Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hifumi Japanese Restaurant - All-You-Can-Eat-Appetizer Bar @ Plaza Singapura New Extension

A meet up with a good friend was long overdue but i wasn't willing to splurge on expensive restaurants when finance is going to be a problem in the next few months. :(

Knowing my upcoming predicament, this same friend suggested Hifumi Japanese restaurant which supposedly, according to her, offers economically priced Japanese set meals AND throws in a complementary all-you-can-binge-appetizer bar! 

To sweeten the deal, you can also get free flow drinks for a mere S$1.99! Definitely the place to while away my afternoon if i simply want to have a long chit-chat session with my friends, especially for big gulpers like the great Kon!! 

Guess i shall start with my set meal; the 'recommended' chicken oyakoni set came with rice and miso soup. For the uninitiated, this is simply simmered chicken with onions and egg.

I can only say this is plain comfort food that did not surprise my taste buds given how generic the taste has become in Singapore. The delicious gyu don from Megumi would be much preferred over this oyakoni!

Despite the limited space, you can find more than ten types of appetizers on the bar-top that were frequently topped up by the service staff. 

Don't expect fanciful, expensive stuff like sashimi! As you can see from the picture above, i took nine different appetizers; yes, the grilled onion was one of them. Out of the nine, i absolutely dislike the disgusting jelly salad!!!

Alex, if he had joined us, would obviously indulged in the mini-cups of chawanmushi (steamed egg) that were truthfully better than what you can get from Sakae Sushi nowadays. 

My favorite had to be the rich pumpkin walnut salad with sizable crunchy brained shaped walnuts that have the marvelous ability to increase fat oxidation and improve memory! 

I want need its power!! 

=====

Location
68, Orchard Road,
#04-68, Plaza Singapore [New Extension]

Price
Free Flow Drink Bar - S$1.99
Chicken Oyakoni Set - S$12.99
[Subject to GST and Service Charge]

Additional Information
Expect a long queue! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Need a Good View for a Picnic?

Judging from the above picture, could you actually guess where i was? Relaxing at a cafe on top of a hill while sipping my tiny cup of espresso? Let me give a few more hints!

I can see the towering skyscrapers at Singapore's Central Business district and the iconic pinnacle@duxton.

At another angle, i could also see vehicles zipping along the West Coast Highway that is convenient for those staying in the west except for one thing; it does not provide a direct exit for motorists going to Vivocity and Sentosa! 

Universal Studios Singapore was right opposite where i stood!

By this time, it should be pretty clear cut although i have to emphasize that i was not in any of the office blocks and the place has no air-conditioning. In fact, it should be considered as a very polluted place.

Answer : Carpark at Harbourfront Centre!

This beautiful view [of Marina at Keppel Bay] was tempting enough for me to almost bring out my collapsible table and chairs and set it up for a nice picnic! If only the smokers and the cars' exhaust fumes can get out of the way! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Toad Tomb [蟾蜍坟墓] @ Choa Chu Kang Chinese Cemetery [蔡厝港坟场]

Chua from SPI brought us to a total of three tombs that are shaped like animals and given the scale of the Chinese cemetery at Lim Chu Kang, i believe there are more than just the three of them. 

The above was the third and likely the one that borrowed most heavily from the art of Feng Shui! One glance and you would be drawn to the seven crystal stones embedded on the toad's back; the famous star constellation known as the Big Dipper. 

Unlike other gravestone, there was no indication of the deceased's date of birth and death. Most weirdly, it was engraved with two lines of Chinese characters that intrigued us. 

Left line, 金蟾六顺通 - again, i have to separate the words; 金蟾 is translated as golden toad and is well known in the Chinese community to be a legendary creature that can spit out gold. Some superstitious Chinese families would place one at home to enhance the family fortune and prosperity. 六顺通 is likely a reference to smooth, uncluttered delivery which would sound right when it comes to money!

Right line, 北斗七星劫 - this is interesting. In the beginning, i assumed that the installation of this toad tomb was to counter a misfortune that has befallen the family. 

But according to my Google checks, this is a hard to master geomancy method with an intent to rob the Big Dipper and use its future life force to make the family unbeatable for a period that will supposedly last for 180 years!!

Cool right?!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hollywood Churro Co - Delightfully Delicious Pastry! @ Universal Studios Singapore [USS]

I am aware of the existence of Churro - a long piece of fried dough that didn't look very exciting in my opinion and was frequently compared to the much cheaper Chinese crullers i am more accustomed to.

As fate has its way, our group of seven was left with S$20 worth of vouchers; an amount hardly sufficient to buy a decent meal for all of us in Universal Studios Singapore!

And this permanently stationed food truck has to appear right in front of us.

At S$3.80 each, the freshly made churros were affordable enough and each of us only needed to fork out less than a dollar to warm our stomachs in the rainy weather! In addition, the picky pastry guru, Rona, has given a positive review.

Here it is - the soft doughy wand that was individually wrapped! 

Rolled in a pan filled with sugar and cinnamon powder before the final wrap-up, the churro [supposedly a brand known as Tio Pepe's® Churros] was a pleasure to have and i love the fact that it tasted almost like a doughnut sprinkled with sugar icing yet without the mess when one takes too big a bite! 

One word was enough to describe it - delicious. And a sentence to sum up my feeling - why didn't i try this in Beijing where it was much cheaper and the weather was way colder?!?!?!?!

=====

Location
At Hollywood zone and next to the border of Madagascar zone. Note the red star in the map! 

Coiling Snake Tomb [蛇墓] @ Choa Chu Kang Chinese Cemetery [蔡厝港坟场]

The cemetery tour i participated during this year's seventh lunar month was an eye opener partly because i never expected to find tombs that deviate from the contemporary yet conventional design adopted by almost everyone in the present era!

In addition to the lion tomb, there was another uniquely designed one that Chua brought me to; the one known affectionately and simply as snake tomb. 

This legless reptile did not appear to be ferocious (no display of fangs and/or hood etc), which is often the case for a tomb guardian and i wonder what is its actual purpose. Likely FengShui, if you ask me.

龜蛇會真局 - a hint that would shed some light. A Google search on the five Chinese characters drew a blank and i could only break them up to explain further. 

龜蛇 means tortoise and snake; when the two characters are combined, it actually has a meaning of reducing  and even to the extent of avoiding tragedies and difficulties in life. In addition, the term could also refer to a mythical creature by the name of Xuanwu (玄武). 

會真局 - without any comma, i can only assume that 真局 means a real set and 會 could be related to meeting. It didn't really make much sense as the translation of 龜蛇會真局 would likely be Xuanwu meeting the real set. 

Or was it meant to imply that the deceased was meeting the creator after his demise? 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hot Seafood Platter @ The Little Fish Shop [Nex Mall]

In case you are wondering, the Little Fish Shop at Nex Mall doesn't sell small fishes like ikan bilis and is better known for offering live Boston lobsters at a promotional pricing of S$30 each every Monday! 

Thankfully for my sister, who was treating us a very late lunch, we were not hungry and preferred to share a hot seafood platter that came with a wide array of seafood that ranged from battered fish to crispy soft shell crab! 

Diners familiar with the seafood platter from Fish N Co and the Manhattan Fish Market might not take too kindly to this platter from the Little Fish Shop; the layout lacked the overflowing generous element and gave the impression that it might only satisfy the appetite of one person. 

Let's start with the not so good; the battered fish could do with a crispier batter, soft shell crab left too much oil on my lips even though they do require some moisturizing and personally, i have never liked prawns grilled with garlic as the pungent aroma can overcome the natural fresh sweetness of prawns.

The good; the lightly grilled calamaris were lip smacking delicious, leaving a delectable BBQ fragrance that screamed for more and that bowl of mussels and clams in buttery garlic broth was wonderfully done without that repulsive fishy taste! 

There's only one thing lacking in the platter.
Butter rice dotted with raisins!!!

=====

Location
23 Serangoon Central,
#04-15/16 [Nex Mall]

Opening Hours
11.30am - 10.30pm [Daily]


Price
Hot Seafood Platter - S$49.95
[Subject to GST and Service Charge]

Menu
As above. Sorry for the blurred image!

Additional Information
Look out for the white board outside the shop for daily catch and specials! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day Seven & Eight [Qianmen, Capital Museum, Central TV Tower, Yashow Clothing Market] @ Beijing (北京) with Hong Thai Travel [康泰旅行社]

The last leg of my most recent China trip and let's start by bidding goodbye to the luxurious Chunhuiyuan Hot Spring Resort [春晖园温泉度假村]!

Our last day in Beijing was definitely the foggiest! Visibility was good for at most two-three hundred meters although the situation improved as we neared centralised Beijing. 

Tiananmen Square once again! I guessed i must have passed by the same area no less than six times in my eight-day trip; this time round, you might have noticed the bouquet of flowers that was previously missing from the big-ass vase. 

We were told to disembark the coach and proceed to our first destination for the day; which i assumed was the above beautifully crafted tower.

Assumption was proven wrong when we were brought to this duller looking Archery Tower [箭楼] instead. 

As far as location is concerned, the archery tower is located directly north of the other tower which was known as Qianmen [前门]. In the past, this whole area (including the forbidden city) was designated as the imperial city (or inner city) with walls that effectively blocked all entries except through the six access gates. 

Archery Tower was literally a stone's throw away from Qianmen gatehouse. Its purpose is obvious; to kill any trespassers who managed to breach the Qianmen gatehouse. 

As a building with historical significance, i was hoping for an enlightening history lesson. 

It was in the beginning until i realised that the guide was explaining more and more on this mythical creature known as Pixiu. By now, it should not catch you by surprise to know that it was another agent-commissioned shopping trip! 

I was in no mood to hear any sales talk and inconspicuously stepped outside the hall to take pictures! The Archery Tower was an ideal place to take pictures of Qianmen! 

Dad striking a pose against the scenic backdrop - even he could not stand wasting his time to listen to those salespersons and hence, made the decision to join me! 

Qianmen Pedestrian Street - with a history of over 500 years, it was a 840-meter long street with building styles that mostly hailed from the late Qing period.

It was less than four days to China's national day and like Tiananmen Square, such floral decoration was a must to celebrate the birth of the world's most populous country. 

Known affectionately as Dang Dang Tram, you can in fact take a ride on this operational sightseeing tram for a small fee even though it has been missing from the street for almost forty years!

Many international brands have set up shop along the main street and Starbucks was no exception. Many of you might remember that even the Forbidden City could not escape from its influence! 

I shunned the main street for the side street! We were given a mere ten minutes to "take some pictures for memory" as quoted by the tour guide. One family was apparently pissed about it and eventually took thirty minutes! 

They should have told me and i would not have wasted precious time waiting for them! 

Taken while on our way to the next place of interest. The word "京" in red means that the car belongs to the Central Guard Bureau of Beijing Garrison. 

Capital Museum [首都博物馆] - with over 250,000 cultural relics, this would be one museum that Van would spend her whole day wandering from gallery to gallery.

The building was completed in 2006 with a contemporary yet imposing design. Given the time limitation, we were given only 50 minutes instead of the 90 mentioned in our optional tour itinerary. 

The galleries were really interesting; some with portrayal of scenes reminiscent of the olden times. Honestly, i prefer this kind of display over the high-tech ones with videos and interviews. 

A classical Chinese bedroom for the newlyweds where red means good luck and prosperity. 

Wedding certificate from the 1940s. Unlike the simple one we have nowadays, this piece of legally binding paper included the names of the grandparents and great-grandparents! 

This was the boring section; it reminded me too much of the excessive agent-commissioned shopping trips we have to endure for the entire trip. 

A miniature overview of a mock street in China. 

What caught my attention was the gallery on Hutongs which are simply lanes created by the construction of courtyards that lined up the alley. 

Many iconic hutongs were demolished in favour of high rise buildings and many more are in danger of disappearing. Just to give you a basis for comparison between then and now, you may refer to the above map sketched during the Ming dynasty. 

Photograph of a snow-capped forbidden city before we depart to the next section; food. 

Location - the 405-meter high Central TV Tower that had a revolving restaurant where we would partake in a buffet lunch with panoramic scenery surrounding us!

A European sculpture park next to the tower. From the look of it, it was not open to the general public and could be solely used to host special events. 

I could not resist the temptation as the holder of the tower! 

Instead of lions, a pair of graceful dragons stood guard over the tower that was built in 1992 and currently held the title as the tallest structure in Beijing. 

Admission ticket which was already included in our overall tour package - 198 RMB (equivalent to almost S$40) for buffet lunch and entries to the tower and underwater world for one person on weekdays. Note: we did not cover the underwater world.

Lunch was nothing impressive but so long it can fill my stomach, i am not complaining. 

That's how far we were from the ground! My legs turned slightly jellyish although it was still manageable. To challenge my mild fear of heights, I should attempt bungee jumping from the Macau Tower! 

The revolving restaurant - the moving part was located in the middle section where the dining tables and seats were. 

Bird's eye view from the observation deck. 

To be honest, the views could have been amazing if we could catch iconic structures like the Bird's Nest or the Forbidden City which were unfortunately too far away in that foggy day. 

Visiting the Giant Panda House at Beijing Zoo. For my more informative post, please click here

Now coming to mom's favourite overseas activity - shopping in wholesale market at Sanlitun Yashow Clothing Market [三里屯雅秀服装市场]! 

There were a total of six levels and you can usually find stores selling similar products on the same level. Like anywhere else, bargaining is a must. However, instead of asking for 50% off the quoted price, go for 80-90%! 

In China, Beijing is BJ in short. For the rest of the world, BJ is short for blowjobs. 

One level was especially dedicated to the imitation goods. For me, i don't see the point of buying fake branded products when i should instead strive to buy the originals! 

D&G coats! We got bored after an hour or so as the wholesale market place was smaller than the Platinum Mall in Bangkok and the clothes offerings were pretty limited to winter wear. Eventually, we sought refuge in a cafe and saw half of our tour mates there! 

Our last meal in Beijing! This was the end of Day 7 as our flight was scheduled at 1am the next morning, which means we had to leave for the airport after our dinner! 

Day 8 was spent on the SQ plane where i barely slept due to the massive collection of recent blockbuster movies on board! From my memory, i think my eyes were closed for no more than 90 minutes! 

And i could not drag myself to sleep when day broke and i had such impressive views up in the sky! 

Pulau Ubin! Gosh, i could not wait to return back to Singapore where i would be free from the money grubbing guide and be able to eat all the local delicacies like satay, fishball noodles, rojak etc! 

The war zone of the 100% full capacity airplane.

-The End-

For other days, please check out:
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four 
Day Five
Day Six

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