PARAGON houses top-notch fashion brands and many an ensuing popup. It’s also now home to Halcyon & Crane – a brunch-inspired concept that’s a highlight reel of one of the rarer fusion cuisines we have here in Singapore: Sichuan-Western. If that sounds familiar – even alluring – to you, it may be because you’re a fan of Birds of a Feather, and you’d be on to something: the same team and company responsible for the popular Amoy Street haunt is behind this cautious second outing in Singapore.

We’re glad to report it bears entirely new offerings with selfsame pedigree that set its predecessor apart; in fact, they’ve taken the formula one step further with very approachable interpretations and a bevy of memorable cocktails that could easily become the highlight of your shopping trip.

Casual and posh exemplified

Everything at Halcyon & Crane smacks of tasteful curation – from the gold lining of the veneered pillars to the stolid cutlery holder… which seems to weigh 1 stone (6 kilograms). Try it.

Set in swanky underpinnings of marble and mesh and framed by tasteful application of bamboo and gold/bronze, the open area on the third floor is as inviting as it gets in Paragon.

To give you an idea of the care taken to make the space homely, the defining bamboo shades (which resemble giant rice sieves but aren’t – we asked) were put up to afford diners reprieve from the mall’s glaring track lights. Step into the chic space and you do get the calming sense of serenity of entering an alcove, hidden away from the beating sun.

Warning: it’s hard to get out of those chairs – they’re custom made for Halcyon & Crane and are built for sinking into.

The nosh

Diving right into the must-orders: most tables led with the King’s Chicken Hash Benedict – fancy way to say gongbao chicken English muffins. A classic Chinese stir-fry dish finds its way onto a pleasantly powdered and well-grilled English muffin – and the juicy chunks are coated with a sheen of tingling Sichuan sauce, then slathered with a sous-vide 64-degree egg.

This essentially coalesces into a viscous goop that soaks the inner muffin through… while being topped by a molten layer of cheddar cheese, which in turns fastens the leek crisps atop it.

Zing from the peppercorns and crunch from the accompanying cashew nuts provide the palate relief you need to wolf down this dish, as does the arugula salad on the side. The spice level is fairly low in this one, but it is not negligible – have ready a cocktail to douse the slow burn if you haven’t earned your chilli chops quite yet. Truth be told, we almost forgot about the side of fried potato after mowing through the main highlight; there’s plenty going on already in this dish and we recommend sharing plates for this one.

While other dishes may be more Instagram-worthy – we know that’s on your agenda, and you have a few dozen options at Crane & Halcyon, trust us (see gallery below) – you need a hard-hitter that seals the deal every time on the taste front. That one’s the Beef Braised Rice, hands down. Some quality Angus has spent 16 hours stewing in a pot to deliver a tomato-based broth that straight up arrests the tastebuds with its full body and gaminess.

Slap open yet another sous-vide egg and mix it in, then dive right into the al dente compendium that is brown and white rice, barley, quinoa and buckwheat. It’s after mouthfuls of what feels like sin you’ll really appreciate the healthfulness of the grains (and also the light tartness of the tomatos, which relieve the palate at the tail end of each spoon).

Those conservative with flavours may be stymied by now – after all, most of Sichuan cuisine is characteristically front-loaded with taste and punch. There’s are many middling options that showcase the finessed half of the cuisine as well, and among our favourites was the Chicken & Mushroom Capellini.

Tableside flourishes are always a welcome gesture of hospitality, and you’ll get it with the chicken and mushroom capellini.

Quiz chef on the origin story of the vermicelli if you’ve a spot of time – otherwise, just enjoy mouthfuls of the pliant and clean-tasting noodle that carries the flavour of the rich chicken and mushroom broth so well. A host of mushrooms add some bite and texture (snap a video of your server tipping the soup in); dyed quails’ eggs finish the elegant dish.

The list goes on into the dozens, with new items being brought onboard every few months. Other dishes we reckon you’d want to get your claws into include the Hongshao beef shortribs (officially, Red Braised Australia Angus Short Ribs) and the Aromatic Chinese Yam Noodle (heavy on the seafood flavours). Repeat visits are in order for a concept as variegated as Halcyon & Crane – but this should be no issue for the Paragon-going crowd.

Coolant liquid

It’d be remiss to leave out Halcyon & Crane’s impressive bar programme. They field gentlemen’s drinks in the usual formats – it’s never too early or late for Hendrick’s neat – and are immensely proud of their coffee-based heritage (the parent company has a massive coffee beans & cafe business in Sichuan), but the star of the shows are the whacky and progressive cocktails which each bear their own character.

Slip in for just drinks. By the way, “halcyon” is actually a genus of the kingfisher bird – the familiar phrase “halcyon days” was derivative from Greek mythology, relating to a Zeus-mandated period of calm in mid-winter that allowed a pair of lovers-turned-kingfishers to nest in peace.

We’re waiting for images, but don’t let this stop you from trying out the Orange Yuzu Passionfruit Coffee Cubes Latte. The self-explanatory name takes care of the constituents, but the effect of working slow-melting potent coffee into a strong, thick and pulpy citrus shake makes the caffeine feel two times as refreshing. The juice comes in a photogenic beaker that you can either have the staff handle for you, or, better yet, manage yourself as you work out a balance between the puddling coffee and the potent OJ.

If you aren’t confident of taking on the spicier dishes, we highly recommend the Crazy Rich Asian (the opposite of self-explanatory). This kaya-based bev goes down smooth and silky, speaking to an expert hand in blending the flavour into the drink; we’ve had chunky lumps of kaya in grainy cocktails before, so ordering this was secretly a test. Equal parts sweet and tart, it’s a great cocktail to have on its own, but the fullness of the coconut milk comes in handy when you quaff it in response to intense spiciness in feistier dishes, in most cases taking the edge off entirely.

Sure, you’ll catch other cafe staples such as beetroot piccolo lattes, risotto and burgers at Halcyon & Crane, but the deftness and effort with which the flavours are handled here will give you the courage to keep reaching out of your comfort zone each time you visit. That alone should earn it a spot in every cafe-hoppers trail.

Halcyon & Crane, Paragon Level 3, #03-09. Tel: +65 6416-4886.

written by.
Xiangjun Liao
XJ is the associate digital editor and works the F&B, tech, watch and motoring beats. Correspondingly, he's an alcoholic carnivore with a boyish fascination for all things mechanical. No prizes for guessing which Jaguar he wishes to commandeer.

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