I sometimes (not often) get the motivation to cook something other than my usual chicken rice – buffalo stew meal prep. Yesterday was such a day. I was driving my housemate Mandy to her workplace when we saw a morning market. I seldom wake up early enough for these things and she wanted to eat fish so I went to check out their offerings.
I got ikan bulus – a tubular type of white fish which is delicious
when fried and a small broccoli. She wanted the small, flat kind of white
pompfret but all the stalls there didn’t sell it. I managed to get some from
the Jaya Grocer under my condo though.
I remember why I don’t cook fish often – it’s troublesome to remove
the guts and descale the fish. I also don’t like how the scales fly everywhere
and get my cat all excited. She’ll pounce and pat the scales and distribute
them to the furthest corners of the kitchen, necessitating a good mop after.
I didn’t do much to the ikan bulus and small pompfret – just
salted them liberally and fried them in hot oil. I bought a small bottle of
maize oil cooking oil for this occasion. I don’t use oil in my regular cooking.
I even skim off the buffalo fat the next day!
I also scalded the broccoli and pan-fried it with oyster sauce. If
you’re wondering where the stem of the broccoli went, I blended it with cold
water and drank it. I consume a lot of raw vegetables each night as a source of
fiber and nutrients.
The fish kemek (lost structural integrity) during the frying
process. I’m not sure what went wrong. It just started disintegrating. Maybe I
should have battered it with tapioca starch so it’ll maintain its form. It
still tastes good though. Half of the fish is ikan bulus and half is small
white pomfret, served with Thai chilli sauce.
I also fried two duck eggs with a crispy bottom a la Chinese
style. I’ve been buying duck eggs instead of chicken eggs lately coz I prefer
the creamier yolk. It’s about 50% more expensive than chicken eggs but worth
This is the broccoli pan-fried with oyster sauce as a source of
greens. I cooked fresh basmati rice to go with dinner and I also served my tom
yam buffalo stew with beer.
It was almost 10 pm when I finished cooking. It tasted pretty good
despite the simple execution. The fish was really fresh!
Pulau Ketam isn’t very big but it might take you a while to walk around the island. Most people get by on electric bikes or regular bicycles. Electric bicycles usually go for RM 20/hour but our homestay rented them to us at RM 15/hour, so off we went to explore the habitated areas. There are 2 primary schools and a secondary school on the island so there’s a good amount of younger folks still here.
The main commercial area by the jetty is sleepy on the weekends though. It has a very familiar small town vibe. Both Mandy and I are from Sarawak so we felt very comfortable here. You can hear snippets of Teochow and Heng Hua, old ladies with curly hair smoking cigarettes, and men with Buddhist tattoos undergoing traditional Chinese cupping while seated on low stools. This can be any rural town in Sarawak – Serian, Lundu, Batang Ai.
Most of the shops serve some kind of noodle dish in the mornings so
we went to a random one. Interestingly, all the coffee shops had their shutters
half closed and lights off to save electricity but they’re actually open.
Mandy ordered a kueh tiaw soup dish with several different types of fishballs. This tasted peppery and mild. She didn’t like it and ended up eating my noodles.
I went for a dry tossed noodle with pork, shrimp, and boiled eggs. This tasted good but unfortunately I didn’t get to eat much of it. Mandy swapped her noodles with mine after tasting my superior order. I don’t really enjoy soup noodles but I’m a nice guy so I exchanged with her.
We also ordered 3 coffees from the next coffee shop. This one only
had canned drinks and they asked us to order from their neighboring shop if we wanted
brewed drinks. You can only do this in small towns where the competition is
less and the spirit of cooperation is higher.
Thus satiated and fueled with caffeine, we went to Lover’s Bridge. This was marked as a tourist attraction on official Pulau Ketam maps but in reality, it’s just a rickety arch bridge. It’s good for photos though.
Mandy is pointing at the richest person in Pulau Ketam. Haha. This
house is so different from the wooden structures surrounding it. Modern, sleek
and tall, it’s the highest point on the island.
There’s also an old cinema beside the Lover’s Bridge. It’s amazing to think that at one point, the population of Pulau Ketam was large and vibrant enough to support a theatre as big as this one. 👏
Mandy randomly asked me what my IC number was and we found out
that our last 4 digits were in sequence! What a coincidence! These checksum
numbers are always odd if you’re male and even if you’re female so we can’t be
the same but having ours in order is serendipitous.
It was an extremely hot day so we went to get some ABC (shaved ice dessert) to cool down. Our homestay told us about this stall, which he says has the best ABC on the island.
It was pretty good! There’s peanuts, nata de coco, jellies, cendol
and all the trimmings underneath a mound of shaved ice and gula Melaka.
We sat with the owner, who told us many tales about the history
and origin of the people who’re now at Pulau Ketam. He had a stroke a few years
ago so his daughters run the stall, which is actually a shaved ice machine in
front of their home.
We also went to the temple opposite which has very old tortoises
and a huge, long python. Their toilets are very interesting too – little more
than a carved rectangle on the floor. There’s no sewage system in Pulau Ketam.
All human waste goes into the sea and it’s washed out by the tides.
We decided to cycle to the furthest end of the island until we
couldn’t go any further. All the paths here are made of wooden boards on top of
stilts. Only the main jetty and commercial area has concrete roads. It’s very
The view on the bridges that connects the island is nice towards
the further regions of Pulau Ketam. You can see fishing boats moored to the
individual jetties connected to houses. This is a less commercialized area of
There was a very friendly woman running a drinks and snacks stand
near the end of the island. We stopped there for a couple of beers. She told us
she’s from Klang and come down during weekends to stay with her mom and run the
stand. It’s a good place to refuel. She’s one of those people with natural PR
We found an abandoned wooden house with creaking, rickety
floorboards that would make a perfect photo op. The floorboards were so rotten
we nearly fell through into the sea a few times.
I did a cool pose (or so I thought) and I ended up looking like such a sissy we couldn’t stop laughing for a good 3 minutes. In my defense, this looked manly and casual when conceived in my mind. The execution and angle could have been better though. 😄
Here’s a proper one so you can get rid of the previous mental
This is my favorite photo of us. I love the emo vibe. I told her
to do a sad pose. #emoforever
We went back to Remember Me Restaurant to have o chien (oyster omelet) and a beer. This isn’t as good as the ones you’ll get in Penang or Kuching but edible. Especially on vacation since everything tastes better when you’re having fun.
It was a good overnight trip! Pulau Ketam is a chill and relaxing place that’s perfect for a weekend getaway. It’s not too far from KL or PJ either – just a 40 min drive and a 30 min boat trip away. I can see why people like it here. I’ll definitely be back someday.
Goodbye Pulau Ketam! We made great memories here and we’ll miss you. 🦀
My housemate Mandy and I decided to make an impromptu trip to Pulau Ketam over the weekend. She’ll be moving out this week so it’ll be a fun thing to do together. I’ve never been here but I’ve heard a lot about the idyllic small town vibe and I really enjoy places like these. I come from a smaller town myself and I like visiting even more rural places like Kapit or Sarikei.
Pulau Ketam is only accessible by boat. It’s a 20-30 minute trip from Port Klang and the ferries and boats usually charge around RM 9-10 per pax. I saw a few souvenir Pulau Ketam tee shirts at the jetty and assumed they’ll be more at the island itself but surprisingly, no one sells them at the island. Haha. I actually wanted to get one.
The boats are the same express boats that we have in Sarawak. A lot of our rural towns are only reachable via the river so boats are a major mode of transportation there.
These boats are air-conditioned and leaves every 45 minutes. There’s another type that’s open to the elements but much faster for RM 1 more. We took the other kind back.
This is the view from the Pulau Ketam jetty. It’s not a very big island and most of the commercial areas are concentrated in the middle.
It was an exceedingly hot day and I have gotten more sun in the past weekend than the previous 10 years of my life. I’m sunburnt and peeling right now despite applying liberal amounts of SPF 50+ sunscreen.
We stayed at a homestay called Little Happiness Family. Little Happiness and Happiness Family is owned by the same people who runs Pulau Ketam Mini Market. They’re a friendly mother and son duo who gave me a RM 50 discount when they heard about the price I’m paying via Agoda. Agoda charged me RM 174 per night and they said it was more than they charge if you book direct so they refunded me RM 50. I thought that was nice of them.
The room we booked had a large double bed and two singles in a double decker bed format. I think it’s meant for families. All the units have their own shower/toilet as well as air-conditioning. Ours had a window with a view of the back too!
Our hosts recommended a place called Jia Jia for seafood but it was closed for Winter Solstice Festival. We went to the most famous one in Pulau Ketam instead – Remember Me Restaurant.
Crabs are a must! This is Kam Heong Crabs. It’s RM 68 per kg. This is slightly more than 1 kg for RM 78. It’s not bad but I’m actually not a huge fan of crabs, mostly coz I don’t enjoy deshelling them. I like huge crabs like Alaskan King Crab though. To clarify, I love the taste of crab, I just don’t like picking at them and getting bits of shell in my mouth.
We also had Nestum Prawns (RM 38). These are pretty good and they’re fried to a crisp so you can eat the whole prawn without peeling, even the head!
I had someone to peel the prawns for me though. Hehe.
I also added on Kung Pow Mantis Prawn (RM 26). This are not fresh ones, obviously. It’s the frozen and pre-battered type that’s mass produced and sold everywhere from Langkawi to KL. Not my favorite.
There’s also an obligatory vegetables dish – cabbage stir fried with belacan for RM 16.
The bill came up to RM 180 for 2 pax including drinks and beer, which is around the price you’ll expect to pay in PJ too. Not bad, but I’m keen to try Jia Jia next time since it was not only recommended by our homestay, a random aunty selling snacks in the furthest habituated edges of Pulau Ketam also told us about it.
The nightlife at Pulau Ketam is pretty sparse, although we spotted an 80’s style karaoke pub and an uncle told us about a feng tau joint. Most people seem to congregate at the jetty to hang out and relax and that’s what we did too.
The jetty had a psychedelic strobing light which was a little out of place but kinda nice.
Our homestay provided bicycles but there was a huge family staying there who was about to take the last two. Mandy convinced them to let us have one of the bicycles. I should add that these are two little kids of around 6 years old or so. Hahahaha. I think their grandpa gave Mandy a look of mild disapproval. I didn’t dare to ask even though I wanted a bicycle coz they’re so small, so I’m glad she did. 😌
There was a cool breeze coming in from the sea and the night was bright courtesy of the full new moon. I put on some tunes on Spotify and we ended up talking and singing and riding bicycles till midnight. Good clean fun.
I brought along a bottle of JW Black Label and we ended up playing drunken Chinese chess in the room. We had to Google the rules and made up many of our own so it wasn’t much of a structured game but still a lot of fun. I really enjoyed myself despite being a man who prefers my own company most of the time.
I was pleased to see this new F&B outlet opposite my condo. Ayam Gepuk Pak Gembus is the famous Indonesian chain of fiery chicken where they use up to 100 cili padi to make their spicy chicken coating. Their main Malaysian branch in Gombak went viral recently and in a testament to scalability, they’ve rapidly opened smaller outlets around Klang Valley. This is an official branch, not a copycat. I love spicy food and I’ve always wanted to try this infernal creation.
The menu is very streamlined – there’s only one item on offer here but 4 sets from RM 7.90 to RM 10.90. The cheapest one just has ¼ chicken + rice + RO water while the most expensive one throws in tofu, tempeh, chicken liver, chicken stomach, and fried cabbage. Their fried cabbage is insane so I highly recommend the RM 10.90 set. You can get free refills of rice, RO water and unlimited chillis.
Their ayam gepuk is the main draw and I had mine with 35 bird eye chillis. The chillis are pounded and mixed with oil and other aromatics before being spread on the ¼ chicken. They don’t use very spicy chillis – these are more flavorful than spicy. It’s a salty and umami rub that goes very well with rice. It burned my lips for an hour after though. I enjoyed the chicken and their delicious fried cabbage. The latter had crispy edges and a distinct taste of char that I love!
However, be warned that they do not have the capacity to deal with large crowds. Each dish is prepared individually and they only have one prep station so it takes ages for food to come out. There was a long queue to order and pay at the cashier too. The chickens are also tiny, but Malay poultry tend to be on the smaller side for some reason. It’s worth a try though!
I have a new housemate. She’s 24 and staying here for 3 weeks. I have lived most of my adult life alone, so I was a bit hesitant to have someone stay over. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t mind paying a bit more for the entire unit instead of having to share rooms. That’s not to say that I’ve never had roommates. In various stages of my life, I’ve had female companions (I hesitate to use the word girlfriend) stay over at my place long term.
The most memorable (though not for the reasons you think) was this wild girl who stayed in my room when I was 17. She was 19 and hung out with this lesbian crew of motorcyclists. No need to fantasize coz they’re all very dismal looking. Hideous, rough and stocky. Except her though, she was slim, feminine and quite good looking! A friend of mine who joined the 3rd Mile gang in Kuching introduced her to me. “Eh tang chiau eh,” he whispered conspiratorially. You can play with this one. God knows where he found/met her.
I had to go back to Sibu for Chinese New Year and she convinced me to let her stay on while I was away. Bad decision. She ran up a RM 200+ phone bill, threw parties with her lesbian biker friends, got into a fight with the neighbor who told her to keep the noise down, police were called, my landlord was called, they were all kicked out. She even wanted my landlord’s address so she can go kick her ass! I was almost evicted for letting an unauthorized person stay over.
Needless to say, that experience did not endear me to housemates. The sex wasn’t great either, mostly coz she had a serious BO problem. Her armpits were very funky! I’ve had other roommates since but none I remember as vividly as that first one. She gave me PTSD about people staying over. Hahaha.
Thus, when my friend asked if his girlfriend can stay over, I was exceedingly reluctant. My roommate from hell 20 years ago was still fresh in my mind. Also, I’ve seen her photos and she’s very attractive. I thought it best to not expose myself to such enticement. Flee from temptation, the bible extorts us. Flee! I grudgingly said okay.
She came on Saturday and we’ve had a chance to hang out and talk. She’s grown on me. This one is a college psychology graduate – a nice, soft spoken girl miles apart from my first ever roommate. I was secretly pleased when she asked if I’ve eaten when she arrived at KL Sentral – she wanted to tapao for me. Gam sek zou! She also likes Mi Sedaap so bonus points for that. Haha.
I found myself enjoying her company. It’s nice to have people around. Like a cat, but more interactive. 😄
There’s really no point to this post. I just remembered my terrible housemate from 20 years ago and wanted to share the story. Here comes the abrupt ending.
I know my first housemate was a rare outlier and she’s on one extreme of the negative-experience-with-roommates scale. This one is on the other end – the positive-experience-with-housemates end. Both are rare and most people fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t mind nice housemates. Sekian, terima kasih.
Waku Ghin is hands down the best restaurant I’ve been to in Singapore. They’re also incredibly expensive. Dinner is a SGD 450++ affair which puts it close to Gaggan’s price tag. I contemplated long and hard before deciding to check out their relatively tamer SGD 180++ executive 5-course lunch. They recently started lunch service on Fridays that offers the same sit-down private teppanyaki experience with less courses. It’s a good way to get a preview of what they’re all about. It’s also a lot easier on the wallet at approximately half the dinner cost.
Waku Ghin has 2 Michelin stars and they’re rated 23rd on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. The service here is impeccable. Waiters and waitresses are friendly and accommodating. I was given a selection of magazines to browse through when they saw I was a solo diner. I thought that was a nice touch, even though people tend to prefer their smartphones nowadays. Doors are swung open for you as soon as you approach and your chair is pulled back for you when you need to go to the toilet.
You’re seated at The Bar at Waku Ghin until the teppanyaki rooms are ready. Each room sits 4-5 customers and you have your own private chef to cook your meal. All the proteins like lobster and wagyu steak is cooked to order by your teppanyaki chef so it comes to you freshly made. Our chef is Japanese but he has a reasonable command of the English language from working in the main Tetsuya’s Restaurant in Sydney.
Lunch started with Salad of the Sea. This is a take on their famous botan shrimp, Ossetra caviar and uni dish in the form of sushi. There are two possible variations on this for lunch – either sushi or cold pasta. Ossetra caviar is the most prized and expensive type of caviar from the sturgeon – real caviar! The chef told me he also put ume plum they pickled in-house into the sushi to cut through the rich flavors. It works so well! Beautiful and balanced. The sweet botan shrimp combines with the salty caviar and creamy uni for a flavor explosion in your mouth. It’s perfection!
There’s also sashimi of Tasmanian ocean trout, Japanese snapper, squid and wakame (underneath the radish) as a palate cleanser. The squid is insanely creamy and has great texture. It’s marinated in sweet, acidic sauce. That’s my favorite after the shrimp + caviar + uni bite.
Next up is Grilled Anago with Foie Gras, Confit of Zucchini and Sansho. The chef freshly grated wasabi from a wasabi rhizome to put inside. This is a very intense dish. Anago cooked Japanese style is already very rich and it’s paired with foie gras and a confit (cooked in fat) vegetable. Very nicely done but not for the faint of heart. So fatty. So yums. An excellent heavy dish to contrast with the previous lighter flavors.
The chef started warming a concoction in a small sauce pot on the teppan grill. He said this was the famous Ghin Bouillabaisse made from 22 different types of fish (!!!).
This delicious broth is the base for a dish of lobster from Canada and scallops from Japan. The claw of the Canadian lobster was lovingly grilled and the chubby rotund scallops were given a quick sear before being plated with the bouillabaisse.
This dish is out of control! Premium seafood ingredients paired with a broth simmered for 3 days with 22 kinds of fish. It’s mental! Ghin Bouillabaisse tastes like an umami bomb on your palate. The Canadian lobster is naturally sweet and the incredibly plump scallops are tender and yummy. I hardly ever see scallops of these size and they’re Japanese scallops, which are the highest quality and sweetest in the world. The complex soup goes so well with the crusty bread they provided. I used it to soak up every single drop from my bowl.
Japanese A5 Ohmi Wagyu from Shiga Prefecture with Wasabi and Citrus Soy. Ohmi wagyu is one of the Japan top 3 wagyu together with Kobe and Matsuzaka. This is very premium stuff! It has certification which states the provenance of the cow and their ancestor details. The chef showed us the beautifully marbled piece of Japanese wagyu before he cooked it.
This is a very generous portion bigger and thicker than a deck of playing cards! It’s seared on the teppanyaki Japanese style in the form of thick cubes. This is not fake Australian wagyu bred from Japanese cows. It’s not only real A5 grade Japanese wagyu from Japan, it’s from an exclusive branded breed.
I really enjoyed wagyu steak. It’s incredibly fatty and delicious. Truly melt-in-your-mouth. But here’s an unpopular view – I don’t fancy eating large quantities of heavily marbled wagyu. This is a personal preference. I can’t eat lots of fatty pork belly as well, while some people can happily destroy a whole pork trotter. I liked it, but this portion size is too much of a good thing.
The Ohmi A5 wagyu was served with maitake mushroom rice and a soy based dipping sauce. There was also a plate of palate cleansing greens to help with the rich flavors. The mushroom rice was excellent – savory and umami. I asked what maitake mushrooms were and the chef brought a whole colony out from the kitchen!
They import this entire thing from Nagano in Japan! That’s why it costs so much to eat here.
We were guided to a lounge area after the savory courses so we can have dessert overlooking the marina. This is Apricot Seed Panna Cotta with Apricot Jam and Honey Ice Cream. It’s the fucking bomb! I love the honey ice cream. This is a more delicate and acidic dessert that goes well with the heavy meal. I prefer fruit based desserts to chocolate ones.
There’s also complimentary green tea to go with your dessert. It’s exceedingly fragrant and high quality.
I may have erroneously stated that it was my birthday when I made the reservation. The waitress came up with a nice birthday plate featuring Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla and Macadamia. I think the cake is from Patisserie Platine by Waku Ghin downstairs. It has a crispy gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut) base. I’ve only eaten this texture once before in an expensive gianduja cake my ex bought me. Delicious!
Waku Ghin’s Executive 5-course Lunch ended with a selection of petit fours. The yuzu jelly was shockingly sour. It made not just my lips, but my whole face pucker! Intense. Hazelnut meringue was very good. I liked that. Chocolate truffle with champagne was the best – a nice alcoholic truffle made with reduced and condensed champagne. Luxurious! They’re all made in-house.
I was presented with the menu at the end. The front cover even had a birthday wish and the date inscripted.
I truly enjoyed my meal at Waku Ghin. This is the best Michelin starred restaurant I’ve eaten at in Singapore. The service is faultless. The food is delicious and uses superior ingredients and lengthy cooking techniques. It’s a bit expensive for lunch but I thought the SGD 212 (RM 645) bill was a fair price. I highly recommend Waku Ghin. It whetted my appetite for the longer dinner course. I’ll definitely be back but at that price, I’ll have to find a special occasion to splurge on. Maybe it’ll even be my real birthday. Haha.
Burnt Ends was the first Michelin star restaurant I went to during my last trip to Singapore. I flew in at 3 pm and took a quick shower before turning up for my reservation at 6 pm. It’s one of the new Michelin star winners in 2018 and #12 on the S.Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list (#61 on World’s 50 Best Restaurants). I’ve heard a lot of good things about Chef Dave Pynt and the Australian style BBQ they serve here. They go back to basics and cook with real fire. This restaurant has a 4-ton brick oven as the centerpiece and diners are seated in a row flanking the kitchen.
I was stationed next to an older couple and they struck up a conversation with me. They ended up sharing their food so I did the same. That’s one of the best things about community style dining – sometimes you meet like-minded foodies and experience a wider range of dishes. They ordered expensive items like Leek, Hazelnut and White Truffle (SGD 75) while my orders were a magnitude more pedestrian (Salt and Pepper Pork Ribs – SGD 22) so it was nice of them to share.
Asparagus and Burnt Cream (SGD 14). I ordered a selection of different starters, mains and desserts to get a feel of their cooking. This was my first appetizer. The asparagus was cooked perfectly – moist and still slightly firm. There’s a buttery sauce to go with it and the crispy panko crumbs sprinkled on top adds a nice texture. If you haven’t noticed, all the dishes here are BBQ-ed in their huge fire pit.
Salt and Pepper Pork Ribs (SGD 22) came in a huge portion for an entrée. The boneless pork ribs were topped with pickled cilantro, which adds a nice vinegary taste to the smoky pork ribs. They go very well together! Eaten on its own, the pork ribs wasn’t spectacular but the addition of the pickled aromatic herbs elevates it to another level. Good stuff.
Leek, Hazelnut and White Truffle (SGD 75). This was ordered by the couple beside me. The offered me a portion complete with white truffle. I liked the combination of the soft leek, earthy truffle and toothsome hazelnuts. I was very surprised my favorite dishes turned out to be their vegetable dishes. It’s done very well!
I like the casual environment in Burnt Ends. The chefs cook and plate in front of you and Chef Dave often introduce the dishes personally. The food is sometimes placed in front of you from right opposite the counter where the cooking happens, though shorter limbed chefs require the help of waiters to do that. It’s a different ambiance than fine dining restaurants so don’t come expecting that.
I couldn’t resist ordering their famous Burnt Ends Sanger (SGD 20). This is pulled pork shoulder, coleslaw, and chipotle aioli on a brioche bun. The flavor combination is decent but I didn’t feel this was anything special. It tasted very average to me. I gave half to the couple beside me coz there’s no way I could finish this entire thing and still eat the rest of dinner. I wouldn’t order this again.
Octopus, Hummus and Harissa (SGD 24). This was from the couple. I love the slightly charred octopus! It’s tender too, not chewy like how octopus can be if not cooked properly. I’ll definitely get this next time I’m in Burnt Ends. Very good.
Bone Marrow Bun (SGD 12). Hooooly shit! Hands down the best thing I’ve eaten that night. So sinful! So delicious! This is a brioche bun *slathered* with bone marrow before going into their fire pit. It’s so rich I tasted durian notes inside, which is impossible. Fucking good stuff! I’m salivating just thinking of it right now. I highly recommend this to go with your steak. Excellent.
Tenderloin, Burnt Onion and Bone Marrow (SGD 28 per 100 gram). This is a 95 gram portion for SGD 26.60. They show it too you before it’s cooked.
It was served super rare – just the way I like it. Check out the inviting color!
I also enjoyed the bone marrow sauce and pickled herbs served on the side. It helps cut down the richness of the steak. This one went swimmingly with the Bone Marrow Bun.
The couple gave me a slice of their Top Sirloin. This is an off-menu item, so I don’t know how much it costs. I suspect this cut of meat is pricey. They’ve been here before and asked for it. It’s really good! Too bad I was so full at this point I couldn’t eat more. They couldn’t finish their order too and asked me to help but I couldn’t stuff more than a slice down my throat coz I was at capacity.
It turns out it’s the lady’s birthday! She’s in her 50s! Very well preserved!
Chocolate Fondant and Smoked Ice Cream (SGD 12). Beautiful! The chocolate fondant is perfectly done with an oozing rich, chocolately center. The smoked ice cream is so intensely flavored they must have used smoke extract to make the ice cream. I refuse to believe such strong flavors can be infused naturally! It’s delicious. I love the flavors in the smoked ice cream and how well they go with the chocolate fondant. I’m a fan of peaty Islay single malts whisky though, which has a similar taste profile. I know some people don’t like peaty malts. If that’s the case, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this.
Oreo (SGD 3) and Chocolate (SGD 5). The chef gave me these desserts for free. Oreo is Burnt End’s take on the Oreo cookie. I found it quite meh at first but as I chewed the super crispy biscuit, it released more flavors and tasted better and better! Nice. The chocolate is cold and had a butterscotch filling. It’s very creamy and rich. Yums.
Marshmallow (SGD 2) arrived as another complimentary bite when I paid my bill. I like how they serve this hot, toasted marshmallow on a warm plate. There’s a nice crusty and crispy exterior and a melty interior. It’s not just one dimensionally sweet too – there’s citrus notes in the marshmallow!
Here’s a copy of the menu! I was searching for it before I was scheduled to come and couldn’t find it. Do note that the menu items changes every day though.
I enjoyed my Australian BBQ dinner at Burnt Ends. The proteins are mostly good but the vegetable dishes were the real star of the night! I didn’t have space for their King Crab and Garlic Brown Butter (SGD 95) but I’ve heard great things about it. I’ll just go for that and their Bone Marrow Bun next time. It sounds like a sinfully delicious pairing! I also enjoyed talking Michelin starred restaurants with the couple beside me, who’re also into fine dining. It was a very pleasant dinner. My bill came up to SGD 118.35 (RM 359) which is reasonable. I will be back.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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”.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 sushi came after and it’s a super fatty cut of tuna. The piece of tuna literally melted in my mouth. Yum.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.