Bali – Jimbaran Seafood at Ganesha Cafe

 

Ganesha Cafe

So I have come to the last night of our 5-days-4-nights Bali holidays and we finally got to eat the famous grilled seafood at Jimbaran. The weather for the past three days had been rather erratic and we always had to postpone this dinner due to the bad weather.

Rows of tables at the beach

We came with great anticipation; and with great expectation come great disappointment. The ambience was fantastic, no questions on that – dinning by the sea, waiting for sunset, everything was perfect, until the food was served.

 There are many seafood restaurants in Jimbaran, all serving the same food;  lined up in a row. Our driver brought us to Ganesha Cafe, which is the first one as you approach the stretch of restaurants. Let’s start with the positives first – ambience. We arrived at about 5pm and it was freaking hot and sunny. Being their first customer, we had the privilege to choose any table we wanted and we even got them to move one of the beach umbrellas to us. Their service is not fantastic but definitely not rude either. I am perfectly okay with their service as they were, at least, responsive to our requests.

Not all tables come with an umbrella and we had to request for one.

Another thing I like about this place is that there is no pressure for you to finish your meal quickly. We took our time to play at the beach, sip cold ice lemon tea while waiting for the sun to set. One thing that we grew to love in Bali is their grilled sweet corn (or “jagung” in Bahasa), which is usually sweet and juicy. If you come across one, try it and you will thank me for giving you this recommendation. 🙂

“jagung” man (again)

Grilled Sweet Corn over Traditional Charcoal

Yum yum …

That’s about all the positives that I can think of and let’s talk about the “no-so-good” areas, shall we? Firstly, it rained just before the sun set. OMG, we didn’t get a single view of the sunset for our entire trip! Okay, this is really nobody’s fault and in fact, we were quite lucky to “grab” the last available table which was inside the restaurant. There were families who were slower than us that had to settle for tables outside, where they were only partial sheltered.

Choosing our seafood

Secondly, which is also the most disappointing reason, the food sucks! This was the only meal in our entire trip that we didn’t finish everything.

Grilled Squid

I almost fainted when I was served with this plate of grilled squid. There was no presentation, no taste and it was very difficult to chew. Then came our grilled chicken & fish (see photos below), which were everything but appetizing.

Grilled Chicken

Grilled fish

BBQ Crab

Grilled Prawns

Then we forgot that chilli is basic part of  Balinese diet. Thus their definition of BBQ is the same as BBQ with chilli; their definition of stir-fried vegetable is the as good as stir-fried vegetable with chilli. I think you get the idea. Chilli is automatically added to any style of cooking. 😦

Imagine we had a table full of food, but there was nothing that the kids could eat. So I guess this was the real “killer” for the night. If you have the chance to read this post before your trip, please do take note of these experiences we had and hopefully you will have a better time (than us).

Obviously their prayers for good weather didn’t really work … 🙂

Enjoying herself before the rain

Music by the beach for a small token

Jumping – A must for every trip. 🙂

Night view of the restaurant

And the star for the night goes to … ** drum roll ** … Jagung !

 

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Swatow Seafood Restaurant Review

When it comes to food in Singapore, one will be spoilt for choice. Chinese, Indian, Malay, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, you name it, we have it. In recent years, there was an influx of foreigners (especially from India, China and Philippines) and as a result, I am seeing a lot of food stalls/restaurants selling authentic Chinese food from China, pinoy food from Philippines, etc. On the contrary, I am also seeing a lot of traditional local Chinese restaurants closing down. It’s sad but it’s true.

Swatow Seafood Restaurant

So I said we are spoilt for choice for good food in Singapore, right? Well, not really. It’s quite a headache when you have big requirements; requirements such as table for 21 people, reasonably priced, good quality food and more importantly it must be authentic Teochew cuisine.

With these criteria in mind, we started our research for a good restaurant to celebrate my grandmother-in-law’s 91st Birthday. The few usual “suspects” (Liang Kee, Guan Hin and Swa Garden) came to our mind but we were hoping to try a different restaurant. We found and decided on a new Teochew restaurant “Swatow Seafood” which seems to meet most of our criteria. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

Swatow Seafood restaurant is located at Toa Payoh Central, next to the National Library. Location-wise, it’s superb; easily accessible via MRT, bus or car. However, there is one problem. It doesn’t have a sheltered cover-way from the car park. Do take note of this on rainy days.

Elevator for the needy

Although the restaurant is on level 2, there is a simple elevator for the needy. However, this frangible elevator can only take upto 3 people and it’s very slow. According to my 91 year-old grandmother, the lift is very unstable during motion and she would rather take the stairs than to use it.  Thus, please use it with caution and do not abuse it nor let the kids play with it.

Decoration at the reception

Cozy corner to learn more about Chinese culture

The restaurant

Being a relative new restaurant (established on 6th Aug 2010), the restaurant is quite clean and new. The restaurant also employs quite a few retirees, who are generally more patient. I like their service as there is a “grandmotherly” kind of kindness; be it refilling your glass of warm water, or serving us the food.

The Setting

As it was my grandmother-in-law’s 91st Birthday celebration, the restaurant management was very kind to offer us a complimentary dish of longevity buns (寿桃). The buns were freshly made in the kitchen and the taste was excellent. Best 寿桃 ever.

The longevity buns (Compliments from the restaurant)

Ah Ma enjoying her longevity bun

Remember that one of our search criteria was a table for 21 people? Well, I doubt if there is any Chinese restaurant in Singapore with a table for 21 people and we settled for 2 tables instead. That requirement was meant to be a joke, really. 🙂

Swatow Cold Dish Combination

Anyway, our first dish was the “Swatow Cold Dish”. As the name implies, the platter comprises all the popular Teochew dishes from Swatow. I believe the dark slices on the right edge of the plate are made of pigs’ ears, or at least the taste is similar to it. The jelly-like ones at the top-left corner are frozen pig skin, I think. We finished everything on the plate except for these two items, which are an acquired taste if you asked me; they taste better after two or three helpings. Even then, I realised that I was the only one at my table eating them and I, too, couldn’t finish all of them. Generally, the food is very nice, especially the braised goose in the middle of the plate. The braised goose is very authentic Teochew-style; tender and “smooth”.

Braised Shark’s Fin with Bamboo Pith

Next we had the “Braised Shark’s Fin with Bamboo Pith”. This is a huge disappointment and I had better ones.

Steamed Grouper in Teochew Style

Our third dish was “Steamed Grouper in Teochew Style” and again this was another disappointment. The grouper was what we say “Lou Gou” in Teochew, which means the fish was injured when it was hiding in the rocks. As a result, the flesh was very tough. We feedback to the manager who confirmed it (he tasted it himself) and as a goodwill gesture, he changed our grouper to the “Steamed Pomfret in “Teochew” Style”. 🙂

The Replacement – Steamed Pomfret in “Teochew” Style

If I am being picky, I would say that steamed pomfret is probably not their speciality. I think the steamed pomfret from Liang Kee is still the best. Anyway, we were very impressed with the manager’s service and we couldn’t ask for more when the replacement dish is much more expensive. 😉

Herbal Drunken Prawns with Wolfberries

After the saga with the steamed fish, we had the “Herbal Drunken Prawns with Wolfberries” and this is good. The prawns were very fresh and tasty.  Thumbs up for this dish.

Crispy Roasted Chicken with Chef’s Sauce

Then came the best dish for the night, “Crispy Roasted Chicken with Chef’s Sauce”. The chicken was very tender, the fried cod-fish strips were very crispy and lastly, the sauce was out of this world.

If the waitress had not cleared the table in time, we might have polished off the plate

Stir-Fried Teochew Vegetable Deluxe

You can’t really go wrong with this dish (stir-fried vegetables). It’s simple and nice.

Fried Teochew ”Mee Swa”with Seafood

Now, this is not bee hoon but “mee swa”. Looks easy to prepare but takes a lot of skills actually. The chef has to be careful as the “mee swa” breaks easily. This dish is good.

Sweet Yam Paste with Pumpkin

Last but not least is the famous Teochew dessert “Or Nee” / 金瓜芋泥 / “Sweet Yam Paste with Pumpkin”. Although I am a Teochew, I never had a liking for “Or Nee”. But according to my wife, who loves “Or Nee”, this is one of the best she ever had.

A group photo

Another reason why the dinner was so enjoyable was that the restaurant manager was a jovial guy. First, he gave us a fright when he told us outside food (he was referring to the cake) was not allowed. Then he stopped us when we were singing the birthday song … cos he wanted to play the song via the sound system instead. He also offered to take this group photo for us.

Happy Birthday, Ah Ma!

The dinner was a very enjoyable one. I am sure we will be back again.

Conclusion? I would give their service full marks and probably 8/10 for their food. But on the whole, we had an enjoyable dinner and I am sure we will be back again. 🙂

Useful Information – Swatow Seafood Restaurant (汕頭海鮮):

Opening Hours:

  • 08:00-22:30 daily

Address and Contact Information:

General:

  • It’s just beside Toa Payoh National Library
  • There is no sheltered car park and the nearest car park is the Chung Hwa Free Clinic
  • The restaurant is at level 2 and there is a simple elevator for the old / needy.

Highly Recommended Dishes:

  • Braised Goose
  • Crispy Roasted Chicken with Chef’s Sauce
  • Fried Teochew ”Mee Swa”with Seafood
  • Sweet Yam Paste with Pumpkin

Taiwan – Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市)

Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市)

Taiwan’s night market has a lot of nice food and our favourite by far is the black pig sausage (黑豬肉香腸). Ever since we tried it at Jiufen, we had been hunting for it at every night market. In terms of ranking, I would say the stall at Jiufen is the best and then followed by this one at Raohe Night Market. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

Black Pig Sausage (黑豬肉香腸)

Another must try is 炸蛋蔥油餅, which is basically onion in deep fried batter with a half-cooked egg. Though it’s simple, it’s incredibly delicious. The taste is a little like Roti Prata, except that it has a much more oomph! I love the runny egg inside and it was love at first bite (literally). 😉

Yummy runny egg inside …

There are many nice food in Raohe Night Market and one may be tempted to try everything. But please remember to save some stomach space for the famous Black Pepper Bun (福州世祖胡椒饼), which is located at one end of the street. Every bun is freshly baked in a traditional charcoal oven on the spot; freshness and tastiness are guaranteed. 😉

Expect long queue at the stall

The Famous Black Pepper Bun

Here are some other snacks we had at the market. Everything was nice, except for the ice-cream (see photo below) which was tasteless. The guava was very sweet and it goes well after the hot Black Pepper Bun.

Ice-cream that look better than it taste …

Sweetest Guava Ever

Raohe Night Market is actually quite small, about 600m one way and it can be easily covered in less than 2 hours. Despite its size, it’s one of the best night markets as the food is, really, fantastic. The only problem is accessibility as it is at least 30 minutes walk from the nearest MRT station. I would suggest you take a taxi, just like we did.

Useful Information – Raohe Night Market:

Opening Hours:

  • 16:00-00:00 daily

Directions:

  • Take the normal train to Songshan Station (松山火車站)
  • Cross the road, Bade Road (Section 4) / 八德路四段
  • Alternatively, walk along ZhongPo North Road (中玻北) about 30 minutes from Houshanpi (後山埤) MRT station (exit: Wufenpu commercial district)

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Taiwan – Chia Te Bakery (佳德糕餅)

The Award Winning Egg Tarts from Chia Te

Ok, let me make a confession first. I am not a gourmet nor am I a pastry lover. In fact I eat to live, not live to eat. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

Now that the disclaimer is done, let’s continue with the blog. Chia Te is an award winning bakery and it was highly recommended by my cousin. Judging by the number of awards it had won, I guess they should be pretty good and pineapple tarts is their speciality. Though I didn’t try any of the tarts, my family loves them. So how good are they? Well just put it this way, my wife would like to go back to Chia Te every time we visit Taipei. She regretted not buying more. LOL.

Chia Te Bakery

Unless you are very familiar with Taipei, I would suggest that you just hop into a taxi to bring you to Chia Te. This is probably the easiest. However, if you are adventurous enough, you can check out the buses to take from their webpage.

Taiwan is a paradise for food lovers. One can basically eat all the way from breakfast til late supper. One interesting observation is that food tasting is not commonly practised in Taiwan, unlike Singapore. Chia Te is no exception. We basically bought the tarts and pastry in good faith and luckily they did not disappoint.

There are many favours to choose from (plum, strawberry, cherry, etc) and you can basically pick and choose what to be packed in boxes of 6, 12 or 20. The items are individually priced and there is not discount for “bulk” purchase. Besides tarts, Chia Te also sells sun cake (太陽餅), wife cake (老婆餅) and milk cake (奶油餅).

Useful Information – Chia Te Bakery:

Opening Hours:

  • 07:30-21:30 daily

Address:

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Taiwan – Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐)

After a long ride from Sun Moon Lake, the first thing on my mind was to have a good (or rather best) dinner in Taipei city. It was an unanimous decision that Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) shall be the place. Here in Singapore, Din Tai Fung’s Xiao Long Bao (小籠包) is very popular and both my kids love it. Since we were in Taipei, there was no way we were gonna miss the chance to try the original Din Tai Fung. There are a few outlets in Taipei but our minds were set on the main branch, i.e. the one at Xinyi road (信義路).

When we reached the restaurant at around 6.30pm, there was already a long queue and we had to wait for about 40 minutes. Was the dinner worth the wait? Well, the quality of the food is good but I would say the standard in Singapore is similar to that in the main branch. Thus, I probably won’t queue again in Taipei for Din Tai Fung; I would just have it in Singapore when I have the cravings. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

Din Tai Fung at Xinyi Road

Taking order while waiting for our table

Below were some of the food that we ordered. Generally they were very nice, no complaints.

After a long day of travelling, all of us were actually very tired. But the lure of the largest night market in Taiwan was too strong for me and we decided to head out to Shilin Night market, instead of our hotel. This decision turned out to be a mistake … Read my next entry for details. ;-P

Useful Information – Din Tai Fung:

Opening Hours:

  • 10:00-21:00 hrs (Mon ~ Fri)
  • 09:00-21:00 hrs (Sat, Sun)

Directions:

  • The nearest MRT station is either 忠孝新生 or 大安 and you have to walk about 15 minutes. We took a taxi as it was easier.

Others:

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Breakfast at Jalan Kayu Prata Shop

Thasevi – Jalan Kayu Prata Restaurant

Usually we have home prepared breakfast on Saturdays (i.e. bread and ham) so that we need not spend too much time outside before the kids’ enrichment classes. Since today is a public holiday and the kids didn’t have to go for their classes, we decided to indulge ourselves with some “real” breakfast – Roti Prata at Jalan Kayu.I spent some good years in Jalan Kayu when I was still a primary school boy. Back then, Jalan Kayu was just a quiet road with two rows of shophouses. Twenty years on, Jalan Kayu hasn’t changed much except for the missing row of shophouses, where I stayed, that has been torn down. In those days, there wasn’t much in Jalan Kayu except for a stretch of shops which many of them were selling roti prata. Did I have roti prata every morning then? Seriously, I can’t remember. But for sure, I know I enjoyed them.

Road leading to Thasevi Prata Restaurant from Yio Chu Kang Road

Thasevi Prata Restaurant

The prata shops then served only the residents in Jalan Kayu, which were just a handful. Traffic and parking space were never a problem. Today, people from all corners flock to Jalan Kayu for its prata but the basic infrastructure remains pretty much the same. As a result, it’s not easy to find a carpark space in front of the shop. We were there at 8am this morning and already it was full. Well, it wasn’t really a big problem as there is a bigger carpark further up the road (towards TPE).

Egg and Plain Roti Prata

I went with high expectations (and cravings) but returned with somewhat disappointment or dissatisfaction. Maybe it’s because the shop is now open for 24 hours and I was unlucky to get a lousy chef today? Or maybe it’s because the shop has changed ownership and hence lost the original skills that made me yearn for Jalan Kayu prata for so long? Or maybe it’s time I stop being a victim of my own nostalgia.

The children probably enjoyed their prata more than I did


Useful Information – Jalan Kayu Thasevi Prata Restaurant:

Opening Hours:

  • 24 hours daily

Directions:

  • If you are coming from Yio Chu Kang road, turn into Jalan Kayu. You will come across a petrol station on the left. Drive further down and you will see a row of shops on the left and residential houses on the right. The restaurant is on left.
  • If you are coming from TPE, turn into Jalan Kayu. You will come across an open air carpark on the left. Park in this carpark and walk further down the road. The restaurant is on the right.

Paradise Pavilion Apple Wood Roasted Peking Duck

Paradise Pavilion at Marina Bay Financial Center

Recently, we signed up as a member of Paradise Group as it was quite a good deal. For $38, we got the following :

  • $45 preloaded in the membership card (which we used to offset the meal immediately)
  • an eVoucher* of $30 off Paradise Pavilion’s Apple Wood Roasted Peking Duck  (worth $88)
  • another eVoucher* of $25 off Dim Sum for dine-in on Saturday, Sunday and PH, at Paradise Pavilion only

Getting the membership seems like a no brainer. We paid $38 and received $45 rebate, which was used immediately for the meal we had. Besides, we would really love to try the Apple Wood Roasted Peking Duck and we reserved that meal for a special occasion … My wife’s birthday! 😉

The restaurant is located at Marina Bay Financial Centre (#02-01 Marina Bay Link Mall) and we were advised to park at B2. Since we went on a weekend, the carpark was quite empty. So I conveniently parked at the first available lot near the lift lobby at B1. It was only when we took the lift that we realized why we were advised to park at B2 – our lift lobby doesn’t bring us directly to the restaurant. Well, it’s no big deal as we just had to walk across to the next building, where the restaurant was situated.

At the entrance of the restaurant was this big fire stove where the Peking duck was roasted. The restaurant manager gave us a brief introduction that the chefs were hired from China and that they import apple wood for the roasting of the duck. The smoke from the apple wood is supposed to add some favour to the Peking duck. I am not a gourmet and thus I cannot really tell the difference that the apple wood made to the duck. All I can say is … the duck is great. 😉

The chef preparing the fire to roast the duck

Considering that we were a small group (two adults and two children) and we had to finish a whole duck, we couldn’t order too much food. It probably makes more sense to dine in bigger groups (as always with most Chinese cuisine).

So here’s what we ordered. For starters, we ordered Foise Gras. However, Chris was very disappointed cos it was different from her expectations. As the menu was presented in “western” style, i.e  starters, main course, dessert, etc, we were expecting it to be the French Foise Gras. Unfortunately, this is a Chinese restaurant and hence the liver we got was prepared in a Chinese style. Nevertheless, it was still tasty. They were a bit expensive at $16 each though. 😉

Homemade Foise Gras

Next, we had “Braised Edamame Tofu with Crabmeat” and “Sauteed Wild Fungus with Mushrooms”. And again, these two dishes didn’t fail us. I would rate them at least a eight (out of ten).

Braised Edamame Tofu with crabmeat

Sauteed Wild Fungus with Mushrooms

Then came the main dish – Apple Wood Roasted Peking Duck, which was served in three servings. The first was the skin where we were supposed to dip the skin in sugar.

Dipping the duck skin in sugar

The second serving was the duck’s breast – the meatiest of all. For these, we wrapped it in the “popiah” skin as demonstrated by my daughter in the photos below.

The final serving was the rest of the duck and actually I like this the most. The meat had a thin layer of fats and hence it was more succulent.

After the fulfilling dinner, we had a walk around the area and below are just some random shots taken before and after the dinner.

Bull sculpture

Marina Bay Financial Centre