gifts!

In addition to this cheerful vase of flowers, I got some other well-meaning gifts for my birthday too! Maybe the biggest presents these days come from myself since I would know best what I want right? Gone are those days when you receive tonnes of gifts from the groups of friends and from the beginning my family don’t have the practice of gifting. But I did get a small red packet from mum though, for well wishes and good luck.

One of my friends know that I love toiletries, in the form of bath toiletries or body lotions, and got me this new item from Crabtree & Evelyn. I haven’t used Crabtree’s products for a while because recently I have been using shower gels from the BodyShop and Dove (drugstore brand that works fine too!) so when I am done with those I will move on to give this a try! ūüôā20130808-082552.jpgThe steamboat dinner at my bro’s place was also some sort of a gift-ceremony because July sees birthdays of three members of the family, myself included. So my sister-in-law and brother were so kind to not just host us for dinner, but also got each of us gifts. These were the ones I received, and each comes personalised with a handwritten message within, one by my sister-in-law and another by my brother. ūüôā

20130808-082604.jpgI haven’t read them yet, as with some other books I have, but for sure I will get down to them soon enough, I hope!

Bazin, Marina Bay Sands

Sunday evening was spent at Marina Bay Sands, where I got another birthday treat! Yay to treats! Originally we were thinking of heading to South Coast, as I requested for¬†“casual dining” but when we walked past, the place seemed rather crowded and there was only al fresco dining (if we weren’t mistaken), so we moved a little further and saw Bazin, which is also categorised as “casual dining” as per MBS’ website, and it also features al fresco dining, but it had an added advantage of an open-concept indoor-dining area (no walls) so it wasn’t too warm with¬†some airconditioning and fans. Besides, the pizzas that I saw other patrons having seemed really good and I was¬†sort of having a¬†pizza craving.

Colourful drinks before dinner is served. 20130724-091720.jpg

Although we had originally ordered chips and salsa (from the Bar Menu), it wasn’t available that day, so we changed to truffle fries instead. To be very honest, I am ok to have fries plain as I am not a huge fan of truffle fries. I don’t not like it but to me, it’s just adding some salty flavour to fries that works the same as good old salt perhaps; they taste roughly the same to me, and I usually prefer fries without any sale. But still, these were a great welcome to me. I think I have been depriving myself of fries for a long time, even though the last I had fries was actually just a week ago, but compared to days past when I would eat potatoes/fries/whatever on a more regular basis, I think it was a good time to give myself a treat too! These were nicely done and freshly-fried, but felt a tad oily as when they were served, the oil was visibly glistening off the surface of the fries.20130724-091733.jpg

Our pizza came next. We ordered the Smokey Chicken pizza, and it was huge! Well, by my standards the size was big. Not the biggest I’ve seen or had (Pepperoni Pizzeria seriously has huge XXL-sized ones), but for two persons this was considered big.20130724-091745.jpg

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Here’s the pizza taken with other items in the picture for comparison of the size. I love the pizza though, its crust was so thin and crispy and they don’t exactly stinge on the ingredients even if I wouldn’t have minded if there was more! Haha. It reminded me a little of Skinny Pizza, but this wasn’t as crispy. When I had pizza at Skinny Pizza, sometimes I feel like I’m eatng a biscuit more than pizza, but they have great pizzas too. ūüôā

Bazin, a celebration of food and drink.

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Apparently, they have other types of menu too, i.e. Theatre Menu, Kids & Dessert Menu. They also serve a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and that evening actually some people were just sitting having some beers enjoying the view of the sunset over the marina. From where we were, we could get a fairly good view of the evening sun setting behind the silhouette of the skyline created by skyscrapers in the business district across the waters. It was a beautiful evening, and a great way to wrap up the birthday weekend.

Bazin serves high tea too! Maybe next time, I’ll return to try that, or the other items on the menu!

Shimbashi Soba, Paragon

Two of my friends gave me a treat last Friday and suggested checking out Shimbashi Soba in the basement of Paragon. To be honest, I have never stepped foot into this place despite that I think it has been there for the longest time, although I don’t know why. I do quite¬†enjoy Japanese food, and¬†among the noodle varieties, soba and ramen are the type that I prefer as compared to say, udon.

This is my order of the san zai soba, a huge bowl in fact, that comes with a very flavourful and savoury broth despite that it really is just soup noodles with lots of mushrooms and some vegetables. 20130723-084243.jpg

We ordered some sides, and among the three items, this was the most popular; battered and fried hotate. The batter was thin although not very crispy, but the scallop within retained its juiciness and it was also very generous in terms of size! 20130723-084259.jpg

We thought we ordered grilled teriyaki chicken, and when this was served we checked if this was the right thing, which was confirmed. But don’t you think this looks more like tori karaage than teriyaki grilled chicken?20130723-084311.jpg

It was as well coated with some flour and fried, strangely, since the name evidently said “grilled”. It wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t crispy despite that it appeared deep-fried but to their credit, I think it was drizzled with teriyaki sauce.

And lastly, the tempura moriawase, consisting a couple pieces of prawn, the usual vegetables and maybe one piece of fish. Not the best tempura I had of course, but not too bad. At least it was not dripping with oil so overall I still quite enjoyed it.20130723-084322.jpg

I can’t really recall for each item how much they cost, but price level tends towards the high side, because one simple bowl of soba without many ingredients (if any at all) already costs more than S$10. There were more elaborate ones that could set you back by S$30, and the sets also around that price range or even more. To their benefit, the soba was good. I loved the consistency of the noodle and the broth did not feel like it was laden with MSG, at least I didn’t feel it. But the sides were a little lackadaisal, or they were just ordinary. Still, it was a treat and the evening was well-spent, not so much focused on the food but the company and the chatter we shared.

happy birthday to me

And so it has come and gone. As each year passes, I feel that the birthday is just another day and I don’t feel any more¬†special than any other day. Others would ask if I would take a day off of work because it is my birthday, but frankly over the last years I don’t think I have done that. In fact, in the recent years, I was travelling for business and on one occasion it¬†hadn’t been pleasant. Anyhow, birthdays tend to¬†be overrated imo,¬†but I suppose there are those who place a lot of significance on it and would go to great lengths to ensure they do not have to go to work on their special day. To each his own.

Well, I do place some kind of meaning to it, to a certain extent, but I was playing a game of sorts and I think I kind of got an answer. You know how sometimes we get notifications in Facebook telling us that it is so-and-so’s birthday and we’d sometimes click on it, then type in a “Happy Birthday” to the person? I do that do, but I’d disabled the option, or hidden my birthday information from Public view so it doesn’t pop up on my friends’ Facebook pages. So this year, I didn’t get any birthday wishes from Facebook. That was how I knew the pervasiveness of the information that is shared via social media. It is still quite heartening though, that there are friends who remembered to wish me on the day itself, and I appreciate that I am in their thoughts, that without having to be prompted by any social media notification, they actually remembered. Some of the wishes I received surprised me, as they came from people I hadn’t kept in contact with much, while there were others whom I thought I’d got a birthday wish but didn’t. Oh well, we can’t expect too much, as always.

It was a quiet affair. I don’t have that many people around to celebrate my birthday with anymore, so it gets quieter and quieter each year. Sometimes as I thought back on how life has progressed for me, perhaps this is His will and what He is trying to tell me that I am made to be independent and strong, that without people beside me, I will still survive so long as He is with me. Ok, this is my Christian talk and for those of¬†you who aren’t believers,¬†just skip it.

Decided to had lunch by myself on Friday since¬†the office in Singapore isn’t aware of my birthday and I wasn’t in the chatting mood. This was a weekend of sinful indulgence.¬†¬†20130722-140349.jpg

Friday evening. Japanese dinner which turned into my sharing session of sorts. Was so hungry and ate so much that I immediately felt guilty about all the food I had.20130722-140402.jpg

It was family-bonding time on Saturday, with tom yam steamboat! Yet another feast for my stomach, and a great evening and combined birthday celebration.  20130722-140414.jpg

My sis-in-law was so sweet; she baked a flourless Nutella cake topped with 99% cocoa chocolate and generous helpings of macadamia nuts. The top layer was absolutely bitter though! Haha. I loved the Nutella base, which wasn’t too sweet and despite that I had a slice late at night, it didn’t feel that heavy. Despite that, it was still cake and the guilt from eating stung. But of course, I finished the whole slice given to me because I really appreciated her nice gesture. ūüôā20130722-140427.jpg

The weekend ended with a beautiful sunset over the CBD skyline from MBS, where I enjoyed a casual dinner of pizza and truffle fries with one of my long-time friend, then took a stroll around the mall. This is actually only the second time I’d really walked around the place, the first being when it just opened, and on a Sunday evening there wasn’t that much of a crowd so you could really just take your time and walk off the fullness of a dinner.20130722-140440.jpg

As much as the shopping there isn’t what I’d really want to splurge on or could afford, it is still good to just window-shop and enjoy the cool comfort of the air-conditioning and the peace and quiet of the weekend drawing to a close.

Coffee break!

Two of three redeemed, complimentary from Starbucks!20130716-090045.jpg

It’s been some time since I last had cheesecake and it still tastes good, even if this was a commercially-manufactured slice from Starbucks but it’s cookie crumble!¬†Some of my friends are averse to dairy products and so things like cheesecake are a bane for them. I can’t imagine how living without dairy would be like because it is a rather large part of my diet, but I suppose what appeals to some don’t appeal to all. Each has his or her own likes and preferences, way of doing things and living life. It’s just like how very few people would understand the kind of life I lead and the sort of thoughts that occupy my mind all the time. Oh well, I’m still trying to figure my way out.20130716-090057.jpg

This wasn’t the first July cake I had. Spinelli gave me a free slice of cake too but I opted for their amazing Apple Crumble pie, which unfortunately, was not so amazingly plated when I had it last week. I can’t recall if it’s not meant to be heated up, but I said yes anyway when the question was posed if I would like it warmed up. Perhaps the heating made it soft and fragile so when it was being transferred from plate to plate, it ended up being a little mashed up and looked a tad messy.

However nice, there should still be a limit to it though.

La Trattoria, Singapore Art Museum

I don’t know how long this has been at the S.A.M., but I recalled countless times when I have walked past, alone or with a friend, and thinking that I will pop in for a meal one day. That one day finally came when I decided to make a dinner reservation to celebrate my friend’s birthday one evening.

Before we visited the restaurant, I looked for some reviews of the place and read some mixed comments. Generally the consensus I felt, was that food was pretty decent but service iffy; it ranged from good to bad, so I guess it boils down to luck and whether you got the right people serving you or not. But since we went in without any expectations of good service, I guess maybe that was already the correct start.

We were really early but there was already a couple of other guests inside. I liked how the interior seemed to be able to cut us off from the outside, at least for me, it’s like the decor of the place was a cosy little outfit that didn’t seemed like it belonged in the heart of town. But of course it wasn’t like I was made oblivious to the noises outside courtesy of the Formula One race happening over the weekend.

Back to the service, there were just a few wait staff, and they were not the extremely friendly kind of wait staff like I would probably expect of restaurants of a cosy nature but they were nonetheless still ok, meaning that they were fairly prompt, which could also be because the restaurant was not too busy yet, and because we had not asked for any recommendations but just went straight to order what we felt like having. I read about a review where the reviewer asked for recommendations and the attending waiter/waitress replied “pasta and pizza”. I almost fainted when I read that, because honestly, what else would you order in an Italian restaurant, and there were numerous choices of pastas/pizzas.

Since it was early and we didn’t think we could stomach that much food, we opted to skip the appetiser and breads, but we were served a complimentary garlic pizza bread that we cleaned off in a matter of minutes. Maybe that explained why we couldn’t finish our mains.

We decided on the Risotto ai Porcini, which I read wasn’t too bad, and since I (or maybe both of us) am quite the mushroom fan. The plating for the risotto was interesting, to put it nicely. But really, we were both amused and thought it made it look a brown mess, so that’s something that can be improved. Thankfully, it tasted great but a tad on the salty side though. There was a distinctive cheese taste to it though, which could also be the reason why I liked it but the saltiness got to me in the end and also because the portion was pretty generous so even sharing it we were unable to finish it.

The other main we picked was a home baked pasta, Cannelloni ripieni di carne e verdure, which is, based on the menu, layered pasta rolled with filling of minced meat, vegetables and parmesan cheese in tomato cream sauce. It looked like a chee cheong fun in disguise, don’t you think? But I liked this dish because the meat wrapped in the pasta felt a little like having ravioli, and it still reminded me of the Chinese dim sum or even wanton. I can’t recall what meat it was, maybe pork, and mixed with strips of greens, ending with a taste that reminded me, yes of dumplings. In a good way. The cheese probably helped too, because since from when I can’t recall, I started having a love for cheese.

Desserts-wise, they had a few typical Italian desserts but we are predictable that way in ordering the tiramisu. It was also quite a big serving of rich creamy goodness that I allowed myself the indulgence even if I am watching how the scales are tipping!

By the end of the dessert we were stuffed to the brim so we finished off with a shot of Limoncello that had me thinking of honey lemon Strepsils, weird much? It was only half past seven when we left and the restaurant was by then having more diners but it wasn’t too difficult getting the attention of one wait staff for the bill because after all, it isn’t that big a place, and sitting on the inside it is not hard to wave and be noticed. We stepped out thinking that it wasn’t so bad like we read, so like I said it is right that we came without too high expectations where service is concerned, so I will consider returning some day but it’s a question when that some day will be because there are still so many other places that we haven’t been to!