Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Red Star Restaurant @ Chin Swee Road, Singapore

Red Star Restaurant is conveniently located at Chin Swee Road, which is just a short 5 minutes walk away from Chinatown station. Usually flooded with diners, especially the elderly who came to gather and reminisce the nostalgic ambience. I love how they are still using the classic quaint pushcarts, which contains trays and baskets filled with freshly made dim-sum.

More often than not, Red Star Restaurant has always been the preferred choice when it comes to choosing a dinner place for dear grandma's birthday. Besides serving your usual dim-sum fix in the morning, this Mandarin restaurant which is opened by four well-known chefs in the 1970s, whipped out pretty decent Cantonese classics as well.

For example, their signature Yam Basket topped with assorted ingredients is a favourite of many. Its crispy exterior covered the soft, piping hot yam cake, matched with a couple of savoury seafood and vegetables,  this delectable dish is one of the must-tries. 


Chicken with Assorted Vegetables was a tad bland for my liking. Nevertheless, I like the unique idea of combining ham with chicken chunks, topped with creamy egg sauce.


Fried Fish Slices in Sweet and Sour Sauce was average. Nothing to rave about, as I usually do not eat fried fish slices, but when I do, I love it when it's soaked in broth.


We also had their spinach leaves, which turns out to be too clumpy. I just wished they'd put more eggs in it.


一品锅, also known as Royal Pot consists of an array of vegetables and seafood, including a generous portion of the luxurious sea cucumber.


Generally, Red Star Restaurant is an ideal place to head to if you want the nostalgia it brings, which is great for family gatherings, especially when there are elderly. Other than that, food and service were pretty average, as there are definitely better ones out there.




Red Star Restaurant

Tel: 65325266

Operating Hours
Daily: 07:00 - 15:00
Daily: 18:00 - 22:30

 
54 Chin Swee Road
#07-23
Chin Swee Area Office

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Unpleasant Johor Experience

"2,000RM fine for 2 photos", the security guard at the Malaysia customs bus-bay told the three of us.

It was last Hari Raya Haji (26 Oct 2012), when Girlfriend Peiyi's family of 8 and myself decided to head out for a day's trip of fun at our neighbouring country, which is none other than Johor, Malaysia. But what was supposed to be exciting and something to look forward to, turned out to be a nasty, unpleasant experience.

We alighted at the bus-bay at the Malaysia customs at approximately 1100hrs, and while waiting for the rest of the family who got seperated at Woodlands Checkpoint, my girlfriend's mother took two pictures of girlfriend and myself with Baby Mitchelle. And stating the pure obvious, it was done out of no harm. Before I carry on, there are NO signage stating that photography or videography is prohibited in the bus-bay. Zero. None at all. Don't tell me I am wrong, because I looked around. Signages baring important notices, offenses and limitations should be obvious, even if there is, it should not be hidden at some crevice on the wall.

One security guard (Guard A) walked towards us and interogated us, with the suspicion that we were terrorists, on why we were taking photographs. Go google "malaysia customs", I confirmed that it will garner thousands and millions of images. I hate to mention it, but he was rankless. We didn't know, we explained to them. They requested for girlfriend's mother's passport, browsed through a few pages and refused to return it. After which he made a phone call to his "officer", another arrogant-looking rankless guard (Guard B) who wears a traffic-police vest and one who claims that he is the head in-charge here. Do I suppose now that they put rankless personnel in-charge of "high security places"?

Guard B then told us to delete the images, or else we will be charged for failing to comply with orders on top of the 2,000RM fine (1,000RM for one photograph). I requested to talk to his head, show him the pictures we took and delete his presence, but he insisted he is in-charged, I mean is there no one higher rank in the chain-of-command than this rankless traffic police? He said that we were disrespecting him and spoke to Guard A in some gibberish malay, which is sadly some language the three of us did not understand. They hinted that we will be brought to the police station and might lead to detention. After some dramatic words exchange, we decided to delete the photographs (thinking of it, why did we do that, when it was evidence we could show). The rest of the family finally arrived and somehow, girlfriend's brother-in-law managed to settle the case. Bribe maybe?

I am sure that my case was not the first, and it will not be the last. It is sad to say that corruption, regardless of severity is everywhere. After the drama, I asked one of the higher ranking officers at the customs and told me that there is no such thing as fine. And despite telling her about our case, she seemed to show the "heck-care" attitute, is this because that this kind of issues happened too frequently? It is obvious that at their management level, it can be better well-managed, but till to what extend?

The whole experience was definitely unpleasant and has made a tainted impression of Malaysia on me. Now, I will think twice before even stepping into Malaysia. It is ironic that Malaysia wants more foreigners to visit their country when they do not enforce a certain standard to the people.

P.S. This post is written with no intentions of flaming the country nor the people. Just expressing my point of view on this particular experience.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru @ Liang Court, Singapore

I love eating food. Food that is not only appetizing for the stomach, but for the eyes too. The Japanese, I did say, hold great pride in the preparation and presentation of their cuisine. Take a piece of salmon sushi for example, although seemingly simple, what's hidden behind it is years and years of practice and experience, resulting in a show of delicate knife skills and worksmanship turning the simplest ingredients to delectable, yet beautiful dishes.
 
And Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru is an example of that. Located at the basement of Liang Court, this newly-opened Japanese restaurant is recommended by one of the friends and sure, why not go for it?
 

Their sushi are categorized into different range of prices from S$1.80 to S$6.80. Ingredients are imported from Japan at a regular basis to ensure only the freshest and most authentic is served to customers.
 
Aburi Cheese Ebi (S$2.80) is one of my favourites among the many. The fresh shimps topped with seared mozarella cheese is real irresistible.

 
Top seller - Ebi Avocado (S$2.80) tasted amazing as well. Soft avocado flesh with succulent shrimps, drizzled with mayonaise and topped with roes is probably one of the best creations the Japanese came out with.
 

Chutoro (S$5.80 for 1 pc) - Fatty Tuna sushi is incredibly soft, unlike salmon sashimi, tuna doesn't melts that much in contact with the tongue. However, this piece of prized cut has just the right density of meat and fats. I wouldn't recommend dipping this beauty in condiments, but just savour the fresh, original taste itself.


Big Salmon (S$2.80 for 2pc) - what can I say other than beautifully rendered salmon slices that melts one's heart. I had never had salmon sushi with such a big slab of fresh sashimi, this was my first and it was good, real good in fact.



We also had Peiyi's favourite Tamago (S$1.80), Tuna Corn (S$1.80), Namagaki (S$4.80) - raw oyster sashimi, and Aburi Salmon (S$2.80). For the salmon, it was a tad too raw, I prefer Genki Sushi's rendition better.


 
Quite the staple when we are eating Japanese cuisine, we ordered their steamed egg custard, Chawanmushi (S$3.80) as well. Their version is very much softer than the usual and breaks upon the slightest contact, try imagining traditional tau huey (soy beancurd). Tasteful and delicious - I recommend this.


Assorted Tempura (S$10.60) done right. Delectable, crunchy shrimps and vegetables deep fried nicely. For some reasons, I don't eat the tempura with the sauce given, well.. Maybe I love the crunch more.


Takokara (S$6.80) - Deep fried octopus was quite a disappointment. It was too hard and chewy.


Dorayaki Ice Cream (S$4.80) - Soft Japanese sponge cake with crispy fillings topped with Vanilla Ice cream is a must-try. It comes in a nice warm temperature which goes just well with the cold counterpart.

 
I managed to get some Warabi Mochi (S$5.80) - Green Tea Rice Cake from Peiyi's sister, Eliza. Their version was just nice and not heavily flavoured, somehow I wished there could be some green tea ice cream in the mochi itself. But, take my word for it when I tell you it goes super well with the ice cream and red bean paste.

 

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru gave me a pretty positive experience, as it promises a wide range of fresh, delectable sushi and other assortments to be served daily. Besides that, it has definitely set a certain standard for Japanese restaurants that I will be visiting in the future.
 
 

 
 
Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru
 
Tel:  6337 1022
 
Operating Hours:
Daily 11am to 9.50pm
 
117 River Valley Road
#B1-48
Liang Court



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Xi Men Ding @ Vivocity, Singapore

I am pretty sure the well-known shopping district in Taiwan - Xi Men Ding is no stranger to most of you. A fast-rising source of fashion and culture, Xi Men Ding is also home to the greatest food in Taipei. Since popular local food stalls which boast authentic Taiwanese delicacies are on the rise nowadays, one can easily enjoy a taste of Taiwan here.

Girlfriend Peiyi and I would be heading to Taipei soon in mid-November 2012, and we thought, why not try something in preparation for our trip? We were in Vivocity at that point of time, and Xi Men Ding was quite the obvious choice. There was a short queue of approximately 6 people, but we were seated within 5 minutes.

Anyway, we took notice of their signature fried rice - an impressive looking Taiwanese-style Grilled Roe Fried Rice (S$11.00). It was quite a disappointment when the grilled fish roes came 50% smaller than the ones in pictures. (Blame it on the "for illustration purpose only") Nevertheless, the fried rice was well fragranced and everything - the crunchy cabbage, spring onions and scrambled eggs came to mix perfectly with the heavily flavoured roes.


Another speciality - San Bei Chicken with Basil (S$18.90) was slightly bland and overcooked, resulting in juice-less and hard chicken chunks. As a matter of fact, with the exhorbitant price, I could get better quality as well as quantity, at the neighbourhood tze char stall below the block. 
 

Fresh Fish Slices w/ Miso Soup (S$6.90) was delectable with the generous portions of mushrooms and fish slices (you don't see it in the picture cos' they are at the bottom).


Xi Men Ding also serves a selection of Flower Tea Balls and Floral Tea. With the typical soft drinks going about at the same price, we rather go for a healthier alternative. Hence, we had Osmanthus Tea (S$8.00). I supposed that osmanthus tea emits a strong, sweet fragrance, but this was just bland.

 
Contrary to what many food reviews said about their terrible service, I found it acceptable - the service staff smiled and greeted us. That is pure basic service techniques. However, there was once I requested a waitress to clear up a minor spillage on our table, but she totally forgot about it. Xi Men Ding is probably another restaurant that I will say "this is my first, and the last", as they failed to create any "wow" factors (except for the pricings) or any other reasons I should visit them again.




Xi Men Ding Taiwan Cuisine

Tel: 63768018

Operating Hours
Daily: 12:00 - 22:00

1 HarbourFront Walk
#01-51A
VivoCity

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Teddy Bear Museum & Namsan Tower @ Seoul, Korea

Located at the outskirts of Myeongdong stood the landmark of Seoul - Namsan Tower, a 777ft tall communication and observatory building that cost approximately $2.5m to build. Officially known as CJ Seoul Tower (or better known as Seoul Tower), it was built in 1969 but only opened to the public 11 years later at 1980. Since then, Namsan Tower has become a favourite hotspot for tourists and romantic young couples who would hang named padlocks (and throwing away the key) on the tower fence as a symbol of love.

As for a tourist and kiasu Singaporean like myself, it is with pure sensible thinking that I have to make a trip up to Namsan Tower during the cold winters of 2010, when I was a student volunteer in ACM Siggraph Asia. 

Besides the superb view and lovey-dovey, in year 2008 - the Teddy Bear Museum was introduced into the Namsan Tower. Using amusing bear miniatures, it exhibits the chronicles of the capital of Korea, from the Joseon Dynasty to present, as well as the developments of Seoul.  

As they say, pictures speak a thousand words..









There is even a "green-screen" platform where you get to take pictures with the bears. Just simply choose the settings and snap away!


Besides the cute miniatures, the museum also housed a few human-sized bears. Good for taking photos (and hugging) with! There is also a small section with luxury teddy bears from the past made by premium toy-maker, Steiff.

Can't "bear" to leave them? How about buying one at the gift store at the end of the museum trail? Some are limited edition and might cost a lot, but when your inner child is begging for it, who cares about the little money spend?




We bought the "Observatory Package" which includes entrance to the Teddy Bear Museum as well as the observatory deck. It offers paranomic 360 degrees of the city landscape from the observatory of Namsan Tower. Although there is no doubt that it would be magnificent in the morning, I highly recommend to visit around 6pm to 9pm when the tower transformed itself into a beautiful light emitting beacon.




Even the view from the restroom is impressive!


The Namsan Tower also houses several cafe and restaurant, including the well-known N GRILL which serves steaks and grills at the highest location atop of the tower. The cool factor? It is a rotating restaurant with a rotating speed of 100 minutes per round.

Admission / Participation Fees
Teddy Bear Museum
- Adults (19+): 8,000 won
- Teenagers (14-18): 6,000 won
- Children (13 or younger): 5,000 won


Observatory Package (Teddy Bear Museum + N Seoul Tower Observatory)
- Adults (19+): 12,000 won
- Teenagers (14~18): 8,000 won
- Children (13 or younger): 6,000 won

Click here for directions.

For more information on Teddy Bear Museum, please visit their official website:
http://www.teddybearmuseum.co.kr/Etc/English.asp

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Big Mama Korean Restaurant @ Tiong Bahru, Singapore

Before the recent "Gangnam Style" craze, there was former tutor and caretaker Ji-young Nam Gung - or better known as "Big Mama" cooking up a storm in her humble eatery, located just a stone throw away from Tiong Bahru Plaza. Her authentic home-cooked Korean dishes are a favourite to many, especially Korean students who came to savour a taste of home.

Similar to any other Korean restaurants, diners are greeted to an array of assorted banchan (side dishes) to accompany your mains. At Big Mama's, we were served with kimchi (traditional fermented vegetables), marinated watercress, crunchy lotus roots, japchae (sweet potato noodles), anchovies and mook (acorn jelly). And the best thing? It is free-of-charge and refillable!

Yummy japchae - probably my favourite besides kimchi
 
Glorious Crunchy Anchovies

Girlfriend Peiyi and I ordered their speciality, Dakgalbi (S$15.00 per pax, min 2) - marinated chicken thigh chunks, chewy rice cakes, sliced cabbages and onions stir-fried together with generous drizzles of condiments and red chilli pepper paste. Additional sides, such as fried rice comes at different prices.

Don't know how to cook? Fret not, for their service staff are trained to make the simplest ingredients to the signature, mouth-watering Dakgalbi!

Apparently, ours came in an overly-awkward shape.

Mix. Mix. Mix.

Their Dakgalbi reminded me of the ones I had in Korea a few years back. The well-marinated spicy chicken chunks were incredibly good and tasty, while the rice cakes were so so soft and chewy (I am putting heavy emphasis on "so"). This is definitely one of the best Korean dishes I had in Singapore.

Just a tip - add a bowl of steamed rice and stir fry them together!


 "I love it when it is clean" (referring to the dishes), one of the service staff told us with a slight aegyo. And yes, we indeed cleared out every single plate on our tables. Although not an atas restaurant, Big Mama makes authentic and scrumptious Korean dishes without burning a big hole in your wallet.




Big Mama Korean Restaurant

Tel: +65 6270 7704

Opening Hours
11:30am – 2:30pm,
5:30pm – 11:0pm
Closed on most Mondays

2 Kim Tian Road
Tiong Bahru

Monday, October 22, 2012

Saybons by French Food Factory @ Plaza Singapura, Singapore

Inspired by the French phrase - C'est Bon which means "it's good", Saybons  started with an objective to make authentic French classics fuss-free, yet affordable and accessible. Bromance ZR, Brother Tim and I were deciding on our makan place after church service, when I suggested having a cup of hot classic French soup and some savoury crepes at Saybons.

 
Talking about those mouth-watering crepes, Saybons probably serves one of the best (and yet wallet-friendly) in Singapore. These waffle-thin pancakes (prices range between S$3 - $5) are made using a French-style secret recipe, consisting of just the right amount of batter and, tasted light and buttery, paired with their wide range of sweet or savoury ingredients - one huge YUM.

I also love how they make it chewy but with a slight crisp on the edges. And for convenience sake, these crepes are served in a paper pocket.. Better to enjoy it while it's piping hot!

 Smoked Salmon, Onions and Cheddar Cheese

 Sauteed Portobello and Button Mushrooms, with Cheddar Cheese

We also had a variety of classic French soups (from right) Potato & Leek, Wild Mushroom and Fresh Tomato. Using only the freshest food ingredients, these delectable soups are a healthy alternative to your usual artificial drinks or "as a delicious complement to your regular meal." They also take pride in their traditional French cooking techniques, resulting in a refined, smooth texture with no irregular bits or chunks in the soups.

One can even (or rather, the proper technique is to) drink the 8oz soup without any soup spoon, instead sip it as if you are drinking coffee or tea.


Still filling hungry? They also serve other affordable French dishes, such as breads, salads and a variety of escargots as well. You can even design your own crepe, with more than 10 toppings to choose from.




Saybons by French Food Factory

Tel: 68849018

Opening Hours
Daily: 10:00 - 22:00

68 Orchard Road
#B2-30/31/32
Plaza Singapura

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao @ Holland Village, Singapore

I remembered the first time I had Xiao Long Bao, it was in this particular Crystal Jade restaurant and till today, the vivid memory of my awkward fumbling of these delicate art pieces still haunts me. Due to my virgin experience and ignorance, I didn't knew the existence of a small pouch of soup wrapped beneath the thin, delicate dumpling skin. At that time, I sucked at using chopsticks and the way I picked things up - it's to poke them. Things happened and my lovely Xiao Long Bao was ruined.

Recently, dear Peiyi and I had the chance to visit this famous Shanghai-nese restaurant during the weekdays. And oh my, customers were already queueing up, but again, lucky us for we were seated within 15 minutes. Those with bigger groups had to wait up to almost an hour (and again I stressed - it was a weekday!)
Xiao Long Bao (S$4.80 for 4) was glorious. The dumpling skin was just right and the broth complemented the juicy minced pork meat. Mother Kook called me stupid for not eating it with vinegar (which I don't, I detest the smell), but let me tell you that this beauties go well without vinegar and shredded ginger too. Just do not make the same mistake as me.

Pan Fried Pork Bun (S$4.00 for 3) does not lose out. Sink your teeth into these soft fragrant bun and savour the succulent fillings. I thought this yummy buns look like the classic Meat Pao, but just pan fried and upgraded like four levels up.


Ohh-la-la. 

Salted Nanjing Duck (S$8.50) was a tad hard for my liking. Nevertheless, these beautiful duck slices were luscious with a thin layer of fat. Just look at the soft pinkish-red meat! However, I always preferred eating duck drenched in Chinese braised sauce, so this does not appeal to me much.


Lastly, we had Crystal Jade speciality La Mian with Braised Beef (S$8.50). The beef was so tender and juicy, especially the tendons, which I totally love them. (while girlfriend finds them fross. Weird.) Their speciality noodles were definitely one of the best in Singapore, with the spot-on chewiness. But what I wanted to praise most is what holds this entire dish together - the broth. Thick brown soup made of long-simmered ingredients, it brings forth a subtle sweet and herbal  aroma that makes you want to devour this dish.


Besides ala-carte, Crystal Jade (Holland Village) also presents a South-Northern buffet experience which includes steamboat and a huge variety of appetizers, meat, drinks and dim-sum. The best part is that you get all the Xiao Long Bao you can eat!

A very useful tip - do your reservations! Walking in for the buffet guarantees near 0% you can get a table at dinner hours.




Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao

Tel: 64630968

Opening Hours
Mon - Fri: 11:00 - 22:30
Sat - Sun: 10:30 - 22:30

241/241A Holland Avenue
Holland Village