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Saturday, 27 February 2016

Brunch at The Refinery Restaurant & Bar @ Jalan Besar

115 King George's Avenue #01-02 Singapore 028561
Tel: 6293 1204

The Refinery Singapore is a cafe / restaurant by day and bar by night, situated in an industrial area at the front of Jalan Besar / Lavender area, an unlikely spot for a lovely dining spot to be expected, but here it is - prettily monochromatic in its neat, clean-cut design complete with high ceilings and organised rows of seating arrangement.

While getting a glass of ice water, we noticed that the rack was filled with lots of interesting items - mainly Japanese tableware and beer bottles etc. Yes, this restaurant / bar / cafe features heavily on a modern Western-Japanese fusion in its cuisine and decor.

The menu was simple and featured items such as the typical Big Breakfast or Japanese rice / noodles items  and grilled items as well as waffles and beverages. One had to place their orders at the counter and then wait for the food and drinks to be served.

I thought this was interesting because I've always pegged this place to be a drinking spot - I pass by it at night and see it crowded with executive and hipster types chilling out indoors and outdoors. Now I knew they also serve brunch and open in the daytime.

Best of all, it double as a "workspace" in which one could rent a workspace for white-collared professionals to co-work together.  How neat is that.... a co-working space mooonlighting as a cafe/  bar / restaurant.

To start, *Celine had a Mocha (SGD$5.50) which she described as being "very good" and redolent with chocolate taste amongst the coffee aroma.  The tiny "gem-topped biscuits" added a touch of cuteness, reminding us of our childhood's favorite.

I decided to go for the Iced Chocolate (SGD$5.50) with was served in pretty combination of fire-enging red mug against black saucer - my favorite colors. I was a little disappointed that my iced chocolate tasted more like iced-milo though it was richly concocted.

For food, we shared an appetiser of Salted Egg Onion Rings (SGD$12.00) - the idea was interesting and refreshing, since everyone is wild about salted-egg items these days. The battered onion rings were crispy and one could easily spot the generous strips of onion within the rings; however the salted egg flavour was light to non-existent. Maybe it wasn't dipped with the salted egg before being deep-fried, since the Salted Egg Custard was served on a separate side saucer? We doused it over the onion rings and could thereafter taste the creamy salted egg coating.

For mains, *Celine chose to have the Teriyaki Chicken Don (SGD$10.00) - consisting of 48-hour marinated chicken thigh, seasoned Japanese rice, creamy corn salad, signature 72 degree onsen tamago (egg) and roasted sesame. Barring the absence of the creamy corn salad, *Celine was happy with her meal, complimenting the chicken for its tender deliciousness and infusion of flavour; the onsen egg was mixed in and moistened the overall rice bowl to give it a velvety texture.

I chose the Spicy Mee (SGD$12.00) with pulled pork, pork balls, homemade sambal chilli, sesame seeds, pork lard and signature 72 degree onsen tamago egg. The menu description reminded me of Kin Kin Dry Chilli Pan Mee (review here), and to be frank, it did not differe much in appearance and taste - as déclassé as this may sound. Don't get me wrong, I love the Kin Kin Pan Mee a great lot, so this was utterly delicious to me - the curly noodles were springy in texture (aka "QQ"), the chilli was substantial so flavours exploded deliciously in the mouth; the pulled pork strips were tender and saccharine in flavour. The onsen egg was tossed evenly into the noodle adding a velvet touch as well as sweetness to the dish - even for a carbo-avoider like me, I kid you not when I tell you I finished every single bite of this dish.

Overall, the dining experience at this classy cafe / bar joint was excellent and I could foresee myself coming back for more - maybe eating this noodle dish again, as well as trying their Poutine (SGD$12.00), to see if it tastes like the one we had in Vancouver.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Nuptial Series (xix) - Shopping for Wedding Bands

Finally, it is time to go hunting for the Wedding Bands (aka rings).

Not having participated in shopping for the engagement ring, I wanted to share in the excitement of shopping for the Wedding Band. Having said that, there are several brands in consideration, in order of preference. These brands all fall within our allocated budget, but we don't know what design to go for....  Here we showcase some of the wedding rings pending consideration.

Photosource: http://www.cartier.sg/collections/bridal/wedding-bands

We love Cartier for its historical association with class, luxury and elegance, and all the romantic notions that come with it. Moreover, they have a huge collection of wedding bands to choose from - from simple wedding bands to engraved one, from 3-gold collection to creative designs. Their rings start from as low as SGD$900.00 and go all the way to 5-6 digits, depending on what you are looking for. I am quite keen on one of the 3-gold ones... but we shall see.  Who knows what else might catch our eye when we are at the shop next week?


Photosource: http://goo.gl/h0WDz5

Always one of my favorite jewelers, especially when it has been endorsed with my favorite actresses Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn before. Classically timeless and favoured by most ladies, the Tiffany's bridal collection blows one away with many colours and exquisite designs - at shockingly affordable prices, starting from SGD$850.00 and gradually ascend to the more luxurious ranges.  I really wouldn't mind adding (a few more) of these to my collection.

Photosource: http://www.bulgari.com/en-sg/products.html?root_level=315&product_detail_one=235&sign=48

Known their beautiful watch collection, Bvlgari jewelry is also gorgeous and innovative. I love their Serpent watch and 3-toned gold studded bangles. It doesn't look like they have a huge wedding band collection online, but one could easily tell that the intricate details of each ring is of top quality and beautiful artistic creation.   I remember my good friend and her husband have a pair of stunning rose gold ones, but I am not able to locate it on the website (not that I would get the exact same one, of course).

Photosource: http://int.piaget.com/wedding/wedding-rings

I forgot what's the allure with Piaget - other than the fact that I love and wear a couple of their timepieces. I believe their collection was mentioned in some bridal forum or featured in some magazines before, but their online website store does not contain much information such as pricing and available designs at Singapore stores. Hence, we would need to make a trip down to see what's in-store for us.

Photosource: http://www.chowtaifook.com/en/collection/perfect-love-collection

Being a lover of most-things Hong Kong, and attracted to some of the exotic jewelry at their MBS store whenever I visit, I would like to check out their wedding collection as well. What's featured online seems exquisitely pretty, though not as wide in selection as Cartier or Tiffany's, and there is no price so I cannot update you yet... but their rings are known for craftsmanship and quality.

Now you ask, what about local brands? What about Soo Kee, SK, Citigems, Lee Hwa, Poh Heng, Goldheart, Taka Jewelry, Love & Co. etc? What about other jewelers such as Vivo Diamonds or Jann Paul? Well, let us take a look at what 3 have them have for brides and grooms to be, just for research and interest's sake.

Photosource: http://www.estore.sookee.com/Setting/Collection/Finished/Eternity-Ring?SubJewelleryType=40

The renowed Soo Kee Group also owns SK Jewellery and Love & Co. Their wedding band collections are striking, close to the heart and very reasonably-priced.  Better yet, they have many outlets around the island, making it easy to peruse and purchase your dream band.

Photosource: http://www.pohheng.com.sg/cherish

Poh Heng is an old, trusted brand of local-based jewelers that has been around for more than 6 decades, and they were the first major jewelers to enter HDB estates. Their wedding band series is non-fussy, simple, succint, down to earth, and comes with these sweet ring pillows - no price is stated on website. They are so endearing, it touches the heart and makes me yearn to support our local jeweler suddenly.

Photosource: http://www.leehwajewellery.com/occasion/wedding

Last but not least, Lee Hwa Jewellery, which began as a goldsmith and first opened its doors in 1970. Today, it has expanded to owning many exclusive brands such as Buddha Diamonds, Forevermark, Destinee, etc - bringing together brilliance and high fashion together in a jewelry collection. Their website was a little hard to navigate, and information is vague. Collection is wide and varied, and designs are sophisticated. For your information, Lee Hwa Jewellery is now under the ASPIAL GROUP who also owns GoldHeart Jewellery and its wallet-friendly brand Citigems.

After researching and studying so many "circles of love and trust", I am about to go round in circles and my eyes are dazzled by the beauty of it all. Which brand to go for, which design, which material?

For the rest of the Nuptial Series:
Part (i)  - The Proposal
Part (ii) - Solemnisation procedure
Part (iii) - Solemnisation venues
Part (iv) - Finding the right photography studios
Part (v) -  Hunting for the suits and gowns
Part (vi) - Bespoke (tailored gown) - Review on Kelly's Bridal
Part (vii) - Pre-wedding photoshoot in Vancouver, Canada
Part (viii) - Pre-wedding photoshoot in Singapore - Loov Production
Part (xii) - Decorating the Wedding Banquet Ballrooms
Part (xiii) - Guest Lists and Inviting the Guests
Part (xiv) - Dowry and Demands Discussion
Part (xv) - Food Tasting for Banquet Dinner Menu
Part (xvi) - Meeting the Solemniser
Part (xvii) - Shopping for the Bridal Shoes 
Part (xviii) - Other Background Preparation

Monday, 22 February 2016

Valentine's Dinner at The Carvery @ Park Hotel Alexandra (2016)

323 Alexandra Road, #07-00 Park Hotel Alexandra, Singapore 159972
Tel: 6828 8880

Time for Valentine's Day celebration, and The Beau and I decided to go simple this year, due to the overload of Chinese New Year feasting as well as our upcoming wedding in a couple of months' time. It was my turn to plan this year, so I was debating between a few choices. The Carvery at Park Hotel Alexandra came to mind because of 4 reasons: (i) it is relatively new (ii) recommendation from fellow blogger friend *H (iii) poolview (iv) value for money set meal for Valentine's Day.

For SGD$188.00++ per couple, the Valentine's dinner included 2 glasses of Veuve Cliquot Champagne, 2 Cocktails, an Appetiser of salad from the bar, a Soup, a Seafood Platter,  an Intermezzo and food items from the buffet bar.  Pretty good deal, I would say, given that the normal buffet dinner here cost SGD$52.00.

Sadly, the poolview was  not all that visible because there's  no alfresco poolside dining, and the reflection of the glass at night erased the pool view outside. Nonetheless, we appreciated the service crew's efforts at putting us as close to the pool as possible, under the circumstances.... if I stare out hard enough and squint, I could still glimpse the crystal blue of the 24-hour pool as well as swimmers roaming about.

The poolside bar, Aqua Luna, is also visible from our sight - a lone, quaint bar surrounded by expanse of waters, how lovely; the description of "by the emerald shimmers of the pool" was way apt.

A walk around the restaurant reaped in all the visionary rewards of all food available for the taking - salad bar, array of seafood, the carving board consisting of Salmon Wellington, US Black Ribeye Angus, Duck a l'Orange, and Pork OP Ribs with apple sauce, and of course the desserts section.

Sadly, except for the desserts section comprising some heart-shaped pastries and marshmallows, and the table settings, the restaurant itself was devoid of any Valentine's decoration -  no floating hearts or papier-mache Cupids etc, like the other restaurants we went previously for our annual V-day meals.  Service was efficient and professional overall though.

We started with Bread and olive oil dip - the bread were hard but we enjoyed the one with the cheese inside.

Then they served us the Soup - an interesting duo of Oven Roasted Tomato Soup with Leek and Potato Soup, served with a single Manchego Cheese Fritter in the midst. The tomato soup was delicious with a zesty touch and the leek-potato soup was creamy and smooth; the cheese fritter was a tasty touch.

Next, it was the Seafood Platter - freshly-shuckled seasonal Oysters, Red Claw Crab, Tiger Prawns, and Salmon Sashimi, served with shallot oil dressing, Maldon sea salt dressing, Horseradish and Chilli Cream on the side.  The seafood was fresh and delightful; especially the springy salmon sashimi and tiger prawns.

An Intermezzo of Yuzu Sorbet in Champagne was served next, to cleanse our platter. I loved the citrusy lusciousness and refreshing flavour of this palate cleanser-  if there was a cocktail version of this I would've been glad to order it.

Then we roamed the restaurant to garner our own main courses from the buffet counters. I started with more Seasonal Oysters, some very scrumptious Cod Fish in Fruit Honey Broth, a small scoop of deliciously unique Duck Confit Rice, a small piece of Beef and Seafood Velouté.

My next and final platter was made up of Desserts -  some Chocolate Eclair, Chocolate Cupcake, Tarts, Apple Crumble, Marshmallows and Oreo Cheesecake slice.  The desserts were saccharine and tasty.

Other items such as Salmon Wellington, Angus Beef and Duck a l'Orange were impressive items as well - tender, sumptuous.

The buffet selection was not wide and varied - truth be knownst - but the unique recipes and quality of food was something to reckon with. We enjoyed the food tremendously.

Cocktails was the final touch for this celebratory meal - a Lime and Cucumber concoction for him and a pretty pink Guava cocktail for me.  We were allowed to bring our cocktails out to the beautiful poolside to enjoy, so we indulged by the scenic views and breezes while we sipped the night away.

Overall this was a simple but lovely celebration of love and romance. Happy St. Valentine's Day to all of you sweethearts and friends out there (yes, who says friends cannot celebrate the love of friendship together?!)!

For Valentine's Dinner 2015 at Amarone @ Raffles Place, click here
For Valentine's Dinner 2014 at Plate @ Carlton City, click here
For Valentine's Dinner 2013 at Mosaic Cafe @ Carlton, click here
For Valentine's Dinner 2012 at Basserie Wolf @ Robertson Quay, click here
For Valentine's Dinner 2011 at One Rochester, click here

Sunday, 21 February 2016

[Media Invite] Dinner at Jim Thompson Restaurant @ Dempsey Hill

45 Minden Road, Dempsey Road, Singapore 248817
Tel: 6475 6088

Opening Hours:

Mondays to Saturdays

Lunch: 12.00pm to 3.00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm to 12.00am

Lunch: 12.00pm to 3.00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm to 11.00pm

Jim Thompson is the renowned Thai silk company with retail shops around the world. Tonight, we are honoured to fine-dine at the contemporary, elegant Jim Thompson Thai Restaurant, located at Dempsey Hill heritage area.

Cuisine-wise, Jim Thomspon Thai Restaurant offers a definitive menu with more than 80 classic Thai dishes. The menu does not contain any pork items at all, and even features some dishes suitable for vegetarians, therefore it is suitable for anyone to dine here.  They go by an "Absolutely Thai, Thompson-style" approach - many recipes have been tested by the chefs to refine classical Thai dishes to what they believe would be delicious even to experienced palettes; and the culinary, menu and interior decor all reflect an alluring mix of tradition and innovation that is inspired by Jim Thompson the founder and his Bangkok mansion.

The kitchen is helmed by executive chef Mr. Jarutus Aumpha and an expert team of Thai nationals. While dining, lovely Thai dancers would don themselves in colorful, traditional Thai costumes and perform gracefully for us at designated intervals.

They also have an extensive wine list as well as interesting array of flavoured Mojitos and Martinis etc.

Decor-wise, the design of the place is luxurious and palatial from exterior to interior, the result of the company's $3.5million investment. The exterior is spacious and tasteful - one may choose to sit on the lawn section or polished wood grounds, flanked by intricate decorative pieces heavily-accented in Thai style.

The interior is elegant and dazzling, with its dramatic 15-metre ceilings, free-standing columns, gilded furniture, Siamese glass wall mosaics, bold floor mosaics, Thai silk furnishings, Thai artifacts and sculptures, morphing the beautiful restaurant into an artistic dining hall.

This was an invited media tasting attended by representatives from Hungrygowhere and other reviewers / bloggers including IvanTeh and Epicurious Caniggia.

We started with some exotic Thai Cocktails, the list of which is as follows (starting with top left):-
(i) Siam Sunrise Cocktail (SGD$26.00) - Courvoiser Exclusif, homemade ginger syrup, fresh lime juice, fresh lemon juice, fresh mint, fresh orange and ginger ale;
(ii) Lemongrass Infusion Mocktail (SGD$16.00) - fresh lemongrass, fresh apple juice, lemonade, ginger;
(iii) Thompson Mojito (SGD$28.00) - lemongrass-infused vodka, fresh lemongrass, fresh mint, fresh lime, lemongrass syrup and bitterlemon;
(iv) Bangkok At Night Cocktail (SGD$24.00) - Mekhong Whiskey, malibu rum, kahlua and fresh pineapple juice;
(v) Jim Thompson Cooler (SGD$24.00) - gin, fresh lime juice, homemade ginger syrup, fresh mint leaves and ginger ale; and
(vi) Thompson Margarita (SGD$30.00) - patron silver tequila, grand marnier and fresh lime juice.

Being a Mojito lover, I absolutely enjoyed the version here very much, loving the refreshing infusion of lemongrass adding an exotic touch to the conventional cocktail.

For food, we started with The Sukhothai Set (SGD$35.00 for 2 pax / SGD$45.00 for 3 pax / SGD$55.00 for 4 pax), consisting of deep-fried marinated chicken wrapped in pandan leaves, prawns wrapped with yellow noodles in rice paper and deep fried, curried fish cakes and green mango salad with prawns and cashew nuts.

Prawns were utterly fresh in this platter, and we especially enjoyed the tangy spiciness of the Mango Salad with its fresh crisp, whetting our appetites greatly. There were also shallots, dried shrimps, and a chilli lime dressing in it.

I loved the crackling texture of the Prawn spring rolls and light sweetness of the prawns but thought it was a little bland in taste overall.

The Chicken in Pandan Leaves was normal;  in this version, the chicken was moistened and juicy but we thought it would've been tastier if it were simply "pandan chicken" with appropriate infusion of pandan's fragrance.

The Curried Fish Cake was buoyant in texture, firm yet easy to sink the teeth into. It was redolent of fish's flavour but heightened by the slight pierce of curry's aroma.

Next, Tom Yum Goong (SGD$24.00 for single portion / SGD$46.00 for family portion) - hot and spicy soup with prawns, mushrooms, galangal, lemongrass, shallots and bird's eye chili. The piping hot soup was served in a tiny bowl complete with lid, for single's portion; I liked it as I thought it was a very elegant and personalised gesture. The soup was thick and spicy, and I loved the fresh springy texture of the prawns.

Then it was Pineapple Fried Rice (SGD$22.00 for single portion / SGD$60.00 for family portion) - fried rice served in a pineapple husk with cashew nuts, onions, black raisins and prawns. The rice had a good texture, almost al dente, not too soft; well-oiled yet not greasy. The pineapple bits added zest to the rice dish; a satisfying staple made sumptuous.

The Morning Glory (SGD$16.00) aka KangKong was stir-fried in flames with garlic and bird's eye chili in a yellow-bean and oyster sauce. Seemingly simple, this dish lit the flames of desire of the palate and was very soft.

The Stir-fried Beef Tenderloin (SGD$28.00) with garlic, bird's eye chili and holy basil was one of my favoritest dishes here. Think succulent beef tenderloin strips amongst velvety, soft basil leaves, exotically-scrumptious with a soft minty likeliness and gently touch of spiciness from the bird's eye chillies. This dish was simple, unassuming yet robust in flavour.

Following that, we had the Green Curry with Chicken (SGD$26.00 for single portion / SGD$48.00 for family portion) was served in a hotpot so that it was kept sizzling hot throughout the meal. The thick, creamy curry heightened the sensation in the tongue with its spiciness; we enjoyed this but thought the chicken within to be unimpressive.

Last but not least, the Steamed Seabass (SGD$68.00 market price - check current rate upon ordering) in garlic chili lime sauce was bursting with freshness; its ivory flesh tender, melty and luscious, made tasty by the flavourful sauce exploding in the mouths.

Time for desserts! We started with Classic Thai Coconut Ice-Cream (SGD$16.00) served in coconut husk and decorated with cempedek / jackfruit strips and fresh orchid flower. What a pretty little dessert that was nectarous in taste defining coconut's distinctive flavour. The cempedek / jackfruit strips added a significant improvisation to the lighter taste of the ice-cream. The coconut flesh in the husk were juicy, cottony-soft and incredibly beautiful though.

Next, Mango Sticky Rice (SGD$20.00) drizzled with coconut milk is a classical Thai dessert loved and welcomed by many. The ripe mango slices were juicy, saccharine and velvety soft; the sticky rice surprised us with its smooth, light texture unlike the usual denser, stickier versions we are accustomed to.

Finally, Red Ruby (SGD$12.00) aka Crunchy Water Chestnuts heavily coated with tapioca flour and served in luscious coconut milk with shaved ice. As the name implied, the tiny water chestnut balls burst in the palates sweetly upon contact with the teeth; the creamy coconut milk seeping into our mouths in a cooling and sweet fashion - a relief after the spicier, heavier food items we had earlier on.

The overall dining experience here was pretty spectacular, with exciting ambience, excellent service and quality food items to boost of. Thank you Jim Thompson for the lovely experience and hosting; and thank you Hungrygowhere for the invite.