Friday, 6 March 2015

Tatsuya (Goodwood Park Hotel): where premium sashimi comes with a premium price

I must've missed Japanese food so much because it was all I ever really wanted to eat on my recent Singapore trip. When my friend T asked what I wanted for our lunch date, I automatically answered sashimi. She suggested we meet at Tatsuya in Goodwood Park Hotel.

Goodwood Park Hotel is a 5-star heritage hotel along Scotts Road. It has quite an interesting history of luxury and exclusivity dating back to the early 1900s. Its iconic Grand Tower is actually a national monument in Singapore. Luckily - and due to my previous location palaver - I knew where I was going this time around as it's right next to Far East Plaza.

Tatsuya Goodwood Park Hotel
Tatsuya is a reliable Japanese restaurant in Singapore and is quite known for its exquisite sushi offering as well as the premium price you pay for it. One can easily spend around SG$200 when ordering ala carte, but if you're up for their famous omakase sets, you're looking to shell out around SG$280-400+ (roughly £130-190). There is, however, a huge discrepancy between these prices and those of their lunch sets.

The place is quaint but bright. There's a sushi counter that sits just around 20-odd punters - definitely where you want to be as it's where the action is. There's also a room at the back that could sit around 15 more. I assume they use this area for private dining or for group bookings.

Tatsuya Goodwood Park Hotel
While waiting for T, I sat by the sushi counter to observe the chefs at work and it's quite a spectacle. Tatsuya prides their aburi so whilst there was a lot of hand-rolling, there was a lot of blow-torching, too.

Tatsuya Goodwood Park Hotel
I find so much joy in watching Japanese chefs create masterpieces through food because they exude such fascinating reverence when they put their hands to work. They have this certain type of discipline that calls for much respect which, in turn, calls for more than an Instagram post or a little #foodporn hashtag.

Tatsuya Goodwood Park Hotel
When T arrived, we were ushered to our table in the little room at the back. T is just lovely. She's such a bright, funny burst of sunshine and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation during lunch. We both went for their lunch sets, which are priced reasonably. T went for the bara chirashi set (SG$38) while I went for the sashimi bento set (SG$45). See what I mean about price difference?

Tatsuya Goodwood Park Hotel
Absent-mindedly, I dug into my bowl of chawanmushi which I'm not usually a fan of (because I know it's made of egg and I don't really eat egg). Speckled with spots of yuzu, I managed a few spoonfuls. It was like silken tofu with a sweet tang.

Tatsuya Goodwood Park Hotel
As with most Japanese lunch sets, Tatsuya's bento box selections come with the requisite miso soup and side salad with Japanese sesame dressing. 

Tatsuya Goodwood Park Hotel
The fish in my bento set glistened. Chopped beautifully were pieces of sea bounty including maguro (tuna), sake (salmon), mekajiki (swordfish), buri (yellowtail), hotate (scallop), and amaebi (spot prawn). Each piece was just exquisite: absolutely fresh and true to their natural sweetness. I enjoyed every single one of them, including the spot prawn which I usually leave out in sashimi sets.

Tatsuya Goodwood Park Hotel
My box also included a mix of lightly battered prawn and veg tempura, a mix of pickles, watermelon slices for afters, and a hefty serving of rice which - surprise, surprise - I really enjoyed.

T told me she really likes Tatsuya and I can see why. Food was good and service was very attentive. Granted there are other Japanese restaurants that come with competitive quality and prices (such as Aoki, Shinji by Kanesaka, Ki-sho etc) but this was a very decent awakening beyond what we have in London. Almost like a baptismal to another world of sushi and I can't wait to immerse in it further.

Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road, Singapore 228221
Ave spend pp: (SG$50 for lunch sets, SG$300 for omakase)

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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Wasabi Tei (Far East Plaza): where you'll find good sashimi at the right place

I ended up having quite an adventure looking for good sushi in Singapore.

It all started with a craving when a friend posted mouth-watering photos of chirashi on Instagram. She mentioned it was from a stall in Far East Plaza, a shopping centre with independent boutiques and beauty salons catering to the trendy younger culture. My friend S took me there once, admittedly after a couple of martinis, and I had a slight recollection it was along Orchard Road (like how shopping centres are all bunched together on Oxford Street). 

When I got to the mall. the place looked and felt different from what I remember. Anyway I went up the (very narrow) escalators to the 4th level where the food stalls were meant to be. After circling the whole floor for the nth time, a Filipina lady approached me and said "Miss Pinoy ka? Baka naghahanap kayo ng yaya madami kami. O baka trabaho gusto mo? Dito ka samin, madami kami!" (Miss, are you Filipino? Perhaps you're looking for a nanny, we have a lot. Or perhaps you want a job? Come to our agency, we have lots of offers!) Bit surprised, I told her I wasn't either and asked if she knew where the sushi place was. She stared at me blankly and said she's never heard of it. And then she went on to tell me about the "opportunities" and "benefits" of joining their agency.

I backed off with a nervous smile and raced my way out of the building. I checked my friend's Instagram geotag and Googled the restaurant to be sure. "But it did say Far East Plaza!" I looked at the massive sign in front of the mall  and then it hit me. 

I ended up at Far East Shopping Centre, known for its jewellery shops, sporting equipment stores... and employment agencies for domestic helpers. 


Anyway. I managed to find Far East Plaza and got to Wasabi Tei just before they closed for lunch service (12noon - 3pm, dinner is 5pm - 9.30pm).

Wasabi Tei Singapore
Lunch sets are outrageously cheap here. I quickly ordered a sashimi set which goes for SG$22 (that's about £10!). The set includes assorted sashimi, rice, miso soup, a salad, some watermelon slices for afters and hot green tea.  

Wasabi Tei, Far East Plaza
Watching this uncle prepare the fish for chirashi and sashimi sets was a treat, although I was surprised at how thick he was slicing the fish for.

Wasabi Tei, Far East Plaza
My sashimi plate involved maguro, meijiki, sake & tako (unpretentiously known as tuna, swordfish, salmon and octopus). Each piece tasted fresh to the palate despite nearing closing time. The cuts were really big and chunky and for the outrageously low price I paid for, it's really good.

Wasabi Tei, Far East Plaza
Lunch was straightforward. The simplicity of these massive fresh cuts celebrated the joy of eating good sashimi. There was much respect involved in the preparation of the dish so I tried to channel back my appreciation to the chef and finished everything on my plate. Which wasn't hard to do.

So I told my friend I've finally eaten at Wasabi Tei and immensely enjoyed it.

She replied saying she went to The Sushi Bar (3/F in Far East Plaza), not Wasabi Tei.


Wasabi Tei
Far East Plaza on 14 Scotts Road #05-70 Singapore 228213
Ave spend pp: SG$30 goes a long way

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Monday, 2 March 2015

Plaid Boy & Girl Next Shore go on minimoon: a hike, Piolo Pascual's view, and sunset dinner

Plaid Boy and I arrived in Pangulasian after lunch hour and we were keen to take advantage of what the island had to offer.

It really didn't take much to fall in love with the island. The place is darn beautiful. 

We were given free water canisters to remind us to keep hydrated all day throughout all the activities we chose to do. Such a nice touch, no?

I had ours refilled at the Poolside Bar before we went on our first scheduled activity of the day.

On my way, I tensed when I saw a monitor lizard crossing the pathway. I hate reptiles and amphibians but we were told these babies were quite harmless as they're the "tiny shy type".  Right.

Plaid Boy and I decided to go on a "sunset hike". We had to go through a trail on a hill extending from the path of the canopy villas.

As we started to ascend, we spotted some monkeys playing around. This little one got too rowdy and bumped his head on the metal hedges. We all heard a loud thud... and then silencio. Yikes. 

The trail itself isn't too hard to trek although there are a few steep parts that could get tricky and slippery when you go down. It took us about 25 minutes going up and around 20 minutes going down. Easy peasy! I managed to spot a couple of pretty cool birds living in the rainforest and thankfully no more reptile sightings!

Started from the bottom, now we're here! Our guide, a nice chap called Emman, made sure our trek was safe and kept us entertained as we went along. He was very knowledgeable about the island and its housed species as well as the surrounding resorts, some of which you can view from the deck.

The view was quite spectacular.

I wish my photography skills were good enough to give this wonderful place and view justice. =(

But I swear, it's so beautiful up there. Even the hunky Filo actor Piolo Pascual thinks so!
Here he is photographed at the viewing deck with his son on two different occasions. 
(Photo credit)
Piolo allegedly swings for the same team, if you get my drift, but whether the rumours are true or not you can't deny the fact that he's pretty damn hot! *fans self*

But sorry, Piolo. You've had your chance. Lol.

I have my own (c)hunky man here. #pleasedontkillme

The sun was just about to go down when we decided to head back for some food.

We went back to the Poolside Bar where we had great views of the sunset as we waited for dinner.

I had the chicken inasal (PHP560) a type of chargrilled chicken from the Visayas region marinated in vinegar, pepper and annato oil which gives it a distinct yellowish hue. My half chicken came with garlic rice (FYI, extra garlic rice here costs PHP200) and achara (pickled green papaya relish). It was juicy and delicious, and satisfied a craving I've had for eons.

Plaid Boy's pork barbecue ribs (PHP580) was juicy and massive. It came with half a grilled corn and a small serving of potato salad. I liked it enough and traded my chicken leg for a bit.

After dinner, we retreated to our beach villa and found some native delicacies left for us as a treat. It was a pretty chilled first night in the island and for the first time in a long time, after all the wedding preps, we both slept soundly for hours.

Exactly what we needed.

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