An Introduction

An Introduction
The Simplest Aphrodisiac

Flavours of the Month

Flavours of the Month
Rocks Urban Grill & Bar

Overseas Trips

Overseas Trips
The Reason to Travel

The A List

The A List
Featuring the Best

Jones The Grocer

29 September 2010

Post-processed, lomo-type pictures courtesy of the Apple iPhone application Hipstamatic. I've been toying around with this app with the colleagues during lunch, but as you can probably tell from the blurry pictures more practice is definitely needed haha. Just as well for this post on Jones the Grocer at Dempsey actually, since the food here seems to have left a somewhat sketchy and forgettable impression.

The Jones' Open Wagyu Beef Burger was dull and monotonous. Dry bread and overdone crumbly patty... No sir, this ain't getting the green light from me. The balsamic vinegar did make a valiant attempt to save this dish, but it would have been asking too much of it surely. Quite simply, this burger tried too hard to be different, but it ended up looking (and tasting) like a confused sandwich!

Salads, no matter how dream-like or colourful, can never entice the red-blooded carnivore in me. Not one bit, not by a mile. But the lady who had this seemed to have no problems with the little garden before her, even with the pungent smell of (blue??) cheese wafting around the table. I'll face accusations of being a sexist but really it's something only the ladies can do with these salads. Give the real man a real burger with hot, crisp fries any day please.

Very good.

$26.50++ for the Jones' Open Wagyu Beef Burger.

Blk 9 #01–12, Dempsey Road.

Pictures taken with the Apple iPhone 4.

Nha Trang, Vietnam: Diamond Bay

27 September 2010

Two years on, Diamond Bay Resort in Nha Trang is still clinging on to its famed history of hosting the 2008 Miss Universe pageant, so much so that dinner halls still carry portraits of the contestants and kitchenware like cups and plates continue to bear the hotel's 2008 logo. For sure, I had Miss Italy and Miss Australia smiling down at me every morning during breakfast, and that cup I was drinking from may very well have been held by Miss Venezuela.

Nha Trang seems to be a fairly scenic coastal city, but I guess I can't say too much because admittedly I spent most of the time confined to the Diamond Bay Resort. It's odd holding meetings in a resort because you would be walking around in suits, much to the bemusement of some of the tourists. If I had to compare, I think I still prefer the cool hills of Da Lat, having been pampered by the lovely weather (it's hot and humid in Nha Trang) and its serene out-of-nowhereness.

There was a barbecue and international buffet night as part of the host's resort-style "gala dinner", and I quite enjoyed the fresh barbecued seafood (especially the whole fishes, scallops and prawns) prepared by the hotel. Dinners on other nights were terribly forgettable, so at least this compensated things a little.

I ordered the Traditional Lean Beef Burger on one of my long work nights to keep the energy up and running. Pity that the burger turned out to be a tad overdone. To be fair, it was clearly hand-pounded and had a promising beefy quality to it, so it may just have been a cook on a bad day. The fries were hot and crispy and quite simply a delight to munch on late into the night.

Next up: Back to yummies in Singapore! :)

About SGD16 including taxes.

Diamond Bay Resort,
Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Pictures taken with the Apple iPhone 4.

HCMC, Vietnam: Prima Taste

24 September 2010

Fancy an 8USD Hainanese Chicken Rice? Head on then to the Singaporean-owned Prima Taste Restaurant at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport, where you can enjoy a variety of Singaporean fare at well, inflated prices. The rice is flavourful and oily enough, but it would be better if they were a little more generous with the tender slices of steamed chicken. Satisfying yes, but you can easily get it for much cheaper back home.

No one in the restaurant had access to the publicised free wi-fi, but there wasn't any effort by the staff or duty manager to address this.

Tan Son Nhat International Airport,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Pictures taken with the Canon Ixus 80 IS.

HCMC, Vietnam: Halal @ Saigon

22 September 2010

Flight delays are no laughing matter, especially when it means another five hours in transit in an almost godforsaken Nha Trang airport with little food, air-conditioning and wi-fi. It's an even more "interesting" experience when you can see the aviation engineers attempting to hammer the plane door, use masking tapes, squeeze paper into gaps etc., and then you find yourself scrambling to find another flight just so you don't get on that plane. No complaints about having to stay in the five-star Sheraton Hotel, since we missed our connecting SQ flight from Ho Chi Minh City and had to find a place for the night. No complaints either about indulging in familiar Malaysian fare, even at 10+pm, since it was all good comfort food.

Halal @ Saigon was opened by the lively Dr Shimi for about a year and eight months now, and to date has won at least three local awards in recognition of its good food. Halal @ Saigon is located across the road from Sheraton Hotel and is close to the shopping belt of Ho Chi Minh City. Do take note of its namecard (above) though, because you wouldn't want to confuse it with a competitor who had set up shop nearby, with a large Halal sign to boot and with similar fonts too.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls: I'm not a fan of these, but my colleagues liked it a lot. This is one of the staple dishes of the typical Vietnamese diet, but I would take pho anytime. The food I mean, not the euphemism.

Rice Pancake with Chicken: I took the picture (left) of the rice pancake off the Internet just so you could see what it looks like. I'm not a bean-sprouts person so I have to reserve my comments on this, but at least my colleagues (again) seemed happy with it.

Fried Shrimp with Salted Eggs: I've eaten the crab variation of this in Singapore, but with prawns it's really much saltier. Probably better eaten with noodles or rice rather than on its own.

Curry Chicken: No pictures from the late dinner, but the chicken curry is worth mention because it's not our usual Singapore-type curries. It has a more distinct Indian flavour, and can be mind-numbingly spicy if taken in large and repeated doses. Still, it was hugely addictive to me, and I went on and on drinking the curry as it is. Curries are comfort food to me!

Nasi Lemak

We returned to Halal @ Saigon the following morning, and most of us ordered the Nasi Lemak because of the favourable opinions of it from the night before. The rice was fragrant and tasted alright, but people who appreciate balance would especially love the chicken rendang and sambal chilli because they were not too spicy. Me, I would like it with a more spicy kick, but overall it was still quite good.

Roti Canai

The Malaysian equivalent of the Singaporean roti prata, where the only difference is in name actually. The Roti Canai was disappointing because I doubt it was "hand-made", and going by the taste and exact dimensions it should be from a frozen pack. At least the curry (note: different from the à la carte chicken curry mentioned above) that came along with it saved the dish.

Teh Tarik: Make sure you order this delicious full-bodied beverage, it's sweet and warms you up inside all over.

Well, I wish I could tell you more, but most of us were ordering similar dishes and sticking to our comfort zones. This is definitely a place to go to if you need a break from traditional Vietnamese food, fusion French dishes and international buffets. We know this for sure because we've been having quite a bit of all that, and as you can tell we even missed the breakfast spread at the Sheraton just for some comforting Nasi Lemak and Teh Tarik :)

Very good, most of the staff can manage orders in English. Do chat with Dr Shimi if you see her around, she's a very passionate person who loves food. There's only one Halal @ Saigon by the way, because she doesn't want to compromise on quality that usually follows with expansion.

VND 70,000 for the vietnamese spring rolls
VND 45,000 for the rice pancake with chicken
VND 99,000 for the fried shrimp with salted eggs
VND 90,000 for the chicken curry
VND 72,000 for the nasi lemak

* The roti canai is not on the menu but you can still order it.

31 Đông Du, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Additional Comment
The picture of the airport and the rice pancake are from external sources on the Internet.

Pictures taken with the Canon Ixus 80 IS.

HCMC, Vietnam: Rose CIP Lounge

20 September 2010

The Rose CIP Lounge at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport is one of the few lounges in the airport and is specifically for Star Alliance travellers. It is fairly comfortable with natural light filling the area, and there's also a tiny buffet spread (mostly finger-food) laid out in the middle.

Vietnamese Beef Noodles

I think I may have mentioned a few times now that I'm slowly getting the hang of enjoying my pho, and this is quite true since I'm not usually one who would have something soupy for my main course. The Vietnamese love their beef noodles and spring rolls a lot mind you, it's almost their staple and everyday dish.

I thought the noodles here at Rose CIP Lounge was appetising enough, the beef slices were tender and the soup base was not too bad. There's usually a mass of beansprouts and spring onions but I did away with them.

Interestingly, I was told that there is an euphemism surrounding pho. When someone excuses himself from a guy-only gathering or meeting and says he's going to have some pho, the dude is not actually going to get some beef noodles. What he really means is that he's going to meet his mistress! To his male buddies, this is not usually frowned upon (then again, this piece of information was told by a lady and this could skew the perception a little). By the way, the wife is referred to as rice, probably had its origins from agriculture lingo.

Pictures taken with the Apple iPhone 4.

Da Lat, Vietnam: La Sapinette Hotel

17 September 2010

Some of my friends have wondered if I am eating in too much on my work trips, but I must assure you that this isn't the case. It just isn't appropriate to be snapping away at food during my working lunches and gala dinners, so what you see on this blog is just a small part of my meals overseas. Don't worry, I'm fed well, and for those who have seen me around recently, you may have already concluded that I've been fed too well haha. But no, I've not grown to the point that I need beds for three people (see picture above), it was just over-generosity on the part of the Vietnamese and Koreans.

I must admit that I've never heard of Da Lat till I was selected to go on this trip. A small town amidst the hills, Da Lat certainly has a serene charm of its own and it did feel like a good break from the work rush back in Singapore. If you like "out-of-nowhereness", maybe a place to just relax and (almost) do nothing at all, you might be happy to know that there will be direct flights from Singapore to Da Lat in the near future.

Onion Soup

I expected an airy puff on top, just the way the French do it, and so I was a little disappointed when I didn't see that on my soup. It came out alright, quite satisfying actually when dipped with toasted bread.

Steak Sandwich with Cheese

Da Lat is known for its fresh fruit and vegetable produce, but it didn't mean much to a red-blooded meat-eater like me. While the thin strips of beef tasted better than expected, it was still just wayyy too simple for me.

Fried Rice with Seafood

A safe bet in Asian hotels, inasmuch as most of them taste alike. Passable basic fare. What I liked more was the strong Vietnamese coffee, perks your day and night up like no other.

VND 47,000 for the onion soup
VND 85,000 for the steak sandwich with cheese
VND 59,000 for the seafood fried rice

* Prices subject to 10% service charge.

La Sapinette Hotel,
Da Lat, Vietnam.

Pictures taken with the Canon Ixus 80 IS and Apple iPhone 4.

Hanoi, Vietnam: Ming Palace

15 September 2010

Ming Palace is a Chinese restaurant located in Sofitel Plaza Hotel, and this offered some respite from the host of "regional-cuisine" buffets (think a mix of Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese) and Western fare (steak and burgers) that I'd been having. It's an upmarket restaurant with upmarket prices for sure, a far cry from the prices that you would actually expect to pay in Vietnam. Still, this was as adventurous as I could possibly get in the midst of my work there. If only it gave more bang for my buck.

Wok-Fried Soft Shell Crab
With ginger, vinegar, capsicums and plum sauce

With such a mix of flavours, the fresh Wok Fried Soft Shell Crab definitely had a unique factor to it. While it wasn't mind-blowingly good, it was still something refreshing and decent enough.

Grilled Superior Beef Medallion
With Vietnamese spices and tamarind sauce

The Grilled Superior Beef Medallion deserves a medal, it was really delicious. I liked how the beef slices were so tender that they could almost melt in your mouth with each soft bite. The thick sauce was equally memorable as well. Sweet, sour and spice makes it all nice and good indeed.

Fujian Fried Rice

Interestingly, and with some brief embarrassment, the waitress actually refused to let me order three dishes for myself. She said it would be too much for me and suggested I order the Fujian Fried Rice instead to accompany the two dishes above. Thinking I'm looking too much like a glutton (then again, I wasn't planning to order steamed rice, so I thought three dishes were alright...) I relented. I should have stood my ground though, because I didn't like the mui fan type of fried rice one bit. I spent half the time trying to push the gravy to the side and have some of the unadulterated fried rice instead, but gave up after a while. It was a good effort to mix real crab and prawn meat in the gravy, but I guess my tastebuds didn't agree very much to it.

Good, but too "helpful"!

VND 152,000 for the wok-fried soft shell crab
VND 228,000 for the grilled superior beef medallion
VND 130,000 for the fujian fried rice

* Prices subject to 10% service charge.

Sofitel Plaza Hotel,
Hanoi, Vietnam.

Pictures taken with the Canon Ixus 80 IS.

Hanoi, Vietnam: Sofitel Plaza Hotel

13 September 2010

Sofitel Plaza Hotel did feel somewhat like a second home to me when I was there for almost two whole weeks in July. It definitely has the two basic things that you could possibly ask for after a long stretch of meetings for the day - a very comfortable bed, and of course, good, hot food. Simple needs, simple desires, all easily satisfied.

If I may add, one of the best things about my room was the view of the lake, a pretty and refreshing sight that greeted me every morning. Things like TVs and cable channels don't quite interest me much when I'm on overseas work trips - if I am not in my room working on my notes or reports, I would probably be chilling out with my colleagues at the executive Club Sofitel Lounge.

If you're thinking I would start rolling out traditional Vietnamese food in this post (and the few to come), I would have to disappoint you and say there isn't any. Most of the time I would be having my dinner in my room, much because I'm usually too tired to venture anywhere else. Other times, it would be at official dinners and I don't see the need to whip out my camera like a wide-eyed tourist haha...

Indonesian Nasi Goreng

The Indonesian Nasi Goreng was alright, I liked the overall flavour to it but did find the rice a tad too dry for my liking. Satay sauce was good.

If I had to compare, the Seafood Fried Rice at the Club Sofitel lounge was a bit better with it being filled with seafood ingredients - prawns, squids, fish and even some clams. A bit too heavy for breakfast though!

Next time, I would try the stir-fried noodles and of course, the quintessential Vietnamese pho, beef noodles! The pho took me a little getting used to (you know I'm not the biggest fan of soupy dishes) but I'm starting to like it quite a bit now.

Beef Burger
With fried egg and cheese

The Beef Burger was everyone's favourite comfort food after a long day of meetings. Tender beef patty, fried egg, melted cheese and crisp crinkle cut fries - a satisfying combination for any road warrior.

Pan-Fried Beef Rib-Eye
With sautéed new potato, mix of green lettuce and herbs from Dr Hung's garden from Da Lat, Phu Quoc green peppers and mushroom sauce

On one of the nights, well the last night actually, I wanted to give myself a treat because everything had gone smoothly. This being Vietnam, one of the most expensive items on the menu only came up to not more than S$30, and you can imagine a much higher price tag if you're having this in a reputable hotel in Singapore.

Don't judge by the price tag though, because this was a really thick and good slab of rib-eye. The mushroom sauce was addictive, and the potatoes were sweet and delicious. A pity the greens were lost on a carnivore like me, especially when they come from the fresh hills of Da Lat.

While the French may not be the most popular people in the minds of the Vietnamese (especially the older generation), remnants of their colonial occupation remain - architecture, language (the romanised quoc ngu) and even technology. The best thing that I think they left Vietnam with however, and this is only in the narrow context of food, is baking skills. The breads and croissants here are heavenly, freshly baked and so good even on its own. Looking forward to more in October! :)

VND 171,000 for the Indonesian fried rice
VND 190,000 for the beef burger
VND 361,000 for the pan-fried beef rib-eye

* Prices subject to 10% service charge.
** The seafood fried rice is served free of charge, upon request.

Sofitel Plaza Hotel,
Hanoi, Vietnam.

Pictures taken with the Canon Ixus 80 IS.

Flying with SQ: SIN-HCM, HCM-SIN

06 September 2010

As I'm typing this post I'm already looking forward to my next trip... next week! Maybe I'm just trying to psyche myself up because the work has been going on no-end, but well, enjoy myself while I am at it right. Being in the driver's seat can be exciting stuff, even more so when you're sitting behind the flag with the crescent and stars and knowing what you do can make a difference.

Food, of course, keeps the energy up. I can't say the food onboard SQ is the most satisfying I had, but it would do to keep me occupied for some time. I hear food on long-haul flights are way better, and judging from what I've been having so far I'm inclined to believe that too. Guess I will leave it to my Citibank PremierMiles Card to take me places next year, I know I'm nicely on track for a good ticket or two :)

Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken

The Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken was quite unappetising, but I finished it up all the same because I was quite hungry. Probably too much salt, even MSG, in the thick, sweet sauce. At least the pandan-kaya cake made up for the otherwise terribly disappointing main course.

Sausage with Omelette

If noodles don't work for you , perhaps you would like some Sausage with Omelette then. It looks too simple if you ask me, and I doubt it would have filled me up one bit.

Fried Rice with Fried Fish Fillet

Lunch was a much better affair as compared to brunch. The Fried Rice with Fried Fish Fillet was pretty decent stuff, with a discernible flavour and aroma to it. I must qualify though that I have simple, easy-to-please tastebuds, so if you're frowning at my satisfaction with in-flight food, well just know where I'm coming from. It would be silly walking into an airplane and expecting gourmet-standard fare anyway.

Pictures taken with the iPhone 4.

Flying with SQ: HAN-SIN

01 September 2010

The one thing I love about this job is that I get to travel a lot. While it's been all work and rarely any play, I've found it to be really interesting and meaningful and I've been looking forward to every single trip each month. In the course of the next few weeks you will be entertained with food posts from Vietnam, as well as the long over-due posts from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I'll slot in some local yummies in between too. Then there's also a week-long holiday lined up in November, and if you know me well enough you would know for sure that I'm already going through food and travel guides for the best places to dine at. All the travelling, all the food, I'm already hungry just thinking about it.

For now, this post gives a brief picture of my flight back from Hanoi, Vietnam. I think short flights like this one here don't seem to score very well on meals, and the Chinese braised beef with daikon, carrots, stir-fried vegetables and steamed rice was average at best. The Singapore Sling (in a plastic cup...) wasn't as strong as I would have wanted it to be, but at least there was always wine to fall back on. Maybe it was just the monthly menu, but I was expecting a little bit more from Singapore Airlines.

Pictures taken with the Canon Ixus 80 IS.

2009 ·*the simplest aphrodisiac by TNB | Official Singapore Food Blog.