Thursday, March 31, 2011


A nap spanning 13 train stops later, I was ready for some serious kaiseki. I managed to avoid the rush hour and even arrived earlier than expected. As I alighted at the Chinatown station, I reached for my workbag's side pocket. The iPhone was gone.

Firstly, let me just say that I should have expected this day to come. I mean, losing the iPhone, not the 9-course, S$180++ per pax kaiseki dinner. Who in the right frame of mind carries his/her iPhone in those loosely netted pockets, all exposed, screaming take me, stranger, take me! the fool won't notice a bit! The truth was, I did that for the sake of convenience and health. Another theory suggested that the phone fell off my bag while I napped. Clever, but waking up with my bag positioned on my lap just the way it was before I fell asleep, there was no way that my bag be subjected to any form of motion causing my iPhone to drop from the pocket. Regardless, I take the blame for my loss. I was just thankful that it was not my wallet that had gone missing.

We almost cancelled the dinner at Goto. Immediately, I used XLB's BlackBerry to call up the service provider and got my line barred. After reporting the loss at both SMRT and SBS control stations at Dhoby Ghaut (I didn't realise that the North East line is managed by SBS, not SMRT), I got my SIM card replaced at Plaza Singapura...after a long wait. In front of me was this deranged distressed woman complaining about her allegedly faulty TV box. She seemed keen on getting a replacement set (and some freebies), killing the service staff AND burning down the whole unit. Tough luck. All she got was a card of the department's manager. That much I understood. I was given a new SIM card within minutes and we had about 20 minutes left to go to Goto (cheap pun intended).

Goto was dim, contemporary zen. It calmed us down a bit. The very hospitable hostess and her staff, all in kimonos, put us at ease. It was disheartening each time the hostess described a mouth-watering course as I thought of my iPhone, now being violated by a stranger. That bastard had better be gentle with my iPhone. I wonder if he'd managed to break my lock code. *Sniggers*

The first course was visually stunning, almost confusing. I couldn't catch half of the ingredients but the highlights were definitely the gold-leavened sweetened black beans, shirako in ponzu shoyu, roast duck slice and fishball. Not any ordinary surimi fishball, of course. It was made of fugu.

The simple course of red snapper, skin scored and glazed sweet, was very much appealing to the senses. Cooked just right, the flesh was moist, pairing the sticky, slightly savoury glaze really well. If this was offered in an a la carte menu, I would have had this with some of the steamed chestnut rice - one of the dishes served towards the end.

When served with a covered regal yellow bowl, engraved with classic Chinese/Japanese motifs, I'd expected some exotic, expensive sea cucumber. Instead, the bowl was filled with steamed vegetables - yam, daikon, bamboo shoot and asparagus. I was slightly disappointed with the ingredients but they were nicely arranged though. The vegetables came with a creamy karashi. Instead of providing a sharp taste to the mustard sauce for contrast, it was surprisingly mild. And blended in finely with the vegetables. A subtle, interesting combination that even a spice fan like me appreciated.

Tempuras never excite me as much as KFC's Hot 'n Spicy. Goto's version didn't change my mind but I must say that the chef should be praised for his creative selection of ingredients. There was no use of panko - the prawn was coated with crispy rice balls instead. There was also a tiny fried sandwich of fishcake slices and sweet plum marmalade. For best effect, we wetted the pieces with a squeeze of lemon before dipping them into some refined salt. You can imagine that combustion of flavours in the mouth, I'm sure.

There were 2 desserts - one was a trio of ice cream, jelly and fruits, and the other was a warabimochi. Of all the desserts, the quartered orange jelly was the most intriguing with the jelly replacing the orange's flesh. It could fool anyone into believing that it was a normal cut of orange from afar.

As per tradition, we were presented with whisked, frothy warm matcha to end the kaiseki dinner. Secretly, I was hoping that they would prepare the matcha in front of us. Some sort of after-meal performance, like a mini tea ceremony, I thought. I can only dream.

I'd lived without an iPhone for the whole of January. It was a time for reflection, on the need for excessive social networking, Apps downloading and Youtubing. Yes, all the things that make life busier - but for what? That month, I'd read a couple of books, enjoyed more real conversations with friends and was not at all distracted by WIFI spots.

By chance, I got hold of an iPhone 4 by February. These days, I keep it in my pants' pocket, no matter how the waveforms will have (allegedly) detrimental effect on male fertility. And I'm still reading. But of course, when I have to choose between a politician's biography and StreetFighter IV (I got it for only US$0.99 from the AppsStore!), the choice is almosthadokenalwaysshoryukenobvious. Such is life.

14 Ang Siang Road
#01-01 Singapore
Tel: (+65) 6438 1553

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Green Valley Vegetarian Restaurant

There seemed to be a lot to choose from, including chicken rice. Wait a minute, isn’t this a vegetarian restaurant? But I was here mainly for the thunder rice, so it really didn’t matter. I can’t remember the last time I stepped into a Chinese vegetarian restaurant. It must have been decades ago, when I was first introduced to faux meat made of wheat gluten. My interest lasted only a couple of meals, mainly affected by the overwhelming use of artificial flavourings and oil. Of course, I'm still speaking in the context of Chinese vegetarian cuisine.

Over the years, my circle of friends extended. One of the ways to know them better is to understand their diets. I’m usually piqued by the vegetarians, especially when there’s a story involved. Some refrain from meat for health reasons but most regard it as part of their religion. One that I know did it out of love and respect for his religious wife. I do have many questions on this practice, from both mythical and scientific perspectives, but I must agree that underlying the different beliefs is the fact that this diet is essentially a healthy way of life.

Green Valley was quiet that Saturday. Not surprising as it was way past lunch time. This choice of lunch venue was late and most arbitral. But a good one, no doubt. Coming into a vegetarian restaurant with a stomach full of pork (from breakfast), I did feel slightly sinful, so we had another fibrous, green dish, in hope of minimizing the guilt. Joking lah.

The thunder tea and rice - instantly noticeable was the missing component of anchovies, but with a good variety of vegetables, black-eyed peas (that's new), tofu cubes and peanuts thrown in, I was not missing much. As for the green (literally) tea, all I can say is, thank goodness! It was what I expected - a healthy blend of basil/coriander/pepper/mint/etc paste thinned in hot water. Now, I'm not sure if anyone noticed but more and more thunder tea sellers are substituting plain hot water with superior stocks. Sure, it makes the tea umami but that's just wrong. Not authentic. It's not fusion but funny. A farce, even. I shudder at the thought of my past superior stock-thunder tea experiences at some major foodcourts in Singapore. And another stall in Senai, Johor. So, in conclusion, I really enjoyed Green Valley's thunder tea for being as original as I remembered, sans meat.

I'm not sure if one of my favourite colours has influenced my decision on the fried spinach noodles with a lightly starched bittergourd, wolfberries and oyster mushroom topping, but it sure was a good choice. Simple, healthy, tasty and affordable, the dish basically left no room for critiques.

Looking at the tedious preparation, amount of ingredients used, its acquired taste and selling price, I am in view that thunder tea is not a lucrative business. That makes me appreciate the dish and the sellers even more, especially when it's good. So, the faux meats may not guarantee my return to Green Valley, but the thunder tea definitely will.

Green Valley Vegetarian Restaurant
84-1, 2 ¼ Miles
Jalan Sungai Besi
57100 Kuala Lumpur