Thursday, October 30, 2014

Restaurant Culture: Tips vs No Tips

In Singapore, many feel the "lack of service standards" and general difficulty in finding waitstaff to hire or uninspired hospitality culture could be partially solved if a tipping system became the norm.

However, according to this article, there is a trend in San Francisco restaurants who are opting to end tipping and instead charge a flat 20% service fee as many other countries do (Read: These 5 Bay Area Restaurants Are Ending Tipping).

What do you all think about the tipping vs no tipping culture?

Other Gastronommy service-related posts:
No Respect, No Love, No Thanks for Service
Sometimes, bad customers beget bad service

Monday, October 13, 2014

How to Peel and Eat Hairy Crab (Mitten Crab)

It's the season for the East Chinese delicacy, hairy crab!  Here's a tutorial on how to open the intricate crab properly, with TungLok restaurants.

Gastronommy visits TungLok's restaurants to learn how to peel hairy crab in the best, most efficient way possible.  The following TungLok restaurants are serving hairy crab and specialty hairy crab dishes until the end of November 2014.


TungLok Signatures:
VivoCity, #01-57 Tel: 6376 9555
The Central, #02-88 Tel: 6336 6022
Chinese Swimming Club, Level 3 Tel: 6345 0111
Orchard Parade Hotel, #02-18 Tel: 6834 0660
Changi City Point, #01-26/27 Tel: 6636 0606

TungLok Seafood:
The Arena Country Club
Upper Jurong Road (opposite SAFTI) Tel: 6262 6996
Orchard Central, #11-05 Tel: 6834 4888

TungLok Heen:
Resorts World Sentosa, Hotel Michael Tel: 6884 7888

TungLok XiHé Peking Duck:
The Grandstand
200 Turf Club Road, #01-23/24 Tel: 6466 3363
Orchard Central, #07-07/08/09 Tel: 6736 0006

Tóng Lè Private Dining:
OUE Tower, Level 8 & 10 Tel: 6634 3233

Shin Yeh Restaurant:
Liang Court Shopping Centre, #02-19 Tel: 6338 7337
Shin Yeh Bistro
Square 2, #01-73 Tel: 6893 1123

Special thanks to Carolyn Tan, Lili, Steve Aw, and Steve Chew.

INSTAGRAM: @victoriacheng

INSTAGRAM: @tunglokgroup

Thursday, October 9, 2014

L'Oignon Gravitas: A review of Corner House (Singapore)

(written for Esquire magazine, October 2014 MaHB Food column)

It began with an onion.
No garnish. No frills. It was a singular onion served whole in its own raw skin, with an incision around the top circumference to indicate there is something to be revealed within its cavity. There were dishes served prior to this, and they were executed with no technical flaws, but the chef had yet to surprise us. “A meal should be a slow build-up…to a crescendo,” illustrates the chef. So here with this onion, we had our first real teaser of his creativity and ability. This is the moment of truth.

The waiter hints at what's nestled within the onion’s belly--egg, cheese, and truffle shavings--and it sounds  pretty ordinary. I popped off the top of the onion to see a fluffy layer of Gruy√®re and a generous sprinkling of fresh truffles. My spoon found a burst of hot yolk further in, followed by a mouthful that proved the dish to be much more than just an onion. The cheese is airy and light, collapsing into the creamy yolk, flooding my senses with cosy flavours. The truffles do not distract, but add an extra dimension to the experience. The onion itself suddenly becomes very attractive too, once the eater realizes its smooth sweetness that warms the mouth, rather than arriving to bites of pungency. I find myself pulling apart the vessel to eat it as well.

Meanwhile, the young and meticulous waitstaff have set down three more dishes. This course is degustation of onions: a dehydrated sliver of onion, a coin sized onion confit and Parmesan spread over crisp phyllo pastry, and finally, a foamy white onion broth drizzled with onion tea. The broth especially is silky and sweet, punctured by earthy undertones. I don’t think I’ve consumed so many onions over one sitting in my life before. I don’t think I’ve written so much about onions before this, either.

The menu reads something not quite like a menu, and more like Letterman’s Top 10 List: “Interpretation of My Favourite Vegetables: Oignon doux des Cevennes”, “Cocoa Pebbles: Alpaco, Mandarin, Shimeiji”, and so on. Such vague listings seem to be the trend these days. For the first time visitor, it is difficult to know what to expect, but the chef proves to be adept at surprises. The restaurant describes its cuisine as “gastro-botanical”, using natural seasonal ingredients often inspired by the Botanic Gardens surroundings.

Most of the documentation on the Malayan Peninsula’s floral life was discovered and written right in Singapore’s Botanic Gardens during World War II. As you might recall from your primary school history teachings, Eldred John Henry Corner (E.J.H. Corner), an English botanist and mycologist (he was a fun-gi!) resided in the Botanic Gardens with his pet monkeys, documenting what we know today about tropical fungi, trees, fruits, and even ginger and pandan. The Botanic Gardens is currently a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status.

The 1910 black-and-white bungalow where The Corner House is located, was formerly the Les Amis restaurant, Au Jardin, until early this year. The Corner House is no less romantic than its former, though white tablecloths have been tossed away in favour of more contemporary furniture designs. Co-owners Singaporean chef Jason Tan and wine merchant Renny Heng have worked together with E.J.H Corner’s only son to preserve the botanist’s work and memories—his intricate artwork of Singapore’s faun and flora hang on the walls of the two storey bungalow, as well as black & white photos from times past when E.J.H was still alive. There’s much to be appreciated in the history of the structure, marvellously paired with Chef Jason Tan’s fresh and beautiful interpretation of his “gastro-botanical” cuisine.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What's your end game?

After a year of freelancing (writing, producing, presenting, consulting, creating), lately I've been innocently asked this a lot by peers who are fascinated by my boundaryless job scope.

"What's your end game?"

Three, five, ten, and even fifteen years ago, I could answer this question confidently. These days, I find myself stumbling over the answer. Over the course of the past year, I've broadened my job scope in many different directions as and when I please; but as time goes by, I realize I want to start zeroing in my focus again towards something meaningful. Don't get me wrong - objectively speaking, work has been steadily progressing, but deep down, there's still something lacking. The last thing I want is to find myself well into my 30's in a place I don't want to be.

Then I found that the question shouldn't be, "What's the end game?" It should be, "What's your legacy?"

I've been told by someone older and maybe wiser, that no one really knows the answer to that question, even if they seem like they do. Even so, most of us want direction. On those days or months where you find yourself questioning your path, here are two points below I like to remind myself to get me back on track or to at least recalibrate my direction (adapted from "7 Strange Questions That Help Find Your Life Purpose" by Mark Manson).
What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of action, not the cause of it. Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-and-error process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.
And again, if you fantasize about your obituary saying a bunch of badass shit that impresses a bunch of random other people, you’re failing here. Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. And to find them you must get off your couch and act. 
Read more here: "7 Strange Questions That Help Find Your Life Purpose" by Mark Manson

Edit: This is worth noting as well. After reading this, a friend has just reminded me, "We will never live to see our legacy. Legacy is for others down the road to decide. What's now is purely a life which should be built on what will get you excited to do. Enjoy the journey and not the end. Simply because at the end, a new tiring journey begins." -K.S.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Which food bloggers do you not trust?

Came across this: Which food blogger do you not trust?  It's a Singapore forum where a particular thread is basically calling out one particular blogger (you can probably guess who).

The point of a blog is to share your thoughts or passions. If you want to become a blogger, go for it... just do it for the right reasons, because people will smell the stink of freeloaders, fame whores, and insincerity overtime."Blogger" has become something of a dirty word these days, because of these people who go about doing it in a rude or unethical way. It's a shame, because there are also plenty of wonderful bloggers out there who get thrown in the same bag, because of these greedy or vain folks.

And to clarify to those who are not sure: I am NOT a blogger, and I don't really earn anything from website. Maybe one day I will properly monetize the site, but meanwhile, that isn't the case. You can read more about that on the 'About' section of


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