Posted by: tonkatsudelights | April 29, 2008

Spicy Sunday

Last Sunday I got to try a couple of eating places that I haven’t been to before. And both served spicy food. Birthday lunch with a bunch of Indonesian colleagues at an Indonesian spicy food restaurant. Padang food, to be exact. And dinner with my Mainland Chinese friend at a Sichuanese food restaurant in Chinatown. How befitting!

Hot and burning stomach, people!

GARUDA PADANG RESTAURANT

I have heard about Garuda Padang restaurant at Cairnhill Place for some time. But just never got around to try it until now. It is a Tung Lok restaurant, so it’s hardly surprising that the place is decorated nicely. White, posh, and spacious. However, unlike a fine dining establishment, you actually got to order the food at the counter instead of having the waiters taking your orders at the table.

True to my diet (hehe), I stick to only a few must try dishes when it comes to Padang food. Beef rendang, sayur daun singkong, telor balado (spicy egg padang style), and try a bit of ayam pop. Food-wise, Garuda really served Indonesian Padang food. Unlike some of the nasi padang restaurant which is very Malay. This one, the taste is really Indonesian. However, the level of hot and spiciness is actually far from what we are used to, back in Indonesia. You want hot and spicy, you gotta add the sambal (chilli sauce) by yourself!

Price wise, we spent $280 for 16 people. So that makes it less than $20 per pax. But if you eat in smaller group, chances are you’re gonna pay $20-25 per pax. Do I think this is expensive? I guess, for padang food, it can be considered expensive. There are places out there selling cheaper and more authentic padang food. Here, you actually paid for the nice place and service too.

One thing that I like, is the fact that they serve avocado juice with chocolate milk. Just like how we have it back in Indonesia. Unlike Sanur restaurant that served it with mocha (bleh), this one actually tastes like home…

I would actually recommend Garuda for special events or if you want to eat padang food in a nice setting. Not in the hot sweaty stall kind of place. And yes, they do give 15% discount for birthday. Net, this is a place I would actually come again. Not my number one favorite, but this will do!

SICHUAN RESTAURANT

At dinner time, me and my friend actually wanted to try Hometown restaurant at Smith Street. Alas, the place is closed on Sundays! We finally settled for another place, pointed out by my friend’s flatmate, who is also from Mainland. The place is called Sichuan Restaurant, at New Bridge Road. A very humble place frequented by Caucasian tourists and people from the Mainland.

Since there were only two of us, we tried to be wise and ordered only two dishes. The cold cucumber dish and the spicy fish. Taste-wise, they are actually not bad. Not the best I’ve ever tried, but certainly not bad. A place we can go again some other time. Reasonable price as well. We spent only less than $20 save for the beer I ordered.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the spicy red color mixed with greens are so beautiful!

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | April 2, 2008

The Scar over My Left Eye

Is age catching up on me?

When I look into the mirror these days, there is one thing that becomes more and more obvious. No, I’m not talking about wrinkles. It’s the scar over my left eye. When I was younger that scar just didn’t look so obvious. But nowadays I can’t help but noticing.

That scar has been with me for about 30 years. Yes, I got it when I was only 3.

When I was a toddler, I could never call my grandpa properly. I had trouble pronouncing ‘engkong’, which means grandpa in… I don’t know what language. Cos obviously it’s not Malay/Bahasa. It’s probably Chinese dialect that is adapted to Bahasa?

Anyway, during that time I always called my grandpa ‘encong’ instead of ‘engkong’. But one day, I don’t know how, suddenly I could say it! My little kid’s heart was so happy that I just wanted to run and tell my mother, my father, my aunties… basically the rest of the family (that time we still stayed in one big house).

However, in my high spirit, I ran too fast and I ran into the sofa. Unfortunately, I hit the leg of the sofa on my face, just slightly above my left eye. Given that the leg of the sofa is made of steel, the next thing I saw was… blood everywhere! My mommy came to my rescue and I put my face on her lap where she had the clothes that she was sewing… My mom practically wiped the blood on my face with that piece of clothes… and I don’t remember anything else that happened after that.

Now, only the scar remains. The only reminder of the thing that happened that day.

Ooooh… now I miss my mom.

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | March 13, 2008

The Sentosa Resorts

Sometimes, things happened accidentally. Even things that should have been planned, like… a break or vacation. For one or other reasons, I got an excuse (a very valid excuse) to get away from the office in the middle of a work week, booked the hotel in the morning, then checked in right after lunch.

Very last minute, but we managed to get ourselves the Junior Suite. I wish we had more choices in Singapore, but when it comes to resort for relaxation, I guess the Sentosa Resorts & Spa (www.thesentosa.com) is still one of the prime choice. The newly opened Amara maybe nice, but for the room that was available at that time, I don’t feel the price makes sense. It’s SGD 700++ a night for the Junior Suite in Sentosa Resorts vs. SGD1,200++ a night in Amara.

The Junior Suite is quite spacious and well-decorated. However, a little bit boring for me. I am a sucker for tropical resorts. And if you are looking for that rustic feeling, not too clean and clinical, I guess Singapore is really not the place to do that. At least I’m not aware where we can find such a place in Singapore.

A few shots of the Junior Suite and the Sentosa Resorts:

The spacious Junior Suite.

Though not as heavenly as Westin’s Heavenly Bed, this one is enough to make you want to hide under the blanket for the whole day.

They use tropical fruits as complimentary welcome fruit. They even provide the guidebook to tropical fruit for people who are clueless about them. Nice try. But the fruit display is a bit pathetic…

The Pavilion. The lounge to hang out with some live music in the evening.

Peacock roaming around the resort freely.

Place to relax on a lazy afternoon.

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | March 13, 2008

Remembering Heart

I wonder if anybody (read: kids that were born in the 80’s) knows about Heart? One of the great rock band from the 70’s/80’s. I suppose some of them do. Cos Heart still has hits until the year 1990. So at least they should’ve heard Heart in their primary school days. If they ever.

Celine Dion recently sang one of their biggest hits, Alone. Not surprisingly, some of the kids in the internet forum think that the song is from Carrie Underwood! Just like those who think that Uptown Girl and Mandy are original songs from Westlife.

They never knew Heart. Or Billy Joel and Barry Manilow, for that matter.

If they ever knew Heart back then, they would probably fall in love with Ann and Nancy Wilson, the sisters that are the front of the band. Yes, other members of the band come and go, but Ann and Nancy of course can not be replaced. They are in their 50’s right now, still singing, but obviously do not look in their prime, especially with Ann fighting her weight problem. But back then… man! they were so hot! Rock chick hot!

Just check this out, the power ballad Alone with Ann at the lead vocal, and Nancy playing the guitar. Great song, amazing vocal! Call me old fashioned, but, put the 80’s style aside, I think they’re hot!

I hear the ticking of the clock
I’m lying here the room’s pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
No answer on the telephone
And the night goes by so very slow
Oh I hope that it won’t end though
Alone

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone

You don’t know how long I have wanted
To touch your lips and hold you tight
You don’t know how long I have waited
And I was gonna tell you tonight
But the secret is still my own
And my love for you is still unknown
Alone

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone

How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone
Alone, alone

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | February 28, 2008

Dining in Da Nang

One of the challenge for us when we were in Da Nang was to find a place to eat. Bored at the same meals that we had everyday in the resort, we finally decided that dining out was the way to go. Unfortunately, outside dining places are mostly located in the town side. Nothing much around the resort. So every dining trip was roughly about 20-30mins drive kind of thing.

One of the place that we went to, that I quite like in terms of the ambience, is Nam Long restaurant. Don’t dine inside, just go directly to the al fresco area outside, by the river. It was quite a sight to behold.

Entrance to Nam Long restaurant

Dining by the river…

This lady was dining and reading quietly. Until we came and destroyed the ambience… hehe…

Deep fried spring rolls. Nice! I ate so much of these…

The other restaurant that we went to is Apsara restaurant (www.apsara-danang.com). This one came with recommendation. Seems to be quite popular. They also have branches in other cities. And true enough, the place was jam-packed when we went there.

Apsara restaurant with their music show. Traditional instruments but they played modern popular songs from around the region.

They also have this dance show. Somehow… there was a general sense of excitement all around the room when this dancer showed up. I am not sure why…

Beef in coconut juice soup

Something that looks like fake scallops…

Garlic and butter crayfish

In overall, I find that the food in Da Nang is not up to my taste. Yes, the ambience may be nice. They may have entertainment to lure the guests to come. But still, they come short when it comes to the taste. I guess this is one thing that they have to fix when they have more and more visitors coming in.

Strangely enough, the meal that I enjoyed most during this Da Nang trip is this pork chop rice I ate when I was waiting for 5 hours in Tan Son Nhat airport…

Pork chop rice. Doesn’t look convincing but tastes quite good. Not the best I’ve ever tried, obviously (far from that, actually), but since the other meals in this trip were disappointing…

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | February 28, 2008

If All Meetings are Like This…

 

Once in awhile, there is a break to the endless business meetings in boring office buildings. That’s the time when we go offsite. On a workshop. And sometimes, only sometimes, … we get to go to a beautiful holiday location.

Like Da Nang. The beautiful, but laid back Da Nang.

The white sands beach at Furama Resort

Located almost halfway between HCMC and Saigon, near to Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam, Da Nang is a tourist destination that is not yet much commercialized. Like many of other places in Vietnam. If you would like to experience something similar to Bali long before it became commercialized, to some extent, Vietnam can provide it.

We stayed in Furama International Resort, which according to the local buyer, used to be the best resort in Da Nang back 8 years ago. Now that the other resorts have come, like the luxurious Nam Hai, it’s no longer there at the top. But still, it’s a nice place and I can say it still meets international standard. Except for the food, which is unfortunate. We have better luck having dinner outside.

The two-tiered swimming pools at Furama Resort

Another view of Furama Resort

The bedroom. I normally would request a king-size bed for myself, but that time I just didn’t feel like asking.

Grilled seabass fillet, sauteed spinach, dill potatoes – our lunch main course, looks nice, but taste is so-so

Nevertheless, the room is nice and clean, and the beach is a white sandy beach with clear blue water. The sands are of fine grain and the beach feels much cleaner vs. some of the beaches I know in Bali. Yes, Da Nang is still far from commercialization. But I hope they will remain this way even when more and more visitors are coming.

Small local shops in Da Nang. Obviously, no shopping malls. And hardly any cars on the roads. Bike is the main mode of transport around here…

One thing that I like when I am in Vietnam is the fact that time seems to move at a slower pace vs. Singapore. So laid back. Even in HCMC, which is a city. Very refreshing. Sit down at the coffee shop by the roadside watching people and bikes go by. You feel like you have all the time in the world…

I want to go to Vietnam again!

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | February 25, 2008

Hearing problem

We were chilling out at Prive at the Keppel island last Friday night. Ms. PS, one of my colleague from Thailand, is visiting us in Singapore and her ex-group invited her for dinner and drinks after that.

Dinner was at Mellben Seafood in AMK, which, according to me now, is the best place to have seafood in Singapore! My fellow Indonesians may protest if they hear me saying this as they are so hooked on to Jumbo. But I stand by my opinion for now.

Anyway…

Prive at the Keppel bay is quite a nice place for chilling. View of the bay, boats, the Carribean, and in the future… the Reflections. Chill-out music. Nice drinks (flirtini all the way for me…). All you need is good friends to make the conversations interesting. Without friends actually the place can be quite boring.

One of the things that stuck in my mind now…

“In my country people say that if you have hearing problem, it’s either you have too much sex, or too little.” (loud chill-out music in the background)

The responses…

“What?”

“Say again?”

“What did you say?”

😀

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | February 15, 2008

Valentine Day’s Special at Da Paolo La Terazza

This year we went to have our Valentine’s Day dinner at the Da Paolo La Terazza. Last minute booking, because I didn’t expect that place to be fully booked. Da Paolo is not the type of place that is uber-romantic where Singaporean guys like to do their marriage proposals on Valentine’s Day (so typical). Places like Au Jardin Les Amis and the former Lighthouse are more than suitable to serve that purpose.

Anyway, I went for Da Paolo for the food. This Valentine’s Day they have a special set menu that costs $125++ per person. No a la carte order for Valentine’s Day. Their menu:

Pan seared caramelized scallops and sea urchin with champagne and porcini mushroom puree

As the fan of scallop, sea urchin, and the arugula, I guess I have nothing to complain about this appetizer. The scallops and sea urchins are simply tasty. Maybe the only thing that is not really up to my liking is the mushroom puree. Somehow I miss the balsamic dressing.

Black truffle manicotti pasta filled with braised duck, duck liver, vegetables and red wine, served with its own consomme and mixed cherry tomatoes

The next one coming is the soup with two pieces of manicotti pasta. Manicotti pasta, similar to ravioli, has fillings inside. This time they filled it with a mixture of duck meat, duck liver, and vegetables. Yummy! I don’t particularly like the pasta, but the filling is quite nice. But the highlight of this dish is certainly the consomme itself. Simply delicious! We drank this soup until the last drop.

Grilled silver cod steak and rock lobster in armagnac and light cream sauce and baby asparagus

They have two options for main course. One is the silver codfish and the other one is the veal. As I do not particularly like the way Europeans do their veal, I opted for the grilled codfish instead. And this also turns out to be a very nice dish. Mind you, there are some high-end restaurants where I am always disappointed with the way they do their main course. The Cliff at Sentosa particularly came to mind as I have consistently been disappointed with their main courses, while at the same time crazy about their appetizers.

If I have to point out the reason why I love this more than the main courses in pricey establishment like The Cliff, it is probably the fact that they are able to mix the original taste of the fish and lobster with the sauce. Most Westerners would probably love just the original taste of the fish and the meat, whereas Asians prefer stronger taste of the sauce or dressing. But for me, it has to be both. What is the point of having the sauce there if not to complement the taste of the fish… right?

A pair of Tiramisu

Finally they close the dinner with tiramisu and a cup of coffee or tea. Too bad, I do not particularly like tiramisu. Wish they had served another dessert, like panna cotta for example. But then, it was all in a set. We did not really finish this dessert, but we were having fun snapping the pictures of the tiramisu as they come with a pair of two hearts, one being the inner heart, and the other one is the outer heart.

Trying to snap a picture of both hearts in a row…

Net,  a very satisfying Valentine’s Day dinner. And not too heavy, either. The only complaint —beside the tiramisu, of course— is the price. Just like what happen in all the other establishments all around the world on Valentine’s day, the set menu is somewhat overpriced. I am doing some rough calculation in my mind, and my estimate is they are about 20% more expensive than what they would charge on a normal day.

Anyway…

Happy Valentine’s day!

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | February 14, 2008

Bachang Nasi vs. Bachang Ketan

Another craving I’ve been having these past few days is bachang nasi. That is, rice dumpling made of normal rice. Not sticky rice.

I’ve been reminded of this bachang because a friend’s parents have been giving me bachang on some occasions lately. However, their bachangs, just like any other bachang in Singapore, are made of glutinous rice. Or, what we called in Indonesia as bachang ketan.

Since my early childhood I’ve only known bachang nasi. My extended family, i.e. the aunties from both mom’s and dad’s side, are a great fan of bachang nasi. This is very typical for Indonesian Chinese from around Jakarta, especially for the families that have been in Indonesia for long (I am a 5th generation, btw). The Indonesian Chinese from Central Java, on the other hand, prefer bachang ketan.

The content of the bachang is the same. It’s just that bachang nasi comes minus the difficulty of having rice stuck to your teeth. It has better texture and less sweet taste.

Now, I tell you, this is the worst craving that can ever be. Craving for something that does not even exist in Singapore… hikssss…. Unless miraculously there is an Indonesian Chinese auntie who can make this bachang nasi as nice as my aunties do it, and remember to give me…

Posted by: tonkatsudelights | January 31, 2008

The Hardest Decision

The hardest decision that I have to make in my work is when I have to fire somebody.

Because I know how it can impact another person’s life. Or more than that, his family as well. Of course I can tell myself, … well, this is probably for the good of everybody. For the morale of the organization. Because one bad performer with bad attitude can totally screw up the business results and the team’s spirit.

And maybe this is for that person’s own good, too. If his being here in our organization is not a fit, he will probably be better off somewhere. Despite him not performing up to the expectation, I can still see his good points. He can use his skills better somewhere.

It is not an easy decision, but I believe that this is the right thing to do.

And I will do it.

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