Kings of Pastry (2009)

Kings of Pastry offers a glimpse into the lives of those aspiring to the highly respected designation “Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF)”, awarded in France to the world’s top pastry chefs.

Although there were some aspects of the documentary I found interesting or dramatic, I didn’t think it was particularly good overall.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/kings-of-pastry/id414573195

Self-portrait with Teapot; or, The Problem of Transience

I think I’ve been to the Paradise Dynasty restaurant at Ion twice now. I really like the decoration, which you can sort of see here on the restaurant’s website.

So many restaurants in Singapore seem temporarily perched in some unit in some shopping mall; the lease expires, the rent goes up, the restaurant dies or moves somewhere else. So although every shop and restaurant does some interior decoration for branding purposes, the environment often feels like a cardboard set, too superficial for comfort. You eat there, and the food is fine, but you feel like the experience is just a flash in the pan.

Not so with Paradise Dynasty.

Even though the color-changing LEDs behind the curtains serve as a constant reminder that you’re in one of the countless flashy shopping malls built within the last decade, the plush red chairs, dramatic lighting, wood screens, and stone floors make the place feel older and more authentic.

I recently learned that Nanbantei, my favorite Japanese restaurant in Singapore, has a new outlet at Chinatown Point.

There it is!

Even if I were already in Chinatown, though, I would probably go to the Nanbantei at Far East Plaza. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but it’s all wood and brick and cozy inside, whereas this just looks like every other Japanese restaurant, more or less, and I know it hasn’t been there long at all. I’m pretty sure the unit used to be occupied by a French roast chicken restaurant called Poulet.

Like I said, high real estate prices make every business vulnerable to rent fluctuations. Poulet’s Westgate outlet has also closed down, and not long ago when I went to the Japanese restaurant I liked at Westgate, it was only after sitting down and ordering that I realized that the place had been converted into some other Japanese restaurant. My husband’s favorite Japanese restaurant (Aoki) is now undergoing renovation, and his second-favorite Japanese restaurant (Chako) closed permanently just before the building (Hong Leong Garden) was knocked down and replaced with a newer one (NEWest). The closure (in 2013) of the authentic Swiss/German fondue restaurant Stammtisch at Sixth Avenue might qualify as the worst of them.

I wish I knew of more great restaurants that feel like they’ve been here forever and will outlast even me, but things just keep changing. Whatever it is you like, enjoy it while it lasts; blink and it’s gone.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an amusing, eye-opening, and well-produced documentary about an exacting Japanese sushi chef named Jiro Ono, whose dedication to his craft is remarkable as much for its relentless lifelong perfectionism as for its world-famous success.

What I least liked about it was seeing dead or soon-to-be-dead sea creatures being inspected, bought and sold.

Visually, what I liked best was seeing each individual piece of sushi placed on a lacquered, rectangular dish on the softly-lit counter top, where gravity briefly, subtly altered its shape in a kind of slow, glistening ooze.

The strongest impression I’m left with, though, is Jiro’s seemingly unflagging sense of purpose: to make the most exquisite sushi he possibly can. Nothing else seems to matter in the slightest.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/jiro-dreams-of-sushi/id542088376

Tim Ho Wan

My husband and I recently started calling Tim Ho Wan “Tim Mo’ Fun” as that was the best of the silly names he came up with when trying to remember (or pretending to try to remember) the actual name of this cheap Michelin-starred restaurant.

About half the time, I misremember the name as Tim Wo Han. Today when I ate there, however, I noticed that the Cantonese word “ho” in the name corresponds to the familiar character meaning “good”, which I know is pronounced “hao” in Mandarin, so I should be able to remember the whole thing the right way around next time.

The name, as far as I can tell, is pronounced “tiān hǎo yùn” in Mandarin and means something like “add good luck”.

Speaking of luck, I hear that New York just got its first Tim Ho Wan outlet in December 2016, and that people are going nuts over the food! As well they should. Personally, I feel lucky that I don’t have to wait outside in New York winter weather to eat at Tim Mo’ Fun. Consistently balmy Singapore has several Tim Ho Wans, and if you feel cold while waiting in line at one, it’s not because of the weather, it’s because of the aircon.

The pork BBQ buns, one of what they call the Big Four Heavenly Kings (the dishes printed on the promotional tissue packet above), are the best thing on the menu, but there are many delicious dim sum items available.

Healthy yet delicious Korean food

Whoops! The sign in front of this shop in the basement of United Square is implying that healthy Korean food is usually not delicious. I mean, okay, maybe, but that’s not what you want people to be thinking when they’re standing in front of your Korean restaurant at lunchtime.

What if they used “and” instead?

Healthy and delicious Korean food

Well, now it almost sounds as if they’re offering two different kinds of food, healthy Korean food and delicious Korean food, which still implies that “healthy” and “delicious” are incompatible.

They should just put the two problem adjectives in front of Korean with just a comma:

Healthy, delicious Korean food

The reverse order sounds okay too:

Delicious, healthy Korean food

Sakura Cuisine’s Saliva Chicken

I posted a photo of this restaurant before because the name seemingly advertised so many kinds of food. They’ve simplified the name—presumably not because they saw my blog post, but who knows?

Now they are promoting a dish they call “Saliva Chicken”.

The Chinese name of the dish is three characters (that’s the traditional one for chicken, not the simplified one):

口水雞
mouth water chicken

Note that there is no sure-fire way to determine how many characters in Chinese correspond to a “word” in English. If you take the first two characters together, they mean “saliva”, because that’s what “mouth water” is.

口水
saliva

The restaurant seems to be offering a chicken dish cooked with saliva (?!), but actually it just wants you to order the chicken dish that makes you salivate. If they’d named it “mouth-watering chicken” in English, the name would have been perfectly unobjectionable.

In my opinion, the problem is not that the Chinese language is hard, or that English is hard, just that translation is hard. All languages assign meanings in arbitrary ways. Why, after all, should we English speakers think that “saliva chicken” sounds gross, but “mouth-watering chicken” sounds delicious? This distinction is not meaningful in Chinese, any more than the distinction between “cow meat” (eew) and “beef” (yum).

Signatrer Dishes

Well, the photo is gorgeous, and the restaurant should definitely get credit for correctly pluralizing “dishes”, but that is not how to spell “signature”.

I think the mistake is a phonetic spelling mistake and not a manual typo. The consonant combination “tr” often sounds like “ch” (listen to yourself saying “treasure” or “train”), so I cam imagine someone coming up with this by trying to spell what the word sounds like. The “tu” spelling pattern found in words like “nature/natural”, “picture”, and “adventure” is not all that common.

I took this photo outside a restaurant on Mosque Street in Chinatown. I think the restaurant was Chon Qing Grilled Fish. These onions are probably for flavoring the grilled fish.

In one corner of the menu were a bunch of Chinese characters and the English brand “Classical aftertaste”. I think “Classical flavor” was probably more like what they were aiming for. Or “Classic taste”, maybe.