Month: December 2009

The Layover

1am: Stuck in line. Standing in the Air France customer service queue in Terminal 2F in Charles de Gaulle airport. The line’s not moving at all. Stuck on the runway in Italy for hours trying to get here and now I’m stuck in line. At first, I thought everything was going to be fine. The pilot had originally announced that Air France would try and get all of us onto our connecting flights. But when I asked a steward a little while later if our flight would be held for us, he gave me one of those “you-silly-little-man” looks that the French are so good at and said, “Mais non, you will have to spend the night in Paris.” S and I are with two other friends, B and V, who had also attended the wedding in Venice and whom are also trying to get home. Unlike us, they have to be at work on the following day. Thankfully, we’d closed our office until the new year.

2am: We’re all finally checking into the Ibis hotel at Charles de Gaulle Terminal 3. Took us forever to find the damned place. The Air France customer service guy said it was easy. Just go out the doors and take the CDGVAL, he said. I think he was just trying to get rid of us. Once through the doors, we spend the next twenty-five minutes looking for signs for the damned shuttle. While waiting for it, one of our friends said, “Hey, there’s also a Sheraton and a Hyatt Regency here. Why didn’t they put us up there?” My very tired wife S said it best, “Because the Ibis is cheap.”

Venice December 2009

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t care how cliched it may be, or how overrun with tourists it can get, Venice is still (and probably always will be) one of my favourite cities in the world. Maybe it’s the lack of cars, the addictively delicious tramezzini that stare out at you from countless cafe windows, the couples smooching openly everywhere, the stunning Byzantine-influenced buildings and palazzos, the bellinis, or the simple silliness of walking around and getting lost in the city’s labyrinth-like streets… I don’t know. I love being in Venice. Love being there for the craziness of the Biennale, with the hot sun pounding down and the glitterati of the art world fussing over themselves at exhibitions during the day and madcap parties come dark. Love being there at winter when, for once, the locals outnumber the tourists and cold winds batter at you ceaselessly. It’s a city of romance and splendor, and if you look hard enough, gastronomy.

My vicacious wife S and I, and several friends, spent a good part of last week in La Serenissima. We were there to attend the wedding of some very close friends. Of course, I also made sure that we planned a long enough break so that we could visit some of my favourite eating haunts and shops. I had a good reason for this. While I’ve been to Venice probably a half dozen times in the last decade or so, S has only been once, way back in 2000. I had brought her there in December 2000 in order to propose to her. We arrived on 26 December, got engaged just outside of Saint Mark’s Square, and saw in the new year there. But we didn’t eat well. In fact, except for a meal at Harry’s Bar, all of our other meals were less than memorable. Back then, I didn’t know Venice well. And my previous trips to the city were as a backpacker, when eating at good restaurants wasn’t really a priority. Since then, despite my insistence that there is great food to be found in Venice, and my postings on this blog, S has always been a tad skeptical. With this recent trip, I was determined to convince her that Venice has great food.

Season’s Greetings

Merry Christmas everyone! My tired yet still sexy wife S and I are back from a crazy trip. We went off to Venice for a week, to attend two very close friends’ wedding, as well […]

The Warung, Bali

A friend of mine said something really interesting the other day. He asked me if I’d ever noticed that while Bali has several stunningly beautiful restaurants, with gorgeous views and great design, and some great local restaurants, that serve both fantastic Balinese and other regional Indonesian dishes, it was pretty much impossible to find a restaurant that combines all of the above. The more I thought about it, I realized he was right. It was hard to name a restaurant that could offer breathtaking vistas, a cool vibe with great style and design, and really sumptuous, authentic local food. The combination was only logical. Why wouldn’t some smart restaurateur design a restaurant like this? Why shouldn’t there be a place as cool as Ku De Ta, or as pretty as Mozaic, that offered really delicious Balinese fare? After all, when I travel somewhere, I want to explore and learn about the local cuisine. I want to tuck into really well-prepapred authentic (and not touristy) dishes. But I’m also a slave to style and I’d like to not have to always be eating such food in less than chic environments.

Enter The Warung at the new Alila Villas Uluwatu resort. This swanky casual restaurant at this glamourous new property, perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean on Bali’s southern coastline, delivers the total package. And I know I was just recently waxing lyrical about another Alila property, but I have good reason. These guys, at least at the Alila Villas level, just seem to be able to get things right. And that’s worth shouting out about. The Uluwatu resort, an ultra-luxe (and yet also sustainable) development designed by Singapore starchitects Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassel of WoHA, is strikingly chic. All clean lines, bright colors, and natural materials, Alila Villas Uluwatu is the kind of place you’d expect to see movie stars and billionaires sunning, sipping cocktails and trading secrets.

My ten Singapore must-eats

Southeast Asia’s Lion City is often called a foodie’s paradise, with good reason. Singapore is the most ethnically diverse country in the region with a core population made up of Chinese, Malays and Indians. It’s also a highly cosmopolitan country in which one fifth of the nation’s residents, almost 1.2 million people, are expatriates. The food here understandably reflects the population’s multi-ethnic make-up. There is a wealth of wonderful, traditional Asian foods, cooked in both street stalls (we call them “hawker stalls”) as well as chi-chi, modern restaurants. Similarly, foods from the rest of the world are also readily available, in equally humble or high-end establishments. In Singapore, no one goes hungry. The only challenge facing the hungry diner is deciding what and where to eat.

For years, friends (and strangers) from all over the world have asked me what they should be eating when they visit. That, to me, is a really tough question and I often give different answers to different people, depending on what I know of their culinary preferences. That said, there are some things that every visitor should try. And I’ve realized that while I’ve penned those answers for countless friends for years on emails and even in SMS messages, I’ve never put that list up on this blog. So, for ease of use (and so that I have this on record somewhere) here are ten utterly delicious things I think you should eat when visiting, in no particular order. I should say that there are lots of other great things to eat not on this list (like oyster omelette, satay, nasi lemak, etc). In a place with as much good food as we have here, it’s pretty tough to choose just 10 great must-eats! I have also decided to limit this to rather accessible places. While I do consider visits to some of our high-end restaurants, like Iggy’s or Jaan par Andre, de rigeur for serious foodies, not everyone wants a fancy dinner when travelling or can afford to splash out on such culinary experiences. This list then is something pretty much any traveler should be able to feel pretty comfortable following.