29.12.14

Patara Fine Thai Cuisine

Patara used to be my go-to for refined and elegant Thai cuisine at equally "sophisticated" prices. To me, it was a case of "you pay for what you get". The food was pricey, but generally well worth it.

But its recently-launched Ala Carte Weekend Lunch Buffet ($44++) seems like a bit of a sell-out. In an attempt to pander to the mass market dollar, Patara's food has lost that bit of polish which made the fine-dining stalwart a notable standout. The buffet, while extremely easy on the wallet and reasonably value-for-money, was clunky, and when held up against its ala carte menu, pedestrian. I thought the buffet was a poor showing of how well Patara usually does. My take is to stick to the ala carte menu, where the food tends to be markedly more finely-tuned.

The Pla Gao Sam Ros, battered fried fish fillet with three-flavoured dipping sauce was amateurish but tasty nonetheless.

One of the few highlights was the Goong Phad Cha, prawns stir-fried with crispy garlic and robust peppercorns. Loved the textural contrast of the springy prawns and crunchy garlic.

The soups were generally decent, with the Tom Yum Goong, the classic Thai hot and sour soup littered with fresh prawns, bold and well-balanced. 

The Poh Taek Talay, may have appeared clear but it was deceptively spicy, a nice contrast with the intense sour accents of the soup and dotted with a medley of fish, prawns and squid.

The meat dishes were mostly pedestrian. Like the Gai Phad Med Mamuang, stir-fried chicken with cashews and dried chillis.

The Nua Phad Prik Thai, comprised stringy, chewy beef strips laden with mixed peppers, onions and spring onion and doused in a black pepper sauce.

The Ped Yang Phad Ka-Praow, duck breast with green peppercorns and crisp basil, was terribly dry and gamey. We didn't finish it.

The curries fared better; the Gaeng Kaew Wan Gai, with succulent chicken, baby eggplant and basil, was bathed in a fragrant creamy green curry.

The grilled australian beef sirloin in the Panang Nuea Yang was overdone; chewy and sinewy, but the luscious nutty curry was glorious.

The Ka Na Phad Hedlom, stir-fried chinese kailan with shitake and oyster sauce, made for  obligatory but lovely crunchy greens.

The Khao Phad Poo, fried rice with minute bits of crabmeat, was largely unimpressive, but great fodder for the panang curry gravy.

The Khao Phad Nam Liab, fried rice with olives, minced chicken and cashews, was pretty darn delicious. Complex, flavoursome, and generously laden with ingredients.

Desserts are served in shot glasses, a well-thought-out portioning for an ala carte buffet. The Tab Tim Krob Ruam Mitr, red ruby cubes in coconut milk, was abysmal. The coconut milk had split, and the red ruby was waaaaay too raw.

The Khao Niew Ma Muang, mango sticky rice with coconut milk, was notably better. Sweet juicy mangoes, and soft mushy rice sweetened by warm coconut milk.

A small assortment of Thai cakes, with coconut jellies and ta kor, was the best of the lot. Loved the ta kor, a nuanced layered pandan jelly studded with sweet corn and coconut pudding.



Patara Fine Thai Cuisine
163 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Mall
#03-14
Tel: 6737 0818
Open daily from 12noon to 3pm for lunch and from 6pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.patara.com.sg

28.12.14

24 Hours in Jakarta, Indonesia at the Grand Hyatt

Jakarta isn't a city one would immediately think of as a leisure travel destination. For sure, the infamous twin attacks on the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriot hotels 5 years ago didn't do much for the image of the Indonesian capital. BUT, having visited Jakarta recently during a whirlwind business-related trip, I found the city not quite as notorious as it'd been made out to be. In fact, the Indonesian capital reminds me very much of Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur; vibrant, organic, haphazard, but with a bit more chaos thrown into the mix.  The key, for a safe travel, is to keep a low, austere profile. Basically, don't be an ostentatious fool. Exercise prudence and caution as you would anywhere out of Singapore, i.e. watch your belongings and stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Here are my tips, gleaned from the locals, for a reasonably enjoyable trip.

Immigration

When booking a flight, reserve a front row seat for priority disembarkation.

When checking in at the airport, request the Fast Track clearance (you'll get a piece of paper that says so), to entitle preferential clearance at the domestic immigration counters in Jakarta.

Oh, and try as best as possible, to travel light. Baggage clearance is notably sluggish, and, speaking from first-hand experience, having to retrieve checked-in baggage will impede airport clearance significantly.

Also, retain Rp150,000 in cash when departing Jakarta, you'll need to pay for the airport tax (paid when checking in to leave Jakarta).

*my thoughts go out to the passengers and families of AirAsia Surabaya-outbound flight QZ8501*

Travel

It's strongly advised to take private transport (the blue bird cabs are reliable options, or even better, hire a personal private chauffeured vehicle) to get around anywhere, even if that anywhere is just across the street. There's a reason why most major malls have security checkpoints at all entrances.

For airport transfers, the silver bird limousine service is recommended to maximise comfort for what may turn out to be an exceedingly long journey. Budget about 2 hours, at least, for travel between the city center and the airport. Distance-wise, the journey should take only about half an hour. But during peak hours, Jakarta's legendary traffic woes manifest, and traffic crawls to a snail's pace. Worse still if it rains, because the transfer turns into a 3-hour long journey, and so, you'll need to set off at least 4 hours before your flight. And pee (and poo) before you set off.

To Do

Because of the very favourable exchange rate, grooming ablutions are a must-do. Mani-pedis, hair treatments, and massages can all be done a fraction of the prices in Singapore, and in spas that are just as posh, if not posher. The 4th (or was it the 5th?) of Grand Indonesia is lined with salons to cater to your every pampering need. Also, get a massage in one of the hotel spas, it's incredibly pampering, and you won't have to pay a pretty penny for it.

To Eat

See here for elaboration. 

Grand Hyatt Hotel

Grand Hyatt is one of the most luxurious business hotels in Jakarta. Boasting sleek, minimalist tendencies, the 5-star hotel is perfectly aligned with my modernist sensibilities. It's also right smack in the golden triangle, where the heart, and hub, of business are. Best of all, it's linked to Plaza Indonesia, a sprawling mall not unlike Paragon in Singapore. Oh and by the way, there's an Hermes boutique housed within the hotel itself, in the lobby. #justsaying

The hotel is vigilant about security, and every vehicle is searched, with sniffer dogs (the most adorable goldies!), even before entering the driveway, so rest assured that you're in relatively safe hands. 

I'd recommend the Grand Suite, a comfortable, luxurious suite spanning 100 sq meters and perched on the 28th floor. The room rates start at USD710 per night before taxes. Check-in is at their club lounge at the 22nd floor, so you'll get properly welcomed with cocktails and canapes while checking in.You also get deluxe amenities, in the form of the green tea and cucumber range of toiletries under the very fancy June Jacobs Spa Collection.

Living Area facing the study, with complimentary seasoned nuts, cashews and macarons.

The opposite end of the living room with the business centre study

The adjacent dining area with a coffee machine. There's a separate powder room off the dining area.

The spacious bedroom

Bathroom with a humongous jetted soaking spa tub with windows overlooking the city, an in-wall tv, and double sinks.

The separate shower stall with a rain shower.

The adjoining walk-in closet with a dressing area (so big you can practically sleep in here!) connecting the bedroom and bathroom


Grand Hyatt Jakarta
Jalan M. H. Thamrin Kav. 28-30
Jakarta 10350, Indonesia
Website

Gordon Grill

Gordon Grill, like the iconic Goodwood Park Hotel where it is resident, is an institution of sorts. Serving up grilled meats and seafood for over five decades, the continental steak restaurant is classic and stately, if a bit dated.

And like an antiquated monument that's well-preserved, the food was decent, but generally uninspired, compounded by its uncompetitive pricing. At about 200 per person, dinner should have blown us away. It was, in large part, caused by the unfortunate serving mistake that resulted in our steaks getting swopped. The Hubs, who'd ordered the USDA Black Angus ribeye, got served the Australian wagyu ribeye instead, while Addie, got the Hubs' order. That being said, the starters and sides were generally superb, reflecting a nuanced, contemporary finesse. 

Chef Gan's Appetizer Platter ($48) was a sampling quartet of their signature starters.

The refreshing Cold Capellini Pasta, was tossed in an aromatic truffle vinaigrette, and garnished with alaskan crab, prawn, and caviar.

The Japanese-influenced Salmon Tartar bore lively sesame overtones, juxtaposed against peppery fricasse.

The Pan-fried Foie Gras was sumptuous and meltingly good, complemented by soft caramelized nuts.

A succulent Pan-Seared Hokkaido Scallop, swaddled in a shaved iberico jabuco, was perched on morel jus and sided by a grilled asparagus and truffle.

We also got the Trio du Soupe ($19), 3 dainty teacups of their most popular soups.

The French Onion Soup with a floating potato patty was oversalted, but had nice depth of flavour.

The Capuccino of Fresh Mushroom was exquisite, velvety and comforting.

The Lobster Bisque seasoned with tarragon and cognac was incredibly decadent, so it was a good thing that this was petite.

The Creek Stone USDA Black Angus Ribeye ($84 at $2.80 per 10gm) corn-fed and aged 28 days, medium doneness, was hearty and full-bodied.

The grain-fed Australian Sher 'Black Label' Wagyu MBS 8-9 Ribeye ($110.40 at $4.80 per 10gm) was fatty and meltingly tender, but it was unevenly salted.

The grain-fed Australian Sher 'Silver Label' Wagyu MBS 6-7 Fillet ($57.60 at $4.80 per 10gm) was a wee little piece, perfectly sized for a scrumptious bite.

The Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms ($10) splashed with copious lashings of white wine was caramelized with sweet onions.

The Sauteed Spinach ($9), was obligatory but fantastic in its simplicity. 

The golden glazed Lyonnaise Potatoes ($10) was imbued with the smoky saltiness of bacon and sinfully buttery.

For the ribeye mix-up, we were comp-ed the Assiette of Desserts ($22 usual price), a tasting sampler of confectionery.

The Hazelnut and Lemon Sour Cream Parfait, with cocoa sorbet and vanilla biscotti was well-balanced, both in texture and flavour.

The Mango Cheese Gateau with wild berry ice-cream was nuanced and silky.

The best of the lot was the intensely tart Calamansi Creme Brulee topped with a granny smith apple sorbet.

Weakest of the lot, the Caramelized Banana Crumble with milk jam, pineapple and coconut sorbet was just so very bleh and inspid.

The Bread Basket was commendable, served warm, and delectably fluffy and crusty.

The bread was married with the amuse bouche of Pork Rilette.

Red meat isn't complete with a bottle of red, and we opted for the Thorn Clarke Milton Park Australia Shiraz 2013 ($80), vibrant and light, with plummy notes contrasted with sweetly spiced accents.



Gordon Grill
Goodwood Park Hotel
22 Scotts Road
Tel: 6730 1744
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 7pm to 10.30pm for dinner

27.12.14

Grand Hyatt Club Lounge Breakfast, Jakarta Indonesia

If staying at the Grand Hyatt in Jakarta, I strongly suggest you take up the executive rooms, which allow you access to the executive club lounge. Perched on the 22nd floor, the club lounge is a perfect pampering spot to kickstart your hectic schedule with hearty bites from their continental breakfast spread, or unwind with cocktails and canapes after a long hard day at work. 

If popping by for breakfast, a tip is to ask for the window seats; they offer an expansive panorama of the cityscape.

The obligatory but much appreciated coffee and hot drinks station, where the staff will happily whip up your favourite beverage and serve it right to your table.

A veritable array of flavoured teas, from the standard english breakfast, to the girlie strawberry varietals.

Loose konacha and green tea leaves, and chocolate pellets to lush up your hot beverages

If you prefer your breakfast drink icy cold, there is fresh milk and juices (watermelon and orange), or coke (for a sugar-high) and ionised alkaline water to bring with you on the go.

To soothe sensitive tummies, probiotic drinks and yoghurt for optimal tummy-health, with soy milk for the lactose-intolerant.

An assortment of bread with cheeses (from left to right: goat's cheese, emmental, blue cheese, gouda). The bread wasn't memorable (some were rock hard), but I liked the wide variety of cheeses.

Clockwise from top left: muffins, croissants, biscotti, raisin danishes; I've had better, but the danishes were decent.

Clockwise from top left: ditto for the chocolate croissants, chocolate danishes, poundcakes, chocolate donuts.

An array of cookies; which the staff let us takeaway some!

Run-of-the-mill cold cuts from left to right: ham, smoked salmon, salami

Chilled fruits, muesli, granola, olives, pickles, lemons

The Mushroom Quiche and Eggs Cocotte were overdone and amateurish, but the eggs-to-order in the style of scrambled, poached, soft or hard boiled, fried or omelette were commendable.

Standard breakfast sausages, and baked tomatoes with herbs, pretty good.

The roasted potatoes with rosemary was surprisingly good, fragrant and soft.

For those who prefer their breakfast Asian-style, there was a pot of porridge and condiments. Not outstanding but substantial.

The Nasi Goreng was also mediocre, lacking in wok hei and stingy on the ingredients.


Grand Hyatt Jakarta
Executive Club Lounge Level 22
Jalan M. H. Thamrin Kav. 28-30
Jakarta 10350, Indonesia
Website
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