Poulet: Please Open in Raffles Place!

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Unbelievably I have never tried Poulet before. You would have thought that a F&B-eager beaver like me would have conquered this French Bistro chain before it even opened their second branch? Well, no. But 10 branches later, I finally tried the famed Poulet Roti at their Raffles City branch. Let me tell you, I have been missing out big time. Because this afternoon I had really good Roast Chicken!

Served with creamy fresh button mushroom Chardonnay sauce and fresh spinach, I could not believe how tender and fresh-tasting the chicken was. My metal knife sliced through every bit so easily – I swear a plastic knife would have easily accomplished this feat too. And when I sliced into the thigh area, a whole puddle of juices flowed out. So impressive! The beautiful blistered-brown skin also stood out for its sweet caramelisation and crispness.

Around the internet, many people criticize the cream sauce. I liked it. Sure, it was not thick and creamy but that is precisely why it scored brownie points with me. Diluted cream evidenced more water than cream –> less calories. I happily slurped up the liquidy-cream, all the while imagining it was low cal. Haha.

As luck would have it, I had two plates this afternoon! You see, I was halfway through my first half-chicken (above picture), and having gobbled up all the button mushrooms and spinach, when the parts near the bone started bleeding out. It was not a pretty sight. But the service staff was so bloody efficient and apologetic when she saw the blood flowing out. She quickly removed the plate and replaced me with another beautiful half.

I scored myself more spinach and mushrooms. What a wonderful first visit!

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Raffles Place-peeps might understand that our only roast chicken option is the chain that begins with Rosti. Quite frankly, the stale roast chicken from the chain is getting from bad to worse. (Don’t get me started on the Fish & Chips. It is a perfect example of how fried food can go wrong) Sure, price-wise, Poulet is more expensive given there are no sides like green peas, cauliflower gratin or salad. But for much tastier roast chicken, I will take Poulet any day. So Poulet owners, please please please open a branch in Raffles Place soon! Poulet is the perfect place to get our roast chicken fix.

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StandChart Marathon Post-Mortem

So you might have read my account of the Stand Chart Marathon the past Sunday. I had such a good time and the race only reinforced my love for running and racing. However I made many mistakes leading up to the race and even during the race itself. Still it is not without regrets for I figured several useful ways of adapting to the environment. So allow me to self-indulge and recount the bad and good stuff, I think I did.

Things I did wrong:

1.   Carb-loading like there is no tomorrow. There is a tomorrow and during THAT tomorrow your belly will be filled with sooo much stuff, it is no longer a fuel but pure burden. I really should have checked myself the day before but I lost it and ate like it was free-for-all. No way. Running on a full belly is a nightmare. When you are hydrating during the race, you are ingesting more stuff on the full belly and this causes digestive problems. I was having difficulties digesting just the first gel when my energy level was so low at the 24km mark. My belly was so bloated and gassy. Next time, check myself.

2.   Inadequate Gel preparation and schedule. There is a science and art to taking these gels during a long race. I have done three half-marathons before and never needed it. So for this race I was so reluctant to rely on them. Right up to the race itself, I had yet to fully understand the purpose and science behind it. During the race, I waited until my energy level came to an all-time low and my mind was going crazy with negative thoughts before realising that maybe I needed a sugar hit. I should have taken gels seriously during my preps. I should have played around with it during my training and listened to the suggested schedule to consume it timely. Lesson learnt.

3.   Inadequate cross-training. Running all the time is NOT the way to score a good timing. I always knew that. However for this race, besides running, all I did was glide on the Elliptical Machine. I felt I should have added in other forms of training such as TRX and Yoga. Especially Yoga – the stretching would have loosened and strengthened my hips.

4.   Inadequate strength-training. Repeat after me. Strong.glutes. Strong.legs.

5.   Inadequate core strengthening. This is different from point 4 because the core is the single most important part of the body. As mentioned in the earlier post, my weak core caused me to sink into my hips. Strong core would have supported my weak shoulders. This week when I am done with recovery, I am so doing these simple for effective ab exercises everyday!

Things I think I did right:

1.   Join a running club and pacing group. You have no idea how grateful I am for the Running Department and the 5:15 pacers. The organised and manageable running schedules made my training so much easier. You may recall I had 15 weeks to train as opposed to the ideal 18 weeks prep. With Running Department, I did not have to hunt around the internet for a reliable schedule. I just followed them especially their long runs. On race day, I felt more comfortable knowing I clocked 27km, 33km and 21km before with them. Plus the pacers were ALL so incredible! They always made sure uneven ground  or any obstructions were pointed out. Plus they were ALWAYS cheerful during running. Lots of smiles and laughter at every single point. And they played damn good music and tend to sing along. This helped to ease up my body and mind especially during the early parts of the race. There was always so much support. If you slowed down, one of the pacers will always drop out to ensure you are not alone and made sure to cheer you on. The community spirit was so real and moving. Also thanks to them, I stopped using headphones. I swear my eardrums are much happier.

2.   Pacing onself. My experienced-Marathoner friend saw the final breakdown of my run and was well-impressed with the even splits. I am still unfamiliar with splits but if he is impressed, it must be good. I have only my Pacers to thank for this.

3.   Ice cubes in bra, water over the head. Will do this again! Plus the ice cubes in the bra remains for a long time. The cooling effect at the chest really really cools down a large part of your upper body. Water over the head is great when a breeze comes in. It is an amazing cold feeling!

So there, lessons learnt and the right stuff I did. Now it is to be put them into action and prepare for my next race. I simply cannot wait!

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Standard Chartered Marathon Recap

Hello hello my friends, after all the training (and moaning), I finally ran the Standard Chartered Marathon!!! I finished two minutes shy of my personal goal with a timing of 5:17:07. I am definitely a little disappointed with not finishing at 5:15:00 but I am still soooo incredibly happy!!! My legs especially my calves did not fail me. This is especially significant as once during my training, I heard a “snap” in my right calf and my whole leg go numb. I could only manage 27 out of the intended 33km. On race day, fortunately my lower body and hips were only sore at the 35km mark. The funniest part was: at the end of the race and even throughout the rest of the day, I was nowhere close to exhaustion. Must be the endorphins. I was so high throughout the day and was yakking away to EVERYONE! My poor Mummy, I was with her the entire day. Why her ears did not drop off I will never know.

Still, I felt my timing was compromised due to several key mistakes I made in the course of prepping for this run and even during the race itself. in my next post, I am going to post some Mistakes Made and Lessons Learnt pointers. So do visit again if you would like to learn from my mistakes too.

It is hard for me to pass a judgment on how well-organised the race was. I have not ran in many Marathons, yet. All I know is that there were AMPLE hydration stations – like 15 stations, if my memory does not fail me. Definitely more than the number reflected on the route map on their website. And every time 100plus was provided, it was ICED COLD. I am still so so appreciative of this. Thank you, Organisers!!! However when I got to the first three Gel/ Banana stations, there were none left. Only the last gel station was there a whole lot of them laid out on the table. Thank goodness I brought one and the pacers had quite a few. I still feel so bad taking their gels though. They aren’t cheap. So at the last Gel station, I made sure to take an extra to repay them.

Now a recap on the race route. I tried to take as many photos as possible during the race but running with my AWESOME 5:15 pacers from the Running Department, I did not want to compromise my momentum with them especially for the first 2/3 of the run. So I snapped several key points during the route to help me not forget the good and tough times.

You have no idea how nervous and anxious I was the night before the race! I went to bed at 8.30pm but could not fall asleep immediately. This was so despite me taking a sleeping pill AND sleeping aid. I even got up at 2am to check my phone was switched on and not broken down <– yeah I assumed it would break down for some freak reason during the night.

When my alarm clock finally rang at 3.20am, I leapt out of bed, got dressed and slapped on tons of sunblock on my face and arms. For breakfast, I had a toasted plain bagel with some blueberry jam. I didn’t take any Chinese food maybe because I read sooo many US-based runners blogs – this is their de facto choice of pre-race fuel – that it seemed natural for me to have this too.

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Then I drove down to the starting line in Orchard, parked and walked through the underpass to the entrance at Ion. I came across a sea of blue in Orchard MRT station. Seeing all the fellow Marathoners was very heartening and I felt less alone.

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Walking into the start pen next to Tangs.

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At the second wave pen. I was too anxious to wait until the very front of “Start” sign to take a picture.

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The moment is now…

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The first 15km was wonderfully easy and I certainly felt like we were just gliding along. We began from Orchard then ran into Somerset before turning into the Dhoby Ghaut. Then we continued running until Chinatown before finally reaching Raffles Place. This was surreal, I would normally train from Orchard to Raffles Place but I was now actually running into and past Raffles Place so easily. The sky was still dark and the air was soo crisp and chilly. You have no idea how in love with my surroundings and running I was at this point! With my pacers, we were singing along to songs from music blared out from the speakers of one of the pacers. We were even chit-chatting when not singing.

Then we entered East Coast Park and the second 15km of the race. We were greeted with the most beautiful sunrise ever! The sun was orangey and huge.

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It was a beautiful sight to behold…

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East Coast Park-route was also where the real test began. It is here on this 15km route that you will start seeing the first casualties of the race. Along the way one can find joggers receiving medical aids on the side. It was definitely a little scary… Especially when at this point I could feel my upper body sinking into my hips. I made conscientious efforts to “pull” myself up. And even more scarily, I started to feel a strain in my calves and my fears set in. I made sure not to lean my body forward too much and constantly “connected” with my legs. In my head, there was also a lot of chanting to myself and literally “begging” my calves to not give up on me especially not now. It probably worked because my calves hung in there for me and even throughout the race. If I could, I would hug my calves. Haha. I love my body so much!  

It was also here where I could feel my sugar level hitting a low. I took my first gel here. This Gu gel flavour was seriously yummy! It tasted and was the consistency of chocolate lava from Chocolate Molten Cakes. I am definitely stocking up on this for my next race.

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I was also running to all the hydration stations and downing water and 100plus alternatively – this later on proved to be a HUGE MISTAKE. At the 22km mark, I still felt crappy so I had my Reese Peanut Butter snack and it was delicious!!! This cheered me up a lot. But didnt hold me for long… One of the pacers was offering Gel and I had to have one. When I finished that, the remaining run in East Coast Park became very smooth. I managed to run ahead of the pacers and I felt my legs were moving forward at a good momentum. 

At the 30km mark, we finally left East Coast Park and officially began the “Marathon”. We were also running on this strange new road that was not open to cars yet. I was thinking at this point how incredibly small Singapore may be but yet we still manage to find bits of land to build more roads. Rapid expansion was literally before my eyes. This 5km route, before we hit Marina Barrage, was also the first tough part of the race because the Sun was out and blazing with so much joy… A lot of runners were walking here and wherever there was shade, everyone would run underneath it. I felt good here. Maybe because I had ingested so much sugar and water in East Coast Park before. Despite the glaring Sun, I was pacing along consistently and did not feel stretched at any point. When it got too warm, I grabbed water from the Hydration stations and poured over my head. Worked like a charm! Whenever the breeze came I felt like I was running in an air-conditioned room. There was a hydrating station along this route where ice cubes were being given out and I grabbed some to throw it into my Sports Bra. Learnt this trick from HungryRunner Girl and I swear it saved me. Water over my head and ice cubes definitely prevented me from overheating and succumbing to the heat.

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Past the 35km mark and into Marine Barrage, this is where I hit the wall and what I consider now to be the downfall of whole run. My hips felt so sore and heavy at this point. But that was not as bad as the stitches that was jabbing at my right belly. My belly also felt so heavy from the water and gel/ snack I ingested. I felt them all bobbling up and down in my belly – I was definitely regretting my earlier actions. To try and counter the pain, I took deep slow breaths. This caused the stitches to subside a little but it kept coming back. Why I did not want to go to the toilet to “relieve” myself then puzzles me even until now. But back then, I wilfully felt like I did not want to waste any time.

It was also here where I first walked. I was terribly sad from the walking as I knew it would slow me down significantly and cause me to lose the momentum – which happened. But I was exhausted and I could not feel my lower body.

Then the most painful and by far the hardest part of the race came around. At the 37-38km mark, Benjamin Sheares Bridge. A day later, thinking about this stretch still sends shiver down my spine.

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The Bridge was a killer. It may not have been steep but it was LOOONNNGGGG. Going up the bridge, it felt never-ending. I dared not look ahead because seeing how much more to climb was such a downer. It was also here where my 5:15 pacers overtook me and I simply could not catch up with them. I could not find any energy here and my stitches were back. I lost my running momentum and was alternating between walking and slow jogs until the 40km mark.

Reliving this 3km route still brings me so much sadness. If I can conquer this same part next year, I know my timing will be significantly improved. Like maybe even close to a 5hr mark. I wasted far too much time here.

I was elated to reach the 40km mark. But my energy level was close to a zero. Just 2km to the end. 2km is less than half of my warm-up distance but it was the hardest 2km I ever ran… Until I saw the last 500m mark, I was just slow jogging or walking…

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 At the last 500m mark, I finally began to pick up my pace and when I saw the last 100m signboard, I really really tried to blitz through to the finish line. At the end I could not stop smiling. I was so so happy from finishing my first ever 42km and knew right there and then, it would not be my last. I love running and racing so much!

 

Later I realised my sports bra and leggings gave me so much abrasions. I literally yelled out in the shower when the water first hit me.

Battle scars. Hurts more than sore muscles😭

A photo posted by A Rabbit Afoot (@yyangchen) on

But it was all worth it. I have already signed up for two races (Brooks Marina 21km run and Green Corridor 10km) in the first quarter of 2015. Just thinking about the preparations for it gets me so excited! As for Standard Chartered Marathon, it is not over. I am not done. I don’t feel as if I have conquered it and am so unsatisfied. I will be back next year to conquer that Bridge and the last 7km!

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Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine- Simply Exquisite

Dear Royal China,

I’m sorry but it seems I may have found a new obsession: Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine. You can’t blame me. Last Sunday afternoon, my family and I headed to the restaurant on the 5th floor of Takashimaya Shopping Centre where we were proceeded to be blown away by EVERY SINGLE DISH we ordered. To describe them as good is just unkind. We witness high levels of skill in the execution and every flavour was spot-on! There was not a fault in sight. Unlike yours, the portions were much smaller and daintier. But the flavours and seasoning were huge. Punchy when need be, aromatic otherwise. We definitely did not miss quantity. It also probably helped much that the ambience and decor of the restaurant was equally as fine as the food. No unappetizing colour palette to spoil our mood. So let me show you what we had.

We began our flawless lunch with two appetizers:

Marinated Pig’s Ear & Tongue (悄 悄 话): Soft pig’s ears encircling the textural square tongue then neatly pressed into a glutinous jelly. To serve, thinly-sliced with a dash of spicy chilli oil and sesame seeds. It was a unique starter that was also beautiful with the varying colours and textures. It made for a very good start.

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Deep Fried Eel Fillet (无 锡 脆 鳝 ) was the afternoon’s biggest surprise and adorned equally by all. The eel fillet was expertly deep-fried until impossibly crunchy then livened up by an addictive sweet acidic sauce that evenly coated every crunchy eel. This won us all at first bite. 

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Moving on the mains:

Hairy Crab Roe Fen Pi: A special during the Hairy Crab season, each portion was a pricely $28/++ but so rich and thick. Vinegar was provided for this dish. I like my flavours intense so there was no need to “destroy” with the acidic kick. However some really needed it after a while as the richness got to them.

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Fen Pi are translucent and thick mung bean noodles most commonly seen in Northern China cuisines. Since the dominance of Southern China cuisine here in Singapore, these noodles are rarely seen. The last time I had this noodle was in Shanghai so that afternoon, fond memories of my gastronomic trip came flooding back.

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Our only order from the Dim Sum menu was the Pork & Ham Pastry and we were pleased as a punch with these three fine nuggets of a pastry. They were a wonderful introduction to IT Shanghai’s Dim Sum offerings.

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Delicate flaky layers of pastry gave way to the most appetizing diced pork and ham filling. Insanely delicious, I would return just for this!

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Another noodle dish: Bang Bang Chicken. Shredded chicken with cucumber and fen pi in a spicy sesame sauce. Yet more fen pi but in a thinner and longer form resembling “hor fun”; we simply can not get enough of this unique mung bean noodle. If you (like me) love peanut butter and peanut-based sauces, you will be equally as enamored with this savoury intense nut sauce. 

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Braised Meat Ball with Vegetables in Brown Sauce (红 烧 狮 子 头): one of IT Shanghai’s most popular dishes, this claypot contained two huge squishy pork meatballs in a thick brown gravy filled with soft tender cabbage.
 

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I loved the pink insides of the meatball and the thick smooth gravy. Like all preceding dishes we had, this claypot of stewed vegetables and meat was another delicious dish.

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Finally, a Superior Soup Rice with Seafood (海鲜上汤烩饭): essentially just cooked rice in a broth with assorted evenly-cubed seafood and vegetables; the aromatic broth was most comforting! A simple and satisfying dish.
 

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As you might be able to tell, I really enjoyed my lunch at Imperial Treasure Shanghai. Chinese food never looked so good and refined with the high level of skill in their execution. Plus the unusual dishes made our lunch so exciting. Now I am already plotting my next gourmet adventure here.

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Kokubo Hokkaido Custard Milk Cream Puffs

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I don’t normally dedicate a post on a snack or a single dessert but for Bonjapan Station’s Kokubo Hokkaido Custard Milk Cream Puffs, they were some kind of wonderful and I HAD to share my joy.

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As some of you might recall, I am my company’s organizer of the fortnightly Associates’ Food Gathering. One evening every fortnight, the company gives me a pretty generous budget to order in food so that us lawyers can hang out. Originally a drinks gathering, these days no one ever drinks. That’s because the food I order in is always exciting and people inevitably forget about drinking. I am so proud to say, no one feeds people like I do. NO ONE.

For yesterday’s gathering, I got a whole load of crowd-pleasing 4 Fingers Crispy Chicken and for dessert: Kokubo Hokkaido Cream Puffs and Eclairs from the Hokkaido Harvest Fair two weeks back in Isetan Orchard.

4 Fingers was on fine form last night! Amazingly crispy crust that failed to turn soggy even after an hour and juicy meat within. We were relieved with the quality as the last month it was not good. The inconsistency is a little annoying.

But it was definitely our lucky evening for our dessert was equally stellar! The Cream Puffs had everyone raving. Even my non-sweet tooth colleagues fell in love swiftly in love at first bite. To be honest, it was the long expiry date that first sold me. Sold frozen and three in a box, I bought them way in advance, chucked it in the freezer until the evening of enjoyment.

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The funny thing is I didn’t buy so many boxes knowing they were good – I did not even try the sample. All I thought then was: (a) from Hokkaido, can’t be that bad; and (b) value for money; an offer meant I could purchase a lot – perfect since I had to feed loads.

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Turns out HOKKAIDO-MADE PRODUCTS ARE UBER RELIABLE!!! Heavily promoted as a 2 way Choux a la Creme: as an ice-cream when frozen or cream puff when defrosted. I defrosted all of them yesterday evening and the choux puffs resembled Yorkshire Puddings with its light airy hollowness. Good texture but it was the smooth, luscious filling within that won us over.

There were two flavours available: Chocolate and Milk Custard. The Chocolate-flavour blew us away with the rich chocolate flavour imbued in the cream. If you look at the print on the box, there are cubes of chocolate resembling Royce Nama Chocolates. Were the Nama Chocolates used? I have no idea but dark chocolate was expertly blended into the whipped cream.

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The Milk Custard flavour was similarly a crowd pleaser. I expected it to be plain and milky but it was nowhere close to boring. The custard tasted so pure with subtly notes of sweet milk as it danced in my mouth. An utterly enjoyable puff!

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The eclairs, on the other hand, were so-so only. So if you can still get your hands on these puffs, be prepared to immensely enjoy them.

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Dim Sum @ Royal China, Raffles Hotel: So good!

Hello, happy Monday my friends! How was your weekend? I had two good eats over the weekend. First was Dim Sum at Royal China in Raffles Hotel, it became the perfect post-run nourishment, and the other was a superb Sunday Roast that defeated me from Level 33 at Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1.

Have you guys had Dim Sum from RC before? My go-to dim sum spot had always been Imperial Treasure (be it at the Paragon Peking Duck branch or Noodle & Congee at 100am or Ion Orchard). Until Royal China, I did not think dim sum could be sublime. Obviously, I had been living in a hole. RC disproved my narrow-minded view. Having said that, not every piece of dim sum at RC was stunning and the Tiffany-blue decor could not have been more unappetizing. Quite frankly, the colour cheapened the restaurant. But there was some seriously good exquisite pieces that would make me ignore the decor, and return in a heartbeat.

The most stunning dish that afternoon was the Baked BBQ Pork Puff (two sets in the picture). For our table of 7 persons, we ordered four sets of it because this shiny golden pastry, with its crispy flaky exterior and generous fragrant pork filling, was so.damn.good! I still dream about this.

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Deep-fried yam puff with Scallop in Portuguese Sauce (two portions) was surprisingly DELICIOUS! Expectedly crisp and light crust, it was the utterly appetizing portguese sauce embracing the whole scallop inside that will make me order this again!

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Other notable dim sum pieces we had were the: Steamed Bun With Salted Egg Yolk and Fresh Mango Juice (the mango juice was notably absent but the bun was so damn tender and fluffy with the generous strong salted egg yolk, definitely a must-order. In any case, isn’t the pairing of salted egg yolk with mango juice equally as strange to you?), the Royal China Dough Fritter Chee Cheong Fun (the rice noodle roll was a tad thick but paired with the thick deep-fried dough fritter, heavenly), the Har Gow (steamed prawn dumpling was snappy and with two prawns, another stunning eat), and, not pictured, the Pork Siew Mai with a wolfberry adorning each pork piece was another must-order. Chockful of pork, prawns and mushroom, kudos to RC for not only NOT screwing up this classic but made it remarkable.

IMG_6345A surprising miss was the Baked Egg Tarts. Neither sweet nor decernible in any taste, it was a waste of calories.

A surprising hit was this fried fishling/ seafood thing topped with crispy batter and spring onions and chilli. A wrong order but so addictive. We could not stop picking at it. I still have no idea what this is but do show this picture to the waitress and she will most likely know. 

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For dessert, the Red Bean Pancake was like what the food blogs have been saying for ages, not good with its thick skin. But it seems RC still stands by their rendition of this classic Chinese dessert. I did enjoy the rich and smooth red bean filling though.

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A great meal at Royal China, my tired legs certaintly recovered quickly and I can’t wait to go back for more.

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Sear 50RP: I Love It!

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There is a new steakhouse in town!! OBVIOUSLY my usual busybody self had to check it out ASAP. Just across the road from my office on the 45th level of Singapore Land Tower, you might have heard of the extravagant $6,000 Steak with Caviar? Obviously I wasn’t having that. Sear has a great set lunch menu: 2 courses for $29 or 3 for $36. When I read about the set lunch last Sunday in the newspapers, I immediately changed the location of my business lunch and reserved a table.

What a good decision! Us five girls thoroughly enjoyed our meal! Flavourful well-executed dishes and the service staff were so, so eager to please. I am returning next Wednesday and I CANNOT WAIT!

Reporting from lunch today. The Set Lunch Menu.

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Two of us got the Chopped House Salad to begin with. We were impressed with the gold cutleries.

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I loved my perfectly seasoned salad. The rectangular-shaped potatoes were coated in fragrant Wholegrain Mustard. There was a beetroot jus underneath the lettuce which provided a beautiful sweet quality.

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One of us got the Dry Aged Steak Tartare (Supplement $8). Raw beef lovers will thoroughly enjoy this with seasoning separated to adjust to your own tastebuds.

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Another two got the Pira Grilled Foie Gras. With NO supplement required, this was so worth it!

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We all got the Classic Steak Frites for the main course. Some of us enjoyed the peppery gravy but some did not. Some liked the Fries seasoning, some didn’t but we ALL LOVED the smoky charred steak. My juicy medium-rare steak was perfection.

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We shared a Chocolate Mudpie that was served with Cinnamon Ice-cream. Not the best dessert in town but who cares, the steak was SO GOOD!

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The restaurant was beautiful!

The Bar area upon walking in…

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The first part of the dining area…

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Turning into the corner…

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So much light, good food, great service, can’t wait for next Wednesday!