Spring Kyushu Fair

These are pictures from the Spring Kyushu Fair held in late March to early April of this year in Singapore.  This is what I meant about being agitated about not having a Japan blog, because I should have posted them then.  This is a bit dated, but I thought it was worth sharing anyway!

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The fair’s banner was hanging in the center section of the Tampines Mall.  Tampines Mall is set up as round levels with an open center.

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This is the view from above, from I think the third floor.  The fair was set up in the middle of the mall and was jam packed with people every single day.

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I was shocked at how expensive these arus melons from Miyazaki were.  If you look at the blue text on the sign you can see that 49 SGD was already the marked down price from their usual 60 SGD.  I think we went on the last day of the fair.  I tried to do a little research on the melon but there’s little available, through Google anyway.  What I did find says that the arus melon is considered “The King of Japanese Fruits” and is highly sought after as a gift for its fragrance, beautifully netted skin and great taste.

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There was a booth selling selections of fine tea.  I kinda wish I’d bought some now that I look at the photo.

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Photos of the crowds and some of the booths.

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A lot of the booths were doing cooking on the spot, like this booth, where a girl was preparing takoyaki balls.

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And what Japan fair would be complete without a booth selling sake?  The sake he was holding was actually really, really good and I wanted a bottle of it but he had already sold out.  He didn’t mind letting me have a few shots from the sample bottle though, which was pretty cool of him.  We wound up getting a sparkling rose sake for my wife, but got so busy with getting ready for our trip to the Philippines at the beginning of May that we we gave it away as a gift instead.

I’m looking forward to visiting another Japan-related Fair.  Hopefully there’ll be one in Manila sometime soon!

Japanese Sesson Grill at Manpuku, Tampines 1

We’ve gone to Manpuku quite a few times, but we still haven’t tried everything the place has to offer.  That’s not so much for lack of opportunity, but lack of desire.  You see, Manpuku as an establishment has slowly been going downhill.

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When Manpuku first opened, the place was packed all the time.  It was fresh, it was clean, the decor was awesome and the food was a novelty.  Unfortunately, most of the choices weren’t anything to get excited about, especially for the prices they were charging.  Most of it is little better than hawker food.

A few months ago, I’m not sure exactly when, Manpuku’s customer base shrunk to the point that they did away with the charge card system.  It used to be that when you arrived you would queue up to wait for seating and to get a charge card.  You would use the card to pay for the items you wanted from the various booths inside.  Then, before leaving you went through a register check-out lane, kinda like in a grocery store.  That’s where you settled your bill.  Now, you just walk in and pay at the specific booth you want to eat from, either cash or NETS.  If you want to use a credit card you still use the original charge card system.  I suppose that system became more of a hassle than it was worth in regards to having extra employees just to ring up the bills and the owner realized it would be more cost effective to have individual booth workers handle their own cash payments.

With the lower patronage comes lower standards it seems.  The trays are usually covered in a white grime and the eating utensils still have residue on them when you pick them up.  It makes me wonder if they even use washing soap or if they just rinse them with water.  I’ve also had trouble communicating with some of the employees lately.

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Despite these issues, there are still a few gems to be found there.  The ramen from Aoba Hokkaido Ramen is pretty good but we wanted to try something different, so we went to Japanese Sesson Grill, which is in the corner near the MRT tracks.

The food is a bit pricey.  Individual kabobs were between 2.50 and 3 bucks apiece, which seems expensive given their size.  We settled on having a set meal that came with five skewers, rice and miso soup for 13 SGD.  It seemed a fair enough price to pay for what we were getting.

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One good thing about Manpuku falling out of public favor is that it’s less crowded and you can actually have a quiet sort of meal there.  We went to the very corner, overlooking the MRT station area.  It was even a bit cozy feeling there.

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The food itself was better than I hoped it would be.  It’s nothing to get too excited about but I definitely felt that I’d gotten what I paid for and left satisfied.

Kim Garry: Hong Kong Restaurant

The booths looked really comfortable but they were all full. The booths on the other side of the restaurant were roped off, since the restaurant wasn’t that full.

On Wednesday I went to meet my wife for a late lunch and she recommended we try out the Kim Garry restaurant that’s on the basement level of Tampines 1. I’d never had Hong Kong style food before, at least that I know of, so I was willing to give it a shot.

When we were seated by the hostess, she tried to squeeze us into a cramped area along the wall that was already packed with customers, so we went ahead and re-seated ourselves at a stand-alone table where we’d have more room.  If I’m going to pay for food at a restaurant I’d rather be comfortable, otherwise I’d just go pay 3 bucks for food at a hawker and squeeze in there.

This is the back of the restaurant. If I remember right, there was a window in that back wall that opened on the kitchen.
A little Engrish to liven things up.

The decor of the restaurant is really nice.  It had a stylish, modern look to it, but it felt a little incongruous given the types of food.

The borscht soup and the silverware, which was packed in a sealed container.

The food itself was good.  We started out with the borsch, which is a traditionally Russian or Polish soup that has a beet and tomato juice base.  The borsch we were served had chunks of tomato and cabbage in it as well.  I’d never had borsch before, so I have no basis for comparison but it seemed pretty good to me.

Before moving on, one more thing I’d like to point out is how they serve their silverware.  You can see it in the picture above.  It comes in a sealed container and the utensils were spotless, which is just how I like it.

The sauce was delicious and the serving was generous!

My wife had a dish that I forget the name of, but it had pork chops in garlic sauce over spaghetti noodles.  She let me have a bite of the pork chop and it tasted great!

A few pieces of the beef were chewy, and I think I screwed up picking the red wine sauce that’s under the cheese, on the rice, but it was still a good dish.

I went with the beef baked rice with cheese.  There was a choice between a white cream sauce with sweet corn and a red wine sauce.  I went with the red wine sauce, which I think may have been a mistake.  It’s sweetness threw off the whole dish.  If I go there again before departing Singapore, I’ll definitely try a baked rice dish with corn next time.

When it came time to pay the bill, we were happy with the cost.  The food seemed to be reasonably priced.

Overall, the dining experience was moderate.  It’s hard to judge a whole restaurant off of one trip and one dish, but I think this is a restaurant that’s worth going back to at least a few more times to further explore the menu, if only I had the opportunity.

Ajisen Ramen @ Tampines Mall

Yesterday afternoon was a little cool out, surprisingly considering Singapore’s typical weather this time of year, so my wife and I were both in the mood for something soupy.  Typically, that means a trip to Manpuku for their Aoba Hokkaido Ramen, but our last visit was a little less than appealing, so we decided to try something new.  There’s a restaurant on the top floor of Tampines Mall called Ajisen that serves ramen.  We’d been by there quite a few times because we typically go to the outlet of Pastamania! that’s right next to it, or passed by it to go to the movies when we lived in Tampines. We’d glanced over the menu a few times but never given it a try, so we figured it was the perfect opportunity to give a new (to us) restaurant a chance.

My wife ordered the cha shu ramen, to compare it with what we normally get at Manpuku.  I decided to be a little adventurous and went with the scallop ramen.  The ramen came as a set, so for our set items we ordered the cuttlefish and California maki.  We also ordered a side of dumplings, again for comparison with what we usually got at Manpuku.

The meal as a whole wasn’t that bad at all.  The taste was good and it was well worth what we paid for it, which totalled 37 SGD for the two of us.  We got quite a bit of food for that amount.  It wasn’t a meal that wowed us, and I doubt I’ll be pressuring my wife to go back anytime soon, but it’s a decent meal and a suitable lunch destination.

What really appealed to me about the place was the pleasant appearance of the restaurant and the good service the staff provided.  When we initially entered the restaurant we were immediately greeted and seated.  When we asked to be moved to a booth, which was more comfortable than where we were initially placed, the staff was more than happy to oblige us.  Our servers were very polite, casual and friendly and they always had a smile on their faces.  It was a very pleasant experience.

Later, when we got home, I checked HungryGoWhere, a review site for Singapore’s restaurants, and saw that quite a few people had complained about bad service on the part of the staff.  I didn’t see it, at all.  Perhaps the manager had been reading the reviews there and gave the staff some training, because they did a great job for us.  That, more than anything else, would encourage me to want to go back.  Nothing makes a meal more enjoyable than proper service from the staff.

So, if you’re in Tampines Mall and you’re looking for a nice ramen meal, Ajisen is a decent place to go.

Singaporean Funeral Procession

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at the kopitiam near where I live and I heard music, so I turned and looked up the road.  I saw what I thought was a parade and, being curious, I started taking photos.  I quickly finished my coffee and then moved down to the road where I could have a better view.

The decorations were very interesting and I thought the two guys wearing the costumes were very cool.

As another set of vehicles approached I noticed the music playing was more somber and mournful.  The music playing from the lead vehicle had been cheerful and lively sounding by comparison.  I then realized that the group of people following the vehicle were carrying an ornate wooden coffin above them, draped with flowers.  I didn’t take a photo of them, or the coffin, out of respect for the recently deceased.

The smile quickly faded from my face and I waited respectfully as the funeral procession passed before walking back home.  I guess not everything coming down the road playing music in Singapore marks a happy occasion.

The procession was similar to funeral processions in the US, but only vaguely.  In the US a procession is usually led by two police on motorcycles, followed by a cavalcade of vehicles with the hearse at the tail end followed by two more police on motorcycles.  It’s common courtesy and tradition (if not illegal to not do so) to pull over to the side of the road and wait for the procession to pass completely, before continuing down the road.  By comparison, traffic on the road around the procession here in Singapore couldn’t have cared less from what I saw.  One vehicle almost ran over some of the people walking while quickly turning onto a side road.

Different places, different customs.

Chingay Fiesta Tampines 2010 Floats

My wife and I went to Tampines 1 last night to have dinner at Manpuku.  There’s a stall there called Hokkaido Aoba Ramen that’s really, really good!  We always get the Sho-yu Cha-shu Ramen and a side of wafu gyoza.

Anyhow, on the way in we noticed that the field by Tampines 1 and the MRT station was filled with a stage area and the round-about area where the Giants / Courts shuttle bus usually picks people up was filled with floats.  After a little walking around I saw a sign announcing that it was for the Chingay Fiesta Tampines parade.

There were quite a few people there, and after my experience with the crowds at New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve, I wasn’t in the mood to try to put up with it again, especially on an empty stomach.

So, I did the next best thing.  I took a look at the floats, snapped some photos, enjoyed part of the show on the stage area and then went to dinner!  I didn’t have my camera with me unfortunately, so I just used my iPhone, but the pictures came out pretty well anyway.

Have a look:

I was really impressed with how much effort went into the floats.  As we were getting ready to leave we saw a woman show up in what appeared to be traditional Indian garb.  I think she was going to accompany the float that had the big head (pictured above) on foot.

What impressed me more is that this much effort was put into a regional parade, considering that the official Chingay parade had already taken place. If you’d like to see some really good shots of the actual Chingay 2010 parade, please click HERE to see a beautiful Flickr set.  The following photo is a sample from the set:

© chooyutshing / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
© chooyutshing / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Smart and Contemporary Cat

Meet the Smart and Contemporary Cat:

This cat used to hang out in the business area in Tampines and he looks sort of like he’s wearing a black suit.  We don’t know if he had a name and we didn’t really give him one.  We just always called him Smart and Contemporary Cat.  My wife would see him on her way to work every day.  I saw him myself a few times.  He was laying around by the entrance to a parking garage.

He seems to have disappeared.  We haven’t seen him lately.  Hopefully someone decided to take him home and he wasn’t run over by a car entering or exiting the car park.

Seoul Food!

Yup. That is in fact spelled right. I’m not talking about traditional black American food.  I’m talking about a restaurant chain in Singapore named Seoul Garden!

On Sunday afternoon we went out for a movie, and then afterwards we decided to have dinner at Seoul Food.  It was a group decision.  My wife and I had often seen the place but had decided not to eat there.  We just didn’t care much for the way it looked, and this picture of the goat in the window deterred me:

Some of you may remember me posting this photo before.  Well, I guess I gave in.  I ate the poor goat.

So anyhow, the place was pretty surprising as far as quality of food goes.  When you first walk in your put at a table that has a griddle and bowl of broth in the middle.

It’s up to you to decide your fate:

Some of the items are raw, like the meats in the second photo, and some are precooked and just need to be heated up, like the items just past the person barely visible in the first photo.  There’s also an array of veggies that you can either turn into a plain salad (no dressing) or dump into the pot or onto the hot plate.

It’s all really good, and it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, so you can sit down, take your time, relax, and chat with your family and friends (and eat more because you’re eating slowly and get more for your money).

The photo above is mainly about that small yellow bowl and what’s in it.  One of the people with us prepared it from the dessert buffet area.  I’m not sure what all of the ingredients are, and either I really misheard what she called it or I just can’t find it on the internet.  She seemed to enjoy it, but I passed on that for ice cream and little pieces of cakes.

The place is a pretty good value for your money and it’s located (the one we went to anyway) on the same floor as the movie theater in Tampines Mall, right in front of you when you come off the escalator.

Last, but not least… a random shot of the table:

If you make it over there, enjoy!  Oh, and from what I saw in the Google search suggestions, there are Seoul Gardens located all over the US as well, including New York City.

Spinach Bacon OmuRice From Manpuku

Lunch on Sunday was Spinach Bacon OmuRice from the Manpuku restaurant in Tampines 1.  I didn’t remember seeing the stall before and the dishes looked interesting so I thought I’d give it a try.  I was later told by a friend that it was added recently.

As you can see from the picture, this dish is a big tasty omelet covered in a white cream sauce with bacon and spinach.  I was actually disappointed with how little spinach there was on the dish.  I was hoping for more.  There was a nice amount of bacon, but it wound up not being enough either.

You see, I had sort of expected there to be a more interesting filling in this omelet, but instead it was filled with just plain fried rice and a very small amount of mushrooms.  I think I sifted through the rice and only found 5 tiny pieces of mushroom total.

It was tasty, but as soon as the sauce, bacon and spinach were gone, the rest of it became rather bland.  A good dish introduces a lot of variety, to keep your mouth and tastebuds happy.  This one just didn’t do the trick for me and I don’t think I’ll order it again.

Strangely enough, we wound up meeting friends later in the evening at this same restaurant and one of them ordered the exact same dish.  She didn’t finish it either and commented on how it wasn’t very good after the toppings were gone.

BBQ Chicken Revisited

Over the weekend my wife and I spent quite a bit of time out and about and we happened to find ourselves at Tampines 1 as evening approached.  We started thinking about where we wanted to have dinner when we saw the Tampines 1 branch of BBQ Chicken.  I believe it’s a local chain restaurant.  We’d eaten there before and the food was pretty decent, so we decided to give it another shot.

This time, we both chose meals from the main course selection.  I got the “Jerk BBQ” and my wife got the “Korean Charbroiled”.  We had a good laugh about that because when I ordered it she said, “Figures”.  Ha ha ha!  We also had another order of an appetizer called Koshi.  There’s a picture of that in the previous post that’s linked to above.

One of the problems I noticed with this restaurant is that they don’t seem to understand the concept of “appetizer”.  It’s supposed to come before the food so you have something to snack on while you wait for your main course.  In both of our visits to BBQ Chicken, at both locations, the appetizer was served along with the main meal, as if it were a side dish.

That aside, the food was pretty good.  It’s still nothing to get excited about, but it makes for a decent dinner.

Here are some pictures:

The top image is the Jerk BBQ and the bottom image is the Korean Charbroiled.  Ya, there’s quite a bit of bad grammar in the menu and in the slogans along the walls.  I should get some photos of that and post it sometime.

What we always want to try, but wind up not having room in our bellies for, is a dessert called Pat Bing Soo.  It sounds delicious!  One of these days we’ll have to go there just to have that dessert.  Here’s a shot of the Pat Bing Soo entry in the menu that shows the ingredients: