Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Cavalock and The Gamers' Feast

It took me awhile but I finally found my way to the popular New Ubin Seafood restaurant in the heart of Sin Ming Industrial Estate earlier this week. Our regular boardgaming group hasn't been meeting up for games as often as we used to, which is kinda sad. But at least, we get to pig out together like this.

Let's see now, by the end of the night this is just some of the stuff nine hungry guys can eat:

- 3 crabs in bee hoon soup
- Pork collar
- Crispy pork knuckle German style
- 30 Canadian oysters
- Salted egg squid
- Large squid
- Large Hokkien prawn noodle special
- Large HK Kai Lan special
- 13 sticks of foie gras
- Phoenix chicken
- Signature meat platter

And of cos, the stars of the night... 3kg of amazing US Angus beef and a gorgeous bottle of 17-year-old Hibeki. Truly an unforgettable feast worthy of the gods with a princely price tag of over S$900.

So on my way to the old family home today I noticed for the first time in my entire life, there are no more Gurkhas outside my late neighbour's residence. Instead there's just a lone chubby cop on guard duty. It kinda got me thinking about my old neighbour, not that I haven't been thinking about him for the last couple of weeks.

I guess growing up within 100 meters of his home, my memories of him may be a wee bit different from most people. My late aunts, uncles and mom made no qualms about their political leanings. Like most people their generation, they absolutely admired him and were eternally grateful for all he had done. Now you would think that I have seen him in person numerous times but the truth is I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually seen him up close or in person. Unfortunately the last time I saw him was late last year when his motorcade drove pass and I caught a glimpse of him alone in the backseat looking extremely frail. Yah, now that motorcade on the other hand, I see almost everyday when I was a kid. It would leave Oxley around noon daily and then make its way to the Istana. My most memorable moments were during National Day parades when the motorcade would zoom pass the family home and we would gather at our back kitchen doorway and wave at it. And that's the only time I can recall that he would ever wave back at us.

While I hardly had any direct interactions with him, I do however have some rather brief encounters with his sons. You have to remember that I was probably only seven or eight years-old at that time. From my bedroom window I would spot one of his sons (I honestly cannot remember which) walking towards River Valley Road to ta-pao food, this was obviously before they had bodyguards. I would then yell out at them and then duck out of sight behind the curtains immediately. It was like peek-a-boo with a VIP! Hey, I was seven and bored!

I also figured out a long time ago that I could either blame him and the Government for just about every f**ked-up thing that has happened to me in my life like how their second language criteria royally screwed me of a higher education here, or I could take it like a man, be grateful for all the other economic policies that have tremendously benefited my family and get on with my life. I do respect him and am fully aware of his achievements, contributions, faults, warts and all. When I was sitting alone on the Padang that early Thursday morning at 6am waiting for my queue to move, I was there not just for myself but also on behalf of my late mom, uncles and aunts who I know for sure would be there too if they were still alive.

So yah, that's kinda like what I wanna say bout my late neighbour. While everyone had something deep, moving or reflective to say bout him, I suppose mine was more of the lasting impression he left on me as the all-important guy living down the road.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Cavalock and The Obligatory Tokyo Food College

Wasn't blogging last week for obvious reasons, was contemplating on certain matters and maybe one day I'll write something bout that, but I'm back right now with the one and only obligatory food collage. Did one for New York last year and I figured I'll do another for Tokyo too. It's all so good, I just can't find anything bad to say about Tokyo food at all.

Now I bet the most asked question is "How were the KFC crisps?" Well, they most certainly do have that familiar KFC whiff when you first open the bag but after that, you really can't tell the difference between this and another bag of ordinary supermarket crisps.
A little something that's closer to home now. While in Takashimaya Times Squares over in Tokyo, we stumbled across the ABC Cooking Studio. It's apparently a major cooking baking school in Japan with branches in Taiwan as well. There were dozens of young and middle-aged women doing all kinds of culinary stuff in this one huge open concept kitchen. It was obvious that there were several different classes going on at the same time. It looked rather cool and chaotic at the same time.

Well, guess what! They are going to open a cooking studio here next month and they'll be one of the new tenants over at where the old Kinokuniya used to be in our Takashimaya. Their course brochures certainly look interesting and I'm sure the opportunity to learn how to bake or create all those tempting pastries would be most irresistible to a lot of local foodies.

To be honest, I was kinda hoping that Tokyu Hands would close their two small outlets on the island and just occupy the entire area of that floor in Takashimaya. It would still be like in Tokyo where they got like seven or eight floors in that Takashimaya.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cavalock and The Good Food Requiem

One of the things my late aunt kept reminding me when I was her caregiver was to "take the money and (use it to) eat good food." Well, I certainly did my best to honour that request in Tokyo. After drooling at the tempting images of huge chunks of sizzling beef plastered all over the hotel, we finally decided to drop by the fancy Teppan-yaki restaurant at our Keio Plaza Hotel for lunch.

Yamanami was definitely one of the more posh joints that we been to in Tokyo. Looking at the other patrons, seems like a place for business power lunches too. I have been to teppan-yaki joints back home but this has got to be the most posh one yet. We also knew this was a classy joint cos we didn't hear anyone from China yelling next to us.

Got a teppan-yaki table with a cool sky blue view of the skyscrapers. It was a no-brainer to go with the Japanese beef over the Aussie one. Like the geeky tourists that we were, we were kinda enthralled by the preparation and all. The flavourful garlic rice was also nicely done up in front of us. Another authentic Japanese meal that has us all talking about till today.

Having returned to Tokyo after six or seven years away, there were just so many quirky and fascinating things that were new to me. Well, I mean some of them were probably introduced recently like a PSA sign in the train reminding passengers to NOT PUT THEIR HANDS IN THEIR POCKETS (really!) cos doing that takes up more space in the cabin. I kinda regret not taking a pix of that but we were in the train and I didn't wanna start snapping right there. Others like the bizarre Toilet Brush Xmas Tree have likely been around for a long time and I just happened to stumble upon them now, kinda like this ... er... ingenious toilet. Flush and wash your hands at the same time! I know its been around for awhile but have never seen it in Singapore. Why not?!? And you thought NEWater was a breakthrough in water recycling solutions?!?

Plus can anything top Hitchcock sitting on top of a Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku? Well, at least we know he doesn't suffer from vertigo.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cavalock and The Tsukiji Neighborhood Mystery

After more than half a dozen trips to Tokyo, I finally found my way to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market for breakfast. It was quite an exceptional day as the sky was as bright and clear as can be but the temperature was a dismal single digit low, accompanied by a chilling breeze every few minutes. Grabbed the train just before their infamous morning rush hour and got there at bout 8am. All the fishies have already been traded away which was fine as we weren't there for that. Way we figured, there really is no need to get into a long queue at any of the Tsukiji sushi joints cos they are all good! Just step into the one with the shortest (or no) line. That's what we did and ain't no way you gonna tell me that what I had below wasn't good. Definitely one of my most memorable breakfasts ever.

Like I said, the weather was great and that really brought out the hungry crowds, tourists as well as locals. A wonderful way to start the day, however the best was yet to come and it was just around the corner.

Now we thought that's it for our Tsukiji visit but after crossing the road, we spotted a row of crowded little eateries fronting a nearby neighbourhood block. We were pleasantly surprised after crossing back for a closer look. From bowls of pipping hot ramen to giant pots of beef stew to skewers of delicious oden, it was another feast for the senses. I thought I was already stuffed but boy, was I wrong...

I still don't know exactly what that area or neighbourhood is officially called. You really can't miss it. It's a traditional market place not unlike the more popular Tsukiji market next door. Usual narrow streets and alleyways filled with numerous local food stuff but with much less prying tourists and also with plenty of non-food curios on sale. A truly unexpected hidden gem.

I thought these were cookie cutters but they are not. They are for your bento rice cut-outs although I'm sure you can use them as cookie cutters if you like. And what is probably my favorite Christmas tree of all time. I give you the one and only Toilet Brush Christmas Tree.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cavalock and The Sugamo Jizo-dori Appreciation

Things change and so do people. My early visits to Japan were more like gadget and hobby shopping sprees but this first trip after so many years away was a little different. Maybe it's cos I'm getting old but we went for more local, natural offerings this time instead of the previous touristy sights and sounds. For starters, we made a beeline to the supermarket and bought punnets of juicy Japanese strawberries and cherry tomatoes. So much cheaper and fresher than back in Singapore, they were perfect as after meal snacks throughout our trip. We even brought two whole crates of these sweet, luscious tomatoes home with us!

Sugamo Jizo-dori was somewhere that we wanted to visit after reading about it. Not a place where you would need to wade through swarms of tourists and that's just how we like it. It's only a short stroll from Sugamo station. Also known as the Harajuku for seniors, it's a street that's about a mile-long and packed with traditional food as well as quaint household stuff for sale.

From pickled garlic to fruit honeys to sesame dressing to even a handy tool for cracking ginko nuts, we snapped up so many amazing and tempting treats from all over Japan. You can tell by the posters and ads that several of the shops are rather famous islandwide. Away from the maddening crowd, the entire street has a pretty laid back vibe that lets you browse through each little shop at your own pace. I can imagine the place being packed during summer but right now it's still a wee bit cold. A wonderful place to discover new and old Japan.

Finally! At long last, I found accessories for my Kindle! Back home I bought a Kindle about a month ago and I spent weeks searching for a cover or any kinda casing for it but I couldn't find a single store in Singapore that sold anything related to a Kindle. It was like a freakin' epic quest that I could never complete until I reached Tokyo. Thank gawd, people still read books even electronic ones in Japan. I can start lamenting about how hardly anyone reads books in Singapore anymore but I shan't. Found my Kindle covers in Bic Camera and wanna know what else you can just buy over the counter there that you can't find in Singapore?