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Kazuhiro Chii is a man of many talents.

Ask him to show you his tools, and you will agree with me.

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The art of hand sculpting ice is uncommon in these parts of the world (and I mean Malaysia, not greater Asia, naturally).   I watched with rapt attention as he took out a block of ice, like an unpolished diamond, and shaved it skillfully with a myriad of rather dangerous looking knives to create a perfect globe that would fit snugly into a whisky glass.

The bar at Waku Ghin in Singapore is the restaurant’s alpha and omega.  This is the place to have your apéritifs and digestifs before feasting at the restaurant which was recently ranked No.11 on San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2013 list.  And even if you are unable to secure a reservation at the much acclaimed restaurant, it is an experience in itself to sit at the bar and watch the bartenders work their magic.

Even the best chefs take inspiration from others.  The idea of starting the Japanese bar came about when Chef Tetsuya Wakuda, the owner of Waku Ghin and Tetsuya’s (in Sydney), spent some time in Ginza, Tokyo in a bar called Star Bar.  There, he became good friends with the owner and bartender extraordinaire, Hisashi Kishi, and after several drinks and conversations later, decided to open his own classic Japanese bar in Singapore.  The style and decor of his new bar had to be elegant and muted.  He wanted to be able to showcase Japanese-style cocktails and encourage a finer appreciation for the cocktails.

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The best seat is at the bar, of course.  This is where one can observe the skill and concentration that goes into making the perfect cocktail.  Kazuhiro Chii placed a couple of bottles of alcohol – vermouth and gin – before us before he proceeded to make us a martini.  What looked like a dry martini turned out to be something quite different.  The first scent to tickle the senses was the heady smell of truffles.  We later discovered, upon biting into our “olive”, that the olive was, in fact, a baby peach soaked in truffle oil.

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Bar nibbles are not your typical nuts and crackers.  Here, you can get iberico ham, caviar, oysters, cheese and other meat dishes, all worthy of Waku Ghin’s name, at prices starting from S$35++.  Servings are big enough to be shared among several friends.  The bar menu features 85 cocktails (and counting) from S$20++ onwards.  There is also an extensive selection of sakes and whiskies.

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This is the place to get a drink in an environment that encourages quiet contemplation and an appreciation for an art that deserves to be revered.   And it doesn’t hurt to see that dimpled smile behind the bar as you take a sip of your cocktail and look heavenward in wonderment and gratitude for the glass of liquid happiness.

Signed, An Almost Alcoholic.

The Bar at Waku Ghin
Marina Bay Sands
Singapore

Tel: +65 6688 8507

Open daily from 6pm until late. No reservations required.

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Note:  This review was at the invitation of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Cameron Highlands Resort

I never had a doll when I was a child.  My father, having lived in severe conditions in his youth, never knew what a doll was and consequently never realised its importance in a little girl’s life.  Instead, he gave me things which he craved for in his childhood.  He built a library for me and my brothers, and every time he received his paycheck we made a visit to the bookshop and purchased hundreds of ringgit worth of books.  Enid Blyton when I was five, engineering and mathematical solutions when I was ten, and chess endgame analyses when I was twelve.  I discovered Agatha Christie when I was fourteen and found the entire collection of her writings, silverfish et al,  in my school library where I spent hours on end crouched amidst the bookshelves, relishing in the musty scent that became my comfort then and in the years after.

When I received an invitation from YTL Hotels to spend a long weekend at its property, the Cameron Highlands Resort, and to participate in its activities, themed A Curious Twist In Christmas Tradition, my heretofore repressed Poirot-ish instincts were stirred.  After decades of studious research (fiction only) in the art of committing (and solving) the perfect murder, I knew that my moment had arrived.  We were to play a grown up role-playing game, a murder mystery game to be precise, where every guest had a part to play and the ultimate goal was to identify the murderer.  And while we were running around the astoundingly beautiful property looking for clues and dead bodies, the kitchen staff and wait staff slaved laboriously to ensure that we did not go hungry or thirsty.  The game went well into the night, and sadly with every passing minute, I transitioned from Poirot to Piggy.  All things Christie and Marple vanished with the appearance of each sumptuous dish.  I wish I could tell you the moral of the story, the point of being well informed about the intricacies of committing a murder, but I’m afraid that the only benefit I have derived from all that reading is an active imagination and little sleep.

Thank you, YTL Hotels, for allowing me to indulge in a spot of amateur acting (sans porn and with a totally contrived French accent) and for the hours of fun and camaraderie, but more importantly, for showing me that paradise exists in Cameron Highlands.  The weather was less than perfect; unbearably hot one day and wet the next, but I sought cover within the walls of the resort, and while the visitors at the market were sloshing through puddles in their cheap japanese slippers smelling of mud, sweat and vegetables, I was wearing my cheap japanese slippers in the resort beside the koi pond, my tush firmly planted on a rattan chair, my left hand grasping a flute of champagne and my right, some freshly plucked strawberries with chocolate and cream.

The air is different here; the quiet pitter patter of the rain on the koi pond and the tinkling of Christmas decorations from the gentle breeze brings about a renewed sense of spirit and purpose and an assurance that everything will be alright.

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Giant strawberries

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Afternoon tea at the resort

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Lovely Boh tea – proudly Malaysian

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Serene and peaceful

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Play money

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Let the games begin

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A “murder victim” is found

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Best actress, Chelsia Ng

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Tree lighting ceremony

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They cleaned up well

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More beautiful people

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Singing Christmas carols

Photo credit: Final seven pictures – Chelsia Ng (Thanks for letting me use them!)

Apparently, a lot of people know who Chef Edward Lee is.  It helps that these days there are a gazillion channels on TV, out of which only a jillion or so of these channels are about cooking classes, celebrity chefs, reality cooking competitions and attention-deprived cake shop owners.  Earlier this year, three-time James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef Edward Lee, who trained in classical French kitchens and has spent the better part of a decade cooking in 610 Magnolia in Kentucky, came to town and cooked a stupendous meal for a fortunate few under the Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows Gastronomy 2012 series.  His inspiration for the meal came from his week-long immersion in the heritage and culture of our beloved country, Malaysia, including visits to the Selayang market to Little India and interestingly enough, to Publika to experience our growing coffee culture.  Hmmm.  Anyway.

Episode 1 of Chef Edward Lee’s travelogue focuses on his visit to the Selayang wholesale market.  In this episode, he is introduced to a variety of local produce and ingredients including our very own petai (fondly known as stinkbean for obvious reasons), cili padi (bird’s eye chili) and galangal.  It’s interesting that the things we take for granted in our Malaysian kitchen, like turmeric root, are quite alien to Chef Edward Lee but he takes it all in stride.  Malaysian host, Will Quah, shows him around and seems quite at home in the market.  My favourite part is at 1:13 where Will Quah says kacang botol with such panache that I’m totally blown away. *grin*

About this blog

Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.

Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.


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