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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pietro Ristorante Italiano

With a name like that, one will expect a restaurant helmed by an authentic Italian. But no, instead there is a home grown Chinese chef behind the kitchen and not just an ordinary Chinese chef but a celebrity Chef at that!

Chef Neo must be so confident of his cooking that not only did he choose to do Italian dishes but he set up the place in the most ulu of places at a teeny weeny little road in Yio Chu Kang that is so off the beaten track that I had to use my gps to get to the place. And his confidence show in some of the unusual items he has on his menu.

For starter,  we ordered the Funghi Portobello which is fresh portobello mushroom baked with crab meat, ebiko and prawn finished with rich gorgonzola sauce.

M wasn't really that hungy so she ordered the Zuppa di Mare which is actually a Seafood Soup concocted with prawn, clams, mussels, squids in spicy tomato sauce, white wine, basil leaves. She said it tasted like tom yam soup.

I had the Spaghetti alle Vongole which came with lots and lots of fresh clams. I must admit that this is one of the best spaghetti I tasted.
The kid ordered something that looks like a cross between the Hakka abacus seed and Chinese la-mian. Didn't get the name and can't find the item on the online menu.

We found out later that the chef made everything ie the pasta and dough from scratch. I enjoyed the meal especially the Spaghetti alle Vongole although I felt the price was a bit on the high side because of the portion size but then again that is the way most Italian food place priced themselves.

Overall, this is a nice place to go to for a quiet dinner. There is live music, nice decor in a rather romantic setting with a picture of a Venice canal.  Very suitable for impressing a date.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Of Rats, Cats and Dogs

The rats at Bukit Batok have been hogging the headlines for the past week. The authorities and pest controllers have been blaming the people there for the infestation. It seems the people have been feeding the stray dogs and the leftover food have attracted the rats which it seems is enjoying life there. Of course the people who are feeding the dogs are denying that the problem was caused by them..

The way I see it, the rat problem at Bukit Batok is the same as the monkey problem at Bukit Timah, the stray dogs problem at Punggol and other places and the crow problem at food centres. What they have in common is that all these are caused by us human. 

Like the monkey problem, we human have encroached into their territory. While that would have ordinarily driven them further into the remaining forest, we human decided to feed them. And when the monkey got used to human food and human presence, they start to move into our area and the conflict with human then begin.

Ditto the stray dogs problem. Most of these dogs are the offspring of previous house pet kept by people living in farms and kampungs. When these people were resettled into HDB flat which does not permit keeping of large dogs, the dogs were abandon and left to fend for themselves, Left alone, the dogs starts to hunt and breed and become progressively aggressive as they fight to survive.

The cats have the same problem. But fortunately for the cats, there are many cat lovers who feed the cats daily. So all the cats need to do daily is to sleep and eat.

Which brings me to the rats and crows. What has these got to do with the monkeys, dogs and cats. I believe in the theory of the survival of the fittest. My theory is this:
  • Human feeds the monkey, stray dogs and cats.
  • The monkey, dogs and cats become well fed and indirectly "domesticated". Because they are well fed, they lost their ability to forage and hunt and with more time on their hand, they end up doing what comes naturally to all living beings - reproduce.
  • So we end up with 2 new problems - growing population of monkeys, stray dogs and cats
  • And the growth of pests like the rats, crows and cockroaches. Why? Because the dogs and cats are well fed, they no longer need to hunt. Here in Singapore, there is not much other creatures down the pecking order below the dogs and cats excepts the birds, rats and  cockroaches. And since the dogs and cats are not eating these pests, they are allowed to breed with no natural prey to curb their population. 
  • Compound that with the indiscriminate feeding of the strays with leftover not removed which means a steady stream of food source for these pests, what we have is a blooming growth in the population of rats, cockroaches and even crows and bingo, problem like those at Bukit Batok!

Nature has its own way of dealing with problem. But when human steps in and upset the eco system, what we get is nature goes haywire. And we see it everywhere all over the world - leopards going into villages, snakes creeping up toilet bowls, locust infestation, 

The way to deal with the rat problem after the pest control has done it job? Stop feeding the stray dogs and cats. Certainly the weaker animals will die. But the stronger animals will be forced to hunt. And when they start hunting, they will have less time to mate. Which means less strays. And they will also eat up the pests which will help to control the population of rats and crows and other pests. And over time, everything will balance out. 

Just take a look at this video. This is what I mean when we allow Mother Nature to do its job.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery

Probably the last of its kind left in Singapore, Chin Mee Chin Confectionery or CMC as it is popularly called in Katong is a old style Hainanese coffee shop serving beverages and bread served the traditional way.


Inside the 2 old style glass cabinets are trays of freshly baked buns

Authentic custard tarts.

And custard buns. These are good. Soft and the custard literally oozes out.

And they sell kaya too. Sickeningly sweet kaya. Damn shiok but don't eat too much though. Its really really sweet.

Its most famous item has to be the butter kaya bun where instead of the usual 2 slice of white or brown bread, the kaya and butter is spread onto a sweet bun.

And we not talking of a small thin slice of butter either. It is a thick thick slice right on top of the kaya which is spread on both sides of the bun. Yummy.

Another hot favourite of theirs is the lucheon meat bun but it was not available on this occasion.

Go try it if you in the area. Before the old owner retires and the shop makes way for another new style coffee joint.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Good Food in London

Other than the usual fish and chips and Italian food, I didn't really know what was good and inexpensive. But hailing from Singapore, a lot of people had told me about this place Burger and Lobster and so we dutifully found our way to out of its outlet one day.

Everyone was raving about this place and we were warned to go during off peak so that we didn't have to wait too long. So we went after 2 pm and still ended up waiting nearly 40 minutes for a seat. The joint only serves 3 items - a steak burger, a lobster roll or a whole baked lobster. All the items were priced at the same price of  £20 Since we can have burger everywhere, we went for the lobster. I had my steamed while M had hers grilled. The lobster comes with a side of fries and some salad.

Was it worth the wait and worthy of the hype? Hell, if I am going back there again, that will be my first stop for a meal! 

Another place that we were told is a must try was surprise surprise - Chinese food - roasted duck to be precise and at this outlet in Chinatown.

This photo was taken before dinner time but at dinner time, the queue was super long. Luckily our host for the evening had some "connection" and we managed to get in without waiting too long. We had a whole lot of Chinese food but the highlight of course was the roasted duck.

How good was it? Maybe to the English and the Chinese staying over there who do not see this dish being sold everywhere, this has to be good. The meat was tender enough without much fat. It was a bit too charred too. So nothing great there but not having had decent Chinese food for the past 3 weeks, this tasted real good. But frankly coming from Singapore, where there is a roasted meat stall at every other food centre, it wasn't spectacularly good. 

We went to 2 other Chinese food places over the course of the visit and they were mostly forgettable. So if you in London and wants good Chinese food, this is probably the best choice as long as you don't mind queuing up.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


After a long haul in Scotland, we finally made it to London, the last stop before we fly back to Singapore. By then, I was tired and the glam of London wasn't really my thing. I wanted to go Stonehenge, Kew Garden but the schedule we had didn't permit us to go that far and we had already been to 2 gardens so another one seems a bit overkill. In the end, we did the tourisy thing and went on a open top bus ride taking in the sights of London. And I swear this is the best way to see everything at one go.

The bus route covered all the major tourist attractions and we could hop on and off wherever we choose but because the priority was shopping, we only gawked at most of these places from the outside. We also .took the Thames river cruise which comes with the bus trip so we covered all the places:

Trafalgar Square

The most famous of them all - the London Eye with the County Hall next to it.

The Tower Bridge which I think is the most magnificent bridge I ever seen. Much nicer than the Millennium Bridge which is a monstrosity next to all the historical bridges along the river.

The Tower of London

Another view of the Tower of London. They were planting the poppies at that time.

Buckingham Palace as seen from outside the fence

Of course there was the shopping but while everybody loves all the branded stuff, I went mad over this place.

This has got to be every M&M's fan idea of heaven!

But a visit to London would not be complete without going to the more traditional shops and this is another delicious find.

And of course it is not complete without a visit to the world famous Harrods

And last but not least, a makan session at Chinatown

We did squeeze in some time to make a pilgrim to the hallowed world of football. Emirates Stadium! Read more about that visit here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Birds & Butterflies of Scotland

Beside the birds in the zoo and bird parks, we saw many wild birds on top of the countless sea gulls and ducks. Here are some of those that I managed to take a picture of.

A magpie. They are supposed to be pretty common but I only saw them in a few places.

 Another of the more commonly sighted bird which unfortunately like in Singapore has outlive its welcome

 And this is the famous Robin!

This was spotted in London all over the place outside the London Tower but I believe it is native to the whole of UK. I think it is a thrush. Somebody correct me if I am wrong.

And my one and only photograph of a butterfly - spotted right on top of Cow's Head Summit. This is a Red Admiral butterfly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Flowers of Scotland

One great thing about cooler temperature country is the variety of colorful flowers. In Scotland, there are beautiful wild flowers everywhere. And then there are the planted flowers in gardens and homes. We couldn't get enough of the flowers and visited 2 Botanic Garden - 1 in Glasgow and 1 in Edinburgh.

Here are just a few of the interesting looking flowers. For more of them, go to my Facebook album or Picasa Web Album.

Enjoy the nice flowers but don't ask me what are their names cause I sure don't know.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland

Our last main stop before we move over to London was to the Edinburgh Zoo. It seems we must make a pit stop at a zoo in every major place that we visit. There are quite of marine park and zoo in Scotland but Edinburgh is one of the bigger and better zoo in UK so we felt obliged to drop in.

Edinburgh Zoo is one of the few zoo in the world to have the Panda bear. But it is more famous for its Penguin Parade where the Penguin goes on a real march through the zoo, Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time so did not get to witness this spectacular sight.

But we did managed to catch the feeding of several of the animals like the Oriental Short Clawed Otter gobbling down the mouse.

And the Asiatic lion running away with a piece of meat.

We also saw up close the Amur Leopard

The very rare Scottish wild cat

And surprise surprise surprise the Koala bear. This is the first time I seen one outside of Australia.

And another import from another country, the Stellar Sea Eagle.

And last but not least, this beautiful snake aptly named Taiwan Beauty Snake.

But overall I was disappointed with the layout of the zoo. It was a bit messy and most of the primates were kept behind glass enclosures. Maybe it is to protect them from the cold but the view of them were spoilt by the glass which were badly scratched. The variety of animals were not as great as I had hopped as compared to say Ueno Zoo or the Shanghai Zoo.