Friday, April 26, 2013

La Viva

With the booming food and beverages industry in Singapore, Tapas is becoming increasingly popular amongst its people. It is not easy to spot a good Tapas restaurant in Singapore but La Viva is one of the few dining options that serves authentic Spanish dishes to savory contentment.

Located in the heart of the city at Chijmes, the Diagon-Alley-risque style avenue is a perfect spot for chilling couples and friends to hang out for drinks and food - they offer alfresco and indoor dining.

La Viva offers one of the most extensive range of Sangria, a wine punch typical of Spain, Portugal and Argentina. In this case, since La Viva is Spanish, so we are referring to Spanish Sangria. The different kinds of Sangria include the typical Spanish Red Sangria, as well as fruity options such as apple, strawberry, cranberry.

We had the La Viva Red, which had bits of finely diced apples in it but my partner didn't take fancy to it due to its intensity from the red wine. However, the Tropical Sangria with fresh pineapples, lychee and fresh mint leaves was a lot more quirky and out of the ordinary. I'll recommend the latter more.

One of the most common gastronomic speciality you can find all over Spain - Tortilla Espanola. Egg lovers will find that the traditional Spanish omelette is compact in texture and the bits of potato dices in it makes the dish very filling. It is minimally seasoned which brings out the taste of the main ingredient - eggs.

The next we tried was the Cangrejo y Calleta. The fancy name simply translates to chili crabmeat on a cracker. The flossy crabmeat is doused in spiciness and robust in flavors especially since it is specially seasoned in house. However, the downside is that you can tell that the crabmeat came from a can within your first mouthful.

The fancy names does not stop there. We were recommended the Albondigas con Tomate which were pork and beef meatballs topped with homemade tomato sauce. The meatballs were cooked medium and i was expecting them to come out dry due to its size (yes, they were quite huge). Fortunately, they turned out perfectly cooked and the tangy homemade tomato sauce gave it that extra zest.

We were also served with the Croqueta de Pollo. Unlike normal croquettes, we were told that there was no potatoes in this one, rather it is a mix of cheese and minced chicken. However, both my partner and i could not taste any of that. Perhaps it is due to the extra savory garlic mayonnaise to that effect. Nonetheless, the crispy croquettes were a delight.

One of my favorite dishes at La Viva is the Potatoes y Chorizo. The potatoes tossed with paprika (one of my favorite spices), chorizo slices and onions were beyond amazing. The chorizos were slightly salty but the potatoes eventually evened the saltiness out when eaten together.

For those who don't like potatoes, you should try the Chorizo con Ajo y Vino. This simple dish of chorizo with garlic and wine, which was simply quite delish on its own. We had it with the Goat Cheese, which took the chorizos to a whole new level. However, the Goat Cheese on its own didn't really leave an impression. Unlike the French version, the Spanish cheese is harder but less pungent.

The last of Tapas we had was the Necora Frito. The deep fried soft shell crab however, didn't impress. The batter could have been crispier and the cocktail dressing accompaniment tasted a bit like our regular thousand island dressing. The crab wasn't as meaty as i expected it to be as well, but if you enjoy sinking your teeth into crispy stuff and hearing the sound of crunch, you really can't fault this dish.

Tapas cannot be complete without Paella. This particular seafood - Paella de Mariscos is a whirl-spread
of clam, salmon, squid, prawn and mussels. All ingredients are fresh and the zest of lemon really brings out the freshness to flavor. The rice is well-managed - not too overcooked or moist and the imperfect charred bits of the rice bring the dish to savor.

For desserts, we had the Mango Creme Brulee and the Caramel Custard. Mango Creme Brulee came as a delight especially since it is made in the house with fresh pureed mangoes (you can actually taste the fibre) which was rich in flavor and does not taste artificial at all. The Caramel Custard,  however, was a little more of a letdown because it was not sweet enough in our opinion. However, certain people may acquire the taste since the egg white in this custard is brought out more prominently as a result. The raspberry, blueberry and strawberry were fresh and sweet to munch on.

In all, the food at La Viva pretty much made the mark. Service was also excellent with our plates being changed in between a few dishes. The only turn off will have to be the parking at Chijmes, which will ironically set you back by $10 per entry - this is more expensive than an average plate of Tapas at La Viva. Prices at La Viva are generally reasonable (like what i mentioned earlier in comparison to the parking charges) and for the quality of food they serve, i'll gladly be back for more when my Tapas craving hits me again.

La Viva
30 Victoria Street
Chijmes, #01-12/13/14
Singapore 187996
+65 6339 4290

This was an invited media tasting.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


How far would you go for food? MUSEO is a restaurant and barroom located at Quayside Isle, a new hip hang out place among Singaporeans located at Sentosa Cove, which is a good getaway away from the bustling city.

With a clear view of yachts and possibly a potential sunset with an unobstructed view, you can expect a comfy meal at MUSEO in an elegant and refined setting. And if you were wondering what is the meaning of "art on the isle", it means you can also art jam (paint) at MUSEO - perfect for parents who want to enjoy their meal while their kids have fun exploring their creative side.

Their menu offers an extensive range of cocktails specially created for the restaurant. They also offer  "dietary cocktails" if you happen to be watching the waistline and most of their cocktails contain fresh fruits in them. If you are a fan of Arteastiq at Mandarin Gallery, you'll be glad to know they serve the exact same teas at MUSEO as well.

We skipped the dietary ones and went for the classics. I was recommended the Berries Galore which i found pretty mediocre while the partner went for the Earl Grey Chocolate Tini, which we both didn't really know how to appreciate. However, we were recommended the Thyme and Grapes from the dietary menu, which made up for the exquisite and awkward taste we couldn't quite understand from the Earl Grey Chocolate Tini. The Thyme and Grape has vodka, sake and fresh grape juice in it but there wasn't a hint of alcohol at all (or maybe because we are guys), it tasted just like refreshing fresh grape juice.

Another of my favorite that i will be back for is the Beer Slush at MUSEO. We had the Strawberry Cider which they made into slush. It uses a machine to create beer into beer slush without over-freezing it. And yes they can do this for any beer you order at MUSEO, just that you will probably have to be patient and wait awhile. I recommend the fruit flavors, and promise you that you will look at beer in a different way after your first sip.

The Mezzanine is something you will see on almost every table at MUSEO. The concept of having four different side dishes on a tray is pretty innovative. There's a list of items you can choose from (named after famous paintings), or if you are the indecisive sort, there's also a pre-set one with their popular items for your convenience. The set is good for two to share, or more if you are just hanging out over drinks with a few friends.

We had the Smile of Mona Lisa (Deep Fried Camembert Cheese) which was served with cranberry sauce. It was very rich in flavor and had a very crispy exterior and although i didn't like it better with cranberry sauce, adventurous people who like to mix flavors around might like it.

The Monet's Garden of Lilies (Mango Prawns) however, did not really impress. The dressing was tasty but the chunks of prawns were slightly too small to savor the entire dish properly.

One of the recommended items is the Joys of Life (Roast Pork Belly) that came with hot sauce. The roasted pork belly tasted more like pork knuckle instead of belly and the meat, although moist, came off a tad too tough. The skin of the pork was crispy and it went well with the hot sauce, which tasted and looked like sweet chili.

My favorite of the lot was the Three Musicians (Soft Shell Crab). The crispy and evenly battered soft shell crab was served with a tangy chili tomato sauce which resembled the taste of Singapore's signature chili crab.

I had the Two Way Lamb which left me with mixed feelings. The shepard pie had a layer of cheese on smooth and creamy potato mash and there was a decent amount of lamb chunks in tomato base beneath. However, the lamb rack, although nicely seasoned was overcooked to the extent i had problems cutting through the meat without worrying about whether it would fall off the plate.

A better choice of entree would be the Pan Roasted Cod Fillet. The delicate cod fillet had a generous amount of onion relish on top of it which added a lot of flavors and the fish was tender and fresh with minimal seasoning. The baked scallops were also fresh and not overcooked. Of course, the light risotto with shaved parmesan was also given the thumbs up by the partner.

For dessert, we had the Strawberry Crumble, which i am very certain i would come back for. The red wine stewed strawberries with crumble was served hot (not warm) and paired extremely well with the champagne vanilla gelato. There was a generous amount of strawberries underneath the crumble and i recommend this to share, especially after a heavy meal.

While MUSEO definitely isn't a place that will be "on the way", it is definitely a place one could use to unwind away from the city crowd. And while you won't exactly find the cheapest prices on their menu, the view from the restaurant is already pretty priceless, unless you own a lavish apartment at Sentosa Cove, which will set you back by a few millions. The question is - how far would one travel just for food?

31 Ocean Way, Sentosa Cove
Quayside Isle, #01-22
Singapore 098375
+65 6734 8066

This was an invited media tasting.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Singapore Class - So What Exactly Is It?

My Paper published an article on 16 April 2013  - "Is Singapore Class an insult?". Honestly, "Singapore Class" can refer to many things, but in this case, the conversation between DC* and me has clearly shown that he referred to "Singapore Class" as a class lower than himself.

While others were quick to point fingers at me, with comments that i am being petty, too sensitive and showing signs of inferiority complex, i would like to clarify once again that the post was not written with the intention to gain sympathy as if i was a victim of someone trying to specifically degrade me.

Instead, what i clearly wanted to put through was the point about DC* creating a class labelled as "Singapore Class" when there clearly should not be any class differentiation in Singapore among Singaporeans - we are all equal.

The post was also not written with an intention to put DC* down or make any defamatory accusations about him. I never intended for it to go viral even though i am a blogger of sort, but netizens were quick to discuss this issue, which later caught the attention of the mainstream media.

I was asked by DC* on Monday, 15 April 2013 to retract my post, which i politely declined to. During the persuasion period, i asked DC* what exactly was "Singapore Class", to which he evaded the question, again. Prior to that, no apology was given pertaining to this issue. I would like to believe that his main concern was for me to retract the post.

I would also like to highlight that because this issue has been widely discussed among forums and on websites, i do not have control over what has been posted on other sites. As My Paper reported - "Some netizens who took offence at the term "Singapore Class" flamed DC on the Hardwarezone thread, and even posted his personal particulars. "

This incident has taught me that one should not be quick to shoot his mouth off. Such untactful comments made by DC* creating a different class between Singaporeans was uncalled for, especially from someone with such high education standards. I would like to specifically re-quote what Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said "We should be more sensitive and respectful of one another."

Another thing i learnt is the new term "Singapore Class", which so unfortunately i (or if i may say we) will never know the real meaning behind those words. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Singapore Class

This post isn't going to get any classier than the title above. Define "Singapore Class" for me, if there is even such a terminology to begin with at all. It all begins one day when a few of my friends were discussing about my blog and about the food i review.

DC* : "Eh Nicholas, why don't you write about hawker food?"

In a joking manner, i replied : "I think it is more classy to write about restaurants."

DC* : "Your class is Singapore Class."

To make things clear, i don't think hawker food is not classy. I was merely passing it off as a remark. I love hawker food and i think they are exceptionally yummy, despite the fact that i have to sometimes queue at my favorite stalls just to satisfy my craving for a particular food. 

I don't write about hawker food because there is a limit to what i can expand - there isn't much to write about (unless it is a comparison of the same type of food from different stalls). As Singaporean as i actually am, i still love and do Instagram photos of hawker food every now and then. Then again, my point is that i was joking when i made that comment about being classy and only writing about restaurants. 

However, i don't think calling someone "Singapore Class" can be taken into context as a joke. After he made that comment, i asked him what he meant by "Singapore Class" and i remember him saying something along the lines that he didn't mean it that way. In short, he felt bad after making a rude snide remark at me saying i am "Singapore Class".

Here's a little bit more about DC*, in case you want to know (to be honest, i am contemplating on revealing his real name at the end of this post). DC* went to the very prestigious Raffles Institution and went on to study at Yale University upon receiving the Singapore President's Scholarship in 2008. 

For your info, the President's Scholarship is the most prestigious scholarship in Singapore. In this case, i am very certain DC* isn't the more prestigious ones amongst the recipients. How can someone in the right mind who has taken a scholarship from Singapore (yes, his own country) call me "Singapore Class"? While many people who had taken such a prestigious scholarship from a meritocratic state ended up in high-rank, governmental positions, i am skeptical and at the same time worried for the future of our home country if he were to take charge of our national affairs - with his poor character and moral ethics.

I wonder if it is because he graduated from Yale University and thinks that he no longer labelled as "Singapore Class" but instead "American Class" or even "Elite Class". Why would someone so smart possess such degrading and arrogant behavior? And who is he to say i am "Singapore Class" when Singapore has funded for his education that his parents could probably never have been able to afford and put him through? 

There is only one word to describe him - ungrateful. Going to an Ivy League university does not make him an elitist, neither does it make him more superior than others in terms of character. Yes, he may be smarter, but a complete turn off when he makes self-righteousness remarks labeling "Singapore Class". What right does he have to call me "Singapore Class" when he has no class of his own, except maybe a "class" from Yale. Yes, i meant a class(room).

The point i am putting through is that DC* obviously wants to be the minority and have exclusivity. I however find it bewildering that he does not understand the nature behind me making that statement that i do not write about hawker food and decided to say i am "Singapore Class". Not withstanding that the aftermath conversation happened to evolve to imply that i am just like the masses amongst Singapore. Thus a scholar finds that the masses are shallow; he deemed to be or so his Yale education thinks we are. 

DC* is someone i have worked with before and he comes of as someone who is self-righteous and will make sure things go his way. Of course, like in most government sectors, being a scholar gives him an advantage - being more likable and "sought after". If a scholar can call a common man "Singapore Class", then what is he? Higher class? If so, is he sowing differentiation which the government is opposing?

The reason I'm dedicating this post regarding this issue is primarily to question the suitability of candidates hand-picked for the President Scholarships and at the same time, to give a thought about our nation's future. With many older generations flaming comments about the neo-generation and their attitudes amidst the changing times, I'd like to stress that humility is the way to go. Hubris will only erode one's character and one will not go far in life.

Speaking of classiness, a colleague once gave him a ride back and he offered to pay my colleague 50 cents for a 30km car ride. Indeed, you can pay for school but you can never buy class. And if you are itching to find out just who DC* really is - Google is your best friend.

Update : Read about "Singapore Class - So What Exactly Is It".

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gumtoo Designer Temporary Tattoos

You may have noticed my recent Instagram pictures of tattoos and may be wondering why have i recently gotten so many tattoos. Firstly to clarify, i am not psycho. Tattoos are super "in" these days among youngsters but statistics has shown that 6 out of 10 people who get inked regret doing it.

And before you start pointing fingers at me saying i am trying to be "cool" with so many temporary tattoos on me, i also want to clarify (again) that i have them on for fun and not because i want people to think i have real tattoos.

Enough of clarifications (i believe you got my point), Gumtoo is a designer tattoo company based in Singapore with designers from around the world. They have a huge range of designs you can choose from on their site - some fun, some quirky, and a few kiddish ones for the kids to have fun with.

Best of all, they don't look like temporary tattoos. You know how some temporary tattoos come out shiny and next thing you know you get people mocking you for putting one on? I tried Gumtoo temporary tattoos on and some of my friends got fooled into thinking i got inked. Of course, the ones that didn't get fooled were the ones that know me best - that is, i am scared of blood, so doing the real thing is going to take me more than just courage. 

Also, i had a Gumtoo temporary tattoo on for two weeks and the tattoo has not faded since then. It is that lasting as compared to other temporary tattoos which will probably last you a couple of days. If i had my pick, i would go for the Typography Collection which has wordings such as "Fly" and "Refused", which i think make pretty cool "party accessories".

Another one which i liked was the "On Off" buttons from the Quirky Collection, as well as the "Zippy" from the Accessories Collection which is one of my favorites among all the tattoos at Gumtoo. Each temporary tattoo is made in USA (yes, not China so rest assured about the quality) and comes with instructions at the back of each temporary tattoo. Give it to a 7 year old kid and he/she will probably know how to work it by themselves - it is that easy and simple. They are also tested safe for the skin and does not cause skin irritation or allergy.

The best part about these temporary tattoos is that they are not going to cost you an arm or a leg, since that is where you will probably be placing them on. They comes in sets of two, which also means you can give one to your friend, or keep it for another occasion. Each set of two is approximately SGD 5, which works out to about SGD 2.50 per temporary tattoo - pretty reasonable in my opinion.

They offer free shipping within Singapore and SGD 2 for international shipping. I also really like their packaging which comes in a customized brown envelope. If your items do not reach you, drop them a mail, no questions asked and they will send you another.

And yes, if you don't like the design, take it off and stick a new one on - painless and fun. Really, unless you are certainly sure you want a specific tattoo looking back at you when you stare into the mirror for your whole life, i think you could use one from Gumtoo for now. If you don't find one you like for now, fret not because they update their site regularly with new designs and like i mentioned earlier, they have designers from all over the world.

They are also available at Actually Singapore, located at 29A Seah Street and 118A Arab Street, in case you are the impatient sort that cannot wait. But of course, given the pretty funky designs they have, it's perfectly understandable if you are getting a little impatient -

This post was brought to you by Gumtoo.