Sunday, May 26, 2013

Happy birthday GrandMa @Mandarin Oriental Hotel Cherry Garden Restaurant

I love attending family reunion dinners, for its delectable 10 course meals, in atas chinese setting, with an excuse to spend few days in the year with my otherwise distant relatives, and a chance to catch up with my cousins! My bigger family love to hold reunions at restaurants at Hotels in the special function room that allows for quiet ambience and 3 large tables that seats 10 persons. The benefits of having so many children is that gatherings are always be vibrant and lively! Cons, is the affordability of paying for so many people. But well, the reason the bigger family says "grandparents already so old, every celebrations odd to be the best one". Well, okay, good for me!

Chinese reunions are usually dinner time on weekends or public holidays for special occasions worth throwing a feast for celebrating- New Year, Chinese New Year, (Grand)Father's and Mother's Days, Grandparents Birthdays, Christmas. 

Just last eveing, it was Grandmothers birthday celebration held at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Cherry Garden Restaurant. It is a nice hotel with efficient bellboys and rhe grand lobby and stairway instantly attracted me. However nice the location, the one level-only carpark connects to and is shared by Marina Square Shopping Mall, and 3 Hotels- Pan Pacific Hotel, Marina Mandarin Hotel and Mandarin Oriental Hotel our destination. The digital counter outside the carpark wrote "211 Lots Available" to the "see so many lots, must be nobody coming to the hotel today" exclaimation from my parents. Disappointing it was, it was a tough time 20 minutes looking for a parking lot. There are many cars parked legally illegal along the turns and see obviously very delighted smiley faces when people walked out of their cars. Can try how lucky you are, or Marina Square is not the place drive to on a Saturday night!

My #OOTD, outfit of the day, was a long black maxi halter dress with gold rings each on the strap holding the dress up. Light makeup and I'm good to go!

The menu is always printed as the dishes were chosen by my aunts when they booked the VIP room weeks ahead of today. 11 dishes for dinner! 

Pre dinner setting

3/5: good and normal bites of appetizers. Nice.

3.5/5: love this well roasted duck skin and the egg flour thin wrap combines torealize an appetizing ensemble.

Honestly, to me it tastes like plain starchy soup except that the rationale behind this soup can be appreciated. Birds nest soup to replace Sharks Fin soup, for environmental friendliness and conservation of the endangered Sharks. Nice!

Cod rubber fillet. :x I was telling mum that the Cod dad bought from Japanese Supermarket Mediya, she cooked with carrots, garlic, and sauce, tasted much better than this. I believe best cod can be ordered at Japanese Restaurants! 

Half way through the dishes, as usual everyone was already bloated and struggling to finish the food. After all what is happiness (from finishing all the food) without a little struggle during this yearly tradition.

A Photo with my cutest 9 year old cousin.

Same yummy e-fu noodles we have every year!

Dessert time and i chose out of 4 dessert choices, mango sago with lime sorbet. Our dessert comes in 2 glass bowls in a cornical shape with dry ice placed below for a dreamy smokey effect. A happy ending that comes in small portions  to end off our dinner at 11pm.

The vanilla cake was huge! Happy birthday my Ah Ma/ grandmother.

XOXO insomnic Singapore Girl

P.S I am blogging about this because I'm bored and free, definitely and sadly not because the food is fantastic and give some reviews of the food in the meantime. Overall I would not recommend the restaurant for family dinners as the food is only so-so and has much room for improvement for a place of such class. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

1 Singapore Girl Chop to Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan recently opened its first branch outside of Hong Kong in the shores of Singapore. Founded in 2009 by Chef Mak Kwai Pui, 添好運 means "to add good luck". Under his glamorous resume, he has worked as a dim sum chef at the three Michelin-starred Lung King Heen restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel previously. Michelin stars are one of the most honorable and biggest accolade given to brands in the Food and Beverage industry. Some information here: Michelin reviews is a yearly book produced by a tire manufacturer Michelin (surprise!) which collates mass reviews of any restaurant all over the world. It ranges from no star to 3 stars. To be even 1 star, the food must be delicious. I don't see the famous Swee Choon Dim Sum getting 1 star yet! Tim Ho Wan must be one level above our favorite dim sum supper spot. Singaporeans is getting a piece of the pie  finally, albeit small one. 

Tim Ho Wan remains known for being one of the most affordable Michelin star restaurant in the world. Other star struck branches that have seen our Merlion include 2 fine dining by Celebrity Chef Restaurants- Guy Savoy and Cut, can be found at level 2 Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (MBS). Might want to dress up, doll up for some fine dining and $1000 pax debit off your credit card to enjoy Michelin Starred class food for that. Ordinary folks like me and you, Tim Ho Wan is our everyday faire!

Again, kudos to my knowledgeable University buddies, we headed down to Plaza Singapura and decided to check out the expected long queue hour long queue at Tim Ho Wan's, as famous as their Tim Sums now in Singapore. Two of us queued for a whole 1.5 hours before being served for a table, however, note they have 5 important rules you should know before heading down:

1) Customers will be allowed for a table only if everyone occupying the table is present 
2) Maximum order 3 Four Heavenly Kings  Their most famous signature Char Siew Bao dish per pax groan* 
3) No takeaways allowed ( it was reportedly mentioned on the news that until staffs are able to handle crowd )
4) Eat a full tea break/ meal before heading down to queue ;)
5) Be prepared to queue for 1-2 hours but it isn't so bad as there are seats outside lining the queue. Singaporean food blogger Lady Iron Chef who had the luxury of a pre-opening invite, didn't queue at all, and wont be able to truly experience the Tim Ho Wan in Singapore. Fortunately or not, I will know how you feel.

So the wait added another 0.5hour because everyone else was "late/on the train/ on the way when at home/ 5 more mins!!!/ reaching". I kept telling my friend "you are very patient person". Because without him still looking cheery after 2 hours, I would have given up honestly. As they always say, it's the company that matters!! So the wait too, better have been worth it. My verdict is.... YES! It was worthwhile! I loved the dim sums from this Hong Kong Michelin Star struck restaurant! 

The pictures of the food are placed in no order of deliciousness, ranked by the Singapore Girl. The famous 4 Heavenly Kings include this famous Char Siew Bao that comes in 3s, carrot cake, Zhong Zi or dumpling and the pig liver vermicilli roll. Other varieties of their mouth-watering dim sum we ordered include ha kao and a vege dumpling. 

The Bao, is very unique from the traditional baos sold everywhere else at coffee shops for breakfast for example. It has a lightly crispy, yet soft texture to the bun. If you remember the craze before bubble teas in Singapore we had Roti John in the 2000s? It taste like that on the outside. But replace air and minus the fragrant coffee tinge, it has gently char siew coated meat, fresh and piping at the next layer when you sink your teeth in its well known bun.

The carrot cake is the best by far. Honestly trying this was what made me feel that the queue was worthwhile. The carrot cake is extremely light, fresh and soft, falling apart easily on all your tastebuds. Love it! Must try!!!

For the rest of the delicious food, i say ita all must try. The pictures shall speak on my behalf while i go to sleep and I would say the best description is tasting the dim sums for yourself! 

In total the bill was $17.90 per person, the usual dinner bill for a eatery in a shopping mall. Another star I give for it's affordability! All these imagery running through my head, while typing I'm planning my next trip already. A good news is that theres also news that another branch in Toa Payoh is in the works. Perhaps I could go in the afternoon for tea time dim sum and hope for less queue. All in all, Tim Ho Wan is a try many many times for the foodie in you!  

Happy (queuing before) eating.

XOXO Your Miss Singapore Foodie 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Prawning @ Hai Bin for the first time, fun time

Okay, here is one most shocking information you will hear of today. There is NO SUCH WORD known as Prawning. In fact it is a word created and spoken by many a Singaporean, once again, a step into creating a Unique language that might strengthen our little known yet culture of our little red dot against the international influences.

However new this word is to any international person or dictionary, for that matter, prawning is a pastime and leisure activity of many of us, which was unknown to my knowledge until recently. My new friends were narrating their last weekend's happenings and it was when I heard prawning. "Oh, I've never done that", I exclaimed proudly to the horror look on their faces. Worth a picture taken , but that was quickly changed when they had the idea of going prawning together with me. Just to add, this is a déjàvu incident, because many time friends speak about prawning, it ends with "no I'm not going with you because I'm going to be the one unhooking the hook from the prawn and pulling out its claws". So this recent suggestion made me really happy. It's a first time for me!

Basically, you pay either $15 for an hour per fishing Rod or $30 for 3 hours package per rod. For more people you might wish to have more rods, 2 person can share one. It comes with a rod, free unlimited tiny pieces raw chicken meat as baits, nets in buckets to keep the caught prawns fresh in water, mr staff who will remind you after 3 hours, charcoal for BBQ after the 3 hours, unlimited packs of salt, fire starter, 2 plates which you may find around the tables and have to wash them before use at the sinks. There are several prawning places in Singapore, went to the one nearest to my home of course! They are usually opened 24 hours all day, ready to fit into your schedule. Here is the list of place that can do prawning in Singapore :

-Jurong Hill Prawn Fishing
241, Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim
-Bishan Park (Hai Bin U Enterprise)
Bishan No. 603 Sin Ming Avenue
-Hai Bin U Prawning at Promenade Riverside Walk .
6 Tebing Lane
-Bottle Tree Park
81 Lorong Chencharu
#01-01 Bottle Tree Park
-Pasir Ris Farmway 3 (Iwarna)
No. 70 Pasir Ris Farmway 3
-Pasir Ris Farmway Prawn Fishing
Pasir Ris Park Industrial Coast Park 2
-Pasir Ris Park Prawning Pond
1 Pasir Ris Drive 1, Pasir Ris Park
-Punggol Prawning
Marina Country Club, 600 Punggol Seventeenth Avenue
-Badminton Hall Prawning At Geylang
Address: 100 Guillemard Road, #01-13
-East Coast Prawning 
Address: 1020 East Coast Parkway

Offering a Simple GUIDE TO
Singapore Prawning for Dummies by the Singapore Girl:

1) take the small piece of meat/ paid worm and place on the hook without showing the top of the hook. (Careful the hook is very sharp and it did cut me too, after which I was stopped from touching the hook again)

2) hold out the rod to the centre of the pond ( that is where the prawns are mostly we figured, probably where the oxygen tank is located and full of prawns) 

3) swing the extended part of the rod until it reached to the maximum distance and let it down to the water. So as to reach as far as possible to the centre of the pond

4)let the buoy float and wait for it to submerge fully as it indicates that a prawn is finally taking bait

5) here's the next step, teasing the prawn as my friend likes to call it. Once it baits, don't leave it there as the prawn could slowly eat the meat, going around the hook, get fat, without biting the hook. 

Heres what worked for me. So once the buoy sinks fully, slowly tug up and down the rod, all the way up until u see the prawn on the bait

6) bring in the rod, scream a little, run away, hold the rod while with another help, the person grabs the prawn holding down its claws preferably, and remove the hook deeply pierced through the prawn's mouth. ( it's a little cruel but just to get the job done most important I suppose...) 

8) place your catch of the day  in the netted basket 

9) repeat steps 1-8 until an uncle reminds you about the 3 hour time limit. 

10) when it is  time to cook the prawns you may wish to approach the counter with glassy eyes if you did not catch enough. However, note that definitely the frozen prawns are not fresher than the live ones you have caught. Some to be thrown away, don't eat the Dubious looking ones as they may cause  stomach upset!

11) Wash your prawns, poke them with the skewer. start a fire, or use someone's else's that is still burning. And get ready to eat.

Now some take away points I have learnt from my V prawning experience:

1) be prepared to be bored. Thanks to my trusty friend, we were busy catching up and talking abt each others lives to keep time passing quickly while waiting for the next starving and stupid prawn to take bait.
2) while waiting for stupid prawns to take bait could take very long, so order some chicken wings to entertain anticipating tummy. 5 star review of the BBQ  chicken wings sold there by friend! It's $1.20 per wing. We ordered 5, but felt it was too little anyway. 
3) DONT drive there!!!! 4 hours there from 9pm-1am, there isnt free parking from 10pm onwards unlike many other places. 
I saw $8 deduction from my card after leaving the place, too expensive. Otherwise taking a cab at midnight would cost at least $20 including 50% surcharge of the final bill all in all.
4) actually prawning is not a cheap hobby. As many of them we saw there, whether in 20s 30s or 50s, some bought their own long rods. For us starters and leisure fishermens, one trip would already cost $15+$5+$8=$28 for one night of 8 prawns. 

5) if u like prawns, get them at $1.60 per 100grams at NTUC and buy some black pepper sauce to BBQ them with in your oven, at home. A better and more cost efficient alternative I say! 

Xoxo, Prawn Lover Singapore Girl