Ich Bin Ein Hamburger

We didn’t plan on doing this, but I’ve been told it’s quite characteristic of a trip to New York to entail many distractions, random and sudden new objectives, and a lot of it having to do with food.

On our first night in Manhattan, our local friends took us out to a burger speakeasy, simply called The Burger Joint, and simply hidden behind a velvet curtain in the lobby of the Parker Meridien hotel in mid-town Manhattan.

The following day, we made a plan to walk from 59th Street southward to Eataly, and stopped at Madison Square Park for Kai to get a little play time. There we saw our first Shake Shack, then we saw our first crazy Shake Shack queue and decided to come back some time after lunch hour. It still took over 20 minutes to get our burger, but thankfully, it was a 20 minutes worth waiting. It was also the first burger Kai has ever finished on his own.

Then the next day, we happened to be walking past Minetta Tavern at close to opening time and our local friends decided it was worth our giving the famed Black Label Burger a shot even though the tavern was kinda small, and a little noisy with post-work people hanging out having drinks. Custom-made from dry-aged ribeye, skirt steak and brisket, the patty is sublime, and at the moment, the Black Label stands as the best burger I have ever tasted.

(As we were leaving the tavern, Bono – yes, the Bono of the U2 – was just walking in, and nearly got hit in the head by Kai’s stroller, which was being passed to me overhead – so crowded was the tavern.)

There are other burgers to be had – we have lists, but the first three made for a really good trifecta.

The Smoke Shack from Shake Shack
The Smoke Shack from Shake Shack

Seminyak Highlights

Our love-hate relationship with Bali continued this trip, with our ideal idyllic villa getaway shared with our friends celebrating their anniversary turning into a three day battle with mosquitoes (and the holey mosquito net) before we retreated to a multi-storey hotel with fewer bugs.

Constant traffic jams on single-laned roads plied by mercenary cabbies whose reflex upon seeing us with kids in tow was to charge a prix fixe R50,000 (about $6) made for unpleasant afternoons. But watching the three children in our entourage charge at waves on Seminyak’s grey sanded beaches were the highlights along with some great food at some of the most beautiful beach club restaurants in the world. Coffee places in nooks of shops are also the norm along this stretch of south Bali, and you’d want to abandon the hotel breakfasts for a great espresso fueled brekkie.

Australian style. Great breakfasts with bread and pastries from Monsieur Spoon – whose owner broke fast with us and told us he made the best croissants in Asia. I have invited him to set up shop in Singapore. You can thank me when that happens.

Go for GG’s Breakfast Burrito. Only cos you’re on holiday and you can have a burrito for breakfast

Great coffee, but the food so so. My entrecĂ´te and frites was so underdone they refunded me.

Best Indonesian fare ever. Puts Sanur and every other Indonesian outlet you’ve ever had in Singapore to shame.

Great seafood – try the fish pan grilled Indonesian style. And the marinated sardines are great too.

The Seminyak branch is slightly more comfortable than the Ubud original. The ribs and bebek goreng are still great, as are the killer martinis. Order one and the waiter does a dance.

The place to be for Bali sunsets. Drinks are so so, but there’s a mean snack platter. Beautiful people gather here to watch the sunset and each other.

Randall’s cousin chum siong with one of the chefs to make an exception and allow our kids to dine with us (for this, we are eternally grateful). Fantastic food with a great ambience.

Another place we decided to go to after Melody thought it’d be great after the kids got to muck around at the beach – which was crazy crowded because it was Sunday (every Balinese boy and dog are on the beach playing football on Sunday). The appetizers were great but the mains, while still good, were a little underwhelming.

Our party gave this place a star just for the decor/architecture – I have never seen a restaurant like this. The kelas atas Indonesian fare was simply fabulous, and you won’t go wrong ordering everything on the menu – just bring more friends to eat with. Probably the only people to complain would be the staff, because the kitchen is inexplicably upstairs while all of the tables bar three are downstairs. You’d have to ace your shuttle run to work here.

Our tips for enjoying Bali: Eat at the above places, bring lots of bug repellent, sunscreen, and always tell the taxi driver, “meter please”.

Naughty Nuri's

Potato Head Beach Club


Mozaic Beach Club

Grocer & Grind

Revolver - Espresso made with love

Revolver - Breakfast - Poached Egg on Avocado on Toast

Katie Allan - Revolver

Samaya Spa & Resort

Merah Putih

Merah Putih - Babi Guling


Lunch at U-Town
Unused patch of grass – build another foodcourt lah…

There’s this large patch of grass at U-Town, NUS that was today almost completely bare, bar three Ang Moh students playing a sad game of three man touch football.

If this had been on a campus in Australia, the lawn would have been chock full of students lying on it, getting some sun. There would also have been four or five games of different forms of football being played at the same time, with playing areas marked by shoes, slippers or bags.

But this is Singapore, and the only other populated area were the seats under the sheltered alfresco area across from us, where students looked like they were studying.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, it was really good to know that for all the branded-chained restaurants everywhere on campus, there’s one cafe that sells honest, healthy food: Central Park @ U Town.

(And especially for blazing saddle days like today, they carry Popaganda popsicles too!)

Kai tucking into a toasted pita topped with organic roasted veggies, arugula, baby spinach and feta

Violet Oon Remembers A Drag Party I Hosted

NYT: "Violet Oon, sometimes referred to as the Julia Child of Singapore"
NYT: “Violet Oon, sometimes referred to as the Julia Child of Singapore”

We had a great lunch yesterday at Violet Oon’s Kitchen, and were sorry only for not having enough people with us so we could order and try more dishes.

After lunch service wound down, Violet emerged from the kitchen and spoke with customers who were taking their time with dessert. She came by our table and asked if everything was alright.

Straightaway I said I had had her cooking before.

“That must have been a long time ago – twenty years?”, she said.

It was 1991, and it was at a rowdy party at my house, and my JC mate Colin Goh had organised some of the food which included some of Violet’s well known Peranakan staples and ice-kacang made with Violet’s own hand-cranked ice-shaving machine.

“Oh! That party! It was a drag party and Colin was in a sarong kebaya and he was so worried about being stopped by the police”, she remembered excitedly.

I was stunned. I had completely forgotten about the drag part of the party. I have no photos to prove it happened, but if Violet Oon says it did, it must have.

I was surprised to learn from last week’s New York Times restaurant report that Violet Oon’s Kitchen is the first time she’s “found success as a restaurateur”, being the culinary institution that she is.

We ordered a pulled beef rigatoni, a chicken curry that came with roti jala, a shepherd’s pie (technically a cottage pie, since it was made with beef, but which I had to order because, as I whispered to Naomi – “I’ve eaten Violet’s Shepherd’s Pie before when I was in school! We have to order it now!”), Bingka Ubi and Bubor Chacha Panna Cotta for dessert.

We have to go back, not least because they ran out of sticky date pudding and ayam goreng yesterday.