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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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lehka Hlava (Prague)

Lehka Hlava is ranked #5 on Tripadvisor with lots of rave reviews- now, can somebody please explain to me what the big deal about this place is?

Vegetarian food pretty much appeals to my friend and me (although we don't intend to turn vegetarian any time soon). That, combined with the ranking of this restaurant on Tripadvisor made us walk through several alleys to get to this hidden restaurant, away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy streets. 

Once in there, you will see the beautifully designed restaurant. Little marbles, blue and white, were arranged meticulously below the glass covering the surface of the table. The music didn't really appeal to me though. It might have been some music they use to clear your head (Lehka Hlava means Clear Head) but the music actually made me want to leave the place.

Food wise, I ordered a Mushroom Risotto (175 CZK). The risottos I have eaten so far are moist. This, on the other hand, was pretty dry. I loved the combination of mushrooms they had in there- chanterelles, portabello, shitake and oyster mushrooms. But after a while, the taste of everything started getting a little monotonous.

Best to make your reservations here because every table had a "reserved" sign placed on it.

Lehka Hlava
Borsov 2/280
Prague 1 - Old Town

Friday, July 26, 2013

Trezo Restauracja (Krakow)

Normally, we don't harbour high hopes of entering into any restaurant which is ranked within the first 10 of Tripadvisor's recommendations (this place is ranked #2). BUT this was a true exception. A neat place with affordable food.

They have set lunches and you have to check with the waiter what is available or simply look outside at the board which states the menu both in Polish in English.

For 15 Polish zloty, I got myself a soup, main course, salad and drink. First to come up was Chicken Soup With Noodles. Although there was a layer of visible oil floating on the surface of the soup, it did not taste oily at all. Instead, it just tasted like food to cure a cold or to keep one warm.

The main course I ordered was Grilled Neck with Pepper Sauce and Rice. I never figured out which part of the pork is actually the most tender. It's either the way they cook it or the part of the pork, but the meat was really easy to shred and wasn't the least bit dry. I liked the black pepper sauce as well which was not too overpowering.

The drink was a Kompot which the waiter simply explained as home made juice. It's supposedly a mixture of fruits in water but didn't taste anything like it. I gave up drinking this halfway because it tasted a little weird to me.

I also tried some Pierogi/Dumplings fried in butter with sour cream and thyme (14 zloty). These little pockets were pretty addictive.

The food was well worth the price and service excellent as well.

Trezo Restauracja
31-052 Cracow
Miodowa 33 Street

Hungarikum Bisztro (Budapest)

Hungarikum Bisztro offers a value for money set lunch. After walking at the nearby Danube, we decided to drop by for lunch. 

Homely setting. Local folks kept entering in the restaurant. We went there at 12 and they were serving only set lunches then. If you want to order their a la carte, be sure to check out what time they start serving dishes on the a la carte menu!

We chose the 3 courses (1390 HUF) option. This included choices between three kinds of soup, three kinds of main courses and two desserts. I had the Cream Soup of Mais- a little too dilute for my liking but still pretty alright.

The Creamy Stripes of Turkey with Rice was something I imagine a European mother would cook for her child when he or she comes home from school. A totally unpretentious dish. Haven't really figured out how the rice is seasoned but a google search tells me that it might be pilaf. The cream sauce was done just right and went well with the rice and turkey.

The best way to end a meal is always good dessert. The Chocolate Tartlet with Marmalade was made with slightly bitter chocolate, with a dollop of Marmalade on it.

The meal here does not seek to impress. It just tries to make you feel at home without breaking the bank. The service here is also compatible with the food they serve- down to earth and very friendly.

Hungarikum Bisztro
1051 Budapest, Steindl Imre u. 13.

Restoran Vinodol (Croatia)

This was hands down one of my favourite meals this trip. After a 7 hour walk at Lake Plitvice and a bus ride from Lake Plitvice to Zagreb, I told my friend, "I could eat a cow now." We then decided to go to Vinodol to reward ourselves after a day of walking. 

The terrace outside the restaurant was completely filled. There was a nice bustling atmosphere but we didn't care too much about it because we'd rather not put up with the smoke. Instead, we shifted into the restaurant where only two tables were occupied.

We ordered a Tomato Soup (20 kn) which brought much needed comfort to our hungry tummies. Their bread basket also offered a larger variety of bread that other European restaurants serve.

But this, really, was the star. I had the Grilled Trout with Almonds (62 kunas) together with Homemade Croquettes (28 kunas). The trout was really fresh, along with some salt sprinkled on it. I never knew what a magic combination almonds and fishes could have. That with the lemon juice squeezed on it made a very impressive dish.

The waiters were all very busy and a couple of them weren't friendly. Nevertheless, the one who served our table was alright.

A nice ambience with great food! It's in a central location, so no reason to miss out on this place.

Restoran Vinodol
Ulica Nikole Tesle 10
Zagreb 10000, Croatia 

Villa Lika (Croatia)

Everything about Lake Plitvice is beautiful. Even Villa Lika, the place we stayed at, was cosy and aesthetically pleasing.

1) Location: Reaching here by public transport
We took the bus from Zadar. Be sure to stop at the Mukinje bus stop, which is a stop or two before where everybody normally alights at the lakes. Otherwise, I assure you that you would like to kick yourself in your leg when lugging luggage down the roads without proper pavements.

2) Location: Getting to the Park from here 
To get from Villa Lika to Entrance 2 of Lake Plitvice, first turn right then turn left to reach the main road. You will be walking on the road, right next to vehicles, so be wary. It's about a 30 minute walk before you reach a bridge. Cross it, walk a little more (good directions are given within the park) then buy your entrance tickets to the national park.

3) Room
There is free and good wifi connection within the premises. The beds were comfortable and the toilets were lime green in colour with a good showerhead. There was also air-conditioning. It was also the first time in our trip that we actually managed to watch many international channels on the TV.

4) Where to get food supplies
There is a restaurant in the villa which serves dinner and breakfast. For a three course meal, it cost 15 Euros. We didn't opt for that so we went out to a nearby ski resort and got a much cheaper meal instead. Food quality might not be comparable but we were just looking for a cheaper option. There is also a small supermarket but you have to walk about 20 minutes up the hill to reach the market.

5) Overall
For the 70 Euros a night we paid, I think it was well worth it, even though it wasn't located within the park. The people who were operating the place were also friendly.

Villa Lika
Mukinje 63
Plitvice Lakes National Park 53231, Croatia

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Epilogue Cafe

Ever since Borders closed down, a little bit of me died inside- I no longer go to brick and mortar bookshops. Instead, I order books online. 

I stepped foot into Prologue today for the first time since it was established - they are now having a sale, and are rather secretive about whether it's a closing down sale.  

In any case, please read the small print carefully before you rush down to the bookstore. It's 30% only if you buy at least four books and the categories don't overlap. Therefore you won't enjoy the discount if you buy two children books and two adult books- you will only enjoy 20% for each category (20% for 2 books or more). 

Also, the supposed $16 voucher that you will get if you spend minimum $80- one is a $8 voucher for books which can only be used after 19 July. The other is a $8 voucher for the Epilogue Cafe, provided you buy a regular price sandwich and a beverage. They don't state all of these! 

That said, Epilogue Cafe is a nice place to hang out. No crazy crowds, reasonably priced food, nice views and good food! 

I ordered a Sauteed Portabello Mushroom Sandwich ($10). I used to love the Portabello Mushroom Burgers at Cheesecake Factory until one day, I realised to my horror that they removed it from the menu. So, it was very comforting when I got to eat a decent portabello mushroom sandwich here.

The bread was lightly buttered and the sauteed mushrooms were moist and full of garlicky flavour. Pity though they were a little salty. The accompanying sides were a salad and what i think is BBQ Lays potato chips. I know this is a very bad reason, but the fact that they actually used Lays and not some crappy potato chip might have added some points to the meal. 

I also tried a bit of the Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich- the meat was well marinated and tender.

We didn't try any of the desserts because they didn't look worthy of our calories. If you spend $25 and above in a single receipt, you get to choose a free book from the shelf in the cafe. Since I didn't spot anything interesting on the shelf, I decided not to order something just so I could hit $25. Popular members enjoy a discount as well. 

A nice place to chill out with some decent food! 

Epilogue café @ ION Orchard 
2 Orchard Turn #04-16 
Tel No: 6 465 1477 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer Pavilion

This place blew me away with its top-notch service. The service is just so amazing that everyone at the table had nothing but praise for all the servers here. 

We wanted to celebrate a birthday and decided to come to Summer Pavilion since the prices were pretty competitive, compared to our favourite dim sum haunts. 

Beautiful surroundings and natural light flooding the interior of the restaurant. 

The Century Egg Congee ($4.50) was enough for two to share. This was the first time I have ever seen the deep fried dough fritters being put in a separate dish- makes perfect sense because you can decide whether to have it crisp or soak it in the porridge. The porridge bordered on being a little too salty though.

The Prawn Dumplings ($5.20 for 4), unsurprisingly, belonged to the top league of har gows- bouncy, juicy with a thin skin.

Same goes for the Pork & Prawn Dumplings (Siew Mai) (4 for $5.20).

We also had a go at the Deep Fried Lobster Roll (1 for $3). The server was helpful and informed us that we didn't really need to order so many because one lobster roll could be cut into two. This was unfortunately a little disappointing- while the vermicelli was light and non-oily, there was no hint of any lobster.

The BBQ Pork Bun (3 for $4.50) had a fluffy skin and sweet pork filling.

We also ordered something we had never tried before- Egg Tart with Coconut (3 for $3.60). While it was an interesting twist to the egg tarts I so love, I still prefer the original egg tarts when the egg yolk part is wobbly and melts the moment it enters your mouth.

Without a trace of doubt, the food here belongs to the top league of dim sum players in Singapore. However, it is not the best of dim sum I've eaten to date.

The service, nonetheless, is really in line with the 5/6* rating of Ritz Carlton. From the changing of plates, to the refilling of tea, to the serving of a new cup of hot tea at the end of the meal, to their mannerism- everything was just flawless.

Summer Pavilion
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia
7 Raffles Avenue
Tel No: 6 434 5286 

Fukuzushi 福寿司 (Hokkaido)

Massive sushi for those with big appetites. Located near the JR Furano station and within an extremely short walking distance of the Furano Natulax Hotel, there's this restaurant which is popular for its upsized sushis. 

We went at around 8 pm at night and the restaurant was filled to its maximum capacity.

The menus come in English and Japanese. Each item on the menu is also in picture form so it really makes ordering a lot easier.

We thought we might be filled to the brim eating these sushi because they were really mega-sized. Little did we know, the two people at the next table ordered a really huge platter of sushi (maybe three to four times this portion)- is it true that Japanese don't get fat?

The thing about travelling to a new place is that you often feel compelled to try something local- even if it's something that you're not accustomed to. I do not eat raw food in Singapore but I now understand why people love sashimi so much. It's the clean taste and the freshness of just being out of the sea that makes sashimi so endearing. That being said, I'm still not a sashimi convert.

These fresh sushi were very affordable and good for hungry people on a budget!

Fukuzushi 福寿司

Friday, July 5, 2013

Shiroi Koibito Park (Hokkaido)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my favourite books when I was young. In Hokkaido, there's the Shiroi Koibito Park which is slightly less magical than Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory but fascinating nonetheless. It is best known for its 白色恋人 cookies, a food item everyone brings back after a visit to Hokkaido. 

At the start of every hour, a song starts to play and puppets/figurines start popping out. Kind of freaky but at the same time, there is a carnival atmosphere about this place, making everyone happy.

Right at the entrance, you get to see a beautiful clock tower, small little houses complete with furniture and a rose garden.

You have to decide whether you want to pay for a factory tour (600 JPY). Many things in this park are free, so there's actually no need for you to pay, unless you want to see how the cookies are produced. If you opt for the paid admission option, you will also get to see a Chocolate Cup Collection from the 18th century, chocolate packaging labels and a gramophone gallery.

It was interesting to see how the factory workers carefully sift through the cookies and that every cookie is subject to stringent standards. I suppose in a way, that's you paying for them to impress you.

There were also random facts like the one below: 

You will also get to see some very delicate sugar craft.

The Old-style Children's Toy Box is available to all. Mickey mouse, barbie dolls, Thomas the Tank Engine- you are bound to find some of your favourite childhood toys in this place.

Last but not least, they have a shop selling all their products (duh). However, as the prices are controlled within Sapporo, you can easily buy this somewhere else at the same price, so that you don't have to lug all of them back to the hotel from this place which isn't exactly in a convenient location. Available in white and milk chocolate.

There were cat motifs around the factory- not sure if the owner is a cat lover, or whether it's because the biscuits that sandwich the chocolate are known as langues de chat (cat's tongue).

An interesting visit! While we didn't try the hot chocolate at the cafe, I have read that it's really good- so give it a try as well!

Ishiya Chocolate Factory 
Miyanosawa 2-jo 2-chome, Nishi-ku
Sapporo 063-0052

味処たけだ (Ajidokoro Takeda) (Hokkaido)

You simply can't go to Hokkaido without visiting the morning markets and having a very fresh seafood meal! 

The Sankaku Fish Market  (三角市場) in Otaru is within a very short walking distance from the JR Otaru Station. You just need to turn left when walking out of the station. 

On one side, they sell fresh seafood. On the other, they have little shops dishing fresh seafood to their hungry customers.

We decided on this shop because there were the most people in this shop. After the orders are taken, the seafood is taken directly from the stall opposite this shop.

Pictures of celebrities and their signatures were plastered all over the wall.

I had a 三色井 (1500 JPY) which consisted of crab meat, prawns and scallops. Generous and large pieces of succulent scallops, sweet crab and prawn meat- everything was just shouting "fresh"!

I also tried the Grilled Salmon. This was so beautifully grilled- I haven't tasted salmon so good. None of the fishy taste, just good smoky flavour infused in the fish meat, without being dry and salty.

Service was great as well at this humble little shop which sells extraordinary seafood.

市場食堂 味処たけだ