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Thursday, 31 July 2014

[Event] Dinner at Xin Cuisine Restaurant @ Holiday Inn Atrium (新故乡)

317 Outram Road #04-00 Holiday Inn Atrium Hotel, Singapore 169075
Tel: 6731 7173

Was at Xin Cuisine Restaurant for a food tasting event, a total of 8-course dinner. It is a traditional Chinese restaurant that offers a wide variety of authentic dishes along with some creative, jazzed up fusion dishes to impress. The ambience is cosy and Oriental chic, with well-spaced tables. The service was, at the very best - passable.

Anyway, the dinner was supposed to commence at 7.00pm sharp, but I was held up at work and only got there at 7.30pm. A plate of the Cold Dish items was reserved for me - springy jellyfish, sweet and chewy octapus, scallops, duck meat with crispy skin, and crabmeat omelet that tasted rather bland.

There was a bowl of Soup that looked and tasted suspiciously like shark's fin, but I knew it could not be. True enough, it comprised of crabmeat, scallops and other items that gave the soup a good flavor.

I liked this dish - Wasabi Breaded Prawns.- succulent and bouncy, fresh prawns fried in a thin veil of breaded coating, and dipped lightly in wasabi. The sweetness of the prawns combined with the flavor of wasabi (light enough that the tingy flavor was detectable, but not enough to be spicy) made for a good combination, especially with the crispy coating of the prawns.

There was also teeny weeny bits of strawberries and fruits dotting the dish to further rouse the taste buds.

Next, Soon Hock fish cooked with preserved vegetables. The flavor was light and natural, enhanced by the more sapid flavor of the sweet-sour vegetables (梅菜)

Following the previous dish, we now enjoyed a very tender dish of Roast Chicken with crispy chicken and delicious prawn crackers (keropok).

Now, we got to try the dish of Shiitake mushrooms and abalones nestled on a bed of spinach. The mushrooms were boiled to a delectable softness, so lovely it tore the moment the teeth made contact. The abalones were sweet in a favor most analgous to fresh squid - mild and clear. The spinach was a refreshing change from all the meat items we had been enjoying.

To conclude the savoury portion of the feast, we had the plate of Fried Noodles - looking rather dull without some colorful shreds of cabbage, lettuce or carrots. The flavor was rather nice though, made flavorful by the mushrooms but we thought there were a tad too much beansprouts. I liked how the noodles came with a little gravy / dampness but still maintained its springy texture - not oily, not dry like other fried noodles.

We had a very traditional Chinese-style dessert - something like (or maybe it was!) the Six Taste Soup (六味湯). comprising of red dates, lilybulbs, dried longans, tiny lotus seeds and glutinuous rice balls in a hot, darkand sweet soup base.

Then we had a bottle of red wine over idle chatter about everything and nothing, met up with the Chef, and ended a lovely feast. I heard their dimsum is nice - will come back here to give it a try.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Lunch at Paul's Bakery / Restaurant / Cafe @ Takashimaya

391A Orchard Road #03-16 / 17 Ngee Ann City Tower A, Singapore 238873
Tel: 8836 5932

The pretty Tai-tais and I were headed excitedly for Royal Copenhagen Tea Lounge & Restaurant for lunch originally, only to find that it was closed and replaced by another tea lounge (so why didn't they remove the misleading info on their website?)

Hence we decided to go over to Paul's Bakery located also in Ngee Ann City Tower A. For *Sharona, it was because it reminded her of the Paul's in Paris. For *Chantal it was because she has not been here yet. As for me, I was not impressed during my first visit here, but decided to give it another shot. Read my previous review here.

It still looked good with the chandeliers and tastefully decorated interior, as expected of most French restaurants / cafes / patisseries. It still offered a large assortment of delectable looking pastries, and still attracted a long line of diners waiting to head in for a good meal / tea.

Bread was served after we placed our orders - rather hard baguette but accompanied with the softest, smoothest butter that glided over the rough surfaces of the bread beautifully.

I also had a hot, steaming cup of Cuppaccino (SGD$7.90) to perk me up - delicious flavor of hazelnut, vanilla, chocolate amidst aromatic coffee taste. I loved the thick froth at the top.

I started with a Tartine Saumon (SGD$19.90) - smoked salmon, avocado, leek , mixed herbs and cheese. The smoked salmon was succulent and not too salty, and I love the combination of this cold, slimy delicacy wrapped around buttery avocado, nestling atop crispy slices of toast.  It was a healthy but satisfactory concoction of all my favorite things, done in flavors that danced across the tongue.

*Chantal had the Omelette Complete (SGD$14.90) - omelette with slices of grilled turkey ham, mushrooms and cheese served with salad, Provencal tomatoes and potatoes. It was a flavorful piece of culinary art, with the eggs beaten well and taste was well-accorded with a nice balance of the fillings within the protein-rich omelette.

*Sharona had the Nicoise Salad (SGD$19.90) - comprising of tuna, olives, tomatoes, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs and tuna on strips of crispy toast. It was another healthy dish that passed the tongue's test with flying colors.

Time for desserts after our lunch!

I had the Raspberry Tart (SGD$7.90) - Tartlette Framboises - classic fruit tartlet made with a crispy, buttery pastry crust, filled with creme patissiere and topped with raspberries. Contrary to its glossy, syrupy-looking photos, the real tart came with raspberries powdered with sugar / icing instead, giving the sour fruits a sweet guise. The pastry crust was delicious though, and the creme fillings was silky smooth with a light, lovely flavor.

*Chantal had the Millefeuille Fraises - crispy golden puff pastry, strawberry creme-filled Napoleon cake topped with light apricot glaze. The combination of textures - crispiness, soft creamy sweetness and juicy bits of real strawberries embedded within this pretty pastry was a sinful necessity in itself - lovely!

*Sharona had the Millefeuille Mango - another Napoleon with crispy puff pastry, mango creme-filled cake with real bits of mango clasped within the layers of delicious pastries and creme combination - a lovely tropical twist to the original French tradition.

Three of us spent a total of SGD$96.00, feeling happy and hearty, and I am glad that I gave Paul's Bakery another try!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tea break at Ice Edge Cafe @ Kovan

2 Kovan Road, #01-10 / 11 Simon Plaza, Singapore 548008
Tel: 6858 5729

The friend and I popped over to Ice Edge Cafe with the intention of trying out their interesting-flavored lava cakes - one being Mao Shan Wang (durian) and one being the Rum Chocolate. Unfortunately, we were informed that the latter is no longer being served at all, even though it is still listed on their menu.

Non-fazed, we decided to try other items since we had made it all the way here. Ice Edge Cafe boosts of a rather warm setting in its orange and black hues, rather much a stark contrast to its name. The tables are situated rather close to each other, and the service is rather slow / irresponsive contrary to their "friendly service" belief on the website. But to be fair, please note that Ice Edge Cafe does not charge service charge.

Their Gelato counter is marvelous though - very colorful assortment of uniquely-flavored ice-creams starting at SGD$3.75 a scoop. There were so many flavors we were spoilt for choice, and took some time to choose from the range of exotic flavors such as hazelnut coffee, chocolate brownie, salted egg yolk, yuzu, lychee martini, rose corn, etc. 

Known for its unique flavors and sauces created from scratch, and proclaimed "great food" , we decided to try a Crab Bisque (SGD$8.50) and on their "Best Seller" list, even though we had taken our lunch elsewhere. The rather creamy soup was rich in a smooth fashion, gliding silkily past the tongue with tinge of sweetness and slivers of (frozen) crab meat scattered on top of the piping hot soup. It wasn't fantastic, but passable.

We also tried a Tiramisu (SGD$9.80) - served in a glass like a parfait instead of in a cake form. It suited us fine, since the decor was lovely. The scattered cocoa powder gave the creamy dessert an extra kick, as it melted in a coarse deliciousness down our throat. The tiramisu was strong with coffee's aroma, and I loved the bottom layer that was moist with coffee and rum.

The signature Mao Shan Wang (durian) Lava Cake (SGD$14.80) was what we had next, and one of the items we had come here specially for. The "lava cake" was more like a durian puff, and the lava had already flowed out when they served it to us. There was no durian fragrance in smell or taste, disappointingly - I'd tried lovelier durian desserts for sure. The scoop of Chocolate Brownie gelato we'd selected on the side was rather delicious - rich and creamy with chunks of nuts and brownie bits in it.

We spent a total of SGD$35.42 in all.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Holiday - Hong Kong again

Back to my favorite place for shopping, sight-seeing and eating once again, as well as some family visitation. To recap on my last review, please visit here.

Having visited most of the other major attractions during the past few trips, this entry shall feature some places not visited before, or revisited but no photos.

Sek Fan ("Eat Meals" in Cantonese)

Dimsum - almost any DimSum Restaurant you step in to yum cha (drink tea) serves good dimsum items

Roast Goose !

Fong Sha Chicken - with crispy skin and garlic + ground peanuts sprinkled atop

Mango Pomelo Sago Dessert with Ice-cream

Steamed Egg White with Hashima and Bird's Nest

Gong Zai Mian - instant noodles

So, to recap, Hong Kong's famous food include DimSum, Roast Goose, Desserts and Gong Zai Mian (which is actually instant noodles), Roast Pork or Char Siew rice, Milk Tea, etc.

Easily found in most malls and MTR stations

Located at Victoria's Peak

I also recommend Egg Tarts from these two places - very lovely. Maxim's also has lovely salted egg yolk custard buns and other sumptuous pastries in general.

And also, the latest discovery of fresh Seafood in Hong Kong perked me up. There are a variety of seafood restaurants or one could actually dine at their hawker centre a la zi-char stalls for fresh seafood chosen from the aquariums. Their so-called hawker centre all come with table cloth and high-backed chairs, rest assured.

And I'd just discovered the most delicious Beef Brisket Noodles and Wanon Noodles on a small restaurant on Victoria's Peak - noodles so springy they were almost crispy, and shrimp wantons so fresh it was almost sweet. Beef Brisket was also soft and tender.

Yum Zow (Drinks and Club Scene)

Yes, Lan Kwai Fong (also known as "Lan Gui Fang") where all the clubs and pubs are located at- for food, drinks and sisha.

Victoria's Peak

The last time we were here, we visited the Madame Tussaud's Museum. This time, we were here for the views, shopping and chilling out. Hong Kong's night views are still easily one of the most pristine and fascinating, in my opinion. Sadly, it was hot even up here for Summer weather.

Stanley Market / Stanley Plaza / Blake's Pier / Murray House

Magnificent views of the sea on this mountain terrain

Many pubs for chilling out in

The legendary Murray House

The rather new Stanley Plaza for shopping

Historical Blake's Pier for lovely view and feel

Back to this place that I so like. Whether one comes here for lovely meals, chilling out at air-conditioned pubs or by beach bars, or simply to enjoy sea breezes and taking in sea views, even shopping at bazaars, this is a tourist's spot not to be missed.

Cheung Chou (Chang Zhou)

Ferry to cross over to Cheung Chou

Tiny, relaxed little island and its rows of shops and eateries

Sea view and real fishermen's boats

This laid-back, quiet little island easily reached via ferry, brings out another side of Hong Kong that is different from the usual hustle and bustle. It is more peaceful here, a simpler kind of lifestyle with a slower pace, and there are lovely seaviews with real fishermen's boats, tiny shops and a quaint little residential town nestling within this island.

Every April, the Bun Festival is also held here - where a mountain of buns would be built and competitors snatch as many buns as they could in the race.

Avenue of Stars / Symphony of Lights

Lovely night darkening to give way to lights 

Cart selling fried cuttlefish

Imprints of star's palms

Symphony of Lights laser lights show

This is where the famous Hong Kong's artistes left their palm prints and statues, a memorable spot exuding a charm of its own. We also stayed to watch the laser show named Symphony of Lights at 8.00pm - enchanting and gorgeous lights flashing across the city skies for about half an hour, accompanied by music.

Hang Gai (Walking the Streets aka Shopping)

Causeway Bay - where the high-end malls and brans are found

Some office buildings in their CBD area that offers shopping too

Famous Tsim Tsha Tsui area for shopping

Famous Mongkok area and the familiar brands all around

Citygate Outlet Mall - lots of brands at good rate
Finally, what we were here for- shopping! One may choose to visit during the turn of each season to get the post-season sales or July's great sale.

For brands and higher end boutiques, feel free to head to Causeway Bay or Central stations, where there are lots of stores found in office buildings and huge, glossy malls.  For mid-range shopping, do pop by Tsim Tsha Tsui, Mongkok, Prince Edward and Jordan vicnity - many smaller malls selling brands at more affordable prices and varieties to choose from.

To enjoy good prices for semi-branded items, feel free to visit Citygates Outlet Mall at Tung Chung Station (near Hong Kong International Airport, so good to make it a pre-boarding shopping trip there, or when going over to Lantau Island, because the 360 cable car is at this station too).   Last but not least, for budget shoppers, the famous Ladies' Street, Flower Street and Temple Street are located within the Jordan, Prince Edward and Mongkok district (all within walking distance from each other).

Other Sight-Seeing Spots
A new theme park, Noah's Ark, has just been newly opened, so do check it out.