Eating at newly opened COO Bistro & Boutique Hostel in Tiong Bahru

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Eating at newly opened COO Bistro & Boutique Hostel in Tiong Bahru
My friends and I head down to COO Bistro & Boutique Hostel, for brunch on a Saturday morning. Knowing that we were going to burn lots of calories during our pokewalk that day, we were prepared to eat up a storm.

COO opened doors in the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood for about 2 months now, and we were greeted with a groovy entrance that stood out in a quiet, old-school neighbourhood. Once you step in, you're attracted by the tube lights that beckon you to the bistro area (known to them as Eat COO). It seems like a pretty chill place to hang out with friends after work, for a drink or two.

The design of the place looks awesome, probably because it was designed by award-winning architectural firm, Ministry of Design.

Love the wallpapers, so much to look at. 

One thing I note is also the great service here. As soon as we sat down, we were not neglected as there were other groups of people who streamed in shortly after. The service staff informed us that they were expecting a huge group to be visiting the bistro shortly, and told us that we should order soon just in case the kitchen gets too busy and might lengthen our waiting time. I appreciated that she told us that, actually. I made my orders and we didn't wait long for the food to be served.

I had the Latte, and chanced upon the fact that their brew was from Dutch Colony Coffee Company, who supplies beans to other pretty happening cafes too.


We were recommended the COO Quencher, a really refreshing drink made with yuzu, lemon, acacia honey and applemint. My friends loved this, despite its light, tangy sourness peeking out as you enjoy the drink.
Iced Valrhona Chocolate is the stuff that good chocolate bars are made of, and this one's a pure sweet liquid dessert-type goodness. They serve this with nuts coated around the edge of the glass and perhaps it's just worth it to dump the straw and take it all in together.

I also had a Strawberry, Lime, Cucumber and Mint Sparkling Soda. This was also a pretty refreshing drink. But I prefer the COO Quencher over this. :)
One of my friends was late, so we ordered their Hand Cut Truffle Fries while waiting. I personally don't like thick cut fries as compared to the thin ones, but this was pretty value for money!

As a meat lover, I ordered the Roasted Pork Belly, which was a pretty nice dish overall. The meat was tender and the pickles gave it a pretty interesting edge. I didn't really taste much of the salted egg yolk though, but I finished this dish up pretty quickly cos the meat itself tasted good.

Next up, from their breakfast plate selection: COO's Eggs Benedict. We didn't know where to start with this one, because everything was stacked up perfectly. But we had to at some point, and our first cut had made the poached eggs flow like mad. The poached eggs looked awesome and it was a pretty delicious mess as soon as the egg yolk got into the picture. It was also served with spinach, cured ham and thick toasts that lay the foundation for this eggy construction.
Just look at all that egg porn. 
 Ahhh, time for the main lead. I know, who orders prawn noodles for brunch? Well, I did. And I didn't regret it. This western-chinese fusion is one of those dishes that worked well. Known as the COO's Prawn Noodles, this dish married fettuccine, chilli sauce, tiger prawns and a lovely poached egg in the centre.

Break that yolk, baby, and mix it all up. This was our top favourite that morning and I highly recommend you try this if you visit. The service staff shared that some people found it spicy, but most were foreigners. To me though, I think the level of spice was just nice. It wasn't too overly spicy, just a little chilli afternote lingering while slurping up those slippery noodles. Loved this.

We finished our meal with a sweet Tiong Bahru 'Chwee Kuey', which is actually a panna cotta in disguise, served with candied walnut and balsamic strawberries which were supposedly the 'chye poh' and 'chilli' that goes with 'chwee kuey'. There were mixed reactions for this dessert, but for me, it was a positive one. Loved the creativity and enjoyed this light pudding that gave a nice ending to my meal.

The total cost for the meal came up to about $100 (4 drinks, 5 dishes) for 3 of us. We ate so much, well-fueled for a day of Pokemon Go.

Once in a while, the service staff came by to check if everything was going well for us. I secretly observed the service staff looking over time to time, making sure we were well attended to. I found that very comforting. I always stress that a great dining experience should not only focus on food, but the way they make a customer feel during the dining process is very important as well.

I think COO Bistro has managed to make us feel extremely comfortable and well taken care of, and it's one bistro we will definitely be back to visit - especially for the specialty prawn noodle.

COO (Bistro & Boutique Hotel / Sociatel)
Location: 259 Outram Road, Singapore 169056
COO Bistro Tel: +65 6221 7060
Website: http://www.staycoo.com/

Singapore Mooncakes 2016: Have you bought yours yet?

Monday, 29 August 2016

Singapore Mooncakes 2016: Have you bought yours yet?
As you know, the mooncake season is here again! Yes, Mid-Autumn's Festival is here on 15 September 2016! A day where you eat mooncakes with your family and come together to view the moon, where it's said that the moon is the brightest and roundest on this day (symbolising family reunion)

Have you bought your mooncakes yet? Last chance to snag some awesome mooncakes! Here are some suggestions.




Mooncake Roadshow at Vivocity, where I got to taste many mooncake varieties!

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Brand: Peony Jade
Item: Flaky Orh Ni Mooncake (pure, single & double yolk)

Oh, this teochew-style mooncake is damn good. I say, damn good! Even at the roadshow, it was all out within the morning. Made freshly everyday, this one is one of the best mooncakes I've tasted out in the market. If you love Orh ni (yam paste), this will not disappoint you. Get the ones with egg yolk in it as the savory taste of the yolk mixed with Orh Ni is extremely delectable and selling very very quickly. 


Item: Baked mini mooncake with molten matcha

Another one I loved from Peony Jade. The molten matcha mooncake tastes so uniquely delicious that I can't stop but finish it all by myself. The keyword here is molten. Yes, molten! Flows like lava once you cut into it. Put it into your mouth and the matcha flavour explodes. Of course, don't immediately eat this when it's frozen. The idea here is to have it molten, please.


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Brand: Baker's Well
Item: Mixed Nuts Traditional Mooncake

This year, I went and got Baker's Well's mixed nuts tradtional mooncakes (five-nuts mooncake / Wu Ren) for my older relatives. This was one of the best ones I've tried that isn't too sweet, good for those who don't like sugary mooncakes. I usually do not like eating mixed nuts mooncakes, but this one changed my view on them. The mooncake was filling and delicious. To enjoy this best, wait 2-3 days to eat them as the oil from the nuts emerge, making it even more delectable to enjoy then.


Item: Chili Truffle Snowskin Mooncake

I know, I know. My reaction to hearing the name raised both eyebrows as I wonder how it would taste. The first taste to it hadn't brought up any spicy alarms yet, but as you swallow, the aftertaste will start to spice up near your throat. This one is memorable and I enjoyed it. One of the unique creation mooncakes that I recommend you try this year, as a true blue Singaporean. I mean, come on. Chilli leh!
MOONCAKE_2016_BAKERS_WELL_CHILLI_SNOWSKIN.JPG
Screengrab from Baker's Well Website

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Brand: Old Seng Choong
Item: Red Bean Orange Peel with Yolk Blend & Pine Nuts

This is the first year since the brand creator's son, Daniel Tay, took over the brand after remodeling the business. I tried various mooncakes from this brand, but I must say that this particular mooncake flavour did it for me. The red bean paste had just a slight hint of sweetness, and the winning factor for me has to be the addition of the orange peel (a.k.a 陈皮), which gave it such a distinct, unique edge that I enjoyed. Coupled with the salty hint from the yolk and a light crunch from the pine nuts, the entire thing was well put together and overall, it wasn't very sweet, yet had the best robust mouthfeel out of all the other mooncakes I tried.

Screengrab from Old Seng Choong's website

Item: Wu Ren (Five-nuts mooncake)
Screengrab from Old Seng Choong's website

One more mooncake flavour worth mentioning from Old Seng Choong is their Wu Ren (Five-Nuts Mooncake). The difference in their mooncake is that there is an addition of the Chinese Jinhua Ham (a.k.a the 金華火腿). I felt that this addition gave it a rise in terms of sweetness, though Jinhua ham is slightly salty. The contradiction! But I really enjoyed this delectable mooncake overall.

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Brand: Chocoelf

Item: Snowskin Mooncakes with No Sugar
Screengrab from Chocoelf's website
Now that everyone is so conscious about their health and the calories that a mooncake contains, this one is best in the market that offers sugar-free and low sugar mooncake options. This is diabetic-friendly and this year's snowskin edition consists of 4 flavours: Pure white lotus, Rose truffle yolk, Green Tea truffle yolk and Intense Dark truffle yolk. Their mooncakes combines a sugarless snowskin recipe with a chocolate truffle yolk center. The lotus paste is also sugar-free. I have tried this for myself and I loved this too as it doesn't cut down on the taste factor. Health-conscious folks, get this!

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Brand: Szechuan Court (Fairmont)
Item: Mini Snowskin Cranberry & White Lotus

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Screengrab from Szechuan Court Fairmont's Website

One of the new snowskin items they launched this year. Well, I have to be honest and share that I have mixed reviews from my friends on this one. But for me, this worked well so I would like to share it with you as well. You'd probably have to like cranberry to appreciate this. I think this sweet, dessert-like flavour really got through to me and I do love this new flavour of theirs! The colour is so pretty inside as well.


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Brand: Raffles Singapore Hotel
Item: Champagne Truffle and Ganache Snow-Skin Mooncake

Screengrab from Raffles Hotel Website
One of the top mooncakes they repeat every year, because it's such a crowd favourite. This was so light and delectable and so addictive. One of my friends swears by their mooncakes. So far, this is one of my favourite snowskin ones.

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Brand: Home's Favourite
Item: Snow-skin Top Grade Black Gold Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncake

Screengrab from Home's Favourite Website
Hear, hear, durian lovers! This one is one of my top Mao Shan Wang picks, which I bought both last year and this year as well. I love the premium look of this, what with their black snowskin wrapping and luxe gold flakes dusted on the top. If you're worried that people might look at you as you carry this home on the public transport, your worries are unfounded. They wrapped each mooncake (4 in a box) individually with thick styrofoam packaging, retaining as much cool air as possible to ensure you still can enjoy it fresh when you reach home. The mao shan wang in this mooncake is so power-packed that you'll finish all four by yourself in no time.

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Brand: Mei-Xin Mooncakes
Item: Lotus Seed Paste Mooncake with 2 Egg Yolks

Screengrab from Mei-Xin Singapore's Website

One of the top sellers of mooncakes in Hongkong for many years now. If you frequent HongKong, you would have seen the popular bakery on the streets at least once. Known as Maxim's in Hong Kong, and Mei Xin in Singapore. I love their baked mooncakes, traditional is best! Smoothly blended lotus paste mixed with the saltiness of the egg yolks... so so good. If you're a fan of Star Wars, they also launched a special Star Wars Mooncake for fans! Also, I hear their molten (custard lava) mooncakes are awesome too, unfortunately I am unable to share because I did not get a chance to try (all sold out!). So if you already tried it, please let me know if it's good!
Screengrab from Mei-Xin Singapore's website

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What are your favourite mooncakes that you think I should definitely try? Let me know your favourite ones by leaving a comment below! :)

Singaporean Drama / TV / Movie Lovers: CatchPlay, Netflix or VIU?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Singaporean Drama / TV / Movie Lovers: CatchPlay, Netflix or VIU?
Whoa, the OTT (Over-The-Top content) space in Singapore is getting crowded. VIU, Netflix, and now, with the newly launched CatchPlay. With the rise of on-demand streaming apps and services, and also a drama/tv series lover myself, I did up this quick breakdown (based on my knowledge) on the 3 services. I'm personally a subscriber to Netflix and just joined CatchPlay with their opening promotion special! I also joined VIU but I'm not a paid subscriber yet. 

Hope this helps my fellow TV and movie lovers with their subscription decision. :)

Screengrab from CatchPlay Singapore Website

CATCHPLAY

Good for: For movie lovers who haven't caught up on newer films yet and doesn't mind on a less developed movie list. 

Strengths: Newer and also offers more movies than NetFlix

Weakness: Purely movie entertainment and doesn't seem to have a robust movie list offering yet. Random searches for some older flicks, like The Terminal, Warcraft, GodFather,  Breakfast at Tiffany's, Finding Nemo, Maze Runner, Divergent, Ice Age was not successful. Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings series, are available there though.

Pricing: $12.90 monthly / Pay-as-you-watch

Local TieupsStarhub (Channel 610)

Other Considerations: Only streaming available, not very good for those who wants to watch on-the-go with weak mobile data plans. Suggested download rate is 4G/LTE, as stated in their FAQs, if not, risk lagging while streaming.

Personal thoughts: I think it's good that they offered a 2 month free subscription service. I will definitely consider to keep my subscription if the movie listings include more up-to-date offerings as well as more of the old films as well. It's still early to say now, but according to them, they're adding 100 movies every month and this 2 months subscription offers a good tryout for me to see if they can keep my business or not. Well, let's see how that pans out.

Screengrab from VIU website

VIU

Good for: Busy Korean / Jap drama fanatics who wants to catch up on latest mainstream dramas on-the-go

Strengths: Daily up-to-date Korean and Jap dramas, offers subtitled episodes within 8 hours of Korea / Japan's broadcast. Monthly subscription prices are also quite affordable.

Weakness: TV dramas and variety programmes offered are mainstream and nothing really special. Popular Korean variety shows such as Unpretty Rapstar, SNL Korea, The Human Condition are not found in their list of offerings. 

Pricing: Free to watch option available, episodes made available 3 days after premium service and comes with ads / Premium service at $5.98 monthly without ads and available for immediate watching after broadcast in Kimchi and Sushi land.

Local TieupsSingtel Cast

Other Considerations: Can be streamed on-the-go and importantly, offers download via wifi which can be watched later on-the-go (unlimited downloads for premium service members only). 

Personal thoughts: Would love to see them include movies in future as I feel we're missing out on alot of awesome Korean and Japanese movies. I hope that can be a consideration for them to bring it to Singapore. If that happens, I don't mind paying a monthly premium for it. I also loved that they made it possible to download first and then watch later. That's important, because really, who only watches 1 episode each time for Korean dramas, right? It's healthier for your mobile data too. 

Screengrab from NetFlix Singapore Website

NetFlix

Good for: Those who wants to rewatch older tv series or loves NetFlix's original series

Strengths: Strong lineup of their in-house produced original series available only on their platform

Weakness: Limited selection of older films and TV series available. Movie offerings also not up-to-date. Popular TV series like The Flash, The Arrow, older hits like Friends, Heroes, How I met your Mother, Big Bang Theory, etc are not available to SG yet. 

Pricing: Monthly subscriptions available only ($10.98, $13.98 or $16.98)

Local TieupsSingtel (while also available for streaming through PlayStation 4, Xbox and Apple TV)

Other Considerations: Only streaming, not very good for those who wants to watch on-the-go with weak mobile data plans. There is also an option available for you to control your cellular data usage - a.k.a mobile data saver mode, that allows you to watch videos but in lower quality while on-the-go. Doesn't mean it will not take up data also, just less is consumed.

Personal thoughts: Previously, I could still access the US site via VPN services, to watch my favourite series, but they have since clamped down on watching through VPN and we just can't access them anymore (sadness). If you ask me, without their original series, Netflix would not have made the cut, what with their weak TV series offerings and not-up-to-date movies list. Thank goodness for House of Cards, Grace & Frankie, Orange is the New Black that is holding me back from pulling out my subscription.

Screengrab from TVB's 城寨英雄 webpage

Lastly, my only gripe overall is: WHY NO HKG DRAMA OFFERINGS YET. 

Mainly sad because I can't watch my Hongkong dramas on-the-go, through an app or something, though I'm now getting my regular fix from other sources, including through the Starhub Cable TVB First channel (860)

新加坡吃海鲜?试吃: 乌敏第一站海鲜!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

新加坡吃海鲜?试吃: 乌敏第一站海鲜!
最近特别想同家人吃一顿好的,就去了新加坡的东海岸公园(East Coast Park)享受了个海鲜大餐。不知道怎么每次一问我韩国朋友们来到新加坡喜欢吃什么, 她们就全都说新加坡的辣椒螃蟹(Chilli Crab)。好吃是好吃啦, 不过对我来说还好而已。说到Chilli Crab,我就是特别一点的日子才会于家人去吃。

Touring Osaka's Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum

Touring Osaka's Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
So, it was a bright and sunny day when we decided to pay a visit to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum!

Our mini adventure began when we arrived at Ikeda Station, and we were a little lost so we approached the counter staff for some help as my GPS was going out of whack.

He proceeded to give this slip of paper to us and we tried hard to interpret it, but gave up and burst out laughing (yes, we are 2 optimistic people).
What in the world are these treasure hunt instructions saying?!

Anyhoo, we decided to proceed with our gut feel and trailed behind a couple who looked like tourists. Thank goodness, it turned out to be a right decision and the museum wasn't very far from the station.

Along the way, we came by many good looking houses, with lovely flowers lining the road; a great treat for our eyes! About 5 minutes later, we arrived at the museum!

This museum is special because it gives insight on the history of the popular instant ramen, how it was created and also, you can participate in making your very own packet of instant noodles!

Once we arrived at the museum, we first made our way to the information counter (where the museum shop is located), to register ourselves for the Chicken Ramen Factory workshop, with my online reservation slip.

They also showed us an English workshop instructions card. Here it is.



More about the workshop below.

Those who wants to learn more about Instant Noodles and their history can also borrow audio sets in English and Chinese from the info counter.

The audios give narrations of the Birth of Chicken Ramen exhibit and the CupNoodles Drama Theater. Prepare 2,000yen to rent the audio set, and they will reimburse you the money when you return the audio set.

Before you make your way out (if you need to get a souvenir), you can purchase original goods of Hiyoko-chan (the Chicken Ramen mascot) and the instant noodle package logos, as well as gift sets of instant noodles, and books about the creator, Momofuku Ando and well, cups of instant noodles.

Next up, we head to read more about the history and view the evolution of instant noodles packaging in The Instant Ramen Tunnel!

This guy, known as Momofuku Ando, had invented the instant noodles all on his own, using simple tools he had in his home. Really impressive.


I hadn't known this, but more than 100 billion servings of instant noodles are consumed worldwide each year! Wow~!

We stood at the exhibition hall pointing out which packaging were our favourites. Some have extremely hilarious designs, which I'll leave for you to explore youself when you visit the museum.


Next up, we visited the My CupNoodles Factory. Yes, it's literally called 'My CupNoodles' Factory. Here's where you can create your own CupNoodles package in a cup designed by you (using coloured permanent markers) and then select your favorite soup from among four varieties and four toppings from among 12 ingredients.

Altogether, there are 5,460 flavor combinations that you can come up with! (Japan, you are money-making geniuses!)

Being suckers for this sort of entertainment, we each bought a cup, which costs 300 yen to make. This place is open from 9:30am to 4pm (no entry after 3.30pm), so be sure to come by to customise your own noodles.


Don't worry too much about getting lost and not knowing what to do. That in itself is an experience. And you'll be guided along, so just relax and have fun!


My creation!


Us with our own decorated cups.


Too many ingredients to choose from...! I want all of them in my cup, but that just seems like such a bad idea. :(


After a couple minutes of deliberating, I finally made my choice and my noodles are ready to be sealed!



The long line of ready noodles awaiting customers to collect them... their fates are sealed! (Bad pun, sorry not sorry)


For those who don't want to immediately cook and eat their noodles, they can package it in a nice (and tight!) air bubble container, string it and bring it home safely without it the noodles cracking up inside. The Japanese are extremely thoughtful to their customers in that sense! Love that.


Phew! It was a long session, and boy - Miss Van is tired!


Seriously, we can't bear to eat our noodles, so we head to this place called the Tasting Room (ooooohhh~)


Basically, here they sell more than 20 instant noodles here via vending machines, and it includes popular newly released products and limited-edition products from Hokkaido and Tohoku.

Yes, even those products which are not usually sold in Osaka, such as products sold only in limited areas of Japan, can be purchased from vending machines and enjoyed in the dining area.

Strictly, no outside food are allowed. And one thing's to love about Japan - their recycling system. Once you're done with the food, recycle at their special bins that allow you to pour the leftover soup (and noodles, if any) in one bin, and recycle the cup in another bin and the wooden chopsticks in another bin.

Phew, that sounds like alot of bins! Anyhoo, you can find these bins right next to the vending machines.

If you just wanna buy some vending machine instant noodles, by all means, take 'em home. The area is a small place, about a couple of tables, first come first serve. According to their website - 40 seats. Didn't look that many, but, sure.


I bought these expensive looking instant noodles without even knowing what they're saying, but daymn, it tasted good!


After tasting the noodles, we rushed to our workshop. We made the reservations for this workshop way in advance (back in Singapore). You can make the reservations online, but you need a Japanese number. I got my Japanese friend to 'lend' me her Japanese number, but in all cases, you can use your hotel or airbnb host's number. (Don't tell others I said that!)

All you have to do is reserve early (only up to 3 months ahead), but you have to register with a friend because the workshop is conducted in pairs. We took the 2.30pm class and by the time the workshop has ended, the museum was also closing (already 4pm!).

Oh, if I forgot to mention, I paid the registration fees for the workshop when I registered at the info counter. Paid 1000yen for the 2 of us.

Every participant receives a Hiyoko-chan souvenir bandana!

My head was not made to look swag in bandanas. But Hiyoko-chan is so cute!


I wasn't expecting this to be honest, and I was prepared to go through the class in Japanese. But it was a pleasant surprise when they presented us a card with English instructions, and assigned us a staff who knew some English (very minimal, but still, awesome).



We kneaded, we molded, we rolled some pins and the instant noodle flour took a good flattening from the noodle machine. After it's cut to pieces, we had to make sure to measure the noodles, specifically 100grams.

No more, no less (so specific).


The noodles will be placed into a numbered tray and sent to the kitchen for deep-fry preparation.
Everyone crowding around to await the collection of their own noodles

Into the deep fry!
All aprons come with number tags, so remember your own number, because that's how they'll identify your readied deep-fried instant noodles for packing!


All noodles go into a pretty package (also drawn and designed by yourself) and it'll be machine sealed until you want to eat it! Mine is still well sealed and I can't bear to eat it... so it's still sitting in a display shelf in my home.

I don't think I'll ever eat it.

Because it's a precious momento. haha.

Before (left), after I finished my artwork (right)
We had a really fun time here, so it's definitely a place you can consider visiting when you're in Osaka. Just remember to allocate about half a day (about 4 hours) in this place, especially if you're participating in the workshop!

Admission to the museum is free of charge (FOC). :)

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Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum インスタントラーメン発明記念館
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Closed – Tues)
Address: 8-25 Masumi-cho, Ikeda-shi, Osaka 563-0041, Japan
Museum hours: 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Last admission is at 3:30 p.m.) Telephone: 072-752-3484
Website: http://www.instantramen-museum.jp/en/