Similar but Different

I have been here but I have not reviewed the food here so I decided I should do it. This place serves value-for-money hawker delights and other Chinese dishes and many families come here for a decent meal. I’ll comment on the food individually below.

I actually raised a complaint about an order and the waitress handled my complaint very well. Kudos to them! I’ve been back to this place since the last visit. Generally good food at reasonable prices, eaten in air-conditioned comfort.

Different Taste Cafe and Restaurant, 9 Jalan Mas Puteh #02-78/79, Singapore 128615. Tel: 6779 6525

This was supposed to be Penang Kuay Teow but it was anything but. It’s certainly fried kuay teow but not the Penang version. Having said that, the smaller kuay teow was used which I prefer and there was sufficient taugeh or bean sprouts on it, which I also appreciated. It was a tad too spicy for me but I know that some local folks like their kuay teow spicy so that was fine.

This was on another visit and I tried their nasi lemak. They had run out of the ikan kuning or small fish that they fry — I forget what it’s called in English — and replaced the fish with an extra chicken wing which I happily accepted. The chicken wings were good but there are better nasi lemak stalls elsewhere.

This was their sago gula melaka which I usually order. It was unique because they added peanuts to it. I like this. One time I had a complaint about the coconut milk thinking that they had used packet coconut milk as it was lumpy but they clarified that it had been placed in the fridge and so some bits of the milk had turned lumpy. They happily waived the charge for the dessert. When I came back on another occasion I ordered it again.

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Drink and Ride

This is my first time at this shop. It combines a little cafe that only serves drinks with a shop that sells bicycles and accessories. There are foldable bikes and some unique ‘normal’ bikes like the odd Schwinn or two, roadies and even scooters. The main outlet used to be at Gemmill Lane where it was difficult to park as it was within the Central Business District (CBD). This place is a little laid back and very conducive for lazy afternoon bike shopping indeed.

I brought my bike here to be fixed and had my favourite Brown Cow float while waiting for it to be done. Good service and very friendly folks here.

Life Cycle, 204 Rangoon Road, Singapore 218451, Tel: 6299 4308.

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Best penyet in town?

We came here for their nasi lemak kukus but they had run out of food as it had been a busy Saturday night. So the owner suggested we ordered either their nasi ayam penyet or the ikan penyet as that would be cooked fresh and it would be nice and warm. The ikan or fish was the pomfret. Since I was a fan of pomfrets, I settled on the fish to share between two. It was after all 2am in the morning!

Usually the fish would be served ‘smashed’, hence penyet, but this time they left it intact. It was seriously good! There was no fishy taste to it at all and it was fried to the right crispiness, while the flesh on the inside was nice and tender. The freshly blended sambal chilli was a real plus. I’m not going anywhere else for my ikan penyet from now on. What a nice accidental discovery, even if it was at 2am in the morning! And next time, I’ll have the whole fish to myself!

Nasi Lemak Kukus, 908 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore. Tel: 82229517.

It was nice to see this! Sambal chilli, freshly blended.

The fish set. There were keropok (fish crackers) on the side as well.

Paddocks and breakfast

This place is at the saddle club. Horses, horse-riding and horse-gazing are part and parcel of life here. We came here early so that we could see the horses and enjoy the greenery before it got too hot. This place is away from the hustle and bustle of city life and it is a good place to ‘get away from it all’ even if it’s only for a few hours.

The menu is western and it is different for the different meals of the day and slightly different for weekends as well. I wanted to have the Brioche French Toast with burnt bananas, smoked bacon & maple butter and was told that it was only served on weekends and hence, we settled for The Usual breakfast.

Rider’s Cafe, 51 Fairways Drive, Singapore 286965. Tel: 6466 9819.

View from the balcony

Inside the cafe

The Usual with two eggs, back bacon, breakfast banger, mushrooms, tomato & sourdough

The Usual breakfast and two lattes

A different pace of life

Roll count! 1, 2, 3, 4… and away we went. “Let’s go!” the group shouted as the last member called out his number.

The afternoon was cool – ideal for trekking, pond crossing and cow-gazing – catching a whiff of cow dung as we walked past. Squirrels and birds peered at us, a snake slithered back into its crevice while some kittens played on, unfazed by our presence.

We put our bags in our rooms which were cool, clean and comfortable. Humidity here is rather high as we are near a river and are surrounded by hills. But it was cooler here and for that alone, I was thankful!

There is no wi-fi, the TV reception is fuzzy and we bathe by scooping buckets of water out of a very large water container onto ourselves. Meals are served in the mess hall. Everyday about 200 mouths are fed. I’ve not seen freshly caught fish in a while.

Going back to nature in this manner is refreshing. Here, I get to kick off my shoes, put up my feet and read a book. I get to sit at my balcony and stare at the night fog while on night duty and the children are snoring their way to dreamland. Most of all, I get to reminiscent — the squatting toilets, bathing with water out of a huge tub, gazing at lean (bordering on skinny) cows grazing on grass in mostly undisturbed natural surroundings. Even the heavy downpour and the sound of rain pelting against the roof and the strong wind blowing in my face brought back memories of me darting in and out of the rain when I was young. Tropical downpours can feel like one is being pelted with large water drops at a very fast rate.

The camp commandant even brought in some durians. These were the hybrid ones, bitter mixed with sweet. There is a joke in Malaysia (which is probably true) that the better durians have been exported out to Singapore so what we get here are the second rate ones, and ‘second’ rate they were. The size was ‘wrong’, to begin with. Perhaps because they were hybrids, they were very large, like the size of Thai durians. Then they did not have a strong smell. I could not tell the sweet durians from the bitter ones as the smell was barely detectable. In my family, my dad usually handled the durians. He smelled them, paid for them and opened them. I learnt by watching him. I was not an expert on durians compared to my dad and friends who grew up on orchards. But now, I felt like I knew a lot. I smelled the durians and opened them; short of paying for them. I’ll have my first rate durians in Singapore next time but while here, I might as well enjoy the hybrid ones which I would never be able to get in Singapore. Life here is a nice change indeed.

Soft yellow flesh durian

Bitter and sweet durian but the bitterness was barely detectable.

We had chicken and fish at every meal, served with broken rice. The good rice has been exported as well. I liked both their chicken and fish but after five meals of chicken and fish, I had had enough. The different varieties of chicken and fish were sambal chicken and fish cooked with black beans. We also had ayam penyet and nasi lemak. The food was good but I was ready for some variety after this! The first thing I noticed upon going back and having my variety was the taste. The food here tasted far more natural than what I had after this.

Freshly caught fish by a family that lived nearby. We didn’t have these for our meals though.

Is the Mad Hatter here?

My best friend’s daughters referred me to this place. In my enthusiasm to come here, I called up to book a table for four, then went to ask colleagues to come along. So six of us came.

The place was in an old cluster of shophouses dating back to colonial times. The cluster now mainly consists of eating places, some of whom are very reputable. Coming here was like going back in time to another era. I almost wanted all of us to dress up like we were going to Mad Hatter’s tea party but the closest we came to it were frilly blouses and umbrellas. It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived and the frilly brollies really added to the occasion. Dressing up would certainly have been fun too.

Because this place is an old colonial building, there was no lack of space and the folks here did up this place vintage style, making it very cosy. It is certainly inviting to spend an entire afternoon here, reading or chatting.

The hi-tea was generally good. There was enough variety. The selection ranged from the tiered tea cakes to miniature skinny pizzas which made up the bulk of the savouries. Herbal tea and ginger tea were served in old hot water flasks — those that I grew up with, for an old feel which I thought was a great idea.

The hi-tea is only served on Thursdays and Fridays, 3.30 to 5p.m., and it is hugely successful. The cafe has a lot of space and therefore seats, and the staff were very attentive, changing our plates frequently. Whoever came up with this concept is simply brilliant! And no, the Mad Hatter was not here.

“It’s always tea-time.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

House Dempsey, 8D Dempsey Road, SINGAPORE 249672. Tel: 64757787.

Seats in the verandah

Hi-tea spread within the place

Four different miniature skinny pizzas

Miniature burgers. I didn’t really find out why the bread is black though.

Multi-tier cakes

Spoilt for choice

More cakes. This was nice and sharp, taste-wise.

These were meant to be eaten with bread. I took a slice of raisin bread and placed three toppings on it — thai chicken, mushroom ragout and tuna and pineapple.

Bite-size bread with tuna toppings.

Duck topping

More duck topping

The label says it all!

‘Hideaway’ food

This was a dinner treat in exchange for a favour. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant that was located in an industrial-like area and the restaurant was located in a canteen-like setting that was also open to the public. This was probably only known to foodies or folks who stayed in this part of town.

We ordered one dish each. No prizes for guessing which was my order. Frogs, of course! And they were yummy! The brinjal was also good. The deer curry and century egg vegetable dishes were not too bad either. Dishes worth ordering again are the brinjal and the frogs.

Kimly Live Seafood, 18 Boon Lay Way, #01-98 Tradehub 21, Singapore 609966. Tel: 66864665.

Fried vegetable dish with century eggs that look like golden nuggets. It has a prestigious name which I don’t remember.

Deer meat curry. I’ve not really had deer meat curry before so this is a first for me. A good alternative to pork and chicken.

Fried brinjal which was surprisingly good as I don’t like the softness of the brinjal. But in this dish, the brinjal was slightly more chewy and crunchy at the edges.

Battered and fried frogs! Yum!

Basics plus some

This was an unexpected combination of food. Runny half-boiled eggs eaten with a dash of light soy sauce and pepper (I don’t eat it with dark soy sauce, sorry, and I don’t know when people started eating it with dark soy sauce as I’ve always eaten it with light soy sauce since I was a child), kaya toast and crab meat patties.

The interesting bit about this combination of food is that I’ve not eaten it for a long time and to eat it again, albeit for dinner, was nice as a light snack. The crabmeat patties were more to add bulk to the meal as we were out cycling and needed a little more energy for the exercise.

This place used to be a Japanese restaurant before but it is now a more local as well as Asian food place.The place is also affordable. On weekends, the queue builds up rather quickly as people come out for their leisure activities and exercise.

10 Tebing Lane, #01-08, Singapore 828836. It is opposite Popeye’s.

Half-boiled eggs. This was not how it was served. We had already ‘burst’ the yoke when this pic was taken.

Good ole kaya toast set (the half-boiled eggs were part of the set).

Crabmeat patties which were Thai. It was a little too spicy for me but then, I do not take things that are too spicy.

The inside of the patty. The patties had chilli sauce right on top of them when they were served, which we had to remove.

Wanton noodles

This stall is located in a coffee shop in New Town, Petaling Jaya (PJ). Run by two sisters, I grew up eating their wanton noodles. We even followed them to the different stalls that they had to relocate their stall to in the past, either because of rental or other issues.

Wanton noodles, Malaysian style, is more black than the noodles they have here in Singapore. The difference is in the pork lard and the black soya sauce which they generously mix into the noodles. These noodles are usually eaten with small dumplings, char siew (roast pork) and choy sum (green leafy vegetables that is blanched). A home visit to PJ would not be complete without this.

Wanton noodles, soup version.

Wanton noodles, dry version. A bowl of soup with dumplings in it, a cup of coffee in an old ceramic mug and green chilli to eat the noodles with

Coney dogs, floats and Mum

I saw her as she drove into the carpark, passing two parking lots that were in her view. She disappeared around the corner. I waited. Minutes passed by and she still had not appeared. I wondered if I should go and look for her. Then she appeared, walking slowly, with her umbrella that also doubled up as a walking stick.

This was our local youth haunt growing up. We would come here after school almost daily — way before Starbucks and Coffee Bean arrived on the scene, before McDonald’s almost took over the fastfood market, with KFC and Burger King coming in a close second. Today, it stands on the same spot that it has stood since 1965 as the area around it changed. If the walls could talk, the pages of tomes of books would have been filled with their gossip. My brother would bring his family here whenever the kids visited Gran and everyone would order the same thing — coney dog, root beer float and the occasional waffle. Gran’s standard order in the past few years has been the fish marina burger. It was easier for her to digest. We come here about two to three times a year.

A&W no longer has any outlets in Singapore and this is one of the few outlets in Malaysia. In 2010, many outlets were closed. By Malaysian standards, the food is not cheap. Local food is cheaper and nicer. But many people hang out here still. This place in this part of Malaysia has almost become a Malaysian institution. The familiar bear in orange has greeted its customers since day one, as the first fast-food joint in Malaysia.

We left when the rain stopped. Mum drove us back, oblivious to the humps and honks of other cars on the road. She has always moved quickly, and it is no different even at this age! Some things don’t change so quickly, like the food at A&W. Love you, Mum.

A&W Family Restaurants (PJ Drive-in), No 9 Lorong Sultan, Petaling Jaya 46000, Malaysia. Tel: 603-7957 6250. This is a 24-hour joint.

It was always a challenge to prevent the float from spilling over, even after all these years. The taste is still familiar. This is now a local franchise as it has been bought over in 2001.

Beef coney dog set meal.

Beef Coney Dog. They used to have coney dogs on special on Tuesdays. After all these years, that too has not changed.