Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chef Carles Gaig's Summer Menu

The lovely vibes of La Ventana and the consistent standards of food have kept me visiting fairly often. I like its paella and the friendly dishes on the menu. This August, Chef Carles Gaig was in town to present a summer menu of seven courses focusing on black truffles, turbot, and Presa Ibérica. Hopped in with the friends for a taste.

Loved the ajoblanco (a white gazpacho with green grapes and green apples as opposed to the red with roasted tomatoes and red peppers)cold soup of garlic and fresh almond with marinated Atlantic cod and the super decadent cannelloni stuffed with summer truffles and cow cheese with truffle cream. Mmmm. These were welcomed calories. The deep fried octopus with sweet potatoes were good too. Tough to go wrong with fried stuff.

Turbot and lobster suquet.
I'm not keen on the seared duck foie-gras and cherries soaked in Cassis or the charcoal-grilled Presa Ibérica with pimentos del Padrón. Or rather I passed the meats to my dining companions but ate the cherries, morels and Padrón peppers. Didn't bother to request for seafood replacements or vegetarian substitutes. Of course I didn't pass on the fish. That's my main protein! It was done in a suquet (Catalan seafood stew) of juicy turbot and lobster. Luckily I saved a piece of bread to go with it. :P It was gorgeous.

I didn't know what to make of the dessert, which was a pineapple cannelloni stuffed with vanilla mousse with burnt whisky infusion. The whisky used was not very nice. I kept wanting it to morph into a Malibu pineapple cocktail or rum, or just a plain single malt with citrus notes, but not in this fashion on the plate. Anyway, I never care about desserts.

This isn't an inventive menu, which is what I like about La Ventana. They do what they know best. These are well-thought-out familiar dishes excellently cooked. That's all that's needed. That's exactly what I look for in a meal of comfort foods.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sardono W. Kusumo's Dance Art

Under the umbrella of The Sardono Retrospective at SIFA 2016, Indonesian artist Sardono W. Kusumo performed this two-hour piece in front of an audience over two days last weekend. It was lovely weather for an outdoor performance in the late afternoon from 5pm to 7pm.

We watched the artist paint onto an elevated large canvas as seven other dancers move around with four huge canvases at the fountain of the Malay Heritage Center. The canvases began blank and were slowly colored by the spray of the fountain and whatever colors the artist chose to splash on it. I'm so impressed that the venue took extra effort to consider the cleaning up after the show, and allowed for such a form of artistic expression and ink to flow out of the fountain instead of the usual clear water. It made for a enjoyable show.

Sardono Kusumo is a dancer who has danced for most of his life, and now, he's a painter. He has taken both art forms and expressed them on big-frame canvases. He said that it's not so much about the visuals and creating a museum-worthy piece. It's more of understanding how the paints and oils could dance for the artist as well as the audience.

The dancers twirled and rolled about in the thin columns of black spray. The friends whispered, "Hope they're using non-toxic paints." Yah man. We could smell the ink, reminiscent of the type used in Chinese painting. The dancers were thoroughly soaked. Shuddered at the thought of the paints going into the eyes or if the dancers have allergies. UGH. But the dancers' costumes didn't absorb the black ink. The costumes looked like stylized wetsuits. Very cool.

I happened to like one of the paintings very much, especially how it formed its character at the at the 1.5-hour mark. That was fairly complete, I thought. Then more colors were added and I didn't like it so much after all. Picked another favorite in black and blue as the performance ended and no more colors were added to the mix. Loud appreciative applause was given to all the performers for this unique audience experience.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Went to Kite for dinner with the friends when we were all zonked after a long day of meetings. None of us have been there. Picked it because our last meetings for the day were in the vicinity and we weren't in a picky mood about food. Hahahaha. The restaurant is more than six months old and ought to have ironed out most kinks. The people behind SPRMRKT founded Kite and put together a team for the bar and the kitchen. Cocktails were good and their choices of beer were fine.

The friends bravely ordered dehydrated chicken skin with bourbon glaze and juniper. Hahahah. The kitchen had thoughtfully rid as much fats as possible and it was delicious. Heh. The somen was fun. I wanted to try its leek and prawns in lupcheong oil, but that was on the old menu. :( What they had that night was somen with scallops, unagi and tobiko. It's difficult to get this wrong. I love these sort of flavors in a bowl. Couldn't resist the sous vide salmon trout at 42°C with seaweed, apples and sesame (which were effectively furikake). Also had the tiny bits of delicious lime sambal stingray with calamansiserundeng and grain foam.

There was a 300-day grain-fed wagyu onglet with bulgogi salsa, burnt corn and shishito peppers. The table didn't mind a wagyu onglet in the same way they don't mind a rump that's wagyu. Erm, I didn't see or taste any shishito peppers in this one. They looked and tasted like random leafy vegetables. A pity. There was a Mangalica pork collar with you tiao velouté and spiced broth. The friends liked it. But I'm not a fan.

The dessert they ordered was damn weird- panna cotta with pink peppercorn, strawberries, coriander and coconut. Totally out of my comfort zone. The friends didn't mind it. t was surprised they didn't order all three desserts on the menu. While the chocolate forest was conservative and likely dependable, the yuzu curd sounded interesting with its milk soil, wolf berries and lime yoghurt.

We didn't have any expectations of the restaurant. Portions are small, but good for sharing between two people. Order double portions for a table of three or four. We were fairly pleased with our meal. It was pretty good in its interpretation of Asian fusion. It's not mind-blowing, but they offer flavors I'd do at home. On nights I don't feel like cooking, dining out at Kite is a great convenient alternative. I hope it survives the cut-throat F&B scene and hang around for a while.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Infinite Jest

Watched 'The End of the Tour' (written by Donald Margulies, directed by James Ponsoldt) last month and realized I haven't read David Foster Wallace's 1996 'Infinite Jest'. The movie kinda summarizes the author's life. He committed suicide in 2008; apparently he couldn't get over his depression in spite of getting help and medication. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)

Found a digital edition of the book in the Kindle cloud that included a new Foreword by Tom Bissell. Wow. Let's see, 'Infinite Jest' is a story of dystopia written in 1996 which is still relevant today! Humans haven't evolved much huh. What is happiness? Why does the entertainment industry dominate our lives? North America, a junior tennis academy, substance-abuse recovery center, suicide, entertainment and advertising, US-Canada relationship, and oh, Quebec separatism. Perhaps we could add in reality shows.

Dunno what my problem is, but I just can't get into the story. Took two sittings to finish it. Was left bemused after flipping through a thousand pages. The sentences and the phrasing; the rhetorical statements, circumstances and pauses. The thoughts run helter-skelter. They drove me nuts. Either I'm too tired this week to chew on it, or it's just one of those 'not my kind of books'.

In Tom Bissell's Foreword written in November 2015, he opined four theories about why the book "still feels so transcendently, electrically alive". The Foreword helped loads for me to figure out different perspectives about the book. In the first theory, he views it as "a novel about an “entertainment” weaponized to enslave and destroy all who look upon it..... the first great Internet novel" warning against being enslaved by popular entertainment long before social media took over our lives.

And here, really, is the enigma of David Foster Wallace’s work generally and Infinite Jest specifically: an endlessly, compulsively entertaining book that stingily withholds from readers the core pleasures of mainstream novelistic entertainment, among them a graspable central narrative line, identifiable movement through time, and any resolution of its quadrumvirate plotlines. Infinite Jest, in other words, can be exceedingly frustrating. To fully understand what Wallace was up to, the book bears being read, and reread, with Talmudic focus and devotion.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A 'Monkey Walk' at MacRitchie Reservoir Park

There was a period when my estate was plagued by a troupe of monkeys who climbed up the balconies in search of food and enter apartments that had forgotten to close the heavy balcony doors. Had to keep the doors closed for a few weeks while ACRES helped to move the monkeys away to a forested area. I'm a city girl who didn't grow up with monkeys as playmates. Monkeys are fierce and unfriendly. I avoid them as much as possible.

I do stop by MacRitchie Reservoir for walks, but not often enough and certainly not weekly. I was curious about the guided walks at MacRitchie Reservoir Park led by guides from Jane Goodall Institute. Not that I'm so hot about monkeys. It would be lovely to get out amid the green. Signed up for their complimentary once-a-month 'Monkey Walk'. 🐒🐵

We started the 1.5-hour walk at the amenities center at Lornie Road where Mushroom Cafe is, and at the boardwalk where canoes are kept and launched. Quite a big carpark too. I've never begun a walk or run at this entrance. I usually go in from Venus Drive. We went for a quick run before our scheduled walk at 5pm.

To my untrained eye, it's tough to spot birds or monkeys. I do better with water fowls, aquatic creatures, insects and bugs because I conciously look out for them with both eyes and ears. :P On this walk, I didn't even have to look. From this starting point, monkeys merrily paraded themselves to us! Hahahaha. There're critically-endangered banded leaf monkeys living in the area, but we didn't see any that evening. The 'Monkey Walk' specifically looks out for long-tailed macaques. It's the most commonly seen species in Singapore, and definitely brazen in its interaction with humans. We saw two families bounding around.

Our guide-primatologist was of course knowledgeable and very enthusiastic, sharing nuggets of information on the monkeys' behaviors, expressions, habits and family groupings. She also warned us to keep our distance from the macaques, especially the babies, and not to carry plastic bags, food or drinks in hand. The cute baby monkeys really look like an emoji. But please don't try to hug one. Their parents will scratch your eyes out.

After the easy stroll about 2km or so, and pumped full of new information about macaque habitats and behavior, we put away our phones, and hung out by the water to watch the sun set, reveling in the splendid quiet.

Friday, August 19, 2016

'Hamlet | Collage'

I was a tad reluctant to sit through Canadian director Robert Lepage's collaboration with Russia's Theatre of Nations', starring Evgeny Mironov- 'Hamlet | Collage'. The director has done something like that, a one-man Hamlet show with multimedia technology two decades ago with 'Elsinore' that was kinda deemed as a flop. Of course this is a brand new production, and definitely improved tremendously in terms of technology utilized. I was persuaded to give this non-traditional one-actor imagistic performance a go; thankfully there were last minute tickets available.

The 2.5-hour opening show at SIFA 2016 was a visual treat. Aided by an intricately designed suspended cube by Carl Fillion, Evgeny Mironov deftly took on multiple heavy roles and morphed into Hamlet, King Hamlet the Ghost, Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, Polonius and even Ophelia. 11 characters in total. The clever adaptable and reversible costumes are designed by Francois St-Aubin.

This cube seems to exist in Hamlet's schizophrenic mind. As the play progresses, the cube changed along with the characters, costumes and wigs. We watched him sink deeper into his madness. And somehow, the cube has expanded to encompass the audience within it. The three-sided cube moves and takes on the projected scene changes with ease. At the end of the performance, it was awesome to see all production engineers come out at curtain call. As good as the actor is, this show wouldn't have been possible without the superb coordination of the technical crew.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Che' Rose Nasi Padang

Located in Toa Payoh Lorong 1, Che' Rose Nasi Padang isn't out of the way, but it isn't exactly convenient either. But this new-to-me stall will give us the regular nasi padang fix. There're sufficient carpark lots around the area if you go slightly before or after peak lunchtime. Che' Rose has been at this current location for a few years, shifting over from Lorong 2 nearby.

Remember Mr Rashid from the old Warong Mak' Shukur? Well, Che' Rose is owned by his mother-in-law and has existed since 1968. While Mr Rashid is still deciding what to do next, and catering for small corporate functions and house parties, he's helping out at this stall.

We went late for lunch, but there was enough food left for us. The man took rice with the delicious chicken rendang and stir-fried cabbage. I took the mee goreng and added an egg, fishcake and bendi goreng. I like this version. Their sambal tumis and sambal belachan were super sedap.

I'm glad to have found something familiar again. Even better when food's just as good. Those nasi padang stalls at air-conditioned food courts truly suck. None is decent. Tough to also find a good one at the hawker centres. That's the problem of rising rentals versus quality of comfort food in Singapore.

Che' Rose Nasi Padang
Block 128 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #01-811
At 128 Choices Eating House, Singapore 310128
(The kopitiam round the corner from Creamier.)
Hours: Lunchtime; Mondays to Thursdays

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Weezer in Singapore

What a thrill to see Weezer in Singapore. Good old alternative rock. Ahh all these bands of my teenage years. Not too late to see them properly in my late thirties. :P Bought our tickets at first notice (pre sales) and fervently hoped that the tour schedule went as planned. It did!!!

Weezer's touring for their latest 'The White Album', which is pretty much is a throwback to their first and second albums back in the 90s. But it was beautiful to also hear songs from our youth. Heh. They opened the night at 8.15pm with 'California Kids'. Happy to have heard 'If You Are Wondering If I Want You To', 'Pork and Beans' and 'Beverly Hills'. The encore held 'El Scorcho' and this really really old one as the final song, 'Buddy Holly'.

They're a great band together. It was a super short set that wrapped in exactly 75 minutes. Wah. Scanned through their previous setlists and each one is similar and definitely would have ended in 80 minutes at the longest. Sound was quite terrible at Suntec City Convention Center. It was muted and underwhelming. Still. It was an enjoyable night.