Thursday, October 31

Food Review: Mezza9 (Grand Hyatt)

Cuisine: Western, Asian 
Price: $90+ per person
Location: Grand Hyatt Singapore, 10 Scotts Road, 228211 

Recently I was lucky enough to grace Mezza9 for dinner. Situated inside the Grand Hyatt, it certainly fits in with the rest of this prestigious hotel. The spacious restaurant has a lovely d├ęcor, with several open air kitchen stations were you can watch the chefs at work. Upon sitting we were presented with a surprisingly large menu. There was a lot of choice with Japanese, South East Asia and European food. Burgers, sushi, curries and roasts were all on the menu, we were certainly spoiled for choice. The drink selection was also comprehensive with fresh juices, cocktails and milkshakes. I settled on the $97 set meal which included starter, main, dessert and tea or coffee. The set menu features at least half a dozen dishes per course, all of which sounded fantastic. I eventually settled on the Thai pomelo salad with chicken (yam som o), steamed sea bass fillet with ginger paste, orange peel and steamed rice and farm cheese with fruit bread. I also ordered some cheese cake to take home.

The Thai pomelo salad came in what I felt was a small portion. Naturally it tasted pretty good. Simple, refreshing flavours. The chilli's on top added some nice heat, though while I had dried chili I noticed my grandma had pickled chilli. Not sure why there was a difference. The pomelo salad was tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, October 16

Food Review: Ah Loy Thai

Cuisine: Thai
Price: $40+ per person
Location: #01-39/40 Shaw Towers, 100 Beach Road, 189702
Website: N/A

Sweet and sour fish and tom yam soup

In my search for great Thai food, Ah Loy Thai was one that was mentioned more than once. It seemed a must visit and while I'm not sure it lived up to the hype, it was still an enjoyable dining experience.

When we arrived at Ah Loy Thai for the first time, it was just past 8 pm on Friday. The waitress told us that they were closing soon and we'd have to come back another time. What? Closing before 9 pm?! Insane right? So we came back a couple of weeks later earlier, at around 7 pm. We were greeted by a large queue and told that they would stop taking orders soon. For some reason the waitress seemed confused. She told us we could continue to queue, the queue length was around 30 minutes, and they would stop taking orders before that, so in other words we might as well go home. Yet she didn't understand it was impossible for us to order food. Utterly confusing. Thankfully the waitress who we met last week was extremely generous and allowed us to skip the queue!

The menu has a lot of variety, with over 20 dishes to choose from. There is surprisingly little curry and the dishes do not come with rice as standard. We ordered a good selection of items to try; mango salad, fried sweet potato leaves, tom yum seafood, stir fried white basil leaf with pork, sweet sour sauce fish and romitt (Thai chendol). Most dishes were under $8 each. The food arrived haphazardly, whenever it was cooked. At one point we had to remind a waitress of our order. I should also mention that a waitress managed to spill food on my bag, which I didn't notice until later. Whichever waitress was responsible never apologised. We were also had to rush the final portion of the meal because the restaurant closes after 8 pm. At least the uncle was not rude, in fact quite gracious about it. All in all I have to say the service is terrible, as is the restaurant's early closing time.

Now enough about service, lets talk about food! 

Food Review: Crystal Jade Kitchen

Cuisine: Chinese
Price: $20+ per person
Location: No.2 Lor Mambong, Holland Village,  277671

In my last visit to Singapore in 2008, I was left disappointed by the quality of dim sum available. At least 2 restaurants in Glasgow served better and at a lower price. This is especially surprising when Glasgow is thousands of kilometres from China/Hong Kong, whereas Singapore is within 4 hours flight. So during this visit I've been somewhat hesitant to eat dim sum, in case its yet another disappointment. However I found myself at Crystal Jade, the same restaurant I had decided was mediocre 5 years ago. This time  it was quite a different experience. 

The menu had a wide variety of dim sum, more than 20 items at around $6 each. We ordered several types of dim sum and dishes: har gow, shaomai, char siu bau, carrot cake, red bean cake, egg fried rice and kai-lan in oyster sauce. The char siu bau was slightly disappointed, considering it took the longest to arrive. The shaomai and har gow were fantastic though. Succulent with a nice deep, prawny, flavour. The vegetables were simply but well cooked; still retaining their crunch with the sauce complimenting the dish. I ended the meal full and completely satisfied. 

Despite my early misgivings Crystal Jade managed to provide a fulfilling meal. I would definitely recommend it for a light lunch.


Food Review: Creation

Cuisine: Western 
Price: $15+ per person
Location: #01-43 Shaw Tower, 100 Beach Road, 189702
Website: N/A

On my first attempt to eat at Ah Loy Thai we were turned away because the place had already finished orders (it closes at an early 8 pm!). We settled on a nearby restaurant, the choice was Japanese or Western. Against by better judgement I chose the Western restaurant; Creation. The menu was simple enough, various pasta dishes, pizza and other items; generic Western with a moderate price tag.

I chose fish and chips, a dish which should be hard to get wrong. The fish had a reasonable taste but the batter was over fried, to the point it was brittle. Some kind of undistinguishable mayonnaise/tartar sauce accompanied, which tasted like neither and was too sweet. The dish came with salad covered with what looked like store bought dressing. The potato wedges were perhaps the only part done well.

My friend had spaghetti Neapolitan. The sauce was lacking in taste. It was under salted and most importantly lacked a savoury depth, it tasted mostly like tomato water. It seemed clear the sauce had been cooked for an extremely short duration because the slices of onion in the sauce were still semi raw. The pasta was nice and al dente however.

The meal was edible, but when I can cook better food at home, then why am I paying good money to eat mediocrity on some stools! It cemented my opinion to avoid Western food in Asia! Avoid unless you haven't eaten in 3 days.


Monday, October 14

Game Review: The Wolf Among Us (Episode 1: Faith)

Genre: Point and Click
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Mac
Release date: 12/10/2013 

The Wolf Among Us is Telltale's newest game, based of the comic book series Fables. The Wolf Among Us takes place in Fabletown, New York. Fabletown is the primary abode of famous figures from folklore such as Beast, Snow White, Grendel and our protagonist Bigby Wolf (The Big Bad Wolf). If you’re wondering what such fairy tale characters are doing in New York, you’ll find out through scraps of back story throughout the game. As mentioned the player takes the role of Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown. Bigby is trying to put his notorious past to rest whiling doing the town some good by serving as lawman. After a less than mundane encounter with the Woodsman (of Little Red Riding Hood fame) Bigby bears witness to something horrifying and so events of the narrative are set in motion.

One of the great appeals of The Wolf Among Us is the incredibly interesting world, which can't help but pique my curiosity. What would happen if fairy tales were real and these characters happened to live in a city in New York? How would they keep their existence a secret, how would they govern themselves etc? One of the commonalities between video games I love is when I'm introduced to new and intriguing worlds. The Wolf Among Us is one such world and I'm really looking forward to diving into more of the lore in future episodes. 

Thursday, October 10

Food Review: Danro Japanese Hot Pot

Cuisine: Japanese
Price: $18+ per person
Location: #02-04/06, NEX, Serangoon

I feel like a bit of a miser writing this one, because in Googling for an accompanying photo (I didn't bother to take one myself), other bloggers seemed to enjoy the restaurant. Also I don't remember the food names which means this review isn't as informative as it could be. Not me. Danro is the worst Japanese restaurant I've eaten at and while I'm certainly not a connoisseur of Japanese food (or any food), I've eaten in Japan, and at several restaurants in Europe.

The reason you'll going to Danro is for the Japanese style steamboat/hot pot and buffet (with unlimited refills of soda!), there is no a la carte. For those unfamiliar with steamboat; essentially you have a boiling pot of soup in which you put in raw meat, seafood, veggies and other assorted goodies. You let them cook and then eat communally. When you sit down in Danro the first thing you'll notice is a large menu offering 8 types of soup, of which you choose 2. The second thing you'll notice is the loud, awful J-Pop. Thankfully my ears drowned out the horrible background noise, but I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to play this loud Japanese music.

I was with my work colleagues, and due to a Muslim in the group, we settled on the chicken broth and clear broth (i.e. no pork). As the soup warmed up we went to check out what food was on offer. In the back of the restaurant you'll find an area full of the ingredients for the hot pot. The selection of meats, various fish balls, seafood and vegetable was quite impressive. There is also a small selection of pre cooked food from the buffet.

From the buffet I choose fried chicken, crab stick sushi (the only sushi on offer), a mushroom soya/tofu blob and some sort of fried pastry (looked like a spring roll). The fried chicken was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The crab stick sushi was horribly sweet and creamy, due to the inclusion of mayonnaise. The tofu blob was tasteless. The spring roll seemed to be filled with crab paste, whatever it was made me want to spit it out due to its rancid fish taste. I ended up wasting most of the food on my plate, which I felt guilty about. After the dismal 'starter' came the main event, hot pot!

Wednesday, October 9

Oh My God I Want The Wind Waker HD!

The Legend of Zelda is perhaps my gaming franchise with Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, A Link To The Past, Minish Cap and The Wind Waker all being great games. The Wind Waker was originally released for the Gamecube in the West in 2003. It featured a beautiful cel shaded art style and some brave gameplay changes and additions. Despite some changes the game still exuded the same Zelda charm as it predecessors.When I got my hands on the game I fell in love. I played through it about 4 times over the years I owned a Gamecube and Wii.

10 years later Nintendo have released The Wind Waker HD for the ailing Wii U. What's interesting is that the HD re-remake features a host of improvements such as better quality music and new items. Just watching GiantBomb's Quicklook has made me desperately want to reply this game. While the Wii U, quite frankly is crap, I am seriously considering buying a Wii U just to play The Wind Waker HD. Arghhhh nostalgia!

For a full list of changes you can refer to this helpful list on NeoGaf.

Tuesday, October 8

There's No Such Thing As Too Cheesy

I am writing to you because I want to express how much you mean to me. Sometimes I can be rather gruff and distant but that’s just my nature, it doesn't mean I don’t care about you. I will always care deeply about you.

We've only know each other a few short months but already I feel you’re a part of me. When we first met I knew there was something different about you. It’d never spend so long with one person, when we’d had no established relationship before. Yet those 8 hours we spend walking around Gardens By the Bay and Esplanade were lovely, even when you were criticising Indians!

Monday, October 7

Food Review: The Original Katong Laksa (Janggut Laksa)

Cuisine: Laksa
Price: $7 per person
Location: #1-59, Queensway Shopping Centre, 1 Queensay
Website: N/A

Laksa is a one of the stand out dishes of Singapore. It's composed of a prawn-coconut milk broth, noodles, prawns and assorted other ingredients. For me laksa is a truly a unique and mouth watering dish, especially when its your grandma's home cooked recipe! The dish has many variations and one of them is katong laksa. In katong laksa the noodles are cut into short strips, so the entire dish can be eaten with just a spoon. One of the unintended (or perhaps intended) benefits is that there is almost no chance of splashing your white shirt with laksa gravy, something I appreciate very much!

Apparently there are only two franchises/outlets that can claim to have the ‘original’ katong laksa. The Original Katong Laksa (Janggut Laksa) and Roxy Laksa. I ate at the former where it was pleasantly busy on a weekday evening. Prices were extremely reasonable at $3-5 for a bowl. I got a large bowl of laksa and some otak. It was my first taste of otak, which is a mix of cooked fish and spices. It was nice and savoury, though I felt it didn't really compliment the meal. The laksa was delicious, the gravy rich and creamy, with a good helping of noodles and prawns. My main complaint is that the portion sizes was too small for me, even when I ordered a large bowl. I think with 2 bowls I might be able to appreciate the taste better!

Definitely worth a visit if you love laksa, I recommend bringing an empty stomach so you have room for multiple servings!


Wednesday, October 2

Game Review: 400 Days (The Walking Dead DLC)

Genre: Point and Click
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Mac, PS Vita
Release date: 02/07/2013 

One of my favourite games last year was one that crept up on me suddenly. I wasn't a particular fan of Telltale Games or the comic/TV series 'The Walking Dead', so the game was not on my radar at all. I was oblivious to its existence and even if I was aware, I wouldn't have cared. Zombie games didn't have much appeal to me. I only took an interest once other people had started talking about it so positively. After reading some reviews and having played a small amount of Telltale's previous games, I bought the game during the Steam holiday sale. Boy was that a great decision. The Walking Dead turned out to a fantastic game, emotionally hooking me and provide a satisfying and meaty cast of characters.

Recently DLC was released for The Walking Dead; 400 Days. As opposed to the events of the main game, which plays out through the actions of a single character, the DLC features 5 different characters in a nonlinear story. Each character’s episode starts at a different time during the zombie outbreak. The diverse range of characters include a lone wanderer who meets a stranger on the road, a sibling who finds herself and her sister in ever increasingly isolationist community, an older hippy and his friend being chased at gun point and 2 others. The episodes intersect each other, and if you’re paying attention you’ll notice the consequences of other characters stories.