[Review] Marsiling’s Automated Tray Return System

First published on The Blogfather’s Facebook Page here.

Marsiling: this seemingly innocuous estate has seen a bit of drama over the last year, firstly when it quite inexplicably lost its representative Member of Parliament to an unfortunate incident many of us now refer to under our breath with a disgruntled, forceful spray of spittle as the Reserved Presidential Election.

It looks like some of the people managing Marsiling want to keep the momentum going, this time with an absolutely brilliant idea that will surely thrust the constituency into the forefront of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, complete with green and pink robots sprouting multiple arms out the sides of their bodies.

***

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the only two-month-old Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre, and to observe for myself how the much-lauded Automated Tray Return System worked.

It didn’t.

No trays. Just everything else.

It isn’t technically broken or anything. As far as I can see, the tray return belts were running, there were cleaners manically sorting and cleaning utensils inside, but having sat there for the entire duration of one Sunday night dinner plus about 15 minutes of idling, no one actually used it to return any trays.

Right next to the tray chomper, they do have “manual” utensil return station. But the whole set-up is just kind of intimidating to the casual user, to be honest.

One wonders why… until one actually buys food from the stalls. Most of them don’t provide trays. And the patrons of those that do, don’t use them, preferring to hand-carry their purchases bowl by hot soupy bowl to their tables.

See any trays? :/

Meanwhile, the tables remain haunted by the remnants of its previous occupants, while the cleaners worked more swiftly than usual to try to keep the otherwise new food court pristine.

The cleaners do try their best when the diners don’t seem to even want to try.

Oh dear. What could have possibly gone wrong? Why is this new, innovative technological approach actually making things worse? And are they really going to implement this incredibly idiotic idea into 23 other hawker centres? Will somebody please stop these NEAncompoops?

In order to demonstrate just how badly this scheme has so utterly backfired on itself three times over, allow me to respond to some fantastic quotes from another CNA article that covers the tray return system specifically.

“With the ATRS, cleaners will be able to focus on cleaning tables instead of having to clear the plates of cutlery left behind.”
Two hawker centres start automated tray return, to charge deposits for trays [29 Jan 2018, Channel NewsAsia]

In fact, the complete opposite has happened. Cleaners are working double-time to clear the cutlery off tables because there are no trays for them to pile the cutlery on and remove in a single motion. and then they clean the tables. And given the circumstances, I really give all my respect tot he cleaners for maintaining the food centre’s sanity despite this. I would add that if not for Marsiling being so ulu in the first place, they would have easily been overwhelmed by the work they had to do to keep the place clean.

“Changing the behaviour and mindset of the public will take time and it will take patience.”
– Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources and Senior Minister of State for Health

Actually, it took absolutely no time at all to change the behaviour and mindset of the public. Thanks to the complete lack of forward thinking in implementing the idea, we all hate it so much that no one is coughing up the deposit for the trays, resulting in patrons not even using them any more. People are even revolting against the idea, returning only the trays but leaving the crockery behind; the news picked up on this just 2 days after Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of oh-you-know launched the thing.

Even worse, there are people who actually want to clear their table themselves and return their trays and crockery, but the System has made it so inconvenient to do so that the considerate ones would rather not come back a second time, even though the food there is really not half bad. And anyone who has encountered elderly people feeling completely and utterly lost in front of ATMs can just imagine how they would feel when facing these tray-eating behemoths, and for what? 50 cents?

Wah. So advanced until people don’t use.

Hawkers aren’t buying into it, either; I mentioned that most of them had given up providing the trays already since their customers weren’t taking them. They could use the extra countertop space anyway. But the idea of charging a tray deposit makes even less sense; despite having an easier time with washing up (which they have to pay more for as well), these stallholders already have to contend with a drop in business on top of higher cost of operations. Who has the time to manage a separate stash of deposit money that isn’t even theirs?

“We need to sustain this and of course, continue to encourage the community to support this.”
– Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of This Is Just Too Long To Type Already

I actually have no problem with the technology itself. I imagine people might have fun watching 2 hawker stalls swallowing copious numbers of trays and crockery. But why do our stat boards believe our people have to be managed with money all the time? Timbre+ did okay with a similar system; their deposited is included into your dine-in meal cost by default, and failure to returns is as good as forfeiting your deposit – h/t Shawn Toh). The food they sell there is so overpriced anyway you barely feel it. Besides, people expect a private enterprise to use money as their language for control. Why does our public sector keep thinking the same language applies to their work?

Dear, dear National Environment Agency (NEA). The solution is incredibly simple, and you even get to keep your dirty-dish swallowing machines (even keep installing new ones) and still contribute productively to the country’s Smart Nation drive. Simply forego the bloody 50-cent/$1 deposit, tape up the coin return component, put the non-automated tray return stations back next to all the pillars keeping the food centre roof up, SUSTAIN your education of the public on the virtues of habitual table clearing, and of course, continue to encourage the community to support THAT.

And please don’t take too long, because Marsiling is making you look really bad right now. And I really don’t feel like visiting Bukit Merah Central either.

I didn’t eat this.

[Sponsored and IRAS-Approved] If Your Mother Was Trained at Kai Garden

The Wife and I were invited to Kai Garden for a food tasting, the same day I was called up to provide a soundbite for a New Paper/AsiaOne article on the IRAS-social media influencer debacle. Amidst an flurry of reactions from the blogging community that I was also embroiled in, that ranged from confusion to anxiety to frustration to why-should-anyone-care and this-is-what-the-70%-voted-for-you-happy-now, I was determined to both get my opinions aired in the hopes of someone in the IRAS actually noticing the can of worms they’ve just opened, and going to a sponsored food review at a high-brow Chinese restaurant. Kind of ironic, but let’s see how this works.

kai-env

So I left the office and arrived early (I drove 9.7km, which, for an estimated 15km/litre fuel consumption calculated on $2.10 per litre after discount, plus $3 at the Bugis ERP gantry cost me -$4.36). Mother of Xander took the train to meet me there with kids in tow (-$2.38) It was a quiet Wednesday evening at the restaurant, but we were to find out later that their dim sum lunch hour was popular among the working crowd in the surrounding offices, and of course, dinner business does pick up from Thursdays onwards through the entire weekend.

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Of course, we were joined with some other friends; the Sims from Life’s Tiny Miracles, who brought their daughter and toddler son along, as well as Ah Soh, her husband and three kids. Together with the Mother of Xander and our own two chipmunks, we took up a table of 10 adults and 3 toddlers. These numbers come into play at the end of the dinner, so bear with me.

kai-dace

We start the dinner off with Braised Home-made Dace with Black Bean Sauce, which brought back memories of my teen years of cooking my instant noodles with canned dace of the supermarket variety. But to be fair, this one was most definitely made from scratch and had a very delicate sweetness and far less salty compared to its mass market brethren. In an establishment such as this, it’s actually really good stuff for $11.80.

kai-chix

Braised Chicken with Flower Crab (we were served the full $88 portion, but they also have a $48 half version), thick sauce infused with the rich flavour of the crab, though the kampong chicken was a little tough on my 38-year-old teeth.

kai-prawn

It starts getting a little more interesting with the Sautéed Prawn with Dried Fish Maw ($35). It may look unassuming (and we were starting to notice a theme here), but the dish bears a thick, rich gravy reminiscent to the previous dish, which contributes well to meld the fragrance of the tiger prawn together with the beautifully light spring when you bite into the savoury maw.

kai-other

There was also the conventional but Baked Whole Eggplant with Special Sauce ($18) which melts in your mouth like a savoury cream, the Wok-fried Garoupa Fillet with Spring Onions in Stone Pot ($38) which I wish I had more of (and very likely will at some point in the future), and the Grilled Pork Rib in Special Honey Pepper Sauce ($22)–big on honey, not so much pepper, covered in sliced almond for an added crunch.

No, that's not the waitress.
No, that’s not the waitress.

Dinner was as advertised; family favourites with a homecooked feel, unassumingly presented, much like how your mother might do it… if she were an established Hong Kong chef. The service, though, was certainly well worth the 10% service charge ($31.40); the staff in attendance were certainly attentive amidst a quiet, half-filled night, though as we would sometimes experience, the patrons didn’t quite know what to make of us bloggers with our cameras and constant moving around taking pictures of everything, short of the food on the other guests’ tables.

kai-dessert

To top the night off, we ordered a round of dessert; chilled fresh coconut puree ($6.80 per serving), chilled fresh mango puree with sago ($6.80 per serving), aloe vera in lemongrass jelly ($6.80 per serving), and mango sticky rice (give me a minute, I need to check the price). The dessert chef is Thai, so understandably the dessert range had a very distinct Thai signature. Since these weren’t explicitly provided  as part of the tasting, I spoke to the restaurant manager to pay for the dessert, but she very politely smiled and generously told us it was on the house.

We drove home very full and very happy, but I thought of the restaurant manager’s friendly generosity during the 17km drive (-$2.38, same variables as the drive to Marina Square); she probably didn’t read the news about how we were now required to declare everything  we ate at food tastings for tax purposes (oh, which reminds me: 7% GST, $24.24).

And here it is:

Non-monetary Benefits
(calculated for 3 pax – my wife, my son and me, excluding the toddler who tried to eat a chopstick but failed)
Braised Dace: $3.54
Chicken and Crab: $26.40
Prawn and Fish Maw: $10.50
Eggplant: $5.40
Garoupa fillet: $11.40
Pork rib: $6.60
Dessert: $27.20
10% Service charge: $9.10
7% GST: $7.01

Monetary Benefits
$0.50 (my daughter found it in the shopping trolley she was sitting in during a grocery run just before the food tasting)

Total income from this food tasting: $107.66
Expenses
Drive from office to restaurant: -$4.36 (Note: I was told S-plate car expenses don’t count)
Train fare from home to restaurant: -$2.38 (Nope, can’t declare this)
Parking: -$2.20 (Nope)
Transport from restaurant: -$2.38 (Nuh-uh)
Electricity used to write this post (4 hours at night, with the TV on to break the quiet and the air-con as well because hot): $1.40 (Nada; “considerable amount of private use tied to this period”)
Internet usage (4 hours): $0.40 (Crap, also cannot)

Total expenses from this food tasting: $13.12 $0.00 (What the hell.)

This being my first post of the year (sorry, I was busy), including the annual expenses incurred by maintaining this blog: domain name renewal ($216 per year for 4 domains), webhosting ($76.80 per year), and software for image editing and website coding ($66 per year), I have $263.46 $250.70 to go in order to break even. Actually, I’m doing pretty okay, if I don’t need to take leave in order to attend any blogger events (a half-day of leave will set me back $80). Some of us also periodically plonk down money for Facebook post boosting and Instagram ads, and others will buy their own giveaway premiums during the course of the year, too.

I could probably also claim my laptop, camera, phone and time spent coming up with all of these words and images in the first place, but it’s 2.30am now, I’m tired, I still have to go to work in the morning and I really don’t do food, product and service reviews any more.

***

Contrary to popular belief, we actually aren’t too bothered about declaring income from blogging (and if we are, we really shouldn’t). It’s just that for a state authority to suddenly tell us in the middle of tax season that we have a month to declare “non-monetary benefits” most of us never even thought of tracking, is just plain insensitive. (Congratulations to IRAS, by the way, for pulling off the most successful influencer campaign Singapore has ever seen, and all it took was a handful of letters.) But I’ve said what I wanted to say to IRAS in the papers, in the hopes of opening a dialogue with our community to sort things out; I hear it’s already happening, so thank you.

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Troll of the day.

Posted by Winston Tay on Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The public seems to have a skewed opinion of us; I can have my name and occupation clearly stated in the damn article, and I can still be referred to as “a very stupid woman… who always writes about fashion or plastic surgery or gossip”, simply because the article is about bloggers (also, the photo slapped in the middle of the newspaper article doesn’t help). I wish I could correct that perception in a single blog post, but oh well. Another day, then.

I really wrote this post for my fellow bloggers and social media influencers. Maybe this is a good thing. I initially planned for the income/expense breakdown above to prove there’s really not much non-monetary benefit worth the effort in declaring. Granted this is just one food tasting and there’s a whole spectrum of other food, products, services and experiences of varying value that we similarly have to track, but I started to look at the whole thing a little differently after doing the numbers. Besides such an exercise being able to help us sieve out what’s worth writing and what’s lipstick, it isn’t until we’re forced to show the value of our work, that we actually see the value in our work. Maybe it is time we took our blogging–and ourselves–a lot more seriously. Like, IRAS serious.

On the other hand, we’re at least being recognised by a state agency as a legitimate professional body. Now we just have to convince the rest of the country.

kai-empty

The Value of Eating Rubbish

My father’s best friend once told me a story about his formative years. He grew up in a neighbourhood with a bunch of kids from two distinct families; one was rich, and the other poor. The rich kids never got to go out and play, and they were extremely picky with their food (silver spoons, golden mouths). The poor ones though, they ran everywhere, played every time, and ate everything… most usually scraps from trash and leftovers from other people’s plates.

That was the first time I heard of the Hokkien term 垃圾吃, 垃圾大, or “rubbish eat, rubbish grow” (the saying that sparked the food blog of the same name) .

He told me the rich boys were frail and thin, and constantly fell sick. The poor kids, though, managed to live through eating their scraps, rotten fruit and vegetables from the market and basically lived like kampung chickens; all muscle, no fat, and seriously strong immune systems.

One of the rich kids died young. His brothers and sisters were never happy, and grew up bickering and estranged from their own families. The poor guys stayed loyal friends, eking out businesses for themselves and never hesitated to pool together for each other during hard times.

While there are important life lessons to learn no matter what walk of life one hails from, my dad’s best friend learnt about roughing it out no matter what the circumstances, loyalty and adaptability from the kids who lived off scrap. And he inspired my dad to do the same. People always ask how my father would manage to bring up 4 kids and put 3 of them through uni (he wanted me to go too, but my brain had other plans). Within our family, we all knew it was because my dad’s best friend pumped in money to supplement my sisters’ educations, which he had from his HDB shophouse furniture business. And because of the story he told me, I knew the friendship they built was learned from the 垃圾吃,垃圾大 kids.

Recently a friend of mine took offense to the phrase being used on her child, and I took the opportunity to tell this story, in part because my father’s best friend, who died years ago, has been on my mind quite a bit since my own father passed away. Many of us may have heard of – or even used – the phrase being used as a rude remark, but thanks to him and my father, the phrase holds a very different meaning for me.

We know what we want our own children to grow up to become. We care in the ways we know best, and only we know best. People will judge and that’s up to them. We really have only our own children to answer to, and as far as I’m concerned, whoever says that to be mean, doesn’t even know what it means. In fact, I’ve shut a few aunties up before when they use this line of talk with us, by explaining what I understand of the term.

So next time someone says this to you about your kid, maybe take it as a compliment. There’s a very high likelihood that your child is going to grow up blessed with good health and a great personality.

No Staycation, Crowne Plaza Changi? – A Breakfast Buffet Love Story (Sort of)

It’s the June school holidays. For most of us, it means family time, activity-hunting and possibly a vacation, now that the kids are out of school for a month.

For parent bloggers, it’s peak season. Especially for dads, since Father’s Day happens in the same month.

And so it is that The Blogfather has been receiving his fair share of event invitations all the past 2-3 weeks. But one particular email had my undivided attention for a good two days, for the fact that it wasn’t addressed to me. The email started with “Dear Xander,…” (you can read the excerpt now published there).

A little while after receiving the message, I responded to graciously accept the sender’s invitation, on condition that the sender also be present, because this was someone I really didn’t mind meeting.

Azur-Entrance

But that’s not the story.

A day after I replied to RSVP, I received a Twitter notification.

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I don’t know about you, but it felt a little like flirting to me. So I responded.

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I took things a bit further and posted it on Facebook, too.

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Then a friend of mine caught wind of the conversation (you might know him from his blog, too), and decided to play wingman.

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It then escalated into a love triangle.

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Given that I knew what Crowne Plaza had in store for the Cheekiemonkies (word gets around; there are only so many Singaporean dad bloggers, you know), I was understandably not too pleased.

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Crowne Plaza Changi decided a threesome wasn’t quite enough.

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And The Blogfather welcomed the idea.

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But Changi Airport left us all hanging.

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***

Seriously, given what’s been happening the past few months (since I published what I now endearingly called The 6pm Post, I had to sit with my boss to re-evaluate my work situation; long story short, I’m now in the midst of transitioning to a new company), a breakfast at Crowne Plaza is nice, but a staycation would make a really, really nice Father’s Day gift, don’t you think, Crown Plaza Changi / Changi Airport?

Staycations notwithstanding, breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Changi’s award-winning restaurant Azur is nice. I give you The Blogfather’s word, and food porn taken of Azur’s breakfast buffet spread, in case you need more than The Blogfather’s word (which is not surprising, seeing as I’m no food blogger):

Azur's Intercontinental selection
Azur’s Intercontinental selection

Azur_Panorama

The Asian breakfast section
The Asian breakfast section

And from now till 30 June, up to four children (below the age of 12) can dine free with every two paying adults (at S$33++ per adult).

I was told this breakfast buffet is a perfect start of the day for families planning a full day of activities in Changi Airport itself. As for exactly what fun family activities the Airport has in store for the month of June,… go ask Cheekiemonkies later. They got the staycation.

All I had was breakfast. 🙁

Azur-Waffles

Disclaimer: Aside from the breakfast buffet, this post is not sponsored. At least, not yet.

Take Care, and Watch The Diet

I mentioned earlier that health was one of the issues behind my hiatus late last year. The past few months have a number of people in my social circle confused and maybe just a little annoyed with my rather drastic post-hospitalisation change in diet. I’m hoping to clear the air once and for all with just this one post.

I got my second blood test results last week. Besides the high (bad) cholesterol reading (touted to be the cause of the pancreatitis), I now also have diabetes.

Given my family history of the ailment, it’s not a big surprise. Whether it was a result of the pancreatitis or not, is just niggling after an inevitability. Nonetheless, the news hit me pretty hard. Didn’t help that I didn’t like the doctor, either. Poor lady must get this kind of response a lot from the way she announces things:

Doctor: “Well, Mr Tay, your diabetes is confirmed. So we’ll put you on a course of oral pills for the next 14 weeks so your body is more sensitive to the insulin… uh, Mr Tay, are you all right?”

Me: (staring hard into nothing in particular) “No.”

Doctor: “Why?”

Me: (staring at her) “Well, it’s not like you just gave me good news now, is it?”

Yes, like I said. I didn’t like the doctor.

Subsequently, I decided to test the ground by telling a select number of people what I had, just to see how everyone (me included) would react.?One friend went, “Crap. Take care, and watch the diet.” Another went, “Must be the diet.” A colleague at work seemed rather lost for words, so she started talking to me about food. Another friend started talking to me about essential oils and natural alternative sweeteners (which I am actually taking into serious consideration), but by friend number 2, I knew where the trend was going.

To be completely blunt, it sucks to be reminded about what caused my downfall in the first place. So I understand completely that you only mean well, but you’ll excuse me if I leave your well-wishing comments online if they consist of the word or connotation of “diet” or “eat healthy” in it, just so the people who have read what I write here will know you didn’t read this post thoroughly (or at all). You might want to take note of this if you want to communicate the same to people who are suffering from diabetes, too.

***

The day I got diagnosed, I asked the doctor for a medical certificate for the whole day; I was no longer in the mood to do much else, much less work. But I did want to do one thing.

I spent the rest of that day with The Wife, talked with her about it, got a light pep talk from her, had a late, light, vegetarian lunch, then picked up Xan from school and went to a nearby park where we gave him a little picnic meal, and hung out at the park playground. It turned out to be a good day. I had everything and everyone I wanted in life with me, so I must have done something right. And they reminded me what I was living for, so I know I must do it right.

[NOT a Review] 320? Below – Keeping the Ice Dream Alive

This is not a review. It’s more like a commentary about the current labour crunch faced by one of many small, mom & pop F&B operators in Singapore. Also, look for the call for help at the end of this post.

320-shopfront

About a month ago, my wife published a review on her blog about this nifty little place near Little India called?320? Below Nitro Cream Cafe. About a day or two after that post was published, the owners of the cafe announced on their Facebook page that they were closing down the business.

We were shocked to say the least. It was Xander’s favourite ice cream parlour, and it was also such a unique concept, we couldn’t fathom how they would not be able to sustain themselves. So I decided to see if I could find out why.

A few hours after I heard the news, I posted this on my Facebook page and personal FB wall:

320-FB-callout

Two days later, one of the owners, Susan, responded.

We met up a week later at their cafe (the shutters were still down). Both Susan and her partner Keith said they’ve had no problems breaking even since they started in October last year, so the business is financially sound. But the problem was manpower; they couldn’t find someone to help them manage the day-to-day operations and part-timers were also very hard to come by. By the time my wife got to talk about them on her blog, they were all burnt out keeping the place running by themselves.

320-Nitro

I’ve seen other perfectly healthy F&B businesses go belly up because of the exact same issue. Hock Lam Beef Noodle’s flagship Upper Serangoon shophouse shut down unceremoniously, and for 3 days (I think), they put up a banner on the front of their shop blaming the government’s foreign labour restriction policy for their inability to find hired help (it was a large banner, with a long writeup).

With?320? Below, the problem they presented was that they didn’t have the requisite number of locals in their employ to hire people who actually wanted to work in an ice cream shop – and the pool of ready F&B job hunters mostly hail from overseas. After speaking with a number of friends in the F&B business, I realised this was a problem?felt widely across ?the industry (except maybe for Eighteen Chefs). But somehow, the idea just didn’t sit right with me.

***

So ultimately, The Blogfather is writing this for 2 reasons (and unfortunately, money is not one of them – and neither is free ice cream).

320-Xan

1. This is my son’s (and my nieces’ and nephew’s) favourite ice cream parlour. I’ve personally had quite enough of standing by watching helplessly as good dreams such as this fade off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Also, my wife is living in the fear that the next food review she puts out will cause the business she’s writing about to also close down (apparently this is not the first time), so I’m trying to break the curse. And if it all doesn’t work out, at least I know I bloody tried.

2. I believe there are locals – and lots of us – who are perfectly fine with working in the F&B service line; just that Susan and Keith, being new inductees into the industry (they previously had very established careers in the finance sector before starting the cafe) were simply looking for help in the wrong places.

But where should they really be looking? This is where I need your help.

320? Below is now looking for a manager for their cafe, as well as a team of permanent part-timers who like to serve up unique, fully customisable freshly concocted nitro cream in KitchenAid Artisan mixers. They need help keeping the dream alive, so if you know anyone who would like to give it a shot, or are interested in it yourself, do give the nice couple with the neat little cornershop a mail at jobs@320below.com.

And if you’re curious about what exactly they serve up (you can see from what Xander’s eating that this is not the usual ice cream you get anywhere else),?320? Below has since reopened, albeit only on weekends for now (Fri-Sat, 2pm-12am and Sundays, 2pm-11pm) until the cafe manages to staff itself up good and proper – or die trying.

[Review + Giveaway] By Invitation of the King

Update: The winners have been picked! Check the end of this post to see if you’ve won, and thanks for your endearing comments!

“Daddy, where are we going?” my rather bored son asked as we drove out for the evening.

“We’ve been invited to dinner by a King,” I replied. “We’re going to a castle. There’ll be knights there.”

The boy sat up; I piqued his interest, much to the bemusement of his mother. “Castle? Where?”

“At VivoCity,” I said.

king-louis-entrance-2

In fact, we were invited by the management of The King Louis for a royal evening feast. Prior to this, the only things we knew about the place were that they planted a couple of knights’ armour as promotional displays around the shopping centre (I was later told there were 3 knights in total strewn around the area), and that they were located round the back of Daiso, at what was once Hog’s Breath Caf?, where I once brought the wife, before the wife was the wife, in one of my early bids to impress her into becoming my wife – with an avocado ribeye steak, I still remember.

king-louis-entrance

I always thought The King Louis to be a tavern or a pub with a really good view of Sentosa; I was only half-right. Turns out it is a full-service restaurant bar and grill with a really good view of Sentosa. Our hostess for the evening also pointed out that Sentosa has a really good view of the restaurant?(they also have another dessert cafe bistro called Queens across the bridge), especially at night when the restaurant signage is lit.

They're everywhere, those pesky knights..
They’re everywhere, those pesky knights. ..

It’s just as dramatic within. The interior is set up like a dimly-lit Tudor-style dining hall, complete with oak tables and benches, a mural of a majestic castle by a lake, a number of knights hanging out with swords and all, and a taxidermy tiger which my son took a special interest to throughout the night. There’s also a ceiling mounted television screening all manner of medieval epics from Lord of the Rings to The Chronicles of Narnia, in case, you know, the dead tiger isn’t enough of a distraction.

Dead tiger decides to photobomb my shot.
Dead tiger decides to photobomb my shot.

If you’re vegetarian, you need to seriously rethink your lifestyle if you want to sit with your meat-loving friends here, because The King Louis is a carnivorous lair, and not an ounce ashamed of it. And they call this a family restaurant for one very big reason; you should never attempt to go into the castle alone. Always with a larger group of friends, your work colleagues (including your tea auntie, cleaner uncle, and the despatch riders) or better still, all 3 generations of your extended family.

And what’s a king’s castle without a royal feast? The King Louis serves up specialty starter platters (the Platter C that we ordered had BBQ wings, calamari, prawn rolls, and they also have this strange bacon-wrapped banana chunks which completely threw me off) and “banquets”, gigantic silver trays of food laid out to cover way more than the required spectrum of the food pyramid (a pile of roast black pepper beef, baby back ribs, sausages, and/or an array of various seafood, depending on what you order, laid on a bed of?roast potatoes and butter-drenched vegetables). And if you’d like a swig of beer to go with all that food, The King’s got Hoegaarden on tap, as well as a selection of 17 other bottled offerings, that kind of read like a “Greatest Hits” of beer brands (Heineken, Fosters, Corona, Little Creatures and ?Somersby cider, just to name a few).

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Its selection of banquets (from the respectable Knight’s menu, to the by-no-means-ladylike Queen platters, to the very opulent, seafood-based King’s Banquet) are a sight to behold, and the restaurant is happy to provide doggie bags (or aluminium swans, depending on who’s working in the kitchen at the time) for leftovers (and I promise you, there will be leftovers). The seafood in our Queen Victoria Banquet was done impeccably, and the roast potatoes and vegetable complements stood on their own in taste, though the beef was too well done (we asked for medium rare) and the baby back ribs a tad tough. The wife and I did note one other thing: we’ve never seen our son voluntarily consume green apples before, but on this night, he ate two whole cinnamon-laced slices off the skewer, so our hats off and a very appreciative curtsy to the royal chef.

But a word of warning to the daring knights and famished damsels; The King Louis’ royal banquets might take a king’s ransom to enjoy, depending on the income bracket you belong to, and the income bracket of the people you’re sharing the bill, uh, banquet, with. The Banquets can range anywhere from $59.90 for the meaty Knight Gawain set to the $320 King’s Banquet for 4-5 persons (and you need to call to pre-order). The Queen Victoria’s Banquet for 2-3 persons that we had will set you back the princely sum of $108.50 (not too bad if you consider it’s about $36 a head). The single-serving??? la carte items are easier on the wallet, though,?and the generous starter platters start from $19.90 (of course, you could always order ?? la carte for individual starters as well).

That being said, The Blogfather has got you covered.

$50 Dining Voucher* Giveaway

The King Louis has kindly supplied us with 5 dining vouchers worth $50 each for 5 very hungry readers! His Royal Majesty does have one request (actually, two) before you can qualify for the giveaway: give him a?like on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/thekinglouis), then make your way back here and drop in a comment on who you’ll be bringing to The King Louis for your royal feast. This giveaway closes on Thursday, 4 July 2013, 2359hrs, after which The Blogfather will select and announce the 5 winners right here on this post the next day (Friday, 5 July 2013). ?Winners will be contacted over Facebook for your mailing address to send your dining voucher (or if we’re meeting up anytime soon, I’ll probably just pass it to you and save the postage).

And if you do manage to win a voucher and visit the King’s not-very-humble establishment, share the feast on Instagram (remember to tag @thekinglouissg) to complete your visit!

*Terms and conditions apply.

Congratulations to:

Chuyan Kwek

Hazel Cruz Rivera

Isaiah Kuan

Edwin Teo

Amie Chen

Winners, please drop me a private message via The Blogfather’s Facebook page with your mailing address as soon as you see this, and I’ll have your vouchers sent to you. Hurry, the vouchers expire on 31 August 2013!

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The King Louis Grill & Bar is located at 1 Harbourfront Walk, VivoCity, #03-07A, S098585 (Beside Daiso), and they’re open daily (12pm to 10pm from Sunday to Thursday, and 12pm to 11pm on Fridays, Saturdays & Eve of Public Holidays.

For reservations, call 6276 0862, or visit their website at?http://www.thekinglouis.com/ to book a table online.

[Media Event] The Delifrance Mother’s Day Event – Mothers Not Invited

There are 3 days in every year that the Blogfather will always dread the most: his wedding anniversary, his wife’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas and Chinese New Year. We have our reasons for the fear, too. The husbands will have a tendency to forget dates or worse, face scheduling conflicts. And if you do happen to remember and ensure the special day is free from other commitments, there’s the issue of the present, and even I need help in that area most of the time.

My son and I were invited to take part in a Mother’s Day clay-making session hosted by D?lifrance, which I took as a much-appreciated respite from my annual predicament during this period. The event was to commemorate the launch of their cake creations, baked specially for moms. The twist here is, only dads and their kids were invited, and for good reason: the products of our claymaking session was to be presented as Mother’s Day gifts for our mothers.

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As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones there. We met up with Isaiah Kuan and his 2 daughters from J Babies’ Dad, David Sim and little Dana from Princess Dana Diaries, not to mention (but I will anyway) local author Neil Humphreys and his kid daughter, and Lions XII goalkeeper Aide Iskandar, who pretty much brought his entire family, much to the chagrin of the organisers (who freaked out a little and went, “But we said no mothers! … oh, okaaay.”)

Our mission, which we chose to accept? Make mini-clay versions of the D?lifrance Mother’s Day cakes with our kids. There was an craft-making instructor on hand to guide us along the way, but this is no easy feat for a big-fingered man to accomplish.

Still, I signed up for this, so I tried. I can’t say I did too badly, though. And neither did Xander.

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You’ll know D?lifrance for their killer gourmet sandwiches. I’ve been a big fan of their chicken and egg mayo on ciabatta bread since I was but a young working adult, and my own mother loves their metre-long french bread (she calls them jiam tao loti). But the cakes from them are a first for me.

Delifrance_BlossomThe Blossom of Love (which Xander made a clay copy of) is a cupcake-sized, chocolate-coated flower pot with macarons and chocolate petal blooms. For $12.80 each, you have a choice of vanilla cake with lemon filling or chocolate cake on chocolate Philadelphia cream cheese.

Delifrance_GardenThen there’s the Garden of Love, a 700-gram, two-tier vanilla mango yoghurt mousse cake with a white chocolate coating, styled with hearts, flowers, and a pink butterfly symbolising “a mother’s gentle and beautiful nature” (in other words, the mother of your children, and let’s don’t forget your own mum, too). This one’s priced at $42.80.

Delifrance_GiftThe nice people at D?lifrance let us bring home the Gift of Love, the uber-chocolatey cake with Belgian chocolate mousse and hazelnut pralines, coated in chocolate ganache, surrounded with pink macarons and topped with a big pink chocolate ribbon. It weighs in at about 700 grams as well, and also goes for $42.80.

Thanks to Delifrance, Mother’s Day this year is now covered; ?to go…

***

D?lifrance’s Mother’s Day cakes are available at all D?lifrance bakery cafe’s islandwide (except bake-off at Siglap Centre, Coronation Plaza and Chancery Court). Note that the Gift of Love and Garden of Love cakes require 2 days’ advance order, and you have till 9 May 2013 to make your orders. Prices and items may be subject to changes without prior notice, and pictures are for reference only. For enquiries,m ou can call the D?lifrance guest service hotline at 6874 9622 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm).

There’s also an Instagram contest you can take part in! Just submit a photo featuring your mom on Instagram, with a caption telling us how endearing your mom is, and hashtag your caption with #delifrancesg; you stand a chance to win one of 3 $100 D?lifrance Dining Vouchers! The contest runs from 1-12 May 2013, and winners will be notified via Instagram on 15 May 2013.

Chopsticks as a Way of Life

Dear Xander,

For 34 years, I never learnt how to use chopsticks properly. At the time of this letter, I am 35. Your mother, though able to use chopsticks, also never really got the hang of it, and would default to the metal spoon and fork whenever possible (where not possible, it would usually be in opulent Chinese restaurants where she needs to look presentable in front of relatives).

You started asking to use chopsticks since you turned 3. Nearly a year later, you’ve made more progress with using chopsticks than your fishball-stabbing mother and I would have at your age. Needless to say, we are impressed, and proud.

But there’s much more to the way of the chopstick than just making things difficult for people in Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/Japanese restaurants. It’s something I learned a 2 years ago that spurred me to refine my hand in wielding the sticks at the dinner table. And it began with something Jerry Seinfeld said.
Many a Western diner cannot understand why Asians continue to maintain such a convoluted, centuries-old method of eating. Of course, we would agree with them, particularly when it comes to their food, which we also happily tuck into with fork, spoon and knife as customarily prescribed. But you will also learn through your own experience that with some Asian food, there is simply no compromise.

You see, there are certain dishes in Asian cuisine that require a very delicate touch; tofu, sashimi, dim sum, and particularly xiao long bao come to mind. Such delicacies require a gentle, yet experienced and masterful hand to cut, create, process, prepare and present to dinner guests, with the intention that once it is laid on its receptacle, be it a porcelain dish, a bamboo basket, or a leaf of green, it must maintain its form as its maker intended right up to the point where it enters the mouth of a patron. For many of these dishes, once its aesthetic is broken, so will its soul be lost, not only in taste, but in the eyes and mind of the diner and the chef.

So where forks are merely tools for the efficient transportation of food into our mouths, chopsticks are utensils of respect. Respect the food enough to handle it with care, and it will return that respect with all the meaning and character that its creator intended.

And if ever anyone tells you chopsticks are too difficult to use, just say, yes. Of course they are. Respect, after all, is not easily earned.

Respectfully,

Dad

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