Christmas Eve.

Spent Christmas eve and part of Christmas day in Hong Kong. I shall just let the pictures do the talking, most of it anyway, because I am lazy to write. 🙂

Met the cousin early for local breakfast near his apartment. This is the Hong Kong milk tea, which I find is so much nicer than what we have locally, i.e. teh-c.

The standard breakfast fare, to me at least – soupy instant noodles topped with some ingredients like pork / chicken chop, sausages, eggs, or the likes. Or maybe everything! Order a noodle and add-on the other stuff you fancy, sunny-side up, sausages…
Yummy.
Problem with Hong Kong’s local cafes is that they don’t usually do bread the way I like it. Mostly, when I order a sandwich or toast, it is just 2 slices of plain white bread that is of the soft variety, totally not how I like my bread to be. Even when this is toasted, at an additional charge (!), it still doesn’t cut anywhere close. The smooth, creamy scrambled eggs help to make it a bit better though, but then the processed meat in the form of ham probably isn’t too great an idea.
After we had the milk tea and the breakfast, we still went for the next round of caffeine at a hole-in-the-wall cafe near Jaffe Street.  After parting with my cousin, I went to meet my friend and we decided to check out this soft-serve that was highly-recommended by the cousin. I really love this, because the matcha flavour was very distinctive and strong! And best of all is that it doesn’t feel like it’s too sweet. They have a few outlets, but we went to the one at Fashion Walk. There’s one in the basement food hall of SOGO at Causeway Bay too and if I’m not wrong, near City Super in Harbour City in TST.
Went to meet another friend thereafter, who halted her gym-time to accompany me for the Christmas eve afternoon. We popped into a random cafe where she decided to have lunch, and I ordered a salad which was a total disappointment. Where’s the ‘salad’? This looks more like dessert than salad.  It’s actually a few slices of apple cooked in some sauce I presume, topped with egg mayo and a sprinkling of some powder (don’t ask me what because I forgot), plus 2 sticks of buttered toast, very lightly-toasted might I add. I was then busy scraping away the egg yolk and mayo obviously, and left it in a mess.
After the decidedly-unsatisfying meal (for me at least), we proceeded to Lee Gardens’ Starbucks, which was also very crowded despite that the mall was almost devoid of other customers. Either everyone is out and about in their last minute rush for Christmas gifts, or this mall is just too high-classed to see many patrons. We dropped by the supermarket at Hysan Place first though, to get ourselves a pot of yogurt each to go with our coffee (my third caffeine for the day). Love the variety that is available overseas but again, I’d think this is from the vantage point of being a foreigner and seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes.  Last year, when I met my friend in Hong Kong, we ordered the Christmas orange cranberry loaf cake/bread and since they have it this year again, we ordered it again! We enjoyed this because it’s more bread than cake, meaning it’s a bit drier and crumblier,and not so oily to boot. Wished they had this on our local menu too but so far, it has only made an appearance in 2014.
Headed back for a short run at the gym thereafter, before heading out for Christmas eve dinner. We settled in at an Italian eatery in SOHO, which somehow felt like we were obligated to dine at, because the host-cum-owner was rather pushy and we felt bad walking away after reading the menu. It was probably a wrong choice, because we ended up not ordering the huge Christmas meal that came with 6 courses per person (at quite a reasonable price actually). We didn’t think we could have finished all that food so we opted for a-la-carte, which to them meant ‘budget menu’, and we were being treated as ‘budget customers’. They changed the table setting, removing the napkin and replacing it with a paper serviette!? It wasn’t even like the eatery was some fine-dining place because each table was within an elbow’s width away, even if you are paying for the so-called Christmas set menu. Bleah. What a big downer.

The food was pretty decent though, to be fair to them. It’s just that service sucks, or rather it’s dependent on how much you pay for your food.
  After dinner, we took a short walk to PMQ, where most shops were already packing up. But they had pretty interesting Christmas decor, including a holographic Christmas tree instead of a real physical tree.
  And finished off the evening with dessert near our hotel, sweet soup with lotus seeds! 🙂

Latteria Mozzarella, Duxton Hill Singapore

Restaurant week just ended not too long ago, and as much as I have heard about it and read about it, seen pictures on friends’ blogs and instagrams of the posh-nosh food that they enjoyed during this time of each year (actually now it happens twice a year), I have never once partook in it. I just got to know that the concept originated from New York, where this initiative was birthed to let more people access the high-end restaurants through a more affordable menu. It is of course hoped that despite the competitive pricing, they don’t compromise on other aspects, such as quality. I can’t really comment on that since in the first place I seldom visit high-end restaurants. Either you can say that I don’t have expensive taste-buds, I don’t know how to enjoy the good food or I simply just am a eat-to-live person. Anyhow, this year marks my virgin experience at Singapore Restaurant Week and I checked out Latteria Mozzarella at Duxton Hill. I love working in the Tanjong Pagar area because besides the availability of many of such apparently well-known restaurants, there is also a good mix of other eateries and F&B outlets, cafes, etc. There are even hawker stalls, several of whom are definitely worth their salt!

So this was the menu that was presented for Restaurant Week for a lunch set.IMG_0318.JPGThe choice comes in the main, where you have 3 options of either crab, lamb or fish. Of the 4 of us, two of us chose the fish and the other two the lamb shank. I wonder why no one picked the crab but since I am no crab or lamb fan, it was an easy, or rather, no option for me.

The appetizers were served up, bocconcini in carrozza, arrabbiata sauce, which is like a fried mozzarella ball.

IMG_0319.JPGThis is a closer look at a cut-up piece. It’s actually pretty tasty, with its exterior thinly coated with I guess flour and then fried, while the inside still retained the fairly soft texture of mozzarella cheese.

IMG_0320.JPGMy main of the sea bass filet, chick peas, pesto & cherry tomatoes. The filet portion was just nice for me, so I figure it could be too little for bigger eaters. But the sauce, which I think is most likely blended chick peas, helps to give you a bit more satiety, and the pesto gave a little contrast to the flavour of the fish and chick peas. But sea bass isn’t my most preferred choice of fish though as it feels a bit tough especially the parts near the skin.

IMG_0321.JPGThis was a picture of the lamb shank with mushroom orzotto which the other two had. I didn’t ask them how it tasted but they cleaned their plates so I am guessing it should be good, otherwise it just meant that they were really hungry. It could be either actually, considering that they are both guys but the orzotto should have provided a good amount of carbs for them.

IMG_0322.JPGAnd it’s dessert time! As with all good Italian restaurants… presenting the Tiramisu! This was served with espresso cream. I was really taking my time with the cake, slowly savouring every little morsel of it and enjoying it with the espresso cream. It’s quite nice, not too soft and mushy but some others I have tried, and I find the taste and flavour to be just nice, not too strong but still having that distinct tiramisu signature taste.

IMG_0323.JPGOf course, this was then ended off with a coffee, which I neglected to take any pictures because it was just black coffee, and because the rest of the table just aren’t into this habit of snapping pictures of their food. They already accommodated me by offering me the chance to snap the lamb shank! For a nett price of S$25, it isn’t what you would typically pay for lunch (heck, it can be my entire week’s worth of lunch budget!), and I don’t know what is the usual pricing at Latteria Mozzarella, but I think it should be considered quite worth it for the 3-course meal and I thought taste-wise it was pretty good! Again, as I have never been there before I wouldn’t have been able to provide any comparison. 🙂

Jamie’s Italian, Singapore

After what seemed like forever, we finally got to check out Jamie’s Italian at Vivocity. Well we never made it there because we were daunted by the queues, and I am truly averse to queueing for food. Well, not always, but generally. I would rather settle for something that is just decent or passable than to spend time queueing for something that is supposedly good. Food, is at the end of the day, just food.

The other time I tried Jamie’s Italian was somewhere in the UK, not in London but Reading I think. The food, from what I recalled, was pretty decent but I wouldn’t say exceptional. Maybe I don’t know what is considered to be really good Italian food but to me, pasta is pasta. There is bad pasta, for sure, but how good it can be, I guess I don’t have a yardstick for comparison.IMG_0007.JPGSo this time we finally made it to the outlet at Vivocity, not without waiting for queueing though, even if there was not really a visible queue in sight. They will make you leave your name with the host who will then let you know an approximate time you will need to wait. I figured it wasn’t due to the restaurant reaching its maximum capacity because as we loitered in the vicinity we could see that there were quite a number of empty tables. But it was probably more to ensure that guests who are seated are more or less promptly attended to and served. It can be good or bad in a way, good in that you can turn around tables much faster but bad because you make the customers wait while standing outside the restaurant. Unless of course you want to shop around and hope they remember to give you a tinker.

Well service was indeed prompt. We already knew what we wanted since we had a fair bit of time before being shown to our table, not in the best location though, as it was a 2-seater in the midst of thoroughfare. We decided not to be ambitious and chose several small portions of sides. This is the roast potatoes dish with fennel, garlic and chilli, which I love of course, what do you expect, this is an entire dish of potatoes!

IMG_0009.JPGThen we had a main too, which was the pumpkin tortellini, filled with roasted squash, ricotta and parmesan, in a pumpkin, chilli and rosemary butter with smashes amaretti. We ordered a half portion, thinking that with 2 sides it may get too much, but if you take a look at this, you will see that there are just about 8 small pieces of tortellinis to be shared among the 2 of us. We are not big eaters, so I can imagine that those who have a hearty appetite may need to order more stuff in order to be truly full.

IMG_0010.JPGOne of the other sides, the cauliflower and parmesan fritters with arrabiatta dip. As much as I enjoyed this dish, it was a little miserable in terms of size.

IMG_0008.JPGTada, the “spread” that we had.

IMG_0011.JPGI was nicely satiated but I wouldn’t say I was full, but I could be from the bottle of lemonade that we ordered for sharing. So since we still had room, we decided to have dessert as well, also because we were celebrating my birthday! Haha, shameless I know, but what is a birthday without a cake? So we ordered the Tutti Frutti Lemon Meringue. To be honest, I am not a fan of meringues, knowing how sweet they can be, despite that I am a cake-lover these days. Which come to think of it, I really do ought to cut down on. Sigh. Anyway, this was a huge serving, in contrast to the conservative amounts of the mains and sides. I liked the base that was made from limoncello and crunchy pistachio brittle, as it had a zesty and refreshing flavour to it!

IMG_0012.JPGOn the whole, this was a good dinner with nice food and desserts, coupled with of course great company! The service was polite and professional but it somehow lacks a touch of warmth which I would have preferred.

Brunetti, Tanglin Mall

 

I read about this cafe from a magazine some months back, in an article that supposedly lists several places in Singapore that serves up the best coffee. I had been wanting to visit it but as it is located off the main part of Orchard Road in Tanglin Mall, me being one who is terribly afraid of humidity, have not ventured that way (for a long time anyway) in the last few sizzling-hot months.

But our weather has turned a tad cooler due to the rain, so one cold evening after the rain had stopped, I took a long walk to meet up with a couple of girlfriends for dinner. Brunetti is located on level one of Tanglin Mall but it’s funny the way my friend described it to me, and I thought it was the basement. Tanglin Mall is kind of situated on uneven ground so depending on which entrance you get in through, you end up on different levels. From Orchard Road the first entrance you get to is where the taxi stand is, and when you walk into the mall, you are on level two, which means you need to take the escalator down, and Brunetti is just to the left. To my friend, that meant basement, haha. There is another cafe on level two which I have also thought about checking out, but maybe we’ll see when will be the next time I hit Tanglin Mall.

Being a weekday evening, the mall was relatively quiet and so the cafe as well was rather empty. It was great for us because we could chat without having to raise our voices just to hear ourselves. Maybe that is one contributing factor to me liking this place. It is fronted by a wide glass display of very delectable-looking cakes and pastries, and I almost gave in to temptation to order one of their cheesecakes that I spied on another table, but I decided to skip it in the end.

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Check out the multi-coloured macarons they have. Not a fan of these sweet stuff but I’m sure there are flavours that are not as sweet, and on that note, LadurĂ©e is supposed to open in Singapore soon aren’t they?

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 The other side of the cafe opens out to an open space next to Traders Hotel, which is also where you need to exit from after the cafe closes its shutters on the side of the escalator in the mall. It was past 9 when we left, but I wasn’t entirely sure what time the shutters come down.

 

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And the coffee! Our flat whites. Again, I am quite embarrassed to say that I don’t really remember much about it except that it was not very strong, as compared to maybe 40 Hands, but nevertheless I still liked it.

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I, being the ultimate bread lover, decided to order the toast, which appeared in this form.

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It was nice if not a little too tough and thus difficult to eat especially with the condition that I currently have with my jaw. I think they spread some butter on the bread before toasting it because as I was breaking the bread I found it to be a little greasy. They were served in a large wooden tray which I found to be an interesting way of “plating”.

My friend ordered the risotto that didn’t sit very well with her, because I think to begin with she wasn’t such a fan of risotto though she thought she would just give it a try. Maybe it was too creamy, but she ended up only taking about 10% of the whole portion. I didn’t try it so I couldn’t comment on its taste.

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My other friend ordered the safest choice – Fish and Chips! And it should be, because she finished all the fish, and the three of us shared the chips (ok mainly me).

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I will definitely return in future, whether it is for their coffee or for the alluring cakes that were beckoning me to buy them. If you are interested, they do serve all-day breakfast along with other mains. I have yet to read reviews of this cafe, which abounds online anyway if you just google, so it shouldn’t be hard to find out what everyone else thinks of their food offerings. 🙂

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Brunetti apparently hails from Australia, and over the last couple of years more and more of such coffee joints, independent or not, have been appearing on our local coffee scene. It can only mean good news for coffee lovers and those who go in search of quality coffee that they swear are not found in the usual commercial chains we are more wont to seeing around such as Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Spinelli. The question is, how long will they last and will they survive the fickle minds of consumers in Singapore? Most of us fall prey to commercialism or consumerism, or maybe it is just the work of convenience. To get a daily coffee fix, convenience is most important for me, so it would help if the place I work at has a coffee joint nearby. Such quality coffee in quaint cafes are reserved for occasions of friend meet-ups, unless I am willing to set aside more budget per month for coffee, or unless there is indeed such a cafe near my workplace. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for me, where I work now, there isn’t any such option available, so my daily morning brew is from a friendly uncle who makes rather good kopi-c siew dai, all for just S$1.

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!

le mois de juillet, le premier Ă©pisode

Today marks the final day of July. Even when it comes to writing, I can get so lazy, because there are some things I would like to share but haven’t found the energy or time to. Time is probably an excuse, the energy reason is more easily justifiable because I still cannot get a good rest.

About half of this month was spent away in the UK where I was there for a project. I guess the easiest way out of the updates would be a summary, and what better way than to do a photo-collage.

whilst waiting for the national rail train to London Waterloo at Wokingham station // view out of my room window of the neighbourhood // view of the room i stayed in for ten nights from the door // along the walk to the office one sunny morning

groceries from marks & spencer that i wished we had here too // the day tickets that took me to london and back that included unlimited rides on the underground // coffee break with a tasteless muffin // favourite meal of the day.. breakfast

dinner at the kaglan pub near the ‘hotel’ // morning coffee break during the weekend at caffe nero // vongole pasta for dinner at jamie’s italian in reading // lunch in the office cafeteria of quiche, tomato salad and peas

first drizzly sunday out at bond street // second sunny sunday out at piccadilly // london eye // trafalgar square

the birthday present for the year // fries with truffle oil and shaved parmesan at jamie’s italian // poached eggs with toast and tomatoes at the modern pantry // bear keychain from harrods at knightsbridge

so tired of being here

Aside from dinner at the Kaglan in the town centre near the hotel, the only other proper dinner I had was when the colleagues decided to head to Reading for dinner one rainy evening. It really rained a lot that day and honestly I was very reluctant to join, especially when half the time I have no idea what the conversation going on was about since I don’t speak the language and yes they are all so considerate.

Besides, having to sit in the car cramped in the backseat with two bigger-sized human beings on either side, travelling to Reading that was supposedly about 10 minutes drive away that actually was more like 30 minutes, I started to feel sick in the car already.

It was decided then that we should check out Jamie’s Italian, even though there were other choices. But the others that were available weren’t as interesting, such as Wagamama, and the others I cannot recall now.

Despite it being a wet and cold evening, Jamie’s Italian was really crowded but we were lucky to get a round table for the 5 of us, somewhere in the middle of the eatery, and yet it wasn’t so noisy that we couldn’t hear each other. At least I don’t really remember having to shout to get myself heard, not that I had to talk a lot. Jetlag had more or less set in, or I never really got out of being jetlagged, so by 8pm in the evening, I was already in a state of hibernation.

We had some starters, olives, bread baskets, and fries with truffle oil plus parmesan. I have had truffle fries before but this was slightly different. It was just normal fried potatoes with truffle oil and sprinkled with shaved parmesan cheese, so it wasn’t salty like most french fries are, and with parmesan it tasted great.

I was initially undecided about ordering the spaghetti vongole or the risotto but finally chose the former because I hadn’t had any decent vongole for ages. The only one I had before that I really liked is no longer in existence, which was cooked with light white wine sauce that was a little like aglio olio. This was a bit different, it had more taste to it, probably due to the different types of clams used. I think a lot of times I don’t fancy the vongole because the clams they used were of the variety that I don’t enjoy as they had some strong pungent taste. This was not too bad I think. At least I don’t dislike it so I think it’s a fairly good choice.

For dessert, we shared the tiramisu that came with orange mascarpone, and also the crushed ice with limoncello and mint, which was refreshing though perhaps a tad unsuitable for the cold weather. This would have been the perfect weather for things like hot pot or soup but I didn’t get a chance to have any soup.

Despite all that rain and the unwillingness in making the trip, I think it was good to try the eatery and have some proper dinner, because I have been having too much junk these two weeks. It feels really lousy to not be eating well and especially not having the chance, the motivation or the energy to do any exercising. I’m constantly feeling lethargic and tired and everything is just not in a very good state.