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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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hai Di Lao (313@Somerset)

Hai Di Lao is one of those places where it is obvious that they want to win over customers not only through their food, but through the extra perks which are not available elsewhere. 


Founded in 1994 in China, Hai Di Lao serves mainly Sichuan style hotpot. While you are waiting for your turn, you get a free platter of snacks- both unhealthy and healthy. You can also arrange for a free manicure session. In my case, the screen cover on my phone was starting to have little bubbles and the staff helped to replace the sheet free of charge. Before and after the meal, the waitresses will also give you hot towels for you to freshen up.


The first thing to do is to order your soup base. In this case, we decided to go with the mushroom soup and the chicken soup ($18). I really liked their soup because of the rich flavour which didn't leave a lingering MSG taste.


We ordered half a portion of Black Pork ($9.50). Half portions are good because you can order a larger variety of food.


Of all things, the Sweet Corn ($6) was rather disappointing because it wasn't really sweet.


The Handmade Fishballs (half portion for $5) were nothing like the fishballs we are used to. Instead, it contained roe and was very bouncy. A must order.


The chicken (half portion for $6) was well marinated.


The food was definitely decent (although its price tag is on the higher side). What you are really paying for is the good service, the "freebies" and the theatric effects. We ordered the noodles ($4) and one of their staff came by and pulled the noodles before us, while attempting to "tease" us by swinging the noodles inches in front of your eyes. Next to us, there was a man who was celebrating his birthday and a waitress rolled a trolley with different fruits, LED lights of every colour and Chinese music blasting together with a trolley.  Needless to say, the staff topped this off with a loud birthday song.

Overall, an enjoyable experience although I would go to this place for special occasions because I can probably find the same quality of food at cheaper prices elsewhere.

Hai Di Lao 
313 @ Somerset
313 Orchard Road
#04-23/24
Tel No: 6835 7227 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Changi Point Boardwalk

Unless you live near Changi Village, reaching Changi Point Boardwalk by public transport is going to take you a long time. We got down the wrong bus stop and ended up at Changi Beach. Since we were already there, we walked through Changi Village and even bought a kite even though we had no use for it. Trekking here under the sweltering heat can be a pain, but the sea breeze will take this fatigue along with it. 




As some renovation works were ongoing, we could not access some parts of the boardwalk. Nothing lost though, as we had previously walked at the parts that were closed.

We walked along the Sailing Point Walk where we could see sailboats and yachts.


One can only be at peace while looking at the stationary sailboats bob up at down in the sea.



Visiting around sunset is a good time because it is not too hot and it offers great opportunities for taking sunset shoots too.


We then went onto the Kelong Walk. It is named so because it is built above water on kelong-like stilts. Anglers can be seen lining the walk, each waiting patiently for their catch. I can never be an angler because my level of patience is near zero. As I always tell my husband, of the many virtues that I do not have, patience is definitely one of them.




The walk is approximately 2.2 km, which takes an estimated walking time of around 45 minutes, accounting for a leisurely walking pace and time for taking pictures.

Click here for National Park's guide. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Nook & Cranny

One rainy evening, we headed to Nook & Cranny. The ambience is perfect for rainy days. People were just sitting around, using their laptops or doing their assignments. There was one teacher, who was visibly frustrated with the scripts that she was marking. The grief that we inflict upon our teachers. 


They have a seating area outside as well.


We ordered the Nook Wings ($8.50). Yes, these are decent crispy wings, but a little too salty for my liking. Plus, once I had tried Lola's Cafe's Honey Paprika Crispy Wings, these cannot really compare.


As I had over-eaten for the previous meal, I decided to get a simple and hard-to-get-wrong Aglio e Olio ($12.90). The addition of chilli gave the dish some needed punch. I had wished that fresh herbs were used instead of these dried herbs. It was otherwise, again, decent.


My husband got himself the Chicken Bleu ($15.50) which consisted of boneless chicken thigh stuffed with bacon and cheese, served with orzo. The chicken was very easy to tear apart and had a layer of cheese generously spread over it. The first time we ever had Orzo was in Greece. Although it is the size of short grained rice, it is soft and soaks up some of that cheese.


The food here is decent. But if anything, I would be here to spend an entire afternoon just chilling, rather than being here because of good food.

Nook & Cranny
Thomson V One
9 Sin Ming Road
Tel No: 6452 7449 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Redpan

Redpan is a collaboration between DP Architects and Grub. 


Taking into account the experience of an established homegrown architecture firm with that of a restaurant which knows how to dish out good casual fare, we had high hopes for this place.

The restaurant was spacious and beautifully designed- normal lights are too pedestrian so they got curvy lights instead.

When someone who has artistic genes sets up a restaurant, this is clearly evident, even from the layout of their website.


I know, I know. Truffle fries are just means to cheat people of their money since there is no truffle in truffle oil. But if I like the taste of truffle oil, why not? We ordered the Truffle Floss Fries ($9) - the generous portion of fries came with chicken floss- giving a spin on the otherwise boring truffle fries. Best to be shared by more than 3-4 people.


We ordered the Lup Cheong Iberico Chorizo Paella ($28). This was good enough for at least two to share. The Chinese element in this was the lup cheong which went well with the moist paella rice drizzled with garlic oil. This was in fact a rather genius combination because it was probably meant to taste like claypot rice (along with some slight charred rice). There was really nothing to complain about the dish, except, which is the Iberico chorizo? This was the question that everyone at the table had. Unless we all had issues with understanding what Iberico chorizo is (which we understand to be pork sausage), besides the lup cheong, all we saw and tasted were pieces of chicken.


We also tried the Prawn and Hae Bi Hiam Pasta ($19). The tagliatelle was tossed with a spicy shrimp paste, and accompanied by fresh prawns.


Redpan 
#02-03/04 Marina Square
6 Raffles Boulevard
Tel No: 6884 6884 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mezza9

Lunch at Mezza9 is always a welcome affair, especially when you manage to get your hand on some card which allows you to get 50% off the bill!  

I always remembered the bread here, not so much for the bread per se, but because of the tangy tomato sauce which companies the bread.  


Their prices have increased since the last time I dined at Mezza9. A 2 course menu which used to be $29++ now costs $32 ++. The 3 course set lunch is priced at $42++.

Their menus change periodically and I did not find items that particularly appealed to me this round. I initially wanted to try the Blue Swimmer Crab Cakes. The waiter told me, "Just to let you know, the picture shows that there are two crab cakes but actually we will only be serving one." Then isn't there something wrong with their menu - first, the picture shows 2 crab cakes, then the name of the dish itself is plural!

Because I felt a little shortchanged, I ordered the Spencer Gulf Wild King Prawn Cocktail. Although the name of the dish sounded fancy, the prawns tasted like frozen prawns which had little texture to it.


The Gai Yang fared so much better. The chicken was grilled and marinated with honey and tamarind. There was a choice of three sauces, so you could decide which you wanted to dip your chicken into. A rather big piece of chicken was served and I enjoyed the smoky taste of the tender chicken.


After finishing the 2 course set meal with a cup of cappuccino, we decided to order a mango tart with coconut shards. The mango was sweet and the there was a mixture of a slightly creamy and "cakey" mixture on the tart, making this a refreshing dessert.


Mezza9 
Grand Hyatt Hotel
10 Scotts Road
Tel No: 6732 1234 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

9 places to get your birthday cakes

Probably two decades ago, whenever my family celebrated birthdays, the birthday cake was always the same, no matter which family member, year after year.

But nobody complained because this was our favourite cake - mango cake with a thick layer of sponge and generous slabs of mangoes neatly arranged on the cake, topped with a layer of jelly. The cake was home made by a lady who stayed around a 7 minute walk from where we stayed. Sadly, she passed away due to cancer and we never found another mango cake remotely close to those that she used to make.

Every time I have to buy a birthday cake, I have to think hard. Here is a compilation of my favourite cakes (and will be happy for suggestions too!).

1. Awfully Chocolate

The first time I tried Awfully Chocolate's cakes was when my university classmates celebrated my birthday. If you are one for good old fashioned chocolate cakes, Awfully Chocolate offers precisely that. The All Chocolate Cake ($34 for a 6 inch cake) is no-frills and moist.

Credit: Awfully Chocolate
I like their Chocolate Banana Cake ($36 for a 6 inch cake) as well- I mean it's moist upon moist! Bananas and chocolates are a match made in heaven and the sweet banana adds a kick to the otherwise bittersweet chocolate cake.


2. Chateraise

Chateraise, a Japanese bakery, is a new discovery.

I tried the Crispy Chocolate Cake ($40). Typical of Japanese cakes, the white chocolate fresh cream was light. Using good quality Belgium Couverture chocolate, this was a decadent chocolate cake topped with chocolate balls.


3. Four Leaves

Four Leaves is so common until sometimes, we forget that common bakeries can also produce good cakes.

Coco Exotic (21 cm X 17 cm for $38) is one of those cakes that no one can complain about (unless you really hate chocolate). The sponge cake is layered with light chocolate mousse and the best part is of course the crispy hazelnut flakes lining the bottom of the cake.


4. Windowsille pies

If you want a break from cakes, how about try some pies? This is an especially good option for young people who want to take capture instagrammable food pictures and just want to try a bit of every possible flavour.

For my birthday last year, I requested for the Assorted Pie ($70) which had 10 slices and I asked everybody to choose what flavour they wanted beforehand so you could be sure that no one would be getting what they don't like! My favourite flavours include the Strawberry Lemon and Sparkling Yuzu because they bring that sour tang to the pies.

Credit: Windowsille Pies 
5. Stuttgart Blackforest Boutique S-Cafe

My husband does not have much opinion about food. But, he swears by Stuttgart S-Cafe's Black Forest Cake ($125). We have never bought the whole cake because of the hefty price tag and will usually order one slice for two to share.

This Black Forest Cake is serious business. The cherries are not only abundant, but abundantly soaked in kirsch. This balances out the sweetness of the cake and is an absolute delight.

Credit: Stuttgart Blackforest Boutique S-Cafe
6. L'atelier Tiramisu 

L'atelier Tiramisu is my favourite tiramisu place in Singapore. I do not know how an authentic tiramisu tastes like. But the Classico ($30 for 500 gram) suits my tastebuds the best- the right proportion of mascarpone to lady fingers, the lady fingers thoroughly soaked in aromatic coffee and the bitter chocolate to top it off.

Credit: L'atelier 
They also offer other flavours such as lychee, matcha, dark cherry etc. but classico remains my favourite.

7. Pine Garden 

I have never heard of Pine Garden until family members started ordering huge cakes from Pine Garden for their kids' birthday celebrations. Pine Garden is one of those old school bakeries which has more than 32 years of history. If you are one for old school cakes with a twist, this is for you. Popular cakes include the Lychee Martini ($48 for 1 kg).

My favourite is the Orange Zest Chocolate ($48 for 1 kg) while my mum's favourite is the Pulut Hitam cake ($44 for 1 kg).
Credit:Credit: Pine Garden
8. Island Creamery 

Eating Swensens' ice cream cake used to be a real treat. However, after growing up, I realised that there's certainly more to ice cream cakes than Swensens. 

The Mudpie Cake ($48 for 8 inch) consists of layers of chocolate, cookies & cream and burnt caramel ice cream topped with Oreo cookie crumbs. If you are both a cake lover and ice cream lover, this is the perfect way to enjoy the best of both worlds. 


9. Cedele

I refused to try carrot cakes (the Western one, not chai tow kway) because carrots and cakes just sound really weird together. However, upon much cajoling, I tried Cedele's Carrot Walnut Cake ($52 for 8 inches) and could finally understand why people enjoy this cake.

I have to admit that I am still not a fan of the sweet cream cheese frosting but then again, I generally do not like frosting and cream cheese. The carrot cake, thankfully, tasted nothing like raw carrots. It is dense, moist, tasted of cinnamon and contained lots of walnuts and carrot shreds.

Credit: Cedele

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel

We had a free one night stay at a junior suite in Marriott as we had booked a package with them last year.

1. Location 

The location can't get any better. It is located in the heart of the shopping district and is incredibly near to the MRT station.


2. Room 

To our pleasant surprise, we were upgraded from the junior suite to the Premier Suite, which rate was more than double that of the junior suite! I can only say that it was a very luxurious experience. Located next to the pool, the room was adorned tastefully.

The bed and pillows were so comfortable and we had a good night's rest.


From the room, we had a view of the swimming pool. It's not like we really want to see the swimming pool (thinking of those vacations where we were in close proximity to the ocean!), but I really have nothing to complain about.


Besides the sofa area, there is also a dining area and a desk for you to do your work (complete with a TV).


3. Toilet 

The toilet was very spacious, with demarcated areas for the toilet bowl, basins, bathtub and shower area.

It's impossible not to fall in love with that toilet, not only for its furnishing, but also for its wonderful smelling and good quality Thann toiletries. These toiletries , I later found out, are natural aromatherapy products made using botanical sources. As a general rule, I bring my own toiletries when I travel because (1) I don't like the smell of the toiletries provided by the hotel or (2) the toiletries make my hair / skin rough. These Thann toiletries here have a refreshing orange smell and made my hair and skin smooth after shower. I know I have gone a little off tangent, from talking about the hotel room, to talking about these shower products. But these stuff are really good.


The bathtub is really there just to make people feel like every hotel stay after this will just be a bad one. There was a container of bath salt next to the bathtub and you could watch television as you bathed.


If you are not one for soaking in bathtubs,  there is also the shower area (with good water pressure).


Outside the room, there is a veranda and whirlpool. I mean, if there is a swimming pool outside your doorstep, I am not sure why anyone needs a whirlpool. I guess it's nice for two people to enjoy the stars at night in the whirlpool (I'm kidding, you probably can't see many stars at night from the hotel given that there is plenty of light pollution in Orchard road).


4. Executive lounge 

The room was fantastic but another highlight was the access to the executive lounge. From 530 pm to 730 pm there were complimentary hors d'oeuvres and from 730 pm to 930 pm, there were complimentary desserts. There are also drinks (including cocktails) and nuts available. We enjoyed the executive lounge because it had a very chill atmosphere with light music playing in the background and good service.


We went to the hors d'oeuvres expecting some small appetisers and were prepared to go out for dinner thereafter. What we didn't expect was that the amount of food was sufficient for dinner! They had both hot and cold food. Hot food included satay (which meat was in large chunks, well-marinated and very juicy), samosas and fried rice. Cold food included salmon, vegetarian rolls, sushi etc. They kept replenishing the food when it was running low. The desserts selection was not as impressive as the hors d'oeuvres and they did not replensish the desserts. The desserts were clearly not their forte.


The next morning, there was complimentary breakfast. Breakfast selection was not as wide as that at Marriott Cafe but nonetheless still made for a decent spread with muffins, croissants, bread, smoked salmon, limited dim sum and an omelette station.


There was also a selection of fresh fruits and yoghurt.


5. Amenities

There is a swimming pool, which is not large and not deep but good enough for a dip. There is also a gym which we didn't visit.


6. Conclusion 

Overall, the stay was very luxurious and we felt so pampered! 

The only small glitch is that we weren't sure whether we could go for the breakfast at Marriott Cafe (which definitely had a much wider spread). As such, we told the waitress our room number and asked her whether we were entitled to breakfast at the cafe. However, we were told that we were only entitled to the breakfast at the executive lounge and took her word for it as we didn't have a copy of the gift certificate. 

Honestly, we didn't mind breakfast at the executive lounge as well because the food was satisfying as well. However, after I checked out and checked a copy of my gift certificate (the original has been kept by them), I noted that it stated that we had a buffet breakfast for two at the Marriott Cafe. Maybe it's because they gave us executive lounge access so they cancelled our entitlement to breakfast to Marriott Cafe? We didn't pursue it because we weren't hard up for the breakfast at the Marriott Cafe in any event but just felt that this was all a little confusing.

Something that I was surprised about was the lack of complimentary wifi, in this day and age at a five star hotel. 

Otherwise, a great stay.

Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel
320 Orchard Road
Tel No: 6735 5800