It’s amazing how crazy hungry, food-obsessed Singaporeans can get while living abroad.
Having lived in Singapore for ten years (and then some), I am well familiar with the unique qualities and awesomeness of Singaporean food. And now that I am living in Hong Kong for five years (and counting), I understand the craving for badass Singaporean food. Which is so under-supplied and overrated in Hong Kong (Singaporean food, that is), you won’t believe it. I often had to make do with subpar laksa and diluted bak kut teh to nurse that soft spot which just won’t go away, but it never really compares to the real thing.
So when I read this gorgeous, funny and beautiful cookbook titled after the supper club its author once operated in London, I totally understood. Why one would go extreme to find really good but extremely rare ingredients (in London, that is) to whip up some fried carrot cake. Or why people would band together in the love of food and (sometimes) of the country (if dinner happens on August 8).
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Despite the fact that I have been living in Happy Valley for two years now, which is just a few tram stops ride away to Causeway Bay, it’s embarrassing how little I know of the two neighbourhoods. I mean Happy Valley and Causeway Bay. I mean, I do do know them, but only of a few routine spots and regular places, and I am certainly far from being an expert. For really in-depth resources on Causeway Bay, you can (of course) try the Causeway Bay entry onWikipedia, or the new-ish hyperlocal site ILoveCWB.hk dedicated to Causeway Bay.
So when my friends come a-visiting to Hong Kong, more often than not they will ask me the big three questions:
1) Where to eat good food?
2) Where to get cheap and good hotel?
3) Any interesting place to shop?
I seem to spend half my life replying to those emails, so I thought once and for all I put my answers down into a blog post, for those of you whom are coming to Hong Kong and intend to stay within bustling Causeway Bay.
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It was quite a late dinner for us right after a movie. I vaguely remembered a recommended Japanese restaurant by a colleague that was newly opened in Times Square. Zushi Ana was located right at the thirteenth floor of the building, where the cinemas were. The restaurant looked rather inviting so we stepped in for some late chows.
Glowing, warm light in a dark, posh environment always arouse my appetite. It is not something for everyone – most will complain about the inability to read the menu properly due to the the dim light – but I’ll say hey, that’s what candles are for! So I tilt my menu to the (electric) flame and read on, while all around a friendly, chatty atmosphere continue on through the night. Definite long time fans, I thought.
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When I first mentioned that I was interested in going to Bali, it seems that a visit to the Rock Bar at Ayana Resort is a must. Almost everyone I have spoken to was waxing lyrical about the amazing sunset from the bar, located right at the cliff with a rather sheer drop into the ocean. It sounded dramatic in a way that I liked, so I put it down onto my itinerary for my Bali-day trip and made a point to visit.
And I did.
The first thing you’ll notice when you arrived at Ayana Resort and Spa was how luxurious everything is. I was staying at some sub-standard place at South Kuta, so the difference was acutely felt. Walking to the bar took us through the resort, and after the third posh restaurant with glamourous fountains, the sheen of awesomeness started to wear off and everything seems to be a little over-the-top. It didn’t feel exclusive, just over-subscribed.
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When we booked for our hotel accommodation, we were told that it is a 5-minutes walk from a certain Balangan Beach. To be honest, I was barely paying attention that fact – I was busier planning where to have my meals (as a foodie do) instead of researching more about the beach.
But I hadn’t had worried. The moments we clapped our eyes on the white sands and endless blue horizon and the blazing sun, I knew in an instance why this is a surfer’s paradise.
Balangan is one of Bali’s lesser known beaches, but it is all the better for it. Even though it was notoriously difficult to get to, the beach is never short of visitors and after late morning you will be hard pressed to rent empty chairs.
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I had to start off this hotel review on Aman Gati Hotel Balangan in Bali with a pre-empt, if you like, that this is going to be a balanced review. As much as I enjoyed the serenity and service at the hotel (which I booked through Airbnb.com), there was also much to be groused about and I thought I should view the glass both half-empty and half-full, so that you – the potential travelers – know what you are getting yourself into.
The hotel provides a pick up service (for US$25) so it was pretty much hassle free for us. A uniformed driver waited for us at the airport, and the drive to the hotel was uneventful and as illuminating as it was the fist time to Bali for everyone in my group. We marveled at the stone-breaking sunshine and seemingly endless blue sky.
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It was only when I started to blog this that I realised that Souvla was my first Greek experience in Hong Kong… coz Greek wasn’t on my Food Category list!
While I am certainly no stranger to Greek food, my usual encounters were usually restricted to the occasional Greek salad, of which I enjoy the feta cheese a lot. Souvla has been on my radar for some time since it was opened, thanks to its rather active Twitter account @souvlaemp. One wintry night my buddies and I were looking for a different dining experience in Central, so to Souvla we went.
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It was a family-oriented Saturday afternoon, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of an ambiance with that many kids around. A consolation though was the sweeping view of the harbour. It helped that we were seated by the window.
I took one look at the buffet table and decided to go against the crowd mentality of everyone else whom were digging into the buffet line like there’s no tomorrow, and we went ala carte instead.
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Winter is now drawing to a close in Hong Kong, and I still remember vividly the bitter and biting cold of Seoul.
It has been some months since that trip to Korea, and also some weeks since I last updated this blog. Over the years I have come accustomed to the various lapses in writing about my life (sorry, meals) that an excuse seems unnecessary to explain my absence. I am sure I have been missed but hey, the Internet is a vast, deep ocean of things to keep your insomniac nights occupied. By the way, have they found MH 570 yet?
It was my second trip to Seoul, this time made different and memorable because of my better half. I found that if I do not commit these memories into writing, they often fade into bits of information and flashes of memories that seldom made sense, so during the trip I force myself onto a chair every day to type these posts of what happened the day before, ready to be edited, beautified and published for all to see.
Which I did, four months later. It’s late, it’s untimely and it’s unbecoming but, well, it happened. So here goes:
- So Far, Seoul Good Day 1 – Hotel ShinShin, Myeong Dong & Nanta Cookin’ Show
- So Far, Seoul Good Day 2 – Gyeongbokgung Palace, MMCA of Seoul, Bukchon Hanok Village, Gwangjang Market & Dongdaemum Night Shopping
- So Far, Seoul Good Day 3 – Tosokchon Ginseng Chicken, Coco Bruni, Seoul Collection, Korea Furniture Museum & Night Out at Itaewon
- So Far, Seoul Good Day 4 – The Cookshop, Paris Croissant, 10 Corso Como & Noryangjin Fish Market
- So Far, Seoul Good Day 5 – Isaac’s Toast, LOTTE Basement Food Hall, Shinsegae & Namsan Hill Seoul Tower
- The One With So Far, Seoul Good
That seems like a long pre-amble to write something and flex my blogging muscles after some weeks of inactivity. Without wanting to make false promises, let’s just hope this post heralds another stream of blog posts – mostly food – to come in the upcoming days.
It has been more than a year since I last visited Shun Kee Seafood. I would have blamed that to my post-appendicitis trauma after the disgusting packed food holiday I had then (which included Shun Kee), but truth to be told I didn’t visit earlier because it was hard to convince friends to try this out. The location is hard to get to, there’s a fixed time slot, one has to book ahead… there are many reasons why the locals are not very enthusiastic about this place.
So when some of my dear Singaporean friends came visiting and insisted that they have to give this place a try (they saw my earlier Facebook photos and subsequent blog post), I was only too happy to oblige. And I am happy to report that the menu was exactly the same and the food quality was consistently good. Of particular excellence was the chilli crab, which was stellar and had the entire boat eating in silence… just like the last time.
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