Monday, January 21, 2008

Hong Kong

I wrote this on Friday in Hong Kong:

It's been an interesting and exhausting week here in Hong Kong. We've been working ever since we landed on Friday afternoon, a week ago. And there's one more day of work left. It's Friday evening and I'm here in my little oasis of calm, ie the hotel room. It's pretty tiny, decent enough for just me, but for two people (it's a double room) it will be a tight squeeze. Thank goodness my colleague and I got individual rooms despite the very low perdiem of just $200 a day (including accommodations). The hotel (Stanford Hotel) is in Mongkok, and the moment you step out of the MTR station, it's madness. Middle-aged women hand out brochures, schoolkids chatter, music blares, lights flicker, it's a never-ending assault on the senses. And of course, battling the crowds is another horror. I've never seen a day when it's not crowded - not Monday, not Tuesday... not any day. Thankfully, this hotel is on the quiet end of Soy Street.

We've eaten at many of the cha chaan tengs around here, and although my colleague is vegetarian, she's managed to get some pretty decent vegetarian dishes.

Fish congee for dinner

Macaroni with luncheon meat, almond milk for brunch

I am quite fond of meat, as you can guess, but I do have my limit, and after a couple of days of noodles with beef, or macaroni with luncheon meat or roast meat rice, it was a bit too much for me, and I have started ordering a plate of veg (you cai) quite regularly. While I am fond of eating as the locals do, I did get cravings for non-local food and we've eaten at California Pizza Kitchen (it's nearby), Dan Ryans (er yeah),

Rice Paper6
Rice Paper (a Vietnamese restaurant) and Itamae Sushi. And I must say, I enjoyed the change, especially the sushi. It's the conveyor belt sushi chain but the variety of fish available beats Singapore hands down - I had
salt saury and
foie gras sushi, as well as some scallop and salmon for just HK$99. There are branches everywhere but I ate at the one at Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong (just one stop after Mongkok East and was less crowded than other malls).

Onto the work bit, we've been doing interviews as part of a research project, talking to all kinds of people in the arts/creative industry and this job in HK has allowed me to see parts of HK I'd never see as a tourist, I guess. Such as heading up to the New Territories (Fotan), Kowloon Tong, Lok Fu. Very residential/industrial areas. I've also hit Wanchai several days in a row, and fond some really good lunch deals at the Hong Kong Arts Centre's Pumpernickel Cafe, where a soup, vegetable lasagne and coffee/tea goes for just $65.
Burger at Pumpernickel
They also do a nice juicy burger with some great potato wedges. The only things is that it gets very crowded at lunch time (especially after 1230) so either go early or make a reservation.

I got a bit fond of the Tai Yau building, as it offered two cafes for a good rest in between interviews at Wanchai. One was Pacific Coffee and the other, the Suzuki Cafe.

MangoPudding HuiLauShan
We've also hit Hui Lau Shan a couple of times, mostly cos it's convenient. And both times I've had the mango pudding (with mango ice-cream) in mango juice with extra mango. Despite the cold weather, it's a great pick-me-up.

Jordan Dessert3
Steamed milk and egg custard at a dessert shop in Jordan (Parkes Street).
Jordan Dessert4
(the menu)

On Saturday, we ate at the 'farmhouse style' Japanese restaurant at Miramar shopping centre.

And for our last Hong Kong meal, dimsum for a leisurely Sunday lunch. We checked out at 11 and headed to Miramar again, where we had made a reservation the night before at Hakka Hut.
I had eaten there the last time I was in Hong Kong (a few years ago), and remembered their 'premium siew mai'.
Hakka Hut4
Siew mai

Hakka Hut8
Our seven dishes (including that really good char siew bao) came to just HK$139 (about S$26).

The thing is, it's been such a tiring trip that at the end of the day, all I want to do is eat something nearby, avoid the crowds and hide in my room and watch TV. Don't get me wrong though, I do like Hong Kong. I think I have greater respect for people in HK, especially those I have met. Their passion and interest in the arts is so strong. And while they might hold full-time jobs, they do their art-related work - whether it is organising events, working for arts organisations or creating art - after work or on the weekends. It was definitely an eye-opener.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Off to Hong Kong

I'm off to Hong Kong for work for 10 days, but it's no picnic. Right off the plane tomorrow, we've got an interview at 7pm, then a full day of work during the weekend, which continues all the way till the next Saturday. 3-4 interviews a day and partial attendance at a 3-day conference.

Hopefully there'll be time in before, between and after for a spot of shopping and of course, good eats!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

lunch, actually

Having read a friend's recent post about bringing lunch to work, I got to thinking about what I eat at lunch everyday.

Monday was a simple one of egg salad sandwich (with cucumbers).
Tuesday was 3 mini beef pies (courtesy of my uncle who's visiting from Perth) and a mixed salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, freshly cracked black pepper, some olives and feta cheese).
Today, I didn't bring a lunch.

Yes I do work at a place that has really cheap, subsidised food, but I just cannot bring myself to eat canteen food. I've worked here since mid-Oct but I've eaten canteen food probably less than 5 times (not counting fruits).

My lunch menu tends to be composed of cold foods - sandwiches are always a feature (sometimes with deli meats like honey baked ham, other times with egg salad or tuna mayo, or just cheese, but always with some salad leaves like butterhead or sliced cucumbers), I've brought pasta salads (tossed with some salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs like basil and olive oil of course), couscous salad (cherry tomatoes, olives, fresh coriander, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper), potato salads (mayo, some relish, salt and pepper or my warm version which has lemon juice, olive oil, finely chopped canned anchovies, chopped bacon).

What I do pick up at work is coffee. Unfortunately, the nearest outlet is a Coffee Club Xpress, and I must say that their coffee is just not very good. I made the mistake of ordering their mocha once, only to find that it was far too sweet (I think they put some chocolate syrup?) and tasting like filtered/brewed coffee instead of espresso. Their banana muffin was also quite a disappointment, tasting mainly of banana essence than anything else. The canteen does have an Olio which offers far better versions of coffee (although have yet to try their food). But my absolute favourite is the building where my boss' office is, which has a Spinelli's, with a barista who created a leaf design in my latte (I've only been served by him once, and haven't had a designed latte since). Spins also has a good sandwich of goats cheese and fig tapenade. And as a trip to the boss' office is in the agenda for today, that's what I hope to score for lunch later.


A friend remarked over dinner that I don't seem to have enthused about food/dining spots recently. And she's right. It's been a while since I've really enjoyed a good meal, well not since a surprisingly good dinner at a very not-me place (more later).

I've had a pretty blah lunch at Le Papillon (kinda long ago and not really worth talking about!), a pretty blah dinner at Cicada (involved a overly-onioned and dressed beef salad, although the rare beef itself was really good, the amount of raw sliced red onions, pickled onions and pickles, combined with too many splashes of a creamy dressing overpowered the meat; the pizza of scallop and melted leek had an odd grainy texture; the brownie/peanut butter slab of dessert was alright but nothing to rave about; however it was a nice setting, like Dempsey used to be before the hordes arrived), a decent but not raveable dinner at Kharma Kettle & Rhapsody (had the lavendar chicken, which was really nice and tender but didn't really hint of lavendar, although the rice that came with it is quite delicious, with some herbs and spices thrown in) followed by sago pudding at the nearby Cellar Door.

However, I did recently delight in a rather yummy dinner at Pasta de Waraku at the very youth-oriented Central. It involved waiting for ages (and entertaining ourselves by looking at the plastic food on display outside, although the staff very nicely offered some soft drinks for those of us waiting) until our queue number was called, and then squeezing into a table for two in the very crowded and noisy restaurant ('Welcome to Waraku' or whatever they shout to every entering customer). We decided that the set would be a good idea, as it would allow us to try a variety of pastas/pizzas (although the waitress pointed out that the choices would be rather limited). Eps had the pasta/pizza set (she chose the carbonara and the only pizza option was a pork salami and tomato pizza, and it was a really nicely thin-crusted sort), and I went for the pasta/baked pasta set. The set comes with a corn soup, a small salad, a soft drink/glass of organic wine (although wines are limited to 'red' or 'white' - ask the waitress what type of red and she points to the menu, which says, yes, 'red' or 'white'. Still it's quite drinkable). And mine was a baked pasta with eggplant (the only option available, although I thought the tomato sauce was a bit too sweet) and a cod roe pasta (far tastier than the version at Satsuma, which was more a garlic-y pasta than anything). The food sure came fast (although probably a bit too fast for us, as the table was quite small) and service was very efficient and friendly. So thumbs up for that. And the set is just $19.80, which is a pretty good deal if you haven't been before and want to have a variety of dishes. Either go early or be prepared for a wait.

7 Portsdown Road
Tel: 6472 2100

Kharma Kettle & Rhapsody
501 Bukit Timah Road
#01-01A & #01-05B Cluny Court
Singapore 259760
Tel: 6314 3483

Cellar Door
619 Bukit Timah Road

Singapore 269720
Tel: 6463 5296 / 6469 7665

Pasta de Waraku
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#02-82/83 The Central@ Clarke Quay
Singapore 059817
Tel: 6534 8085
Their menu is available online