Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Travel: Sands Skypark @ Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Adam and I seem to have made a habit of going to high-up places together (umm, that came out as sounding more atas that it actually is lah). It all started when I surprised him with tickets to go up to the Petronas Twin Towers skybridge for his 21st birthday some years back. Looking back now, the view was actually pretty dismal, but the whole element of planning a surprise and getting to do it together made up for the whole thing.

Weeks later, he brought me to Atmosphere 360, the resident revolving restaurant at the KL Tower for a serene view of our city centre during our 1st anniversary. Many new places to look out over KL have emerged of late, but after the two tallest buildings in the country... it's time to conquer the skyscrapers and peaks the rest of the world has to offer! :D (yay, this also means more trips!)

We unfortunately missed out on our chance in Bangkok because time didn't permit, but made up for it when we got to go up The Peak during our trip in Hong Kong for fantastic blue skies and the unrivaled view of Central Hong Kong's skyscape.



So, when we were in Singapore this year, it was a no-brainer that one of the things we wanted to do was to give the Skypark at Marina Bay Sands a visit. 

The sampan ride at Marina Bay Sands...  no, we're not kidding, that's exactly what it's called.

Getting to Marina Bay Sands could have been more straightforward with the MRT if we had decided to slow down to read signs. /sheepish :p

We saw a stop called Marina Bay on the MRT Circle Line Extension and cleverly (or so we thought) headed there first, only to realise that the right stop is actually Bayfront (CE1 on the Circle Line Extension/DT16 on the Downtown Line). Alighting at Bayfront leads you right to the doorstep of the Marina Bay Sands empire.



From anywhere in Marina Bay Sands, you'll find lots of signs directing you to the Sands Skypark, which will all lead to this archway heading down.

A replica of Marina Bay Sands, looking impressive even at this scale.

Yes, that's how delayed this post is :p

Buying tickets was pain-free as there were lots of counters open (or if you prefer, you can also get them online here). We spotted some dark clouds when we headed to Marina Bay Sands, and true enough, we were warned at the counter that if it rained, there would be no refunds provided. We decided to go ahead anyway! 


Up we go!

Tickets cost SGD 20 per person and you can stay up there for as long as you like. There are also three free 15-minute long guided tours available daily at 10am, 2pm and 9pm for all Skypark observation deck guests, but only a maximum of 50 guests per tour. Registration can be done at the SkyPark Box Office on a first-come-first-served basis.



After a short ride up the elevator, we emerged at the top of the stairs, just outside of the  KU DÉ TA   restaurant.



Sadly, KU DÉ TA was closed on that day, or we might have considered having a drink or even a quick bite there even if it would have cost us a small fortune. The view from the restaurant may not be the best, but there's something about dining in the sky that has a special charm, no? :)



Down on the (ledge?) platform, there's more than enough space for visitors to stroll around and take in the view. Sadly like we said earlier, the weather was really uncooperative, as dark clouds loomed even higher above us that threatened to rain on our parade view. It may not have rained in the end, but the dark clouds did turn all our pictures into rather gloomy shots! A shame really, but oh well.


Adam enjoying the strong winds.


So obviously the question on everyone's mind is, what can we see from up there? To the left of the bay, we had a great view of the city's signature skyline. I read somewhere that a lot of thought was given to the scaping of these buildings to achieve this impressive view, from the lighting, the layering, the sculptures, and I guess it shows. Unfortunately, the clouds were directly over this side of the bay when we were there, casting a dark blue hue over the skyscrapers. (A little like Gotham City...heh.)



To the right of the skyline, you'll catch the Esplanade - Theatres by the Bay setup, where Singaporeans go for all things performing arts - see the two domes by the waterfront, shaped like goggles? At the bottom right corner, you'll also see the colourful grandstand and the field/stage of The Float@Marina Bay where Marina Bay hosts its sporting events, concerts and festivals.

The lotus shaped ArtScience museum at the bottom, after the clouds had cleared a little.




On the other side of the observation deck (where there were no pesky rainclouds!), you'll see the the Singapore Flyer and the Formula 1 grandstand. Seeing the Singapore Flyer certainly brought back memories for the both of us, of that first trip we took to Singapore after graduation wayyyy back in 2008.


Gardens by the Bay's Flower Dome and Cloud Forest

Another stand out structure you can easily spot from the Skypark deck is the now open Gardens by the Bay, though it was only partially finished when we were there in February. Adam and I stood there for awhile watching the construction and the tractors move soil back and forth, where they looked much like toys from where we were. :p



We also got a fabulous view of the harbour and port of Singapore, where there were many ships out at sea that evening. Truly a sight to behold.


I really wish I had a panoramic function on my phone or camera that evening!



It can get crowded up on the Skypark Observation Deck, especially during peak season like school holidays or festivities. Especially in the evening, where you'll get lots of people who park themselves on the planked floors waiting for sunset or the occasional laser show. Lots of photographers armed with tripods as well.




The famed infinity pool that's now only open to hotel guests... that we could only view from afar! This shot was taken by stretching out my camera with nothing but 200 meters of air beneath it. Would have been a long sordid fall, but thankfully that's a story we don't have to tell. :p


:)

Dusk approaching.


It was starting to get late and more crowded, so we decided to give the night view and apparently some laser light show that we could see from up there, a miss. I had initially dreamed of seeing some magnificent sunset there, but it was so cloudy that we didn't have a chance of that either. We left and decided to head down to the casino instead where Adam won us himself some SGD at poker!




When it was well and truly dark, we wandered out of the building and saw the same sight again... only now from a more down-to-earth perspective. Still as beautiful, especially with all the lights on.

It's clear that Singapore has got this whole area planned out, the view is breathtaking and they seem to have succeeded in creating this entertainment and tourism hub that's sure to continue to thrive for the next many years. I can't wait to return to check out Gardens by the Bay



One of the structures that is way more interesting up close than from the observation deck is the Louis Vuitton prism-like building out on the water. And shucks no, Adam didn't win enough at the casino for us to make a trip in there. :p



Just like this couple, we ended up our Marina Bay Sands visit on these steps, taking in the great view and breeze at Marina Bay. Time seemed to stop. :)

(Well, I was also busy googling for our supper destination - fried carrot cake, Singapore style, but that's a story for another day!) 


**The full set of photos can be found on our Facebook page.

Sands Skypark Observation Deck | Site
Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue,
Singapore 018956
Tel: +65 6688 8826
Opening Hours: Daily, 9:30am - 10pm (11pm on Fri, Sat & Sun)


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Food: The Press Room @ Bangsar Shopping Centre


Sometimes good food can be right under our noses, but we never realize it. It's hard to shake off that urge to keep going back to "safe" places that we know are nice. Sometimes it could just be the look of the place  that just doesn't seem inviting. Whatever the reason, it was silly of us not to give The Press Room a try much earlier!



The Press Room sits next to La Bodega (and also is under the same management), at the front of Bangsar Shopping Centre occupying a central place in the mall. If you wonder whether it deserves such an important location, take a look at their accolades proudly displayed on the bar top! It certainly helps put any doubts aside when people realize they are at an award winning restaurant. =D

Some awards include the Time Out KL ones - The Press Room was shortlisted Best Continental Restaurant in the Time Out KL Food Awards 2011 and also won Best New Restaurant in 2010 - something to shout about since these food awards are 100% voted for by readers. 

(This is also an indication of how long The Press Room has been around for. We know it's not a new place, but we're a fledgling blog that has a license to cover such established eateries. =D)



The menu for mains at The Press Room actually isn't very wide, though all the major meat categories are covered, namely chicken, beef, fish, and lamb.

I chose the Beef Bourguignon with Mashed Potatoes (RM58). Resembling a beef stew or beef stroganoff, this is comfort food that we highly recommend! Although slightly on the sweet side with the distinct cutting scent of celery, the beef  was plentiful and in tender chunks. Put it together with the mash potato in the middle and it all comes together perfectly; an especially perfect comfort dish for a cold rainy day. =D



We also ordered a Frutti De Mare off their pizza menu to share. This turned out to be a seafood pizza with an a sparing tomato-puree base and cheese, but severely lacking in real seafood toppings (squid rings, two prawns, a mussel?). Besides the calamari rings that were passably fresh and springy to the bite, this was not a very exciting try. Our advice is give this a miss, hopefully have a better experience with other pizzas on the menu!



Wendy felt like something different that night, ordering a Duck Leg Confit with Sauteed Cèpes, Rosti Potatoes and Grapes (RM49). So artfully presented, it was such a shame to eat it. =D



But of course, the stomach always wins out in the end! Cutting into the duck, we found the skin to be pleasantly crispy, with plump and tender flesh lying underneath. Though perhaps not enough meat for big meat eaters like me, it's still quite sufficient for one person. The combination of duck, the sauteed smooth, slightly earthy cèpes, tart grapes and the textured rosti was a really interesting one. The taste was further compounded with a drizzle of sauce around the side, which had a slight hint of red wine. Well worth the money paid. =)



The Press Room seems to pay a lot of attention to its food and quality (the pizza withstanding) and I think it may be a place we'll return with friends or family in tow. Wendy enjoyed the dim, cozy settings though service was slightly erratic that night. Prices are on the high end, so just make sure you're not on a tight budget. We'll definitely return to try more dishes - we hear the saffron linguine and the braised wagyu cheek (drool!) are good!





The Press Room | Site
Lot G110, Ground Floor,
Bangsar Shopping Centre,
Jalan Maarof, 59100 Bangsar,
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +6 03 2095 2098
Fax: +6 03 2095 1089
Email: info@pressroom.com.my
Opening Hours: Daily, 8am-2am


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Food: Restoran Lee Hong Kee (formerly Restoran LYJ) @ Sungai Buloh

Update 11/03/13: Thanks to Ching for the update! Restoran LYJ is now known as Restoran Lee Hong Kee has moved down the road under a different name but still serves pun choy. Address & map updated at the bottom of this post!

Please note that at time of review, it was still known as Restoran LYJ so you'll be seeing us still refer to it as LYJ in the post below. Happy reading!

*



So when Wendy's family gets together for a meal because of an occasion, it's usually a trip to a Chillis or Italiannies where portions are big and family-friendly and there's plenty of choices for the kids! But on this occasion, decision was made to head over to Sungai Buloh, where a unique treat awaited us all at Restoran LYJ! (If you're wondering why LYJ, I have a feeling it's the initials of the chinese name, Li Yong Jie. =P)



I had never heard of LYJ before, but judging by the crowds, it seems like I should have! The restaurant doesn't accept any reservations, so the only option is to get there early before they open the doors for dinner at around 6pm, and start queueing! They do have a numbering system, so come early, get a number, and patiently wait for dinner time to start. =D



While waiting, we were fascinated by the streams of water constantly running down the roof - we think it's likely to cool down the waiting area outside.

Restoran LYJ has two sides to it; one where they serve dishes like any other Chinese-style restaurant, and another two shops away that's devoted to only pun choi. We visited the former that night.



Food at LYJ is pretty standard, apart from the one particular dish they're famous for. This plate of Garlic Crusted Char Siu was average at best in my books. Though the slices were thick and meaty, it lacked sauce and flavour, and the portion could hardly be considered enough for a full table of adults. 



Vegetables here were more interesting - almost every other table there had a large serving of this Paku Vegetables with lots of shallots as a topping! This was most definitely an LYJ specialty beacuse it was so different; the paku shoots were served chilled and tossed in some kind of lemon juice. An Asian salad, if you will? There was more than enough of this to go around because the serving was so big and unorthodox - no fighting necessary. =P



We also had one more vegetable in the form of Choy Sum fried with Garlic. I enjoyed this more than the paku, partly because I enjoy the texture and flavour of Choy Sum more. We found this had a slight sourish flavour to this as well, nothing as sharp as the lemon in the paku dish above. But again, I consider this an average Chinese restaurant dish; nothing worth traveling to Sungai Buloh over.




The Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk that we ordered was a dish executed perfectly. Chunky, fleshy prawns coated with thick, satisfying salted egg yolk. We loved that the prawns weren't overcooked, and instead, managed to retain its natural sweetness and springy texture.




Fish fared well here since LYJ has live fish stocked. This Patin fish (at least, I think it was Patin...!) was cooked with a simple recipe of steaming with soya sauce. What better way to enjoy and preserve the natural flavour and texture of fish, but to just steam it lightly? =D



That being said, LYJ served their fish with this accompanying mix, a thick concoction that was tangy and rather refreshing. It was interesting, but some would argue that it overpowers the fish. Our advice is to not pour this all over the fish, but use it as and when you want to.



But no, we weren't at LYJ because of the fish either. Instead, we were there because of their famous "Standing Chicken" dish, which as you can see in the picture, is quite literally standing up!



...Or maybe "hung up" is a better word. The contraption is actually quite simple; just imagine how chickens are hung in any chicken rice shop, and now imagine the chicken is served to you still attached to the hook. That's exactly how it's done, with the base of the hook being innovatively screwed on to the metal dish below to ensure it doesn't fall (and to collect all the juicy chicken extract, I presume. =D).



And just like how eating crabs needs hammers and lobsters need picks, a standing chicken requires 1) a box of gloves (to keep hands clean) and 2) a pair of scissors (to cut up the chicken!). Of course, you may also forego the scissors and skip straight to the ripping and tearing, like what Wendy's brother is doing in the picture above. =D



It's all very fun and a good gimmick, but what about the taste? Unfortunately, we don't think cooking a chicken standing up has any advantage over cooking it lying down. The skin was light and crispy, but we honestly couldn't tell a difference between this and any other roast chicken. Neither was there much meat, since that whole chicken barely covered all 10 of us at the adults table. Everyone who visits LYJ does have one (or two!) of these Standing Chickens, so just for the fun of it, why not, we suppose?



So there you have it. The famous "standing chicken" of Sungai Buloh. If you have fussy relatives who think they know everything about food, like to travel to secluded places for food, and if you want to impress them with something new, then take them to Restoran LYJ. The standing chicken can be quite good fun at the dinner table. Otherwise, we don't really recommend braving crowds and early queues for this place. =)


Restoran LYJ now known as Restoran Lee Hong Kee
No. 3, 5, 7, & 9, Ground Floor
Jalan Kati GU 19/G
Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh
40160 Shah Alam, Selangor
Tel: +6 03 6140 2678 / +6 016 667 4810
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 3pm / 6pm – 11pm
GPS Coordinates: N 3° 11' 37.95", E 101° 33' 58.50"

Map to restaurant (picture thanks to Ching!):







Monday, August 13, 2012

Food: L.Table @ 1Utama Shopping Centre, Bandar Utama


Inside the latest food oasis that is 1Utama, there are hits and misses. From the outside, L.Table looks like a definite hit; the queues are constant and the food looks appealing. L.Table has a rather special layout because the front half is their bakery while the restaurant is nestled in the back portion of the shop. The bakery does very well for itself; long queues can always be seen virtually round the clock!



But walk in just a little further and it's like stepping into another realm where the hustle and bustle of the main mall cease to exist! I must say it was a good idea to conceal the restaurant behind the bakery, since then it creates an air of exclusivity as well as a quiet atmosphere for a more fine dining experience.



Our meal began with a Fitto Misso - calamari, shrimp and shishamo on a bed of salad. This was quite satisfying; the vegetables had a fresh taste and flavour, the shishamo was juicy, and the prawns were fresh! We were also satisfied with the amount of seafood, so we give this one 2 thumbs up. =)



Usually when it's just the both of us having dinner, we try to order the most interesting or expensive things on the menu and use that as our benchmark. This time we chose to have a Pappardelle and Duck Stroganoff (RM22), simply because it's so rare to see duck meat being used! Needless to say, this was probably the most enjoyable dish of the night. Chock full of duck, it was reasonably tender and done just right. Each strand of pappardelle was nicely coated with the robust sauce and had a nice texture to it, resembling pan mee, if you will. We enjoyed this, being a nice change from the run-of-the-mill bolognese or carbonara. 



We also had another main of the Miso Black Cod (RM 45). The addition of the black miso gave the cod a sweet glaze, which would have been heavenly had the cod been done well. Unfortunately, the cod flesh here tasted overcooked, and there was none of the luxurious melting-in-mouth that everyone's so accustomed to with cod fish. The mushrooms were unfortunately overcooked as well. The bed of quinoa, firm and textured grains, was a new thing to the both of us, but it did go well with the cod. 



So overall, while we can say the ambiance at L.Table is a wonderful oasis in the hustle and bustle of 1Utama, the food is not as life-giving. We would recommend this for a try at least once, maybe just for the quiet ambiance to escape the crowds at 1U, but if people are put off by the slightly high prices, that's completely understandable. Perhaps it's a good idea to just stick to the pastry sold here.. =D





L. Table @ Lavender Bakery | Facebook
Lot G-213, Ground Floor,
1Utama Shopping Centre,
Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya
Tel: +6 03 7728 6933

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