our way to The Mandarin Oriental Hotel to celebrate my darling wife's birthday ( she just turned 24 by the way) and also get a review in at the same time.
Coincidentally, we also bumped into @NatalieTrog who was also celebrating a friend's birthday there. At the next table. I think she was stalking us. Kidding. Were you? Kidding. Am I?
Shout out to @NatalieTrog.
So there's gonna be too many dishes for us to review individually since this is a buffet. So this is what we're going to do. I'm going to lay out a whole series of pictures to whet your appetite and then we'll start with the major dishes that must be pointed out. How's that?
Welcome to Aquamarine.
So have you seen anything you might fancy yet?
Oh I'll bet you have :)
Okay so let's run this through.
There's about 5-6 hotels that offer a Halal buffet spread (that I can think of off the top of my head) and as far as I know, Aquamarine is one of the newest.
As far as first impressions go, I'd say it was not too bad.
Unfortunately they seem to reserve the tables nearest to the food for large groups of 10 or more. My darling wife and I were seated quite a distance away but I guess the distance was not so bad. What bothered us more was the space constraint within the dining area itself. If you encounter a fellow diner or a member of the staff on the way to or from your table, prepare to turn sideways a bit.
And if you ask me personally, I think they overcrowded the whole place.
And when it gets crowded (which it was that evening), things can get a bit noisy.
But that's just me.
Anyways.. on to the food!
As always, the salads a cold dishes came first for us.
They had a good selection of fresh salads and also cooked salads. I really enjoyed the baby carrot and baby radish salad they had.
They also had fresh oysters and also other shellfish. This includes Snow Crab legs and also crayfish.
The oysters were very fresh but the crab flesh was a little on the soft side to be honest.
For those of you who like your meats, they had a selection of cold cuts and cheeses to enjoy.
The meats were excellent but I can't help but mention that the selection of cheeses is very minimal. And the type of bread were also very disappointing. I think they had like.. 3 or 4 type of bread and that's it.
I actually really enjoyed the Mushroom Salad but my darling wife thought it was a little too earthy. And the other salads were actually not so bad. Okay-okay only lah. (At least the duck wasn't gamey)
Aha all you Japanese food lover can rejoice!
They have a special counter (that's kind of hard to spot actually) where there's a dude who slices the sashimi to order. They have a selection of Tuna, Salmon and Sea Bream.
Now here's the funny thing. Wen my wife asked for a few slices of sashimi, the guy asked how many she would like and she said just 5 would do for starters (because we didn't want to get too full on the sushi) and the guy gave use this weird look like "Sure or not 5 only?". And we later found out why.
The sashimi was very fresh and of an excellent quality.
The guy probably has people asking him for 10-20 slices at a time and here we are asking for 5.
"Amateurs" he must have been thinking.
Oh and before I forget - The Soup.
They had 2 types of soup for us to choose from.
One was Crab Bisque (as seen above) and the other was some Summer Vegetable stuff I think.
And we're always gonna choose the soup that's creamy right? (Admit it!!)
But boy oh boy was that a mistake.
The bisque was damn fishy to the max. Or rather, damn crabby. It was actually overwhelming lah.
And I've had all kind of seafood based soups like chowder and stuff but this was really un-appetizing.
3 spoons later and we pushed it to the side.
I wonder if @NatalieTrog enjoyed the soup?
If you look at the first few pictures above, you'll see one for a 'Singapore Spread'.
This actually consist of several things that seem to rotate when they top it up.
The otak-otak was okay (a bit on the dry side) and the Ngoh Hiang (which I didn't manage to snap) was suprisingly quite tasty. But I absolutely did not enjoy the Pandan Leaf Chicken. I'm not sure what they were aiming for but it wasn't at all what I know Pandan Leaf Chicken to taste like.
And to add on to the Japanese spread, we had some Tempura and Chawanmushi.
Mediocre at best.
Okay how about some mains?
Another one for the meat lovers.
My darling wife took it and I just had a bite. I guess it was not bad and my wife seemed to enjoy it.
My wife says it looks like mini-people and I said it looks like mini-frogs.
But please don't let that put you off. This was one of the tastiest things we had that evening.
Nice salty sauce hit just the right notes when paired with the rice.
So they baked this red snapper and poured some sambal over it.
Normally that seems like a good idea right? Well when the guy cut us off a piece of the fish, I guess he forgot about the sambal because we got like all of 3 drops of it.
Anyways the flesh itself was already dried-out so I'm guess that fish had been waiting for quite awhile before the first customer came around. I wonder how it would have tasted like if it were a bit fresher.
And for those who spotted the Chilli Crab picture above and were wondering how it was?
Don't ask. The Chilli Crab sucked big time. I don't even wanna talk about it.
Okay I'd like to call the next section the Comedy Section.
Because some of it is quite laughable. I'm not saying I'm making fun of Aquamarine but maybe it's just a humorous bit of feedback.
Okay here's number 1
This would be quite a familiar sight at some of the other Halal buffets like Carousel and Straits Kitchen.
So at least you can get your Chicken Rice fix right? Errrr... Yeaanoooooo.
You see that rice pot near the end of the picture?
You'd expected to be filled will steaming chicken rice to go hand-in-hand with your roasted chicken or duck meat and chicken rice chilli waiting for you.
Well it was steaming. But it wasn't chicken rice.
It was actually just normal white rice.
I know what traditional Ayam Penyet serves with normal rice... but this was not Ayam Penyet right?
I've actually never had roasted chicken rice... without the chicken rice.
Okay so never mind no need to complain.
I still took some roasted duck meat and paired it with some chicken rice chilli and plum sauce.
The first few bites were fine but as I reached my 4th slice, that familiar gamey duck taste came around.
Sorry Daffy. Maybe another day.
Okay here's number 2.
The thing above was labelled as "Meat Lover" and it was apparently a pizza.
It was either that or the Veggie Pizza. We skipped both.
Because that's WAY too much meat for me to handle at one go. NOT.
Okay here's number 3.
My darling wife said "There's Nachos!" and she came back with this.
One look and I began to wonder... those don't look like Nachos.
I took one bite and I swear to you it was Calbee Hot & Spicy Potato Chips.
You think I'm kidding? I went to check out the Nacho bowl.
You tell me that's not a bowl 3/4 filled with potato chips.
I can spot like 3 actual nacho chips there lah.
And I think some of the staff may have heard me and guess what?
Some one changed the bowl to actual Nachos.
No doubt it was the type you get when you buy a pack of Doritos but at least your label matches the food.
Anyways the Nachos seemed to be the only thing that was completely out of the pack.
The nachos were Doritos. The cheese was definitely from a packet.
And I know Tostitos Salsa when I taste it. But nachos always rock right?
Okay enough about that.
How about some desserts? And to be honest, almost all of them were absolutely delicious.
The pralines were absolutely delicious.
We tried the Mango, Strawberry and the Dark Chocolate. The white one was delicious but I couldn't place the taste for the life of me.
This was absolutely delicious.
The bottom layer is a dark chocolate cream which went so well with the tart strawberry mousse.
This is a must-have when you spot it anywhere.
The best Bread Pudding (as concurred by so many others) can be found at Carousel.
So how does the one at Aquamarine match up?
To be honest with you, I found it quite good actually. The vanilla sauce was tasty and the pudding was still warm with plump sweet raisins. But my wife says it is nothing close to the one at Carousel.
@HamidahHanim later told me she thinks Carousel still comes out on top in this battle of Bread Pudding.
I wonder if anyone else has tried it at Aquamarine yet?
Another favourite which is normally found at Asian Market Cafe's buffet is the Durian Pengat.
It's basically the durian flesh all prepped and ready for your eating pleasure.
For you durian lovers - you're obviously going to enjoy this.
I personally still favour the one at Asian Market Cafe because it's still in it's purest and natural form.
You'll still get some of the durian pulp on your tongue there.
The one at Aquamarine is still a delicious and creamy durian paste but they blend it till it's extra smooth.
Some may like it that way. Anyways it's still a must for the durian lover.
Okay this may surprise you - this was my favourite dessert there.
It's basically as the name implies. And it's bloody delicious!!
Believe it or not - these sucked big time.
The Red Velvet didn't even taste like Red Velvet. It was just red coloured cakes.
Putting cream cheese and berry on a red coloured cake does not a Red Velvet Cake make.
Now here's an interesting thing to note about Aquamarine.
For example, the section which has the Cold Seafood spread has a Halal certificate displayed.
The Desserts section - has its own Halal certificate displayed.
Even the Salads section had its own certificate displayed.
Okay normally that would not seem very odd but I'm mentioning it because...
I noted that some tables were being served alcohol. Some wine here. Some beer there.
And I'm not sure if it was BYO or perhaps from the bar/lounge situated just outside the restaurant but I found it quite odd.
Perhaps the individual certificates mean that just the individual food sections are certified Halal as opposed to one universal certificate for the whole restaurant. And since the whole restaurant was not certified, this would allow alcohol in the dining sections wouldn't it?
Perhaps I should send Aquamarine an email to try and clarify things.
Well anyways, overall I would say that the food is quite okay overall.
But if you're gonna compare to some of the other Halal buffets in town, this one definitely doesn't match up.
Perhaps if you wanna enjoy a buffet spread at a slightly lower price, this is your place.
Breakfast - $40++ (Adult) / $20++ (Child)
Lunch - $58++ (Adult) / $29++ (Child)
Dinner (Sunday to Thursday) - $68++ (Adult) / $34++ (Child)
Dinner (Friday & Saturday) - $78++ (Adult) / $39++ (Child)
Marina Mandarin Singapore
6 Raffles Boulevard
Tel: 6845 1111
Breakfast: 6.30am - 10.30am
Lunch: 12.00pm - 2.30pm
Dinner: 6.30pm - 10.30pm