Saturday, 23 February 2013

Din Tai Fung @ Paragon Review (Chinese Dim Sum/Restaurant)

Since it seems so popular, decided to check it out with bro yesterday 22 Feb Friday.

Actually, the target was the Din Tai Fung @ Chinatown Point. But the China woman who led us to the table was so impolite that I decided not to eat there.  When she realized we needed an ATM since they didn't accept Nets, she stopped smiling and looked away. She didn't even bother to tell us where we could find the nearest ATM until I asked.

Although I told her we would be back, I decided not to after we went for the ATM inside the MRT (outside Chinatown Point).

At Din Tai Fung Paragon, we ordered 3 Steamed Vegetarian buns, 6 Vegetarian Dumplings, Wanton Noodle Soup, Shrimp & Egg Fried Rice. Shortly, I was informed the dumplings were not available.

At the end of our meal, we ordered 6 Chocolate Red Bean dumplings. Total cost:  $38+

The tea that was served, we realized were $1 each, added to our bill without our knowledge or consent.

The prices are reasonable/low, but the food does not deserve any commendation. In fact, the items were disappointing.

The ingredients of the Vegetarian buns were little and tasted flat. The skin of the buns was thick. Very badly done.  I didn't even complete eating 1.

The soup of the Wanton noodle tasted Ok but in bro's opinion, the item was not great.

The Shrimp & Egg Fried Rice was too oily that it made finishing it a little difficult/gross. The taste was Ok and the rice fluffy, but nothing great.  The shrimp/prawns however were many, big, bouncy and fresh.

The Chocolate Red Bean dumplings which I hoped would save our meal, was even more of a disappointment. Although the skin of the dumplings was thin, it was ruined by the thick topknots. The chocolate lava inside that should have been heavenly was instead un-sweet and quite tasteless. I only managed to eat 2.

Of course, I won't be trying anymore of this Chinese eatery which I told bro is just a high-class Kopi Tiam. I should add, it's not high-class as well, just paying for food that's not nice. 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Red Knight (Book Review)

Update 8 March 3.02 a.m.: Belated entry: Before I asked bro to return the book, I slipped in a little handwritten note between pages 7 and 8, or 8 and 9:  Sorry for recommending this book to the library. Didn't know it contains expletives.

There is nothing worse than reading an expletive in a novel, of all things, in a novel that gets published.  What sort of publishers/editors are around these days that could have allowed it to be publish, to publish it? (I can't even bring myself to type out the author's name).

*frowning mouth* I am not happy.  A book that does not bring joy in the reading of its words (does not deserve to be published).

Why would a purportedly medieval book have characters spouting the "f***" word?

Once, was barely passable, but it passed. Twice was a little difficult. Third time, I put the book down. Only until page 8, and I started skimming right after the first expletive. It is impossible to read.

Somehow, I had a feeling this book, I might not finish, might not be good. Intuition was right. That was after I got it, held it in my hands.

This book and 2 others that I recommended to the National Library to buy. To readers who have in their hands these books from the library and enjoy them, you have me to thank. Without my recommendation, the library would not have bought them. You would not have them in your hands.

Saw this book and another one at Kinokuniya @ Liang Court a month ago. Thought The Red Knight was good from its synopsis at the back of the book (a smaller paperback version than the one the library got. The library had e-mailed they would get the "hardcover" version when it was released in January but didn't say why it wouldn't acquire the paperback version that I mentioned was selling @ Kino Liang Court. Turns out the "hardcover" the library got is also soft cover like the paperback but bigger.).

Submitted these two  (and the 3rd from Kinokuniya @ Takashimaya) to the library to be purchased so I could read them.  The inevitable result would be that others would also be able to read them. But nevermind if I could have them first.

So I watched online for when the library acquired them so they could be immediately reserved once it became possible. Then all that was left, was to wait until I got them.

I love the library.

For The Red Knight, oddly, somehow I didn't need to reserve it (even though I reserved the other 2).

After I had gotten the other 2 books that I recommended, I waited for The Red Knight until I stopped checking online for a while. When I next checked on 9 Feb, it was already available but not on loan even though it had been  released on 7 Feb at my nearby library.

It meant it was still sitting on the "new arrivals" shelf, so I hurried over.

It wasn't on the "new arrivals" shelves downstairs and upstairs, so it must have been put back on the usual shelves. Sometimes, new arrivals would be taken off the "new arrivals" shelf after a time, and put to their respective shelves by alphabetical order (a.k.a. the usual shelves).

Found it on its shelf of the usual shelves, under its alphabet.

Somehow seeing a photo of the author in medieval armor in the back flap, made me doubt the writing.  I doubted a role-player would be able to write well. Don't ask me to make a more detailed connection between the two because there doesn't seem to be any.

It didn't matter that beneath the photo, it said he is a full-time writer. That photo said everything more than what the author's introduction did.

Turned out, I was right.  To hear an expletive spoken these days, even by women, is grimacing enough. To have to read it as well, when one expects to be made love to by the beauty of the intelligence of crafted words, is unbearable.

Only a line made me smile from the first: "...absorbed in the parallel exercises of withholding the need to vomit and committing the scene to memory.".  I thought "parallel exercises" was brilliant and committed it to memory because so far, nobody has written it that way before and in such a succinct and beautiful way of describing two difficult motions/acts together.

I can only hope upon the other books I got, that I would gain more from them than here.

It has disturbed me so much (even more than having to type a Kim Robinson salon review) that I have typed this "review" instead of doing my own writing at this time. *glances at clock* 1.45 a.m.. *hovers mouse over computer clock on right side* Monday 18 Feb.

Well, at least with this book, I won't be owing the library any fines (since returning it very soon). One down and ... *thinks* 4 more to go.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Yomenya Goemon 313 @ Somerset Review Japanese Restaurant Orchard Road

First time there last night 5 Feb evening.

The place was completely empty. The cook was standing in his kitchen touching a part of his face (?). Waitresses absent.

Was surprised because in a review I read, photos had people dining all around the bar.  The reviewer had said it's reasonably priced with rather good food.  Going back to the blog to check now... it was posted in Nov 2011.  How did the outlet manage to get past 2012?

Had 2nd thoughts about dining there with no waitresses standing to greet customers at the entrance.  Popped my head to look at the cook a few times to see if he was digging his nose or something, until he noticed me and looked up with interest to see if I was going to be a customer.

He must have signalled to the waitresses in there because the two of them came out. One darker and one lighter complexioned.

Companies, take note:  Do Not hire foreign waitresses who cannot understand English! 

Without realizing she didn't understand English, I jovially asked the darker complexioned waitress, "Are we early? How come there's no one?". 

"Huh?", she asked, looking smilingly clueless.

That was when I was instantly displeased realizing she was a foreigner who didn't understand what I just said.

I repeated in a disinterested voice, "Are we early?" and just left it at that. I hate having to repeat myself twice to a service staff who cannot understand it the first time. Why do these companies hire them??!!!

The other waitress didn't even say a thing and disappeared shortly.

The dark complexioned waitress tried getting us to sit inside. I indicated an outer table,  but she said it's a table that allows her space to put a baby chair along the outer side.

For damnation's sake, the entire place was empty! Not as if suddenly there's going to be a family with baby who will sit at that table. 

In fact, I wanted to sit close to the entrance because I felt like walking out if I change my mind about the menu later.  If I did, bro might make noise about my change of mind etc...  So, I had to hang on.

Ignoring the waitress and her stupid reason about not being able to sit at that table, I walked inside where I chose a table I liked and sat regardless of whatever crap she was saying.

We looked at the menu. I told bro that if he didn't see anything he liked, we could go (I hoped). No forcing.

(Disapppointingly) He chose something (as if to insist on staying).  Sesame Shabu sphagetti.

I chose as well.  Hokkaido Cream Soup.

The cook had just 2 of our orders displayed on his computer screen mounted in the kitchen.  (Even after we finished, the place was still empty.).

At first, I thought the cook was watching TV, but the screen was blank. Then 2 white squares with information on it popped up on the left side of the screen and the cook immediately got to work. That's when I realized he had been waiting for our orders that were those 2 squares that appeared on screen.

After ordering, the food came after a reasonable amount of time. 

Presentation of the food was well done.  However, bro said his Sesame Shabu was too salty with the pork shabu having a rather strong pork smell.

On my side, the soup was Ok.  Light cream cheese taste with 2 small quarters of potatoes that tasted nice. The spaghetti was too much and a little too firm. The ingredients inside too little with just 2 small cubes of Salmon, an almost non-existent shred of Brocolli, 2 super thin strips of carrot, 2 strips of bacon that tasted nice, and a little bit of corn.

Total: $33.54.

Bro tasted a little of my spaghetti and said it was better than his order.

For my soup, I give failing grade 4/10.  This restaurant loses to Ma Maison @ Bugis Junction (which I already felt wasn't that great).

At the end, I asked the dark complexioned waitress, "Is there a ladies here?". She completely didn't understand, didn't reply and just strolled away.

I predict the outlet @ 313 Somerset will close down sooner or later.  Food is one thing. Service is another. With both bad,  it's just waiting for the inevitable.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ma Maison @ Bugis Junction Restaurant

Update 24 Feb 2013: So far, been there another 2 times after the review below. The Seafood Gratin tasted nice (I only tried a little from bro's order) but they use beef stock for all their gratin (I avoid beef). Won't be going there again because the items I ordered have been disappointing.  The last try was the Omu Rice Cream Chicken =>The rice was crusted by overheating and there were no asparagus as depicted in the menu. 

This is the latest, newest review at the moment.

Now I know why there are so few reviews on Ma Maison.  It's because it's neither too bad nor too good to make people want to write a review. 

It's now past midnight. Supposed to do a book review before this post.  I'm almost too lazy to type this review because the experience is nothing much to be typed about.

For a few days now, have been looking online for where to eat for Japanese food.  Reviews pointed towards Central mall (besides other locations). So, dropped by Central on Friday night to satisfy craving for Yakun then looked around. Saw Waraku and Ma Maison with queues outside. Made a point to return and try Ma Maison another time (on a weekday).

Went home, checked reviews for both restaurants.

Ma Maison had better reviews than Waraku. And from the food photos and reviews, Ma Maison @ Bugis Junction seemed to be better than the outlet at Central.


Bro and I went to Ma Maison @ Bugis Junction instead of our original intention of trying the one at Central.

According to the online Bugis Junction floor plan, Ma Maison is on the 2nd level, inside, behind the row of skincare shops and Watson, near the food court.  An area where bro and I don't go when we are on that level, so it's new to me (but not to bro who has been with his friend to the Seoul Garden there before).

It's a small area where a few restaurants huddle together, with Ma Maison at the left corner. Easy to spot with its woody exterior and large white words on the signboard.

Arrived at about 4 p.m.. Seated immediately by a very alert and excellent-mannered, tall-ish girl at the door.  As reviewers kept mentioning how excellent the service is, I was expecting it and it is as good as they say.

Same as the outlet at Central, Ma Maison @ Bugis has a too dark ambience when looking in from the outside.

Inside, as one reviewer noted, it is cluttered.  My view is that, it is too cluttered with too many antique pots and pans and stuff that take up too much space, making the decor a little too heavy and stuffed up. It is still a little too dark inside.

We were showed the first table against the window inside (just across from the door). Nice, interesting spot with the sink and pots and pans hanging behind bro.  :)  A young woman was at the next table to our right (she was there when we got there and stayed when we left, with just a small book, iphone and tea).

The manager was in a stylish white-collared shirt with small floral print that suited him. Considering his behavior and speech, most likely Towel Club.

Towel Club is our code word for gay men (ever since I discovered Towel Club which I am denied access because I'm not a man. Dammit.).

Service:  Excellent. Attentive manager, attentive staff.  The only restaurant I have been to so far, that has such attentive and on-the-ball service.

Manager kept saying  "thank you"  (except when he directed us to the cashier to make payment. *frowns* He said "thank you" and even "Xie Xie" to people who left towards the cashier but didn't say it when it came to us. *pouts*) 

He supervised the young girl staff who served me the Japanese Style Spaghetti. Guessing she is a new recruit.

After laying the plate on my side of the table, she stepped back while I wondered about the large pair of tongs on my spaghetti.

Just as I was about to reach for the basket of cutlery, the manager who was behind the girl, quickly helpfully informed that I need to mix the spaghetti with the tongs and "Enjoy!" before hurrying away.

I liked him then. Well, I liked him the moment he came to take our orders, even though he appears stern, picky and very.... high-class like in a French restaurant.  I kept feeling I have to eat properly and observe proper dining etiquette with him around. (Even though, I still ate my spaghetti without fork-twirling it on the spoon first.).

I think I heard him instructing the girl regarding the explanation of the tongs to the customer as they went away behind my seat.

When taking our orders, he was quick to ask if we are Ok with beef for the Chef's pizza. The moment I asked, "Oh there's beef?", right away he noted, "So, no beef ah?" (the "ah" was to confirm, like British "eh").     
I felt he was fast to read my implication in my question--that we didn't want beef. I guess through experience with other customers responding the same way.

Good thing he asked. He is impatient and tends to want to get on with the matter (he was as brisk when the tall girl informed him about something and he replied crisply).

The water in our glasses was constantly topped up (even though I sipped only a little because... the glasses were not cleaned properly by their dish washing machine/s). 

A short while later, the young girl dropped by to ask if she could replenish our water.  She seemed a little uncomfortable asking this.

I offered my glass even though it actually wasn't necessary.  Then she asked how we felt about the food.

I guess asking to replenish our water which looked already full, was a gentle excuse to ask about our opinion. Did the manager teach her to do that? :)

She looked genuinely disappointed when I said my sphagetti was a little too salty (although the Chef's Pizza that bro ordered was nice with soft crust).  "Thanks for the feedback", she smiled.

Bro shuddered to think how it would be like working for the manager.  He said he would be too stressed because the manager looks like a fussy perfectionist who can be sarcastic when pissed.

Hmm....  I don't think the manager is as "perfectionist" as he appears. If he was, why didn't he ensure the water glasses didn't have stains that the dish washer didn't clean?


Interesting that bro noticed something about the tablecloth that I didn't.

I was telling him that a reviewer was pleased with the tablecloth because it was unique compared to the mono-colored ones elsewhere.  Bro said, "How did they clean the stains on the tablecloth?".

*stunned by his observation* That's when I started noticing there were no stains. O.O  (Bro observed only a few stains)

The tablecloth is of a thick quality, vintage-designed floral green cloth. To me, it looks gaudy and heavy-Victorian style when matched with the cluttered decor, although the cloth does feel very smooth and has overall cozy-look.

Come to think, the material might be of the sort that would allow easy wiping off.


As I mixed the Japanese Style Sphagetti with the tongs, I said to bro, "Smells like Kway Teow.".

Bro couldn't believe it. He smiled in disbelief and said, "You better don't let the manager hear you, otherwise he'll say 'how dare you compare it to Kway Teow'. ".  We chuckled over it.

When I gave him a spoonful to eat, he agreed,  "No wonder you say smells like Kway Teow.".

I left a small amount of sphagetti. Bro ate all of his small pizza. We shared the triangular Mont Blanc tart which bro said was good.

When we were done eating, I asked bro, "So. Happy?".

He nodded.

Me:  "Satisfied?".

He nodded and said, "Can come here again next time.".

Me: Oohh... Since you say come here again means it's good. If not good, we only come once and that's it."

For me, the sphagetti was too salty. The chef could be a young guy (I saw a young man in a cook's white uniform come out of there when we first entered).

Usually, young guys can't cook (in all big name restaurants such as Manhattan Fish Market, Fish & Co...).

Overall, the food still left us with an unsatisfied, un-full feeling right after we finished.  As other reviewers have said,  the food is Ok,  but the service is excellent and that's why they return. Shows how important service is.

Bro says only Yayoiken restaurant gives him that satisfied, full feeling in the stomach. Unfortunately, while he loves the fat juicy pork chops there... we have since stopped going due to significant decline in the dishes, rice and service quality.

For Bro, I would return to Ma Maison @ Bugis Junction since he likes it. But other than that... I find it expensive because the food is not good enough. For three items, it cost $44.95.

Still, it is less of a disappointment than Swensens or Earle's or the other restaurants. The only time the price didn't make me regret eating at a restaurant.

Maybe we can try other Ma Maison outlets @ Mandarin Gallery and elsewhere.

On my table, I saw the promo they have for Monday. As long as you have a lady with you,  dine in at 20 % discount for all ala carte items.