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Friday, April 30, 2010

Ministry of Steak at Serangoon Gardens

The outlook (decor/lighting) of this relatively new kid on the block (which wasn't here before the renovations) looked inviting and the pics and the prices on the menu displayed outside suggested that this would be a place for good steak at a cheap price. Seating wasn't an issue at almost 9pm and service was prompt enough. The cost of the 2 dishes below (and a drink) was about SGD 27 with the fish dish at about SGD 7 and the beef about SGD 17.

The Slog Reviews: 4/10. The cooking leaves a lot, and I mean a LOT to be desired. The sides were awful enough that most of it remained uneaten despite our best efforts. Nevermind about the wasting of one's $ here, dinner at this place made me feel that we'd wasted our "hard-to-get" parking lot at Serangoon Gardens too (which was a greater pity than the $ spent). The food at the hawker center beats the over-priced unsatisfying dishes and if one must have steak, the astons outlet just 10 foosteps away from this joint is the place to go to for better food at an almost similar price. Oh yes, and this place doesn't accept credit cards either. Thumbs down all the way.

Shutter Island (2010) Movie

This is one of those movies that sends me straight to google find all I can find on it so as to rid myself effectively of the niggling feeling of uncertainty left in my head (What was the ending?!). And it really didn't help that I missed the last 10mins of the movie (not through any fault of mine,)

Guess what? The result of googling didn't get rid of that niggling feeling - instead, I now know I absolutely have to watch the movie again as well as borrow the book (Shutter Island by Dennis Lehans) which the movie was adapted from. Apparently, one of the twists/parts left for intepretation by the viewer is right at the very end when the lead character asks/declares "Would you rather live as a monster or die as a hero?"

Assuming that the first twist to the movie was accurate ie that Teddy was actually an insane patient on the island who had shot dead his wife for drowning their 3 children due to a manic-depressive state, the debate on the net rages over whether the last line was a declarative statement. I read on the net that the author of the book said that his take that the sentence was not, because if it was, then the lobotomy would have been halted since Teddy shows self-awareness. Others on the net have taken the view that Teddy made the conscious choice to be lobotomised and have the memories of his past erased because he could not live with them - this view was derived based on the "look" that Teddy gave to Chuck/Dr Sheehan when Teddy made the statement and also given Teddy's sufferings - migraines and flashbacks and dreams of his beloved dead wife when he says oh, so brokenly, "please don't leave me". I particularly like the dream where she is in his arms and everything around including her turns to ashes (which gels with what Teddy believes in his delusional state as Andrew - that his wife died in a fire) but blood flows from her stomach (which is the real memory).

The Slog Reviews: 9/10. I can do no better than to quote one of the reviews I stumbled upon on the net "The point of "Shutter Island" is that there is no truth and there is no reality. The genius of the storyline is that two people can watch the film and walk away with completely opposite perceptions of what actually happened - and *both* and *neither* are correct all at once. What the movie is really attempting to show us is that one person's reality is another person's fantasy - a perfect demonstration of how the world is seen by the sane and the insane. " It also helps that the shots and acting is superb. If you are a fan of Leo, you might be saddened as I was by the deep crease between his eyes - ah, how fleeting youth can be!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Date Night (2010) Movie

A really good and comprehensive review of this movie can be found here.

The Slog Reviews: 7.5/10. An entertaining but forgettable comedy. It was hilarious that everyone, including the crooks, were aghast and outraged by the 2 lead characters stealing another couple's reservation at a really popular restaurant resulting in a case of mistaken identity. Would you do that? Take another person's reservation at a restaurant by pretending to be that person (if it is apparent that the person isn't around at the time)? Anyway, the most serious theme explored briefly in the movie was the reality of marriage life but that aside, the rest of the movie was light-hearted with a mixture of slapstick comedy and repartees. Good for laughs at the end of a hard day is my take on this flick.

Grand Straits Garden Restaurant / Restoran (yet again)

As mentioned in my earlier post on this Grand Straits Garden Restaurant (click here), 1 of my food companions has developed an incurable and insatiable desire for the herbal prawns served by this restaurant so despite my suggestion to try other restaurants in JB, he bargained hard to satisfy his desire at this restaurant yet again...This is the third time that we've been there in 2 months and we are getting quite familiar with the staff there.

Now, this food companion is a creature of habit and he would have ordered the exact same items as the previous 2 times except that I put my foot down and as a minor concession, we ordered a different vegetable dish instead of the sambal kangkong which I still highly recommend. Since I've already reviewed the other 2 dishes in the pic, The Slog Reviews: 6.5/10 for the Poached Kow Kee with Century Egg & Salted Egg which cost RM21 for a small portion. Almost tasteless gravy with dark green spinach and eggs which isn;t worth the price or the calories. Do not order.

We waited 30mins for the dessert which we only after ordered the meal because the veg dish failed to, in my boss's parlance, "hit the spot". To be fair, the staff did warn us that the dessert would take that long to prepare because they had to do what we ordered - black sesame with ice cream- from scratch. Below is a pic of the dessert which cost RM8 each (SGD 3.50). The Slog Reviews: 8/10 - the dessert was well-presented with the hot sesame at the bottom and the cold ice cream melting on top and I would recommend this dessert to those looking to end a meal at the restaurant on a sweet note.

The cost of the meal (with 2 bowls of rice and 1 can of coke) came to RM90 (SGD 36) which I thought was a bit pricy for JB standards given that we had only ordered clams as live seafood. But I suppose that's the price to pay for the ambiance and service which is exceptionally better than other restaurants in JB.

The worst bak kut teh (in Johor at least) - Restoran Hong Tat Bak Kut Teh

I've been having an insatiable craving since last week for some really good bak kut teh (pork ribs in soup and spices), the kind where the meat slides off the bones and the boiling hebal soup leaves a pleasant aftermath on the tongue and in the belly. The kind found at the bak kut teh stall on the first floor of Hong Lim Complex hawker centre nearest Chinatown Pt or the kind found at the bak kut teh stalls at Beach Road for eg. Blissful Cafe (at No 29-31 Sultan Gate Tel No: 62988538) where I managed to satisfy my craving finally during lunch hour today with a small bowl of bak kut teh soup for SGD 5 only.

I have heard that there are quite a few famous bak kut teh stalls in JB and so, after work on a cold rainy day, I was insistent on having bak kut teh soup and having it without having to wait a long time because I was starving. The price to pay for my impatience and greed was an unpleasant experience eating at Restoran Hong Tat Bak Kut Teh located at No 93 Jln Sutera Tanjung 8/2, Tmn Sutera Utama 81300 Skudai.

The restaurant had quite a no. of people, was well-lit and clean so we decided to try out the place, figuring that it would be decent. Well, it wasn't. We ordered bak kut teh for 2 pp (RM16), 2 bowls of rice, and beancurd with minced pork (RM8). Here's a pic of the dishes.

The Slog Reviews: 0/10. Absolutely do not waste a penny eating at this shop. The bak kut teh soup was watery (without a strong herbal taste) and the meat was tough and tasteless. The portion meant for 2 was hardly sufficient for 1 person, with less than 6 small pcs of meat. There was barely enough soup and when we asked for a refill, the first refill came promptly enough but for our second request, we were ignored twice. Or rather, the server agreed to bring more soup but never did despite our reminders (She went about serving the other tables). Apparently this shop has been opened for 8 months and that should be long enough time for the food and service standards to be of far superior quality than what we had experienced. I would as such, recommend giving this restaurant a miss - a meal at the many other restaurants in the same area would no doubt yield a more pleasant and satisfying experience.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Prawn Fishing at Bishan again (2nd time)

Due to an opportunity to be in the North area, I decided to bring a colleague located in the North side, prawn fishing at Sin Ming Prawn Fishing during lunch-time. At about 12.30pm, there weren't too many people prawn fishing (about 5-6 groups per pond) and with the good weather and "beginner's luck" that she had, we had a great time catching these 7 prawns in the short one hour! And yes, the large blue big-head prawn was a most welcome surprise (her second prawn), large claws and all. All the prawns in our net are missing their claws because I used the plier to remove them before unhooking the prawns.

Having purchased the 3hrs package which cost SGD30 instead of 1hr SGD 15, I returned later in the night about 11pm to complete the balance 2 hours by myself. Apparently if you return after 24 hours, you would have to purchase 1 more hr to make 3 hrs. Anyway, even at 11pm on a weekday night, the place was crowded. I got a seat at the same spot where we sat in the afternoon next to an uncle who was using live fish as bait. From the prawns in his net, it was evident that fish makes a better bait than worms and chicken liver for prawns. We got to talking and he offered me a fish for bait. There was a take less than 8mins later but given the trouble of transporting live fishes, I'll be sticking to worms for now which can be purchased at SGD 4 and are easy to saw or just tear apart for bait.

The Slog Reviews: 9/10. Now, I did something absolutely stupid this time when prawn fishing. Instead of threading the net through the vertical part of the pole holder, because of the size of the loop,I threaded the net through the horizontal part instead and after half an hour of prawn fishing when I had caught about 4 prawns, the entire net slipped off and fell into the pond. I didn't realise what had happened until I caught the 5th prawn and could not find my net. The white-haired uncle behind the counter was sympathetic to my plight and used a bamboo pole to hook up my net. All my 4 prawns were gone of course...he said he would give me more so I continued to prawn fish until the 2 hours were up (the lady at the counter was very precise about the time which is the 1 thing I don't like about Bishan Prawn Fishing). True to his word, he got the Chinese lady to give me some prawns and she gave me about 7 small prawns. Added to my catch, I took home 14 prawns from the 2 hours. Now how's that for decency and good service - the prawn fishing place wasn't obliged to give me any prawns, much less when I had been careless in placing my net. Hence, as I said before and would stress again, human r/s are most impt when it comes to prawn fishing too! :D That being said, based on my previous experience, I would estimate that the average catch rate at Sin Ming Prawn Fishing is 7 prawns an hour per rod which brings the cost of each prawn to SGD1.50.

Up in the Air (2009) Movie

Every once in a long while, we happen to catch a movie that really speaks to us, that we can relate to, and this movie, Up in the Air ("UA") is that movie for me. So, my review of the movie is going to be far from partial.

The Slog Reviews: 9/10. It's not possible to review this movie at all. The most decent attempt I could find on the web is here. I don't think I could do better than that review. So, I'll just say that you have to sit there and watch it. All 2hours of it. And it will not be a waste of your limited time here on this earth.

As the director put it"The movie is about the examination of a philosophy. What if you decided to live hub to hub, with nothing, with nobody?"

The lead character, Ryan Bingham is depicted as living out the aforementioned philosophy in his job which involves flying an average of 11 months a year to various companies in the big US of A retrenching workers. He is shown at the start of the film to live out of a small cabin-sized suitcase with cordial but distant family ties to his two sisters. He gets elite status at airlines, hotels and car rentals by virtue of his frequent patronage and one of his goals is to be part of a club with less than 10 members in the whole world - the club where members have chalked up at least 10 million airmiles. He admits happily to never having considered marriage or children and is observed to be happier than those who are married. In fact, he gives motivational seminars where he encourages participants to imagine putting all that they own/all their relationship in a backpack. Participants are then asked to imagine the weight of all in the backpack, the straps biting into their shoulders and their progress forward slowed down by the heavy burden they tote around. In short, Ryan believes whole-heartedly that one should go through life unencumbered with anything (including relationships) and anyone.

That is until he meets 2 women in succession. 1 of them is Alex whom he meets at an airport lounge and is also a frequent flyer. She has an exceptionally amazing body (we see her naked from the back) seriously. Esp for a woman that age. The other woman is young Cornell graduate Natalie who is the flavor of the month with the boss of his company.Natalie seeks to introduce a new program which will reduce cost for the co - the new program will allow termination to be done via video teleconferencing instead of face to face with the workers to be laid-off. Anyway, Ryan gets romantically involved with Alex and when he describes the relationship with her as "casual" to Natalie, Natalie goes off on him about the importance of relationships and calls him immature. So Ryan decides to get more serious with Alex and invites her to his sister's wedding. There, the groom gets cold feet on the day of the wedding - ah, that's the part to watch-and the groom questions the whole point of it - marriage, having children, getting old and dying. Ryan is forced to give the groom a pep talk by Ryan's older sister, and the pep talk is against what Ryan has always believed in but he does such a good job of talking about going through life with a co-pilot that the groom gets up and proceeds with the wedding. Alex and Ryan's relationship are shown to deepen more during that period and when Ryan is asked to give a talk about the backpack, he walks out after the first sentence. He goes to Chicago where Alex is and finds out that she is married with kids. She calls him later and explains to him that all he is is an escape from her real life and that she is adult about it and he can still call her. He hangs up the phone without saying bye. After that he is shown to achieve his goal of 10million miles and when the captain asks him where he is from, he says from here - as in, up in the air, he doesn't have anywhere else or anyone to call home. When he goes back to the office, he finds that Natalie has quit. 1 of the axed workers they had met killed herself as she said she would.

Now through Natalie's character, 1 of the themes explored is about the humanity of terminating someone via any method than face to face. She introduces teleconferencing to terminate workers to save cost for the company but her boyfriend whom she said, fits her checklist and whom she moved to Omaha to be with, "terminates" the relationship with her via sms "we should see other pp". It is perhaps then that she has doubts about her work. And it comes to a head when she views the varied reactions of those who have been told that they are laid off - her planned standard reply of "people who have conquered mountains have sat where you have" seem inadequate in the face of the tears, fears and anger of those told "that their position in the company is no longer available". Natalie's character is also used to challenge Ryan's way of life. At 1 point, he asks her to sell him "marriage" and when she asks him "what about dying alone" he tells her that his parents died alone in a foster home and that everyone dies alone" ie marriage doesn't solve this problem at all. This sounds familiar to me - I've read that at the end of our life, all we have is ourselves and God. Ah well. Natalie's character is also used to illustrate how marriage is really about settling after some point in time. Alex tells her that by the time a woman is 34, all requirements (for a man) go out of the window, and a woman only hopes that he is taller, has a headful of hair although this isn't a deal breaker and that he earns more than she does.

So well, for those who know me, I guess from the parts of the movie that I've focused on above, it would be easy to see how I relate to the movie and the characters. The movie doesn't have a happy ending I'm afraid - it shows Ryan going back to his life before Alex and Natalie - the one time that he abandons his philosophy and reaches out for a co-pilot in his life (Alex), he crashes and gets burnt (she's married w kids and all he is, is an escape!). So, I guess the movie doesn't provide hope, could be said to be mildly depressing but hey, isn't that life or how one could choose to look at and live life?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Frog Porridge at Tmn Century JB

It wasn't in our grand plan that evening to have frog porridge but it was a cold stormy wet day and we didn't know where to get really good bak kut teh which I had been craving for. So we decided to check out the durian stall along Tmn Century instead and behind it was a frog porridge stall - the first that I've seen and eaten at in Johor Bahru. It had a huge signboard "Geylang Lor 9" which presumably is the name of the stall and from my research on the net, a branch of our own Singapore famous frog porridge stall at Geylang Lor 9.

Now, I haven't eaten at our local stall before, not being a die-hard fan of eating frogs (although I do admit that I like frog legs fried) but as I was hungry, irritated (the durian stall was closed) and cold (it was cold as I said), we decided to have dinner at this stall/restoran on a whim. The menu looks like this - nothing more is printed on the back. The prices are clearly stated and I believe, due to the exchange rate difference, 20% cheaper than our local stall's.

The restaurant has indoor (airconditioning with 2 washrooms) seating and outdoor seating. Even though it was a weekday evening (Thurs?), the restaurant filled up rather quickly with both locals and our own fellow countrymen which leads one to the reasonable assumption that this branch is doing very well across the causeway. There are quite a number of employees, predominantly young local chinese-speaking males clad in red (see pic below) who while not the most generous with smiles, do a decent enough job of taking orders and bringing the food to you.
This is the frog porridge with 2 frogs (RM20) which we shared along with another bowl of plain porridge. It arrived steaming hot with the tender white chopped parts of two frogs mixed in near the bottom. The Slog Reviews: 8/10. Frog meat is 1 of the most tender meat around, softer than chicken even and without the fishy taste of fish. The frog meat in this bowl was no exception to the rule and the porridge was a thick gruel which proved to be filling and warm but rather bland.

We also ordered another dish per the pic below which consist of fried seaweed and chopped vegetable. I'm not sure what the name of the dish is (it was in Chi) but as you might have noticed, this dish is not on the menu. Because of the limited selection, we had asked our server if there were other vegetable dishes and after much hesitation, he suggested this dish. The cost was RM 8 but it really was quite tasty and the seaweed went well with the porridge.

The Slog Reviews: Total cost of a bowl of 2-frog porridge, plain porridge, barley drink and the seaweed dish above was RM33 which is about SGD 13 only for a filling dinner for 2 on a cold day.

Crossing Hennessy (2010) Movie

When will I learn? I need to put my foot down next time and say "no" to watching artistic films and to Chinese/Korean films if my gut tells me that I'm not going to enjoy it.

Initially, I thought the show was an English movie, given the high-sounding title, and was quite agreeable with having to wait 2 hours for the show to begin. Only after the tickets were paid for did I learn that the show was a Chinese movie. No, don't get me wrong I am not bias against Chinese movies. Yes, the aforementioned sentence was an untruth. I would pick an Eng movie to watch over a Chi one anytime but I have nothing against a really good Chinese movie.

The Slog Reviews: 5/10. I managed to find a really good summary of the movie here but I vehemently disagree with the last para of the summary which concludes that this movie is an enjoyable character drama. I disliked the ending which made absolutely no sense to me, I disliked the old large plump uncle carrying his blasted lapdog around, I disliked every single dastard character in the movie for that matter. I disliked my movie companion who suggested/insisted on this show and who after the show, proclaimed it to be "not-too-bad". It wasn't bad enough for me to want to leave the movie halfway but it was bad enough for me to wonder about wasting 120mins of my life watching other members of the species depicted with all their failings and weaknesses and little triumphs. Watch this movie at your own peril.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Grand Straits Garden Restaurant / Restoran

My boss has suggested going to JB for seafood one Fri evening and if there is any one restaurant which I would take the department to, it would be Grand Straits View Garden Restaurant located about the Danga Bay area. The restaurant which has huge (and I mean, really huge) convention halls for co events/weddings, as well as ample parking with security, boasts a really comprehensive menu with one of the widest selection of seafood I've come across in JB such as French Turbot Fish and the Alaska King Crab. Take note though that not ALL the seafood listed in the menu is available all the time. Hence, one would do well to make reservations/call beforehand if one is minded to try the more unusual items on the menu.

The restaurant has outdoor and indoor sitting area. During dinner about 7pm, there is some sort of a live band performing outdoors while those who prefer the airconditioned comfort can enjoy the Singaporean channels playing on the LCD TVs indoors. The live seafood is kept in these tanks and one can pick out one's meal from the tank.

I brought a seafood-loving friend to the restaurant one of the weeknights when petrol was low and we decided to each take out RM100 to indulge. We chose the largest crab with the largest claws in the tanks which was priced at RM 9 per kg. They did not weigh the crab in front of us which on hindsight, we should have asked them to. It was rather hard for me to believe that the crab below weighed more than 1kg (they charged us RM 108 for the critter below)!

The pic below is of the hapless critter chopped and cooked in black pepper sauce. The Slog Reviews: 8/10. The problem with doing reviews more than 1 month after eating is that the memory if blurred somewhat...I don't remember having any complaints at all with this dish. The crab was fresh (at SGD 40 it should be!) and the black pepper sauce satisfactory. However, we thought that for JB standards, this dish was...expensive!

Mouth-watering kangkong! I love kang kong and have ordered this dish at almost every Chinese restaurant I go to . And if anything, the kangkong at Grand Straits View Garden Restaurant scores 10/10 in The Slog Reviews. The veg is cooked to the right degree so that it isn't a soggy mash and has the right degree of crunchiness (stems) and wetness (the leaves). Even the belachan chilli is fresh and unqiue in the sense that it isn't a paste smeared (as with some other kang kong stores) but actually pretty crunchy too. Strongly recommended.

My food companion has, as a result of us ordering the herbal prawns (see pic below), developed a woman-like craving (haha) for herbal prawns ever since. He also finished most of the herbal soup which he claims is..."very good". The Slog Reviews: 10/10. Order at least the Medium-sized dish! It seems considerably larger than the Small version and the prawns are fresh and cooked to the right degree of firm sweetness. We did not see any live prawns in the tank so either these weren't live or they were kept in a tank elsewhere.

The last dish we put away was the large white clams priced at RM4 per 100gm with a min order of RM 300gm. One of the cheapest dishes on the menu. Fresh and good but the chilli isn't spicy though.

The Slog Reviews: 8.5/10. This is probably one of the more/most expensive seafood restaurants in JB but the price may be said to be justifiable given the quality of the food, the service standards, the ambiance and security of the restaurant. Not a place to go if one wants cheap good seafood, but a place to be if the aforementioned are of concern/importance and if one wants a wider (and more unique) range of seafood to choose from.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Botak Jones at Marine Parade

I'd first heard of Botak Jones back in 2008 but had never eaten there until early this year with another food companion. It was an impromptu decision to drive all the way to the Marine Parade outlet but it was I who had a craving for steak, and more importantly, it was I who was in the driver's seat. :D

The outlet in Marine Parade, as is the case for most of the other outlets, is located in a coffeeshop surrounded by HDB flats - truely a case of bringing steak/western food to the heartlands. The service at this outlet was reasonably good given the youth and enthusiasm of the servers. We were shown to a seat and given a menu each. Given the rather limited selection, deciding what to eat was easy but one had to get up and go to the order point (see pic below) to order one's food and pay before eating. The servers politely refused to take orders from seated customers. I wonder why. That would have improved the experience considerably given how difficult it is for inert objects such as an ass on the chair to be displaced.

We each ordered the 200gm Botak Jones NZ Ribeye Steak (SGD15.90). The server informed us that there wld be a discount of 10% if one paid with a Citibank Card for orders above SGD 30. While waiting for the food to come, we noted that there were quite a number of customers who ordered takeaways such as fries.

The wait for the steak was about 13mins but there was a television at the coffeeshop so the waiting time went by pleasantly enough. The Slog Reviews: Without taking into account the service (the servers were friendly and even offered more sauce), I would rate the food 7.5/10 based on the price and taste. I wasn't expecting Astons Prime's standard or even close but this steak by Botak Jones was really nothing to shout above or dig into with great gusto. It was more oily/greasy than tasty and therefore not satisfying ie did not hit the spot. I'm all about second chances though so I'll probably give Botak Jones another go but at a different outlet.

Keeping healthy

I was looking through my blog and I thought, that's a quite a load of food (and most of them unhealthy at that!) that I've consumed. And those blog entries reflect but 1/3 of the amount of food I put away and haven't any pictures of. The other 1/3 would be those of food items eaten on a daily basis or for the xth no of times (fav restaurants fav food) and the remaining 1/3 would be those of food where although my finger twitches and I ache nothing more to take a picture of the exquisite fine-dining / expensive cuisine in front of me, the environment or my food companions compel me to put away my trusty Sony Ericsson camera phone and sigh deeply inside at a wasted opportunity - those are, as you have rightly guessed, company functions/lunches/dinners.

Anyway, I digress. After some persuasion and doubts cast on my state of health given all the eating I have done and persist in doing, in early April this year, I did a lab test (blood urine (fasting)), named Intl Women Day which provided complimentary screening (markers) for ovary and breast cancer as well. Having no idea of what my cholesterol levels were/are, I was in suspense for 2 whole days until the results were finally sent over by email.AND, guess what.

For the Haematology examination, everything was normal except for ESR (Westergren) where my score was 58mm/hr (normal for females would be 1-20). The conclusion at the bottom of the numbers was: RBC: Normochormic normocytic WBC: Morphologically normal and Platelet: Adequate.

For the Renal function test, all my test results for sodium, potassium, choloride, Urea, Creatinine and Uric Acid (5.6) fell nicely into the normal range. Likewise for the Liver function test where I tested normal for total protein (7.3) Albumin, Globulin, A/G Ratio, Total Bilirubin etc. And for the Lipids Studies, my cholesterol came up to 180mg/dl with HDL at 45 and LDL at 93 while total Chol/HDL-Chol = 4. The Triglycerides level was slightly higher than normal.Bah.

And there were other stuff like Blood Glucose where I tested 86mg/dl and Free T4 (1.13ng/dl), Calcium (9.3mg/dl) and phosphorus (3.5mg/dl). Rheumaoid Factor was <20iu/ml>the conclusion is that I am as healthy as a farm workhorse(unless the ESR means something really bad) despite my voracious appetite. :D And for that I am much grateful indeed - the thank you list starts from God, goes down to my parents (studies have shown how important genes can be!) and to those who have encouraged me to have a healthier lifestyle!

I guess hitting the gym at least 2-3 times a week and running at least 3km in half an hour has helped offset all the munching I do. And probably the act of taking a multi-vitamin in addition to these daily too (the Omega 3-6-9 is the latest acquisition, a result of the lab test results):

I am no lab rat or vitamin junkie but health is so much more precious than wealth!

U.S Kurobuta Pork Chop and Aged Beef by Astons Prime

If my last meal on earth had to be Western food, I would choose to have the U.S Kurobuta Pork Chop from Astons Prime. The first time I tried the pork chop was back in 2008 and the experience was one of such undescribable pleasure that I have been minded to repeat the experience a limited no of times so as not to diminish each experience or the size of my wallet for that matter.

The last time I had the Black Pig Pork Chop (Kuro means "black" and Buta means "Pig" in Japanese) was last week when we were out to celebrate our boss's birthday. I'd suggested new alternatives (the dept has been to Astons before) like Uluru, Bedrock and Hogsbreath but she stuck to the true and tried and to Astons we went. At our persuasion she ordered the special which was Aged Beef at SGD 40+. This is a pic of how it looked like with her choice of sides. Unfortunately this was one of the rare occasions when I left my HP in the office so all the pics in this entry are taken with my colleague's 2megapix sony errisson hp.

Our boss's action (of finishing everything on the plate) was in sync with her words (she said it was excellent!) and given her discerning palate (which unlike mine has tasted better and finer food and on a more frequent basis), I would proclaim with great confidence that Astons Prime's aged beef rocks and is a must-try. One day, I too shall test out the restaurant's claim (on a small placard on each table that "the savoury tastes of dry-aged beef are often associated with "buttery and rich", "superb in taste and texture", "mellow and intense" and "earthy and nutty". In the mean time, I was most satisfied with the black pig pork chop which came with my favourite sides of cheesy shells and mashed potato. Pork chop? It hardly tasted porky!

The Slog Reviews: 10/10. How exquisite, tender, melt-in-mouth each "done-to-perfection" piece of pork was. As I type this while looking at the pic below of myUS Kurobuta Pork Chop sliced to show the thickness and juicy perfection of the meat, my saliva glans have gone into major overdrive. Eating such food makes me never fails to make me grateful to be alive - ah, the small affordable (SGD 29.90) pleasures in life!

We ended the meal with dessert of course, despite all of us cleaning our plates with great relish. The famous mudpie which is reasonably priced at SGD6.90 and big enough for 2-3 pp to share was a sweet ending to a smashing meal.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bukit Mata Seafood at Permata Kuching on 6th March 2010

I had some time in the evening after visiting the Cat Museum, so I decided to drop by the largest and most modern mall in Kuching - The Spring. This is a pic of the building which I took from the car. The place was packed full of cars as well as taxis along the mainroad and I heard that the parking situation could get so bad that visitors would have to park across the road. The Spring doesn't sell branded goods (LV,Prada,Chanel and the like) but other mid-market brands like Levis, Mango and MPH. There is also a supermarket at the basement level and a cinema on the top floor - if I am not wrong, that's the only mall in Kuching which has a cinema.

After shopping, it was time to go for dinner at Bukit Mata Seafood Centre located at the top/6th floor of Permata Carpark. I had been here before (click here), and read all about it (click here) so I thought I knew what to expect but nah, I was wrong. There was massive renovation and upgrading works going on which meant that the popular stalls like ABC were closed in March 2010. A sign near the lift informed us that the renovation works would only be completed in July 2010 (if I rem rightly). (One should also note that the Centre doesn't open for business during lunch hours but about 6pm for dinner.) So, our group of 4 ended up patronising this stall "Ling Long Seafood" instead.

This vegetable below is unique to Sarawak (tried it for the first time in Sibu) and isn't available in Singapore at all. This is how the vegetable/fern looks before it is cooked.

And this is how the vegetable looks after it has been cooked. The Slog Reviews: 8/10. The taste isn't bitter at all if cooked well and is rather tasty and mushy. But then again, I am partial to dark green vegetables. Still, it is very affordable (RM 10) and well worth a try. I can't figure out though why this veg isn't sold in Singapore and can't be grown here or in West Msia. Readers of my blog, please enlighten me.

The picture below shows the first four dishes which arrived - sweet and sour soup, the unique sarawak veg and another kind of very dark green veg cooked with egg. The other dish was ordinary butter prawns. The Slog Reviews: 7.5/10 for the cereal prawns which wasn't too bad but tasted pretty much as any such dish from a local coffeeshop would. It might be more worthwhile for travellers to order the river prawns with blue claws instead.

Forgetting my less than excellent encounter with this species of prawns in KK, I ordered the biggest prawn available at the stall. The prawn filled the entire plate! I think I am into oversized prawns bigtime. :D

And here's a picture of the prawn after it was cooked. The Slog Reviews: 3/10. Do not, and I repeat do not order this dish from Ling Long. While the prawn was not stale (it was dead compared to the live one which we chose at KK), the method of cooking below as recommended by the stall, failed to bring out the flavor of the prawn at all...but then I'm assuming that the prawn should be sweet to begin with. The black sauce and ginger did not go with the prawn thus rendering the eating process a chore rather than pleasure. The cost was RM12/100gm.

I also ordered a fish from the many dead ones packed in ice arrayed nicely at the stall. The stall holder suggested a type of fish popular in Sarawak and which had fish eggs. This is how the fish looked like after it was cooked. The Slog Reviews: 2/10. Again, do not, and I repeat tiredly, do not order this fish with its unique scales - it was terribly bony without much meat and whatever meat there was was cooked to dry blandness. As for the fish eggs (see top left of the plate), the stall overcooked the eggs resulting in flaky tasteless clumps of eggs instead of the delight that this dish is supposed to be. I guess Shee Yaan Restaurant at Muar has spoilt my taste buds thoroughly - that is the restaurant to go to for the best fish eggs (and how cheap they are!) , assam fish head and otak /otah.

The next dish - black pepper crab. The Slog Reviews: 6.5/10. The black pepper sauce was so cloying and the style of cooking so poor that pne could not taste the sweetness of the crab meat at all. I have eaten black pepper crabs where the smooth slick freshness of the crab meat (esp the crab legs) contrasts pleasantly with the black pepper sauce on the shell. Unfortunately, like the many other nicer and higher-end places that one goes to, because of one's wealthy, well-bred and lofty food companions then, it is not quite possible to take photos of the food. Still, the subconscious has filed away the sights and sensations of the experience and I can say with utmost certainty that the cooking skill of the person who prepared this dish leaves much to be desired indeed.

And the last dish - 2 female crabs. As evident from the picture below, the crabs did come with plenty of orange eggs but....The Slog Reviews: 6.5/10. The eggs were overcooked and the meat so ordinary tasting. What a complete disappointment! All the garnishing did not serve any purpose or add any flavor whatsoever except pose as an additional step to clear away.

To sum up, one would be able to deduce by now that I would not recommend ordering one's fresh seafood from this stall if ever one goes by Bukit Mata Centre in Kuching. Try Stall 25 - that's the best, absolutely best stall for cheap and good seafood. The wait is worth it.

Kuching Cat Museum and 360 Hotel on 6th March 2010

Due to the change in flight timing by Airasia and my reluctance to take an extra day of leave, I ended up with less than 24 hours in Kuching. The shuttle bus to 360 Hotel didn't show up at the airport which caused a great deal of trouble and angst (the cost of a taxi to the hotel was RM30 vs the cost of the shuttle bus RM6 per pax). The Slog Reviews: 8/10. Without taking into account the shuttle bus which never showed, 360 Hotel at Kuching is value for money indeed. For RM88, one gets a clean spacious room with a comfy bed and clean sheets, a mini-safe, LCD TV and hairdryer. Although the room lacks a window/view, an alarm clock, refrigerator, minibar or bathtub, given the price and location of the hotel, I would highly recommend this hotel to travellers who are in Kuching for a short trip.

During my last trip to Kuching, I did not have enough time to go to Kuching's Cat Museum so for this trip, after leaving the bags in the hotel, I headed straight for the Cat Museum which is located quite some distance away from the main city and up a hill. The picture below shows the building where the museum is located with the state's flag fluttering at the top of the dome.

As per the picture below, the opening hours are from 9am to 5pm daily and while there are no entrance fees payable by visitors, if one wishes to use one's camera, one has to pay a nominal fee depending on the type of camera one uses. A sticker to be adhered to one's camera is given upon payment and it was quite a pain to scratch it off later so I would advise against pasting the sticker wholly on one's nice shiny camera.

Just outside the entrance to the museum (but within the buildling), three flags representing the state of Malaysia (left), the state of Sarawak (middle) and the town/city of Kuching (right) can be found side by side.

As I've said, the city is really into cats. The city's flag has not one, but two rather feminine looking cats eyeing a bird-like creature centered between them. Cat City indeed!

The pic below is of the entrance to the museum which is one level above the carpark. I had wondered about the vampire-looking fangs but after googling "cats and yawning", I realised that the structure of the entrance contains no hidden meaning but reflects accurately a cat with its mouth wide open. Despite the turnstile at the entrance, there are no entrance fees payable and therefore no tickets are required.

Near the entrance, if one is minded to capture one's face with ears atop a cat's body, one can play with the exhibit below although I would think that to get into the position for the bottom holes would be most uncomfortable indeed. Maybe the exhibit is meant for kids and the other folks who are not so particular about hygiene issues and willing to contort one's body so as to be captured on film with one's face above a cat body. Much as I have wondered about having a different sort of body, I was not tempted to play with this exhibit at all :D

As one walks further into the museum, one would come across a medium-large friendly-looking yellow cat mascot in a glass case. We learn from the little signboard that the exhibit, safe behind the glass walls actually has a name. The signboard reads "The mascot of Kuching Festival is "Alca" the cat. The name Alca is derived from the first 2 letters of 2 flowers - "Allamanda", the official flower of Kuching North City Hall and "Canna Lily", the official flower of Kuching South City Council."

Unlike Alca the Cat which has one hand on the hip, the other statues of cats which do not display such crone-like characteristics are not quite as well-protected and one is able to take photos of and with them. Below is a pic of the large cat statues placed near the escalator leading to the second floor of the museum which I left my fingerprints on, having being kept from doing the same with Alca the Cat. The second floor appears to be closed to the public.

The Cat Museum is filled with statues, drawings and paintings of cats and out of the thousands of cat/cat-related paraphenalia, one item is chosen as the artifact of the month. For the month of March 2010, the painting/mosaic below of a rather fearsome cat was chosen. One of the more interesting paintings I thought.

And then there is this section below which one should absolutely stop by and read "How Kuching City Got Its Name". A reading of the materials enlightens one that it was in 1876 that the town was officially named as Kuching and this was probably due to the abundant number of cats along the riverbank or due to a river flowing through the town center known as Sungai Kuching.

If one is minded to take a memory of the Cat Museum back at a rather inflated price, there is the souvenir shop located near the entrance/exit (both are located next to each other).

I was tempted for a monent to buy one of the charming bags below sold at the souvenir shop but common sense prevailed and I managed to keep my wallet closed. I didn't notice anyone buying anything from the souvenir shop at all and I really do think it has to do with the prices. I suppose a picture of what I might have bought agrees better with my wallet. :D

The Slog Reviews: 6/10 as an attraction. Recommended only to those who have time to kill in Kuching and those with a deep prevailing interest in viewing all things cat-related. The museum contains a lot more cat-related stuff than that I've posted obviously but unless one is really keen to see/read about cat-related materials, one could give the cat museum in Kuching a miss without any regrets. And no, there are no live cats in or around the cat museum at all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Before leaving Muah - lunch at the best restaurant in Muah!

Where we would have lunch the next day after checking out of the hotel was a given. No fight, no contest, no dispute, no other feasible alternatives. Shee Yaan Restaurant (which is stored under the Favs Folder in my GPS) we headed for in an unspoken common understanding. This is a pic of the exterior of the restaurant. Note that the restaurant does not face the main road but is behind the row of shophouses housing Pizza Hut and The Look Hair Salon.

I have to say that the restaurant seems to be immensely popular, not just for dinner but also for lunch. We had to wait for a table and were asked nicely to move twice to smaller tables because there were larger groups (abt 5-10) which arrived later. The young lady boss was not surprised to see us again but her employee was most surprised when we insisted on ordering 2 packets of otah for lunch. She suggested half a packet, we reiterated that we wanted 2 packets and she countered with 1 packet. However, we insisted on having the 2 packets and her eyes grew wider still when we ordered other dishes like fried egg, fish eggs, kangkong and a big slab of fresh fish for the assam fish head. The pic below is of the dishes that arrived first minus the fish.

The assam fish (as per the pic below) came about 10mins later, fresh and tender in a soup so pleasantly warm and sour. I would recommend ordering the fish meat instead of the fish head because the meat is extremely fresh and tender. I think the meat is cooked seperately from the soup because the fish retains its own fresh sweet flavor which provides a thrilling contrast to the sourish soup. The cost of the dish below was RM 17.90 only.

The total cost of the meal below came to RM50.20 (SGD 21 only!!!!). Incredibly cheap for the sheer amount and kind of food. Two of us were more than satisfied (as we should be) after having cleaned every single plate. The assam fish cost RM17.90, the sambal kangkong RM4, the two packets/plates of otah RM16 and the fish eggs RM4.90. Rice was RM0.80 per bowl and can drinks RM1.70 each. I'm not sure if the egg dish was wrongly priced at RM2.40 as it says on the receipt though. The dessert in a bowl (iced longan) was complimentary.

Hand on my heart, I would solemnly declare Shee Yaan restaurant to be one of the best, if not the best restaurant to have a meal at if one goes to, or drives past the little town of Muar. The Slog Reviews: 10/10 for the food. The only thing one needs to be prepared for is the waiting time for a table and the even longer waiting time for the food (15mins) but as is clearly evident from the crowds and the pics, each morsel more than makes up for the waiting time. I'm counting the days till June when we next plan to go back to Muar!