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Lake Toya, Japan

Spot of Tranquility.

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Little India, Singapore

Spices, gold and splashes of colour!

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Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay

Garden City, City in a Garden.

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Bryce Canyon, USA

Thor's Hammer

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Chocolate Test, Singapore

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." -Charles M Schulz

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Straits Cafe @ Hotel Rendezvous

I resisted going to buffets for a while despite my mum trying to entice me to go for them. I told her eating so much would only make me pile the pounds on. Then she said, of course not! buffet, 不肥! The logic of things.

Anyway, so yesterday I went to Straits Cafe @ Hotel Rendezvous. And it was difficult trying to find the entrance to this place if you didn't drive. They are currently under renovations now. So you basically have to find the staircase which leads to the second floor, then take the lift to the first floor.

There was a pretty wide spread of food here. The standard Chinese food, like braised duck, BBQ prawns, kailan etc. And then there was the carving station. The pork ribs were pretty sweet and not too hard like a lot of pork ribs. Didn't really like the fish though, was a little dry.

Besides the popiah and kueh pie tee station where you are provided with a wide range of ingredients to add to your food, the japanese station where you had sushi prepared there and then, there was also a salad station. Liked the italian herbs on the chicken.

Here's the seafood station. I tried the crab legs and it felt like salt-overdose. I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant to be so salty. Apparently, the raw oysters were super good. (I don't eat raw food). And the scallops didn't have a out-of-the-sea taste.

There are also chefs manning the counter for making prata, laksa and waffle. The waffle was thinner than my favourite Gelare waffles (i still haven't got over the fact that it closed down without bidding me farewell). A wide range of jams is provided, or you could go over to the ice cream station for some ice cream. The ice cream included raspberry sorbet and coconut ice cream. And they also have potong sticks which I found a little weird being part of the ice cream selection.

For the prata, they give you the curry in a small little bowl. Are they trying to conserve curry because they know that this is a country of curry eaters?

Honestly, this shouldn't be the last picture. But I'm saving the best for the last. Because the best part of a buffet always lies in its desserts. There are so many desserts here, more than a standard buffet. There are cakes like Italian tiramisu, strawberry mousse, brownies, random cakes, a white chocolate and dark chocolate fondue fountain. Now, this surprised me a little because normally restaurants only have dark chocolate fondue. I don't eat white chocolate, but I thought it was a pretty cool addition.

And lastly, the station for durian lovers. Which was hidden in a little cold storage. Am not sure whether this is because it's necessary to keep the durian fresh, or was it to protect those anti-durian people from fainting after taking a whiff? I was attracted to the durian like how bees get attracted to flowers. The durian fudge cake was pretty decent, although I have to admit that there are places with better durian cakes like the all-time favourite at Goodwood Hotel. There were also durian eclairs, durian puffs and durian pengkats.

I think the durian taste was moderated for people who are neutral about durian. (How's that ever possible, you either love it or hate it right?) But anyway, the addition of milk and coconut milk to it kind of diluted the taste of the durian instead of being 100% durian paste.
Overall, I think this place has a rather wide selection of food. As usual, a few hits and misses with their food. But it should be enough food for you to walk away filling full and satisfied.

Update: Click here for new entry on 11 January 2012 

Straits Cafe @ Hotel Rendezvous
9 Bras Basah Road
1F Rendezvous Hotel
Tel No: +65 6336 0220

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Old Kim Guan (老金源)

As part of my efforts to explore Sunshine Plaza where it seems like there's a trove of shops plastered with newspaper articles outside their shop as to how fabulous their food is, I arrived at this place: Old Kim Guan.

This place is well-known for its chicken wings. Apparently it's one of the 100 best food items you must eat in Singapore. It's $13/14 i think for this platter where you have 4 chicken wings, 8 meatballs and a heap of supposedly prawn crackers which tasted like fish crackers. It says that it's a 2-person platter but I think it's enough for 4.

My verdict about this platter? The BBQ chicken wings were not bad, with a nice glazed and crispy skin. However, I think the stalls at East Coast food centre which sell tonnes of BBQ food can match up to this. The meatball and the prawn cracker was so-so.

As an accompaniment to the platter, I had a plate of mee pok (with prawns). It tastes like normal mee pok, with less taste. There were a lot of noodles. Overall, the mee pok was not bad.

I think this place doesn't really live up to its hype for its wonderful chicken. It's nice, but I think I can find equally good ones somewhere else. It worked out to be around $7+ per person ultimately, quite cheap considering that you're in the city area. And you would be warned by the waiter that your clothes might reek if you sit inside!

Old Kim Guan (老金源)
Sunshine Plaza
91 Bencoolen Street
Tel: +65 6338 6438

Monday, August 29, 2011

With a Pinch of Salt

There's just something instinctive about wanting to find the cheapest set lunch in town right? Well, you might have found it at With a Pinch of Salt. (although admittedly it's not literally "in town".)

This place is very cutesy- colourful plastic cups, colourful chairs, random stickers pasted on the windows, lots of random photo frames- this place bursts with colour!

At an unbeatable price of $6.90 Nett for weekday lunches (excluding public holidays), the set lunch includes a soup, a drink, main course and ice cream.

I've been here three times, and haven't been here in I think two years. Anyway, the lunch crowd on weekday lunchtime is actually quite little because there are no office buildings in the vicinity.

The lime juice was a little too sweet, but nonetheless had the lime juice burst. The corn soup was a little diluted but there were visible corn pieces.

As for the main course, I had the black pepper pasta while SH had a Chicken Run. The black pepper in the pasta did not show up prominently enough in the overall taste of the dish. The chicken slices were quite small, although the dish as a whole is not bad. Just that I felt that the garlic pieces were too large, and like the usual finely minced garlic. Other than that, the portion was rather huge.

I had a bite of the chicken with mushroom sauce. I pretty much liked the sauce, just that the portion of the chicken was pretty small.

The dessert was chocolate ice cream- pretty standard restaurant ice cream. But it's fine- I wasn't expecting anything like good dark rich chocolate.

This place may not have the strike-alls when it comes to the quality of the food. However, the food is pretty decent despite the imperfections, and for the really low price of $6.90 for these food items, you might just want to drop by to give this place a try.

With a Pinch of Salt
297 Tanjong Katong Road
Singapore 437080
Tel: 6 348 2297

Saturday, August 27, 2011


The lesson I've learnt yesterday: Never assume that an innocuous looking bowl of tom yam soup is not spicy. I thereby crown this place with the spiciest tom yam soup I've ever eaten thus far. Okay we shall leave that for the later part of the post.

Let me start with how this shop hidden in Sunshine Plaza, which is not too far away from Plaza Singapura and The Cathay. This was a secret find that I got to know a few months back, from a friend who told me about some "good and cheap Thai food." It's a very nondescript place, with seats in and out of the stall. But no matter where you are, it's still equally hot- so no difference.

I ordered the Pad Thai last time round. But this time I opted for the killer tom yam. SH who ate this said that it was not bad, just that the chicken was not fresh!

I had the tom yam seafood soup. It is chock full of ingredients- mushrooms, sotong, fish, prawns. Admittedly, the fish wasn't that fresh. But the rest were fine.

But guess what, this is the best tom yam soup base I have ever eaten! Sour and super spicy! Lest anyone thinks i'm a incompetent chilli eater, let it be known that I don't squirm at all when eating chilli and can't remember any dish with chilli that has made me perspire so much. (well actually there was a kway teow thingy that was uber hot cos the soup base was filled with chilli padi.)

Anyway, I broke record for taking so long to eat this bowl of tom yam. I was perspiring like crazy and drinking guava juice desperately. This killer tom yam soup teaches you: Never judge a tom yam by its soup colour!

I really recommend this place because it's cheap! It was $5/6 for the tom yam and pad thai. And we also ordered some kang kong. In total, it totalled to $16.50 for 2 people, and the portions are huge. You would have to bear with the sweltering heat at the place though!

Compared to other big Thai food names in Singapore, this place is much cheaper, yummy and serves the food pretty quickly!

Sunshine Plaza
91 Bencoolen Street
+65 6336 8852

Voyage Night Festival 2011

If you are free today after throwing your sacred vote into the ballet box, or next Friday and Saturday (2-3 Sep), do yourself a favour by heading over to the Dhoby Ghaut area to be part of the Voyage Night Festival 2011.

Seriously, I kid you not. I thought it will be ordinary stuff, but no, I was wrong. This Night Festival is anything but ordinary.

Titled The FIsh Tree, it is a school of magical fish made from everyday plastic objects. By the way, you can enter the SOTA galleries, and they are pretty interesting! I was reminded of lanterns held during Mid-autumn Festival!

At National Museum of Singapore
Titled A Dozen of Those, these are helium balloons which helm the first floor of the National Museum. Even if you don't like this, the museum is free on these nights to all. (For Singaporeans and PRs, please remember that you have free access to all museums this whole August).

And the galleries are great- this is the second time I've gone there in three years I think and it's still as interesting as ever. There was also the screening of Ali Baba at the bus bay. Loved the idea of an open movie theatre, but at the same time, we couldn't really see the subtitles and hence, couldn't understand the show!

At Front Lawn of SAM
Parking Mad. Volvo cars lined up together, with flashing lights from their windows. Look at how the lights converse with each other!

At SMU Campus Green
Loved the singing and tangoing. They even got a yangqin player from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra to play. There was a crowd there and deservedly so, as you get immersed in the rich singing of Oana Catalina Chitu!

Visit the website for details of the schedule and what performances are lined up! Everything is within walking distance and you wouldn't be let down by all the hype centred in the Dhoby Ghaut area!

Voyage Night Festival 2011
26-27 Aug & 2-3 Sep
7pm- 2 am
Various locations

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Equinox (High Tea)

My idea of high tea goes like this- decorations around the place of some regal shade, with a chandelier hanging from above, little cakes served on silverware and elaborate plates. At the side of the table, there will be a good pot of tea.

That was my idea of high tea, till I went to Equinox yesterday. To just summarise it in a few words:
"You're paying for the view and ambience but not the quality of food."
The kind of food you'll expect to see includes a pasta station where a chef will cook your desired pasta, some chinese food, including pandan chicken, sugar cane prawn, fried noodles, asparagus, paus curry puff, a kueh pie tee section, bread section, make your own fishball noodles, sushi station, chocolate fondue section (which included things like strawberries, , salad + sandwiches, included mushroom salad, croissants with tuna, chicken salad, dessert (wa ku kueh, mango pudding, scones, mini muffins, mixed fruit, longan mix, kueh lapis, some banana thingy), TWG tea, ice cream section (four different flavours: chocolate, yam, raspberry and lemon sorbet).

Okay so after my long introduction on what food you can expect to see at Equinox, now comes the time to decide whether it's really worth your $$ for this high tea.

Firstly, you've been warned. The high tea is from 330 pm to 5 pm. i.e. if you are looking to feel your stomach for lunch and dinner, you better do it fast and risk indigestion. At 430pm, a waiter came over to remind us that the high tea ends at 5 pm so that we are not taken over by shock or anything like that. Then at 450 pm, they will give you your bill without you asking. (gone are the days where you wave your hands madly to get your bill.)

Secondly, the quality of the food does not match up to the name of Equinox. It's ordinary food, which can be found at probably 2/3 the price somewhere else. The range of dessert is quite limited. You can probably go for a better buffet lunch spread at Asian Market Cafe.

Thirdly, the place screams atas into your face. The place is beautiful, and we got allocated window seats. You get a paranomal view of Singapore.

At the end of the day, remember, you are paying for the fact that this place is on the 69th floor, more than for the food. I've read other reviews which stated that the lunch and dinner is much better. I agree because I had eaten lunch there before. They have more exquisite food during lunch and not run-of-the-mill food. For example, there was foie gras during lunch. Pay for ambience or food, you decide!

2 Stamford Road, 70F
Swissotel The Stamford
+65 6837 3322

Monday, August 22, 2011

Presidential Elections

And so here I am, riding on the wave about how I'm going to vote for my President this Saturday. I haven't made up my mind on who to vote for, and it seems like this decision is going to sway between who I think will represent Singapore well, and who will be the President that every Singaporean will come to love.

I've been following the reports, and here's my list.

What I look for in my President:
1) An independent candidate. The President should neither be pro-government or anti-government. There have been much talk about the lack of independence in TT, which I honestly find is an unfair statement given that a particular candidate has the endorsement of opposition parties as well. Ultimately, it's not about the past links you have, but how well you are able to portray your independence.

2) A person who doesn't treat this as General Elections. This isn't the place for you to air your views about normal day-to-day activities. This only adds to the confusion that is already swirling in people's mind about the duties of a President.

3) Someone who speaks for the people and cares for the people. And this means that the President has to be someone who is amiable, and looks after the people regardless of their social status.

4) Someone who can hold his weight in front of foreign dignitaries. The reputation of Singapore lies on the shoulders of the President, who would have to portray the image of a well-advised, wise, and thoughtful President. That, of course, includes someone who is eloquent in expressing his ideas.

5) A candidate who can understand the scope of his duty. One thing that irritates me throughout this whole thing is how some candidates mistake this for a general election. You have to know what you're running for, in order to be a good candidate. Some, obviously, did not bother familiarising themselves with the Constitution of Singapore. To summarise it in a very few words, you have to look after the reserves of Singapore, appoint key personnel in Singapore, and protect religious harmony.

6) Someone who looks good together with his wife. Afterall, the two of them will be looking at you everywhere.

7) A person of composure. Agitation over small matters signify a possible lack of lucid thought.

8) Don't mud sling other candidates or dig out their history just to spark debate. Look at them for what they are worth, and not to disgrace them over things like what games you have in your iPhone.

And I haven't thought of someone who can fulfill all the criteria. Which is why, from now till Saturday, I'll be racking my brains on who I truly want to be my President. Who do you want to be your President? Choose wisely.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tonkotsu King

I think ramen is a matter of acquired taste, and I seem not to have acquired the taste for the authentic ramen yet. My whole life, I've been eating ramen cooked by Chinese cooks, and never by the Japanese themselves. (read: Ajisen Ramen)

So, after visiting Bario Ramen (here's the review), I wasn't exactly sure if I was ready for more authentic ramen. It just seems counterintuitive that while everybody is raving about the food, I'm here being a sour grape and wondering why the food just doesn't appeal to my tastebuds.

Anyway, so we decided to get to Tonkotsu King for some ramen today.

The place is very small, with seating capacity of around 20+. The background had some japanese music playing, and they had random pictures and household items around the place. The servers were friendly and polite.

When you are first seated, you will have a motar and pestle like thing to grind some sesame seeds. There are also free hard boiled eggs, seasoned beansprouts, which you're supposed to add it as accompaniment to the ramen. You will then have the option to tick on a sheet of paper how you would like your noodles- less oil, hard/soft noodles etc.

I ordered the black spicy tonkotsu ramen with seaweed. Despite asking for less oil, the oil floating was still pretty visible. Luckily, the ramen didn't taste oily despite looking so. The char siew had a nice chewy texture to it. My gripe with the ramen here is that the soup is a little too salty for my liking. There was also black fungus.

At the end of the day, I can't say that I like this ramen a lot. But I insist that it's a matter of personal preference, and that I have yet to acquire the authentic ramen taste. The price range is around $10-$15, before GST and service charge.

If you want to go here, a tip for you is to go before 2 pm. They close their doors once their broth runs out.

Tonkotsu King
1 Tras Link
#01-19 Orchid Hotel
Tel: +65 66360855

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Boston Common & Public Gardens

It's been nearly a year since I went to Boston. And I remember this place with particular fondness. One of my favourite places in Boston, is the Boston Common, together with the Boston Public Garden. No matter which part of the year you are in, these two places are like real life paintings, depicting the scenes of the season.





It's nice to take a nice stroll through the park, watch the little children play when the sun's out, and bask in the sun even when the roads are piled with snow. The frog pond is an ice skating rink during winter, and there are performances by Boston Pops during fall. I've fallen in love with this place!

Farewell, Borders (Wheelock Place)

It's almost ridiculous that I'm actually inserting a post here mourning the demise of Borders (Wheelock Place), instead of squinting my eyes reading some rather incomprehensible material. But, there are some things in life which just can't be replaced, and Borders is one of them.

It's not surprising, given how USA's Borders had closed down. Yes, there is no affiliation between the two Borders, but surely the closing of Borders sparks the first indication to show that sooner or later, bookstores will be taken over by the evil era of nookreaders, ipads and the like.

Borders (Wheelock Place) has been in Singapore for 13 years. i.e. I saw how this place entered and exited. Entered with much pomp, yet exiting with nary a whimper. This place holds memories for me. This was where I bought my first two Harry Potter books. I remember walking down aisle by aisle, and being in primary school where the world of wizardry was so appealing, this was the place to pester my mum to get the books for me.

As I grew older, Borders came to mean somewhere I could just loiter aimlessly. By the way, i only buy my books from Borders and no other book store. (excluding textbooks). The books in the book collection I have at home all come from Borders.

Sometimes, when life proves to be extremely dull, I will grab a random book from the Bestseller's List shelf, find a secluded corner with a couch and just read half the day away. Depending on whether I like it, I will then decide whether to buy it. It was a bookstore that did not fiercely safeguard its books in taut plastic wrap, just so that you HAD to buy it.

With the flux of technological gadgets, books seem to be gradually fading into the background. I once met a bookstore seller in Washington DC, who with much regret told me his story about how his little bookstore had closed down. And later, he was showing me how powerful his iPad was, because he could download books from there! Ironies of life, really.

The branch in Parkway is the only other hope for my book collection. Please, Borders Parkway, keep yourself well and safe!

Skinny Pizza

Whenever I walked past Raffles City, I would pass by Skinny Pizza and wonder what exactly they serve. Pizzas that looked like bread sticks, pizzas that were uber flat, pizzas with healthy ingredients (how impossible is that?) or WHAT? And I found out the answer today- it's got to do with the crust. Exactly how they say it- What a crack.

Both of us shared a squid ink pizza. Well, it's not that it's difficult to finish that on your own. But, seriously, with the price tag attached to it ($27 after GST), i phatom for cheapos like me, it might be good to share. The portion is simply too huge for one, but a little small for two.

The crust was very crispy, just like eating crackers. Like the light kind of crackers that shatter easily? The squids were aplenty too, coupled with prawns and some other green stuff (arugula, i suspect). The seafood was fresh, and they had a grilled taste to it. The whole idea behind Skinny Pizza, really, is to create wholesome food with natural ingredients.

SH preferred Chicago's deepdish (he will never shake that out of his mind), but I thought this was not bad too. Maybe it's the novelty eating factor of eating 1) squid ink and 2) skinny pizza.

Go early if you can! The queues can get pretty long. 630 pm on a Friday night was okay, even though the place was full. Come at 7pm and you'll be looking at long queues!
Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road
Singapore 179103
Tel: +65 6333 5069

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Singapore Flyer

What's this mysterious thing...

... complete with nice scenery in the surrounding areas?

It's the Singapore flyer!

Truth to be told, it doesn't deserve the hype I'm giving to it. And that's only because I'm Singaporean and I have seen the skyline of Singapore many times. That's why being on the flyer doesn't make the skyline any more impressive than it usually is.

BUT if you are new to Singapore, it will be good to see the major landmarks with an aerial view. This link tells you what you'll be able to see from the Flyer! Lots of snap-worthy pictures you can take! Before taking the Flyer, you can have a nice stroll next to the Flyer, and try to figure out which landmarks those are!

Oh, and lest I forget, the flyer is the world's largest observation wheel. (This fact popped up so late because it doesn't really matter to me.) And being the superstitious country, each capsule's maximum capacity of 28 people (double propserity in Cantonese) and being a wheel of Fortune on its own means you're off to getting lots of luck.

I went around 650 pm and the sunset wasn't particularly mesmerizing or anything like that. I think a good time to go would be late evening, around 710 pm when the sun's just about finished setting, and you get to capture the enchanting night skyline as well!

Pity there wasn't a audio commentary within the capsule. There's a video screen playing, but without sound. Would have preferred some good classical music to go along with it, instead of that awkward silence where everybody speaks so softly so that you won't overhear them! The ride can be quite a drag, but it gives you sufficient time to see different angles of Singapore.

30 Raffles Avenue
Singapore 038903

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pear Tree (Toronto)

I was strolling along Cabbagetown, wondering which restaurant I should step foot into. After a long day trying to explore Toronto, the last thing you want is to eat some crappy food. By the way, you wouldn't really go to Cabbagetown unless you happen to be in that area because it isn't exactly a tourist area.

This place looks almost unaffordable from it's exterior, but it proved otherwise. The prices were well worth it for the quality of food.

The bread was so soft and fluffy. Actually it wasn't really bread. I don't know what you call it. It was almost a mix between a cake and a bread. Anyway, the buttery whiff of it is enough to knock you out. Such a wonderful melt-in-your-mouth bread served before you even embark onto your main course. I actually thought they were scones, but I remember distinctly hearing the word "bread".

Here's what I ordered. In all honesty, I can't remember what this was- I think it was a special menu for different days. And it had very fresh seafood. It was very filling, and was just about around 15 CAD if I'm not wrong. And look at the amount of seafood they include!

This is a gem hidden in cabbagetown. The service is great too! So if you happen to be in Cabbagetown, give this place a visit!

507 Parliament Street
Toronto, ON

Monday, August 15, 2011

Casse Crepe Breton (Quebec City)

Imagine a spring day in Quebec where it is still raining. And it feels almost like winter has not left. In all that misery, all you want is to stop walking and find a good warm place to land your feet. You no longer care about your yelp.com. All you care about is inexpensive food to fill your stomach.

And my legs led me to this place- Casse Crepe Breton.

I sat at the bar counter because the place was pretty full. This place sells crepes and sandwiches. I ordered a crepe with whatever ingredients they had on the list. So this was a crepe with mushrooms and ham. A 2 ingredient crepe was 5.50 CAD, much cheaper than any other crepe you will find along St Jean. Considering that St Jean is a "happening" area, the food prices along the street can be pretty steep.

Plus to fulfill your vegetable requirement, they have cucumbers and carrots as well. And every crepe is done before your eyes. While it may take quite some time for your crepe to be done, at least you can be assured that the food is fresh! The only thing I didn't really like about this place was that you have to pay money to get pure maple syrup. What a pity.

I walked away this place feeling warm, despite the rainy weather outside. Inexpensive crepe with fresh ingredients- dispels the cold!

1136 St-Jean Street
QC G1R 2L3

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dragon Phoenix Restaurant 龙凤大饭店

The main impetus to going to 龙凤 was because dim sum is 50% during lunch (even during weekends), which is really a steal if you think about it. Apparently, it was one of the best dim sum places four decades ago. The founding chef of this place was one of the chefs who created yusheng!

We ticked off so many items on the list, it was almost we had expandable stomachs.

The egg tarts were mini and the crust was flaky. We wanted to order a second portion, only to realise that our stomachs weren't as expandable as we thought they were.

Loved the banana prawn fritters! The sweetness of the banana complimented the saltiness of the prawns. Oh, coupled with that deep fried goodness.

The chee cheong fun's skin was slightly too thick, but the prawns were fresh and large.

I quite liked the sweet char siew su, with the crispy outer layer.

Besdies this, we also had congee, 咸水角,叉烧包,烧卖,凤爪,虾角,小笼包,carrot cake and deep fried prawn dumpling. By the way, you've been warned. It's a consensus that the carrot cake isn't that great. Other than that, the quality of the food was pretty good. And for all that crazy amount of food that we ate, the total bill after discount came to around $12 per person.

Service wise, it was average I guess. The servers weren't particularly enthusiastic, but they weren't rude or anything like that. So it's fine.

Where else can you eat such a copious amount of food and get away with paying this amount of money?

177A River Valley Road
Level 6 Novotel Clarke Quay (Liang Court)
Singapore 179031