30 October 2011

Faye Wong Concert 2011 王菲巡迴演唱會2011

[disclaimer: I actually watched her comeback concert back in Nov 2010 over at Shanghai, where it was held at the Mercedes-Benz Arena which seats 18,000 people]

WOW! She is undisputedly the Queen of Mando/Canto-pop! And this concert does not disappoint!! The much smaller Singapore Indoor Stadium (?8-9000) was filled with fans of all ages. Unlike in Shanghai, she sang a couple of cantonese songs and 1 English song (Sinead O'Connor's "A Perfect Indian"). Her dresses were prettier and less theatrical which is either a good or bad thing depending on your taste. Her earlier initial comeback concerts in China set the iconic looks for her promotional items, but I guess, similar to how she changed the songlist for this local concert, she got bored (though I can't decide whether I liked her Alexander McQueen Amish/Mormon dress at the end)! Speaking of which, the songlist here were at least 50% different from the one in Shanghai, which makes it very much worth it to have watched it again! Unfortunately, the song system in Singapore sucks, and the sound engineer had to spend the first 2 songs tweaking the settings until we got it right. That ended up producing a very pitchy and screechy first 2 songs, before finally Faye managed to belt her a signature yodel/scat singing. Otherwise, this was a fantastically great concert! Since I went to her Shanghai one, I already expected the ending and lack of audience interaction, though she did speak two times more than in Shanghai!! (5 "谢谢" and 1 "多谢" in canto!!)...ahhahahha....

23 October 2011

Antoinette (Mandarin Gallery)

Tucked away at the 2nd level of Mandarin Gallery, this little Parisian patisserie and salon du the is charming in its appearance. Very European in design with armchairs, picture frames adoring the walls and gold-gilded furnishings; there's even a settee out at the waiting area for you to park whilst waiting in line. Helmed by award winning pastry chef Pang Kok Keong, this place serves, possibly the best macaroons in Singapore, thus far. They have the right balance of airy-ness and melt-in-the-mouth-ness. His famous "Antoinette" macaroons (milk chocolate mousse infused with earl grey team, chocolate biscuit, raspberry coulis, and earl grey tea crumble) are really superb, the sesame and grand yuzu were great too, however, the strawberry was blah. And this about all the praise I have for this place...oh, one more! Good service too! Unfortunately, they should have stucked to being purely patisserie/dessert-only, instead of diversifying like Pang's previous employer - Canele. The Antoinette breakfast was disappointing. The three viennoiseries were average at best, only the brioche was near great. The chocolate crossiant can't compare to the absolutely perfect ones at Hediard; the "normal" croissant was also not spectacular. Similarly, the hot chocolate, though well-made, simply pales in comparison to Hediard's mouth-watering ones, or even the real ones you can get in Paris. The breakfast itself was sad, especially if the best thing on the plate was the roasted tomatoes: the eggs were bland, the bacons need to be crispier, and the sausage was just blah. There was even salt on my salad, which was a bit strange, unless that's the way the dear Queen liked hers. Lastly, was the strawberry shortcake. It was much better than your average ones available, however, it is definitely not the best. The sponge and cream was very well done, and the strawberries slightly soaked in kirsch which gave it a bit of cake, but at the price I'd rather eat K-Ki's!

Verdict: Will definitely come back for the macaroons, and just sit back and chill. May come and try their crepes or blinis (french pancakes).

333A Orchard Road
#02-33/34 Mandarin Gallery
Singapore 238897

tel: 6836 9209

Opening Hours
Everyday: 9am - 10pm (last order 9.30pm)

Smiths: Authentic British Fish and Chips

This new fish and chippys place at Balmoral is not really a new kid in town, with 2 other branches already in Boat Quay and Tanjong Katong. Firstly, the price is a bit on the high side, and that will definitely set expectations up. Unfortunately, the Haddock (served on triple-layer oil-absorbent paper...man! it sure needs the oil absorbing!) that I had was a tad too fishy and overcooked. The batter was good, and not overly doughy/floury, and I really liked the whole vinegar and salt topping(very brit), however, the fish needed some tartar sauce and/or chilli sauce to make it more palatable. At $17, this is not really what I would expect. (much cheaper and more worth your buck to just takeaway from Greenwood). The chips, on the other hand, was good: irregularly chunky and just the right thickness; great with the vinegar/salt.

Verdict: May go back to give the cod a second chance; but the price is a deterrence in making it a regular fish & chips joint.

271 Bukit Timah Road
#01-02 Balmoral Plaza
Singapore 259708

tel: 67637 9313

Opening Hours
Everyday: 12noon - 11pm

22 October 2011

The Help

Another long delayed movie has finally reached our shore. The Oscar buzz has been steadily building for this little sleeper hit in the States and it is totally well deserved!! This is a slow burning hit that rewards its patient audience. Once you get past the southern accent, this is a touching, funny, serious and serious current and reflective movie. The background may be obscure to local audience, but the theme is universal. It is not only a film about racism, but also of pure and simple bigotry and bullying (feminism, elitism, chauvinism all makes appearance). Bullying has not lines, no boundaries; bullying is for the weak. A powerful, emotional performance by Viola Davis will surely gain her another well-deserved Oscar nomination; Octavia Spencer is also equally riveting as the sassy Minny! Emma Stone is a starlet in the making (hope she doesn't pull a Lohan!); Jessica Chastain...wow!...this girl is a STAR! Exciting, illuminating, and arresting!! Can't wait to catch her next 2 flicks! The hilarious Sissy Spacek, uncharacteristically un-glam Allison Janney and even bitchy Bryce Dallas Howard round out the excellent oestrogen-filled cast. This movie also aptly reflects the current Singapore situation and the way where I see many kinfolks treat their help - as archaic as it was back then; our kiddies are undoubtedly gonna start (or many have already!!) loving their "aunties" more than their own mothers!! Can't wait to start on the book!

19 October 2011

Table 66

I have heard good things about this modern French/European restaurant, and I finally get to taste it (shout out to my boss! THANKS!). Lucky for it, the expectations were met. The place itself was not impressive. The bar looked cozy (and appropriately dimmed), but the dining area itself was unfortunately a bit hard/cheap looking. Service was excellent! Sally was an excellent host, friendly and vivacious without being overly intrusively. On paper the set lunch looked reasonable. Let's talk about food. The oysters were excellent. 2nd best oysters I had in Singapore (1st being those found at The Cliff): fresh, juicy and succulent. We had 3 kinds: au naturel (very good); cucumber granita with mint (refreshing); hollandaise (a bit overpowering). I had a taste of the foie gras (I can't believe California is banning it!!), and the bite that I had showed promise. Next up was one of their signature dish: poached egg with herb-cured salmon. The egg was impressive, with a very good texture. The herb-cured salmon on the other hand was not spectacular. Starters was followed by duck leg confit. I started on that with a bit of trepidation (see previous entry on ODP), and boy, am I glad to say that this duck got standard! Crispy with still a layer of fat beneath, and the meat was tender. It would have been better if the duck was cured longer, and baked/roasted rather than fried to get the skin crispy. Dessert was coffee swiss roll, at least it wasn't too sweet or creamy, hence easy on the palette after the heavy 2 courses. Coffee did not come with petit fours (boo!). This was the last week of business for them. They will be relocating to 10 Winstedt Drive (taking over the old District 10) and business will commence there on 11 Nov 2011.

Verdict: Will definitely visit them again.

Update (Dec 2011): They are now called Skyve Elementary Bar & Bistro

Table 66
66 Tras Street
Singapore 079005

17 October 2011

Open Door Policy

New place down at Yong Siak Street, Tiong Bahru, sister restaurant of the Forty Hands cafe across the road. This area is shaping up to be a quaint little neighbourhood, with cafes and bookshops and bric-a-brac-wannabe shops. Sadly, ODP is like 40-hands, interesting but not Wow-ing. The decor is unique with a mix of old-school (ala Col Bar) furniture with modern furnishings (reminds me a lot of the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego). The food is an interesting mesh of genres/varieties, with a limited menu. Starters, Meat, Fish, Vegetables and Dessert (with just about 5 items per section). I would say this was more a modern European bistro kinda food. The Halloumi cheese with anchovies was good, just a tad too oily; would have preferred it if they cut down on the oil after searing the cheese, though was a great fit with the salty tang of the achovies. The duck leg confit served on lentils was average at best. The meat was not cured enough and the skin not crispy enough. However, the meat was soft and tender. The addition of bacon on top was a mis-step in my opinion (not every thing taste better with bacon...the pork fat adulterated the taste of the duck). Dessert was a disaster!!! The pistachio and chocolate souffle with creme anglaise was too artificial in taste and texture was too sloppy; the lime panna cotta was too "skinny", it had absolutely no taste, and what with the sago?? (suggest adding gula melaka or the mollasse sugar from the coffee); the "award-winning ice cream" was homemade vanilla ice-cream with chocolate brownie and peanut butter crunch...let's just say the nicest thing was the peanut butter crunch. Coffee (the ODP blend) was average too.

Verdict: Too ex for the quality of food. May go again after they have established themselves a bit more just to see if they have improved.

Open Door Policy
19 Yong Siak Street (opposite Fourty Hands)
Singapore 168650

tel: 6221 9307; email: enquiries@odpsingapore.com

Opening Hours:
Lunch: 12 - 4pm (last order 3.30pm)
Dinner: 6.30pm - 11pm (last order 10.30pm)
Closed on Tuesdays; Wednesday only open for dinner

15 October 2011

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen's love note to Paris finally hits our shore. This movie is a win on so many levels! Impossible not to fall in love with Paris all over again. Smart, funny, meta and lotsa little jokes for the Lit & Art buffs ("pseudo-intellectual! Ha!). Most of all it has heart: Don't live in the past. Let go and live in the present. True Love is a respite from the fear of death!  Owen Wilson is a good fit for the naive Romantic American in France, and Marion Cotillard is luminating and alluring. Possibly Allen's most accessible film, and I can't wait for his ode to Rome next year!

14 October 2011

Table at 7

Restaurant Week, October 2011. Lunch set @ $40++. I preferred the food here than at their previous establishment: Sage. For the restaurant week lunch set, I had the yellow fin tuna tartare with daikon, avocado and sesame oil, followed by a main of chargrilled beef onglet and a warm valrhona chocolate tart. The tuna tartare tasted like the old-school sheng-yu (raw fish) that I used to eat with my porridge in chinatown market, but the daikon, cucumber and avocado does add another dimension to the texture of the dish. The onglet was done medium-rare (which we had to specify directly to the wait staff who did not ask) and it was really good, with a nice charred taste in the exterior and just enough tenderness and chewiness within; the accompanying mash was blah. Lastly was the dessert. Interesting way of serving the usual warm valrhona cake, kudos if the pastry tart was home-made, though the moccha ice-cream was way more ice than dairy!

Verdict: May go back, but I won't particularly hunt it down.

Table at 7
7 Mohammed Sultan Road
Singapore 238957

tel: 68366362, 83386362
e-mail: reservations@tableat7.com

Opening Hours:
Mon - Sat: 6.30pm - 11pm

Kraze Burger

The Korean burger joint is now here at Marina Bay Sands! Think Carl's Junior meets Mos Burger meets Billy Bombers. Make no qualms about it, this is a sit down restaurant that serves burger. DO NOT EXPECT FAST FOOD price! Good burger. Big juicy burgers. Not HUGE! But substantial...as is the price! Other than the over-priced foodcourt at MBS, this could be the next most value in this IR. What I liked about it is one particular "burger" on its menu: the "Semi-nude". Essentially, it is a double patty burger with 2 cheeses, bacon, sunny side up, onions WITHOUT the buns (hey! I try to cut down the calories whenever I can...the irony?! hahhaha), served with a side of fresh salad (with too-sweet a dressing over.)...but that cost $16! Taste-wise, it was good. The beef was a tad dry, but it had a nice charred taste to the edges. Real pork bacon makes the difference, and it was satisfying. Coupled with beer...yum!

Verdict: Will eat again if looking for burger or a cheapish eating place at MBS.

Kraze Burger
The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Ave, #B2-54 (next to the ice-skating rink)

Opening Hours:
Sun - Thurs: 10am - 11pm; Fri - Sat: 10am - 12mn

Kit Chan - The Music Room [Grand Theatre, Marina Bay Sands]

Kit Chan's first solo concert in many years, excluding her previous one where she shared the headlines with Singapore Chinese Orchestra, was undoubtedly highly awaited by her fans, and boy were they rewarded. At times sultry, at times coy and earnest; but always a diva. She started off nervous and the first song was off on a shaky start, but after 2 songs in she finally got into her stride and belted hits from an  18-years repertoire  (7 of which were out of circuit) and some others. Kit has a very theatrical voice which shines at some of her more drama songs, however it also highlighted some of the pitfalls in the concert. She should not have mentioned Barbara Striesand before breaking out into "Send in the Clowns": girl, there is no comparison (not even with Rachel Berry)! Her version of "Nothing Compares to You" was similarly over-theatrical and would have benefitted from a slower tempo. Lastly, I come for a pop concert expecting a secular experience. Sure, you may thank "the man up there", and say "god" in your songs, but I do not expect a whole charismatic, adulating experience. That was a major turn-off! And if you think about it, the song "What if God was One of Us" really does not mean that! But otherwise, when Kit started on her Mando-pop and Canto-pop hits, the crowd went wild, and very deservedly so. She even did a commendable, passable, but too sultry version of Edith Piaf's "Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler". Her back-up singers were also a tad off-key quite often, which is a distraction. She is a consumate performer and entertainer, now she just needs to work more on being polished and less stage-y! Perhaps just first day nerves?

11 October 2011

Stellar @ 1-Altitude

Restaurant Week, Oct 2011. What a disappointment. First impressions: the place was rather stunning with gorgeous view overlooking the completed MBS (once the gardens are up, it will surely be more impressive). For the set lunch for Restaurant Week, I had the foie gras terrine with poached pear and brioche, scallop and prawns risotto with black truffles and tempura zucchini flower, and raspberry mascarpone cheesecake. Again, I was suitably impressed when the starter arrived within 10mins; taste-wise, nothing special, but the terrine was a bit dry and a let down (goose??? nah...). Then came the disappointment. They forgot the main course. For 40mins! And during the interim, our server did come over and apologise and offer more bread (which frankly is very underwhelming). However, each apology is followed by a longer wait. Disappointingly, for a restaurant of such purported standing and repute, none of the supervisors/managerial staff actually came over to try to soothe the situation nor placate the (angry) guest. 40 mins wait is no joking matter, especially when you are in the CBD and lunch hour is sacred! How hard is it to offer a sushi (or something) as apologies? Anyways, unfortunately, the long wait did not guarantee an excellent dish. The risotto ended up too bland. There is no flavour in the rice unless eaten with the teeny scallops (two); the truffles was barely sufficient to imbued any of its flavour; and the zucchini flower needs more practice. Dessert was another long wait (10mins), and not like the dessert requires pre-ordering like souffle or molten cake. The cake itself was nice but unimpressive.

Verdict: Won't be going again, unless it's free. (I can get a good view from Jaan too, and better food many, MANY places else).

Stellar @ 1-Altitude
1 Raffles Place (former OUB Centre)
Level 62
Singapore 048616

tel: 64380410

Opening Hours:
Sun, Sat: 6pm - 12mn
Mon - Fri: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 6pm - 12mn

8 October 2011

The Conspirator

Robert Redford's latest directorial effort follows in a similar political satirical footstep as its predecessor "Lions for Lambs", this time a disguised as a courtroom drama. Talky but gripping with an interesting and intriguing bit of American history. Interestingly directed by Redford with an unusal play on the lightings. Justice only serves those in political power - a great analogy to current times. Not as star studded, with more small screen stars: Gilmore Girls's Alexis Bledel, 24's James Badge Dale and Glee's Jonathan Groff(!) but sadly their acting paled to the powerfully subdued Robin Wright and rest of the big screen hitters (Kevin Klein and Tom Wilkinson); James McAvoy is commendable and Evan Rachel Wood does her best with her short screen time. Inter arma silent leges: in times of war the law is silent.

1 October 2011

Attack the Block

This is what Super 8 wished it could had been. Funny, scary, with a heart, and even socially satirical, and all that with a non-Hollywood summer flick budget. It's like Shaun of the Dead meet Super 8: Alien invasion in a district with only the kids to save the day, and these ain't your Hollywood-scrubbed kiddies but toughened by the block hooligans. Even the damn aliens are way scarier and cooler than that lame-o by Abrams. Definitely not for everyone unless you are into irreverent, dry, Brit wit and accent/slang. Which then in that case, this show is ace! Go catch it (if still available)!! Well paced, laugh out loud and scary all at the same time. Goes to show you don't need a gazillion budget to do something good. Well done Joe Cornish!

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Haunted house pic with the usual Guillermo del Toro fantasy twist. Sadly, though slightly atmospheric in the beginning, it just felt too long and dragged out in the end even though it's just less than 100mins. Definitely not Pan's Labyrinth-quality; not even near. Way too many plot holes, stupid character decisions and cliches. The concept was good, sadly direction and acting let it down, especially Katie Holmes (if only she grew like her Dawson's Creek compatriot Michelle Williams) and the child actress (where's the Fanning sisters?). If only they had a more convincing child in the role this might actually be better.

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

This was unexpectedly good. It was not Oscar-winning good, but it was a thoroughly entertaining horror-thriller. Kudos to writer/director...