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Showing posts from July, 2006

One Harbour Road at Grand Hyatt, Hong Kong

It is in a big Five Star hotel. It has it's own round lift taking you from the lobby to the restaurant. It has its own water feature. Beautiful view of Central and parts of the Kowloon peninsula. Welcome to One Harbour Road - an upmarket Chinese restaurant at Grand Hyatt hotel. It's Cantonese and everything is well presented (it uses some of the best tableware in town). The food is generally good (though we ordered too much and a couple of strange dishes). The service is polite and non-intrusive - my fellow dinner did not notice how many times his wine glass was filled until the bottle was emptied!

What was enjoyable?
The atmosphere, setting, table service and most of the food.
What was not enjoyable? Our waiter should have stopped us from ordering too much - almost half of the food was wasted because of that!

Green Tea House, Beijing

Has design gone mad? Without any preconception, I was quite shocked when I walked into Green Tea House in the Chaoyang District (朝陽區) - the very 90's Philippe Starck decor, elongated Ming chairs and arty-farty projections on the walls were so incongruous, so "designed". The food was too inventive - along the lines of My Humble House in Singapore. Yet it was strangely popular - by 8PM the restaurant was full with both locals and expats.

What was enjoyable? Hmm, not sure.
What was not enjoyable? The very trying food. The very trying decor. Even the black square bread plates weren't enough to make the dining experience enjoyable.

Source (都江源), Beijing (北京)

Source is situated within one of the Hutongs (胡同) in the capital. It consists of a delightful quadrangle of buildings. When the weather is agreeable (just has when we arrived), you could sit in the courtyard and enjoy the cool evening air. There is no menu - instead you order food based on the number of people at the dinner table or the collective appetite. The food is actually inventive without too trying - we had a nice melon soup (could be cooler), minced meat with beans, etc. - all of which was lightly cooked (not drenched in oil) and beautifully presented.

What was enjoyable? The ambiance, the food and the experience of (almost) being in someone's home.
What was not enjoyable? The staff could speak better English and clearer Putonghua, as well as being more knowledgeable about what they were serving.

The Forbidden City (故宮), Beijing (北京)

It's a sight to behold when you first enter the ground of the Imperial Palace - a vast vista with harmonious architectural proportions.

But after millions of tourists trotting about year after year, all the buildings are in desperate needs of maintenance and repair. At first, it seems obvious what needs to be done - dusting the place down, pull out the weeds, repaint the peeling walls. However, when one considers the age of some of these buildings and the building material used, one realises it is not an easy job. The Temple of Harmony (太和殿), the grandest building in the palace, is now under scarfolding. The positive sign is that the Palace Museum is working with expert restorers from Italy to conduct investigation and research, and to identify the best way to carry out restoration. It is expected to re-open in October 2007. Let's hope the Chinese government has the will to commit to an Eternal Restoration and Maintenance project for this historic monument.

The Young Foo Elite (雍福會), Shanghai (上海)

Set deep in the diplomat's district in the French quarter of Shanghai, the Young Foo Elite is a well appointed place. It oozes colonial old world opulence of a bygone era - the ornate place settings, the Chinese antiques mingling with European furniture.

What was enjoyable? The ambiance.
What was not enjoyable? It's a members' only club - but I guess if you know the right people, or have access to various concierge services, then all things could be arranged.

The Westin, Shanghai (上海)

It's only 5 minute's from The Bund (外灘) and a relatively new hotel, The Westin Shanghai ought to be a fantastic place for both business and pleasure. Quite a few tourist guides have also rated this highly. It took me about two days to work out why I never warmed to it. The reason? The sense of proportion is erratic across the entire hotel - some corridors are too narrow, beds too close to the wall (even though I was in a mini-suite), some staircases have irregular steps, etc. The list goes on.

What was enjoyable? The location. One could  stroll down to The Bund for dinner, drinks or the view. The staff are nice too - always trying to help.
What was not enjoyable? Where shall we begin - the fake palm trees, the tightly spaced cafe, the finishing touches, etc.

Jean Georges, Shanghai

It's unlike me to eat global rather than local in fascinating cities such as Shanghai, but it is much talked about and it would be interesting to see what's on offer. Jean Georges is in No. 3 The Bund, which is a building devoted to stylish eating and drinking. The Jean Georges restaurant itself is stylish alright - dark marble set against translucent gold ceilings and sand blasted light fittings. The service was competent without being too fussy. The food - inventive without being "fusion" - the Watermelon Gazpacho was a very nice palate cleanser if you have space for three savoury course. The wine list was a standard fare - good selection but not too adventurous (my fellow dinner objected to his lame Ice Wine.)

What was enjoyable? The view of Pudong was great. The cooking was strong and not adulterated by any Chinese influence (let's hope it will last).
What was not enjoyable? Main course fork was smaller than the main course knife. No plate for petits fours. Smo…

Red Door 夏麵館, Shanghai (上海)

Arriving in Shanghai at the height of summer is certainly an experience - high humidity coupled with sweltering heat. It was a real pleasure to eat at Red Door - a modestly sized restaurant tucked away on a fairly quiet road. It served lovely small appetiser dishes (a Shanghai speciality), creamy and rich tasting fresh water prawns with Shanghainese crab roes, not to mention silkily cooked bean shoots.

What was enjoyable? A small unpretentious restaurant serving quality genuine Shanghainese food.

What was not enjoyable? Can't think of any.

NB: Please, if you like it, don't put it in any guidebooks - just enjoy!!!

Whitebait and Kale, Singapore

I only managed to get to Whitebait and Kale to join my friends for a drink (rather, a few glasses of champagne), but I was impressed by the decor (laid back South Beach) and the presentation of (my friends') desserts. The Espresso Martini is certainly a punchy way to inject some energy for a post dinner night out on the town.

What was enjoyable?  Enthusiastic staff, creative menu with a passion.

What was not enjoyable? Not sure whether I had a bread plate...

Asian Civilisation Museum, Singapore

It used to be a boring old building with lame exhibits, but the newly refurbished Asian Civilisation Museum at Empress Place is quite impressive. It's permanent collection contains a good selection of cultural relics from across South East Asia - with equally strong and balanced representation of Chinese, Islam and Buddhist exhibits. Also it provides the visitors the chance to wonder through a colonial administration building.

And it was a joy to see ERCO lighting throughout the museum!

No Signboard Restaurant at Gayland Road, Singapore

Right, it's in the red light district in Singapore (a bit of a contradiction in terms) and a semi-open air, but this restaurant (I think that's the name) serves up some mean white pepper crabs - enough edge and spice but really balancing the delicate meat of Sri Lankan crab.

What was enjoyable? The food - everything is really fresh and cooked in front of you - kind of as there is no division between the eating area and the kitchen.

What was not enjoyable? No napkins or wet towelette, let alone bread plate!

Restauran Sate R&K, Kuala Lumpur

I love satay / sate - and the best are done by native Malays in Malaysia. So, while passing through Kuala Lumpur on business, I thought I'd indulge myself. Since I have been to Jalan Achar (I think that's the name) lined with street food stalls, I decided to be more adventurous.

Restauran Sate R&K was recommended to me and it's not in a tourist spot - apparently it's one of the best in town. All sounds very good. After a difficult journey (braving the local transport PUTRA - trains, followed by wondering around the streets, followed by a clueless taxi driver), I eventually got to the place. It's essentially a one-dish-restaurant - beef and chicken sates with katoubat (rise cakes steamed in Pandan leaves).

What was enjoyable? The sates of course - succulent and fabulously grilled over a charcoal stove, think peanut sauce and a dedicated eatery. Wash basins for sticky fingers.
What was not enjoyable? A very basic restaurant (not quite on the street), staff don'…

Trinh Restaurant, Saigon

Tucked away from the main street, high ceiling, a staircase leading up to further dining area, works of local artists hanging on walls - all the trappings of a good hide-away eatery. Trinh Restaurant does Vietnamese food well - lots of interesting local delicacies (many variations on the them of a rice pasta spring roll), salad with marinated meat on sesame rice crackers. Nothing is hurried.

What was enjoyable? Food - everything was good.
What was not enjoyable? Staff don't speak that much English - with a strong reliance on "point and nod"

Square One, Park Hyatt Saigon

OK - if you want to go somewhere sleek in Saigon - Square One will pretty much fit the bill. Rather than just one open kitchen (a la Caprice at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong), there are SEVEN! Each focusing on a particular cooking technique (grilling, baking, steaming, etc.).

The decor is comfortable (armrests of armchairs too high) and the Vietnamese food is actually good and well presented.

What was enjoyable? Pho Beef Soup with rice vermicelli - nice clear stock, flavourful.
What was not enjoyable? Trying too hard perhaps? Everything is just a bit out of place - you could be any where - New York, London, Hong Kong ...

Xuan Spa, Park Hyatt Saigon

After a long day on my feet travelling from frantic Bangkok to Saigon, I very much looked forward to a relaxing massage before going to bed.

The Xuan Spa was a very pleasant surprise. The staff was very friendly and the atmosphere of the spa was tranquil - a world away from the screaming mopeds on the streets outside. The therapy room was big, with an en suite shower and lovely foot bath. The massage was good - classical Swedish - and at a leisurely pace. Subsequently I had a very good night's sleep.