Ya Kun Toastwich

No I am not about to write a review on Ya Kun Toastwich because I have never tried their food before, except for toast, possibly just once. Most other times I have been there only for the drinks.

The first time I came across Ya Kun Toastwich was while out for lunch at NEX, and this store is located in basement 2 of the shopping mall, in a far-flung corner near where one entry/exit point to Serangoon MRT is. It is pretty near to the checkout counters of Cold Storage, and nearby there is also a Burger King, Mr. Bean, Chewy Junior, etc. if anyone is interested to know. At first glance I thought this seemed different from the usual Ya Kun stores I have been to, because the menu looked different, with all the types of cooked food that they serve up, like laksa and mee siam, sandwiches, amongst others. You can see the full menu here, which also isn’t that extensive, but at least you have some other choices available if kaya toast and its various incarnations are not your cup of tea, or coffee. But seriously, Ya Kun’s toast is easily one of the best that I have had. I don’t know about you, but I really like it the way they did it, with the brown bread sliced into half down the middle and kaya plus a slab of butter sandwiched in between, and very well-toasted till crisp. That’s why it has to be eaten fresh because once the crispiness is gone only hardness remains. I have tried toast from other such local cafes like Toast Box and Killiney, but theirs are lightly-toasted at best.

So anyway, I thought this Toastwich was a one-of-a-kind franchise who decided to up the ante and include more stuff on the menu to make it more comprehensive to pull in a wider crowd, and as well the furniture looks different from the usual white table top with square wooden stools. The whole ambience of this outlet feels a little less localised. And like I just found out courtesy of Google, there are actually three such outlets over the island, NEX, Harbourfront and Fusionpolis; it is no wonder that I never really knew of Toastwich’s existence.

Drinks-wise, I can’t really comment since I admit just as much that I am no connoisseur. The drinks aren’t too bad, at least by normal Ya Kun standards to me; some days ago I was at the Ya Kun that in the basement of United Square (next to the roast meat shop) and the drink was quite bad. I ordered a teh c kosong and what I got appeared to be a teh-flavoured c kosong; the colour was so light it already looked wrong from the outset. Even the normal teh my colleagues ordered looked somewhat more like teh c. Perhaps that was a way to save on the tea, but really, I thought evaporated milk was expensive since drinks with “c” are always priced higher (about 20 cents) than the normal drinks, so wouldn’t this increase their cost of sales significantly?

Oh well, it isn’t my business so to speak, but the drink was pretty bland so that was one of the rare times I did not actually finish my drink. Anyway, the Toastwich’s takeaway cups look different too!


Hock Lam & Yakun, Far East Square

There are times when I would really miss working in the city area because of the vast varieties of food available for lunch, not to mention the choices for coffee, local or foreign. Of course, the crowds at lunchtime are not something that I miss, having to be on an ever-ready standby mode to snare the first available table at the eating places without table service. Still, convenience is key and where I am now, convenience is the last thing on the list.

On some days when we have the luxury to venture a little further, the colleagues will enjoy checking out some good food in town. So it was on this day that we made a visit to Hock Lam beef noodles at Far East Square. They are quite the fan of this stall’s beef noodles I think, because it wasn’t the first time that we went there, but this time we saw that the stall has had a facelift. Before, the cooking area was right at the front of the stall where you queue to place your order and pay, now you get yourself seated and write your orders on a piece of paper before handing it to a wait-staff, then pay on your way out. I think this was meant to elevate the customer’s dining experience, but with the renovation, the stall appeared like it could now sit less customers, and of course I think the prices now would factor this in. I don’t remember how much the noodles used to be, but now they are priced at about S$8 or S$8.50 per bowl for the usual beef noodles? Those were the comments from the colleagues so I believe prices did go up, but apparently, the taste and quality remains.

We were pretty early that day and the stall had only a few customers then; as I wasn’t that hungry yet I just ordered the beef ball soup, which is available as a side order, and cost S$4 for a bowl of soup with 5 beef balls. My colleague, probably trying to go on a diet, dished some of his kway teow to me so I ended up having beef kway teow soup. 20130129-092012.jpg

According to the others, the portion seemed to have shrank a little too because after we finished our early lunch, we decided to hop a few stalls down to Ya Kun, which they have also been wanting to visit since that is the original stall and one of my colleagues swear by the quality of their drinks and toast. Perhaps it being without air-conditioning, the prices were relatively cheaper than the usual Ya Kun stalls island-wide, e.g. a cup of tea with evaporated milk (teh-c) would cost S$1.70 typically, but here it is S$1.50. Being early, we also had the benefit of getting a seat indoors with a fan overhead; it can get really toasty sitting outside even under the shade of the umbrellas, such is the merciless heat which is uniquely Singapore!

So we ordered kaya toast to supplement our lunch! Comments at the table were all with approval for this original Ya Kun stall, because one colleague mentioned this is the best Ya Kun bread, crispier and tastier than all others he has tried, and also the butter is more well-spread over the bread, not just sandwiched as a slab between the slices of bread. 20130129-092133.jpg

Opposite where Far East Square and China Square Central, there is this semi-automated multi-storey parking facility that we were rather amused with. Probably we are just being ignorant, but it was quite interesting to drive the car into a lift, get out and press a combination of numbers, and when the lift doors close, the car will automatically get parked in an available lot within the structure. To retrieve the car, we need to key in the combination we had entered earlier and the machine will get the car from where it has been parked, and when the lift doors open again, we will see the car there! I think there should be more of such parking buildings around so that it saves people time of waiting around the carpark in their cars for a lot, which most times depend on luck whether you are quick enough to get an available lot based on where you were waiting!

service, or not?

It seems like bad service is tolerated too often here in Singapore that it has become the norm rather than the exception. If you were to ask yourself how many times you have gotten good service that leaves a deep impression, you may just draw a blank.

I know that people always tell me that I get what I pay for, that I can’t expect good service at places where I am not paying good money. Which is bullshit to be honest. I can tell you based on past experiences that I have gotten good service from establishments that are not priced in that level at all. Take for example some of the retail shops around. Sure, if you step into Louis Vuitton or Chanel, you would expect excellent service but it doesn’t come without a price or judgment. If the sales assistant deem you unworthy then sorry honey, he or she will just turn up the nose and stare you down like you are a lowly insect. Do you then consider that service? But in contrast, if you were to say step into a Giordano (do they still give good service like the past) or maybe even Uniqlo, you get greeted cheerfully by the sales assistants who don’t really care if you are toting a Chanel bag or carrying a NTUC plastic bag. It may boil down to how they are being remunerated, but nevertheless, hey that’s service for me, I don’t care if they are paid commission or not.

Yesterday I was ranting on Twitter about an encounter at Ya Kun. Most mornings I would go to a Yakun store to get a coffee or tea before heading to the office. There is almost no service so to speak at Yakun, which is really fine since I am just there to buy a drink, and that’s the end of the transaction. But the cashier could be new, or she just wasn’t loud enough in shouting across my order, so the person making my drink gave me a wrong drink. I ordered a teh-c kosong, and it was just a regular teh-c I got. It’s just sugar yes, but it’s the wrong order and a regular teh-c is just too sweet it is undrinkable. The auntie making the kopi grumbled about how the sugar is already added and how come I didn’t tell her. Seriously, wtf? Shall I just order and pay directly to the kopi auntie then in future? Why should they have a cashier and a kopi auntie if the customer has to repeat orders to two different persons? And Yakun coffee and tea is by no means considered cheap now anyway.

So after having Yakun for the past few days I decided to have a change today and bought myself a latte. When I got to the office, I saw this:


This isn’t cappucino where the foam goes flat after a while. Why am I paying for 80% of a drink or has the person making my drink decide to take a swipe of it while preparing it? This has nothing so much to do with service, but it just reflects on the kind of low standards we have here in the F&B sector.


i just can’t sit still on a friday

The short break I just came back from was for work, but perhaps as it didn’t exactly equate to work in the typical sense of sitting in front a laptop wrecking my brain trying to comprehend something that is essentially incomprehensible, I cannot seem to focus. Plus the fact that I was nursing a dripping nose yesterday made matters worse. I have more or less recovered, I presume, since the nose has stopped leaking as of this morning that is why I thought I should just head to the office in my frail attempt to finish more of the outstanding things that need to be done.

We were fooling around with my friend’s phone the other night at Red Dot when we had our beloved potatoes, and ended up with them fries bathed in various sorts of lighting. We stopped after a while as our friend appeared to feel embarrassed with our actions, and frankly I think the food would have turned cold if we continued with our antics. I thought the greenish fries matched the green beer that I had but has this clinical feel about it. I think natural lighting is the best.

Out of habit that I hope is not turning into an addiction, I have been drinking tea and coffee on a daily basis especially when it is a work day. On a typical day, I take 2 cups, once in the morning when I get to the office, and once after lunch. I try to alternate between coffee and tea, and sometimes what I buy is out of convenience, depending on where I am at. Apart from Starbucks, Coffee Bean or Spinellis coffee that if I were to drink them on a twice-daily basis will burn a huge hole right down to the depths of my pockets, I am getting the hang of drinking locally-made coffee and tea. I prefer tea though, because it isn’t as strong as the kopi-c that I order, and sometimes we do need a change in taste. Out of the 3 places that I have bought my tea from, I came to the conclusion that Coffee & Toast is the cheapest! Yakun sells a normal cup of teh-c for $1.50, Wang Cafe sells it for $1.30 and Coffee & Toast at $1.20 has even the biggest cup amongst the 3. Taste-wise, it is rather subjective because Yakun’s standard of tea fluctuates based on the person making the drinks, and as for the other 2 I probably have not tried them often enough to give a fair verdict. As long as it isn’t too awful I think I am quite happy paying less for my daily teh-c!