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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

MBS - coffee and Sampan Boat Ride

Been wanting to ride the Sampan Boat in the man-made canal at Marina Bay Sands for a while, a la gondola style (heard the one in Venice is very pricey!), so when *Pris expressed the same wishes, we thought that bringing her daughter onboard for a boat ride was a good excuse for two local adults to sit in the boat without appearing silly or something (in case we bump into familiar faces), LOL.

So we headed to the starting point where the Sampans were parked, and purchased tickets for the ride. It cost SGD$10.00 each, regardless of adult or child fare.

The aqua-colored stretch of waters stretched on, passing under arched bridges at some point in time. The waters were calm and steady.

This spot (in front of Victoria's Secret and Coffee Bean) is where the Sampan boat makes a U-turn . This is when the foundatin was dormant and not being activated.

But when the ferocious stream of water cascades from the fountain overhead, it is a powerful jet that raises concerns for the passing Sampans. We were told later on though, that the Sampans are made to be very sturdy and could withstand rather choppy waters.

Our journey continued on,  as well as the photography session. *Pris' daughter, C, was enjoying herself as well, in a quiet, awed manner despite her earlier protests.

Not only did we get to ride the Sampans, we got to practice a little bit of rowing as well. While the boatmen made the oars appear so light and easy to control, we were surprised by the heavy weight of it. I'd tried dragon-boating before, but this seemed even heavier (if my memory serves me well).

This is our very jovial and informative boatman who chattered with us along the journey and answered our one million and one questions. Turns out that the "boatmen" handle different tasks around the Sands - from receptionist duties to retailing duties, some supervisory duties and now, rowing of boats too. This is interesting.

Last but not least, we've come back to square one, concluding our boat ride (about fifteen minutes in total?). We alighted and were being shown some photos the photographer had taken while we were crusing along the indoor canal. The photos were rather blurry and did not arouse any interest from us. Each photo cost SGD$20.00 by the way.

Finally, we sat down at our favorite Coffee Bean (Beanstro, here) for some rest and relaxation. It became our favorite place because we used to visit Coffee Bean at Boat Quay every week during our polytechnic days to study and catch up. Well, those were the good old days.... This is, by the way, my Blackforest Yogurt drink, with huge coffee beans and maraschino cherries within.

Overall, it was a fun day and the ride had been rather fulfilling albeit its short duration.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Lunch at Haramiya Japanese BBQ Restaurant

Following my first Japanese charcoal BBQ dinner at Rocku, today I had lunch at another Japanese BBQ Restaurant - Haramiya, located at 6 Eu Tong Sen Street #03-87 The Central, Singapore 151897. The number to dial is 6534 9468. This is an interesting Japanese restaurant that also serves Korean dishes.

There were seven (7) of us today waiting to enjoy a sumptuous luncheon at this elegantly-designed restaurant. The exterior was all glitters and glamour, with these cute miniature replicas of Japanese food dishes. These cute minis really make for good deco, I realize.

The interior is also sleek in design, but furnished in a more authentically Oriental fashion with a very strong Japanese flavor, of course - note the hanging Japanese lamps overhead and intricate carvings. The service is slow though as there are few service staff around despite it being lunch time cum peak hour.

Nonetheless, we managed to place our orders and the grill was set up. It got kind of warm despite the air-conditioned restaurant because of the heat from the grill in the middle of the table. The menus comprise of many items - beef sets, pork sets, chicken sets, and cooked items such as Biblimbap sets as well as rice dishes.

Finally the meals were being served. This is the Korubuta Pork set lunch (SGD$15.99) - consisting of tender strips of black pork, a salad with sesame paste gravy, water-melon slices, a bowl of Miso Soup, a bowl of Japanese rice and small plate of Kimchi. We had to grill the meat ourselves, which made dining fun and enjoyable, engaging everyone literally. The Korubuta Pork is tender and the meat is sweeter and softer than normal pork, and of course when grilled to crispiness, it was utterly tasty.

This is the Karubi Beef set lunch (SGD$14.99)  - well marinated and succulent slices of beef that, too, when grilled to perfection, filled the tastebuds with the delicate aroma of good beef. The beef is cut into fine, small slices to make it easy for eating. We experimented with different done-ness for this meat and it still tasted good.

Overall, we spent about SGD$20.00 each, including iced green tea and consumables and tazes.

Do check out their sister restaurant, Hifumi Japanese Restaurant for a different dining concept as well.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Domestic Goddess - Tom Yum

I don't cook usually - usually I am fortunate enough to have the Mom preparing my home-cooked meals, or I dine out. But when I do, simple dishes such as omelets, pasta, pizzas (baking), cookies (baking), soup noodles (not necessarily instant noodles), soup, curry and Bak Kut Teh aren't really difficult tasks to tackle once in a while. I just need to be prepared to get my hands dirty.

Today, I decided to try my hands on cooking Tom Yum soup - traditionally or better known as the "Thai Spicy Prawn Soup" - spicy with tinge of sour overture. I usually don't see the need to write or even take photographs of homecooked dishes, so this entry is specially written in honor of / for a newfound carefree friend who has too much faith in my culinary abilities and is curious to know the verdict  :)

Having purchased and prepared the necessary ingredients for this simple dish, I lay them all out (note that I am not a neat person by nature, hence the saying about diners not seeing the kitchen is very sound advice!) - tomyum paste, chilli padi, tomatoes, chicken and fish instead of seafood (the Mom is allergic to seafood), button mushrooms and fresh limes in lieu of lime juice.

Similarly to cooking curry, the frying pan is pre-heated and I stir fry the chicken together with the paste first. I was not supposed to add chilli padi first, but wanting the meat to absorb more of this spicy taste, I decided to toss the chilli padi into the pan together to stir-fry everything together. This took about 15 - 20 minutes, merely for the paste to fill the kitchen with its steamy aroma and the chicken to be cooked.

The button mushrooms and fresh tomatoes are being cut up in the meantime, while I was stir-frying the chicken and Tom Yum paste. At this juncture I kept debating if I should add more mushrooms or tomatoes. I also halved the two limes and squeezed out the juice for later.

Now this is where I slowly poured in water for the soup. The packaging stated 3 cups for 5-6 persons' servings, but I only cooked half the packet of paste (I only had three samplers including myself), so I poured 1 and half cups of water into this. Upon tasting, it was too spicy - I am someone who can take chilli padi, and even I thought the soup was too tangy. So I added another half cup of water slowly.

The finished product with chicken drumlets, garnished with some vegetables for the color. Ok, admittedly, I had forgotten about the peppermint leaves for garnishing, which would add a fresh tinge of minty fragrance to the dish.

After cooking the chicken, I contonued on with fish Tom Yum. The ingredients and method of cooking were the same.

While the Mom and the Beau had no issue with the meat - after all, both the chicken and fish were fresh and tender, being not overly cooked or frozen - they thought the soup a tad greasy. I deduce that is due to the Ikan brand of Tom Yum paste I purchased, since I did not add any oil while doing the stir-frying at initial stage.

The soup base for my Chicken Tom Yum was more bland, especially when eaten together with the brown rice. The soup base for my Fish Tom Yum was thicker, hence it was more spicy. The level of sour-ness was, according to them, "just nice" - a  balanced level of sour taste that did not seek to compete with the spiciness on which should be more sapid.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good attempt, with room for improvement on level of spiciness, grease control and do not forget the peppermint leaves for garnishing!

Friday, 25 April 2014

High Tea at 10 Scotts @ Grand Hyatt Hotel

I chanced upon this place when *Joan suggested meeting up in town - I have tried quite a few tea spots around, but as we both skipped lunch, I thought a high tea spot sounded rather becoming. After browsing some reviews online, I decided on 10 Scotts located at 10 Scotts Road, Level One, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Singapore 228211 and the number for reservations is 6738 1234.

The dimly-lit interior was spacious and exquisitely-furnished in rich, refined tones and lovely, classic English furniture. It was comfort at first sight, without being too ostentatious or intimidating in its elegance. The service staff were all pleasant and friendly.

The High Tea concept here is rather interesting - consisting of a short buffet counter and also a two-tiered tray of savoury goodies served to us shortly upon being seated. The buffet counter showcases an array of cakes and other delectable desserts.

At the other end of the buffet counter, a hardworking Chef makes "Fried Ice-Cream" that looks like sunny side up eggs. A pity I did not get to try this interesting-looking item as I was very full by the time we finished whatever we had on our table.

Next to the Chef, this is where they serve the rice with chips and curries - an interesting twist to an afternoon high tea buffet.  As delectable as it seems, this was one of the less popular stations I noticed. No, I did not get to try the tempting looking pots of curries as well.

We also have an entire fridge-full of tiny bowls of salads and desserts-in-tubs that one could help themselves to. I did not get to try this too (did my appetite shrink so drastically that I am actually saying NO to two desserts?)

This is the bread and cheese corner where one could induldge to their hearts' contend.

*Joan tried some rather fluffy-soft bread and cheese slices but I gave the bread counter a miss.

Now, this was my starter. The Chocolate Tart was very yummy - soft chocolate crust with hints of crunchiness filled with rich but not-too-sweet ganache - the blackberries atop were like icing on the cake for me. I also enjoyed the Fruit Tart - crunchy crust with a buttery center topped with delicious fruits. Right smack in the middle is the Berries and Fig Brownie - the first bite was a rich wonderment and the last bite left one craving for me - but then I always love combination of chocolate with fruits combination.

The Two-Tiered Tray of savoury delicacies was being served. The Beef Pastrami (that one that is rolled up) - is made up of a nice grainy "crepe" type dough sheet with a sheet of tender beef rolled into it - overall taste was rather flavorful.  The Quiche was pretty normal, but I kind of liked its light soft crust stuffed with fragrant baked cheese.

I liked the Prawn and Quail Egg Salad - too bad they only served one small dish for two to share. I loved the succulent freshness of the prawn and I love quail eggs, so needless to say, this item topped my list for today.

Another savoury delicacy - the Curry Puffs - so crispy, flaky and the spicy interior was stuffed with minced chicken meat and potatoes. While the crust was flakey, rest assured that there is a solidness to it that prevented the crust falling as crumbs all over the table, unlike 1A curry puffs (which these curry puffs reminded me of - don't get me wrong, I do like 1A).

The freshly prepared Popiah (spring roll) was stuffed full with ingredients as well, but the overall taste was rather bland. The ingredients comprised of sweetly crisp vegetables and shrimps.

Next on the list, Crab Cake - a very sumptuous pastry with crispy outer skin and a womb bursting wtih real, sweet crab meat. I read that this was one of the better items for the high tea, and it sure met expectations. Sinful and fattening, yes, but these are the main traits of very scrumptious food items, no? My tastebuds agree!

Now we have very freshly-baked scones that were so good they nearly melted in my mouth. We even skipped the jams and creams served with these crumbly pastries and savoured its lightly saccharine flavor instead.

I would say that the high tea buffet was rather satisfactory, with a few items worth mentioning and recommending, for sure. We also liked the idea of free flow beverages not limited to choices of tea, coffee, hot / cold chocolate, smoothies and fresh juices. One could even have multiple different drinks throughout the tea session.

 The buffet is priced at SGD43.00++ per person for weekday afternoons, and in total we spent SGD$50.00 each after prevailing government taxes.

Lunch at Simply Bread @ Guthrie House

After leaving a client's office premise, *Lynette, *Ivan and I decided to have lunch at Simply Bread , simply because of clients' recommendation that their coffee was "very good", and that "once you've tried their coffee, you won't drink coffee anywhere else" (to quote one of them). This surely piqued our curiosity.

Located at One Fifth Avenue, #01-03 Guthrie House, Singapore 268802, the number for this quaint little bakery cafe is 6466 7767. The spacious cafe was rustic in design, furnished in a simplistic yet cosy manner - a brightly-lit and welcoming room that seems to beckon its patrons in.

We took some time deciding on what to eat. Most of the food items were either breakfast sets or sandwiches. Either that, or one could choose from the array of delectable-looking breads in different textures and flavors (raspberry twist, corn cheese potato, herbs, etc). We finally placed our orders and got ourselves a table.

My Corn Cheese Potato Roll (SGD$1.65) was served first (ok, I had to bring it to my own table because they just took it from the display of pastries, duh). While the taste was rather flavorful and the texture was rather soft, with a pleasant chewiness lent by the layer of coated dried cheese, all of us were of the general concensus that this bun would taste much better if warmed / heated up.

Nonplussed, I tasted my Split Pea Soup (SGD$5.35) eagerly once they set it on the table. Instead of the thick creamy soup we were expecting, it was a clear broth (should be cooked with pea?) with chunks of potatoes, carrots and onions in it. The taste was rather good, and homely - reminds me of my mother's "ABC Soup". They served this cup of soup with three slices of fluffy soft bread and jam.

*Lynette had their daily special - the Grilled Roast Chicken with Mushroom sandwich (SGD$10.30). The chicken was rather tender but the overall taste of the sandwich was bland; and the bread was hard instead of being toasted to crispiness. 

*Ivan tried one of their breakfast sets - the Bacon Brunch Plate (SGD$12.75) - which consisted of two slices of crispy toast, average scrambled eggs (he thought that the ones served for McDonalds' Big Breakfast are better) and a plate of crispy but not overly-salty bacon. The bacon strips were tasty but the ones they serve here contained a lot of fats. This "brunch plate" had the talent of tasting exactly how it looked.

Finally, the hot steaming cups of coffee that we were eagerly waiting for - Caffe Latte (SGD$3.85) and Cuppuccinos (SGD$3.25). Maybe our expectations had been a tad too high - but all we could say is that we've had better coffee. While the coffees were all right, there was no "wow factor" or the special burst of aroma we were anticipating.

Overall, we spent a total of SGD$40.40 here, a mediocre lunch which we felt was overpriced.