Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gastroliterary 42: Gastro-feedback

After one year of food experience in the form of words, Gastroliterary has decided that to list out the 5 desirable restaurants that was being featured, and in no particular order. Make sure the next birthday party is to be held there. Of course, the society is clouded with less worthy places for food. So there is a need to list another 5 unworthy places, because being objective is the objective. Certainly, the bonus of exhancing the efficiency of cash can be ensured.

5 Desirables
Auntie Kim's (Korean with Korean hospitality)
Lei Garden (Chinese, Cantonese)
Ohsumi (Japanese, shabu shabu, transport to the back alleys of Tokyo)
Casa Roma (Italian, the pizza is wonderful)
Taste Paradise (Chinese fusion, where creativity and gastromic skills meet)

5 Unworthiness
Jurong Hill (Japanese, expensive sashimi for cheap taste buds)
Nooch (Noodles, City Hall outlet closed down; saving people from its vicious claws)
Sakae Sushi (Japanese, maybe only the buffet is excusable)
Hung Kang (Chinese, Teochew, they won (bought) the best restaurant award)
Country Manna (American, similar to the disagreeable Jack's Place)

Monday, June 26, 2006

This is life 10: Food and Culture in Great China 2

Hangzhou has this truly unique restaurant that brings in the flavours of Thai.

Service is friendly, bringing in the tropical hospitality. However, this is still China and the waiters and waitresses are mostly Chinese. It is interesting to notice that most of the people in the service industry do not admit their mistakes and that they will give whatever excuses, logical or not, to get out of the difficult situation. Most of them must have been practising the art of confusing and convincing the enemy. Perhaps this very much explain the strewdness of the Chinese business and the art of human talk. And perhaps one of the cultural skills that the ministers of Singapore hope that their citizens can attain.

The experience at ''banana leaf'' was a pleasing one. The food was of fine quality. The tom-yum soup flavourful, although having it in Thailand will be better. There was this fried dough dish, which is almost exactly like the roti prata back in Singapore. The difference was that they come in smaller pieces and tasted really good. So crispy, so fragrant, so good, that the conclusion, ''better than any roti prata found in Singapore'', was a safe one. There was much shame at the so called ''national food'' of Singapore, that can be prepared so well in a country like China. No curry was accompanied with this dish, however, and there was not a need to. However, how this dish has got anything to do with Thailand, was as mysterious as the great taste itself.

This is a great restaurant to take a taste of Hangzhou famous cuisines which happens to sit just beside the fame Westlake. During the lunch hour, this restaurant will be fully packed because of the surge from the Westlake travellers but for dinner, it is more quiet as people will be heading for the city centre instead, for Hangzhou cuisine.

The setting in this restaurant is really attractive almost like how the Qing emperor dine in his palace but minus the concubines.

The food is mostly great. There are indeed some interesting dishes found in Hangzhou cuisine. Marinated pork wrapped in buns which provides warm and flavour, that is has its origins as a farmer's food. It is wonderful to know that China's farmers do eat so well. No wonder they have all the energy to produce so many products to be exported around the world.

The fish is really fresh, however it is really important to forget that China's rivers are rather polluted, so that fresh fish can really be enjoyed. There was another dish which is deep-fried flour with corn. It was sweet and unexpectedly non-greasy that requires highly skilled hands.

Leftovers are plentiful but it is essential for a formal Chinese dinner because this shows much generiosity in the host. And for once, hungriness of the poor Chinese people on the streets should be forgotten. Wonderful memories of Hangzhou cuisine is here to stay.

Monday, June 19, 2006

This is life 9: Food and Culture in Great China

China streets provide some adventure for fruit fans. However, bargaining is a must and they use the traditional chinese method of weighing which means they could be out to play some weighing tricks.

Pale red cherries that are quite expensive and are sour.

Most interesting berry that oozes out deep purple juice and probably full of herbal properties. Name unknown and probably not to be found anywhere in Singapore.

These berries sell for a hefty price in Singapore. In China, there are more affordable but it does not mean it is affordable for the general locals.

The best lychees for a smiling concubine. Although these lychees are green; unlike those Thai, red lychees found in Singapore, these are really the best lychees one can ever get and at affordable prices in China. And in Singapore, instead of lychess worthy of the concubine, they are more likely to be suited for the chambermaids.

An afternoon tea at Jinmao will be a place to be for a relaxing afternoon.

With real good cakes and the most importantly, English tea.

But most importantly, this spectacular view is complimentary. Does this view triumphs over any scene seen in Singapore? Singaporeans must admit that it really does. A recommended adventure up in one of the world's tallest buildings.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Gastroliterary 41: Noodle Delights

''Just Noodles'' located at Suntec City's circle of food where all humans are surrounded by food. Ironically, this ''Just Noodles'' serve not just noodles but also rice dishes as well. But perhaps this ''Just Noodles'' means life is good by eating just noodles.

This is a place more expensive than the conventional food court but a more fuss-free than a restaurant. Providing another alternative price range for their customers, and with a place for sitting down after walking throught the massive mall of Suntec.

It is quite rare for the staff to greet their customers as they enter but this ''Just Noodles'' is an exception. The verdict for the food is very acceptable but nothing quite memorable. Price range: $5 to $15.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

This is life 8: Great Shopping in Great China

Busy streets of Hangzhou of day and night.

Shopping in China is quite an experience. The malls feature many brandnames that can be found in Singapore and even more brandnames that does not exist in Singapore. And they are not necessary China brands but also include European or American brands.

Shopping in China is not only an experience but an expensive one. The government seems to be earning much from these taxes. For example, an Espirit t-shirt can cost easily over 250RMB (S$50), while in Singapore at perhaps 4/5 of that price. Nautical shirts at twice the price of Singapore. Even the unfamiliar brands from China, can really be costly; cost of 500RMB for a shirt is a real common sight in the shopping malls. Of course, one is able to find real cheap and of lower quality clothing here in China, and there would be crowds gathering around the shop. Buying the middle range of design or brands not found in Singapore, is likely to be a good shopping strategy for most Singaporeans.

Singaporeans must all be impressed by the wide selection of clothing, accessories, bags in these Chinese shops and malls. All these, although largely made in China, willl be able to make a fashion statement in Singapore streets and usually are of good quality. Orchard Road, Singapore somehow pales in comparison with all these massive arrays of shops and choices of goods. Even imported food from Europe, Japan or Korea, can provide a gastronomical adventure for Singaporeans. Singapore, being a shopping haven, as claimed by the Singapore Tourism Board is attempting to delude Singaporean minds.

Perhaps Singapore can be a better choice for shopping is because they offer competitive prices; luxury goods in Singapore are comparatively cheaper. Luxury watches in Singapore, for example, cost around 40% less than in China. Nevertheless, fashion fanatics can consider China, whether Hangzhou or Shanghai, for a fashion pilgrimage. Heeren or Bugis, with their hip and fashionable appeal, shall no longer seen as hot or fashionable after visits to some of these trendy Chinese shops. This can very much explain the fashion sense of many local urban Chinese who can certainly dress better than the average person in Singapore streets. The long pants with slippers combination is perhaps more evidently found in Singapore than in mainland China.

Service in China varies widely. Many salesgirls will welcome their customers into the shops but others will try forcing customers into buying their products or that some show much poor attitude. One great idea, Singapore malls should adopt, is emulating this mall in Hangzhou, by providing slippers in the changing room.

Another wonderful service these Chinese shops and malls provide is a clear indication of the origin of the goods. Whether the durian from Thailand or fruit jam from Austria or the shirt from Shanghai, are all clearly indicated, along with the respective pricing. Even if it is locally produced, they provide details of the province or city from which the goods are produced. This clearly shows that these people are knowledgeable of their products and certainly have a sense of respect and pride in what they are selling. So does Singapore provide better service than mainland China? Not necessary true.

The exciting walk along Nanjing Pedestrain Walk, with so much to see, so much to buy and with so many people. It seems like Hongkong or Bangkok or even Singapore are losing their appeal to this rising fashion capital of Asia.

The same Nanjing Pedestrian Walk by the cool night, provides another exciting journey on the same street. This street totally screams ''Consumerism rules, capitalism triumphs''.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This is life 7: Centre of Asia, Shanghai

Does Shanghai has the status of Centre of Asia? This is the question all visitors to this great city should ask. A 2 hour ride train ride from Hangzhou to Shanghai cost RM50($10). It was quite a smooth ride although the female deejay may posed as a nuisance when she suddenly speaks in the middle of the journey. There was a Chinese little kid accompanied by his parents and grandparents who was allowed to make great screams for a large part of the train ride. This reflects some details of China's one child policy.

Once the step out on real Shanghai, immediately the mood change. It was crowded with rushing people carrying heavy baggages. The streets and everywhere were congested. Although Singapore and Hangzhou might have large amounts of people, it would not prepare anyone for this shock. The blaze of the late spring sun just starts to heat things up.

This megatower of Jinmao is the tallest building in Shanghai containing the luxurious hotel chain of Hyatt. Singapore cannot no longer claim that they have the tallest hotel in the world.
A night at Hyatt probably cost at least RM2000 but with the complimentary of this magnificent view of this great city. The buildings stretch as far as the horizon. Construction endless and the cranes are probably taller than any structures in Singapore. Watch as this city changes with every second; an old buildling demolished and new buildling is up.

The city view may not be as clear as Singapore's waterfront. Amid this screen of haze, is the underlying social and environmental cost of pollution of relentless expansion. Singaporeans certainly breathe better air.

Even Capitaland cannot miss the ride on the economic boom of Shanghai. The mutual imports of China and Singapore. Not only does this shopping mall boost the unique name of Raffles City, but this mall contains the favourites of many Singaporeans, like Breadtalk, a foodcourt (managed by Breadtalk with the familar name of Dashidai) and Osim.

With all these massive buildings, the most spetacular view will likely on the Bund or Waitan. This site contains an equally massive number of people; tourists from all over the world and locals collecting plastic bottles. With a 360 degress spectrum of buildings; the modern Shanghai on the opposite coast, the old glorious Shanghai just across the road. As the sunshine starts to diminish, the buildings' lights and the neon advertisements replace the lost light of the night. And every second, the view changes; the world's famous brands of lenova, Toyota and LG, starts flashing their first light for the day.

Perhaps the most iconic of buildings in Shanghai is the TV Tower. It does not take much waves to get this into the mind.

The charm of old Shanghai of European buildings; with both the glorious and at the same time bloody dark past.

Perhaps the only old buildings left standing are these colonial buildings built by the Europeans. An oasis of Shanghai, while the surroundings get torn down and replaced with new ones.

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