5 Fun Facts about Booze Consumption Trends in Singapore

Red wine is the leader

Singaporeans favourite wine is red wine, which represents 70% of the still light wine market with 645,000 of 9-litre cases consumed in 2014. White wine holds the second rank with 251,000 cases consumed in 2014 and will continue to grow by 1.2%.

Rosé wine is becoming more popular

Rosé wine is growing strong. From very low level, rosé wine has grown by 24.2% between 2010 and 2014.

Sparkling wines continue to grow steadily

The sparkling wine category grows steadily but slowly, a trend which is going to continue to 2019 with a forecast 12.3% growth in volume. Champagne is growing stronger than other sparkling wines as it benefits mainly from popularity between tourists and expats.

Top wine supplying countries

Australia dominates the import market with a 38.5% market share. Chile comes second with 16.5% of overall market share. Chilean imports have been boosted by weakening of US dollars, creating a positive growth of 71% between 2010 and 2014. France holds the third rank in 2014, with a 16% market share.

Whisky is the favourite among spirits

Whisky remains the favourite spirit of Singaporeans. The category is forecast to grow by 13.8 % between 2015 and 2019.

Cognac / Armagnac currently holds the second rank, but will continue to decline over the next five years by 5.6% between 2014 and 2019. This is mainly due to decreasing numbers of Chinese tourists.

Vodka ranks third with with 44,000 of 9 litres cases consumed in 2015. It is forecast to decrease slowly by 4.5%.

Gin and Tequila respectively hold the 4th and 5th places in the spirits’ ranking and consumption will be increasing between 2014 and 2019. Gin is forecast to grow by 28.6% and Tequila by 23.1%. The increase is driven by the super-premium gins sold mostly in drinking holes and dining places.

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Find out more at VINEXPO

VINEXPO, the leading International Wine and Spirits Exhibition, returns back to Hong Kong from 24-26 May 2016. Showcasing the world’s premier wine producers with 60 dynamic events and activities, including highlight on Italian wines with masterclasses & tastings, exclusive forum on China and Australia market, ‘One to Wine Meetings’ tailored for exhibitors and trade executives, and a ‘Shiraz Day’.

Presentations on latest trends of key interest to sommeliers and F&B managers are by famous winemakers and critics including Debra Meiburg, Dixon Yuan, Jeannie Cho Lee, Li Demei, Michel Rolland, Simon Tam and Bettane & Desseauve.

For more information on how you can benefit as a trade visitor, visit their website www.vinexpohongkong.com

4 Tips on Proper Wine Storage

Last month, I was invited to Gaggenau’s event, where Julien Drevon, Head Sommelier from Sarment shared about the Super Rhône wines. For those who are unfamiliar with this new “classification”, Super Rhône Wine is an unofficial category of Rhône wines not recognized within the French wine classification system (AOC). It’s inspired by the Super Tuscan producers who decided to step out of the rigid Italian appellation system by introducing a new category of world class wines.

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Wine like Super Rhône and Bordeaux required proper storage. For wine lovers who are serious about what their collection, here are four tips I learnt from the experts on proper wine storage:

  1. CONSISTENT TEMPERATURES CONTROL 

The number 1 most important point to note when storing wine is to never let the temperature rise above 24°C at all times. At 24°C, wine begins to oxidize, it’s important to keep it below this temperature. Storing wines at the right temperature slows the aging process. It won’t “hurt” the wine, provided the temperature remains consistent. Optimal range for wine storage control is from +5 °C to +20 °C.  It’s recommended to get a dual climate zone wine fridge or to store your red and white separately. For red wines, the ideal range is 12-13°C and for white wines the temperature is cooler at 7-8°C.

  1. PROTECTION

Wine is affected by light, so when storing it, keep it in a cool, dark place. This is also the reason why you should always get bottles from wine shops and not those under harsh spotlights in duty free stores. Exposure to sunlight can ruin your wine and lead to an unpleasant smell.

  1. HUMIDITY CONTROL

Humidity in the wine storage area should be kept at a constant 70 percent humidity. Higher humidity level keeps the cork from drying out and minimizes evaporation of the wine. A humidity level that’s too high can cause mold to grow and wine labels to fall off over time.

  1. VIBRATION CONTROL

Vibrations can also affect the condition of wine in the long term. Sometimes, significant vibrations could possibly disturb the sediment in older wines and keep them from settling, potentially making them unpleasantly gritty. It’s important to ask and choose a wine storage with low-vibration operation for your wines to age perfectly.

Gaggenau Vario cooling 400 series

This article is brought to you in conjunction with Gaggenau and Sarment.

Made in Germany, with a history of more than 330 years, Gaggenau is a manufacturer of high-quality home appliances and an innovation leader in design and technology. Gaggenau RW 464 wine climate cabinet helps to achieve consistent temperatures with exact control. It comes with two independently controllable climate zones, UV protection feature, humidity control, and is engineered to operate with barely any vibrations so you can be assured that your wines are well taken care of.

More than a wine merchant, Sarment aims to provide bespoke wine and lifestyle services to its Luxe Club Members. Members receive exclusive invitations to monthly cocktail nights, two bottles of wine curated by their world class sommeliers and access to other Luxe Privileges.

Staycation in Chinatown, Singapore

Everyone needs pampering once in a while. Since I started my new job last month, I had been working till late almost every day and was really looking forward to the SG50 National Day long weekend. Since I was unable to fly off for a short getaway, the next best thing was to do what Singaporeans love best – staycation.
The lovely thing about a staycation is learning how to be a tourist in your own backyard and rediscovering your own city. For these reasons, we decided to check out the newly opened Thai restaurant in Telok Ayer Street followed by an overnight stay at Hotel 1929.
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Recently opened in late July 2015, Cha Thai is the second concept restaurant by Loaves Me Group. Cha Thai simply means Thai tea, you know, the popular sweetened iced tea (teh peng) that we would usually buy from a cafe or street vendor in Bangkok. I don’t know why the owners named the restaurant as such but I am guessing they want to introduce a fusion concept of toast & tea to us. Think of it as Toast Box, or Ya Kun but Thai style – the take-away counter forms only one part of the restaurant.
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But today I want to share more about it’s main restaurant and it’s menu. Before I continue further, I have to remind you that this blog post is about pampering myself. So Cha Thai is considered expensive if you are comparing to Thai restaurants in Golden Mile but it definitely gives Thai Express a run for their money, cos Cha Thai offers premium Thai cuisine at an affordable price in a casual, relaxing setting.
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Creamy Crab Roll ($15) – Deep fried spring roll sticks served with crab cream sauce

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[Front] Tom Yum Soup (Thick) $28 -Thick soup base created with variety of herbs with tiger prawns, mussels, fish balls and mushrooms. [Back] Tom Yum Soup (Clear) $28 – Clear soup base herbs and basil leaves with tiger prawns, mussels, fish balls and mushroom.

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Baked Pineapple Rice ($18) – Curry spiced baked rice with chicken, pineapples, cashew nuts, sweet pepper bells, and raisins

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[Left] Steam Giant Sea Bass Fillet ($35) – Ocean seabass fillet boneless steamed with chili, garlic, herbs and lime sauce. [Drinks] Butterfly Pea Juice and Lemongrass Tea (both at $3.90 each)

What makes me love Cha Thai is that they use premium ingredients. For our appetizer, the spring roll sticks, it is served with real crab meat inside the cream sauce. For soup, I recommend the Clear Tom Yum Soup as it is lighter in content comparing to the Thick Soup, but equally spicy. Chopped Chinese sausage was topped onto the Pineapple rice, making it an perfect fragrant combination. The steamed Sea Bass was fresh and without the ‘fishy smell’. To round it off, we ordered the toast cubes. Try the Cha Thai version of kaya (coco jam), a refreshing taste to pair with the golden brown toast cubes.

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Cha Thai Toast ($8) – Golden brown toasted cubes with choice of pandan or Cha Thai (Thai tea) flavor

After our meal, we took a 10-minute walk from Telok Ayer Street to Hotel 1929 in Keong Saik Road via New Bridge Road. The walk was also a good way for us to burn off some fats and digest our food. It’s been a while since I stayed at a boutique hotel, the last time was in Malacca.
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Hotel 1929 is a boutique hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown. Hotel 1929 beckons with a whimsical mix of old world architecture and a chic interior. The boutique hotel consists of five conservation shop-houses built in 1929, and features 32 individually designed rooms decked in a mix of classic designer and retro vintage furniture. 1929 is conveniently located along the fringe of Chinatown, a 5 minute walk from Outram Park MRT Station.

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After check-in, we proceed to head up to the top floor. We walked past through the narrow corridor along the 4th storey  and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by our small suite. At the first glance, it looked like a pigeon hole and reminded me of some hotels in Hong Kong that I had stayed at before. After the rain had stopped, we discovered the roof top terrace that was part of the Terrace Suite, it provided a great hang out spot for four of us.
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The indoor blue mosaic-tiled shower room is fairly small too. There is no partition between shower area and toilet bowl so be careful not to wet your toilet seat. But what the guestrooms lack in size, they make up for in amenities. There is premium coffee-making machine with Nespresso capsules, handy smartphone (I didn’t get a chance to test it out), outdoor bath tub, mini bar with coke and juices. If you consider the terrace area, it’s really comfortable initmate retreat.
We spent a lot time and fun, taking turns on the rocking chair. Overall Hotell 1929 is a designer concept with artsy decor centered around different types of chairs. For example, there were various vintage barber chairs in the lobby, and special theme for every room.
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For dinner, we went for the set dinner at Restaurant Ember. Priced at $88++ per person, it might seemed expensive but the 4-course dinner was definitely worth every dollar for the experience. I chose to add on the wine pairing at $30++ for delightful dinner.
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The bread is freshly baked. It’s so delicious that we asked for a second helping.

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1st Appetizer – Carpaccio of Hokkaido Scallops, Daikon, Arugula, Ginger & Rice Water Vinaigrette

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2nd Course – Pan-seared Foie Gras, Slow-cooked Eggs, Unagi & Truffle Sauce

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Main Course – 60-hour Slow-cooked Angus Short Ribs, Burnt Onion Puree, Tomato Confit & Beef jus

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Dessert – Champagne Jelly, Macerated Stawberries & Yogurt Sorbet

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Complimentary dessert from Restaurant Ember

After dinner, we took a walk around the neighbourhood. Located at the uptown part of Chinatown, the hotel is away from the usual crowd. During the day it is an area where small business and offices are located. When night falls, the mixture of cafes and eateries come to live.

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In the morning, I tried bathing at the outdoor shower. Honestly, it can be a very liberating experience, something for you to check off your bucket list. But the weather was not in my favour, the sky soon turned dark and there was light rain. The curtains kept flying – either sticking onto my soapy back or semi-exposed my naked butt. I really won’t recommend to use it during a windy day but people with outdoorsy fetish or exhibitionist will definitely enjoy it.
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After showering, we went downstairs for breakfast. For breakfast, Restaurant Ember serves breakfast set with choice of scramble, soft/hard boiled or sunny side up eggs. Every set comes with baked potato, beans, bacon and sausage. We help ourselves to the table of toasts, croissants, fruits, cereal and porridge. The croissants were very yummy even though we didn’t toast it. After we were done with our meal, the staff served us yogurt while we were enjoying some fruits.
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Overall, Hotel 1929 is an awesome experience for a 1 or 2 nights stay. I wish we have more time to enjoy the alfresco area as it was raining when we were staying there. I would definitely recommended it for tourists and local staycations. One thing to note is that there is no swimming pool and gym at Hotel 1929 but hotel guests can use the facilities at New Majestic Hotel at Bukit Pasoh Road just further down.
Hotel 1929 is located at 50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089154 (nearest MRT station: Outram Park – NE3/EW16). Visit their website for more information and reservation.
Cha Thai is located at 80 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 048466 (nearest MRT station: Downtown – DT17). Visit their Facebook page for more information or call 6636 3696 to make a reservation. Open daily from 8am to 10pm.
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[Contest] WIN $50 F&B VOUCHERS – 3 SETS TO BE GIVEN AWAY! 
Answer this simple question: What is the name of the Thai Restaurant mentioned in this article?
Please reply in the comment below, make sure I can contact you via email 🙂

Wine Tips from Wanderwine.com

There is a new online wine retail in town! The guys at Wanderwine.com may have just the right formula to become the next Airbnb or Uber of the wine industry – affordable, accessible and advice – the 3 key ingredients that every consumer needs, whether you are a new drinker or a seasoned wine appreciator.

Offering an initial inventory of 39 labels handpicked from Australia, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland, perhaps missing only South Africa or U.S.A., I believe there is a bottle for everyone at Wanderwine. I love these good people because they believed that great wine and the education around it shall be accessible to everyone in Singapore, and being an online company enable them to do that!

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They focus a lot on quality, both in the selection of the bottles, and also in the content on the online shop. For wine curated by their sommeliers, the consumers get high definition pictures of the bottles, the story of the wine, extensive tasting notes, food pairing suggestions, serving and drinkability notes, and even the pictures of the vineyards in the area of the wines. It is something that nobody would not be able to do in a retail shop without a tremendous amount of physical space.

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One of wanderwine’s tastemakers, Gerald Lu (Best Sommelier SG 2010)

The online element also allows more freedom and creativity for their sommeliers team as they can easily publish fun or educational articles to audience and share their knowledge about wine!

Wine selection and wine pairing are all about: 1. knowing yourself (your taste bud, your preference, etc), 2. knowing what you plan to cook or order for your meal, 3. lastly, it’s about fun, wine pairing is about trial and error. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past before I realize that I really prefer a light red like Pinot Noir or light / sweet white like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Moscato.

Pairing Asian cuisine with wine is a lot of fun, due to the diversity of cultures, usually requiring both roundness and freshness in wines to soften out the intense flavours and spices used in cooking. A well-chilled, crisp, young and fruity white like the Marlborough Seresin Pinot Gris would go beautifully with Tuna Tataki, Ponzu, Smoked Enoki, onion, or Puffed Rice. On the other hand, salted dishes, like the smoked salmon, or even salted egg yolk prawns will pair well with whites like the Amigne de Vetroz, La Danse des Etoiles, which boasts of good acidity and gentle tropical fruits notes.

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For red meats, try pairing the lighter, less intense braises such as duck or even cumin-spiced lamb leg with a Shiraz, such as the Two Hands Bellas Garden, bringing in a long finish of blistering yet silky, cushioned flavours. A red with an earthy palate and savoury characters is recommended for the other red meat selections. Paired with an interesting love story to “chase away the melancholy”, the Chateau Chasse Spleen from Bordeaux, France would serve as a good pick.

For a new person to red wine, the recommendation will be a Pinot Noir, which is lighter on the tannin. A good choice will be the Mercurey Premier Cru Clos des Barraults, which is hand harvested from 40 years old vines, ensuring the highest grape quality selection. A brilliant ruby colour coupled with a rich, “masculine” palate, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser. IMG_2827

With wanderwine, you can expect to save between up to 40% off the usual retail price, while still enjoying the highest delivery and service quality. They do not have to carry the heavy weight of retail rental fee and thanks to that, they are able to pass those savings on! For example, the Bordeaux Haut Medoc Chateau Chasse Spleen that they have in their inventory would be around $135 in a brick & mortar retail shop, compared to $83 on Wanderwine.

Moreover, there is no minimum spending for delivery, but a delivery fee of S$16 is added on your purchase.  Purchases above S$75 enjoy free delivery, and Wanderwine sends your order to your door step by the next working day.

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MediaCorp artist, Elvin Ng was also there at the launch

Essentially, Wanderwine is really about pairing good bottles of wine with people who may not have known about them earlier. A good bottle of wine is a powerful tool; it can pull a party together, create enduring friendships and craft memories that last for a lifetime. Wanderwine is a reflection of the love for travel and discovery, all wrapped up in one package.

Goodness in a Claypot

Having just recovered from a horrible 4 days 3 nights of diarrhea, I’m finally able to eat normally again. During that period, there was one local dish that I craved for and that’s a piping hot bowl of porridge dish out from a claypot. I remembered when I was younger, my mom would always cooked porridge from a claypot when we were feeling unwell.

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Someone once said, “We tend to find comfort in the food that’s most familiar to us… Food is an extension of a culture, a memory, and a smell that transports you back to your childhood. There’s this element about it that has connotations of heritage and identity.”

Different cultures have different techniques of cooking food in clay. For us local Chinese, we like to use these pots made from unglazed & natural clay to cook Claypot Chicken Rice, various types of congee, “Three Cups” Chicken or Sanbeiji 三杯鸡.

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Claypot Sesame Oil Chicken 

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Claypot Fish Maw with Crab Meat Thick Soup

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Claypot Black Pepper Prawn Vermicelli

Earthenware claypots allow good airflow and have good heat insulation, therefore locking all the moisture and nutrients from the food while in cooking, creating a tender, flavorful dish. When heated, claypots provide slow evaporation of steam, which prevents burning so long as the pot is not allowed to heat until it is completely dry. This moist environment is conducive for cooking, resulting in very tender and juicy meats that are also richer in taste with all the nutrients seal inside the pot by the steam locking in. For the health conscious, claypot cooking uses less oil yet retains its natural flavours.

Unfortunately, with our busy lifestyle it’s getting more difficult to prepare our own claypot dishes. Thankfully, A-ONE Claypot House has 9 outlets spread across our island, allowing us to enjoy various local delights in different claypot cooking. (Click here to visit their website to see their menu and discover “Singapore’s Best Porridge”.)

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Dried Scallop Porridge with Minced Meat & Assorted Eggs 干贝三色混蛋肉碎粥 (Credit: A-ONE Claypot House)

For more recommendation on local dishes, check out my food blogger friend, sethlui.com. For yummy treats deliver right to your door step, remember to visit foodpanda.sg – Singapore’s leading online food ordering and delivery service.

Romantic Weekend with Horizon Bistronomy at Punggol Settlement

Mention Punggol and the immediate association is with the new residential estate of mostly young couples. Punggol may still be a new town in development and lacking in some facilities. But with the new publicity about Punggol Waterway Park, the town has come under the radar with many interesting places to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

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Located at the tail end of Punggol Road, The Punggol Settlement sits directly at Punggol Promenade. Just imagine a waterfront dining experience similar to Kallang Wave or East Coast Park, but with more privacy and serenity. The Punggol Settlement is a specialised food and beverage development concept envisioned aim to revive old Punggol back to its former glory as the dining destination of north-eastern Singapore.

With a total of more than 14 retail and restaurants nestled within The Punggol Settlement, you can have your choice from seafood, Thai, western, or even a Peranakan restaurant. It’s a great for a weekend family outing. For a quiet, romantic dinner with a view, my recommendation is Horizon Bistronomy located at level 2 of The Punggol Settlement. It’s a fantastic place to bring your date and enjoy a good French cuisine without burning a hole in your pocket.

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Horizon Bistronomy is a French restaurant that aims to deliver fine and quality French food to the mass market , in a casual and affordable setting. Head by Chef Chris Fong, the owner of Horizon Bistronomy, the bistro serves fine French delights in a casual setting. Chef Chris started his own restaurant because he wanted to introduce fine food to the masses without compromising quality.

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It was my pleasure to be invited by Horizon Bistronomy for their food tasting event two weeks ago. Here’s the list of the recommended menu and food description. I have also added my own comments as well as my ideal wine-pairing with the dishes. All wines mentioned are available at Horizon Bistronomy, by glass or bottle.

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Chilled Crab Meat Angel Hair (S$11.90) – Truffle angel hair topped with jumbo crabmeat infused with chorizo oil finished off with salmon roe. 

The first dish of the evening was the truffle oil-infused pasta pair with scrumptious crabmeat. For this appetizer, my recommendation is to pair with Waipara West Sauvigon Blanc 2013 from New Zealand. New Zealand is famous for their “crisp, elegant, and fresh” Sauvigon Blanc. It’s one of the few wines that goes really well with seafood.

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Assorted Tomato Salad (S$12.90) – Medley of fresh tomatoes  with home made red pesto and burrata cheese.

A refreshing salad with different types of tomatoes from Japanese, US and local. Although I like this appetizer for its freshness, but comparing the two dishes, I would order the Chilled Crab Meat Angel Hair if I can only choose it. The former is good for its value-for-money quality.

For this dish, I’ve selected Louis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012 from Burgundy, France. Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012 reveals an intense red color, with flecks of rubis color. Ample and powerful on tasting, this wine expresses an interesting aromatic complexity, coated in soft tannins. Perfect with grilled meat or cheese.

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Horizon Pork 2 Way (S$25.00)- 24-hour slow braised pork belly & Kurobuta pork tenderloin served with roasted cauliflower puree, vegetables, grape mustard and black pepper sauce.

The braised pork belly remains me of a Chinese dish – Dongpo Pork. In the classic French style of cooking, the braised pork is fat but well-balanced with the light cauliflower puree, and touch of grape mustard.

I would suggest ordering a bottle of Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012 to go with the tomato salad and Pork 2 Way. Alternatively, try this with a glass of Cheval Noir Bordeaux 2010 or Famille Perrin “Perrin Reserve” Cotes du Rhone, both from France.

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King of the Sea (S$22.00) – Miso infused torched king salmon & king prawn on a bed of assorted vegetables ragout.

I like the freshness and sweetness of the prawn is fresh & sweet. Chef added foam mustard to balance acidity of the seafood. Maybe I expected too much, but I was hoping that the salmon would have an X-factor but unfortunately it grilled salmon tastes fairly in comparison. Perhaps the chef’s idea was to lock it in its freshness.

Try pairing this main course with Simonnet-Febvre Chablis 2012 from Chablis, France. The cool climate of this region produces wines with more acidity and flavors less fruity than Chardonnay wines grown in warmer climate.

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Citrus White Chocolate Mousse (S$12.00) – Short crusted pastry layer with Valrhona white chocolate mousse, lemon curd, orange creme anglaise, sprinkled with white chocolate soil.

Onward to the desserts… The lemon curd is refreshing and able to balance off the sweetness of white chocolate. If you are planning to order a bottle of white, both the Sauvigon Blanc from New Zealand or Chablis blend are good to last the whole night. If you are ordering by glass, try tasting this dessert with  Paolo Saracco Moscato d’asti from Pietmont, Italy if you have a sweet tooth.

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Fig & Bacon Sabayon (S$9.80) – A unique combination of candied bacon and fig compote, with fresh berries and a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream, resting on a bed of champagne sabayon

How many times have you had sweet bacon as a dessert item? Well, if you are a lover of bak kwa then this special combination of sweetness, saltiness, sourness, cold, crisp with a touch of champagne is the perfect way to finish off the meal. Try pairing it with Joostenberg Little J Cinsault Rose 2011 from Paarl, South Africa.

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Garden by the Bay ($14.00) – Fresh strawberry, kiwi and apple bits layered by vanilla mousse, topped with dark chocolate soil resting on apple compote infused with cranberry.

The dessert gets better as it goes down the list. With a cute name like Garden by the Bay, this dessert consists of hazelnut & chocolate soil layered by vanilla cream with a touch of sea salt. The bits of strawberry, apple and kiwi help to balance of the rich vanilla mousse. Try the dry Pares Balta Cava Brut NV from Penedes, Spain to balance the sweetness of this dessert.

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Horizon Bistronomy is definitely a good place to chill out with your friends or an ideal date by the bay. The price is very reasonable and it has an great ambiance with sea view. Food is of good quality but don’t expect fast service. Quality French cuisine takes time to prepare so be ready to wait for 15-20 minutes between dishes.

The Punggol Promenade area, thought isolated, offers other activities to do around Punggol Road End…

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Gallop Stable and Punggol Ranch Resort

A laid back leisure park where you can try riding a horse at Gallop Stable, enjoy a drink or meal or even a staycation in one of the stable chalet at Punggol Ranch Resort. It’s just located right next to The Punggol Settlement. Scroll down to the end for directions on getting there.

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Cycling or taking a walk along Punggol Point Park or Punggol Promenade 

Want to feel like guilty before you pig out at The Punggol Settlement? Why not try renting a bicycle and go for a leisure ride along the serene Punggol Promenade? Or you can take a stroll along Punggol Point Park watch ships docking between the Straits of Johor after dinner.

Address: 3 Punggol Point Road, Singapore 828694

Reservation hotline: +65 6702 2855 (Closed on Mondays)

Getting there

If you are not driving, going to The Punggol Settlement and the other above mentioned places is not difficult. Just take bus 84 from Punggol MRT Station and alight at Punggol Road End.

Do you know of other places worth visiting in Singapore? Please comment below.

Best Budget-friendly Staycation Chalet – Treehouse Villas @ Changi

It’s been a long time since I attended a birthday party at a chalet, and due to my hectic work I was in a desperate need of a cheap and good staycation in Singapore. Through my BFF’s recommendation, I chose to spend my 30th birthday at Treehouse Villas @ Changi for a relaxing weekend with a few friends.

Treehouse Villas @ Changi, managed by MINDEF/SAF as part of their staff welfare, is the perfect place to unwind without the usual skyscrapers, shopping malls or HDB apartments. To complement the lazy weekend, we ordered sushi platter and Japanese pizza through Foodpanda for dinner. My friends are too shy to be in this blog so bear with my narcissistic photographs as I introduce this budget-friendly resort to you. (Read on till the end and find out how you can win $15 Foodpanda vouchers.)

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A stone throw away from Changi beach and 5-10 minutes walk to Changi Village, Treehouse Villa @ Changi is the perfect location for weekend stay. I love that it’s away from city, and if you’re craving for adventure, hop on the bumboat to Pulau Ubin or soak in the sunset at Changi Point Costal Boardwalk.

Once you stepped inside Treehouse Villa resort, you will experience its Balinese-inspired ambiance and greeted by its cow mascot as the chalet ground. Surround by trees, you can hear birds chirping in the morning. Each chalet unit is of either a 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom and can accommodate a big party, especially good for birthday party, family with kids or Christmas celebration. The 2-bedroom chalet I booked has a king-sized bed and a fold-away mattress in the master bedroom; the other guest room consists of a queen-size bed and single bed – which can allow up to 6 people to stay overnight.

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Each unit has two shared bathrooms, cable TV, free WiFi, barbecue pit, smoking corner, refrigerator, freezer, microwave oven and various utensils and cutlery to support your cooking needs . My favorite area is the bathroom on ground level because it has a sheltered outdoor bathtub. The resort also provides every unit with complimentary tibits & bottled drinking water, free barbecue supply, and mahjong table. Additional charcoal and BBQ accessories can be purchased from the clubhouse.

You can order BBQ packages from the clubhouse directly but one day advance order is required. Alternatively you can call for your own catering. For us, we booked our food delivery via Foodpanda, to me that’s the best for small groups. Our sushi platter and pizza from Nihon Mura was delivered within 1.5 hours.

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Only one parking lot is allocated to each villa, but there is alternative public car park near Changi Village. This area is usually quiet but it can get really packed on Saturday evening, so arrive early or you will face parking problems. There isn’t a swimming pool but sports facilities are available at the nearby clubs. You can rent a bicycle at Changi Cycling Service Pte Ltd located at Changi Village, produce your Villa card key and get special rate.

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In terms of service, the staff are friendly and helpful in general. Standard check-in is at 3pm and check-out before 10am. Friday was laundry day and we waited till 5pm for fresh towels to be sent to our villa. One important thing to note is that the reception is closed over the weekend so if you need any assistance, do it before they knock off on Friday.

Pricewise, Treehouse Villa @ Changi is unbeatable. The 4 days 3 nights off-peak weekend package costs around only $360. If you are planning for a weekend staycation for a group of six, it’s only $20 per person per night!

Address: Treehouse Villas @ Changi, 326 Sealand Road, Singapore 508252

Getting there:
Nearest MRT stations are Pasir Ris, Tampines, and Tanah Merah. Take Bus 29 from Tampines interchange and alight at Changi Sports Club along Netheravon Road. Alternatively, take Bus 2 from Tanah Merah station and alight at Changi Village terminal. I took a taxi from Tanah Merah and the 15-minutes journey costs less than $9 on a Friday afternoon. If you’re driving, take TPE and exit Loyang Ave, or drive along ECP and exit Changi Coast Road.

Booking tips:
Unfortunately, this good deal is only available for SAF regulars, i.e. full time staff in Navy, Army, or Air force. If you are a NSF or NSman, you can get your friends working in SAF to book for you. This is how I get my booking now. If it’s the non-peak season, they will allow you as proxy and your friend doesn’t need to check-in for you.  Remember to book in advance, as it is subjected to balloting, hence it’s best to avoid school holiday season and public holiday to increase your chance. And since there are more 2-bedroom than 3-bedroom villa, it’s easier to ballot for the 2-bedroom chalet.

*Thanks for all your comments and emails but I’m unable to assist with booking the rooms as I’m not a staff of SAF.

Win Foodpanda Vouchers!

In celebration of my 30th birthday, Foodpanda is giving away 3 x vouchers of $15 (min. spending $30) to my blog readers. Foodpanda is the most convenient tool for food delivery in Singapore with the widest gastronomic range. Ordering food is now easy, fast and fun, simply choose your favorite meal via their website or mobile app, and the restaurant delivers it directly to your doorstep.

To win the Foodpanda voucher, simply answer this question: How old is Malcolm Sunny this year? Reply in the comment below, make sure I can contact you via email.

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Must-go Places to Eat in KL – Recommended by a Smart Local

Singaporeans are no stranger to Malaysia’s capital city. From hi-tea to buffet, gourmet burger joint to street food, Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it’s commonly called) has it all. On my recent trips to visit a friend who stays in Jalan Ampang, I’m rediscovering the city through my stomach and beginning to fall in love with it once again. Here are some of our favorite food places to visit in KL.

[Read on till the end or scroll down all the way to read about my misadventure in KL and learn how to avoid tourist trap at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).]

1. My Burger Lab 

I confess that I am not a burger person. In my 20-plus years of memory, burgers are junk food to me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the goodness of premium ground beef patty sandwiched between two slices of charcoal bun. My Burger Lab is the latest craze in KL’s gourmet burger industry. In my friend’s words, “If you haven’t been to My Burger Lab, you haven’t been to KL. It’s beter than the burger I had at Four Seasons Hotel in New York!”

Started in 2012, My Burger Lab currently has two outlets. When we arrived at the newer outlet at Taman OUG around 8pm, it was almost full house. My friend waited in line for 15-20 minutes before they could take our orders. While he was waiting, my eyes were scouting for a table for us. The interior decoration was minimalist with Ikea-style lighting hanging from the ceiling, but everyone seemed to be having a good time digging in and busy eating. Sometimes, this place sold out their patties by 9pm.

We had The Hulk burger – ground beef patty, fried avocado, green salsa sauce, fried egg at RM18.50 each. The Hulk set meal with fries and a drink is at Rm24.50. I couldn’t believe my friend upsized my big burger meal by ordering an extra beef patty (RM5.50) for me. According to my friend, the fries are hand-cut and fried in olive oil. The dinner crowd usually starts from 5pm onwards till closing. The other outlet at Petaling Jaya is much more crowded than this OUG outlet.

I stared hard at the strange combination of seaweed sauce, fried cheddar cheese, fried avocado with the ground beef patty. I shut my eyes and sank my teeth into the charcoal burger. Without a doubt, it was one of the best I had ever tried, probably better than Fergburger in Queenstown, New Zealand. But you really have to be a burger lover to soak in all the extra calories. Sign up for their VIP card and enjoy 15% discount on purchases. Burgers starts from RM 11 onwards, chicken and vegetarian opinion are available. And yes, they are Muslim-friendly too.

My Burger Lab (OUG Lab) is located at 8, Jalan Awan Hijau, 58200, Kuala Lumpur. The other outlet (Seapark Lab) is located 4, Jalan 21/22, 46300, Petaling Jaya. Visit their Facebook or website MyBurgerLab.com for more information. You can also spy cam and check the crowd-situation before heading down.

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2. Pasar Baru Bukit Bintang (Imbi Market) Dewan Bandaeaya Kuala Lumpur 

In my humble opinion, the best things to eat in KL is not just colonial style western burger but the open-air hawker places in town. A short drive from Jalan Ampang is the popular place in town for lunch among the locals.

Unfortunately, like the Lavender Food Court in Singapore, this heritage hawker place is making way for commercial development. In its place, Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) will take over. I always think that only in a land scare country like Singapore will face such problem, but looks like our neighbour up north is also losing food heritage thanks to modernisation.

That afternoon, I slurped up the Wanton Mee with much gusto. They used cabbage instead of spinach. And the char siew was done just right – tender yet tasty. As usual, my friend loved to put extra meat in my order. I also tried the Curry Laksa Noodle from the same stall while he ate his special order of Veg & Chicken Kway Teow. Ah Weng Koh’s Hainan Tea is highly recommended to complement the meal, it’s blended with coffee power, and tastes like Yuanyang (mixture of coffee & tea).

 Pasar Bukit Bintang, otherwise known as Imbi Market is located at Jalan Melati, 55100 Kuala Lumpur. Here is a Google Map of its location. Hurry and go before the rustic place is demolished!

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3. Restoran Bak Kut Teh Yik See Ho

En route to Changi Airport, when the taxi driver found out that I was going to KL, he said to me, “When you are in KL, remember to eat their Bak Kut Teh, they are the best in Malaysia. Very famous, every time uncle goes there, sure will eat one.” Thanks to his heads up, I asked my friend to bring me to his favorite venue for the regular meat-bone-tea (Bak Kut Teh) fix.

Our big bowl of Bak Kut Teh came in a clay pot, topped with fried beancurd skin, vegetables and tender pork. I scooped a mouthful of soup and savored the awesomeness. It tasted almost as good as the famous Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh I had in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah many years ago.

A bowl of Bak Kut Teh starts from RM8.00. We had the Bak Kut Teh in Claypot at RM18.oo, and ordered various side dishes to complement it. One of my favorite ways of eating Bak Kut Teh is to drink the soup, bite off the meat, dip and soak Youtiao (You Zha Gui) into the soup to finish off the broth.

Restoran Bak Kut Teh Yik See Ho is located at No. 20, Jalan Landak, off Jalan Pasar, Kuala Lumpur. For enquiries, please call Calvin Wong at +601 2789 2293. Opening hours from 12pm to 1am, closed on Monday. 

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4. Restoran Win Heng Seng (Hokkien Mee)

I used to patronize Jalan Alor for hawker food when I stayed around Jalan Bukit Bintang area. But recently I discovered this coffeeshop that served yummy zhi char near the shopping belt of KL. I love it so much that I requested for my friend to bring me there again on another evening before watching movie at Berjaya Times Square.

We ate the Hokkien Mee and shared a plate of Braised Yee Mee together with two other friends. 1 person serving is priced at only RM8.50 and two-person sharing portion starts from RM16.00. We also ordered the barbecued chicken wings from across the street to complement our dinner. Do come early to secure a seat for dinner. I also heard that their fish-skin wonton noodle soup and egg tarts are very popular items for breakfast and lunch.

Restoran Win Heng Seng is located at 183 Jalan Imbi, 55100 Kuala Lumpur. It is at the cross-road corner of Jalan Barat and Jalan Imbi, opposite Honda showroom, right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Walking distance from Pavilion shopping mall and Berjaya Times Square.

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5. Alexis Bistro & Wine Bar

Looking for a place to chill or a dessert venue? Alexis Bistro & Wine Bar (Ampang) located at Great Eastern Mall is my recommendation. Known for their popular weekend lunches, firewood oven pizza, weekend jazz performances showcasing local and international talents every Friday and Saturday. We headed over to Alexis Ampang on a weekday evening after our dinner to enjoy their dessert with a pot of hot tea. There’re 5 outlets (including Sino – The Bar Upstairs) spread across Kuala Lumpur. Alexis Gardens at Mid Valley City has always been the post-work out temptation for my friend.

As a dessert connoisseur, the no. 1 recommendation I have for you will be their Tiramisu – the best in town. Cognac and coffee soaked layers with the fluffiest cream topped with sweet, crunchy, caramelised pecans, served with a “bloody” puddle of strawberry sauce by the side. I kissed my diet plan good-bye as I sinked my teeth into this sinful-icious treat. Served best with a pot of lemon grass tea or a glass of dry white wine to accompany Jazz performance on a Friday or Saturday night. May it be a sweet dream for you tonight.

Alexis Ampang is located at Lot 10 & 11 Great Eastern Mall, 303 Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur. Call them at +603 4260 2288 to make a reservation. Visit their website www.alexis.com.my to find out the locations of their other outlets or to view the schedule of the upcoming live performances.

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6. NOOK’s Buffet Dinner at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral

KL Sentral is indeed the main transport hub of Kuala Lumpur. As a leisure traveller, I prefer to arrive early at KL Sentral to avoid the evening rush hour jam and to enjoy a scrumptious spread of delicacies before embarking on my way to the airport. Walking into Nook at Aloft KL Sentral Hotel, I felt that I was transported to the future with its futuristic white pods and the green and white interior decoration. It was minimalistic yet chic. The green decoration reminded me of pandan leaves and kaffir lime.

Nook’s menu is created by Executive Chef Steven Seow and his team. It is a combination of local flavours and international delights, mixed with texture and freshness. Among the buffet favourites are smoked salmon, fresh prawns and mussels, charcoal-grilled satays, and the wide smorgasbord of colourful desserts made for a happy ending.

Nook at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral is located at No 5 Jalan Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur 50470. Call them at +603 2723 1188 for reservation, or visit their website and Facebook for more details. Buffet dinner is from 6.30pm to 10.30pm at RM70.00 nett per adult.

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Tourist Trap Alert – Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT)

Unfortunately it’s not always a happy ending. I love KL for most of its glory but there are always people out there who are dishonest to tourists. During one of my recent visit, I was traveling back from Penang to LCCT by AirAsia. Normally I would take the shuttle bus from LCCT to KL Sentral, which cost less than RM10.

But being a late night flight, my friend and I decided to hop on to the taxi. First, there wasn’t any clear signage. When we reached the taxi queue, we were told to purchase a ticket from the counter. I searched the arrival hall, only to realise the small counter was tucked inside the arrival gate. Hence I had to run back to get my passport and back to the arrival hall to explain to the custom officer to allow me back to the arrival gate.

It didn’t help that the custom officer was showing attitude when I mentioned why couldn’t the taxi counter be outside the arrival gate. She stared at me and shouted, “What’s your problem?” Besides her horrible service attitude, the bus counter lady charged me more than RM120 for a trip for two adults with one luggage from LCCT to Jalan Ampang. According to my friend, he usually pays around RM70-80 when he takes a cab from KLIA. He told me that Jalan Ampang was a long road and the counter lady should have asked exactly where I was going, instead of charging us the maximum rate.

My two-cent worth, if possible, hop on to the shuttle bus (traveling to KL Sentral) to save some cash, then take a taxi or train from KL Sentral and transfer to your hotel. Otherwise, be clear to mention where you are going, cos there are always dishonest people in this world who are out there to cheat tourists. Stay smart!

Royal Treatment: 3 Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just one month away. What will you be giving to mommy dearest this year? In our family, Mother’s Day is one of the significant occasion besides Chines New Year and birthdays. Whether you’re thinking of restaurant treat – Chinese or Western cuisine, or a facial spa, recently I checked out 3 great places (in no particular order) to recommend for the woman we love.

1. The Royal Mail – British cuisine for Her Highness, the Queen of the family

A fine dining British cuisine destination that serves interpretations of classics with a modern twist, where roasts and prime rib take centre stage. The Royal Mail transports guests back in time with a touch of Old World elegance.

If you have received your mid-year bonus from work, this is the place to bring the person you love – be it your mom or your significant other to, for causal fine dining western cuisine. I highly recommend a weekend brunch for mom, or after 6 dinner with your date.

Must try items are the Pan Seared Foie Gras, Sous Vide Half Maine Lobster, Beef Short Rib, Deboned Fish of the Day  (serves 2 pax), Lobster Linguine and Kurobuta Pork Chop, and their desserts!

Starters priced from $13 onwards, main courses range between $28-$68 per serving, sides from $8 onwards, desserts from $13-$$15 per person. For two persons sharing, the cost will be around $100 to $150. Order their starter – foie gras or lobster, select deboned fish and beef short ribs as main course, and share one of their sinfully yummy desserts.

The Royal Mail Restaurant & Bar is located at The Ascott Raffles Place Singapore, 2 Finlayson Green, Singapore 049247. Visit their Facebook or website www.theroyalmail.sg for more information. Call 6509 3589 for reservation. Open on Monday – Friday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Serves breakfast and dinner on Saturday, and only available for breakfast on Sunday & public holiday.

Pan Seared Foie Gras ($24), highly recommended

Pan Seared Foie Gras ($24), highly recommended

Lightly Seared Beef Tenderloin ($20), looks good but try it only when you want variety

Lightly Seared Beef Tenderloin ($20), looks good but try it only when you want variety

Sous Vide Half Maine Lobster ($24), recommended but my first choice is still the foie gras

Sous Vide Half Maine Lobster ($24), recommended but my first choice is still foie gras

Roasted Deboned Fish of the Day ($52), recommended and good pairing with a red meat

Roasted Deboned Fish of the Day ($52), recommended and good pairing to share with a red meat

Getting served the Deboned Fish of the Day

Getting served the Deboned Fish of the Day

Kurobuta Pork Chop ($48), recommended for pork lovers

Kurobuta Pork Chop ($48), recommended for pork lovers

Lobster Linguine ($28), very reasonably priced. The grey bubble-like is actually Squid Ink Espuma.

Lobster Linguine ($28), very reasonably priced. The grey bubble-like is actually Squid Ink Espuma.

Roast Prime Rib (Classic Cut, 280g) at $58. I would highly recommend the Braised Beef Short Rib ($36) instead, the latter is more tender. Photo not available.

Roast Prime Rib (Classic Cut, 280g) at $58. I would highly recommend the Braised Beef Short Rib ($36) instead, the latter is more tender. Photo not available.

Side dishes (from left clockwise) - Braised Green Lentil du Puy ($8), Sauteed Chestnut & Grapes ($12), Casserole of Mushrooms ($8), and Baked White bean Ragout Pot Pie ($10). Nothing particularly outstanding with the sides.

Side dishes (from left clockwise) – Braised Green Lentil du Puy ($8), Sauteed Chestnut & Grapes ($12), Casserole of Mushrooms ($8), and Baked White bean Ragout Pot Pie ($10). Nothing particularly outstanding with the sides.

Foreground - Banoffee Tart ($13). Background - Eton Mess ($15).

Foreground – Banoffee Tart ($13). Background – Eton Mess ($15).

Chocolate Fondant ($18)

Chocolate Fondant ($18)

Red House Seafood at Prinsep Street – Chinese seafood dinner for the Matriarch of your house

Maybe western dining is not your thing. Then, come to Red House where they’re celebrating their 38th Anniversary with new seafood creations and set menus. Its seafood are sourced from Scotland and flown in three times a week to maintain freshness.

Red House’s 38th Anniversary ‘Modern’ Anniversary Set Dinner offers seven courses at $388 for 6 persons. Inclusive of a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut champagne OR Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze 2010 premium French white wine OR two jugs of Tiger Beer .Valid till 30 June 2014 at Prinsep Street outlet only.

There isn’t anything that I don’t like about their ‘modern’ set dinner. The Chilled Spicy Whelks, Scottish Blue Lobster Coated with Sweet Mayonnaise, Garlic Steamed Megrim Fish, Scottish Brown Crabs in White Pepper, and Oyster ‘Yuan Yang’ Hor Fun are worth the extra calories on my cheat day. I highly recommend the champagne or white wine which pairs very well with the seafood.

If you’re looking for a smaller affair, then try their new five-course set lunch at only $38 for two persons. Available daily, this super value for money set lunch comes with Dim Sum Basket of Siew Mai, Mixed Mushroom Dumpling, Scallop & Chives Dumping, Oven-Baked Char Siew Pau, Creamy Custard Prawns, Oyster ‘Yuan Yang’ Hor Fun, Fried Daily Greens and homemade Durian Mochi.

Red House’s flagship outlet is located at 68 Prinsep Street, Singapore 188661. Visit their website www.redhouseseafood.com for more information. Call 6336 6080 for reservations. Open for lunch & dinner from Monday to Friday, and all day-dining on Saturday, Sunday & public holiday.

Additional notes: They have two other outlets located at East Coast Seafood Centre and The Quayside. Red House is voted “Best Chili Crab 2008” by Time Out Singapore Magazine. Another must try is their new Chili Crab Baos, order them to complement your meal (not included in set lunch or dinner).

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Chilled Spicy Whelks

Chilled Spicy Whelks ($35, ala carte)

Chili Crab Bao (3 for $8), available during lunch only

Chili Crab Bao (3 for $8), available during lunch only. Not included in set lunch. Highly recommended.

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Garlic Steamed Megrim Fish ($100 per kg)

Garlic Steamed Megrim Fish ($100 per kg, ala carte)

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Scottish Blue Lobster Coated with Sweet Mayonnaise ($148 per kg)

Scottish Blue Lobster Coated with Sweet Mayonnaise ($148 per kg, ala carte)

Scottish Brown Crabs in White Pepper ($58 per kg)

Scottish Brown Crabs in White Pepper ($58 per kg, ala carte)

Spicy Seafood Combination ($28 / $42 / $56)

Spicy Seafood Combination ($28 / $42 / $56, ala carte)

Oyster 'Yuan Yang' Hor Fun ($20)

Oyster ‘Yuan Yang’ Hor Fun ($20, ala carte)

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Durian Mochi

Durian Mochi, made with REAL durian inside!

Lemongrass Jelly with sorbet

Chilled Lime Sherbet with Lemongrass Jelly ($6.80) and Chilled Mango Pomelo with Sago ($4.80)

LPG Treatment at Spa Elements (ION Orchard) for My Fair Lady and her anti-aging combat

With 30 years of skin expertise, LPG from France has created a revolutionary way to re-plump hallowed cheeks, firm up sagging skin or even detoxify skin with the Endermolift New Generation. I discovered this new technology at Beauty Asia 2014 and very impressed that it is a 100% natural solution and results are obvious after just 10-30 minutes of treatment.

At first I was skeptical, it took at least 3 treatments at Sylvia Skin Atelier to show some improvements on my face. I’m pleasantly surprised that within just 30 minutes of Emdermolift treatment my dark eye circles and acne are significantly reduced. There is no regret going for the detox treatment instead of anti-aging as recommended by Spa Elements’ consultant. With over 40 different treatments, there is a suitable solution to boost your tissue stimulation.

My mother will be very happy to know that Endermolift naturally stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid by 80%. Hyaluronic acid is produced naturally in our body. It has important action on hydration and volume and renowned for its anti-aging qualities.

LPG treatment starts from $200 for 10 minutes on target area treatment. I tried the LPG Classic 30.60 (Detox) which includes cleanse, steam, 30 minutes of LPG, premium mask, protection at $450 for 60 minutes. Spa Elements also have a couple room, so you can either bring your mommy and have facial together or have a relaxing time with your significant other.

Spa Elements at ION is located at 2 Orchard Turn, #B1-30 ION Orchard, Singapore 238 801. Visit their Facebook for updates or website www.elements.com.sg for more information. Call 6738 3788 or SMS 9059 8188 to make an appointment. Spa Elements is open daily. More information on LPG Endermolift treatment can be found at www.lpgsystems.com

Directions to Spa Elements ION: From level 1, take the lift next to Valentio and go to Basement 1. Spa Elements is located near Forever 21, Popeyes Chicken, Swensen’s above Orchard MRT Station.

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Left face before detox

Left face before detox

Left face after detox

Left face after LPG Endermolift New Generation treatment

Right face before detox

Right face before detox

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Right face after LPG Endermolift treatment

Coincidentally, I received this infographic from City Square Mall that contains interesting Mother’s Day stats you may never knew. For example, did you know, that the total amount of money spent on Mother’s Day cards annually is $671 million? 🙂

Mother's Day Stats

Free  F&B Giveaway!

4 sets of $30 ramen vouchers for giveaway! Treat your mommy dearest for free. Simply comment below and share what you will be doing for your mom on Mother’s Day. Remember to key in your email, Twitter / Instagram for me to contact you. Follow my Twitter or Instagram @MalcolmSunny, for extra $10 voucher if you win. Giveaway closes on 30 April 2014.

Penang Food Trail: Best Places to Eat as Recommended by Locals

I’m proud to be a Singaporean and I hate to admit defeated to our cousin from The Straits Settlement – Penang has once again been voted as the no. 1 haven for street food in Asia. Lonely Planet names Penang the top culinary spot for 2014. Fellow foodies embarked on this gastronomical journey with me as I explore Pulau Pinang with my tummy.

This blog post will be a recollection of my recent trip to the island, covering the popular Penang street food – Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow, Assam Laksa, Chee Cheong Fun, Hokkien Mee, as well as cool cafes and restaurants around Georgetown and near Gurney Drive.

I was with my friend, a Malaysian who grew up in Penang. He had spent years working overseas and we’re on this trip to visit his parents and to re-discover Penang. The best way to travel Penang is self-drive. We got our car from Big Thumb car rental. The next best option would be to rent bicycles. But Penang, being much bigger than Malacca, means that you can only cover limited places on two wheels. 

1. Fatty Loh Chicken Rice (21 Jalan Fettes, opposite Kuil Sri Sakthi Vinayagar Hindu temple)

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It was lunch time and we’re on the hunt for food when we came across Fatty Loh’s  chicken rice shop. My friend recommended it since it was a famous spot for tourist. To be honest, I never thought that Penang could be famous for chicken rice. And I wasn’t too wrong about it. We ordered a plate of Steamed Chicken (for 2 pax), BBQ Pork  (char siew as commonly called in Singapore), a bowl of Peanut & Pork Soup and 2 cups of Longgan Tangkuah (longan & winter melon) drink for RM22. We were also served a complimentary small plate of fried pork chop.

The food was good but not excellent. I was reading this Time Out review and realised that if I would have ordered their roasted chicken with rice, I would probably have given them more points. What I loved was the feeling of dining in a museum at Fatty Loh’s. The place was like a warehouse of antiques and artifacts.

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2. Kedai Kopi Sin Hwa (opposite Pulau Tikus police station in Burma Road)

This was my 3rd trip to Penang, and it turned out to be a food hunt every time. After our meal at Fatty Loh’s, my friend drove us to his favorite Assam Laksa stall. Guess what, this coffeeshop even have their own Facebook page! As we had just finished eating at Fatty Loh’s, we ordered the Assam Laksa without noodles. According to a Malaysia food website, this Assam Laksa is somewhat different in taste as it’s cooked with tamarind juice instead of tamarind peels. We ordered one large bowl and one small bowl and it costed RM8.50. This coffeeshop is also well-known for their Char Kway Teow.

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3. Kafe Goodall (opposite Penang Chinese Girls’ School)

We headed back to our hotel for a short rest before driving to Kafe Goodall for dinner. There are a few Goodall Food Court, we went to the one opposite the famous Penang Chinese Girls’ School. What is highly recommend is the Chicken Satay. Unlike the ones I tried in Singapore, this one was specially tender and the chicken bits were chunkier. We also had Char Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee and Char Hor Fun to share among four of us. Something unique about the Hokkien Mee and Char Hor Fun (we simply called it Hor Fun in Singapore) is that they mixed bee hoon (rice vermicelli) with the noodles. Naturally the bee hoon would soaked up the gravy making the taste more wholesome.

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4. Taman Emas Kopitiam (opposite Penang Chinese Girls’ School)

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Here’s a secret you need to know – Penangites don’t eat lunch. Most street food places are open for business only at night. And you can also find a lot of good places for breakfast. But when it comes to noon, a lot of food places are closed. A stone throw away from Kafe Goodall is Taman Emas Kopitiam, this place closes on Monday so please plan your itinerary properly. The Assam Laksa here is famous and extremely popular on weekends. It has also won northern Malaysia best hawker award in 2011.

The broth is made from fresh fish meat blended into the assam soup. Remember to order the popiah to complement the broth. The locals will dip the popiah into the broth. In my opinion, this is the best Assam Laksa I had tried in Penang, it was better than the famous Assam Laksa at the foothill of Kek Lok Si temple. We also managed to try the Char Kway Teow and Chee Cheong Fun there. The Chee Cheong Fun was really soft and it simply melted in my mouth. I gave a double thumbs up for this.

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5. Chinahouse (153 & 155 Beach Street and 183B Victoria Street)

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Enter from Beach St and gain immediate access to The Canteen – an inviting artsy warehouse that holds live music from indie stars from Thursday to Sunday

I wonder why I haven’t been to this place earlier. Chinahouse is one of those places whose charms captivate you to keep beckoning back for more. Lonely Planet said it’s Penang’s best.. Cake-tastic cafe, restaurant and bar complex spanning a whole block. Chinahouse is a mammoth of 3 heritage buildings situated right in the middle of the core zone of Georgetown. Enter from either Beach Street or Victoria Street and you will be greeted with 14 unique spaces comprising of souvenir shop, cafe, restaurant, art gallery, live music and bakery all round into one.

This longest cafe in Penang is the perfect example of how Georgetown has moved on with time. Chinahouse is modeled on a lane way concept with one path from Beach Street to Victoria Street, while some outlets go off this lane, the lane passes through others. This juxtaposed cafe provided free wifi and paper with crayons for you to doodle on the table tops. Some of the artworks by patrons turn into display in their street gallery.

We’re there the after diner night before and we love it so much that we returned the next day for afternoon. I had a pot of Lemon Ginger Mint tea (RM12) and my friend tried their Blueberry Mango Coconut Smoothies. The place gets crowded every night, so for better service, come when there’s daylight.

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By day, The Canteen serves the best Bento Box, a mix of Western and Asian flavours – a rice-based menu with tasty mains and morsels. Don’t miss out on Comedy Night every first Thursday night of the month!

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On Saturday, the bakery (on the left) sells an average of 450 slices of cake. The bakery is 10 chefs-strong, and they have to try out 10 new recipes a week (if they don’t try new recipes a week, they get fired).

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Pardon my ridiculous expression as I’m mesmerized by this poolside dining concept of the Courtyard Cafe. Order and pay from the different cafes / restaurants inside and bring your food out to enjoy the breeze under these lucky trees.

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Vine and Single offers a tasting of 8 different red wines by the glass. The best cocktails in town at Mr. B’s Martini Bar – the popular choices are mojitos, margaritas and long island teas.

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Reading Room offers a space for talk-fest with friends. Or simply grab the books from the shelves for a quiet afternoon. The owners also encourage you to “accidentally-on-purpose” leave your books behind to become inspiration for others.

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Chinahouse aims to be an arts platform supported by interesting other concepts. Besides Art Spaces in 153 & 155 Beach Street, and performance at The Canteen, feel free to art-jam on their table tops.

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Baked fresh daily – Chef Jo Jie and her team of 10 talented bakers serve up delicious cakes, brownies, tortes, slices, biscuits, breads and pies to suit any craving.

6. Macalister Mansion (228 Macalister Road)

Located along the historic Macalister Road and designed around the idea of an old English Mansion, this beautifully restored boutique hotel offers 8 unique rooms for comfort accommodation. Even if you’re not staying there, Macalister Mansion offers 5 venues to relax and unwind. We checked-in to The Living Room for afternoon tea. The afternoon tea set for 2 with TWG tea costs only RM69, available from 3-6pm.

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7. Gurney Paragon & Plaza Gurney (along Persiaran Gurney / Gurney Drive)

Built around and inspired by the former St. Joseph’s Novitiate, the relatively new mall along the promenade features stylish restaurants and cafes, and a good place for shopping.  We spent our afternoon indulging sinful sweets like the Famous French Toast (RM16.80), Vanilla Souffle (RM16.80), Matcha Parfait (RM16.80) with Matcha Latte (RM10.80) and hot tea at Miam Miam. It’s a good dessert place but if you prefer coffee, then head over to Ben’s which in also located within St Jo’s.

I was craving for contemporary Peranakan food and my friend suggested heading over to Plaza Gurney’s Basement 1 for The Little Nyonya Cuisine. Previously I had been to The Little Nyonya restaurant located at Queensbay Mall, and being rushed for time, we ordered two sets of Nasi Lemak Special (RM17.60 each) and Nyanya Curry Chicken (RM15) for sharing. The food is good if you’re not a fussy eater who likes home-cooked style Peranakan food.

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8. Auntie Gaik Lean’s (No. 1 Bishop Street, Georgetown)

For dinner, my friend brought us to Auntie Gaik Lean’s old school eatery. This quintessential decorated restaurant is the best kept foodie secret for Peranakan cuisine. It’s a pity that Auntie Gaik Lean is too busy stirring the woks in the kitchen and there was no official website or Facebook. This place relies on the age old word-of-mouth marketing and the various media exposures to spread the word, but it is always full house on weekends.

Located right in the core zone of Georgetown, Auntie Gaik Lean explained to us that Penang’s Peranakan food is very different from Malacca, as the latter is influenced heavily by the Portuguese culture. Having been to Nancy’s Kitchen in Melaka, I would definitely give Auntie Gaik Lean double thumbs up.

On our table top that night was Nyonya Chicken Rendang (RM25) – dry curry chicken with coconut milk, Gulai Tumis (depending on market price) – tamarind fish curry served with ladies fingers, Jiew Hu Char (RM22/32) – traditional nyonya mixed julienne vegetables & shredded dried cuttle fish serve with lettuce. My favorite dish would be Jiew Hu Char. Scoop a spoonful of shredded dried cuttle fish onto the lettuce and wrap it be like a spring roll – it’s crisp, fragrant, and simply delicious.

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What are some of your favorite places for food or afternoon tea in Penang? Please share and comment below to let me know. Follow my Twitter and Instagram @MalcolmSunny for more travel and food reviews. 

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