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June 24, 2009 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

Today I met my family at the Charles de Gaulle airport and drove them to Chablis. There was a big accident on the A6 highway because all cars stopped moving for 30 minutes, and people got out of the cars to see what was happening down the road. Soon, a few ambulances and rescue vehicles arrived and cleared the way.

Because of that, by the time we arrived in Chablis most restaurants were closed. We finally found a bistro. All they had left to offer us was a cheese platter with salad and bread, which we willingly agreed on, and some Chablis wine.

We drove on to Dijon, settled down quickly at the hotel and booked a table at a Michelin 1-star restaurant at the Hostellerie de Chapeau Rouge. I was surprised it was relatively easy to book a place on the day itself. We took a scenic walk through the historical part of town to get to the restaurant.

Overall, the food was good, but initially disappointing. As an Asian, I am not so easily impressed when presented with a row of maki (Japanese rice rolls) and what tasted like fried dough with Indian spices dipped in yoghurt sauce. My own starter was salmon in 3 ways. One tasted like a Vietnamese dumpling, with chopped salmon and mint leaves wrapped in a rice-based dumpling skin with a fish sauce dip. Another was like a wrap with guacamole. The final chunk of salmon was nicely done and I thought that was the most original. I thought it would’ve been fine to stick to French, or a less literal interpretation of ‘fusion’ food. The other starter was a simple rocket salad but nicely done, though I dare say it was nothing unusual.

The wine was excellent and together with the main courses, made up for the unimaginative Asian-style starters. My veal was tender and tasty even though the pieces were thick. The others had beef and swordfish, and the roast pigeon in could’ve been the best dish of all, because it was even more flavourful and succulent than my veal.

We ended the meal with two combinations of various desserts, either laid into one cup or plate. I tasted unsweetened ‘glace’ (ice cream) and it was actually refreshing. The sesame whipped cream was also unsweetened, and similarly easier on my conscience. So were the jelly cubes. Thus I thought the mains and desserts were worth it.

Tomorrow we head to Beaune, another town en route to Geneva.

Au revoir

April 2, 2008 2:51 AM | Comments (0)

It’s nearly 3am and I’m still thinking about my French class. As blogged previously, I meant to start at an easier level but due to a scheduling mistake by Alliance Francaise, I was put in a more difficult class than I wanted to be in.

Green beer...

March 30, 2008 2:07 AM | Comments (8)

… to go with my eggs and ham.

Green beer.

A drink of note at SXSW 2008.

Then I discovered they also serve green beer in Singapore. At the Red Dot Brewhouse.

Green spirulina beer! Now all we need is a Green Day album to listen to…


The only thing is, I don’t agree with the claim that this beer can cure cancers and AIDS. If beer can do that, then maybe it can create World Peace as well. Then all the Miss Universe contestants will have to think of a new answer.

Beauty World, the musical

January 20, 2008 10:46 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (0)

I've long heard of Michael Chiang's play but on Saturday I finally got to see it in musical form. I was quite proud to see homegrown productions take off. The music was good, the acting was humorous without being overdone, the costumes were flamboyant and the storyline was plausible. Some of us gave a standing ovation.

Beauty World
This is the cover of the programme.

After the show we chatted with Dick Lee's family and I asked Dick to autograph the Beauty World CD we had purchased. A large crowd had already gathered inside the Esplanade, queuing up to meet the cast. I followed Dick as he squeezed his way through the throng, with security guards keeping our path clear. He found a marker pen and a counter table and autographed my CD. Then we took this photo:

Me and Dick Lee

I first met Dick when his Mad Chinaman album (my favourite) took off and there was a party at his place. I had just begun writing songs and aspired to be like him. I've always wanted to have a photo with him but that eluded me until yesterday.

After that, we joined the queue to meet the rest of the cast, who were in high spirits. Wherever I could recall a good song performance, I'd praise the respective cast member - it's always good to encourage people. And they were appreciative and very friendly, no airs about them.

Us and Irene Ang
Me and my sister with comedienne actress Irene Ang, who was roaringly funny as the Cantonese maidservant.

The highlight was meeting the star of the show, Elena Wang. We realised she was from the same school as my sister, and she was delighted to hear about it. Her voice was crystal clear, she hit all the notes, her acting was convincing - truly a rising star.

Me, Elena (the star) and Vicki

All in all, it was a most memorable night. Singapore can be proud of this homegrown musical.

St. Regis - a first look

December 23, 2007 6:20 PM

I visited St Regis today. It officially opened yesterday.

St Regis facade

It looks even better on the inside.

Chandelier at main entrance

We wanted to have tea. So we walked up to the receptionist who was standing in front of a nice-looking dining area, alongside a row of fountains. She appeared unsure about what to do, and checked with another colleague before telling us about the different types of tea they had.

We decided to have the simpler English afternoon-style tea, and were led to the Drawing Room. We were seated on some plush sofas. After a while the waitresses pushed over a table draped with a thick linen cloth. They also apologised for making us wait so long for a table (literally). We said that's OK.

The tea menus were comprehensive. For S$38 you'd get a range of savouries and sweets, including 2 types of scones, smoked salmon roll, a wagyu beef rucola sandwich, cakes and chocolates. That was just for 1 person, so we shared the food and ordered extra cups of tea.

The savouries

We asked what type of tea (drink) they had, and our mainland Chinese waitress apologised and said that their full range of tea hadn't arrived yet. While she recited the list of available teas, I could tell from her trembling voice that she was nervous. We chose English Breakfast tea.

Funky sugar cubes

Check out the sugar cubes! They looked like square Polo sweets. Same goes for the brown sugar.

Cup of tea Another waitress brought us two teapots and asked if she could pour tea for us. I was amused as usually the waiter would just walk up and pour tea for us - no need to ask for permission. This probably implied a higher standard of service as befitted a hotel of this class. The waitress also placed our teapots on a separate table, which again indicated that they would pour everything for us.

As with the receptionist, we realised the waitstaff were greenhorns too. The waitress tried to pour tea using a strainer. However, this was a tip tea strainer, i.e. it had a base attached to it, and the waitress didn't know how to use it properly. So the tea went through the sieve, trickled into the base and then went into one of our teacups. My mum nicely told the waitress she had to tilt the strainer at a right angle. After a while the waitress seemed to understand. She thanked my mum for the instruction and apologised that she was trained to use a simpler type of strainer, which the hotel didn't seem to have.

The mainland Chinese waitress was the next to pour tea for us, and she too received my mother's instruction. She learnt quickly. After that, a third waitress poured tea for us. She poured the tea into the strainer until it filled up the base, which then overflowed and spilled into the teacup. For the third time my mother showed how to strain tea properly, and again we were told that they had been trained to use a different type of sieve, not this one. At least the third waitress was more confident and thanked us for teaching her something new.

We asked the first waitress (the one who took some time to understand how to use the strainer properly) twice to pour tea for us again, and twice she said yes then walked off to serve another table. She never came back to serve us. In the end we got the mainland Chinese waitress to help us and she was more responsive. After a while all the waitstaff seemed overwhelmed with new groups of customers coming in, and our teacups were empty for a long time. So we moved the teapots to our own table and poured our own tea. The waitstaff didn't seem to mind us doing that. I thought that wasn't consistent - if you made it a point to pour tea for us at the start, then do it all the way.

Overall, it was not a big deal but the staff need more training, experience and confidence.

Toilet flush in Braille!

After downing many cups of tea, I went to the Ladies and it was very nice. Look, even the toilet flush has Braille on it!

Lots of towels under the sinks

And there are many rolls of cloth towels. Lots of laundering to do. Alas, one patron didn't know where to put her used towel, and thew it into the dustbin! There was a large laundry bin next to it... she should have put it there.

The only thing lacking in the Ladies' was a place to hang our handbags! Not very clever. I thought all the top hotels would have either a ledge or a stub. So we had to hang our bags on the doorknobs. Not very becoming. What if regular patrons like rich tai-tais are unable to hang their large Louis Vuitton or Hermes handbags on the doorknobs? Surely they wouldn't put their bags on the toilet floor. Also each cubicle is a bit small, which was surprising for a top hotel. So there's not much space to put your shopping bags down, either.

Soon after I used the Ladies', two toilet cleaners arrived and one was sitting down on a chair meant for patrons, yarning away loudly to the other in dialect. It didn't make it feel like a 6 or 7 star hotel. Overall it felt like the staff weren't being supervised and were left to cut it out on their own.

We walked up the main staircase and noticed that there were fibreoptics woven into the carpet! Very unusual to see steps glittering. The hotel also had a huge chandelier that looked like Noah's Ark.

Ark-like chandelier

While walking around the lobby I realised I knew the lounge pianist! He's a teacher in my music school. We exchanged knowing looks. I was doubly amused because he actually teaches bass and the piano is his second instrument.

Overall, the hotel was very nicely furnished. It has a lovely Christmas tree, paintings, sculptures and the back corridor was lined with plenty of congratulatory bouquets of flowers. The staff were well-intentioned and many smiled and greeted us, although the few incidents we encountered showed that they need more experience and supervision. St. Regis in Singapore may take some time to get up to scratch with the high standards of staff at other top hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton.

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