Dining boredom

Posted by Gingerblossom at 8:22 AM

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I never thought I would say this of Singapore...dining here is boring.

It's gotten so expensive that a "nice" meal at a restaurant would set you back at least $80 per person with a glass of wine. I wouldn't mind it so much if it was $80 well spent. But more often then not, it's NOT! Even a dinner out at a mid range restaurant sets you back $20 per person. 

What annoys me most is if the meal doesn't have any character or hint of authenticity. I am not a fan of the funky Japanese meals that have popped up all over Singapore. It's good value but not my cup of tea. Give me a good ole bowl of ramen, sushi made with fresh ingredients or chicken skin yakitori. No weird stuff with cheese and mayo all over please. 

It pains me to admit that eating here is boring especially when I have these really high expectations of eating in Singapore. These expectations are the result of having had to eat oily, msg-laden Northern Chinese food for lunch, for 5 years in Beijing. I guess the deprivation of a lot of familiar foods  made me think very nostalgically of eating in Singapore, when I wasn't in Singapore.

I have to admit now that there was a lot more international variety in Beijing. Whether the food's good is debateable. At the initial opening, a lot of these restaurants put in effort to create an authentic meal - whether from Morocco, India, Japan or Korea - after a while, they either train local chefs to recreate the dishes perfectly or it starts going downhill. There was always a new affordable restaurant to try out each month, so when the "flavour of the month" starts serving crappy food, there's always a new place to replace the old.

Sadly, that's not the case in Singapore. Well, at least, "affordable" is not necessarily the case. Or should I say value for money? I guess the best value and best food are the local favourites - the Ba-chor Mee ( Minced meat noodles), Roti Pratas, Nasi Padang etc... I love eating these. Afterall, I grew up on them.

But once in a while, I like to have something NOT local. If it comes at a high price, so be it. But it darn well better be a good meal. Not one that leaves me 1. annoyed  2. still hungry 3. sick!!!

Hello Hanoi.. super delayed post

Posted by Gingerblossom at 8:40 AM

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In fact, late by almost 2 months...This is about our first trip to Vietnam. And i actually wrote this while in Hanoi! I'm too lazy to edit it as a post-travel entry.

Funny how most Singaporeans would have travelled to places like Hanoi, Bali and Phuket but we 2 mountain tortoises haven't. Well, these past few days, Dan & I spent enough time wandering the streets of Hanoi to say that we've actually been here.

I can't say Hanoi is particularly enticing with its historical sights nor it's shopping. I think it's a lot less exotic for Asians to see one temple and pagoda after another. Particularly given that we've been seeing the massive ones in China for a good 5 years... It takes out the excitement a little. But some of Hanoi's religious sights are still worth a look for its history and it's quite interesting to see how everything in the temples are written in traditional Chinese but enunciated differently in Vietnamese. If you're one for war history or mausoleums, then there might be more for you to see. Unfortunately, I like neither.

For me, the best sights are the old houses lining the streets. Many look like they've been transported straight from Paris or Eastern Europe. The European architecture is evident in many of the buildings in the Old Quarter. Some have fallen into disrepair but with a little imagination, you can almost imagine how beautiful they once might have been - an elegant oasis offering their occupants relief from the oppressive heat and constant cacophony of city life.

Hanoi is supposedly home to good french food. I think it's still best to stick with the local food. The Bun cha ( rice noodles with grilled pork) is my dish of the moment. I love the simplicity of rice noodles dipped in a sweet and sour broth, and flavoured with pork, chilli and garlic. I especially love how all Vietnamese dishes seem to be served with fresh basil, shiso leaves ( or something that tastes like it) and lemon mint. Bun Cha is found on almost every corner. Our hotel reception pointed us to a stall located at No 1 Hang Mahn Street. For SG$7, we had a standard set of noodles, herbs and fried spring rolls that we had difficulty finishing even as delicious as it was.

Another quaint side to Hanoi I enjoyed were the cafes serving cha phe (coffee). I love the intensity of Vietnamese coffee! Can't seem to get enough of it. I wonder how I'm going to revert back to regular coffee off the vending machine at the office...

Bia Hoi ( freshly brewed beer) served along the roadside was a great experience too. The beer was light and cheap (no more than 7000 Dong/ SG$0.40 at the more "premium" corners); and it offered a great way to watch Hanoians rush about their daily business. Bia Hoi was harder to find than we expected. And when we did find it, the tiny roadside stall would be packed with foreigners enjoyed a pre-dinner drink. It was rather funny watching many largely built caucasians perched on the tiny plastic stools that the Vietnamese seem to favour. I'm short and it's already slightly uncomfortable for me. I wonder how those big guys felt balancing their weight on those flimsy stools!
I have another 3 days to go on this trip. Hopefully there's more interesting sights to see, interesting foods to eat!
Eventually, I did have modern french food at a place called La Badiane. The food and service were both excellent. We had a 3 course set dinner which was under SG$50 and had a nice variety of dishes to choose from for each course.  Daniel had a slightly strange sounding dessert that had coconut, mangoes and berries in it. It was AWESOME. I could have licked the plate clean. So, if you're going to Hanoi, you have to make a trip to La Badiane at 10 Nam Ngu street, Hoan Kiem. Tel: +84 (4) 39 42 45 09