Saturday, 15 December 2018

Michelin-starred Japanese Dinning on our 10th - Shinji at the St. Regis

     I originally had enough of blogging these few days. However, this dinning experience simply deserve an entry on its own. It was our 10th wedding anniversary. We've always celebrated milestone occasions with, in the words of the wifey, "defining dinning experiences". This was to be one of the best, and certainly the most expensive.
Shinji by Kanesaka
     The wifey had always wanted to try the food here. Not knowing how much it would cost, I agreed immediately. Soon we were turning into the St. Regis hotel carpark and making our way up the elevator. There were three choices for dinner. We decided on the middle-tiered one. We took seat along the bar where we could observe the food being prepared right in front of us.
Opening platter: puffer fish, octopus, monk fish liver.
One of the most tender octopus pieces to grace my lips. The wifey adores the monk fish liver.
The abalone slices (in soup) and the yuzu salt were a pair made in heaven.
My first time with milt. It holds together just enough for you to place it in your mouth. Then it explodes into a light creamy paste that can only be described as delectable. I would have more if I were given a choice.
Seasonal crab bits with ikura, caviar, and gold foil.
More fishy goodness
I'm no stranger to sashimi. But this has got to be one of the best around. The freshness of the meat was reinforced by freshly grated wasabi (definitely not processed from a tube), which gave it enough tang to please the tongue. When dipped into the light (the saltiness was just right) soya sauce, it conjured images of the ocean.
     The service here was impeccable. It was the first time I've ever had my green-tea cup replaced with a fresh one every time my tea ran low or was deemed not hot enough. Other restaurants are content to simply refill your cup. But not here, no, that's unacceptable here. They must have an impressive number of tea cups. Where else can you find wait staff who anticipates your needs without you uttering a word? Two cases in point: The wifey choked on something. The staff had the initiative to bring her a glass of water without being asked. When we had to take a breather, the staff was already at the entrance, to show us the way to the washroom. And she had to speed to the entrance in a kimono no less!
We continued our dinner with sushi, prepared right in front of us. I'm at a loss of words to describe the taste and texture. "Extremely good" doesn't do it justice.
Another example of impeccable service: my shrimp sushi was served as above. The wifey's was served in two half portions. Sushi is meant to be eaten in one mouthful. The wifey, being a lady, would not look as pleasant if she had to stuff the whole tiger prawn into her mouth all at once.
The symphony of savoriness (if there's such a word) was brought to a crescendo with the introduction of the uni (sea urchin) rice bowl. You can witness the generous topping of ikura with a splash of freshly grated wasabi. The smooth silkiness of the uni rice danced with the salty popping of ikura on the palate, resulting in a delectible tango.
Next came the palate cleanser. The pickled radish slices were the perfect blend of sweet, salty and sour; not to mention the awesome cruch that it elicited. You never tasted tamago if you've not experienced the Shinji version. It had an interesting texture, more akin to a Nonya "kway" than the common tamago slices we're accustomed to. It is here, also, that the chef showed off his skill with the knife as his deft fingers crafted miniature sushi and maki pieces, only for the ladies.
     By now our tummies were satisfied, but we still wanted to see what was up for dessert. Suddenly the chefs burst into song, as the dessert platter was ceremoniously brought out. We set eyes on a mixture of fruit and traditional Japanese sesame seed ice-cream in wafer, as the rendition of "Happy Anniversary to you" rang out, to the tune of "Happy Birthday".
The climax to a heavenly meal: the pear slices were oh so sweet. The persimmon slices were tender and soft, but nothing could beat the melon. I've had plenty of melon before, including musk melon from Hokkaido. But this melon takes the cake! I've never come across such juicy melon. Every slice literally dripped with its sweet goodness. No wonder the crazy rich Asian tai tais at the next seats ordered a second helping, just the melon. We were told that the melon came from an area near Mt Fuji.
     Although we blew more than a grand (this is only the second time I've had a meal costing more than a grand), it was worth every penny. More importantly, the wifey was happy. I cannot emphasize more how much I am grateful that this wonderful woman is in my life - grateful both to God, who brought us together, and grateful to the wifey for so much all these 10 years. No amount of money can compensate for that.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Our Perth Adventures - Dec 2018: Part 2

     We wanted to visit the parks in Perth city the last time around but didn't have the chance. Hence this time, we made sure we had time for King's Park and the Botanical Gardens. It happened to only be a 15min bus ride from the hotel. We started early and had breakfast at the Botanical Cafe, 2 stops into King's Park. Then off we went. Little did we know that we'd be going on another merry adventure.
Corn fritter and personalized morning drink at the Botanical
Bubble fun
You can see the Swan River in the backgound
First dandelion experience  
     The wifey read about a playground on the grounds of the park. As indulgent parents, we went in search of it. From the DNA Tower, it took us about a km downslope across a humongous grassy expense. You can literally race horses here. What made it worse was that there were no signs. We prodded on with our guts and faith in the directions of passersby. We finally heard the welcome sound of children's laughter. Our playground El Dorado was near.
     The prehistoric theme area contained a few play areas. Unfortunately, the lil muchkin wasn't confident enough to attempt the twisty slides. Here families picnicked in the shade of overhead branches while fathers barbecued and shared jokes. We didn't come prepared at all. Fortunately all was not lost. The wifey and I found a shady spot and rested while the lil muchkin slept in her pram, tired out by the long trek here.
     After a session the swings, it was time to head back. I didn't fancy going back the way we came, upslope and all. Thus we decided to follow Google Maps' suggestion for a 3km, half an hour trek by another route. Thank God we brought the pram. With the noonday sun beating on our heads, it was no joke at all. At last we reached civilization; even the Australian lady at the info counter thought we were mad to have made that journey. Then it was back to the city and lunch.
     We were recommended the Petition restaurant but they didn't serve the pasta that the muchkin was used to. The waitress suggested trying Post restaurant. That's how we found ourselves sitting in yet another atas place. This tine it was located in the Como Shambala hotel no less.
     I didn't intend to write about our meals from here but the food at the Post was really first class. So much so that we came back the next day for lunch again. 
I was too tired and hungry to take a proper pic. But this had got to be THE BEST crackling pork belly I've ever had. It beats even those back home. Not even the one at Pasa Bella comes close. You don't even need to cut or scrape the fat. It literally melts off the meat, even before it reaches your lips. The skin, ooh, that glorious savory "keropok". My only grouse is that there was too much fat. Would make 11 out of 10 if there was more meat.
     Refreshed and recharged after our splendid lunch, we made our way back to the hotel. I looked at my handphone pedometer, almost 20,000 steps. We probably walked around 10km. What an adventure.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Our Perth Adventures - Dec 2018: Part 1

    After dropping off the grandparents at the airport, we made our way back to the city and checked into the Westin. Imagine how pleased we were when we were upgraded to the Superior King's room, courtesy of my SPG Gold Elite status. This would be our base for the next few days.
View from our room 20 storeys up
Same view at night
     We choose Australia because we wanted to expose the lil muchkin to more of the outdoors as well as animals. First destination, the Caversham Wildlife Park. We visited here more than ten years ago. I can't say I appreciate the change. It's so much more commercialised now, not as intimate as before, with long queues to meet the animals. Nevertheless, the lil muchkin had a field day.
Touching a snake...
Touching a wombat...
Touching a koala...
Sheep shearing demonstration
Milking the cow. The lil muchkin said it felt, "soft".
     The lil muchkin was so pleased that she did an impromptu song and dance.
Look how pleased she is with her very first popsicle.
     The highlight of the day had to be the kangaroos. The lil munchkin surprised us when she enthusiastically ran up to the animals and attempted to feed them. This was a big deal because she's usually afraid of large animals like dogs. 
     Contrary to what some think, getting to Caversham Wildlife Park via public transport isn't that difficult. Perth train station was walking distance from the Westin. A few stops later, we boarded the Transperth bus (3 buses to choose from at the same bus-stop) for about 15min. Then we boarded the shuttle bus and here we were. Getting back was just as easy. Most importantly, the lil muchkin learnt that kangaroos do hop (not just laze and sleep in the sun).

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Margaret River Eats - December 2018

     What foodie blog would be complete without an entry on food? This time round I want to thank the wifey for whipping up at least two tantalizing meals a day, with the simple ingredients we managed to source. And she's supposed to be on holiday too! 
     This year we had a taste of restaurants that are famed around this region.

Clairault Streicker Estate

     First up, lunch at Clairault Streicker Estate. I love their specialty of the day cheese bread. Don't be fooled by the platter for "two". It can easily feed a battalion (okay, not a battalion; but it definitely takes more than two to finish it).
Rose, light and refreshing.
As good as Ruinart from France.
Yup, that's the sharing platter of battered prawns,
pulled pork fillets, mushroom tart, and grilled asparagus.
It was all so good! The salmon with risotto was smoked to perfection;
with just a hint of ash and not too salty.
What made them really stand out was the service. The lil muchkin decided to throw a fit. What do you know, the staff came over with a colouring book and colour pencils. From the half finished pages, you can tell it's not the first time they had to deal with unruly children. Thumbs up!

Simmo's Ice Creamery

     I've mentioned this in the previous entry, but this deserves a second mention. We drove up the thirty odd kilometres the very next day to have another go at it. Excellent ice-cream.  It was a challenge to keep the giant scoop from dripping over. Great place for kids to release their pent up energy.
Don't let her sullen expression fool you.
Mine's one unique kid who only wants the cone
without the ice-cream. And she got one for free.

Paul's Rump Steak

     Also available in Singapore at a very high price.
Olio Bello

     Olio Bello is known as much for its organic olive oil products as its lakeside venue for glamping. It also hosts a restaurant with excellent food. We had grilled fish, strawberry salad (seasonal) and venison pizza. I especially enjoyed the salad. The sweetness of strawberries was an excellent contrast to the tartness of rocket leaves, resulting in a burst of freshness on your palate.
Dad's usually not a fan of Italian food, but
he took a few servings of this venison pizza.
The lil muchkin's favourite, fresh strawberries.

Miki's Open Kitchen

     Located right smack in town, this is the place to see and be seen. It supposedly serves some of the best Japanese food around. No doubt the offerings were exotic and the food memorable, I feel it shouldn't command the price tag that came with it. At AUD85 per person, I expect to be surpised and tantalized. What I enjoyed most was the salmon shabu shabu. Points awarded for the showmanship, but I've had better in Singapore. 
Exceptional service. By far the most expensive meal we've had here so far. Verdict: skip this one and save the cash.

Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery

    No pics of food but if you happen to pass by, drop in for the wings and fish and chips. The wifey originally intended to skip this place, but she was glad we were here. Excellent place to chill and have a beer, while taking in the sight of the lake and the vineyards beyond.

Capri Restaurant

     Although strictly not located in Margaret River, I feel it deserves a mention. This is the third time in two years we are here. We were just in time to secure a lunch table; that means joining the queue before the restaurant opens at noon. Reservations are needed during dinner as it frequently maxes out its capacity. We purposely made a detour to Frementle to give our parents a last good meal before the flight back to Singapore. You can never go wrong here.
Chicken soup. The lil muchkin had a field day finishing up my pasta.
Misto Mare. Love the scallops.
Fillet Mignon. Bacon-wrapped steak on mushrooms - anything but mignon.
The potato on the side is to die for.
Grilled flounder. Yes, it really is that BIG.
Home-made vegetable soup. Warms up your soul.
The lil muchkin finished every single drop.
These are just part of the spread available. That's it for food. Until our next adventure in Perth city...