Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Max out on photo quota!

I just realised that I had max out on my 1G photo quota for this blog!

Wondering what I should do now?

Start a new blog?
Delete old post?
Give up blogging?

Damn! This is annoying

Food Review: Gunther@ Purvis Street, Singapore

Singapore is one those cities that appears to have many good dining spots but unfortunately in reality, I am often met with disappointing service, meal and/or value. In this rare occasion, I found a rare gem (by Singapore's standard) in Gunther's. 

It was my man's birthday and our wedding anniversary and I chanced upon reviews on Gunther's. The menu looked great, the reviews though mixed was veered towards positive. The positive experience starts with our email correspondence since I am residing overseas. The staff Yuliz was polite, prompt and projected a keen sense of hospitality service with care to details and apt questions for the night arrangements. I had enquired about flowers to be left at the restaurant and was told it could be dropped off anytime as there will always be someone around. I was not disappointed on the actual day itself. 

Starting with service.

It was rainy night and there were staff awaiting in the rain with brollies to meet their guest alighting from the cabs. Brownie points for that. After being warmly greeted, we were promptly seated in as quiet corner as possible as per requested. The flowers were swiftly brought out as per arranged and that was a nice "opening" to the night.

The dinner specials of the night was introduced to us once we were nicely settled down. Jit (I hope I gotten the name right) was warm and friendly, and patiently went through the list with us. He was non-pushy, affable and knows the menu list, the food prep and description of the dish was thorough. Before leaving us to think through our main and starter "choice", he left us with the option of possibly a choice of letting him suggest our dinner options should we be overly spoilt for choice. Everything sounded yummy!

In the end, knowing our goal was seafood and my husband was keen on the fresh lobster, he suggested the signature cold angel hair pasta with cavier, a shared pen shell starter for two, and a shared lobster thermidor. Whilst I was also gunning for the freshly oven baked meat, Jit was wise to tell me to hold that order, finish my lobster and see how I feel like later. He was right, I was truly too full to proceed on after my lobster main.

Food review

I am usually not a big fan on cold starters but the Cold angel hair pasta with Oscietra caviar was delightfully light and refreshing. On hindsight, I should have ordered one plate to share so that I could get another starter since the pasta was a good size portion. However we liked it so it's ok. The pasta had good consistency and texture and the flavor was definitely did not overwhelm, leaving our tastebuds nicely ready to sample the next dish.

The penshell with seafood consomme was another delight though I must admit the prawns in the consomme had a richer sweet flavor as compared to the actual shell meat. Everything was cooked right but some may expect a lighter broth version than what we had. However, the taste was just right for me and again, good portion size.

Our main was lobster thermidor and we had half each. I didnt think I would be full but I was wrong. By the time I was through, we were both very satisfied and this is the first time that I didnt want any more dessert. The lobster was fresh and succulent, nicely cooked such that it wasnt chewy yet retaining the full seafood flavor as any good chef worth their salt should with this dish. The pairing with the porcini mushroom was an excellent touch as it definitely enhanced the overall flavor for the dish and accentuate the lobster's flavor up a notch. The accompanying rice seemed to have a touch of lemongrass or something herby at least, and my partner loves it. 

By dessert time, I was struggling to decide. I didnt need more food but I had to since I was expecting the "Happy Birthday" candle moment. Between the apple tart, suze crepe and choc fondant, I was lost. My man wanted the crepe and I was trying to figure out how does one stick a candle on a crepe and so I forced myself to tell Jit to throw in the Choc fondant.

However what came next was a complete surprise. We were presented with a nice complimentary frozen fruit ice-cream like cake with a candle to boot! When all the birthday wishes and camera shots were done, Jit came to us and told us ever so kindly that he had actually not logged in our dessert order as he knew we are almost full. but he didnt want to ruin the surprise and so he still pretended to take our dessert order. I was grateful for his initiatives and consideration and gladly cancelled our dessert order since the complimentary cake was not only enough, but it was actually the type of cold dessert we were craving for:)

When we left, everything was in order. We were warmly given the birthday and happy anniversary greeting once more to round up the lovely night. One of the staff even chased after us just as we were boarding a cab, as my very contented satisfied birthday man had forgotten his birthday card left on the table.

Overall, we couldnt be more satisfied with the service and food. The bill came up to about SG$400, inclusive of a glass of dessert wine. To us, it was good value enough. Definitely infinitely better than the mediocre Ku De Ta meal we had earlier at MBS for the same price, even surpassing our experience at some of the Michelin places in Hong Kong.

Simple Honest Good Food. The chef has lived up to his vision and provided a food fare worthy of praise. This is one restaurant I would definitely look forward to returning to.

-Might be wise to come earlier so that you get the best pick of the specials since it's limited item.
- If you have special dietary requirements or allergies, best to remind server or inform during reservation as I recalled they did not reconfirm on any allergies precaution necessary to note during orders.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Small Handful of Singapore Bus Drivers going on strike

The news that caught my attention was Singapore SMRT PRC bus drivers going on strikes over wanting better pay. They boycott work and demand for better pay, citing comparison with drivers from Malaysia and Indonesia. (Source: Channelnewsasia: SMRT wage protest sees no-show by 62 drivers)

I support the idea of fair treatment to employees and I do respect these drivers hard work. However that does not translate into support for these foreign residents' idea of holding any company ransom via boycott of work. It is not the case that they are employed without a formal contract. It is NOT that these drivers did not know how much they are paid and the working hours before they took on the job. They should also know the company reserve the right to give increments as they deemed fit. If these drivers did indeed not know, then they only have themselves to blame for not doing due diligence.

I have no love for unreasonable behavior nor people as such. Succumbing to their requests and behavior will only serve to open a floodgate of problems in future. Everyone can just go on protest and strikes everytime they decided that they dont like the pay they are getting for themselves, or their peers get better pay increment than them. It's unbecoming to adopt and condone such tyrant attitude to hold employers by their balls over personal gains as such. I do not have all the details and perhaps they do have valid grievances but is this the best way going forward?

Unless SMRT has changed the drivers terms and conditions unilaterally, I see no grounds to acceding to their protest. If these drivers are so unhappy, then by all means, have the guts and resign and search for better paying jobs with whatever skillsets they have and can boast of. The exit door is there, 24hrs/7days. They just need to walk through it, Dont be a coward and cling on to the seat and act like an adult cry baby. However if the company has indeed been inapproperiate and unfair in its dealing, it should admit its internal oversight and system flaw. If the changes are in accordance to skillsets, eg Malaysian/ SG drivers can speak more languages than China drivers thus the pay difference, then even such should be made clear with followup actions. One cannot employ an employee not meeting all the checklist and then turn around to deal them an unfair card either.

Previously, the saga of local bus drivers protests had merits. That was when the company went ahead to change the working hours resulting in worse off pay package and longer working hours. That I can completely understand the angle the employees were coming from. However, I believe that went through proper channel of communication.

No. This is not about nationality card. It shouldnt be either. The person who is driving the bus is a fellow HUMAN. It doesnt matter where he came from or the accent.

Regardless of origins, every employee should indeed not be shortchanged unfairly.
However, there is a distinct difference between an employer acting in bad faith versus drivers wanting a bigger share of wages.

I asked my friends if they rem what Heathrow Airport and British Airways are renowned for?
We have seen what happened to Foxconn in China.

Strikes is a vicious and deterimental viral behavior, regardless the reasons.
Is that what I want Singapore to be known for in future as well?
No. Not really.
It will not bore well.

So I hope SMRT does what it should do bounded within the legal confines.
Letting them go freely with no further repercussion or let them stay on with trust that the company will review the benefits ACROSS the board for ALL DRIVERS at the same time at the yearly, biannual or quarterly review. However, please do not condone such behavior and give in quietly without proper accountability to the public.

We are better society than that.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Food Review: Rubato@ 3 Clover Way, Singapore.

I should have blogged this earlier but being sick right after being back from hols and catching up school work for my Jap test took up most of my time and energy.

Now that I am nicely settled back in again, before my next trip back to Singapore this Friday, I thought I should get my lazy arse moving and update my food review before I forgot!

This time back in Singapore, I headed out to Clover Way (Near Bishan/ Marymount Mrt) In late October to try out this eatery known as Rubato, serving Western Italian food.

Unassuming Exterior of Rubato

It was a "last minute" Sunday trip as my earlier email reservation 3 weeks before did not get a response until Saturday itself. I was kindly informed by Marcus that their email system had been down but they had booked us in for 4 anyway as per requested. That was nice, except that it was a desperate scramble to reconfirm if my original dining company was still free that Sunday on such short notice! Thankfully, they were! Phew!

Reaching there by car was easy but its not exactly a stone's throw away from public transport. Unless you know the private residential area well, walking there might be a real challenge esp from Bishan Mrt. I cheated and took a cab from town.

The setting is a small place. Sunday is their weekly buffet day too though we went ala carte since I wanted to try what exactly is their signature and recommended dishes.

Food thoughts.

1. The clams were good. Very sweet and succulent. (Pix in iphone. have to upload later). Definitely on my must order for shellfish lovers.

2. Their Signature grilled squid was nicely served moist, and cooked perfectly without becoming rubbery nor chewy. It was certainly a freaking huge squid by the way but shared between four adults, each still got a good tasting portion which works out great!

Signature Charcoal Grilled Squid.
 3. Honestly, I cannot rem the name of this as it was one of the seafood specials on the chalkboard that was heartily recommended to us. It was nice, but frankly, it wasnt their best work though I still love the clams.

4. The fresh pear salad. I definitely take issue with this. It was bland and the pear was not sweet. Ok, they are not in charge of a pear farm but if the fruit aint great, dont put it in and swap it to something else like red apple.

There was supposed, and I emphasized "suppose"to be balsamic vinegar in it but i tasted none. I'm not sure if it was because it took so long to deliver a simple salad that I had to enquire about it and Marcus took it out in a flash and someone in the kitchen forgotten the last dash. I did point it out to Marcus it was tasteless and he immediately whip out a separate dish of balsamic of vinegar, while explaining that they had gone "lightly seasoned". I didnt want to argue and have him taste the "TASTELESS" salad which did not had any hint or tinge of sourish vinegar. Only reason, service has been really fantastic to date and I was willing to overlook a simple oversight.

Seasoning aside, the salad was fresh and a good portion. Would suggest to go with a dash of mustard honey if I am the chef to give it a hint of sweetness in event the fruits are terrible.

Balsamic Fresh Pear Salad.
 5. Seafood rivioli.

I cannot comment since I didnt taste this but the company I had told me it was good. Reason why I didnt taste it was because I was getting rapidly filled up and the sauces across various dishes recommended to us were getting abit too similar for my liking.

Seafood Rivioli
 6. The pork belly....has got to be the only disappointing and terrible dish I had here today. The pork was chewy and definitely did not go well with the sauce. Sorry... crispy pork and that tomato sauce just dont go hand in didnt enhance the flavour or the natural sweetness that should come with fresh pork. Instead the accompanying sauce overwhelm my palatte and the tough chewy texture was pretty off putting. Sorry, gotto fail this dish and hope they take it off the menu or at least relearn to cook pork belly right. It should be soft and tender like braised meat with crispy skin that any chef worth their salt should accomplish easily, but not here. Avoid at all cost. Your $5 roasted chai siew pork belly from hawker is cooked way better than this. And living in HK where pork belly dishes are soooooo perfected as a staple dish, sorry, this pork belly is almost a cousin that should not be mentioned.

7. Ah...what meal is complete without the dessert. My good old choc fondant with ice cream, ordered with a cup of chamomile tea.

The cake was cooked perfectly. No faults there, yet equally no surprises there. I meant seriously, its decent but not wow woah spectacular. If you like normal, COMMON, comfort food type dessert, this is a fail proof order but its not mind boggling if you know what I mean. I am not expecting unsual creativity but at best, this is what any decent homemaker can make. Australia Sydney dining spots definitely serve way better desserts than this and I had more unique dessert downunder in smaller and more unassuming dining spots..

The next downside is the size of the tea. Seriously, for the amount that I pay, I expected a pot, or at least a bigger mug of tea. That cup worth only 3 gulp was frankly a little bordering on rip off. Dont serve in such a small cup. You can get bigger cup for that tea bag. Also, this place needs more variety in drinks such as offering fresh juice. Let's go healthy.

Now that we have gotten food review out of the way, let's talk about service.

Service here at Rubato is impecable in comparison to  general (APPALLING) Singapore hospitality service standard I am accustomed to. Marcus was friendly without being intrusive, food was served fast to a point we had to request the kitchen to slow down as we are still ploughing through 3 courses between the 4 of us.

However, the only small note was that the senior lady who was serving was so eager to recommend their signature dishes that I think she kind of overlooked that we over ordered. I really think that her knowing the size and portions should have controlled the items recommended as any good restaurants would. I am not at a Da Pai Tong or Steamboat buffet. So I felt we really over ordered and that did dampened the excitement by the end of it. However in the spirit that she had really wanted us to try the best, I could understand why she didnt rein us in. Secondly, seeing that many items we ordered had such similar sauces, she could have altered the order to a better mix. Like pizza or something. Then again, I guess this is when experience as a serving staff comes in.

While we were there, 3 other guests had their birthdays and all the staff sang birthday song. I did too with my added surround sound of sing along and clapping. Well, that's me. Of course unlike in Australia, where most birthday people will thank the crowd for joining in the birthday cheer, typical Singaporeans will just smile and ignore every other stranger seated around them. "Great" friendly attitude my fellow Singaporeans. Must be all those years of brain washing of "Never talk to Strangers" in case u get mugged or kidnapped taking a toll on the mental well being of these lot. You wonder why people are saying Singaporeans are a smile-less un-interactive lot.

Overall, I really dig this place and would come more regularly if only is was more accessible. However, I would recommend this place for sure for some of the great food highlights. Go check it out if you havent. You wont stay hungry for long in this dining spot. Just watch the waistline:)