Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Daniel Wellington : The Season of Gifting

With Christmas just a stone's throw away, and the shopping malls getting more congested with human traffic, it is no wonder shopping for that perfect gift can be more hassle than it's worth. But no one goes to a party empty, or not buy presents because it's something you do once a year, right? 

To me, gifting someone a timepiece is perfect choice of a present, especially if it's from Daniel Wellington. They have grown their range of watches over the years - from the classic white faces to new Classic Black with a sleek black watch face, paired with either rose gold or silver - one you know your man, or even woman will love as an everyday wrist-candy.

The Classic, one of the first ever watches launched by Daniel Wellington, is truly one that doesn't go out of style. With two sizes (the 40mm for men and 36mm for the ladies), it comes with either a silver or rose gold case, as well as different leather and nato straps to choose from. Perfect for a smart-casual day at work, and even interchangeable to the nato strap for the weekends.

For the gentlemen that like something more sleek and ladies who want something more chunky, the Dapper collection comes in a 38mm size, and also has a date function. With a selection of 6 leather straps and either a rose gold or silver casing, the watch looks slightly more formal compared to the classic, with the roman numerals on the white face - personally one of my favourites from the Daniel Wellington collection till date.

And for those who do not need to tell the time or already have a watch, the latest addition to the Daniel Wellington family is the Classic Cuff - a thin bracelet that comes in rose gold or silver, perfect from stacking with your other bracelets, or even a watch. There are two sizes - small for ladies and large for guys.

If you are still pondering if it's going to reach in time for Christmas, the answer is yes. Order by 21 December 2016 on Daniel Wellington's official website, www.danielwellington.com to get your gift on time. And if you were wondering if there's a present from me to you - enter '16NICHOLOGY' on checkout for 15% off your total order. No prizes for guessing what i'm gifting the people around me this year.

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Daniel Wellington.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sarkies Penang

Sarkies has been raved as the 'best buffet in Penang'. Sitting at the new Victory Annexe of the very established Eastern & Oriental Penang, the international buffet spread serves an extensive variety of local delicacies such as Penang's renowned fried kway teow that's fried a la minute, to a selection of fresh seafood including freshly shucked oysters.

The ambience of Sarkies doesn't boast anything pretentious despite being located at a 5-star establishment. One can expect comfortable chairs and even a seafront view with their al-fresco dining area - perfect for a gathering a group of friends to enjoy a great food, yet being able to enjoy the casual dining environment.

To start, there's a good selection of salads at the salad bar that offers a good variety. However, if you don't like your greens (like me), you can dive right into the seafood section that serves fresh seafood on ice including poached prawns, mussels and oysters.

From the international selection, there's a choice of sushi and sashimi from the Japanese section, as well as a live grilling station that has a chef flipping up grilled lamb shoulder, salmon and tandoori sausages. They also have cooked food dishes to fill you while you wait for the other stuff to be served, just in case the wait time gets too long, which thankfully wasn't the case.

Of course, Penang isn't complete without a taste of their local food. Besides the local fare such as char kway tiow and laksa, the roasted duck that has a counter on its own also deserves two thumbs up. Think crispy skin and flavourful tender meat accompanied by an in-house made signature sauce - if you are picky like me, you can even request for the specific part of the duck you fancy and they are sure to entertain the request.

If you like your cakes and dessert, there's aplenty at Sarkies that will leave you spoilt for choice. For something more local and to combat the weather, there's a station that serves shaved ice topped with syrups, coconut milk and other toppings like jelly and sweet corn, also known as Ice Kacang.

The buffet at Sarkies shouts nothing less than wow. It's understandable why people rave about it as one of the best buffets in Penang, given the quality and quantity of food items they offer. They run quite full through dinner so reservations are highly recommended. Be prepared to go on empty if you want to try at least half of everything!

Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Penang
10 Lebuh Farquhar
10200 Penang
+60 4 222 2000

This was an invited media tasting.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Kota Penang

I've tried tons of Peranakan food, but contemporary ones? Not so. Situated at Penang's historic and iconic landmark, Fort Cornwallis, is Kota - when Francis meets rempah. Think Peranakan food plated nicely and served in fine dining portions - definitely a first for me.

For starters, the Jumbo Platter is good for sharing. If you look through the menu and are spoilt for choice, this pretty much solves the problem. The ensemble of Malaysian snacks include Pai Tee Cup, a traditional Peranakan snack with a crispy shell encasing stewed turnips.

The choices of mains at Kota will also leave you with a dilemma. Portions are not exactly huge, so you may want to consider opting for two mains if you are a big eater like me, or if you are not out on a first date. The Nyonya is a beautifully crafted rice assemble with layers of blue coconut rice, topped with rendang, otak otak and achar. One of our favourite picks from the mains we tried that we felt still preserved the Peranakan essence while plated in a modern way.

The Kari (or curry) had a good kick of spiciness which we all enjoyed, topped with a puff pastry that resembles eating a pot pie. If you like your traditional marinated satay skewers, the Satay (also one of our favourites) is a must-try, with tender chicken roulade stuffed with rice, sliced up and drizzled with a roasted peanut sauce. You know satay, but a much fancier version.

Disappointing enough, there were hit and misses with the desserts. The Cream Brûlée that came served in three variations were a hit - comes in Gula Melaka, Black Glutinous Rice and Pandan. However, the Nasi Lemak Cake (yes, savoury for dessert) left us sitting on the fence, with sambal anchovies and a sweet yet savoury complicated flavour i just couldn't put together.

The restaurant isn't huge, and i can hear they get a little packed during dinner. Entrance fees are required but apparently will be off-set on your bill. Not the cheapest in terms of pricing, but honestly i haven't found another place that serves modern Peranakan food and i think it's worth the try at least once.

Kota - when Francis meets rempah
Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah
George Town, Malaysia
+60 4-371 4929

This was an invited media tasting.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sand Bar

Think barbecue, think loads of drinks and think beach. Sand Bar at Siloso Beach is exactly what you would describe a perfect Saturday evening chilling over drinks and freshly grilled seafood. Their Weekend BBQ that serves a never-ending flow of selected fresh seafood such as slipper lobsters, palm-sized tiger prawns and steak overlooking the sunset is the way to go if you are unwinding over the weekend.

The food spread ranges from a full on salad bar with grilled vegetables to freshly grilled seafood and of course, dessert. I have to admit that the spread and variety isn't the widest, but the ingredients include quality cuts of parma ham, alongside the fresh and succulent seafood, pretty much made up for it.

The ambience of wooden benches and sand beneath your feet also means there's no time for fancy clothing - just put on your tank-tops and flip flops are you are all set for the night. There's no dress code, and i don't think they will mind if you wear less, either - it's situated directly on the beach, after all.

Live music also plays throughout the night, with the bar closing only at 12 midnight (barbecue runs till 10pm). Away from the city and the crowd, with the beach vibes going on, i reckon chilling over a beer or two with all that seafood sounds like a perfect plan for any weekend.

Sand Bar
52 Siloso Beach Walk
Singapore 099012

This was an invited media tasting.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Through the eyes of a foodie with the Olympus PEN-F

It is hardly or never that you'll find me having a camera out with me for the whole day. Most of the times it's only to food tastings, or if i'm traveling. Being a foodie, i decided to bring it the Olympus PEN-F with me for a whole day of food snapping (and other random stuff)!

For a start, the camera has to be small-size and lightweight so that it is easy to carry around especially if you're going to be out the whole day. The retro design styling provides a nice 60's throwback and the premium quality of the PEN-F’s body line and silhouette was definitely a head-turner with people at cafes and places i went to!

I usually start my day with breakfast, an essential for me and (sometimes) can be a determining factor of my mood throughout the day. I mean, who doesn't like waking up to a hearty breakfast? On days i'm lazy, i pack stuff from Artisan Boulangerie Co. the night before! I extremely love their fruits tarts which comes topped off with fresh fruits and custard within. Their eclairs are also amazingly good - stuffed with a generous amount of filling!

And did i mention who watches me while i gobble down my breakfast? Meet one half of the two musketeers at home! He watches me while i eat and gives me the most unforgiving face, which i give in to most of the time. He ends up with a few cereal bits which makes him contented, if not happy enough. I usually have a hard time catching a clear shot of him, but not with the PEN-F. He is a bit camera shy (like how most dogs are) and have a tendency to move around when i whip the camera out. Thankfully for the hand held blur free shooting, it's easier to get a shot of him these days.

At noon, i'm usually off to meet friends for lunch (or brunch). One of my favourite cafes to go to is Boufe! Every part of the cafe is 'Instagram-worthy' - from their food to the minimalistic decor. Situated at Pheonix Park, the cafe gives off a very laid-back vibe, away from the bustling city, even though Orchard Road is just a couple of minutes away.

My favourite mid-day snack is this ice-cream sandwich from Pat and Stick's! First launched in Australia, they are now available in Singapore! You can get them at Providore @ Pasarbella and they have quite a range of flavours for you to choose from. I like the pecan, but if you like some chocolatey, go for peppermint chocolate chip. What is there not to love about creamy ice cream sandwiched between soft cookies?

And on to food again. One of the places i frequent is Rise & Grind Coffee Co. at Bukit Timah. They serve up brunch food till quite late, so even if you are hungry at some weird hour - you've got a place to go! Another place with artistically plated dishes, i like how most of the stuff on their menu are healthy yet delicious. Did i also mention that there's no GST and service charge?

I love how the PEN-F captures all the colours on the plate just with a few twist of the New Creative Dial that is located at the front of the camera. It's extremely simple and idiot-proof, almost like a point and shoot, yet it brings out each photo with such clear and vivid photos colours! Below are some photos that i took while playing with the Art Filter, Monochrome and Colour Profile Control feature.

This was the end-product after playing with the colour creator where i tweaked with the hue to give the photo an overall cool tone but still bringing out the vivid colours on the plate by adjusting the saturation.

The above two photos were taken with the PEN-F's Pop Art Filter II! Admit it - green isn't always the nicest colour for desserts but this looks good (and tastes great too), doesn't it? I love how the filter brings out the green colour while still capturing the smoky effect underneath. 

Taken with the Monochrome Dial. By taking away the colours, the filter brings out the dramatic effect of the coffee art as well as the overall vintage look and feel of the image. 

Fatcat Ice Cream Bar is one of my must-go places when i'm around the East. I popped by for a sneak peek of their new Korean inspired menu that launches this month - featuring renditions of the popular Korean Bingsu and other Korean desserts that were recreated. 

I love how the PEN-F allows me to play around with the hue and saturation of each photo - making it able for me to capture the colours on each plate without having to edit them on Photoshop. All these effects done in-camera, all with just a few twists and turns of the creative dial!

On nights i can't fall asleep - i creep out of bed for supper. One of my usual hangout spots is Da Lian at Jalan Besar. Besides serving up bowls and bowls of springy noodles, the place has amazing barbecued chicken wings as well! Since you are out for supper and it's already not the healthiest thing you should be doing - you might as well go all out!

24 hours with the PEN-F definitely got me hooked onto it. In my opinion, it's a great lifestyle camera to have when you're out with friends, or simply if you are looking at going on notch up from basic photography. Thinking about it, maybe it's time to find space for another camera to add to my collection!

For more information on the Olympus PEN-F,  do visit www.shopatolympus.com.sg!

Monday, March 28, 2016


CATO may ring a bell for some of you. They have been around for a few months now, sitting on the stretch of South Bridge Road. It boasts a concept of a bar and restaurant and they recently did a revamp on their menu, which now includes flavours from all over (literally).

On their new menu, you can expect a mixture of different cuisines on their tapas menu. Insipred from their Korean chef, the highly raved Korean Fried Chicken was served golden brown on the outside and juicy within. You also have the option to pick something with Japanese influence such as the Mentaiko Mac & Cheese. If you like seafood, the Crispy Squid or Fish & Chips are a great choice for sharing - both featuring highly addictive mouth popping goodness packed with lots of flavour.

For the mains, immerse yourself in Thai flavours with the Bangkok Lobster Risotto. Supposedly to have packed a tom yum punch, we felt that the tom yum flavour wasn't very distinguished. This also means that if you are not a fan of tom yum or spicy stuff - this dish is all for you.

Everyone agreed that amongst the mains we tried, the very unique and unusual Pineapple Pork Curry with Baked Rice stood out the most. Served in a fresh pineapple, the curry packed on a robust asian flavour that complimented the tender slices of pork, with just the right amount of rice on top. We heard that this recipe came from many generations back and is said to be one-of-a-kind in Singapore.

You can choose to end off your meal with a sinful Valrhona Chocolate and Pistachio Cake, or head on up to the bar and chill with lots of drinks at affordable nett prices. We were greedy - so we picked both.

The vibes at CATO definitely deserves a thumbs up - what more with great food. In our opinion, it's a place you would want to be at after a super long day at work, with comfort food and a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. Just so you know, the nearest parking is located at Club Street's open air car park, which may get a little packed at times. Looking at how crowded they were on a Wednesday evening, i reckon that reservations are highly recommended.

237 South Bridge Road
Singapore 058786
+65 82996434

This was an invited media tasting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fu Lin Men Dou Lao

When it comes to steamboat, i am extremely picky. For some, it may be a yearly affair, but for me it's more like whenever i feel like it. Steamboat restaurants are aplenty in Singapore, the buffets ones are more quantity than quality, and then you also have those like Hai Di Lao which are extremely overpriced and not worth the hype and money.

Fu Lin Men Dou Lao is an individual bespoke steamboat concept that promise quality with each scoop from your very own individual pot. This also means you don't need to worry if you have friends who are allergic to seafood, or for those who cannot eat a certain type of meat due to religious reasons.

Offering 5 kinds of soup, each soup flavour come with different pricing and represents a different element. The recommended one would be the Fu Lin Men’s Signature Golden Imperial Broth that represents the gold element. The soup is brewed for over 12 hours with fresh red carrot puree, chicken bone marrows, pork shin and thigh with skin and dry-aged cured ham - the broth gives off a slight herbal aroma and has a nice thick hearty consistency that just gets better when more ingredients are being tossed in. If you prefer a lighter alternative, there is a mushroom broth that is 100% vegetarian, as well as a tomato broth if you prefer some tangy goodness.

The quality dishes that they offer include Wild Bamboo Pith with Fresh Prawn Paste which gives off a nice crunchy texture filled generously with fresh prawn paste, as well as the Freshly Cultured Sea Prawns with Marbled Beef - best of both worlds from the land and sea.

What came as a surprise however, was the Family Bliss Freshly Handcrafted Dou Lao Meat Balls that can in different variations. Each ball had a good bite to it, and one even had chocolate inside, revealing a slight sweet bitter center. If you like your meat, be sure to try the Beer Marinated Marbled Beef, which allows you to soak the beautifully marbled beef slices in beer before dipping them into the soup.

Fu Lin Men Dou Lao is a place that's worth going at least once. Their prices are not exactly the cheapest around, but you are definitely getting quality that is worth what you are paying for. Did we also mention that free flow dessert bar and the wide selection of sauces at the sauce bar at minimal charges? We are definitely going back for more. Psst, they also have a selection of fine wine, and many many private rooms so you get to cheers and make as much noise and merry as you want without being judged.

Fu Lin Men Dou Lao
16 North Canal Road
Singapore 048828
+65 6532 7777

This was an invited media tasting.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore

Hotel Jen Tanglin should be familiar to some; it is Traders’ Hotel rebranded and revamped into a hippy, boutique hotel that exudes fun and a certain class at every corner. Starting at the lobby is a wall where colourful bikes hang as part of its interior design, to rooms with wood interiors and a mural by the bed, to present a homely feel to any travellers. There is even a wall near its bistro, J65, reserved for a mural by a renowned artist.

The design is stylish but never over-the-top. With simple designs playing with cool color tones and a bit of brass finishings from the furnitures, we found the room extremely cosy, equipped with the basic necessities like a mini-bar, toiletries and even a quirky looking alarm clock!

Hotel Jen Tanglin has not forgotten its roots as Traders’ Hotel, which is to provide convenience to businessmen as homage to the name. All Hotel Jen rooms come with many power-points at different corners of the room for the convenience to charge your various devices.

Hotel Jen Tanglin comes in the basic facilities of gym and swimming pool on its fourth floor. The pool retained its form from Traders’ Hotel – it is a humble pool that is wide and family-friendly, as opposed to the narrow strips of water in newer hotels.

One of Hotel Jen Tanglin’s plus point would be the easy access to Tanglin Mall, where one can get to eateries and go for grocery shopping. Walking further down Cuscaden Road will bring you to the bustling streets of Orchard. Staying at Hotel Jen Tanglin made me realize how nice it is to stay a slight distance from town, to enjoy a comfortable, quaint moment with myself.

Brunch buffet is served at J65 - the latest bistro of the hotel. The name is a nod to Singapore’s country code, and it offers a diverse range of food. Parts of Traders’ history still stays; Ah Hoi’s Kitchen is still part of the hotel if one is looking for their comfort food! For the travellers who needs a quick bite, there are takeaway options during breakfast, and even Jen's Kitchen On-The-Go if you need your coffee fix. The barista there makes a pretty mean cuppa, which definitely doesn't disappoint!

If you are staying in the club room, the club privilege is aplenty, with all day long snacks for you, which also includes a mini buffet spread which you can have over a glass of wine, or two. The 24 hours accessible club lounge also stocks up for supper, with cup noodles and fruits, alongside their full fridge of drinks.

Hotel Jen Tanglin brings a homely feel to travellers, evident in its interior design, location to its service crews. It remains a good choice (aesthetic and practicality-wise) for travellers and people looking for a rejuvenating staycation, away from noises and bustles.

Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore 
1A Cuscaden Road 
Singapore 249716 
+65 6738 2222 

This was an invited media session.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Ginza Yoshihiro

New kid on the block at Marina Mandarin Singapore is Ginza Yoshihiro, which took over the previous Japanese restaurant. Unlike the traditional Japanese restaurants, a sake bar greets you at the entrance of the restaurant - a place where you can chill over sake (and perhaps sushi) after work. With a selection of sake, i reckon you'll be spoilt for choice if you opt to be at the bar.

The restaurant specialises in oden, which appeared twice during the Kikyou Omakase (Lunch Set). The first was served with a tomato, while the latter with slices of pork belly. To be honest, the clear broth was conventional, nothing much to shout about, and neither were the ingredients that accompanied. I was expecting a juicy ripe tomato or tender slices of pork belly - but both tasted typically normal. 

The sashimi platter however, was exceptionally sterling - with fresh cuts of quality sashimi sliced to the right thickness and plated beautifully. However, only one sushi from the assortment of sushi served stood out - the uni. While the sushi was good, it was nothing to rave about and tasted just like 'ordinary quality sushi' - something you would get at any other mid-tier Japanese restaurant. 

For dessert, we were served cuts of strawberries on a bed of ice, topped with shavings of 'edible gold' - something my 8 year old niece would have been able to plate in less than 5 minutes. Again, not something i was expecting from them, and definitely didn't feel like it was 'value for money' for the price of the Omakase Set. 

While Ginza Yoshihiro doesn't stand anywhere close to the 'do not recommend' mark, i feel that the dishes they serve, with lots of hits and misses, does not exactly justify the prices on their menu. Or to put in straight to the point, i'll pick to have quality dim sum at Peach Blossoms (which is just one level up), or pig out at Aquamarine's buffet spread (which is just next door) over having mediocre Japanese food, any day.

Ginza Yoshihiro
6 Raffles Boulevard
Marina Mandarin Singapore
Singapore 039594
+65 6734 8842

This was an invited media tasting.