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Archive for October, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Image Credit: Baptism

Let’s get rid of the monsters and ghosts, people. Happy Halloween!

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Ooi Japanese Dining

Like Nagomi at Cuppage Plaza, Ooi Japanese Dining is one hidden gem that I want to go back again and again. And again. Hiromi-san, the lady boss, is so charming and takes the effort to explain each and every single dish sent to our table so that the sensory assault on the palate is maximised.

Started with yamaimo somen ($9++), a refreshing appetiser of mountain yam thinly handcut and prepared to resemble somen noodles.

Gingko nuts are a secret love of mine. Mom always say that it’s not good to eat too much but I often do just that whenever there’s freshly de-shelled and cooked ones at home. Here, the shioiri ginnan ($10++) are roasted with rock salt and so addictive! Slightly nutty and delicately sweet~

It’s wonderful to be able to savour the special tofu ($9++) from Kyoto without flying to Japan! Love this lots, slightly creamy and a little mousse-like~

Hiromi-san brought this small spiky ball to the table suddenly… Guess, guess, guess what is it??

It’s not a sea urchin, it’s actually a chestnut! Steamed whole with the skin still intact, this kuri ni ($12++) is the sweetest chestnut I’ve ever eaten. One is sooo not enough!

The nama shako sashimi ($28++) comes highly recommended by Hiromi-san cuz Ooi is the only place in Singapore where one can have mantis shrimps served fresh in its rawest form. She even showed us a book on the subject, that’s how passionate she is about the food at Ooi!

I always try to have eel in any form at Japanese restaurants if I can. Ooi’s anago tsukeyaki ($20++) is L.O.V.E. The sea eel was grilled so perfectly, though the tiny bones in it were rather annoying. And chef included the edible soft bone of the eel on the side too!

The grilled sanma ($30++) was the only dish that didn’t generate a wow response from me. There’s nothing wrong with the Pacific saury, just not exceptional after all the previous hits.

Dinner ended on a light and sweet note, with fresh juicy fruits ($12++) from Japan: Kyoho grapes, nashi pear and kaki persimmon.

I don’t need to spell out how awesome Ooi is, do I? Simply put, I can’t wait to go back =) Ah, it’s going to be tough choosing between Nagomi or Ooi when in Cuppage the next time…

 

Ooi Japanese Dining
#B1-28 Cuppage Plaza
6737 4929

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Credit: The Red Balloon, Albert Lamorisse

As of 27th October 2010, there’s approximately 7 billion people in the world.

I’d count myself lucky if I have one, just one, friend out of that 7 billion people who is my red balloon.

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After conquering the long train ride from Prague, the first thing I did in Vienna was to (you guess it) eat!

I was so hungry that I finished these 6 delicious open-faced sandwiches from Buffet Trzesniewski in record time and washed them down with a small glass of Pfiff beer. This place is quite a hot spot in Vienna and justly so! Everything was soooo good, from the simple tomato and mushroom to the popular herring with onion and prawn with egg. Cheap, fresh and tasty, I love my lunch here!

Mariahilfer strasse 95

Dessert was waiting right across the street at Bortolotti, arguably the best ice cream parlor in Vienna. There are lots of flavours to choose from and we finally narrowed the list down to dark chocolate, pistachio, chestnut, blueberries, hazelnut and rum & raisin. I was happy with all the flavours; texture was very creamy and quality was top-notch!

7, Mariahilfer Strasse 94

And a raisin cinnamon pastry from the cute pinky Cafe Aida before I was ready to move on with the itinerary proper =) 

Mariahilfer Straße 101

Palaces are a big deal in Vienna.

There’s Schloss Belvedere, the two Baroque palaces built in the 18th century as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy…

… and there’s the Hofburg Palace, the winter palace of the Habsburgs who ruled over much of Europe, which also houses the renowned Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) today…

… and my favourite palace in Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace, the imperial summer palace of the Habsburgs with its gorgeous manicured gardens.

Besides palace, music rules in Vienna!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is probably the most famous Austrian musician everyone knows of.

Statue of Mozart in Burggarten.

Then there’s also Johann Strauss, the Austrian composer known as the “Waltz King”. 

Statue of Johann Strauss in Stadtpark.

And of course, Vienna’s landmark Opera: Staatsoper, the world’s greatest opera Mecca. And that’s when I took a break at Sacher Café (just behind the opera house) for the legendary dry Sacher Torte!

Guess what, I saw this quirky public Opera Toilet that plays classical music in the underground on the way to the Opera House. For just €0.60, you get to soak in all the music you want while doing whatever needs to be done. Talk about enterprising businessmen! -___-

And on the subject of enterprising Viennese businessmen, here are some in action. Dressed to the nines and trying to persuade tourists like us to purchase tickets for that night’s performance.

Of course, we didn’t buy the tickets from them cuz they’re so expensive! Thanks to Rick Steves, we queued for a Stehplatz (standing-room-only ticket) which was wonderfully cheap and gave us the option of leaving early if we wanted. Honestly, a three-hour opera is a lot of opera, and we weren’t sure whether we could endure it. Or so we thought.

We returned at around 7 pm that night and whoa, the locals attending the opera were very well-dressed in their gowns and suits. Anyway, buying the Stehplatz was a wise move cuz it allowed us to explore the beautiful interior of the building!

The opera itself was awesome! We thought we would get bored and leave after 15 mins max but no! We actually stayed till almost the end cuz the singing was full of emotions and so captivating. It didn’t matter that it was in a foreign language; there’s subtitles on the small screen in front of the seats so we could follow the story. This was easily my best moment in Vienna~

Hundertwasserhaus (designed by renegade artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser) is one odd building. The lines are irregular, the angles incongruous, and the exterior a colourful patch of work. What’s more, it’s a lived-in apartment! I’m not sure I’ll want to live there though, what with so many camera-toting tourists flocking there on a daily basis, LOL.

The Prater was somewhat disappointing. It had a tired look and nothing enticed us to stay longer than the time it took to photograph its most celebrated Ferris wheel, originally built in 1896.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Austria’s most eminent Gothic edifice, houses the venerated Pötscher Madonna painting and on the cornor of Stephansplatz is Haas Haus, in whose facade one can see the mirror image of the cathedral.

After that, it was an easy stroll to Neuer Markt via Kärntner Straße (the most famous shopping street in central Vienna) where there’s lots of cafes and restaurants surrounding the square.

To me, a reliable way of differentiating the good and bad not-as-good eateries is to see whether there’s a crowd, especially on a weekend. Le Bol, a French bistro, was packed to the max on that Saturday and I know the reason why after we were served. Service was friendly, our smoked salmon tartine and croque monsieur were tasty and came in enormous portions too! 

Neuer Markt 14

Of course, Vienna being the city of cafés, I tried to visit at least one café per day for the quintessential Viennese coffee house experience. Each coffeehouse comes with its own individual character and no one does cozy interior design as well as the Viennese.

Smoky atmosphere, dark furniture, comfortable benches, and moody waiters, that’s Café Westend (above). The Wiener schnitzel and breaded cod fillets were so-so, and very over-priced. Not recommended since there are much better ones elsewhere~

Mariahilfer Straße 128

Now, Café Central is another story. Opened in 1860, it’s known as a key meeting place of intellectuals, writers and revolutionaries who would change the world (Leon Trotsky, anyone?). It’s exactly what I imagine a grand Viennese café to be like. And thumbs up for the fried egg with asparagus and homemade Viennese style square noodles! 

Herrengasse 14, in the Innere Stadt district

If I’ve got to choose my favourite café in Vienna, it would be Café Sperl. It dates from 1880, and is still furnished identically to the day it opened — from the coat tree to the chairs. Even the dear old man manning the counter looks like he’s been with the café since its beginning. Everything we tried was good, from the Wiener schnitzel and sole with potatoes, to the to-die-for chocolate torte and apple strudel (we still love Demel’s version more)!

Gumpendorfer Straße 11, just off Naschmarkt near Mariahilfer Strasser

My overall impression of Vienna is pretty good… The pace of life is slow, and if you like classical music or imperial grandeur or just a good apple strudel (I’m in this category), you’ll love Vienna =)

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Words of a Wise Man

Image Credit: Deadmarch

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The Garden Slug

Calling all Easties! Bookmark The Garden Slug if (a) you like Western-style homemade comfort food; (b) you are thinking of where to head out for a meal with friends/family without breaking the piggy bank; (c) you are a big eater; (d) all of the above =)

Portions here are hearty so big eaters will rejoice! Prices are reasonable and affordable, GST and service charge are waived, so it’s all value for money at this rustic homegrown neighbourhood diner. The menu is extensive and oh, did I mention they serve all-day breakfast too?

The Ugly Salmon Cakes ($14.90) ain’t too ugly. These are hand-molded so don’t expect perfectly shaped pan-grilled patties of savoury salmon and hand-mashed potatoes. Tasty but it would have been better if they are drained before serving cuz the pool of oil pretty much ruined the salad (think soggy greens).

A huge portion of pan-seared dory fillet ($17.90) on a bed of mash.

Bangers and Mash ($13.90): Two thick herby german bratwurst pork sausages atop real mash (i.e. with LOADS of butter) and beef brown sauce.

Multi-grain roast beef sandwich ($9.50) with mozzarella and mushroom, choice of chips or vegetable sticks on the side.

The week’s dessert: layered ice cream mudpie with secret pleasures ($10.50). Monstrous in size, this requires the combined effort of 4 to polish off. While I wish that there’s more ice cream, the layers of pretzels and nuts and cookie dough base are pleasing to crunch on. And what I love most is the cured balsamic strawberries on the side while the warm caramel Baileys butterscotch just make this even more sinful, I like!

Pear William ($8.50) is lovely in simplicity. Stewed in white wine and cinnamon, the fragrant pear is soft and tender without crossing into the mushy state. Though the ball of vanilla gelato is not homemade, it’s still great when paired with the pear, especially with the specks of vanilla bean in it!

FYI, the quirky name doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a generic name that allows freedom to diversify and expand into anything the owners want. And what a great ice-breaker too!

The Garden Slug
55 Lorong L Telok Kurau
#01-59/61 Bright Centre
6346 0504

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Happiness is Easy

Credit: Charles M. Schulz

Are you a Snoopy or a Lucy?

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