Wicked KL club grand opening @ W Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Wicked-KL-Opening

I was at the launch of Wicked KL courtesy of an invite from Carlsberg Malaysia. This is the latest club to hit the KL nightlife scene. In these few months, I’ve been to new club openings at CE LA VI KL and Empire by Zouk. I have to say, Wicked resonates the most with me. That’s corporate speak for “Damn, this club is fire!”. 🔥 Not “on fire”, kids nowadays just say it’s “fire”. Adapt and learn. The two DJs were slaying it last night. I had a lot of fun. Or should I say, I was turnt.

Wicked

W Hotels is Marriott’s upscale pivot towards youth. This hotel brand is marketed towards a younger crowd while still retaining the luxury of their parent company. Wicked KL is at the 12th floor of the hotel. The DJ console is decked out with an insane light, smoke and visual spectacle which will excite all your senses. They have cutting-edge lasers and state-of-the-art sound systems as well as LED screens to create and unparalleled clubbing experience.

Cute-Uniform

The promoter girls have really cute cabin attendant style uniforms too. Or should I say, fly uniforms. Okay, I’ll stop with the dad jokes. I’m not a dad btw, if any single girls are reading this.

Chivas-XV

Wicked KL had Martell Noblige Cognac and Chivas XV on free flow. Pernod Ricard must have been the spirits sponsor. It’s my first time tasting the XV – a 15 year old Scotch finished in Grande Champagne Cognac casks. The XV has really sweet notes but I preferred the woody Noblige. That’s worth picking up next time I go through duty free.

Wicked-KL

I have a soft spot for cognac though. You know how Chinese families always have a collection of cognac bottles at home? You get them in hampers and older Chinese bought them coz cognac was considered THE premium spirit back then. My first taste of spirits was VSOP and when I was in college, I took up the challenge of whittling down the vast family collection of cognac.

Champagne-Parade

I succeeded, although I later restocked the family warchest with my own single malt whisky collection. As it was the first spirit I tasted and drank in quantity, I have a soft spot for cognac. I really enjoy the flavors, complexity and familiarity.

Carlsberg-Wicked

There’s also Carlsberg Smooth Draught beer courtesy of May. Carlsberg events are the only ones I unequivocally say yes to unless I’m busy with work. They’re really fun and May is so easygoing and nice, she feels more like a friend than a client.

Wicked-Violin

I love the music they play in Wicked. The DJs are really good and I enjoyed the type of music they were playing at the opening. There’s a wicked (pun intended) live violin performance that went so well with the DJ’s setlist too. Till today, I’m still wondering what that song is. This is the video recording I took – please comment or email me if you know the song coz I’ll like to listen to it again.

Sin-City

Wicked will have themed nights too – house music on Lucid Dream Sundays, R&B on Bootie Mashtronix Tuesdays, Boom Bap Wednesdays is Hip Hop, Lui Lui Thursday goes old school retro and EDM is the name of the game on Bang Fridays and Sin City Saturdays.

Wicked-Us

Let’s get Wicked.

Shinji by Kanesaka – 1 Michelin star sushi with excellent service

Shinji-Birthday

I celebrated my birthday at 1 Michelin star Shinji by Kanesaka in Carlton Hotel, Singapore. I lied. It’s not my birthday. In my defense, the Shinji staff gave me a juicy opening by asking if I was celebrating anything special when I made the reservation. Wanting to see what they do, I said it was my birthday. I know, I’m terrible. I did feel slightly bad after the whole shebang they did for me. More on that later!

Shinji-by-Kanesaka

There are two Shinji restaurants in Singapore – one at Bras Basah (Carlton Hotel) and the other at Tanglin Road (St Regis). Both have a Michelin star! I went to the one at Carlton Hotel coz they have a really good value SGD 75 sushi lunch. This Hana tier is only available here and has 9 pieces of sushi and other dishes. I got way more than 9 pieces but I’m uncertain if that happens to everyone or coz it was my “birthday”.

Shinji-Carlton-Hotel

The chefs are all from Japan and even the waitresses are all Japanese! Service was extremely courteous and attentive. The waitresses stand behind you and refill your complimentary green tea before it even has a chance to run low. Finger towels are provided and replenished once dirty. They do everything with a warm smile and a kind word. The chefs can all speak English well enough to understand the questions you ask.

Shinji-Singapore

I was seated at the long sushi counter by request coz I wanted to see the chefs working in front of me. I like the idea of having each individual sushi delivered to me once it’s made instead of being put on a platter like you’ll get at the tables. I saw the sushi chefs using ice cubes to rub down their table every now and then and I wondered why they did that. The chef said it’s to keep the working area wet.

Tuna-Soy-Bean-Skin

The meal started with a bowl of lean tuna with soy bean skin and vegetables. There’s some seaweed and sprouts. It’s a complimentary starter that goes very well together. The flavors are mild but umami enough to whet your appetite for the proper sushi courses.

Spanish-Mackerel

Spanish mackerel was the first sushi. It’s very, very smoky. I asked the chef how it’s possible that a raw piece of fish tastes so smoky and he said they hold the mackerel on top of a binchotan grill – not low enough to cook it, just enough to absorb the smoke aromas. Interesting.

Chutoro

Next up was chutoro. This is the medium fatty part of the tuna. The fat gives the fish a nice texture. I actually prefer chutoro to otoro. Delicious.

Otoro

Otoro sushi came after and it’s a super fatty cut of tuna. The piece of tuna literally melted in my mouth. Yum.

Bonito

Bonito. The chef dipped the fish in shiso leaf shards before putting it into the shari (rice). You can see the flakes at the bottom of the fish. This was the least impressive sushi to me taste wise, but still good.

Aji

This is aji or horse mackerel. There’s a strong onion flavor from the onion oil that they brush on top of the slice of fish. The fish is topped with a thin slice of sea kelp. Mmm…they go swimmingly together. Geddit? Haha.

Saba

No, I didn’t post up the same sushi by mistake. This is saba or mackerel. I also wondered if the chefs made a mistake by serving two identical pieces of sushi to me, but they said the fish inside is different – one is aji, the other is saba. No matter, it was delicious.

Squid

Squid sushi was insanely creamy. Very yummy. The chef put a dab of wasabi underneath the ika (squid) so there’s a nice kick to this. One of my favorite pieces during lunch. I love raw squid.

Tiger-Prawn

This is the only item that wasn’t flown in from Japan. It’s local tiger prawn sushi. Wow! I love the sweet sauce they cook this prawn in. It’s perfectly cooked, very tender, not rubbery at all. The tiger prawn is also naturally sweet. Excellent.

Negitoro-Gunkan

Negitoro gunkan. Negitoro is a combination of tuna offcuts and spring onion. These are the stray pieces of tuna you’ll get after cutting off beautiful slices for sashimi and sushi. Perfectly edible, just not as nice looking so it’s chopped up and mixed with spring onions. I like it.

Shinji-Pickles

These are radish pickles. The chef grated lemon zest over these carefully before serving it to us. It’s a highly unusual flavor combination that I’m not used to. Not my favorite thing but I’m glad I tried it. It also acts as a palate cleanser of sorts.

Anago

Anago or salt water eel. This is a very delicate and mildly flavored piece of sushi. I could barely taste anything. Highly unusual. Maybe this is the effect of the pickles from the previous course. The eel slices are very generous and tasty though.

Nameko-Soup

This was followed by a soup course to warm the stomach. The soup is filled with nameko mushrooms and tasted very peppery. It’s perfect after the bland-ish anago sushi. I can see they put a lot of thought into the entire course.

Tuna-Roll

The chef asked me if I was still hungry after my soup and I told him I can still eat. This tuna roll was a complimentary course to fill you up if you’re not full. It tasted quite pedestrian but I understand the purpose of the course. You don’t want customers to leave hungry. It was the only dish that the chef provided soy sauce for. I appreciated the gesture in ensuring I leave full and happy even though the roll wasn’t anything special. Two thumbs up.

Tamago

Lunch ended with the obligatory tamago (egg omelet). Shinji’s version tasted more like a jelly than an omelet. The texture was very interesting! Unusual but delicious. I enjoyed this unorthodox take on the tamago.

Birthday-Dessert

I asked for the bill and was puzzled when it didn’t arrive in a timely manner. Before I could prompt the waitress again, the lights turned off and the chefs disappeared, only to reappear seconds later with funny hats and lighted candles. Omg! I totally forgot I said it was my birthday when I made the booking two months ago!

Shinji-Birthday-Plate

The people seated around me smiled and wished me a happy birthday. I’m not much of a blusher but I can feel the initial warmth of a flush creep up my neck. I was embarrassed they made such a big deal out of it. Embarrassed but happy. And touched! I had to blink to chase away a tear that threatened to escape my eye. The crème brulee and ice cream wasn’t anything special but the gesture certainly meant a lot. I left a very happy man.

Shinji-HB

I highly recommend Shinji by Kanesaka but not coz they gave me such a wonderful birthday experience. I thought the sushi was great and the ambiance was wonderful. You won’t find stuffy, forbidding chefs here that glares at you if you don’t eat the sushi promptly. The chefs and waitresses are very friendly and approachable. You can ask them questions about the sushi and they’ll answer you to the best of their limited English. Is it the best sushi I’ve had? No, that honor belongs to 1 Michelin star Izesushi in Otaru, Hokkaido. But is it better than places like Nobu in KL? By leaps and bounds! The SGD 75 Hana set is superb value too. I only paid SGD 88.30 (RM 269) after tax. I’ll be back for sure.

Shisen Hanten – 2 Michelin star Japanese style Szechuan Business Set Lunch that fails to deliver

Shisen-Hanten

I was chuffed to try Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro. It’s a 2 Michelin star Japanese-Szechuan restaurant right in the middle of Orchard Road, Singapore. This sounds like the kind of food I’ll enjoy so I was looking forward to eating here with my dad. I had very high hopes as I was impressed by my dining experience in Waku Ghin, another 2 Michelin star restaurant I visited a few days prior. Unfortunately, I was due for a massive disappointment.

Shisen-Hanten-Singapore

The interior of Shisen Hanten looked beautiful. There are lots of nice chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling, which gives the dining room a look of opulence. Service was a bit harried coz it was a full house with several large tables. We were sat behind two Japanese women who’re also having the business lunch set so our timings were synchronized. We went for the two mains option for SGD 50++ and selected a different one each so we managed to try all 2 appetizers, 4 mains, 2 starches, and 2 desserts.

Shisen-Hanten-Dim-Sum

Lunch started with an option of either dim sum or appetizers of the day. I went for the latter while my dad had the dim sum. His came in a basket containing har gao and two types of siu mai. “Not as good as Summer Palace,” he declared. We just had an excellent weekend brunch the afternoon before at 1 Michelin star Summer Palace. I tasted his dim sum and they’re competently done, but nothing special.

Shisen-Hanten-Appetizers

My trio of appetizers consisted of prawn, cha siu and jellyfish. The prawn was mildly flavored, the cha siu was decent but the jellyfish was too acidic and off-balance. I also couldn’t help comparing it to Summer Palace since they had similar dishes, except better in every single way. That’s not the best start to lunch. You don’t want your patrons to compare you negatively to a restaurant with one less star.

Shisen-Hanten-Soup

Soup of the Day was pork with old cucumber. It was sweet but uninspiring. I’m going to sound like a broken record but this didn’t wow me like Summer Palace’s soup. It didn’t even evoke any emotion. It tastes exactly like what it looks like – tepid and boring. Having had excellent double boiled soup elsewhere, I know this can’t be the benchmark.

Stir-Fried-Prawns-Chilli-Sauce

Thankfully, Shisen Hanten picked up the pace with Stir-fried Prawns with Chilli Sauce. This main is one of their signature dishes and it tastes wonderful. It reminds me of the sauce in Singapore chilli crab. They even have deep fried mantou for you to wipe up the gravy. It’s eggy and delicious. There’s a generous amount of prawns in this dish too.

Steamed-Fish-Spicy-Sauce

The Steamed Fish with Spicy Sauce was also quite good. It’s cooked well and there are chillies at the bottom to add a spicy kick to the bland fish. I enjoyed the soy sauce and chilli mixture at the bottom. It’s delicate, yet flavorful.

Szechuan-Beef-XO-Sauce

Unfortunately, that’s the extent of bright spots in the meal. Shisen Hanten reverted to mediocre dishes like a lazy boy who tries to buck up after being reprimanded by the teacher, but ultimately the weight of his tardiness drove him back to old habits. Szechuan-style Stir-fried Beef with XO Sauce was dry and unappetizing. The beef has been severely overcooked or left under a heating lamp for way too long. This is very surprising during a busy lunch. Inedible.

Stir-Fried-Pork-Mushrooms

Stir-fried Pork and Mushroom with Oyster Sauce endured the same treatment. The pork was stringy and dry, with all the moisture sucked out of it like an old Bedouin in the Sahara desert. It was tougher than an African-American LA county jail inmate doing life without parole for double homicide during a botched robbery. If this piece of porcine meat ever got incarcerated, I want to join his prison gang. It took me several minutes to chew and I hesitated before swallowing like a virgin schoolgirl coz I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to digest it.

Shisen-Hanten-Mapo-Tofu

The mains are paired with a choice of two of their famous starch dishes. Stir-fried Tofu in Hot Szechwan Pepper Flavoured Meat Sauce served with Hokkaido Rice is the flagship dish or Shisen Hanten. It’s nice. The numbing and spicy mala tofu pairs very well with the soft, fluffy Hokkaido rice. It was too salty for our tastes though but that aside, the flavor was spot on.

Chens-Original-Spicy-Noodle-Soup

Chen’s Original Spicy Noodle Soup was decent as well. It’s a very rich and oily style ramen. The flavors are tweaked to Japanese palates so this is not classic Szechuan cuisine. Shisen Hanten is like Chinese-American food – Szechuan cuisine that’s been modified to suit Japanese preferences.

Almond-Pudding

Cold Almond Pudding was edible but ultimately nothing special. It seemed like an afterthought to add perceived value instead of a genuine attempt to make a nice dessert. I’ve had better almond pudding from a random ramen shop in Sapporo.

Mango-Pudding

Mango Pudding was better than the Almond Tofu, with a piece of mango inside the pudding. Good, but it’s hard to get excited about something as simple and plain as this.

Shisen-Hanten-Us

I’m very surprised Shisen Hanten has 2 Michelin stars. The food wasn’t consistently good and ½ of the mains we ordered were overcooked and dry. Service was lacking too – more suited to a busy, cheap Chinese restaurant than a Michelin starred establishment. Our waitress kept asking me to fill in a feedback form and mention her name in it. I thought that was crass. It reminded me of the desperate waiter at The Song of India. Lunch for 2 pax came up to SGD 117 (RM 355). The price is reasonable but this is a far cry from Waku Ghin (another 2 Michelin star restaurant in Singapore) – the food can’t even compare to 1 Michelin star restaurants. Avoid.

Redtail by Zouk: Meeting 女神, Empire launch, delicious cocktails

Redtail-by-Zouk

I am a huge fan of M-Girls. They’re a Chinese New Year group with 4 girls that I’ve been following since I was a kid. I studied in Melbourne during my uni years, and since I couldn’t come back for CNY, the M-Girls VCDs were a huge source of comfort for me. I’ll sit in my dorm room, fantasizing about meeting these beautiful girls. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve daydreamed about dating one of these girls too. smirk

Queenzy-Cheng-HB

Thus, when a friend told me Queenzy Cheng was at this event, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I walked up to her to introduce myself and I was surprised to find myself nervous. I haven’t been anxious about talking to a girl since I was in high school! But this is my childhood idol, so some trepidation is to be expected. I calmed my wildly beating heart and tried not to stammer.

Queenzy-Cheng

I told her I was a fan and talked about how her music videos helped my homesickness when I was studying. She’s an exceedingly friendly and nice person in real life. It was a media event and I hesitated when my friends told me to come sit with them coz the table beside was Queenzy and I didn’t want her to think I was stalking her. Hahaha.

Redtail-Sushi

I also had to suck in my stomach and sit up straight. Don’t want to slouch in front of my idol. I couldn’t even eat properly coz I had to ensure my table manners were spot on and I wasn’t slurping or making eating noises. Damn stressful k. I wish I had sat elsewhere.

Redtail-Fried-Chicken

There was a buffet spread at Redtail for media. Unfortunately, I couldn’t partake as much as I wanted to keep up appearances. Haha. I did have the fried chicken though. That was really good.

Prawn-Cocktail-Cold-Platter

My other favorites were the shrimp cocktail in a shot glass (must have had 20 of them) and the cold pasta salad.

Redtail-Dessert

The tiramisu there was pretty good too.

Giant-Beer-Pong

I also joined a Giant Beer Pong tournament at Redtail by Zouk. They have lots of fun games like Giant Jenga, foosball and electronic games machines. The staff there will assist you in setting up the huge metal baskets and holding up the scores. My team didn’t win but it was a good experience.

Redtail-Beer-Pong

RedTail by Zouk is a social gaming lounge decked out in eclectic art that is perfect as a pre-drinking spot. They also have normal table sized beer pong if you don’t like being the center of attention.

Beer-Pong-HB

RedTail also has karaoke with six rooms adorned with fun mascots such as Steve the drum-playing gorilla, Eddy the saxophone-playing panda and Joe the break dancing flamingo.

Redtail-Mixologists

Redtail by Zouk is also known for their cocktails. They have mixologists there and I’ve seen the effort they put into a Whiskey Sour. You can’t get cocktails inside Empire so if that’s what you want, load up before you head into the club.

Redtail-Margarita

They make good margaritas too. It’s open from 5 pm – 3 am every day at Sky Avenue, Genting.

Redtail-Us

Back to meeting my goddess, she actually accepted me on her personal Facebook account and followed me on Instagram! I wanted to be a man of action so I messaged Queenzy on Messenger to ask if she was interested to have lunch or dinner sometime. I had to try or I wouldn’t forgive myself. She didn’t reply or read it. Oh well, it was worth a shot. I’m glad I got to meet my childhood idol.

The Song of India Deepavali 2018 Set Menu (1 Michelin star): A lament for the restaurant that fails to impress

The-Song-of-India

I was in Singapore over the Deepavali holidays and made a last-minute decision to check out 1 Michelin star The Song of India’s Deepavali Set Dinner. I thought it would be apt to have a specially curated Indian meal in light of the season. I was wrong. Except for a few bright spots, the meal was very mediocre. There were lots of executional errors like food being served cold. Not slightly warm a la fine dining or room temperature. Cold, like the curries in a run-down mamak who didn’t turn on the bain marie as a cost cutting measure.

Song-of-India-Restaurant

Dinner started inauspiciously when the front counter couldn’t find my reservation. I showed them an email from The Song of India confirming my booking and the lady went to ask a supervisor before seating me. It’s of ill portent that the dining room only had 2 other tables occupied. I could have gotten a table just by walking in. The restaurant looked very beautiful though.

Walnut-Appetizer

The Song of India’s Deepavali 2018 Set Menu cost SGD 79++ and started with a complimentary amuse bouche described as a walnut. I couldn’t tell you what the flavors were coz they were entirely forgettable. I must add that I wrote notes on the food and there was a blank spot after walnut. I couldn’t find anything positive to say.

Song-of-India-Papadom

Roasted papadoms came next with mint sauce, mango tamarind sauce and pickled mixed vegetables. The papadoms were rolled up and crunchy but I found it hard to dip it into the sauce. I could taste salt and not much else. Mint sauce was meh. Pickled vegetables was overpowered by sour notes. The mango tamarind sauce was very nice but I suspect a lot of that has to do with my love for sweet things.

Nagaland-Bamboo-Shoot-Soup

Nagaland Bamboo Shoot Soup. Young bamboo shoot infused broth sprinkled with edible flowers and herbs. This soup tasted hearty and creamy but it was merely decent, not delicious. There’s lots of flavor from the unique herbs and the rolled up piece of crispy bread tasted like a croissant. I’m not sure what the unadorned grape tomato is there for though – palate cleanser after the soup? Puzzling.

The-Song-of-India-Deepavali-Set-Dinner

Chargrilled Laksa Flavored Chicken Kebab and Sambal Barramundi Tikka served with traditional Deepavali savories as the starter. This was a confusing creation of cold chicken and overcooked fish with random splashes of neon pink and yellow sauce. I think the sauces were colored just to look Instagrammable and the design of the 2-inch-high “plate” with bits of foliage inside prioritized looking good over practicality. There was a side of Indian dried nuts with murukku, avocado and pickle sauce. I liked the taste of the creamy avocado sauce but I found the proteins on this plate dry and unappetizing.

I waited more than 45 minutes between my starter and main. That’s a ludicrous amount of time considering there were not many customers. I suspect this was why a lot of my main dishes were cold. Perhaps my waiter forgot my order while he fussed with a large group that just came in. I had to prompt him about it, and my empty water glasses required multiple requests to be topped up.

Deepavali-Songs-Art-Palette

Deepavali Song’s Art Palette. Coorg Mangalorian Fish Curry. Country Style Bihari Chicken Curry. Nargisi Quail Egg Kofta. Spinach Kasundi. Amti Dhal. Saffron Goli Pulao. Aam Ka Panna. The last one was a roasted raw mango shot that’s quite good. Unfortunately, all the dishes in the main were cold when it arrived. The saffron pulao was near inedible when stone cold. I contemplated sending it back but didn’t relish another 45-minute wait so I just ate it. The taste of the lamb and fish curry was good despite being cold. I also liked the paneer with the naan bread. Speaking of which, that was what saved the meal – a basket of hot naan bread came with the mains and helped raise the general temperature of the food when mixed together.

The-Song-of-India-Naan

I really enjoyed the naan bread here. OMG! They’re delicious! Fresh from the tandoor oven and piping hot. The flavors are amazing! I don’t know what herbs they use inside but it’s so good I’m half tempted to come back just for the naan despite their other shortcomings. There are two kinds – Rajasthani Jowar great millet naan was my favorite. So yums. It’s seriously mindblowing. I’ve never eaten better naan in my entire life. They go especially well with the paneer. I also found the taste of the quail egg kofta nice. Too bad it’s rubbery and cold.

The-Song-of-India-Deepavali-Dessert

Dessert was Mishti Doi Brulee (lightly sweetened frozen yoghurt from Bengal), Saffron Gulab Jamun Cheese Cake and mini bites of The Song of India’s Mithai Collection 2018. I enjoyed the creamy and slightly sour frozen yoghurt. I also love the gulab jamon cheesecake. That’s seriously brilliant. It’s a gulab jamon (saffron sugar water soaked ball) inside a cheesecake. It looks good, but more importantly, tasted wonderful. It’s cray cray! However, the special Deepavali sweets were a disappointment. I’m staggered to see them selling these Deepavali sweets. I wonder who buys them coz all I taste is sugar and not much else. It’s very one dimensional, but the other dessert elements were perfect.

Mithai-Collection-2018

My problem with The Song of India was due to the overly friendly waiter. He constantly strove to make small talk about inane things until I had to ask him to stop. This exhibits a lack of what the Japanese call mindfulness i.e. being aware of cues and body language to discern that I didn’t want to talk. I was busy writing notes about my dinner and taking photos. He struck up random conversations even after I told him I needed time alone!

The-Song-of-India-Singapore

This got better after another group came in but he started neglecting my water and food after fretting over the large group. He also kept asking me to give him a good review on TripAdvisor. I’ve read this complaint on the site and thought management put a stop to it. Nope. The waiters are still doing it. Not only that, he asked me twice to mention him (Rohit) personally in the review. “Helpful to my career”, he groveled with a sleazy grin. He mentioned his name is in the receipt again when he passed it to me. The service is not just inept, it’s disreputable at times.

The-Song-of-India-HB
Did you notice the open utility closet behind me? I can see your brooms, bro.

I cannot in good conscience recommend The Song of India. I wanted to try the first Indian restaurant to get a Michelin star in the region and ended up utterly disappointed. The food was cold and mostly forgettable, except for the wonderful naan and their delicious desserts. I saw Andy Hayler mention this in his review and thought they bucked up. They haven’t. Service was unpleasant and slightly seedy. The bill came up to SGD 93 (SGD 283) for 1 pax. Don’t waste your money.

Empire by Zouk: A hip-hop club above the clouds at Genting

Empire-by-Zouk

Interesting anecdote: Do you know what the biggest draw in Vegas is? It’s their nightclubs. I’ve read about this recent pivot to mega clubs with big name DJs with interest. It seems that shifting preferences in the younger generation has made nightclubs a very lucrative business. Casinos have the funds to bankroll these huge events with multi-million dollar light and sound systems, so they’re natural partners.

Empire-RWG

I was in Genting over the weekend to check out the launching of Empire by Zouk. Empire is one of Zouk Genting’s two club outlets, and one of the newest concepts introduced under the Zouk umbrella. The idea behind Empire stems from a hip-hop themed, dual club-lounge that is reminiscent of the upscale, private lounges in New York. I know some hip hop kaki who would love the music here.

Empire-Zouk

In true Zouk fashion of having separate areas to cater for different tastes, Empire will be dedicated to hip hop. Spanning 5000 square feet, Empire will seamlessly have an urban blend of art, fashion and music. Designed in homage to the global cultural reach of the genre, Empire drops with swagger from the Bronx-inspired graffiti to Compton-infused flows.

Empire-Genting

It will also be perfect for a private party for anyone looking to throw a blowout for up to 500 people with a bar and 20 tables. A 20 feet long LED screen takes center stage to illuminate the club behind the DJ console which will host the best DJs in the world including guest DJs from Zouk Singapore.

Empire

Global leaders LEDs Control who have played a part in clubs worldwide created the massive piece to make the club a visual feast. At 6000 feet above sea level at Resorts World Genting, Empire will be the new hip-hop central of Malaysia, bringing street beats and urban vibes. Visitors can then end the night by staying at one of the seven hotels spread throughout Resorts World Genting.

Genting-Empire-Zouk

Empire by Zouk will be open from 11.00 pm to 3.00 am and is located at the Zouk Atrium, Level G of SkyAvenue, Resorts World Genting.

Summer Palace Weekend Brunch Menu (1 Michelin star) – excellent food, impeccable service

Summer-Palace

One of the biggest challenges I have with Chinese restaurants is their minimum seating requirement. This can be up to 10 pax in older days but it has shrunk to a more reasonable 2-5 pax in recent years. I wanted to try the popular Weekend Brunch Menu at 1 Michelin Star Summer Palace, but it requires a minimum of 4 pax to order it. This means I must convince my sister and her family to join me! Good thing she was up for it.

Hand-Pulled-Noodle

I was 1 hour late to lunch coz I took the wrong bus. I must be the only person ever to take a bus to a Michelin starred restaurant. Haha. My sister drove here but I wanted to get something important done (i.e. sleep in) so I came separately. The Weekend Brunch Menu (SGD 56 per pax) started with a complimentary appetizer. This is a flat, hand-pulled noodle served with XO sauce and fish pieces. It was served at room temperature – acidic and bright. It whetted my appetite nicely.

Wasabi-Mayo-Prawns

Deep Fried Prawns with Wasabi Mayo. What a strong start to brunch! Everyone at the table gushed about these delicious prawns, even my dad. I had to scheme to get more than my fair share coz there were 6 pieces in total. I ended up popping 3 of these babies into my mouth. The wasabi adds a faint kick to the delicate, naturally sweet prawns and made me want more. There are bits of mango inside too – sweet, crispy, tender, savory, this dish hits every single taste bud and texture. 10/10.

Baked-Chicken-Tart-with-Baby-Abalone

Baked Chicken Tart with Baby Abalone. Omg! Just wow. Perfectly cooked baby abalone on top of buttery tarts. The crust is very crumbly and rich and the abalone was soft, tender and flavorful. We were all super impressed by this dim sum. Simply amazing. Too bad there was only 1 tart for each person. I could easily demolish the whole plate myself.

Pork-Dumplings-Dried-Scallops

Steamed Pork Dumplings with Dried Scallops. This is an upscale version of siu mai. It’s very nicely done. The dim sum at Summer Palace is elegantly constructed. It tastes refined, like your rich, well-traveled and beautiful aunt who doesn’t look a day over 30.

Deep-Fried-Prawn-Rolls-Mango

Deep-fried Prawn Rolls with Mango. I love the rolled and deep fried wrapper. It’s so crispy! There’s a side of sweetened Japanese mayo as a dip and everything comes together perfectly. It’s delicious and contemporary – like your cool, edgy brother who married a hot Brazilian and now has beautiful, blended babies. I love how the quartet of dim sum offerings has 2 steamed and 2 baked/fried offerings so you have textural variety.

Prawn-Dumplings-Bird-Nest

Steamed Prawn Dumplings with Bird’s Nest. This is very refined! As cultured as your young sister with long, straight, black hair who dresses in qi pao and plays the er hu. The sweetness of the prawns go well with the bird’s nest, which adds a pleasant texture to your chew.

Mushrooms-Zhen-Jiang-Vinegar

Sautéed Mixed Mushrooms in Zhen Jiang Vinegar. I’m told this is a famous black vinegar from China. It’s the base for this dish of assorted mushrooms. This is as delicate as your second cousin who never leaves home without an umbrella to shield her fair, white skin from the sun. It stands head and shoulders above the disappointing version by Crystal Jade Golden Palace.

Fish-Maw-Double-Boiled-Soup

Soup of the Day was Fish Maw and Chicken Double Boiled Soup. The fish maw was the highest quality I’ve ever tasted! This ain’t the cheap swim bladders your grandma uses for her daily soup. It’s a huge portion that’s slippery and full of collagen. I liked the intricate balance of Chinese herbs in the soup too. Very good.

Signature-Roast-Meat-Platter

Chef’s Signature Roast Meat Platter. Suckling Pig. Roasted Duck. Honey BBQ Pork. Jellyfish. I liked the crispy skin of the suckling pig but the roasted duck was too oily for me. Maybe I was beyond full at his point so I didn’t appreciate the rich flavors. I can see why the jellyfish it there – the acidic marinate and clean texture helps cut through the fattiness. I did enjoy the Honey BBQ Pork though. It’s done very skillfully.

Steamed-Soon-Hock-Superior-Soy

Steamed Soon Hock in Superior Light Soya Sauce. Excellent! I love the fish in Chinese restaurants and this was a whole marble goby in delicious, sweet and coriander-scented soy sauce. The waitress portioned this nicely for everyone, with an additional portion of the head as extra. I devoured my portion and the head, even though I was stuffed.

Poached-Vegetables-Superior-Stock

Poached Vegetables with Superior Stock. The food here is of such high quality even their vegetables are delicious! The plain flavors were a welcome addition after the previous oily course. I like how well they thought through the sequencing of the courses and dishes. Despite being simple, it was tasty.

Fried-Rice-Prawns-Honey-Pork

Fried Rice with Prawns and Honey Pork. We were all filled to the brim at this point so we only had a small tasting portion. Each individual grain of rice was visible and there’s lots of goodies like prawns and BBQ pork inside. It’s a bit too oily for me. My niece and nephew enjoyed it though so we packed this home for them.

Chilled-Lemongrass-Aloe-Vera

Chilled Lemongrass with Aloe Vera in Lime Juice. A sweet end to a heavy brunch! There’s a lot of different textures in this bowl and the complexity of flavors is surprising. It’s not just sugar syrup but goji berries and other Chinese herbs in the dessert. We all enjoyed the refreshing end to the meal.

Summer-Palace-Us

All of us had nothing but good things to say about Summer Palace. Service was attentive and friendly. The food was excellent. My brother-in-law paid for the meal so I didn’t know the exact figure, but I peeked and it was slightly over SGD 300. The kids had some dim sum before I arrived, as well as drinks, and we all had Chinese tea. My sister said Din Tai Fung can be more expensive sometimes so it’s really great value. I personally think SGD 56/pax for this amount of high quality cooking is a steal so if you can scrounge together a party of 4, I highly recommend Summer Palace’s Weekend Brunch. No wonder every single table was occupied. We all left happy and full.

Genki Sushi Dai Man Zoku Menu @ Sunway Pyramid

Genki-Sushi-HB

Genki Sushi used to have a presence at 1 Utama before all their outlets were shuttered due to the main franchiser pulling out. I like their sushi, which I find better than a lot of the quasi-Japanese chains out there. Genki Sushi is a real Japanese franchise. You’ll be surprised at how many Japanese F&B outlets in Malaysia are wholly local. Some are even based out of Kepong! That’s about as Japanese as my mom.

Sushi-Genki-Sunway-Pyramid

It’s been a few long years but now they’re back in Sunway Pyramid. They’ve just been open a week and I went to check them out on the Tuesday public holiday. The big thing is their 1.5 times bigger sushi serving (compared to other restaurants) at RM 4.80/piece. They call this menu Dai Man Zoku (big satisfaction) and I ordered a few items from this selection.

Genki-Sushi

I was told their Jumbo Crab Stick is really good. I didn’t want to like it coz I knew it wouldn’t be real crab meat at just RM 4.80. It’s surimi but it still tasted really good. I enjoyed it very much despite my reservations. It’s very flavorful. I also ordered the Prime Salmon Belly, Red Shrimp, Grilled Eel and Yellowtail from the Dai Man Zoku menu. Salmon Roe Gunkan and Scallop from their Premium Collection (RM 6.80/piece) was delicious as well. The scallops were exceedingly sweet and delicious. Two thumbs up.

Sushi-Genki

It also featured in their Trio Sashimi (Salmon, Scallops, Surf Clam) for RM 22.80. I finished up with a Grilled Eel Mini Don (RM 12.80). They’re more expensive than other local sushi chains but their toppings are way more generous than the razor thin slices of Sushi Mentai or the fat, square, rice-heavy offerings of Sushi King. Genki Sushi is one of the better conveyor belt sushi restaurants here. They’ve even revamped their delivery system to a bullet train called Kousoku Express that sends food straight from the kitchen to your table.

Labyrinth (1 Michelin star) Pre Theatre Menu – a very average dining experience

Labyrinth

I have a soft spot for progressive cuisine. My favorite restaurant to date is Gaggan. I enjoy the modern take on Indian food – licking plates and eating with my hands felt fun and liberating. I was also impressed by Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. Thus, I made sure to include Labyrinth in my latest Singapore trip. Labyrinth has 1 Michelin star and does a modern take on Singaporean cuisine, using many techniques from molecular gastronomy to propel local Singapore food into the 21st century.

Labyrinth-Muruku

I came here with a friend for their Pre Theatre Menu (SGD 68) which is the same as their lunch menu, served at 6 pm. You’re directed to a lounge when you arrive and served murukku and apple flavored water. Service is a little stiff and formal from two of the waiters, like they aspire to a caricature of what they imagine French Michelin-starred restaurants are like. Having been to France and dined at Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, I can assure you it’s not like that over there. Some staff are really friendly though.

Labyrinth-Singapore

Unfortunately, one of the Indian or Malay waiters had a really bad case of halitosis, like there were pounds of ripe old tonsil stones stuck somewhere in his throat. That was a real turn-off in a meal setting. I usually don’t comment on things like these unless it affects the dining experience, and this did. I had to hold my breath while he explained the dishes and wait for the nauseating miasma to disperse before I could get started on my food. It was a real struggle.

Oolong-Tea-Egg

Dinner started with Oolong Tea Egg. This is described as “Uncle William’s quail egg” and it’s one of their signature items. It’s a quail egg with a liquid interior yolk which is not the yolk. The liquid has been injected into the egg to replace the yolk. It’s very smoky. I liked this.

Nasi-Lemak-CCF

The second snack is “Nasi Lemak” Cheong Fun – chicken skin, ikan bilis and egg yolk gel. It’s a soft pillow of chee cheong fun (CCF) that tastes like nasi lamak due to the spicy anchovy sambal inserted inside. The egg yolk gel coats the CCF bite to add some creaminess and the crispy shard of chicken skin provided a nice texture. Decent.

Heartland-Waffle

Heartland Waffle ended the trio of snacks, described as local chicken liver pate and goji berry jam. The waffle is soft and fluffy. Pay attention KFC! This is how you should do a waffle!! It has a strange, intense flavor from the liver and goji berries that I didn’t like at first, but I enjoyed it after chewing for a while. It’s very tasty. This is the best one out of the three starters.

Mantou-Coconut

There was a complimentary snack described as coconut butter with deep fried buns. These are the same mantou you’ll see served with chilli crab in Singapore. It was a nice flavor but it’s not ready for prime time yet. The butter was very hard to spread. My friend called this “experimental” which is the best way to describe the dish. I told her I’ll be stealing that word for my blog.

Ang-Moh-Chicken-Rice

The plates sequence started next with “Ang Moh” Chicken Rice. This is another one of their famous dishes which features home-milled rice flour, grandma’s chilli sauce and braised chicken. There are chilli strands on top of the dish, which reminds me of A Noodle Story. The dish tasted interesting but it’s not my favorite thing. It is remarkably similar to one of my failed meal prep dishes – creamy chicken.

Nippon-Koi-Farm-Silver-Perch

Nippon Koi Farm Silver Perch is described as “Fish Bak Kut Teh”. It’s herbal pepper broth, ulam raja and textures of black garlic. You’re served the fish first…

Fish-BKT

…then the BKT broth is poured out of a teapot tableside.

Labyrinth-BKT

This was my favorite dish of the night. The fish was cooked well and tasted good. I enjoyed the crispy vegetables on top of the fish. I thought the deep fried vegetables were a little too oily but overall, this creation has very nice flavors. I love the sweet herbal soup.

Indonesian-Pork-Collar

There are two options for your main. My friend went for the Indonesian Pork Collar. It’s char siew, mixed greens, kale and pickled bak choy. I liked the fatty char siew and the flavored dust. It’s delicious but I don’t think I’ll enjoy eating the whole thing since the fat and sugar will be a bit cloying after a few mouthfuls. The pickled bak choy is very important for cutting through the rich flavors.

Toh-Thye-San-French-Poulet

I had the Toh Thye San Farm French Poulet (SGD 10 supplement). This is a Cantonese style roast chicken with glutenous rice and egg yolk from Freedom Farm. There are two parts to this dish – the fillet of roasted chicken and the medallion of sauced chicken inside glutenous rice. I liked the latter but the former tasted a bit plain. I thought it was sous vide chicken but the waiter told me it’s been cooked for 5 hours at 55 degrees Celsius in the oven with sugar on the skin to crisp it up. There are crispy prawn cracker crumbs on top, which I thought was a nice though.

Labyrinth-Rosella

Next up came the palate cleanser called Clam Leaf Snow made with rosella meringue and textures of grapes before the dessert course. Our waiter even brought out a rosella plant so we could see what it was made from, but this felt more like a rehearsed, robotic scene than a genuine attempt to add value, which I experienced at Waku Ghin and Shinji.

Clam-Leaf-Snow

I did enjoy the palate cleanser though. It was quite good for something meant to just reset your tastebuds. I particularly liked the fruits at the bottom.

Cristal-De-Chine-Caviar

The dessert course was Cristal De Chine Caviar, basically a modern interpretation of kaya toast. It is made with kaya ice cream and Sing Hong Loong toast. This was excellent! I love the crispy bread the nice caramelized kaya ice cream. The kaya is salted too so there’s burnt notes and salty notes. I also enjoyed the hot (bread) and cold (kaya ice cream) temperature play. The edible miniature maple leaf was a nice touch. 10/10. I’ll eat the hell out of this if they served it separately.

Labyrinth-Petit-Fours

Labyrinth ended the dinner with a duo of seasonal treats. The petit fours were durian macaron and chiffon pandan. The durian macaron is very strong tasting. Even though I like fresh durian, I’m not a fan of durian desserts. It’s a no from me. The chiffon pandan was a plain, unsweetened hunk of cake. I think it’s supposed to be a palate cleanser after you eat the tiny durian macaron.

Labyrinth-Us

The bill came up to SGD 172 (RM 524) for two. The dishes at Labyrinth tries to be creative for the sake of being creative. A lot of the techniques were unnecessary and forced into the dish to provide some pizzazz. The smoke-and-mirrors felt like an attempt to divert your attention away from the very average food. There was nothing extraordinary about the taste or execution of most dishes. It did not make me want to return. Labyrinth would have gotten into my Bottom 3 if not for Shisen Hanten, The Song of India and Crystal Jade Golden Palace.

Crystal Jade Golden Palace (1 Michelin star) – a disheartening set menu dinner

Crystal-Jade-Golden-Palace

I’ll like to tell you a tale of extreme disappointment. Let me preface this blog post by saying Crystal Jade Golden Palace was the worst Michelin star restaurant I’ve been to in Singapore. The food was very mediocre, and the prices were incommensurate to the ingredients and experience. I wanted my itinerary to include one homegrown local chain, so I came here despite warnings and objections from other people. My dad has been to this exact outlet and said it was disappointing. He never says things like that.

Crystal-Jade-Set-Menu

I was seated just inches from the waitress station so there was constantly movement and noise around me – shouted orders, staff getting chopsticks, water refills. Crystal Jade Golden Palace tries to squeeze so much revenue out of the outlet that there are chairs and tables where there should be none. I came here to try their SGD 48 set meal but was told that it’s only available for lunch. This wasn’t stated at all on their website or menu. The dinner menu starts at SGD 78 and it doesn’t look as appealing.

Crystal-Jade-Edamame

I went for Executive Set Menu C at SGD 88 instead. It took me ages to decide coz nothing in the menu items sounded appealing to me. I didn’t think there was anything special about the dishes but I silenced the inner voice telling me to run and picked one almost at random. I was offered edamame beans, which was charged at SGD 2. Even my tap water incurred a SGD 1 cost!

Teochew-Marinated-Appetizer-Combination

Teochew Marinated Appetizer Combination (Two Varieties). The deep-fried ball thing was very ordinary. It made no impression whatsoever. I don’t even know why there’s a rice cracker beneath it as it adds nothing to the dish. The slice of duck with vinegar was likewise forgettable. It’s just a plain, below average piece of meat doused with vinegar. If I didn’t like the kind, grandmotherly waitress serving me, I might have been tempted to cut my losses and leave right now.

Fish-Maw-Thick-Soup

Crab Meat & Fish Maw Thick Soup in Teochew Style. This is a very fatty soup. It tastes like it’s made of pure collagen. So thick! So viscous! I felt I can overturn the bowl like a DQ Blizzard. The soup stuck to my mouth and coated my lips with intense flavor. I was at the border of loving it and hating it. I’m not sure how to feel. I’m confused! I’ve been reflecting on the soup for a few days and decided I love it as I’ve been craving for that insanely thick mouthfeel since. This was the best dish of the night.

Baked-Cod-Fish

Baked Cod Fish with Miso Sauce. Did this taste delicious? No, it was merely competent. There’s nothing special about the dish. The tapioca chip and sprig of parsley looks out of place. To be fair, this wasn’t bad – I enjoyed the creamy, sweet sauce with the fish. But that’s the thing, it’s just acceptable. Adequate. Average.

Vegetable-with-Wild-Mushroom

Sautéed Vegetable with Wild Mushroom. This one really pissed me off. It was literally a few scraps of carrot, peas and mushrooms in an unremarkably bland sauce. The only thing of note is the deep fried enoki mushroom, of which there were 2. The size of this vegetable dish is more or less the area of a credit card, and not much thicker!

Handmade-Noodle-with-Baby-Abalone

Stewed Handmade Noodle with Baby Abalone. The noodles were overcooked and under-seasoned. There was a lack of any appreciable flavor in this dish. The baby abalone was serviceable but there was nothing particular about it. The dish was edible for sure, but so middle-of-the-road that any hawker center could do a better job. I was so hungry I finished everything anyway.

Mango-Puree-with-Pomelo

Chilled Mango Puree with Pomelo & Sago. This looks and tastes like a lazy cook decided to randomly toss in several leftover ingredients to increase the average cheque size. It was below my already lowered expectations, if that’s even possible. A sad end to a depressing dinner. The bill for dinner came up to SGD 107 (RM 327).

Maids-Leftover-Chicken
(This is a photo of the chicken and noodles I ate at home immediately after this dinner to illustrate how hungry I was)

Dinner would have been cheaper if I had ordered a la carte. I’ll have a more filling meal too, but I wanted to check out their set menus, which is supposed to highlight their best dishes and abilities. Maybe that was my mistake. I had to destroy a bowl of leftover chicken and noodles my sister’s maid cooked when I got home coz I was still very hungry. The portions were way too small!

Crystal-Jade-Golden-Palace-HB

I don’t mind paying for exemplary food. My most expensive dinner was RM 1,615 at Gaggan and I walked away a very happy man. I recommended Gaggan to my sister and all my friends. I even sang praises to random strangers who didn’t ask. But it really makes me angry when I pay good money and receive middling, ordinary and subpar food. Crystal Jade Golden Palace was a letdown of epic proportions. I cannot un-recommend it enough.

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