Shang Pin Hot Pot, Marina Square and Rendezvous Hotel

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Step out of the comforts of Hai Di Lao and Beauty in the Pot. Shang Pin Hotpot at Marina Square and Rendezvous Hotel is arguably the most affordable alternative to the two big players. As a bonus, there’s hardly any queue especially at the Marina Square branch because the floor area is huge!

I’ve visited both branches and there’s a stark contrast in ambience and service between both branches. Go for the Marina Square branch if you can.

I’ve included pictures from both Marina Square and Rendezvous Hotel just to show you the contrast.

Exterior and interior of Rendezvous Hotel branch (my pictures look better than the reality!):

Exterior and interior of Marina Square branch, so huge that they have a children’s play area:

Below pictures are a mix from both branches; quality is similar with some differences which I’ll mention.

(L) Tomato Soup, (R) Pig Stomach and Chicken Soup, (M) Mushroom Soup.

The price of the soup is dependent on the most expensive soup you’ve selected. It doesn’t matter if you select one, two or three soups, they charge you only for one soup base. In this case, the pig stomach was the most expensive at $20.

Meat Festival, $24.

I giggled at the name of the dish. At one point the service at Rendezous was so slow that I had to ask the staff “is my Meat Festival coming soon?” Apart from that, good quality slices of beef, mutton and pork. The beef was really fatty though.

Fish Egg Ball (half portion), $6.

Ordered this in lieu of fancy pastes. Unlike HDL and BITP, Shang Pin’s pastes are rather ordinary and common. This was the most interesting fresh paste ball out of the entire selection.

(L) Mushroom Platter (half portion), $7. (R) Cabbage (full portion), $4.

I thought the mushroom platter was value for money. 5 different types of mushrooms for $7! The mushrooms here are about $5 to $6 for full portions so the amount you pay for variety is well spent.

Fried Beancurd Skin (full portion), $6.

I ordered this dish at both outlets but somehow it seems like ordering the half portion is more worth it. The above picture has 6 rolls (Rendezvous Hotel) but when I ordered the half portion for $3 (Marina Square), I got 4 rolls! So I should be getting 8 rolls at Rendezvous but somehow only got 6. Hmm.

Shrimp Paste (half portion), $7.

This is a must order when you’re here. The shrimp paste was crunchy and fresh.

Shang Pin Beef, $16.

The Rendezous Hotel one came rather frozen, causing its texture to be a little rough after cooking. The Marina Square (above) came thawed and fresh looking.

US Beef (half portion), $7.

My advice is to skip this and go straight for the Shang Pin Beef. The difference is only $2 for the full portion but the quality is so, so different.

US Black Pork (half portion), $6.50.

Look at the balance of fats to lean meat! I only thought it was slightly unsightly that the meat was cut in half. Doesn’t have that shiok feeling if you know what I mean.

Chinese Dumplings (half portion), $2.50.

The dumplings were normal tasting. What caught my attention writing this part was that I realised I had 6 dumplings for $2.50. Not sure if they had mistakenly given me the full portion but if not, $2.50 for 6 dumplings is so worth it!

Overall, you can expect the price per pax to be about $40. It’s still not really within the budget of an everyday hotpot meal, but it’s slightly cheaper than HDL and much cheaper than BITP. There’s no fancy waitressing or gifts at all, but the amount of food you get here is definitely more than the other two places. The variety at Shang Pin honestly is not as great, but it suffices. Best of all, NO LONG QUEUES!

Marina Square

6 Raffles Boulevard, #02-102, S(039594)

+65 6565 7666

Daily: 11am to 12am

Rendezvous Hotel

9 Bras Basah Road, #02-02, S(189559)

+65 6238 7666

Daily: 12 noon to 12am

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The Salted Plum, Circular Road

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When my friends suggested The Salted Plum for dinner I was afraid it’ll turn out to be one of those exorbitant priced eatery along Boay Quay. Turns out they have a very unique business proposition. All their items are priced at $5, $10 or $15, which doesn’t seem too overly pricey and to be honest, it isn’t.

My friend made a reservation which was a really smart move because not long after it opened for business there was a super long queue.

Smashed Baby Potatoes with Salted Plum Powder, $5.

Great way to start the dinner! Loved that the fried potatoes were not oily and it paired well with the salted plum powder. It comes with a side serving of chilli which I thought was not needed at all. The dish was good on its own.

Haus Fried Rice, $2.

This (and the porridge below) will be your staple for the side dishes, so ration wisely! Don’t finish them in one mouth.

Sweet Potato Congee, $3.

This is a must try. I thought this would be the big grain, watery kind of porridge with chunks of sweet potatoes within but no! Super smooth and gentle on the stomach, great base dish for all the fried and braised meat to come.

Five-Spice BBQ Glazed Squid, $10.

Not quite a fan of squid but I couldn’t stop taking seconds from this dish. The squid was rather well done, so you don’t get that overly rubbery and chewy mouthful.

Mega Lu Rou, $15.

This is also a must try. The meat was well braised and super soft. The proportion of lean meat to fats were also just right.

Hamachi Collar, $15.

Quite an interesting dish to be on the menu. The collar was well fried (again, not oily) and the meat was aplenty.

Mega Fried Chicken, $15.

This plate of fried chicken could do with more seasoning. When I saw fried chicken I immediately thought of the Shilin XXL chicken with lots of powder so I had a little expectation, and indeed I was disappointed with this dish.

Hoisin-Glazed Pork Ribs, $15.

The pork ribs were sous vide! You can be sure that the meat will fall off the bone easily and cleanly.

Steak, $10.

The steak looked good, but taste wise it didn’t meet my expectations. I guess if there was one thing you had to skip, this is it.

Burnt Chilli Chicken, $10.

Not for the faint hearted or light chilli eater, this charred chicken thighs with chilli and coriander is best eaten with the Haus Fried Rice.

Considering how much food there was on the table (I had two meat dishes leftover which I brought home for my lunch the next day), the bill came up to an affordable $120. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety and flavours of the dishes, as did my party of four.

10 Circular Road, S(049366)

+65 6260 0155

Mondays to Saturdays: 1130am to 230pm, 6pm to 930pm

Closed Sundays

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Why I decided to discontinue MealPal Singapore after a month

TL;DR: Do NOT subscribe to MealPal.

When MealPal was introduced in Singapore majority of the CBD folks rejoiced, myself included.

(Screenshot from MealPal’s website.)

To put simply, MealPal is a subscription service where you pay a fixed amount of money for a fixed number of meals per month. You order your meal from the restaurant the day before, and simply show up to collect your food the next day when it’s time. No queue, no fuss.

The model is simple math. Taking the mid level package as a reference, you get 12 restaurant meals for $96, averaging it out to $8 per meal. Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect to eat with MealPal:

(Screenshots all taken from the respective Facebook pages or websites.)

All’s good? Not quite.

Strike one. I should have seen this as a red flag. When I was still exploring MealPal I had wanted to see the variety of restaurants as well as food options under their belt.

I couldn’t.

I was prompted to sign up for an account, including giving my credit card details and choosing my meal plan before I could view the restaurants. I was definitely not comfortable doing that. Why do I even need to sign up for an account?! It’s like having to sign up and give your credit card details before you can browse Qoo10. I got around this by browsing through my friend’s app (she was already a member).

Strike two. Restaurants offer only one option per day. If you don’t like beef soup, then restaurant A is out for the day. The whole idea is to allow the restaurants to prepare the required demand so they don’t run into issues of insufficient food. Sure, I’ll just wait until a day where restaurant A finally offers that meal I really wanted; the meal they are well known for.

Wait long long.

Most, if not all, rotate their menu between two to three options across the days. It’s always either Green Curry or Tom Yam Chicken. After a while, you can guess tomorrow’s menu, and it screams boring. Also, this means that people with preferred dietary options have a super small selection to choose from.

Strike three. Some restaurants offer very limited sets. And I mean the likes of 10 meals a day. To give you context, MealPal opens the kitchen at 5pm sharp daily. Once an item is sold out, the pin would be greyed out, like in the screenshot below:

Needless to say, the greyed out restaurants offer something really value for money. So I tried to grab a meal. I went in daily at 5pm sharp. Got my co-workers to do so as well. None of us successfully got it for as long as a week, until Lady Luck smiled at one of my co-worker. When she went to collect her meal the next day, she asked if they (the restaurant) could release more meals.

The answer is no.

MealPal had capped the number of meals they (the restaurant) offered per day. The restaurant explained a little more, and I figured that MealPal wouldn’t be able to cover the costs if more sets were released. Sure, I’m fine that it makes perfect business sense, but as a customer, being unable to get my favourite meal even though I went in at 5pm sharp daily for a week no less, is just ridiculous.

Strike four. I was primed to think that I had only 12 meals per month. If I used up all 12 meals before the billing cycle ended, I would have to wait till the next cycle before my meals would be reset. Not too bad, I can choose to have other types of food however I pleased on the other non-MealPal days.

Nope.

The moment you finish your 12th meal, MealPal will start billing you for the next 12 meals. What this means is that even if you haven’t reached the 1 month mark, you might be billed again depending on how quickly you finish your meals. Not quite the typical way of how subscription services work.

Strike five. By this time I was starting to fume. I explored the notion of cancelling my subscription, and started looking through the app for that “unsubscribe” button. Couldn’t find any, so I tried looking for the “FAQs”.

There were none.

Wtfbbq? How could it be so difficult to unsubscribe? What was MealPal trying to hide from me? Desperate, I clicked on everything, and finally, the “Tems of Use” (who reads these anyway?). Cue enlightening background music. The answers were all there, within the 946261957462 paragraphs of words.

“For a cancellation to be effective for your next Membership Cycle, it must be received at least 7 days prior to the end of your then-current Membership Cycle or before you reserve your last meal in your cycle, whichever comes first. To cancel a membership, i) email hi@mealpal.com with “Cancel Membership” in the subject line; or ii) access “My Account” from the MealPal dropdown. To cancel your membership in My Account, click “Change Plan for Next Cycle”; then “Hold or Cancel My Account”; and then “Cancel Account”. ”

Oh I must have missed the “My Account” button on the App. So I checked again and:

This was the last straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Come on MealPal, isn’t it obvious that everyone works on their mobile smartphones these days? Going to a desktop meant that I’ll have to make that dedicated, special trip to my study room, and that I’ll have to key in my password (which I may have forgotten by now since mobile apps are unlocked via thumbprints these days).

Bonus strike. You have to unsubscribe at least 7 days in advanced, either before the last meal or before the billing cycle ended, whichever comes first. What is this 7 days notice about? MealPal are you paying me a salary? Do you need 7 days because you need to find a replacement for me? The last I checked I am in fact paying you close to a $100 a month. And note this ridiculous condition if you decide to unsubscribe but later for some reason think that you want back in: you have to pay $19 to re-join.

Still thinking of subscribing to Mealpal? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

To be honest, towards the end of my first month I was screaming to be released from MealPal. It was pure torture, having to settle for food that I didn’t really like (or rather, was bored of), coupled with the accumulated disgust I had for them.

So it’s goodbye MealPal, you won’t be missed.

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2018 Top 10 Mooncake Flavours You Wouldn’t Want to Miss At Takashimaya

Mid-Autumn Festival in Singapore is pretty much one of two the big events happening annually (the other being CNY) and where else to get your mooncake fix other than Takashimaya, Singapore’s largest selection of mooncakes under one roof.

This year, I feel that the percentage of mooncakes offering out of the box flavours have declined, but I still enjoyed pushing through crowds of people at the fair to sniff out interesting tastes. You’ll see that I’m biased towards snowskin flavours and that’s because snowskin mooncakes are like blank canvases where creativity can really flourish. Here are my top 10 picks (in descending order) for 2018:

(Couldn’t possibly get nice pictures of the mooncakes behind frosted glasses so… all screenshots taken from the respective websites unless mentioned otherwise)

10. Mao Shan Wang Durian with Gula Melaka Flavoured Snowskin, ChangHoSek

(The mooncake in this picture isn’t the one with the gula melaka flavoured snowskin, but it’s the only one with the pretty tingkats)

ChangHoSek’s durian snowskin is not new to the scene, but I gotta say their packaging this year wins everybody hands down! Imagine gifting these pastel coloured tingkats to your friends and family.

Website here

9. Sweet Potato Chia Seed, The Connoisseur Concerto

There are a couple of chia seed snowskin mooncakes out there this year, but what made the cut for me was the choice of sweet potato. Couldn’t resist this purple tuber in the form of a snowskin.

Website here

8. Salted Egg Lava, Phoenix Lava

Didn’t know Phoenix Lava was a famous lava bun eatery from Bangkok till I did my research. This only affirms my choice then, that their Salted Egg Lava Mooncake is definitely worth the calories.

They only have a website meant for their Thai customers, so you’ll have to go down to Takashimaya for theatest deals.

7. Avocado Macadamia, Kele

Kele has been known for their fruity swiss rolls and it should come as no surprise that they would do well in the mooncake department. Their avocado is extremely creamy with bits of macadamia bits within.

Website here

6. Salted Yam, Baker’s Well

We’ve all heard of salted caramel but salted yam? I guess those who aren’t too adventurous with their snowskin flavours can give this a try since this isn’t too radical.

Website here

5. Blueberry Lava, The Baker Haus

The Baker Haus seems pretty new to the mooncake scene. They don’t have a website detailing their mooncake flavours and it’s a pity because I really wanted to show you a cross section of their Blueberry Lava Snowskin. Their lava snowskin can be eaten two ways — 1. frozen which gives an ice cream texture, or 2. slightly melted (left at room temperature for 10-15 minutes) which gives you that gooey goodness in the middle. Yumyum.

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4. Red Wine Cranberry with Japanese Yuzu and Lemongrass, Mandarin Orchard Singapore

I must admit what stood out for this snowskin was the addition of the lemongrass. Red wine cranberry and yuzu are acidic fruits which will no doubt give that refreshing bite to any mooncake, but the lemongrass adds a delicate, subtle dimension.

Website here

3. White Chocolate Lemon Orange Marmalade Yolk Truffle, Awfully Chocolate

Okay this is a little of a cheat since it’s not technically snowskin but just chocolate truffles. Nevertheless, still a conversation starter during the mid-autumn gathering.

Website here

2. Barrel-aged La Louisiane Cocktail with Yuzu and Green Bean Paste, Regent Hotel

Regent just leveled up the alcoholic snowskin scene by many notches. For once the alcoholic snowskin mooncake doesn’t contain the likes of vodka and Bailey’s. Sure, these don’t come cheap, but hey, Singaporeans love these indulgences don’t they?

Website here

1. Green Apple, Basil and Trigona Honey Truffle Snowskin, Grand Hyatt

I am once again affirmed that Grand Hyatt has got a solid team of dessert chefs. Last year, I remember concluding the mid-autumn season feeling really impressed with their flavours. This year, I am equally overwhelmed. Many flavours in their box of 8 would make it to the top of my list anytime, but I really liked the Green Apple, Basil and Trigona Honey. It sounds so exotic but yet tastes wonderfully sweet!

The Mid-Autumn Festival at Takashimaya runs from now till 24 Sep (Monday). Do check in-store for the latest promotions and pricings.

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Imperial Treasure Steamboat, Ion Orchard

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Having tried big hotpot brands like Beauty in the Pot (BITP) and Hai Di Lao (HDL), how does this good ol’ skool steamboat compare?

For starters, the sauce station is brought to you.

You can mix your own concoction, or have them mix one for you depending on your preferred level of spicyness. I recommend getting them to do it!

Doesn’t look appetising here but trust me it’s superb! I was shocked at the amount of sauce initially but by the end of the meal I was down to less than half.

For soup bases, they don’t have fancy flavours of the likes of HDL and BITP. Since I’ve decided to go old skool, I chose a familiar broth — Healthy Chicken ($17).

Spread of dishes plus more (below).

Four Treasure Ball Platter ($14).

Kurobuta Pork Belly ($14).

Beef Brisket ($20).

Deep Fried Beancurd Skin ($6).

Assorted mushrooms ($8.80).

Fresh Prawn Paste ($14).

Assorted Vegetables ($6.80).

For the above, my total bill came up to $140 for 2 pax. I would say for the standards, quality and amount of food, the price is justified. The meats were really fresh and of good thickness, while the handmade balls were flavourful and bouncy! I also loved the fresh prawns paste and definitely the fun of squeezing it into the soup.

The $140 bill is not a good reflection of what you will spend for 2 pax. I definitely over ordered. At the end of the meal I was left with at least half of the fresh meat. That said, I totally skipped the part of the menu with the fresh seafood (think: Boston lobsters going for $13/100g). I can imagine big families with rich grandparents eating here for their birthdays.

2 Orchard Turn, ION Orchard, #04-09/10, Singapore 238801

+65 6636 9339

Daily: 11am to 3pm, 6pm to 11pm

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Shima Teppanyaki Buffet, Goodwood Park Hotel

Worth a try.

Shima is synonymous to teppanyaki. I myself love a good teppanyaki (some food courts serve really good teppanyaki btw!) and when I heard Shima offers teppanyaki buffet, it was game on.

Went with my family and we got really good seats and a teppanyaki chef all to ourselves.

Although it’s a buffet, they would first serve you one serving of every item on the menu. You can then request for your favourite dishes thereafter.

For starters, they offer sashimi, tempura prawn and shisamo, and gyoza. I would say give these dishes a miss except for the salmon sashimi.

While you’re nibbling on your starters, keep your eyes peeled for the chef as he readies his tools. Then sit back, relax and enjoy the performance. Can’t help but notice the cute pair of goggles worn by the chef when he’s cooking.

All the food was already apportioned for my party of six before we arrived. So the cooking was rather seamless, one dish after another.

Chicken.

The chicken was well marinated in teriyaki sauce. It was juicy and tender, yet at the same time it was a little charred and caramelised.

Prawns and squid.

A quick way to tell how well trained a teppanyaki chef is, is to see how he cooks the prawns and squid. These two items get overcooked really quickly, and you wouldn’t want them to be undercooked. Glad to say the chef at my table was well skilled.

Salmon.

I have to say that my favourite dish at this teppanyaki buffet was the cooked salmon. The chef will first cook the salmon in a self made aluminium foil container laden with teriyaki sauce mix, before placing it into the cute little clam dish you see above. Again, the salmon was cooked perfectly, another testimony to the level of the chef.

Beef steak.

The heaviest item of the buffet is the steak. It also came the last, so if you’re a big fan of steaks, do save some space for them! I requested for mine to be medium rare, and it turned out perfect.

p/s they serve teppanyaki oysters as well but it didn’t look good on picture.

Lemongrass jelly with raisins.

After my meal I was whisked away to an empty table and served a cup of refreshing ice cool jelly. Would say that this ended my meal nicely as it cuts through all the grease of the teppanyaki.

At $59++ for a weekend lunch, I think it might be worth the while if you are a serious huge fan of teppanyaki, and a big eater. If not, you should probably spend your money on a decent international buffet instead. To be honest, I didn’t get any second servings apart from the salmon, just because it was so well cooked. Felt quite bo hua, you know?

Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road, #01-00, S(228221)

Daily: 12pm to 3pm, 6pm to 1030pm

+65 6734 6281

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Weekend High Tea Buffet, Ritz-Carlton Millenia

No.

Surprise surprise. I left Ritz-Carlton feeling full, but very unsatisfied and unimpressed. Their Avant-garde high tea buffet just did not hit the correct flavours and balance.

Grand entrance to the place. Just wished they could have made better use of the layout as the tables were all rather close to each other.

Refreshing welcome drink to get your taste buds going.

Varied choice of tea and coffee with some unique flavours like Pai Mu Tan & Melon. Unfortunately, they limit their selection to one flavour per person. Erm, choose wisely?

From top right clockwise: Chicken Mayonnaise with Chestnut in Cranberry Roll, Egg and Cheese Sandwich with Forest Mushroom Mayonnaise and Garden Cress, Smoked Salmon with Sauerkraut in Carrot Bread.

From top, clockwise: Pan-fried Wagyu Beef Patty with Melted Cheese and Tomato Salsa, Pan-fried Vegetarian Gyoza, Filo Prawn Roll with Thai Mayonnaise Chilli Sauce.

Egg Cocotte with Mushroom Ragout in Onion Marmalade.

Hmm I had a bit of the expectation versus reality moment here. Egg cocotte sounds really sophisticated and I was all looking forward to trying this jar, but on first slurp, I wished they had used onsen eggs instead. Just didn’t get that full on creamy texture.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken with Orange Basil Sauce.

This is hands down the best item at the high tea fare. Juicy, flavourful and saporific.

From top, clockwise: Seared Tuna with Cauliflower Mousse, Quail Egg with Cocktail Sauce, Poached Pear with Roquefort Cheese, Goose Liver Parfait with Port Wine Jelly.

There was nothing particularly outstanding in any of the above bites, but the Goose Liver Parfait with Port Wine Jelly was the worst! Here’s a good example of Avant-garde gone wrong. Either that, or my poor man’s taste buds are to blame. Come on, foie gras should remain in its patty form, served warm. Not cold, and certainly not in a super dense mousse form. Urgh.

From top, clockwise: Olive Oil Biscuit with Rhubarb Moouse, Strawberry and White Chocolate Tartlet, Carrot Cake Verrine.

The Carrot Cake Verrine is a must try item here at the high tea. Who can resist something with a pretty little flower on top?

Assorted chocolate truffles.

The truffles were one of the best bites at this high tea I kid you not.

Ice cream and sorbet counter. They have Baked Alaska Flambe too.

I tried the Baked Alaska Flambe which was quite unpleasant tasting. They lighted the baked Alaska right at the counter, meaning you gotta carry the scorching hot plate all the way back to your table. Almost burnt my finger doing so. The sorbet that accompanied the dish had a super bitter taste. We couldn’t figure out what sorbet it was, but it definitely deterred us from taking a second bite.

From top left, clockwise: Dark Chocolate Mousse with White Coffee Chantilly, Pistachio Cream Citrus Tartlet, Mango and Raspberry Clafoutis, Banana Cream Pie with Milk Chocolate Chantilly.

There were also a couple of tarts that I didn’t get to try because I was too full and unmotivated based on track record, but my guests who tried them didn’t rave over them too.

I get that the food at Ritz Carlton’s weekend high tea may not resonate well with me, but when my party of 5 other guests feel the same, something is not quite there, right? The buffet costs $68 after taxes, not worth it in my opinion.

7 Raffles Avenue, S(039799)

Weekend high tea buffet: 230pm to 5pm

+65 6337 8888

Website with menu here

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