Birthday meals

Posted on October 10, 2005 by Aun

Sometimes you have to be in the mood to write. Unfortunately, I haven’t really been in that mood for a week or so, which explains why this blog hasn’t been updated for a while. For that, I apologize. Fortunately, a lack of eagerness to tap on my keyboard hasn’t reduced my appetite. (It did mean, much to the pleasure of my wife S and other dining companions, that my camera stayed home when we did eat out.)

I celebrated a birthday early last week. As you might expect of a greedy guy like me, birthdays translate into a slew of yummy meals. The first among these was Sunday brunch at Au Jardin Les Amis, a beautiful French restaurant in a “black & white” colonial bungalow in the Botanic Gardens. Brunch was hosted by two wonderful friends and fellow gourmands, B and V. When they invited us to Au Jardin, I grilled S, asking her again and again if the invitation was authentic. I did this because last year, another friend had invited me to the same restaurant for a Sunday birthday brunch. He told us he’d swing by and pick us up so that I wouldn’t have to drive (meaning I could quaff all the Champagne I wanted). I love the Au Jardin brunch; I believe it’s the best Sunday brunch in Singapore. I’m not usually a huge fan of buffets. I’ve never been particularly taken with the enormous Sunday spreads at hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons or Grand Hyatt. Au Jardin’s brunch includes a light appetizer buffet, a la carte eggs (the egg cocotte with foie gras and truffles is the one to order), an a la carte main course, an a la carte dessert, and some additional desserts at the buffet. To me, it’s the perfect indulgent brunch. But it’s not cheap, and it’s not the kind of thing anyone can eat often. Anyway, back to last year. I hadn’t been to Au Jardin for a few months so I was really excited to have brunch there. Really, really excited. So, when the doorbell rang, I quickly opened the door ready to fly out of the house with S. Instead, I was confronted with a group of 8 friends, carrying buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and other fast food edibles, meant of course for the surprise Birthday potluck that S and that dastardly friend had engineered. My immediate reaction–much to S’s horror–was to close the door. Of course, a few seconds later, I opened it again and grinned my way through the afternoon, but deep down I felt conned. I was so looking forward to an afternoon of elegant service, good Champagne, the gorgeous setting of the restaurant, perfectly cooked eggs and great French food, that despite the fact that I love my friends, I was let down and made S promise to never again throw me a surprise party (unless that surprise involves taking me to Le Cinq in Paris). So when B and V made the same invitation this year, I was excited but wary. I also realized that we hadn’t been for over a year–not since before my birthday last year. Anyway, we did go and it was lovely. We had a bottle of Bruno Paillard Champagne and another bottle of a sweet and tasty Riesling with our food. Amusingly, all 4 of us picked the same menu: egg cocotte, slow-cooked pork belly, and confit of white peaches. It was, to put it plainly, well worth the wait.

My next celebratory meal was actually the same night. My parents had asked me to choose a restaurant to celebrate in; I chose to go to one of Singapore’s top Indian restaurants, Rang Mahal, located in the Pan Pacific Hotel. Rang Mahal is a ridiculously expensive, chic, dark and elegant space that serves amazing, modern Northern Indian food. S and I rarely come here for dinner because the price to us is a tad prohibitive (the lunch buffet is a tad more reasonable). So I was very much looking forward to devouring some yummy curries. As said, the food here is excellent. Unfortunately, that evening, the waiter who took our order was the complete opposite. In fact, by the end of the evening, I was really pissed off at him. Le me explain. While ordering, the waiter kept insisting that his portions were really small and that we needed to order two of everything. I must have asked him at least 4 or 5 times if he was sure we weren’t ordering too much food. He kept right on saying, “No, no, you need all this or it won’t be enough.” As you can imagine, we had way too much food. The 7 of us ate until we were all ready to burst and we still left more than 1/3 of the food untouched. Which at the prices that Rang Mahal charges came to way too many wasted dollars. We had tandoori chicken; prawns stuffed with crabmeat; grilled baby lamb chops; the most beautifully roasted (I think) lobster; dhal; saag paneer; saag with baby corn and mushrooms; Goan fish curry; and lamb curry. The lobster was breathtaking. The Goan fish curry was also a winner. But the prices and the way we got conned into ordering more than we needed were not.

On my actual birthday, S and I enjoyed a quiet dinner alone at my favorite Chinese restaurant in town, Hu Cui. Hu Cui is a sleek Shanghainese Crystal Jade restaurant on the second floor of Ngee An City. I love Hu Cui’s modern Chinese and ultra-hip interiors. And I love the food even more. We sat in comfy leather armchairs at a cute little table for two in the back part of the restaurant. I like this area. It was originally meant to be a hip wine bar for the restaurant. Unfortunately, the bar never took off. There are 4 of these little tables with armchairs, all in a row along the window. We ordered some of my favorite dishes: xiao long bao (of course); river shrimp sauteed with a salted duck egg yolk sauce; crab roe and bean curd sheets; braised pork belly with mantou; braised cabbage with oyster sauce. We hadn’t been to Hu Cui for a while, so I had forgotten just how good the food was. I almost fell off my chair when I tasted the shrimp and the crab roe dishes again for the first time in a long time.

Later in the week, S and I had dinner with a big group of friends. Only a few of them knew my birthday had just come and gone, so it was less of a celebration than it was a fun get together. We ate at Wild Rocket. S had arranged a set menu with Chef Willin Low, something we felt was safer given that the restaurant was still less than a week old. The food was good but the service was a tad sloppy, mostly because the place was packed. We had a mushroom cappuccino, followed by a pasta with a laksa lobster bisque sauce and the choice of either a steak or a baked cod (I had the cod). This was concluded with Willin’s yummy cheesecake.

It was so good in fact that one of our friends, a bubbly, sexy gal with a huge appetite, ordered herself a second portion. Here she is enjoying her second order, shot quickly with my camera-phone. It does look like she’s enjoying it, yah?

Finally, another friend took S and I out for a celebratory dinner on Saturday. I mentioned that I’ve never been a huge buffet fan. That’s true, but at the same time, I’ve been dying to try The Line, the Adam Tihany designed buffet restaurant at the Shangri-La hotel, since it opened. S had been; in fact, she had lunch with Anthony Bourdain when he was last in town. And she said it was surprisingly good. I’d seen it as well. It looked fun. All white and shiny with modern orange lights and video screens. So when asked where I wanted to go, I suggested we try The Line. Once seated, we ordered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne and attacked the buffet. The stations are beautifully designed and all the staff at the restaurant surprisingly friendly and cheery. The food was good and the great attitudes of the staff made the meal that much better. I specifically enjoyed the fresh oysters from the seafood bar, the California handrolls from the sushi bar, the baked tortellini with ham in cream sauce, the a la minute roti prata, the laksa and the Cantonese roast meats. Sadly, while they had a pretty sundae section, the vanilla ice cream was lousy. Overall, it was a fun night and I left slightly converted. The Line is one buffet that I wouldn’t mind returning to again.

Anyway, that’s the bulk of last week’s eating. I’m actually taking off to the UK (Cheltenham and London) and then Germany (Frankfurt) later this week for a work trip. I’m hoping to update while traveling so stay tuned.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Anonymous October 11, 2005 at 6:31 am

    Hello from London! I’ve been a faithful reader of your blog for a while now. Any idea where your culinary exploits are going to bring you à Londres? Gordon Ramsay does an excellent set lunch for £30 but the Sloane Square outlet is only open on weekdays, unfortunately. – Rachel

  2. Chubby Hubby October 11, 2005 at 8:39 am

    Hi Rachel, I may be trying the Gordon Ramsay on Hospital Road. Interestingly, the head chef of one of Singapore’s cooler restaurants, Sebastian Ng from Ember, is “staging” there this month. I’ve booked a table at St John also, but aside from that, haven’t planned anything else. I’m also only in London for 3 days. Any recommendations for good, reasonably-priced food?

  3. deborah October 11, 2005 at 11:00 am

    Happy Birthday – sounds like you have started the your new year well! Have fun in Europe. Look forward to your posts from Germany – dont think I’ve come across a food blog from Germany yet :)

  4. augustusgloop October 11, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    Happy B’day! I’m sure you will squeeze in plenty of foodie feasts abroad around your work commitments.

    I’m with you. That was a really devastating way to trick you into a surprise party! I felt your pain… =)

  5. babe_kl October 11, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    happy belated burpday!

  6. Cindy Fredericka October 11, 2005 at 5:41 pm

    Happy Belated Birthday! Well, I did my report on Wild Rocket alrdy. Check out yr email. :)
    Gee…. I can imagine how disappted U were on the surprise party arrangement. If there is a possibility of another to come, mux make sure it comes wif champagne & xiao long bao at least! ;)
    Yes…. de ambience at Hu Cui is so nice. Food is juz as gd too!I’ve only been there once thou. Hey I didn’t know abt the armchair seats thou. Thanks for the note.

  7. Cindy Fredericka October 11, 2005 at 5:46 pm

    Oh! Have a good trip & be safe.

  8. gwenda October 11, 2005 at 6:01 pm

    happy birthday!!!

  9. Melissa October 11, 2005 at 7:25 pm

    Happy Birthday to a fellow Libran! It must be the birthday time of year (mine is tomorrow). My plans are a little more modest than yours, but you’ve given me more than a little vicarious pleasure reading about your mouth-watering escapades. Have a great trip to Europe!

  10. Andrea October 11, 2005 at 9:46 pm

    happy belated birthday! amigo!
    eat, drink and be merry
    oh, wait you already have

  11. Skrat October 11, 2005 at 11:33 pm

    Happy Belated Birthday CH!! Sounds like you had an awesome week of celebrations. Geez…that bubbly sexy gal happens to be someone i know too! Great snapshot CH!

  12. slurp! October 12, 2005 at 12:32 am

    WOW! You must have an exciting day!
    If I’m not wrong, this must be the longest article you ever written? :)

    HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY!
    Mine next week but will be in HCMC. (Need to start praying for “no rain” there)

  13. tara October 12, 2005 at 1:04 am

    Happy birthday and safe journey to you, CH! I hope (even though it is work), that you’ll come home rejuvenated. Cheers and all the best!

  14. Dennis She October 12, 2005 at 2:15 am

    Happy Birthday, AK!
    Glad you had a great time =) My birthday dinner earlier this year was a way modest affair at Crystal Jade’s La Mian Xiao Long Bao/Holland Village–in the midst of my semester exams–and my fondest memory: the foie gras infused dumplings. Not sure if it’s a one-off but could be worth checking out if you happen to be in the area.

    ps: i don’t know what sort of Michelin-worthy food they have in Deutschland, but–it’d be interesting to see die hausfraus doing a Bayerische-take on French cuisine. LOL.

  15. Anonymous October 12, 2005 at 2:22 am

    Yes the Royal Hospital Road one is off Sloane Square! It’s reputedly the best GR outfit in town, but doesn’t do weekends. If you do manage to book a table at one of his restaurants look out for the salted caramel chocolate truffles when the bonbon trolley comes by! Giardinetto in Mayfair does very good Italian food, for about £30 excl. wine I think. And Fino is a nice Spanish outlet close to Tottenham Court Road/Oxford St. About the same price for very flavourful tapas, although the calamari was slightly disappointing. You must go for a proper English Tea at either The Ritz or The Wolseley if you have the time… mainly so that I can live vicariously through more of your eating expeditions than anything else as I haven’t had the chance to visit either of these places yet myself! :) If we’re talking properly cheap and cheerful, Food For Thought is a nice informal underground joint on Neal St in Covent Garden, and the Gourmet Burger Kitchen is part of a chain from NZ which does delicious burgers such as the chorizo, sweet potato, & wild rocket one, which, paired with a glass of red makes for a very satisfying meal indeed. And you probably know this already, but Borough Market is good fun and well worth a visit. Also, to drop by Konditor & Cook for magnificent cakes which is just next door! Enjoy! – Rachel

  16. my alter ego October 13, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    oh, you may want to try The Fat Duck in Bray.
    me sis try the tasting menu, and it was ab. fab. but maybe a tad expensive.

    but the snail porridge n bacon ice-cream n others…simply amazing

  17. Santos October 15, 2005 at 8:09 am

    happy belated birthday! have a safe journey.

  18. Darren Teoh April 9, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    I know this is late, very late in fact but i’m glad you enjoyed the meal at AJ. I was a part of the kitchen around that time at the poisonniers side. if indeed your birthday is on the 10th of October then we share something in common. Ironic that you feasted on your birthday and i helped made it your visit enjoyable on mine.

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