Saturday, 10 February 2018

Detox, Lose Weight, Relieve Aches and Prevent Ageing with Ganbanyoku Hot Stone Therapy

Hubby and me trying out Ganbanyoku for the very first time

   I have never been to a hot stone therapy till I tried Ganbanyoku. Therefore, I was eager to review Ganbanyoku, a newly launched hot stone therapy and holistic healing centre at Far East Plaza. 

   When I first got to know about Ganbanyoku, I imagined it to be a relaxing spa experience where smooth, hard stones are placed on one’s back. However, the treatment was totally different from what I expected.

Waiting for the treatment to commence

   Ganbanyoku is a form of traditional and holistic healing. The origin of Ganbanyoku dates back to centuries ago. It traces back to Tamagawa natural hot springs located in the Akita Prefecture in Japan,where people with injuries and illnesses have cured themselves by simply lying on the rocks heated by the natural hot springs. It has become a popular form of holistic therapy, also used by urbanites in Japan and all over the world.

   Ganbanyoku at Far East Plaza was launched by 70-year old Myanmar born Singaporean, Greta Ng in June 2017. A successful businesswoman, she has managed many businesses including jewellery, food and beverage, Chinese antique furniture and property development. A busy lifestyle has taken a toll on Greta’s body and she suffered from constant backaches. At one time, the pain was so intense that she was wheelchair bound. A trip to Fukuoka, Japan gave her the opportunity to experience authentic “Ganbanyoku”. After a few days of treatment, she was re-energised and her backaches have miraculously disappeared. Greta discovered a new lease of life and wanted to share the benefits with people suffering from the same problems. Before discovering Ganbanyoku, Greta went to many physiotherapy and acupuncture sessions but to no avail. Therefore, she was convinced by the results of the “Ganbanyoku” treatment that she decided to start her first health and wellness shop at Far East Plaza to provide a cure for people.

   Ganbanyoku, also known as “rock bathing’ in Japanese is a unique treatment where customers lie on specially heated volcanic stone “beds”. The stones are heated to 45 degrees Celsius and is said to release far infrared rays and negative ions that help the body release toxins through perspiration.

   My first experience at Ganbanyoku was an invigorating one. My hubby and I went for the couple treatment and we were both very pleased with the results. Prior to the treatment, we were lethargic  due to late nights and constant feasting during the December festive season. Therefore, the idea of going for a detox treatment was very appealing to us.

   Ganbanyoku is not a luxurious spa where you go for your pampering massages with relaxing aromatherapy oils. In fact, the décor of the wellness centre is pretty basic. Upon arrival, we had to change into a loose top and bottom. Lockers were provided for us to store our belongings. We were each given a small towel and a bigger one. Surprisingly, handphones were allowed in the treatment room. First timers were encouraged to place a towel on the stone bed just in case the heat gets too intense.

Feeling the heat

   Before entering the treatment room, we were informed to drink lots of water to prevent ourselves from getting dehydrated and to place palms and feet flat on the stones. A little pillow was provided to support our heads. It is advisable to stay in one position for 10 minutes before moving to another position. After about, 20 minutes, I started to feel the intensity of the heat. My husband, however, was able to tolerate the heat better than me. After about 45 minutes, I decided to conclude the treatment as the heat became a little too intense.

Feeling rejuvenated after the treatment

   The treatment caused us to perspire and we felt rejuvenated and revitalised. The perspiration evaporated after a couple of minutes and our skin felt velvety and smooth. In fact, we felt energised and alert after the treatment and were happy with the radiance and glow in our skin.

   The Ganbanyoku treatment is priced at only $20. It is recommended for people who are suffering from body aches or those who badly need to detox, cleanse their system and lose weight.

With Founder, Ms Greta Ng

   Ganbanyoku Hot Stone Therapy is located at 14 Scotts Road, #02-09, Far East Plaza, Singapore 228213.  They are open from 10am to 9pm daily. 
For bookings, please call +65 62089357 or email contact@ganbanyoku.co. Alternatively, please visit their facebook page here.

   Thank you Agnes and Ganbanyoku for the invite.


Saturday, 13 January 2018

New European Bar and Restaurant Opens at Albert Court

The bar area

   Wine Bonanza is a new restaurant which has just opened its doors in late 2017. Set in the pre-war colonial heritage building at Albert Court, this quaint restaurant exudes a rustic charm and a sense of nostalgia.

The interior

   With an underground wine cellar and exclusive private rooms, it has a relaxed and laid-back ambience, making one feel comfortable instantly. The intimate restaurant seats up to 60 guests indoors while the alfresco dining area accommodates up to 30 diners.

Exclusive private room

   Wine Bonanza's menu is contemporary European with influences from Italy, France, Spain, Britain and America. The food is surprisingly good for a relatively new restaurant. The culinary team focuses on fresh, premium and quality ingredients and hearty flavours.

Flavourful and wholesome lobster bisque

   Start your meal with rich, creamy and wholesome lobster bisque ($18) which is painstakingly braised with vegetables such as carrots, celery and onions for three hours and topped with angelica root and succulent lobster meat. The soup is well balanced in flavours combining the sweet succulence of the crustacean and the earthy taste of the angelica root. It is bursting with flavours and gratifying to the very last mouthful.

Aged Italian bean purée beignet with truffle mayo

   The aged Italian bean purée beignet with truffle mayo ($15) makes a great starter. The bean purée beignets and coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried to perfection. The skin is crisp and tasty while the interior is moist, savoury and flavourful. Pair it with the restaurant’s specially made truffle mayo to give it more intensity.

Octopus Carpaccio

   The octopus carpaccio ($17) is another winning appetiser consisting of delicately sliced octopus legs, topped with cress and radish and drizzled with balsamic reduction to give it a sweet, smoky and slightly acidic flavour.

Trio Sliders of Chicken, Beef and Mushroom

   The trio sliders ($17) are great for burger lovers who want to savour all three flavours (beef, chicken and mushroom) at the same time. The juicy meats are sandwiched between soft, fluffy buns. Every bite is satisfying, leaving one craving for more. 

Grilled halibut

   For the mains, I would recommend the grilled halibut ($26) and the beef stew ($26). The preparation method is healthy without compromising on taste. Served with roasted baby potatoes and sautéed asparagus, the halibut has a firm texture and a light, sweet taste. It is perfect for the health and weight conscious. Add a little Arrabbiata sauce to give it a more robust taste with a hint of spiciness.

Beef stew

   The beef stew is ideal for diners desiring more intensive flavours. Consisting of beef brisket braised with precision for eight hours to the right degree of tenderness, it will satiate the taste buds of those with an inclination for red meats.

Truffle mushroom cream pasta

   For pastas, a noteworthy item is the truffle mushroom cream pasta ($24) which is perfect even for vegetarians. The pastas are cooked in a creamy sauce with gentle truffle accents and topped with a delightful medley of assorted mushrooms including button and shiitake. For something lighter, opt for the 4-season pasta ($15, add $4 or bacon) which is generously prepared with artichoke hearts, red capsicum and mushrooms in a zesty Pomodoro sauce.

Bread and butter pudding

   Wine Bonanza has pretty good desserts, the bread and butter pudding ($9) is a palate pleaser ending my meal on a sensational note. A classic British dessert, it is prepared by layering slices of buttered bread scattered with raisins in a casserole dish and drizzled with an egg custard mixture. At Wine Bonanza, a scoop of vanilla ice cream is added to give it more depth and dimension.

   In addition to the food, Wine Bonanza offers an extensive array of wines and unique cocktails to go with your meal such as cocktail milkshake (lovely conoction of kahlua, creme-de-menthe green with vanilla ice cream and fresh cream), Wine Bonanza's rendition of LIT (Long Island Tea - creative combination of vodka, gin, light rum, tequila, triple sec, Tia Maria and sweet and sour) and Old Fashion (interesting mix of Bourbon whiskey, orange sugar syrup and Angustura with orange zest)


The entrance

   Wine Bonanza is a fantastic place to enjoy quality food and to chill out with friends. It is located at 180 Albert Street, #01-09 Albert Court, Singapore. It is open from 5pm to 11pm (last order 10pm) from Sunday to Thursday and from 5pm to 1am on Fridays, Saturdays, eve of Public Holidays and Public Holidays (last order for fod is 20pm and after 10pm bar bites is available till 11pm).

   For reservations, please call 6909 3828 or visit their website here. Alternatively, you may also visit the restaurant's official facebook page here.

Thank you Agnes and Wine Bonanza for the invite.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

French Cuisine with an Inventive Twist at Amber, 2-Star Michelin Restaurant in Hong Kong

Savouring exquisite creations at Amber

   Amber Restaurant, located at level seven of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong is one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world. A 2-Michelin star restaurant six times running, Amber has garnered an impressive list of accolades including being No.24 on The World’s 50 Restaurants List and No. 3 on Asia’s 50 Restaurants List, sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna and Best Restaurant in China. It is also listed as Forbes Five Star Restaurant.

   The exquisite restaurant is helmed by Dutch Culinary Director, Chef Ekkebus, who has honed his culinary skills in the kitchens of Alain Passard, Guy Savoy and Piere Gagnaire. While his cuisine is deeply rooted in French tradition, he introduces an inventive twist to French classics by including ingredients from Japan and other parts of Asia.

   Service is immaculate and the F&B team impressed me with their knowledge in the ingredients and preparation methods.

The elegant setting

   The dramatic chandeliers are the main features of the restaurant with 4,320 bronze rods suspended above the elegant dining room. Designed by international design maverick, Adam Tihany, warm metallic glow is blended with Australian walnut window louvers, allowing natural sunlight to illuminate the interior. Be charmed by the glass walls surrounding the private dining rooms which showcase a dazzling display of 3,000 –bottle vintage wine collection from around the world.

   I was delighted to have the opportunity to try the Weekend Wine Lunch which was a luxurious treat for the senses. All the various elements such as taste, presentation and service combined seamlessly together to offer a sublime dining experience. For the wine pairing, I requested to have a mix of Champagne and cocktails.

   The meal commenced in three sessions of small bites awakening the senses, focusing on five basic tastes including Salt, Sour, Bitter, Sweet and Umami.

Selection of Light Bites

Session 1
Salt
   The first appetiser consisted of aerated and frozen distilled sea water pearl with seaweed jam on an oyster leaf served with sea grape and seaweed dust. The savoury and briny flavours were captivating.

Sour
   Another item from the first session was the lemon caviar lime and clove macaroon which  comprised crispy egg white macaroon filled with a savoury lemon custard topped with a caviar lime gel and closed with a clove and lime brandy snap. This offered a contrasting tangy flavor which helped me to refresh my palate.

   Pinot Noir NV was served to accompany the appetisers. The crisp taste and fruity notes enhanced the overall taste of the appetisers. 

Session 2
Bitter 
   I like the Guinness dry stout beer with onions, salted hazelnuts and crispy cereals.  The onion stew was deglazed with Guinness beer and shaped into a sphere through a meticulous culinary process of spherification and topped with puffed and crispy fried cereals. It was a harmonious blend of savoury, sweet and bitter flavours coupled with the crispness of the crunchy cereals.

Sweet
   Another item from the second session included the crispy feuille de brick tart shell with concentrated Hokkaido milk gel, topped with sugar pea purée and mint and extra virgin olive oil seasoned sugar peas. This was pleasantly sweet without being too overwhelming.


Session 3
Umami

  The chawanmushi with fruit tomato confit was very smooth and silky and melted instantly in my mouth. The  creamy custard was superbly prepared with eggs, dashi, sake, miso and a little soy sauce and topped with Japanese tomato simmered over low fire. It was served in a nori (seaweed) broth and topped with seaweed crackes.  The absence of salt allows one to truly appreciate the umami taste and the seaweed crackers were a delightful accompaniment to the chawanmushi.

Duck foie gras

   For starter, the duck foie gras was attractively assembled on a stone and served with kombu-jime and confit salad of wakame and daikon, organic lemonrind, gel and dust and seaweed brioche. The taste was fresh and inviting, preparing my palate for the mains. Oolong tea with cranberry and lime was served to accompany the foie gras. The distinct taste of the Oolong with citrus notes complemented the foie gras excellently.

Hokkaido milk ravioli

   The next course was the Hokkaido milk ravioli simmered in an organic lemon butter with green peas, nicoise olives, tomato confit, smoked anchovy and basil leaves. This was a complimentary dish from the chef which hit all the right notes. I love the lovely, creamy texture and rich flavours. Each morsel was a burst of delight for my taste buds. Mango, pineapple juice and agave syrup was served to accompany this course, revitalising the taste buds.

Cantarian octopus

   The cantabrian octopus was another well-executed dish. It was grilled over charcaoal with coulis of fermented bell pepper with pearl onions and octopus cooking juice emulsion. The octopus was succulent with a hint of smokiness, delivering gratification in every bite.

Line caught madai

   For the main, I had the line caught madai imported from Japan. The madai belongs to the seabream family and has a sweet aroma and delicate texture. The madai was deftly executed with ‘lardo di colonnata’ (Italian cured meat), fava bean and fava been sauce. Overall, the taste was well balanced with the sweetness of the fava beans and the slight saltiness of the ‘lardo di colonnata’.

The kabocha pumpkin

  The kabocha pumpkin was the transition course which helped to cleanse my palate before the dessert. This is probably the most unique palate cleansing dish I have ever tried. Kabocha is a type of Japanese winter squash or pumpkin which is prized for its sweet taste and velvety texture and resembles both the sweet potato and the pumpkin. When you sink your teeth into the kabocha pumpkin, you’ll be amazed by the cool, icy menton lemon and nutmeg sorbet within. Pumpkin seeds were also added to enhance the taste. The delightful contrast of the flavours and textures of the kabocha and pumpkin made this a very distinctive and memorable dish.

Coconut and kaffir lime sorbet 'vacherin' with pineapple cream, poached pineapple and coconut mousse

   A skilful combination of coconut and pineapple topped with meringue, the coconut and kaffir lime sorbet 'vacherin' with pineapple cream, poached pineapple and coconut mousse is ideal for anyone desiring something fruity. 

Ethiopian coffee and hazelnut praline mousse

   Desserts at Amber were spectacular, ending my epicurean experience on a sensational note. The Ethiopian cofffee and hazelnut praline mousse was exquisitely crafted with an 'ébène' chocolate ganache centre glazed in coffee with cold infused ethiopian coffee ice cream. It was refreshing and perfect for coffee connoisseurs. I personally found the taste very invigorating and satisfying. 

Petit Fours

   The finale course was the petite fours which consisted of almond and elderflower financier with peach which is gluten free and baked with corn starch, the young carrot and amanatsu paste with green cardamom and bitter ‘kacinkoa’ chocolate and mineral water ganache with lime zest and coconut chantilly. All were artistically presented and served in dainty portions. My favourite was the bitter ‘kachinkoa’ chocolate with lime zest and choconut chantilly which was divine and was the ideal conclusion after an awesome meal.

   The Weekend Wine Lunch is priced at HK $1,038+, which is a little on the steep side. However, the impeccable service, flawless and meticulous execution of dishes, exquisite flavours and refined setting made up for it.

   Amber Restaurant is located at level 7 of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong (15 Queen's Road, Central, Hong Kong).

   For reservations, please call +852 2132 0066, email lmhkg-mail@mohg.com. Alternatively, please visit the restaurant's website here.



Monday, 25 December 2017

Feast at Ellenborough Market Café during the Festive Season


   Ellenborough Market Café at Swissôtel Merchant Court Hotel has been the stalwart of authentic Peranakan cuisine over the past two decades. The hotel celebrated its 20th anniversary in late October this year and was officially re-opened after a massive 18-month makeover. The signature restaurant restaurant, Ellenborough Market Café now dons a new look with cream and aquamarine accents. The cuisine at the restaurant remains unchanged and is still deeply rooted in Peranakan tradition with a selection of some local and international favourites. 

Festive favourites at Ellenborough Market Café

   From 15 to 31 December 2017, Ellenborough Market  introduces a medley of popular festive favourites and Western delights. What is noteworthy this year is the signature roasted Szechuan flavoured tom turkey prepared by Executive Chef, Louis Tay. Last year, the sambal turkey received overwhelming response, therefore the culinary team decided to introduce turkey with a twist again this year to cater to adventurous diners.

Roast turkey

   The flesh of the turkey is succulent, juicy and tender and complements well with the Szechuan sauce which is mildly piquant with a hint of lemongrass.

Pumpkin soup with fresh crabmeat

   I also love the pumpkin soup which abounds with fresh crabmeat, the flavourful and rich oxtail stew and the honey baked ham with pineapple glaze. For those who desire traditional turkey, the roasted turkey breast with cranberry sauce is also available.

Tempting durian pengat

   Other tantalising items and perennial favourites to look forward to include the seafood on ice, wok-fried black pepper slipper lobster, chilli crab, fried carrot cake and of course, not forgetting the all-time favourite – durian pengat.

Signature log cakes

   A festive meal is not complete without delectable treats such as stollen, Christmas pudding fruit cake, bread and butter pudding and of course log cake. The two new flavours this year are the noisette chocolate yule log and the strawberry yoghurt yuzu yule log. The former is luscious and divine with rich hazelnut cream, hazelnuts, crunchy almond and fluffy chocolate sponge while the latter is tantalising and refreshing with strawberry yoghurt yuzu mousse, crunchy white pearls and almond sponge.

The interior


With Santarina and Angels 

   Ellenborough Market Café is definitely the place to dine if you are looking for a unique feast which includes a blend of both the East and West. For reservations, please call 6239 1847/ 1848 or email dining.merchantcourt@swissotel.com.


Monday, 13 November 2017

Wholesome Italian Cuisine Prepared with Passion at Involtini



   A cosy Italian restaurant housed within L Square in Causeway Bay, Involtini impresses with fine Italian cuisine prepared with passion and finesse. Helmed by local chef, Jack Law, the restaurant specialises in pastas and wholesome Italian favourites.

The interior

   With 14 years of culinary under his belt, Chef Law has honed his skills in Otto E Mezza Bombana and Ciak in the Kitchen. During his time in the restaurants, they were awarded 3 and 1 Michelin star(s) respectively. 

   Using fresh and premium ingredients shipped from Italy, the affable chef believes innovation and passion are vital ingredients in a good dish.

   I was happy to be given the opportunity to try the Autumn Tasting Menu which comprised six flavourful and creative dishes. Every creation was crafted to perfection, showcasing Chef Law’s dedication and attention to detail.

Octopus terrine with quinoa salad and balsamic reduction

   The octopus terrine with quinoa salad and balsamic reduction started my meal on a refreshing note. The sweet succulence of the octopus coupled with the tanginess of the quinoa salad and the intensity of the balsamic reduction brought about a lovely explosion of flavours in every bite.



   The Hokkaido scallop with clam soup was prepared with scallop, olive oil and white wine. Tasty and refreshing, it is the ideal soup for the cool autumn season.

Ravioli stuffed with mortadella and minced guinea fowl

   I love the ravioli which was stuffed with mortadella and minced guinea fowl and topped with deep-fried guanciale (cured pork cheek) for a richer flavour. Every morsel was delightful and perfectly balanced in flavours.

Homemade tagliolini with king prawn and bottarga

   The main highlight of the menu was the homemade tagliolini with king prawn and bottarga (cured fish role). The sauce was meticulously prepared with seven different types of fresh seafood such as prawn, clams, fish and more and the bottarga was added to enhance the flavour and give it a crunchy texture. The al dente pasta was also rolled and twisted into twirls before it was served, giving an elegant touch to the dish.

Pan-fried signature mayura wagyu M9 beef rump flap

   For the mains, you can choose either the slow cooked pigeon breast and fried pigeon leg with beetroot cherry purée or pan-fried signature mayura wagyu M9 beef rump flap. I had the wagyu beef rump which was succulent and flavourful. The carrot purée and pesto mashed potato also complemented the beef well.

Sicilian lemon tart

   The Sicilian lemon tart, a lovely dessert with citrus accents held to refresh my palate, providing a splendid conclusion to a fabulous meal.

Review of the Sicilian lemon tart

Chef Law at the bar area

   The 6-course Autumn Tasting Menu is priced at HK $568 per person. Involtini is located at11F, The L. Square 459 – 461 Lockhart Rd, Causeway Bay. For enquiries, please call +852 2658 2128. 
Alternatively, please visit here.



Thursday, 9 November 2017

Dim Sum with A Twist at Dim Sum Library!


Enjoying the dim sum

    The recent revitalisation of Admiralty’s Pacific Place has also seen the launch of Dim Sum Library, the latest addition to the Aqua Group, which is behind a selection of bespoke restaurants such as Hutong, Shiro, Ayuthaiya, Zafran and of course Aqua.

   Dim Sum Library offers a very unique and interesting concept, enhancing classic recipes with international ingredients such as truffles, foie gras and kimchi. So, if you are looking for dim sum with a twist, you will definitely be enthralled.

   Themed in black and gold, the glamourous interior is reminiscent of Shanghai in the 1920s, with large peacock murals and fancy bird cages.

Innovative dim sum creations

   Each creation is a feast for the senses, exquisitely executed and elegantly plated. However, if you desire traditional dim sum favourites, this may not be the place for you. 


Steamed Hokkaido scallops with home-made pickled chilli

   My favourite item on the menu is the steamed Hokkaido scallops with home-made pickled chilli (HK $138 for 2). Fresh and succulent, the scallops are accentuated with home-made pickled chilli. It offers just a light hint of spiciness, without being too overwhelming.

Hokkaido king crab and sea urchin spring rolls

   The Hokkaido king crab and sea urchin spring rolls (HK $88 for 4) offer a fresh take on the quintessential spring roll. The creamy, custard-like texture of the sea urchin provides a delightful contrast to the crispy spring rolls, enhanced by the sweet succulence of the Hokkaido king crab.


Dan dan noodles with Shanghainese coddled egg

   If you are a fan of spicy food, you will love the dan dan noodles with Shanghainese coddled egg (HK $78) - a noodle dish prepared with robust dan dan sauce (sauce prepared with sesame paste, Sichuan peppercorn, chilli oil and vinegar). 

Dan dan xiao long bao

   The dan dan xiao long bao (HK $48 for 3) which consists of well-loved dumplings filled with minced pork and savoury broth, accented with dan dan sauce is also a popular favourite. Each morsel is a delectable burst of goodness, combining the best of Shanghainese and Sichuan flavours, with just enough spice for a ‘kick’.


Deep-fried taro puff with foie gras

   The deep-fried taro puff with foie gras (HK $58 for 3) lives up to expectation with its creamy taro and foie gras filling enveloped in a light, crispy crust.

Sichuan "ma la" beef cheung fan

   Last but not least, the Sichuan “ma la” beef cheung fan (HK $58 for 3) is a spicy rendition of the conventional rice noodle roll. The roll has a light, delicate and melt-in-the-mouth texture while the “ma la” beef adds a spicy, numbing taste.



   Overall, Dim Sum Library offers dim sum with a contemporary twist in an elegant setting. It is the haven for adventurous diners who are on the search for something unique and different. Dim Sum Library is located at Shop 1`24, 1/F, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway Admiralty, Hong Kong. Reservations are recommneded to avoid disappointment. 
For enquiries and reservations, please call +852 3643 0088. Alternatively, please vist here.