Farewell Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre, Orchard Road, Singapore

A photo essay.

If your parents are as old school as mine, you would have grown up on ox-tail stew Wednesdays and have borscht (with a big dollop of sour cream of course) running through your veins.

You would have gone to Shashlik Restaurant (Level 6 Far East Shopping Centre, 545 Orchard Road) properly dressed, wearing covered footwear, and have been on your best behaviour under the watchful eyes of stern Hainanese waiters who served both cabinet ministers and little children with impeccable manners, disdaining the garish fawning that now passes for “good service”.

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

There was a sizeable queue waiting to have their last meal at this retro institution, with its somewhat tired decor.

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

We didn’t really need the menu:
Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

After giving a waitress our order, we settled in for the long wait, smiling as the sole remaining old waiter made his rounds, as serious as ever:

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

To start, borscht soup with soft warm bread (on the side plate with a proper butter knife):
borscht soup, Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

complimentary bread roll. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

or a tray of escargot:
escargot. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Then on to the main course: beef shashlik, optimally medium-rare, brought to the table in skewers, on a serving trolley, and set a-sizzle on hot plates:
beef shashlik. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

or chicken a la kiev:
chicken a la kiev (imperial), Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

And to end, the famous baked alaska:
baked alaska. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

baked alaska. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

and a cherry jubilee, flambéed with butter, brandy, and cream, and served with vanilla ice-cream:
cherry jubilee, flambéed with butter, brandy and cream . Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

and a peach melba with vanilla ice-cream:
peach melba. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

After paying for the meal, I tried to express how sad it was to bid farewell to another tangible reminder of childhood. But “goodbye” was all I could croak to the old cashier. By then, she had already turned to process the next bill.

Life, she seemed to say, goes on.
Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

business card. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

A Birthday at Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, Keong Saik, Singapore

Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore
Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore

We rocked up to Burnt Ends (facebook. 20 Teck Lim Road, Keong Saik) on a Saturday evening, foolhardy, without having made a prior reservation.

One last table was available outside where we could watch couples out on dates and the Potato Head valet slot cars atop double-yellow lines.

Beef marmalade and pickles. Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore

Toast, Tomatoes, and Lardo. Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore
Started with beef marmalade and pickles on toast, and tomatoes and lardo also on toast.

Burnt Ends Sanger (pulled pork burger with coleslaw, chipotle aioli, brioche bun), Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, SingaporeThe Burnt Ends’ sanger (pulled pork with coleslaw and chipotle aioli in a brioche bun). Cheesy bit was suspiciously reminiscent of the melted yellow cheezwhiz slathered over nachos at the bowling alley that used to occupy the grounds of Orchard Cineleisure.

rump cap, burnt onion, and bone marrow. Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore

Would have liked a little more char on the rump cap with burnt onion and bone marrow. The marrow also needed a tiny pinch of salt and pepper to perk it up.

With such a promising yet lackluster meal, we marked another year of a dear friend’s existence.

There’s nothing like a spot of catching-up to render one fully cognisant of the futility of one’s well wishes. I wish my friend had had a happier married life in the past year – not spending time in the same flat in different rooms engaged in separate activities; not failing to pray together or read the Bible together as if they were strangers to a common faith; not staring into a future of continuing to be not-quite-wedded…

…with us helplessly spectating…

Burnt Ends, 20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore

Perhaps, only prayer…

Some Nibbles and Meals in Melbourne

After hanging out at Rose Street Market for a bit, we headed over to Hammer & Tong 412 (facebook, rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, MelbourneThere was a slight industrial-scavanged look going on, with old irons holding up the menus in the shopwindow, pepper and salt in lab beakers, and the occasional mis-matched furniture.

We were there for the soft-shell crab dog, with black sesame dog slaw, coriander and sriracha sauce mayo, but could not resist trying the miso corny ice-cream dessert (miso and sweetcorn ice-cream with toasted sesame). The ingredients in both worked very well together. A good little pick-me-up before dinner.

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne - soft-shell crab dog, with black sesame dog slaw, coriander and sriracha sauce mayo

Hammer & Tong 412, Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Feast of Merit (facebook, 117 Swan Street, Richmond) was in the next suburb. What it had going for it was an even more industrial-distressed look – bare brick walls and rafters and naked hanging bulbs, and a very good conscience – a social enterprise YGAP restaurant.

Feast of Merit, 117 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne

Feast of Merit, 117 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne Feast of Merit, 117 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne

 Feast of Merit, 117 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne“What would you recommend?” I’d asked two people who’d been there for a birthday celebration. “Anything’s good! Everything’s good!” they’d replied,”But remember to book, and remember there’s a second seating…”

Feast of Merit, 117 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne - ox tongue (grilled ox tongue, res el hanout, sour milk, baby radish)

We decided it was a good time as any to have ox tongue (grilled ox tongue, res el hanout, sour milk, baby radish) to start – delicious tender, flavourful pieces of meat. A good sign.

We continued with the eggplant (roasted eggplant, smoked yogurt, harissa oil, pinenuts, parsley), carrots (heirloom/ common carrots, honeyed tahini, soft egg, dukkah spices), and a beef shank on celeriac mash: Feast of Merit, 117 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne - eggplant (roasted eggplant, smoked yogurt, harissa oil, pinenuts, parsley), carrots (heirloom/ common carrots, honeyed tahini, soft egg, dukkah spices), and a beef stewAll absolutely delicious – good flavours and textures. Thus fortified, we headed back out into the windy winter night.

Hot chocolate was on the agenda another cold winter afternoon. One of our party refused to cross Collins Street to the Koko Black salon because of an apparent suicide she’d experienced the day before along that very street (it turned out the man survived). So we ended up at Lindt Chocolate Cafe (271 Collins Street, Melbourne CBD):

Lindt Chocolate Cafe, Collins Street, Melbourne

Lindt Chocolate Cafe, Collins Street, Melbourne - signature drink - chocolate and espresso

Lindt Chocolate Cafe, Collins Street, Melbourne - hot chocolate The hot chocolate was a little too sweet – I’d have preferred more cocoa content, but the signature drink of espresso and chocolate was terrific – a good complex taste.

Creativity and New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estate

New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estate

New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial EstateAn industrial estate is an unlikely venue for good food. But it’s been a pleasure eating at New Ubin Seafood Restaurant (facebook), with its mismatched plastic chairs and fairy lights and Christmas-Chinese New Year decorations, since returning to Singapore.

New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial EstateAn impressive number of the items on the menu were a hit with everyone:

sous vide egg with chargrilled foie gras. New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estatesous vide egg with truffle salt (?) and chargrilled foie gras – umami and textural excellence,

mee goreng. New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estate“Old Punggol-style” mee goreng – al dente and moist with good wok hei that might bring back memories of those seafood shacks next to the sea,

Hong Kong Kai Lan. New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial EstateHong Kong kai lan – done two ways,

U.S. beef steak with fried onions, wedges, fried rice. Medium-rare. New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estate U.S. beef steak, with fried onions and wedges, medium-rare. New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial EstateU.S. Black Angus beef steak, with fried onions and wedges, done medium-rare, accompanied by rice fried with beef drippings. Simple, yet delicious,

chilli crab. New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estate butter garlic crab. New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estatethe chilli and garlic-baked Sri Lankan crabs were alright but we didn’t come for those,

bamboo clams, New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estatebamboo clams,

sambal chinchalok prawns with petai. New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estatewhat a star: sambal chinchalok prawns with petai – so delicately-balanced between spicy and sour. E enthused about how well they went with the fried rice.

A delight to be back in Singapore with these people, groaning at R’s bad (good?) puns, celebrating the lovely M’s birthday, and to have a such great time exchanging stories about travels and coming to know Jesus that the time flew past and we were presented with the bill, which in Singapore resto terms meant they were closing up.

We’d also been chatting to one of the waiters about how his boss came up with the recipes for the dishes we liked.

“Oh you see, if you see Mr. Pang in the office sitting there, he’s not doing nothing you know. He’s thinking, [here, he put his fingers to his temple to mime thinking] coming up with new dishes.”

Not the sort of creativity you can taught in school…well, if even the assumption that creativity (however defined) can be taught is valid. Underlying presumption is that every person has innate creativity.

This brings to mind the sarcasm of Adrian Furnham in Managing People in a Downturn:

There is a general, evidence-free and quite preposterous assumption that everyone is creative, and that all teachers need to do is somehow encourage it.

Thus we have:

  • The arson school – which helps you set fire to your creativity.
  • The constipation school – which unblocks and enables you to express your innate creativity.
  • The liberation school – which sets you free from the shackles that imprison you.
  • The discovery school – which helps you find your inner creative being.
  • The Blue Peter School – which enhances creativity through fun and games with toilet rolls and washing up liquid bottles.

Creativity, like all other human attributes, is normally distributed: a few extremely creative people ad a roughly equal number, sadly, possessing little or none. Most lie in the middle of the continuum. Yes, you can teach creativity tricks and processes, but you won’t achieve much without talent…or motivation.

But perhaps Mr. Furnham is too pessimistic; perhaps it all depends on your definition of creativity, and the field in which you are being measured for such an aptitude.

New Ubin Seafood, Sin Ming Industrial Estate

Eating Healthy on a Budget in Singapore

Daily meals have been a bit of a challenge since coming to Singapore. Much food in hawker centres and food courts seems either bland, or too strong-tasting and oily. Would someone who is annoyingly picky, yet on a tight budget like me, be able to survive?

There is no point complaining about the cost of living in Singapore etc. I am excited to attempt eating delicious healthy* meals on S$4-S$5 a day, or about S$150 a month by (i) tweaking my basket of goods; and (ii) shopping around for the best deals, or eating whatever is on discount.

(*in light of all the nutritional theories and dietary trends out there, I’ll simply assume the lowest common denominator – that “healthy” means unprocessed vegetables and fresh meat where possible and a low-percentage of refined sugars)

Don’t know if it will work, but here are some options that I’ll try! Shall update as I go along.

Vegetables

Photograph Zenxin Organic Vegetables by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Zenxin Organics‘ prices seem mostly reasonable (except for, eg, those baby carrots which were an indulgence!) and their products are readily available in Cold Storages around the country.

Zenxin Vegetables on special offer at Cold StorageEven better when you find two packages taped together on special offer – two for the price of one.

Aromatics

In recent years, I’ve found Chinese garlic to have a peculiar ditch-water taste and have had to either go without or stock up when garlic from other countries were on the cheap (a relative term, sadly).

Photograph CondiFrance red garlic from Spain by parentheticalpilgrim on 500pxCold Storage has discounts on older garlic and onions, so scored these CondiFrance garlic bulbs from Spain. Still perfectly servicable.

Meat

Photograph Wagyu beef chuck by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Cold Storage has had pretty good deals on wagyu beef chucks. This MB4-5 was S$2.99/100g and a delight to eat (or to allow to melt in our mouths). The Australian Wagyu Association says:

Wagyu is high in monounsaturated fats and with the ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats of 2:1. Wagyu beef also contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – Omega 6 per gram than any other foodstuff – 30 per cent more than other beef breeds. CLA is a fatty acid with potent anti-carcinogenic properties, as well as being an anti-inflammatory agent.

Wagyu meat on special offer from Cold StorageThe Japanese wagyu was on offer for a slightly pricier S$3.99/100g.

Wholesale meat suppliers to check out:

Fish/Seafood

Photograph Norwegian Salmon, Song Fish, Star Vista, Singapore by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Song Fish (19 Fishery Port Road, also at Chinatown Point and Star Vista) has a good stock of frozen fish and seafood. Sea bass, salmon, cod, mussels, several sorts of scallop, prawns, stingray, octopus tentacles, lobster, crayfish, prepared seafood, and even tubs of lobster bisque and clam chowder.

Photograph Salmon bones, Song Fish, Star Vista, Singapore by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Photograph Pan-fried salmon bones, organic spinach, red rice by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

I made off with a S$3 bag of “salmon bones” – still loads of flesh on and very good pan-fried with just a bit of soya sauce. Enough for 3-4 meals.

Other wholesalers:

Fassler (46 Woodlands Terrace, and also Tiong Bahru Estate) – salmon, tuna, seafood

Cheese

Photograph discounted supermarket cheese, Singapore by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
Comte cheese discounted at Cold StorageFor cheese not of the processed cheddar variety (eg. gruyere, comte), check out the expiring stuff at Cold Storage and Jasons.

Wholesale cheese suppliers:

QB Food

Herbs and Sauces

QB Food

Baking Supplies

Photograph Valrhona 55% pellets, from Sun Lik Trading, Seah Street by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Sun Lik Trading (33 Seah Street) has a good stock of Valrhona chocolate in various forms. It’s not cheap for chocolate but a reasonable price for quality. One or two of these discs are good as something sweet for finishing off a meal.

Ligueil butter, Phoon Huat, Singapore
Petit Normand, Phoon Huat, SingaporeThe Phoon Huat branch below Buona Vista MRT carries an eclectic range of SPAR Supermarket products (aka. where you got your cheap food when skiing on a student budget in Switzerland) and cheap(er) French butter.

Bob's Red Mill products at Mustafa, Little India
Bob's Red Mill products at Mustafa, Little India
Bob's Red Mill products at Mustafa, Little IndiaMustafa in Little India has a good range of Bob’s Red Mill products. Stone Ground Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (S$3.00), Organic High Fiber Pancake & Waffle Whole Grain Mix (S$3.50).

United Baking Supplies

Others

Other wholesalers, for reference:

Paté Paté in Kødbyen, Democratic Coffee in Kobenhavns Hovedbibliotek, hot dogs from Andersen Bakery, and John’s Claims about Jesus in John 1

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland ->Amsterdam -> Copenhagen

Photograph a square in Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Copenhagen! My third home.

Photograph BioMio, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500pxDropped that-house-on-my-back in the left luggage facility in the basement of Københavns Hovedbanegård (Copenhagen Central Train Station), legged it past BioMio to my old haunt, Paté Paté (Slagterboderne 1, 1716 København), in Kødbyen, the old meatpacking district now gentrified.
Photograph Paté Paté, Kødbyen, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Paté Paté, Kødbyen, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Paté Paté, Kødbyen, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Paté Paté, Kødbyen, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Paté Paté, Kødbyen, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
It was drizzling steadily outside but inside, there was my first hot sitdown meal of a week, and wifi. First, a tarte fine of Jerusalem artichoke, parmesan cream and pickled mushrooms, then a grilled ribeye steak with borretone onions, parsley and hazelnut salsa.

“Oh, how did you know this was exactly what I needed?” I wanted to ask them and I sighed in relief. But that would be sentimentalising the moment: they didn’t know what I wanted; I’d ordered what I wanted and I’d have to pay for what I’d ordered. Pft.

Many people think Jesus is some invisible friend imagined in a similar fashion – a pretense that we upkeep at the expense of our rationality and sanity and the freedom of others. But the beginning of the Gospel of John kinda knocks all socks off:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:1-18)

First, Jesus is not a figment of someone’s imagination. He was a real person in history, and well-attested to by an equally legitimate figure in history, John the Baptist.

Secondly, John the Gospel-writer doesn’t just settle for Jesus being a good teacher, he makes mind-blowing claims about Jesus:

  • his origins are eternal; he was there in the beginning before things were made;
  • he was there with God;
  • he was, in fact, God, the only God;
  • he made everything in the world;
  • he gave life to all mankind;
  • being God, he could and did give the right to be children of God to those who believed in him;
  • being God, he alone can reveal God, since he alone has seen God the Father, etc

If you were John’s lawyer, you’d be getting pretty nervous by now. Why not just say he is a good man? Why the need to make less bombastic claims? Unless, of course, what he says is true: Jesus is actually God himself come to earth; he is the Maker walking amongst the people he’d made…

We’re eager to read the rest of the Gospel of John to find out.

But an interesting thing to note for now: Jesus the God and the Creator doesn’t come in power and might, but “grace and truth”. Quite unlike the usual action movie stars made up by screenwriters.

Photograph Kobenhavns Hovedbibliotek by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Democratic Coffee, Kobenhavns Hovedbibliotek by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Kobenhavns Hovedbibliotek by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph flat white, Democratic Coffee, Kobenhavns Hovedbibliotek by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px As I sat looking around Kobenhavns Hovedbibliotek (Copenhagen Main Library), sipping a very good flat white made with Drop Coffee beans by Democratic Coffee (facebook, Krystalgade 15), I thought that the accusations of John the Gospel-writer were at once incredible and also chilling:

  • the Creator was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world, did not know him;
  • Jesus came to his own people, the Jews, who’d been waiting for his arrival but his own people rejected him.

Not sure how many Danes are ethnically Jewish, but certainly, if Jesus is their maker, few in this beautiful country really acknowledge him as such (says a poll).

Photograph bicycle, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph bicycle, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph bicycle, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph bicycle, Copenhagen by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Strange fragile creatures, these bipeds, who balance on machines made of only two wheels, and eat hot dogs without dog meat in them.

Photograph Andersen Bakery by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph hot dogs, Andersen Bakery by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px