Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Would you agree with this list of 20 things not to miss in Bangkok? Well, some look like first-timer favourites although there are a few I have not heard of before. But I'm not familiar with Bangkok, having visited less than three times in my entire life (I guess when something is nearby, you explore it even less). Still it is one of Southeast Asia’s most enigmatic cities, embracing both the traditional and modern in one destination.

This list is shared by the Banyan Tree Bangkok - the city's only five-star all-suite hotel - as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations. They also offer an exclusive holiday package that will run until 22nd December, inclusive of limousine transfers, complimentary cocktails, spa discounts and more (see end of post for details). I hear the spa is legendary; I hope I can go someday!

History lessons

1.       Start with a visit to The Grand Palace, undoubtedly one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

2.       The expansive complex not only includes the former residence of the Thai monarch, but is also home to Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the revered Emerald Buddha.

3.       The Golden Mountain (“Phu Khao Thong”) is also well worth a visit. As one of the tallest structures in Bangkok, it allows for some of the most stunning panoramic views of the city.

Culture Vultures

4.       The Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall brings to life the story of Thailand’s rich history through a combination of multimedia and interactive displays.

5.       Jim Thompson’s house and its lovely garden-enclosed compound featuring an arts centre, souvenir boutique, and traditional teak houses reflective of unique Thai architecture.

6.       Thai Cooking Classes have also become a must. Learn to prepare popular dishes such as Tom Yum Goong, Som Tum and Gaend Kiew Whan Gai with lessons conducted at Banyan Tree Bangkok.

Shop till you drop

7.       Siam Square shopping district is the central shopping area for both locals and travellers alike. Here you will find everything, from renowned high-end brands to boutiques of independent traders.

8.       For a distinctive shopping experience, explore the Train Night Market Ratchada - Talad Nud Rod Fai. It sets itself apart from other bazaars by touting only the hippest and trendiest wares at competitive prices.

9.       Or stick to the tried and tested route with a visit to the famous Chatuchak weekend market boasting more than 8,000 market stalls.

Foodie’s paradise

10.    Travellers will find no shortage of inexpensive and delightful Thai foods along the streets of Bangkok. One of the most iconic street food locations is Chinatown - Yaowarat which offers a wide array of authentic Thai hawker fare.

11.    For a unique gastronomic experience, head to Apsara Cruise (first photo above), a vintage-style rice barge that sails along the majestic Chao Praya. Aboard the vessel, you will be treated to an exclusive selection of Royal Thai cuisine, courtesy of Banyan Tree Bangkok.

12.    Saphan Leung - Yellow Bridge is also famous for its Anaharn Tham Suan (made-to-order) stalls selling noodle and seafood dishes.

13.    Let Vertigo and Moon Bar, located on the 61st floor of Banyan tree Bangkok, awe you with a unique alfresco dining experience and stunning panoramic views of the urban landscape.

Live like a local

14.    Immerse yourself in the action of the most popular sports in Thailand -Kickboxing or Muay Thai, by catching a live match or two in any of the stadiums littered throughout the country.

15.    Take a Longtail Boat Canal Klong Tour and explore the ancient waterways of Bangkok and the communities that still live along them.

16.    When day turns into night, ride a Tuk-Tuk or Sam Lor (three-wheeled taxis) to explore the buzzing metropolis.


17.    Treat yourself to a revitalising massage at Banyan Tree Spa (photo on the right), one of the largest and most luxurious spas in Bangkok.

18.    Take a stroll around Lumpini Park, a green oasis in the middle of the city.

19.    Visit Baan Silapin - Artist’s House, a two-hundred-year old dwelling that serves as a great escape from the hustle and bustle.

20.    Book with Banyan Tree Bangkok and enjoy the lavish offerings of the 20th Anniversary Celebrations Package.

20th Anniversary Celebrations Package

The 20th Anniversary Celebrations Package includes a stay in the Serenity Club category, where guests will be able to enjoy a multitude of benefits such as Club Lounge access, complimentary breakfast buffet, free-flow refreshments, a stylish limousine airport transfer, 30% off additional spa treatments and complimentary cocktail at Bangkok’s newest sky-high cosmopolitan bar, Vertigo TOO. Guests can also unwind with an exclusive spa treatment, a 90-minute massage session for 2 when booking directly with Banyan Tree Bangkok.

*Terms & Conditions:

·          Rates for Serenity Club starts from THB 8,896++ and rates for One-Bedroom Suite starts from THB 9,896++.

·          This offer is valid for stays from 01 March 2016 until 22 December 2016.

·          A minimum stay of 2 consecutive nights is required for this offer.

·          This offer cannot be combined with other promotions and gift certificates.

·          Other conditions may apply, please contact hotel reservation for further information.

·          Quote EDM Package for 90-minute message session for 2

·          Guests can enjoy 30% off additional spa treatments but this offer excludes beauty treatments

21/100 South Sathon Road
Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 2679 1200
Email: bangkok@banyantree.com

Monday, July 25, 2016

One of my most popular posts is the "Five Local Food Delivery Services in Singapore You Probably Didn't Know About" and I think it speaks to the increasing way we are buying dinners instead of cooking it ourselves. I totally understand - cooking is wonderful but only if you have the time (and proclivity for washing up) and money. Yes, groceries are not cheap.

But it would be great to eat healthy, so I'm always happy to find a healthy food delivery option. Spinacas (meaning "spinach" in Spanish) which I previously thought was just about salads, actually has some hearty meals with low carb or low GI sides.

Besides generously portioned salads, there are bentos that cater to people who prefer a meal with meat and rice along with vegetables: each bento includes 150g meats, 150g savoury brown rice cooked in an onion-chicken stock, and 80g of vegetable side and bento toppings.

Recently I tried three orders:

Pulled Pork Bento (S$11)
Pork shoulder slow-cooked in cinnamon meat stock until meltingly tender then hand-pulled to juicy perfection. Comes with savoury brown rice, avocado guacamole and a side of fresh pineapple-tomato salsa

The brown rice is cooked quite soft, with a savoury hit that makes it good enough to eat on its own. I liked the pulled pork, but I do wish it had more of that yummy sauce (well, I guess we are saving calories). The salsa is surprisingly nice. Mine had apple slices instead of guac.

Shiraz Braised Beef Cheeks Salad (S$17)
Premium beef cheeks (150g) are slow-braised with ruby red Shiraz, baby carrots and celery to make them extra tender and flavour packed. All served on a bed of fresh green baby spinach and romaine lettuce, and complemented with 7 healthy toppings.

I have to say I enjoyed the huge and hearty green salad with all its toppings more than the super tender beef cheeks. The red wine notes are pretty strong (for me), so I guess wine lovers will adore this.

Meat Lover Honey Soy Chicken Salad (S$9, 11)
Chicken cubes marinated with a warm Cantonese ginger-sesame dressing and sautéed with soy.

The chicken is pretty intense, flavourwise, but a tad too sweet for me. It is a pretty big portion and might overwhelm the little salad, but you sure won't go hungry after this. For both salads, I like that the produce is so fresh.

Sides: Cauliflower Mash (S$2) and Vegetarian Spiced Chickpea Patties (S$3) 
Don't miss the sides. I loved the cauliflower mash (my favourite item!) and thought the spiced high-protein chickpea patty was interesting (but those who don't like Middle Eastern flavours probably won't take to it).

Spinacas delivers to many locations islandwide - see the link for areas and delivery charges (S$4-6 depending on postal code).

Minimum delivery order is S$30, and it's best to order 24 hours in advance.

Many thanks to Spinacas for the experience.

Friday, July 22, 2016

If you thought the Bib Gourmand awards had a few funny names in it...well, wait til you see the full Michelin star list. The guide has always had its bashers and critics but it's still the most iconic and coveted rating for restaurants. So to see this list for Singapore...

I think Lennardy put it well here in his post:

Yes, many of these restaurants deserve the star(s). Seven out of 10 of my predictions came true, and those are crowd favourites anyone can come up with. But as Lennardy put it, "there are some very questionable restaurants on the list."

3 Michelin stars 

Joël Robuchon Restaurant (Resorts World Sentosa)

2 Michelin stars

Restaurant Andre (Bukit Pasoh Road)
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Resorts World Sentosa)
Les Amis (Shaw Centre)
Odette (National Gallery Singapore)
Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro (Mandarin Orchard Singapore)
Shoukouwa (One Fullerton)

1 Michelin star

Alma by Juan Amador (Goodwood Park Hotel)
The Kitchen at Bacchanalia (Hong Kong Street)
Beni (Mandarin Gallery)
Candlenut (New Bridge Road)
Corner House (Botanic Gardens)
Crystal Jade Golden Palace (Paragon Shopping Centre)
CUT (Marina Bay Sands)
Forest (Resorts World Sentosa)
Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles (Crawford Lane)
HK Soya Sauce Chicken Rice Noodles (Chinatown Food Complex)
JAAN (Swissotel the Stamford)
Lei Garden (CHIJMES)
OSIA (Resorts World Sentosa)
Putien Restaurant (Kitchener Road)
Rhubarb Le Restaurant (Duxton Hill)
Shinji by Kanesaka (Raffles Hotel)
Shinji by Kanesaka (St Regis Hotel)
Summer Pavilion (Ritz-Carlton, The Millenia Singapore)
Sushi Ichi (Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel)
Terra Tokyo-Italian (Tras Street)
The Song of India (Scotts Road)
Waku Ghin (Marina Bay Sands)

I don't know. I'm naive. Maybe when they get more local reviewers and do not take sponsorships (especially those that may involve a conflict of interest), we can have a more impartial list. And do it before all credibility is lost. Wait, oh, it's too late?

The beef fillet Rossini style came shielded in this dramatic glass dome

Meanwhile, I'll go back to binge-watching Suits and wondering what the **** stormtroopers are doing in the Maldives ocean. Noooooooo!!! This is a much bigger travesty!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Japan Food Town is the next foodie wonderland with 20,075 sq ft dedicated to Japanese food. It may be located next to Food Republic at Wisma Atria, but make no mistake - this food hall is NOT a food court. It features 16 shops, each a specialist in particular area of Japanese cuisine.

The prices are fairly reasonable as the ingredients are shipped via Naha airport in Okinawa Prefecture, which is the one closest to Singapore. They are even able to bring in premium ingredients like Matsuzaka Beef, Kinme-mai Rice, and Kindai Maguro to Singapore.

However, not all shops are open yet; four more will start by end July or August.

So here is a quick look at what's available for now:

Yomoda Soba

The texture of the soba is what impressed us most - it's practically al dente! Each mouthful is so enjoyable, you can't help but slurp happily and loudly too. Even the tempura is well-made.

This is a tasting portion. Sorry I didn't take the photo of the plastic model of the full-size portion, but I'll definitely be back to shoot a few bowls.

Yomoda means "easy-going" or "carefree" in Japanese, and is often used for friends, to see the lighter side of life. That warm and happy atmosphere is what you'll get here.


Machida Shoten Ramen

Machida prides itself on serving the ramen just the way you like it (firmness, thickness, etc) but its real appeal is the incredibly rich stock. The Yokohama-style yellow noodles are dense but a good match for the thick tonkotsu and shoyu stock. Miso and spicy options are also available.

Check out also the whimsical wall art done by a Japanese comic book artist.


Shabu Shabu Tajimaya

This is a tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) shabu-shabu with a choice of six different broths. Prices range from S$24.75 (lunch, fixed amount of meat) and S$43.90 (90-minute dinner). Sukiyaki is also available at the same price. Wagyu and first class wagyu options cost a bit more.


Inaniwa Yosuke

I fell in love with inaniwa udon when I first tried it in 2008, so I am extremely happy to see more of this kind of udon here anytime. The udon at Yosuke is thin, smooth and silky with a pleasantly chewy bite. The shop (known as Sato Yosuke in Japan) has a history of 150 years, and its artisans take three days to handmake the udon. Interestingly, they have a sesame dip in addition to the usual shoyu.



Sabar serves top quality Aomori mackerel done many different ways - sashimi, sushi, grilled and aburi (torched). Its name sounds like "38" in Japanese, so they have 38 seats, 38 dishes and a premium dish priced at S$38.


Bonta Bonta


Who doesn't love onigiri? These are not your normal onigiri though; they are made using Kinmemai Rice, a lower calorie brown rice buffed in a way that retains the flavorful and nutritious sub-aleurone layer and germ. Fillings include familiar favourites like tuna mayo, salmon, mentaiko, pickles, teriyaki salmon, kombu (seaweed) and wasabi salmon mayo.

Dassai Sake Bar

This is the first official pop-up Dassai Bar outside of Japan. An array of Sake and Sake-based cocktails will be available, including their most luxurious sake, Dassai Beyond which was served in the United States' White House.

Rang Mang Shokudo

It may sound like an Indian restaurant at first, but this place serves "artisanal fried chicken" giving Korean fried chicken a run for their money. You'll be spoilt for choice with the various flavours like yuzu pepper; green onion and salt; honey mustard; and black vinegar. The chicken is marinated six hours in butter milk and twice fried.


Hokkaido Izakaya

You may already know Hokkaido Izakaya from its outlet in Tanjong Pagar. They bring in Hokkaido's best flavours from land and sea, including seasonal produce from the towns of Yakumo, Akkeshi, Furano and Kamishihoro in Hokkaido.


Tsukiji Sushi Takewaka

The Edo-style sushi looks great, and the fish is flown in from Tsukiji. But tastewise, the samples were not particularly memorable.

Tempura Tsukiji Tenka

I wanted to like this one, but it was hard to gauge from the small tasting sample. Others thought the tempura was soggy. Maybe they need time to settle in. I'll have to come back and test a full-size portion.

Osaka Kitchen Teppanyaki

I'll have to come back for this one, as they ran out on opening day. Wagyu teppanyaki and okonomiyaki cooked right in front of you. And yakisoba too - all flavours deeply associated with Osaka.

Yakiniku Heijoen

This yakiniku shop is probably the one I look forward to the most. Because Matsuzaka beef.

There's also Ginza Anzu next to it which will be serving tonkatsu and produce from their own farms in Kyushu; Japanese Sake and Fruits (self-explanatory); and Nabe Saizen, the offshoot of the two Michelin-star kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo headed by Chef Haruhiko Yamamoto.

So there's plenty to explore, although the hordes of people there in the first few weeks must be pretty formidable.

Wisma Atria Level 4
435 Orchard Road
Singapore 238877
Tel: +65 6694-6535
Opening Hours : 11 am – 11 pm

Thanks to Japan Food Town for inviting me to the launch ceremony.

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's the 50 Cent Fest! No, I'm not talking about no gangsta rap. Chinatown Food Street (7 Smith Street) is going to be transformed into a 1950s/1960s pasar come 30-31 July, with prices that match. Yes, come grab your favourite nostalgic dishes for just 50 cents.

There are more than 30 specially-curated hawker dishes, including rare or long lost dishes like Kok Kok Mee, UFOs, Ice Ball and Rickshaw Noodles. More than half of these dishes will be sold at a mere 50 cents to resemble the prices of the past. You might remember the saying - "50 cents is bigger than a bullock cart wheel!"

This event is part of this year's Singapore Food Festival (SFF).

OK, so it looks like not ALL the dishes can be 50 cents; some are in multiples of 50 cents. Let's take a look:

List of Food Items (50 cents in red)

Char Kway Teow $0.50: Kosong (without Egg) / $0.50 x 2: With Egg
UFO (Fried Oyster Cake) $0.50
Kok Kok Mee $0.50
Sweet Noodle $0.50
Rickshaw Noodle $0.50
Ice Ball $0.50
BBQ Chicken Wings – $0.50
Fried Carrot Cake (Black) – $0.50
Charcoal Fire Toast Bread – $0.50
Steamed Glutinous Rice (Sweet and Savoury) – $0.50
Steamed Bee Hoon – $0.50
Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaf – $0.50
Roti Prata – $0.50
Satay – $0.50 per stick
Rose Syrup Drink with Basil Seeds – $0.50
Chin Chow Drink – $0.50
Green Bean and Barley Soup – $0.50
Cheng Teng – $0.50

Hainanese Chicken Rice Balls $0.50 x 2
Rojak on Wheels $0.50 x 2
Mee Teh $0.50 x 2
Ngor Hiang Platter: Prawn Fritters, Pork Rolls, Pork Liver Rolls, Egg Rolls, Pork Sausage – $0.50 x 2
Fried Rice – $0.50 x 2
Steamed Cockles – $0.50 x 2
Oyster Omelette – $0.50 x 2
Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee – $0.50 x 3
Bak Kut Teh – $0.50 x 2
Braised Duck Rice – $0.50 x 2
Prawn Noodle Soup – $0.50 x 2
Pigtail and Kang Kong Soup – $0.50 x 2
Sliced Fish Bee Hoon – $0.50 x 2
Laksa – $0.50 x 2
Bird’s Nest Drink – $0.50 x 2
Vinegar Pork Trotters – $0.50 x 3
Chilli Crab – $0.50 x 4

See the PDF of the food items with descriptions here

It'll be a blast from the past; you can try the services of a letter writer or street fortune teller. Visitors can also bask in the lively atmosphere with performances by opera singers and martial art professionals. Families can also enjoy black and white movie screenings.

Event Venue and Timing

Chinatown Food Street, 7 Smith Street, Singapore 058921
30 July 2016, Saturday: 3pm – 11pm
31 July 2016, Sunday: 11am – 11pm

Cash terms only

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