I believe that food like good music and a good book is a solace to a person's soul. Food is both a science and an art - a yin-yang balance to your body and also an appreciation of colors, textures and sensory experience.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Garden in Its Finest Glory and Food Escapade at Makansutra Glutton's Bay

Gator has been procrastinating in updating the food blog. Blame it on other priorities in life - one of which is data collection for research. It is indeed a time consuming exercise and one should not underestimate the time to contact people etc. The most exhausting component - your mind just keeps on thinking while you are speaking to people. Research is indeed an iterative process. So, this is going to be a backdated post.

Gator was at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore and it was such a marvelous visit. I mean this entire garden spanning some 101 hectares of land is totally reclaimed. It just shows how much discipline is needed to really develop a city and the landscape. Trust me - Singapore has its faults and sometimes, the relentless work pace and the drive of the people to work till they zonk out seems so exhausting. But very few cities that are cramped for space actually devote that amount of land to develop a garden instead of more high rise buildings. So, that did impress Gator.

Gator visited two conservatories - the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The former  is supposed to mimic the cool-dry climate of the Mediterranean region. It does seem weird to have a Dutch theme with windmill, clogs and tulips surrounded by this glass of insulated artificiality - the glass acts as a physical barrier from the external tropical climate to a sizable space of controlled cool air and low humidity. In one sense, Gator can see a lot of parallels between this engineered environment with the general controlled physical landscape of the city state. Gator has become too philosophical with a lot of political analogies here.. (hehehe)

Check out the little wooden clogs 

Little Holland in the making?
This is not frozen ice but is a miniature cactus

The other conservatory is  Cloud Forest with an artificially created cool-dry climate, almost similar to the tropical highlands.

Huge waterfall greets visitors at the entrance of Cloud Forest

You can walk around the cascading waterfall with this elevated structure.

Peeking into the city landscape from the waterfall

Gator felt a bit acrophobic walking around the waterfall 

Outside Gardens by the Bay - with a view of the Singapore Flyer in the background.

The use of air conditioner in the two conservatories did worry me a fair bit but I read online that the buildings are supposed to be environmentally friendly. One of which are these super trees which supposedly harness solar energies. The glass surrounding the conservatories are also double glazed to reduce the heat.

The man-made super trees said to generate solar energy

Finally, the Makansutra Glutton's Bay which highlights some of Singapore's famous street or hawker fare. I actually think the food was generally passable - you can better hawker fare at grittier places, outside the city centre.  We ordered a range of typical Singapore hawker food.

Roasted chicken rice - this was passable. The rice is traditionally cooked with chicken fat.

Satay - chicken and beef with rice cakes and cucumbers. 

Oyster omelette- loved the crispy bits 

Ngo hiang - an assortment of fried meat, tofu, fishballs and even crispy prawn fritters. 
Quality of food: 3/5 - great for tourists as a one-stop eating centre but nothing really spectacular
Value for $$: It is considered slightly on a pricer side for local hawker food but rent in the city area is not cheap, I guess
Overall Experience:  Gator was famished after walking around the Garden and devoured the food. The ambiance is pretty quaint but the quality of the food is pretty average.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gator Goes for High Tea - La Cuisson Cafe

La Cuisson on Urbanspoon

I meant to blog about La Cuisson months ago but have not done so. My mentor, LM brought Gator for high tea at this cafe and as a special treat before I left for my field work. I chose this place since I already tried Adonia Tea House (also a treat from a friend from Victoria).

It was mid day and we had a choice of having something light and then go out for dinner or have a more substantial mid day tea. We decided to opt for the latter option - a full fledged brunch set for two which included sandwiches, cakes and of course, tea.

The three tiered serving tray was pretty impressive - I love the gold handle. It looked so regal.

What a beautiful array of finger food

The bottom tray had sandwiches, croissants  and smoked salmon. I love the smoked salmon. No cucumber sandwiches though - so not quite your typical English tea.
Savory fare - the smoked salmon was yummy
The middle level had scones and pastry.  Come to think about it - they should have given us more clotted cream and jam.
Scones and pastry - cotted cream and jam. Should have supplied more jam. 
Finally, the top tray had the yummy sweet stuff - chocolate cake, macaron and mango mousse.
Who can say no to sweets - especially chocolate? I especially enjoyed the mango mousse. The cakes were delicious and were not too sweet.

Sweets for the sweet.
This cafe had a pretty substantial choice of tea. Unfortunately, I can't remember what tea I ordered. I believed that it was some fruit tea. I love the little tea warmer and the beautiful tea cup.

Nothing makes me happier than drinking and appreciating the aroma and aesthetics  of tea.

Deco: A cosy set-up. I liked the little corner where we were sitting
Quality of food: 4/5 - I enjoyed my tea. I wished that they had cucumber sandwiches though.
Value for $$: It was not in the range of Fairmont Vancouver (of which I haven't been) but it wasn't exactly cheap either.
Overall Experience: 4/5. The service was pretty good though. The server did explain the range of food offered for the high tea. She was prompt in filing up hot water and yet gave us privacy.  I don't mind being back there - but not to have high tea though. I thought it was pretty pricey. I guess the downside of having high tea is that you do feel full initially but then you get hungry again late at night. Gator does get hungry and needs to eat quite often :) (a scary thought)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gyu King Teppanyaki - 755 Burrard Street

Gyu Japanese Teppanyaki on Urbanspoon

Urgh - Gator has been swarmed and so have not been updating my blog for 2 entire months. I feel so bad because I have an entire backlog of pictures to upload and so many stories to share.

Sometime ago, I purchased a Groupon from Guy King Teppanyaki. It cost CAN$59 and includes a 10 course set meal for two. I thought it was worthwhile to give it a try, given that the original price was over CAN$100 (that was what was stated in the Groupon). I think I bought the Groupon in October last year and only redeemed it in January this year.

For a start, we had some drinks. My dinner companion was intrigued with the Singapore Sling and ordered it to try. To be honest, I never liked the Singapore Sling, even though it is one of the icons in Singapore at the Raffles Hotel, Long Bar. The original Singapore Sling cost about SIN$30 (CAN$24) a glass and to me, it tasted a bit like cough mixture, with alcohol.  Gyu King's version is fortunately cheaper and the mixture was definitely lighter than the original - still not my favorite. See the original Singapore sling in its glory. http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/singapore/2011/09/01/a-singapore-sling-at-raffles/

The Singapore Sling - half drunk - I have to admit that it didn't taste that bad compared to the original - it came with a little umbrella (I think)
I chose a fruit cocktail (lime & non alcoholic) - it was so refreshing.

My lime cocktail - I like it

My frothy and foaming lime drink
The first dish was the salad, followed by a lobster miso soup. I thought the soup was quite tasty.
Green salad - rather refreshing. I like that it had a hint of some soya sauce and mayo. 

Its almost impossible to extract the meat from the lobster - there was not much meat anyway .

Next, came the Atlantic lobster and the prawns. I am a big fan of seafood so I enjoyed these two dishes very much.

Mmm - Gator loves lobster.
Took some time to extract the lobster from the shell. The prawns were yummy!

A close-up of the lobster. Goes straight into Gator's mouth and tummy
Dipping my lobster into the sauce
Gyu King provides three different types of dipping sauces

An array of sauces - soya sauce (extreme left), garlic and soya sauce (middle), followed by the chill sauce dip (extreme right). 

This is one of my favorite pictures in my meal - the prawn looks as if it is waving to me. Hehe!
This is another of my favourite dishes - thinly sliced beef with green onions, garlic and mushrooms

The thinly sliced beef (usuyaki) 
The beef was succulent and I must say that the garlic added a kick to this dish!
The beef tenderloin was quite a delight as well - Gator requested for the beef to be done medium - quite a success, I think

A generous serving of beef tenderloin
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the fois gras which came wrapped inside a flat bread. It was pure fat and carbohydrates - yummy!

After so much protein, it was a relief to have some fiber - mixed fried vegetables.

Some vegetables to balance all the protein
By this point, I was absolutely stuffed - but there was still fried rice. I tasted a little bit - was not too impressed. Fried rice is best done with overnight rice - this version was a bit too wet.

Beef fried rice

A word of caution - if you are looking for fancy hand work for teppanyaki, there is not much  to rave about

Then, came the finale - a choice between mango or green tea ice-cream

I was really, really stuffed at the end of the meal. Then came the bill - they automatically put a 15% tip on top of the bill and when we paid using our credit card, the machine again asked us whether we wanted to include a tip. Now, that was not too classy. I totally understand if this is part and parcel of the settings in the credit card, but it will be totally helpful if the server can inform us that the tip has already been included in the bill. Maybe - Gator was being picky but what if you were not paying attention and immediately added on more tip on your credit card? My dining companion was also kinda peeved - thanks for paying for the tip and drinks :)

Deco: Functional. I like the waiting area before you proceed for your teppanyaki
Quality of food: 4/5 - it was not bad actually. I had had some fancy teppanyaki years ago in Asia but I am not complaining about the quality of the beef and seafood etc.
Value for $$: There is no way that I am going to spend over $100 bucks for this teppayaki but the Groupon was a good deal. Still, my dining experience was marred by the tip/credit card at the end. If you are expecting some fancy display of knives etc, you wouldn't see much of it. The modus operadi is to serve a bunch of customers (maybe 6 of you) at the same time. Efficiency is the name of the game here.
Overall Experience: 3/5 - I was thinking that I would grade this place with a higher score, since there was variety etc. But, there were a couple of things that irked me. For example, they never offered us a place to hang our coats - I later found that they had a closet where you can hang your coats. Gator hates the smell of food getting into my coat etc which kinda explained why I am not too thrilled with BBQ food or teppanyaki - you kinda smell like cooked food after exiting the restaurant. Its worth a try only if you have the Groupon.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant

Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Gator went to have dim sum at Pink Pearl sometime ago. Gator heard a lot about Pink Pearl and how it stopped operations for a while due to some mysterious fire. But Gator was never around the area during lunch time. Finally, we happened to be at the vicinity one day and decided to have some dim sum.

We ordered mostly from the push-carts. It was super convenient and fast.

One of Gator's standard orders: Siew Mai: It was moist and quite lovely
I think this had shrimps and chives inside. Nice :)

Scallop and fish roe dumplings: one of my favourites
Bean curd with stuffed pork filling

Shanghainese Steamed Soup Dumplings or Xiao Long Bao. Sometimes referred to as juicy dumplings
See the soup inside the Xiao Long Bao

Chicken Feet or Feng Zhao (Phoenix Claws). Gator's collagen intake
Gator never say no to desert and who can resist egg tarts?
Among the 7 dim sum dishes, Gator ranks the chicken feet as my favourite dish from Pink Pearl. Gator knows a lot of friends who either love or loathe this dish. Pink Pearl stewed the Phoenix Claws so well that the skin from the chicken feet was literally falling off the bone. The gravy was oh so flavourful. No. 2 on my list was the scallop and fish roe dumplings - the seafood was just so fresh. Gator's least favourite dish was the xiao long bao - the skin was way too thick for my liking. In fact, one of the drawbacks of the dim sum here is that the skin of the dumplings were just a bit too thick - maybe, they wanted to pile on the filings. But it takes more effort and finesse to make thinner skin with just the right amount of filling.

Overall, the dim sum was not the best but Gator was won over by the service. Also, if you are really hungry, it really helps that food is served quite quickly. Price was also reasonable.

Overall Experience:

Deco: 3/5 - this place is spacious. Ample seating arrangement and the restaurant even has a huge stage.
Quality of food: 3.5/5 - Gator is a bit of a dim sum snob.
Value for $$: $$$$/5 - great value. The bill came up to about $30 plus which was reasonable and we were stuffed.
Overall Experience: Service was excellent. The servers waited as we were taking pictures of the food before serving us and they were extremely polite. Unlike most dim sum restaurants where you generally pay at the front, the server brought us the bill and even the credit card machine to our table.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Its Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

So on the day when there was an unusual amount of snow in Vancouver, Gator was crazy enough to make my way to campus only to find that the Provost has shut down the entire university.

Trees all covered with snow

Cars all covered with snow

A wintery wonderland

An overview of the library and the clock tower

A panoramic shot of campus

When rain came and the snow started subsidizing, Gator decided to go to the Christmas Market - figured that it would not be crowded. They served German food and had a good variety - unfortunately, the prices were not friendly to the wallet! Isn't it the case for most food sold at fairs?

Potato Pancakes and German Schnitzer
A close up shot of potato pancake - 2 pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream. I think it cost like $7 bucks. Expensive!!

German Schnitzer - with pita bread & salad

The German Schnitzer close about $10 - pretty pricey. It was nicely done - crisp and the pork had no smell. Its too much to eat by yourself so do share it with your friends. The potato pancake with the apple sauce and sour cream was also crisp - the potato was well seasoned. By then, Gator's tummy was feeling a bit warm - yet, still proceeded to share a cup of hot chocolate - it had quite a lot of cinnamon - Gator liked it.

Now comes the fun  - the carossel ride. Gator was hoping to ride on the pink horse but ended up riding on a white horse. Anyways, the lady manning the carossel ride was so fierce - we tried cracking a joke with her but she had a stoic expression on her face. And then before we proceeded to hand her the ticket, she said that we had to sit on horses at the outer corner. But there was no space for one of us and then, she kinda barked and said that we had to sit on the carriage. We said no way and she was nice enough to allow me to sit on the kiddie horse but warned me not to bounce around. Maybe, she had a bad day. I wasn't going to let her spoil my evening after making our way through the crazy traffic and after paying so much money. Anyways, it was a fun ride and also a bit painful for the wallet - $3 for each person.

The pink horse Gator never got to ride on
Lights and decorations on the Merry-Go-Round

We walked around a bit, got a nice angel as a Christmas ornament for the tree and then got distracted with more food. Ordered a Shupfnoodle with double smoked salmon prosciutto and sourkraut for another $9. I personally liked the German Schnitzer more than the Shupfnoodle. Nothing wrong with the pasta though - maybe, it was just a tad bit too dry.

Shupnoodle anyone?
Overall Experience:

Deco:3/5 - There was some attempt to make the entire market more Christmassy. A huge Christmas tree, little drummer boys and a live band playing Christmas music. I think it will be nicer if they have more Christmas decorations though - maybe, some angels and even Santa.
Quality of food: 4/5 - its pretty good
Price:$$$$$/5 - very expensive. A small jar of hot apple cider cost $4 (you pay $6 and they give back $2 if you return the cup). I like that the Christmas market made an attempt to be environmentally friendly - there are bins for you to recycle your food as compost and  people are encouraged to use mugs. But still, $4 for an apple cider is too much.