Category Archives: Eating out

Kith Bistro, Park Mall

Design is thinking made visual.
~ Saul Bass

Evening falls like a blue silk dress, smoothly and elegantly. A sweet breeze from ceiling fans above courses softly through my hair like welcome whispers. Traffic sounds and birdsong merge and mingle into a track for “Sounds of the City”. The tables around me look inviting with the soft, warm glow of candles. I soak in the pleasure of being outdoors on a summer evening, breathing in fresh air. Ahhh…

It occurs to me, briefly, that I am in a busy city with over five million people packed into a piece of land equal to the size of Lake Taupo – but the thought dissolves as I relax into my chair and a smiling waiter hurries over with menus for us.

I am at the outdoor area of the recently opened Kith Bistro. The place is far from sprawling and this is no idyllic resort, but its feel and layout create an effective illusion of spaciousness and play: I feel like I’m in an airy outdoor living space with room enough to breathe and relax. The furniture* here is simple but tasteful, and I spot a colourful corner for kids to play in. It’s a place to visit with friends, or alone with a notebook and good ideas. When I look up, I see a bouquet of leaves and branches – like a pretty silhouette against the evening sky (see above).

It is far too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so we get food perfect for the occasion of ‘in-between meals’ (the menu appears to cater well for all times of day!). Between us, we share a few tasty morsels, coffee and a very refreshing fresh juice. Everything arrives beautifully presented, and polishing off our plates is a pleasure. When we pop inside to pay after our meal, I visually feast on the yummy-looking array of cabinet food and the charming chalkboard menu… I already look forward to trying out their brunch menu sometime!

* Some of the great furniture here can be found at Xtra, conveniently located next door to the cafe. Well worth a browse is all I can say, even if furniture isn’t usually your thing. Xtra is a celebration of art and excellence, a perfect place to get inspiration (and great pieces for your home, if your budget allows for it)!

Kith Bistro (Park Mall) – 9 Penang Road, #01-01E Park Mall, Singapore – Phone: +65 6338 861

Advertisements

Haphazard poetry, and Pizzeria Mozza

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.
~ Jack Brooks

Waiting for taxis; trains; lights to go green
as sweat forms patterns on your back
and oozes out of you
like rain
escaping from secret clouds

Taking in the sight of people permanently attached to
everyone (so it appears) via phone, laptop, iPad
Always
There is no separation from technology

From noise

And yet – for such a connected city
I have to ask – what is connection here?
There are people who do not connect, REALLY join in mind and heart,
with another human…
For days. Years. Ever?

A link on your wall is not a conversation

Merging into seas of humans in shopping malls is not filling your love tank

As you meander through people jams
as you take in the charm and madness of this place
as you eat – something amazing
as you walk – in permanent summer
as you glance – eyes stunned – by the tall buildings and shiny cars
as you dance – in wonder
as you spend – this country is not a place for the stingy

It is hot, so hot.

There is time, just a little, to think (briefly) –
to sleep (maybe).

The sky is blue and bright – but life is not a holiday
Time waits for no one

Waxing poetic at 1.00am, just ‘cos I can. I can’t believe I’ve already been here in Singapore for a whole week… it’s gone by so quickly!

I’ve had some great meals which I have blog posts written in my head about – but no time as yet to sit down and write them. Today was a day of amazing food (not a difficult thing to achieve in Singapore, I know full well)… and I want to write about it all, but that would make for a terribly long post so I’ll stick to lunch for now: a trip to Pizzeria Mozza with my aunt and cousin. :-)

Initial thoughts upon entering: I want to smile. The place is cosy and elegant. Wine bottles line the walls, cherry tomatoes and other colourful fruits beam at you from the bar and the ovens make you feel right at home. Smiling staff are at once discreet and ready to assist you immediately.

First to arrive at our table: fried squash blossoms with ricotta – the taste and fragrance of spring encased in light batter which, upon meeting my knife and fork, revealed a warm oozing centre of ricotta… a great start which certainly made us eager to sample the other dishes we ordered.

Calamari al forno with fagioli & oregano – not a combination I would’ve dreamed up on my own, but one I will bear in mind now if I were to try cooking calamari at home. Beautiful flavours…

(From my placemat: indeed a sad thing to read)

Listed as “funghi misti, fontina, taleggio & thyme” in the pizza section of the menu, this was simply the best pizza I’ve had in a LONG while. Everything from the way the mushrooms and cheese mingled on my tongue and the delightful traces of garlic which surprised me as I inched closer to the tasty crust… was yum yum yum – perfect!

I love it that they employ a “piatto del giorno” system for their main dishes. Today’s (Friday) was the pork ribs, cooked with fennel, honey and cider vinegar. Very filling, with lots of strong flavours which I imagine I would have enjoyed more in New Zealand right now (winter blues call for richer meals) – but still, a nice dish. I’d definitely be inclined to stick to pizza and starters on a future visit to this place though.

Pizzeria Mozza – 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore – Phone: +65 6688 8522

Back to the sunny island

One must maintain a little bittle of summer, even in the middle of winter.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Life has been pretty busy lately and I’ve scarcely been in the kitchen. Whenever I have, I have either been relying heavily on the oven (looks a sight, but this roast beef was quite delicious, if I do say so myself)…

… or whipping up quick things like this poached salmon omelette and these mushrooms with cream and truffle oil (it took less than half an hour in all to prep and cook for us three). Mopped up the mushroom juices with crusty sourdough… mmm.

And now it is nearly 1.00am and I am in a singlet and shorts, relishing summer and marvelling at the way a plane ride transports you across time and distance to a totally different world in mere hours. How good pilots and planes are! Yes, here I am in Singapore again, low on sleep but not too low mood-wise. For dinner tonight I met Brandon, friend-of-a-friend passing through Singapore, and we feasted on thosai, prata, chicken biryani, peppered chicken (all for SGD$12.50) and ice-cold beer somewhere in Little India, Singapore. We walked down several alleys and streets before we settled on an eating place, so I am afraid I have no idea where exactly this was.

And this is all I’ll write for now, my laptop is gasping through the last bars of its battery life and I’m too lazy to unearth the plug from the depths of my suitcase. Good night (or morning!)

Pine Harbour Fresh Market

The Eskimo has fifty-names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.
~ Margaret Atwood

When you love travel and can’t do it all the time, you find ways to ‘cheat-travel’. Language books, foreign films, exotic foods – there are lots of ways these days to make the world your oyster, wherever you are.

I do it whenever I can. Did some mini cheat-travelling via Pine Harbour Fresh Market today… such a treat :-)

Below is my rough guide to/notes from the (délicieux!) market:

  • Leave ugly city behind for fresh air, delicious stands and smiling faces…

  • Join the flurry of people eagerly pouncing on the croissants, brioches, pastries, breads and other delights. Note: if you want some, be quick.

  • Really. Don’t be shy. Minutes after I photographed these fragrant loaves, they were gone… to happy hands (and I suspect, by now, happy bellies). I was not one of them… boo.

  • While we’re on the subject of bread, I’ll tell you what goes superbly well with bread (especially the crusty kind) – this chicken and duck liver parfait. Handmade by two French men and a dream on crusty bread. $5 per tub.

  • As your eyes and nose take in the sights and smells, your ears and feet will be dancing to music by Edith Piaf et al – interspersed, wonderfully, with tunes from this man! (though he may not be there on non-Bastille-Day Saturdays)

  • If you like something very sweet (I do once in a while), pick up a box of lovely baklava – otherwise known in my books as a flaky, nutty, honeyed song for smiles.

  • If baklava isn’t quite your thing, perhaps some dips will satisfy? Tried three and liked them all – finally settled on a light and creamy tub of cow’s feta + garlic + mint… already thinking of ways to use it up. Yum!

  • Got around to the task of buying breakfast after gawking at various stalls. With tempting menus for both galettes and crêpes, we had some difficulty choosing a flavour but finally settled on lemon and sugar. Lovely to listen to the crêpe chefs speaking in French whilst waiting for our crêpes!

  • If I were to become vegetarian, it would be on the condition that my vege supply came solely from farmers’ markets. Most farmers’ market vegetables I’ve ever laid eyes on are so vibrant and beautiful – and it is such a delight to chat with the farmers and/or sellers whilst shopping for them. We picked up some salad leaves with edible flowers and the very nice man gave us a Jerusalem artichoke to try too (since I said I’d never tried one). Really tempted by the carrots, but we already had one very full bag of goodies by then!

  • After an oh-so-tough morning of shopping and waiting in line for breakfast, you may want to eat while looking at this (we did)…

  • Perhaps pick up some flowers on your way home?

P.S. If you observe Bastille DayBon le quatorze juillet, I hope you had a good one!

Pine Harbour Fresh Market – Jack Lachlan Drive, Pine Harbour, Auckland – open Saturday mornings, 8.00am – 12.00pm

A few good places

If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.
~ Dag Hammarskjold

Wishing desperately (fruitlessly) for central heating and/or home insulation to become a priority and norm in New Zealand. I’m in Auckland, warm by comparison to other regions – but for some reason I don’t remember ever feeling this weak or encountering such disgusting germs when I lived in other colder cities. Yes, my brain knows it’s not THAT cold… my body has certainly been saying otherwise.

I have been thawing out in four main ways: overly hot showers, brisk walks, a scalding hot water bottle on my lap, and, on occasion, in cafes. I don’t suppose you’ll want to hear about the first three things, so here’s a post on a few places I visited in recent times:

Ironique

Mount Eden is one area which redeems Auckland for me – primarily because of one funky bookshop and Circus Circus (home to a fun atmosphere and my favourite waiter :-P).

I serendipitously discovered Ironique a few months ago – when a friend and I had no luck trying to get a table at two cafes nearby, and had to find somewhere else to go. At Ironique, we found a relaxed, homely place to hang out; friendly staff; lovely food served with a smile and plenty of care. Recently I visited again with my friend Cam, and we were pleasantly surprised with our personalised (and very delicious) hot chocolates! Little things make ALL the difference :-)

Ironique – 448 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, Auckland – Phone: 09 623 3450

Zarbo

This place is always busy, and for good reason – a well-stocked gourmet deli with treats for self or friends, fresh cabinet salads and sweets, and a menu with plenty of options. Recently I found one more thing to like about them: the fireplace!

Zarbo – 24 Morrow Street, Newmarket, Auckland – Phone: 09 520 2721

Savour & Devour

I don’t venture to Grey Lynn much, since it’s quite out of the way for me – but when I next go, I’ll be making a second trip to Savour & Devour to do exactly that to their tasty-looking food. When Tracey and I visited, I restricted myself to just having coffee as I was going to lunch shortly afterwards. Loved the heaters and relaxing atmosphere… a place where you can hang out with your friends and little children (I don’t have the latter, but if I did, I would bring them here).

Savour & Devour – 478 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland – Phone: 361 2631

Imperial Lane

I had heard so much about Imperial Lane that I almost didn’t want to go… in the way that I don’t like going to places just because everyone goes there. But I’m glad a few people dragged me there in the end, ‘cos it really is a pretty cool space. Downstairs I feel like I’m in a hidden fancy underground garage, and upstairs I feel like I’m in a lively pop-up dining restaurant somewhere rather foreign – except they’re all speaking in English. Yes, those descriptions make little sense… but you know you’re somewhere special when you can’t quite explain the way being there makes you feel good and somehow transports you to somewhere else. Also, their decaf coffee is excellent.

P.S. The picture above is awful and doesn’t do them justice… you’ll just have to go there now to see the place for yourself.

Imperial Lane – 7 Fort Land or 44 Queen Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 929 2703

Little & Friday

This place is a pocket of sunshine! Everything from its mint-infused water in jars, jolly animal-shaped table markers, excellent coffee and wonderful display of treats… spells whimsical fun and delicious comfort. Since attending a talk by the super woman who started it all, Kim Evans, I have also increased in respect for her and the passion and toil she has poured into her work, which now brings so many Aucklanders joy! Kim has also written a great cookbook so people can attempt to recreate some of the Little & Friday magic right in their own homes. Fantastic :-)

Little & Friday – 12 Melrose Street, Newmarket, Auckland – Phone: 09 524 8742

Teed St Larder

I’ve never seen this place empty whenever I’ve passed by. My first trip there, though, did not satisfy – I remember dry bread and a waiter who came so many times to ask if we were okay that I began to wave my hands and shake my head whenever he started to hurry over (again).

I’m glad to say that this impression has now been swiftly replaced by a better one. So good was the food on one recent visit that my friends Carmi, Jacqui, Fi, and I all exclaimed in one way or another… my order of “grilled squid, chorizo, avocado, agria, gremolata” left me satisfied and tempted to lick my plate at the end.

Funny thing about the waiters though – on this trip, our waiter was sooo elusive we were all clamouring for his attention in a manner that reminded me, just lightly, about the time in high school when I made the huge mistake of accompanying a friend to see a boy band… and witnessed in horror the sort of boy-band-crazy-teenage-girl behaviour I am not a natural at.

Teed St Larder – 7 Teed Street, Newmarket, Auckland – Phone: 09 524 8406

P.S. Don’t forget…

What to do in Beijing

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
~ Bill Bryson

I left Beijing late on Monday night, sad to leave Jane and happy to be heading towards a city with cleaner air. Grateful for the marvellous trip – Beijing is really home to many wonders besides the Great Wall!

There is so much to write about – wandering down curious mazes of narrow streets/hutongs. Bus adventures involving rapid-fire Mandarin and being forced to elbow people to stay alive (the buses there, they do strange things to humans). The spitting (which I now understand, because I was tempted to cough up and dispose of the balls of dust which kept taking up residence in my throat). The beautiful, soft foliage. The ‘exercise machines’ on streets for public use – hilarious, and rather cool! The marvellous mangoes. The way the city looks tranquil and mysterious in the evening. The thoughts I thought in the public toilets, which I shall spare you from. The curious ways of guan xi.

And thoughts on travel! – how wonderful, worthwhile, informative and exhausting it is… and how much it makes me appreciate my life (both the big and little things that make it awesome). How much I love, too, the moments of mini coincidences, kindness from strangers, inspiration and total shock. :-)

My favourite method of getting around Beijing was, without doubt, via tin can car! It’s like a loud mini motorised carriage or a Chinese version of the tuk tuk… way too cute! I wish we could’ve travelled everywhere in them, but for the following reasons: distance (the drivers mostly do short rides), variety and cost, we also travelled via taxi, subway and on foot. If you can cycle, Beijing’s pretty bicycle-friendly too.

We attended a dim sum cooking class at The Hutong Kitchen, at Beixinqiao (map here). With the Little Gold Book, we got a two-for-one deal. :-)

Our instructor showed us how to make nuo mi ji (steamed parcels of chicken/glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves), shao mai and xia jiao (shrimp dumplings) (all pictured below).

It was certainly a class designed for foreigners and dim sum beginners (and the dim sum was not quite identical to what is served in most restaurants), and I doubt I’d reproduce any of these in my own kitchen (too cumbersome!) – but I gleaned valuable cooking tips and enjoyed it very much.

Right after the cooking class, we adjourned to Sanyuanli Market (Shunyuan Jie, opposite Jingkelong Supermarket, west of Sanyuan Dongqiao, Chaoyang District). A long corridor with stalls selling just about everything you need to cook anything at all. I’d say it caters well for both locals and foreigners. Good cuts of meat, wide selection of seafood and fresh herbs/vegetables – and all sorts of dried/packet goods too! All at good prices.

See, we had two excellent meals made from products purchased at Sanyuanli Market (Jane cooked! Yum!) – baked salmon, and lamb and prune tagine.

Jane also took me to Niu Jie (Ox Street), the Muslim quarters in Beijing. I loved this area! And not just because the Niujie Mosque (Niu Jie 88, Beijing, China) so beautifully incorporates both Chinese and Islamic culture and elements…

Niu Jie is also home to an amazing array of food like yang rou chuan’r (lamb kebabs), various types of cakes and nian gao and other snacks… (we bought a few green bean snacks before we lunched at a place with delicious Xinjiang cuisine).

One place I’d definitely visit often if I lived in Beijing is Ri Tan Gong Yuan (Temple of the sun)… so calming!

After a leisurely walk and cup of coffee/tea in Ri Tan Gong Yuan on Sunday afternoon, we were well ready for dinner! We walked for 20 minutes to get to Na Jia Xiao Guan (south of the LG Twin Towers, west of 119 Middle School in Chaoyang District) – a fantastic place both in terms of food and ambience.

We queued for nearly half an hour to get in, and were served red date tea whilst we waited – dinner was totally worth the wait. The place was buzzing with positive energy and happy diners. The menu – featuring mostly Manchu cuisine – was colourful and exciting. And the food, including a plate of most perfect crispy goose, was so delicious!

I ate my first donkey burger on Monday. Surprised by how good it tasted! Tender and flavourful… so good, especially with the addition of chopped chives! It tasted nothing like chicken, for the record… :-)

Also ate my first jian bing on Monday – again, loved it. Imagine a warm, savoury cross between an omelette and crepe with sweet crunchy lettuce in the middle…

Lastly. Jingshan Park – it was so foggy when we visited, but the view from the top was still spectacular… I can just imagine how stunning it’d be on a clear day!

(While it is very unfortunate that Emperor Chongzhen hung himself, I think it even more unfortunate that they chose to bear such text on a sign in the park – right at the top, no less!…)

Thanks Beijing (and Jane!) for having me! (And thanks Jane for taking the better photos that feature in this post).

S.T.A.Y. on a Michelin star

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Hello from Beijing! I’m here visiting my friend Jane – and we have been functioning on an average of three hours’ sleep a night, but we’re pretty happy.

Initial impressions of this city: DUSTY! BUSY! Dust descends daily on me like an army of microscopic aliens – and people are gruff, cab drivers especially so (though I guess I wouldn’t like to be spending my days driving random people around in Beijing traffic either). Personal space doesn’t appear to exist as a concept here.

Yet, for all its smog and busy-ness, Beijing possesses a tangible charm amid all the chaos – I feel safe on her streets and pleasure fills my pockets as I gaze at street stalls boasting luscious fruit and street food like jian bing; people playing chess under bridges; the beauty of faces on the subway, on bikes, at the market…

It’s been wonderful exploring Beijing via subway, ‘tin can cars’ and taxis with Jane as my personal unpaid tour guide ;-) I’ve loved everything from hearing Mandarin all around me, fumbling with my own questionable command of Mandarin, to meeting the people who make up Jane’s China world…

One highlight was going to S.T.A.Y. last night, a restaurant championed by Michelin-award-winning chef Yannick Alléno.

Does one need a good reason for a special dinner? Yes and no – the simple joy of a great friendship is reason enough for me… but on this occasion we also had Jane’s birthday to celebrate (she terms it as “the 26th anniversary of her expulsion from her mother’s womb”). We spent a few hours on Google trying to decide where to go, and when at last Jane rang them to make a booking our eyes held a matching gleam. :-D

And so it is that we spent an hour travelling via tin can car (see first picture), taxi and subway to get to S.T.A.Y. where we very happily stayed for three hours! We had an outstanding waiter and sommelier who made us feel at once like old friends and like royalty – and who arranged for us to have champagne on the house (for Jane’s birthday)!

We began our evening with a generous selection of amuse-bouches including: cherry-coloured radishes brushed with butter; cubed tomato with parmigiano (these held their shape on the plate but collapsed immediately upon meeting our tongues); fish fingers served with a paprika dip; a bread basket with butter checkered with creamy ham.

We opted for the four-course meal (with two options per course, RMB528 per person).

Course 1: both of us had spanner crab cakes rolled in sesame seeds, served alongside fresh broad beans and greens with a beautiful shallot/ginger/garlic sauce. This was a light course, and I enjoyed the way the individual sweet strands of crab meat mingled with the fragrance of the sesame seeds and the savoury sauce… mmm.

Course 2: Jane had the chicken consommé, a clear, refined soup with mushrooms and carrot – and garnished with toasted crostini spread with foie gras and chicken liver pâte. My cream of cauliflower arrived as a bed of crispy croutons, delicate seaweed strands and cauliflower to which the waiter added a warm, delicious cream…

Hmm… you’ll have to trust me on this, but it really looked much better in real life than it does here:

Course 3: The black pepper Angus beef fillet with cafe de paris and gratin dauphinois floored her… she was speechless for some time and I wondered if her face could split from smiling. When I took a bite of her meal, though, I understood :-) And I was well pleased with my red snapper with clams – the dish was awash with the sweetness of clam juice – and the zucchini, tomato marmalade and basil leaves added texture and flavour that was really complementary to the fish and clams.

Course 4: And finally, dessert – a stroll through Pastry Library wonderland! Here we were treated to a visual feast of treats in glass cabinets and left to select our sweet of choice. Jane opted for a vanilla tart, which arrived at our table topped with gold-dusted caramelised pistachio nuts – and I had a passionfruit cream-filled biscuit cigar reminiscent of a brandy snap, topped with a passionfruit/chocolate mousse and almonds. Of course, we were also given an additional complimentary platter of other sweets (including meringue cigars, mini pistachio balls, etc)… ah lovely staff.

As I ate, I thought “everything stands out but nothing sticks out”… it was a moving portrait of harmonious perfection, flawless yet welcoming. I loved the way food and joy met on every dish and meandered through our bodies and minds as we ate.

Something else I found remarkable – that they served such food and waited on us with such style as if it were everyday fare – as if this was the only way to eat. Special turned Ordinary… amazing :-) 2am now and I want to continue waxing lyrical about S.T.A.Y. but frankly, my mind is turning to custard with lack of sleep so I’m going to sign off for now!

I look forward to many more privileged years of being your friend, Janey! (And thanks for coming up with the somewhat clever title of this blog post).

S.T.A.Y. – 29 Zizhuyuan Road, Beijing, 100089, China – Phone: +86 10 6841 2211