Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ribs and Wings at Jerry's BBQ and Grill, Telok Ayer.

We totally love Ribs! Perhaps not quite as much as we love Steak or Sushi, but Ribs are easily a strong second runner up! There's just something magical about finger-handling tender, sumptuous fall-off-the-bone rib meat that's been smoked and basted for hours in a barbecue sauce glaze.

Our default go-to place for ribs is Morganfield's - partially because they've got a variety of flavours, mostly because they serve the St Louis rib cut - but we're always on the look-out for other places and so find ourselves walking up a really quiet Club Street in search of Jerry's BBQ and Grill.

Jerrys BBQ and Grill

Like many Club Street joints it's a pretty small shop - with probably no more than 20 seats total. 8pm on a Sunday night was quiet with the darling and I being the only diners, though more customers joined in a little later. We started the night's feasting with a small basket of Deep Fried Mushrooms ($7.95) served with a creamy ranch sauce. This basket is quite value for money, actually - it could easily feed 3 or 4 mouths. Crisp batter contrasted well with the juicy mushroom inside, too.

Jerrys BBQ and Grill Deep Fried Mushrooms

We had heard good things about the Buffalo Wings so we ordered four of them for $10.95. The chickens that sacrificed their wings to this plate were some mighty huge birds - these are substantial, meaty wings! You have a choice of several spice levels - we tried the lowest spice level and it was pretty tame (for me) but a little spicy (for the darling). The drumlet meat - all too often dry and overcooked - was moist and juicy here.

Having said that, these really totally aren't Buffalo Wings. The sauce is too tame and has zero vinegar (which is what makes a proper buffalo wing). Yes, I'm a wing elitist.

Jerrys BBQ and Grill Buffalo Wings

The Full Slab of Mesquite BBQ Pork Ribs costs $35.95 and comes with vegetables and your choice of starch (baked potato, potato slad, or fries). Jerry's serves up baby back ribs, which are the cut of ribs from the back of the pig. The darling and I much prefer the St. Louis cut from the "side" of the pig - we feel that cut is meatier, fattier and overall just more delicious.

Although baby backs are still delicious if cooked right, we weren't that impressed with these ribs. They were okay, but a tad bit dry and overcooked. The Mesquite BBQ gravy was delicious, at least.

Jerrys BBQ and Grill Full Rack of Mesquite BBQ Pork Ribs

Overall, prices are decent with sizeable portions, and food's pretty good. It's not a bad place for lunch or dinner if you're in the area, but perhaps not good enough to go out of your way for. Jerry's BBQ and Grill has two outlets - 92 Club Street and 277 Jalan Kayu. Non-halal.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sydney Trip Itinerary - CBD, Sea Life Aquarium and Madame Tussauds.

It's our first day in Sydney! Although the darling's been here many times in the past thanks to her time studying in Melbourne, it's my first visit and I'm excited! For a recap of the entire trip, table of contents and links to other posts, do click here: One Week in Sunny Sydney - Full Trip Itinerary!

Trying to be as efficient as possible we had chosen a red-eye, overnight flight from Singapore to Sydney (transit Kuala Lumpur) on Malaysia Airlines. The flight was really quite restful - and we had satay, which is probably the best anything we've ever eaten at 35,000 feet - thanks to a really cheap SGD150 upgrade to Business Class! Do check out our previous post on the flight if you're interested.

Malaysia Airlines Business Class

Upon landing we cleared immigration and customs - all the while looking around for film crews in case they happened to be filming another episode of Border Security - and boarded a shuttle van to Apex Car Rentals to pick up our Hyundai Elantra.

A note on car rentals in Australia: The major rental chains like Hertz, Budget etc have really exorbitant excess charges - anywhere from AUD2,000 to AUD4,000. This excess is the base amount that you need to pay if you get into an accident, even if it wasn't your fault! So you normally either pay an extra AUD20-40 a day to reduce this excess, or just suck it up and eat the risk.

The smaller, boutique rental shops like Apex tend to have more reasonable terms, though - we paid just AUD43/day for this Elantra with zero excess. This zero excess also applies for accidents that are your fault, so it's great having peace of mind of not ever needing to pony up extra money for any mishaps while driving in a foreign country.

Sydney Apex Car Rentals

The next note on driving in Australia is that parking rates in the cities are insane. And if you think I'm exaggerating, check out this AUD79 for 3 hours madness in a CBD (Central Business District) car park:

Sydney Apex Car Rentals

It isn't all that bad, though - there are a number of ways to reduce your parking costs - first of which is a fixed flat daily rate from AUD8 to AUD17 if you're visiting the Sea Life Aquarium or any of a number of tourist attractions within the CBD. It's still not cheap, but in our opinion a very reasonable rate to pay. As of time of writing the below six car parks qualify for the flat rate parking - just park your car, take the ticket, and have it validated by the counter staff at the Aquarium when purchasing your tickets. Do also check out the aquarium's cheap parking website as well for the latest updates, just in case they remove or add any participating car parks.

Sydney Cheap CBD Parking

In all, there are five CBD attractions that have common ticketing:

- Sea Life Aquarium
- Manly Sea Life Sanctuary
- Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
- Wild Life Sydney Zoo
- The Sydney Tower Eye

As you might expect, you get significant discounts when purchasing multiple attractions at once. For example, a single Sea Life Aquarium ticket costs AUD40, whereas Sea Life Aquarium + two other attractions is AUD70. You get even better prices by purchasing online. As always, make sure you take note of any T&C attached to these discounted tickets.

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Anyways, if you've never been to an aquarium then the Sea Life Aquarium is similar to pretty much every other aquarium (like KL's Aquaria KLCC or Osaka's Kaiyukan): there's typically a huge central tank housing the really big fish - sharks, tuna, etc - flanked by dozens of smaller tanks with smaller fish and other marine life from around the world. Most aquariums also have a touch pool which lets you reach in and feel different rays and starfish, etc. It's a perfect visit if you've got young children - and a very good one if you don't.

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Do make sure you check out the feeding times for the various tanks! Two of the more interesting-sounding feeding times (in our view) are the shark feeding at 11am and the penguin feeding at 3pm:

"11:00am - Reef Theatre: JAWsome Shark Feed
Sit back and relax while we feed the animals in our largest tank in front of the best view in the aquarium at Great Barrier Reef. If you're interested in feeding the animals yourself check out the Glass Bottom Boat for a hands on experience!

3pm - South Coast Shipwreck: Playful Little Penguin Feed
Get your happy feet down to the South Coast Shipwreck and watch our cute and cuddlycolony of gorgeous Little Penguins having lunch."

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

One thing the darling and I didn't count on is the fatigue from the previous night's lack of sleep. In hindsight it was perhaps rather ambitious to plan an overnight flight and immediately launch into a full day of sightseeing - after all, even though the flight itself was 7-ish hours, we only slept for perhaps two thirds of that. We were so tired we had to find a bench inside the aquarium, sit down and take a 15 minute nap!

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

After the aquarium and a short water break, we move on to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Not going to go into too much detail here as you probably already know that Madame Tussaud's casts life-sized wax replicas of various historical figures, politicians and celebrities for visitors to pose and take photos with. We're not sure if we'd pay the stand-alone entry fee of AUD40; but as a reduced-cost package it was a pretty nice visit.

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

One thing we did notice was that Madame Tussaud's hasn't seemed to have mastered the proper skin tone for Asians yet - check out the below rendition of "Jackie Chan with Jaundice":

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

After filling up our camera memory cards we walk over to the Sydney Tower Eye for our third and last CBD attraction visit for the day. The Tower Eye entrance is actually inside Westfield Sydney, on the 5th floor. The observation deck sits at 250m above sea level, and although it's perhaps not quite as high as newer towers like the 450m deck on the Tokyo Skytree, you still do get pretty impressive views of the city.

Sydney Tower Eye

If you still have time to spare, you could kill an hour or two at places like the Queen Victoria Building (shopping mall). By the time we were done with Tower eye it was quite late, though, so we walked over to Sepia for dinner. We chose Sepia because it has won Sydney's Restaurant of the Year award three times in the SMH Good Food Guide 2012, 2014 and 2015 editions, and it didn't disappoint! Food's really, really good - you can head on over to our previous blogpost for the complete dinner review.

Sepia Restaurant Sydney

Completely stuffed and satisfied after the dinner, we pick up our car from the parking lot and head home! By home, of course I mean our home-away-from-home temporary accommodation. For holiday accommodation it's tough to give recommendations on a blogpost because everyone has different needs (single traveller vs extended family), and different budgets (backpacker vs elite luxury traveller). Having said that, we rented a lovely two-bedroom apartment less than 200m away from Coogee Beach for around AUD200 per night (four beds, six adults) off stayz.com (airbnb clone).

Stay tuned for the next post in this series coming up shortly!

One Week in Sunny Sydney - Full Trip Itinerary!

The darling and I recently spent a week in beautiful sunny Sydney! Our overall itinerary is listed below, and we'll be progressively updating the blog with more and more details over the next few days.

Day 0: Business Class overnight flight from Singapore to Sydney --> Write-Up Here
Day 1: CBD, Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussaud's and the Sydney Tower Eye --> Write-Up Here
Day 1: Dinner at Sepia, Sydney's best Restaurant --> Write-Up Here
Day 2: Daytrip North: Fruit picking, Terrigal, The Entrance and Watson's Bay
Day 3: Daytrip South: Hyam's Beach, Dolphin Watch Cruising from Jervis Bay and the Kiama Blowhole
Day 4: Sydney Opera House and The Rocks
Day 5: Bondi Beach, Sydney Fish Market, Paddy's Markets and Chinatown
Day 6: Daytrip West: The Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves
Day 7: End of visit: Jetstar Flight to Melbourne.

OK so if I'm particularly honest it's more like just six days (ahem). Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore - Osteria Mozza by Chef Mario Batali, MBS.

Let me preface this post by saying that no, we haven't visited all the hundreds of Italian restaurants in town before concluding that Osteria Mozza is Singapore's best Italian restaurant. The spirit is more than willing but the wallet (and bank account) is weak, so we defer to the experts on San Pellegrino & Acqua Panna's Asia's 50 best restaurants panel - 2015 edition. A total of ten Singapore eateries made the list this year, and Osteria Mozza was the highest-ranked Italian restaurant, so by extension it's the best Italian restaurant in town ... right?

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore

Opened by Celebrity Chef Mario Batali, the restaurant sits proudly opposite the Marina Bay Sands theatre. Decor is a stylish blend of modern chic and traditional wood-panels-everywhere; service is competent and friendly but not quite 'fine dining.' That's OK though, we much prefer the noise and energy in the dining room and not having to worry about whispering to each other over the table.

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore

Let's eat! The amuse-bouche of home made Ricotta Cheese with Olive Tapenade gets chowed down in a single bite - it's a pretty nice introduction to the rest of the food that's on the way.

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore Amuse Bouche

As is hinted at by the restaurant's name, Osteria Mozza makes a whole lot of fresh cheeses daily - mostly around the Mozzarella variety. The chef-recommended cheese starter is the Burrata with California Sterling Royal Caviar, red onion, egg and chive ($48). If like us you've never heard of burrata, it's an Italian cheese made by combining hot kneaded mozzarella and fresh cream, and tastes like a very stretchy, light mozzarella (with a consistency not unlike mochi). And if like us you've also never heard of California Sterling Royal Caviar, it's the deliciously juicy and slightly briny eggs of farm-raised fully grown white sturgeon. We're absolute newbies to the world of caviar so we've got no idea how this matches up to the actual eggs of wild-caught beluga sturgeon, though.

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore Burrata with Caviar

If the first cheese dish was portioned a little on the small side, the next one - Smoked Buffalo Mozzarella with Prosciutto di Parma - absolutely overcompensates. For $25 we get an entire plate of the luscious Italian ham with a generous dollop of Italian water buffalo cheese. The ham is gorgeously fatty and deliciously salty ... initially. Towards the end we were struggling to finish the salty ham. Too much of a good thing, perhaps?

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore Buffalo Mozarella with Prosciutto di Parma

We move on to primo portions of pasta, and perhaps make a slight mistake in ordering two very similar dishes: Maltagliati with Duck Ragu ($26) and Tagliatelle with Oxtail Ragu ($29). Ragu means meat sauce, and you would need to be a sommelier to detect any major flavour differences in either preparation. Other than the difference in meat, of course.

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore Maltagliati with Duck Ragu

One slight disappointment - both these pastas are quite a bit on the salty side. Either small portion in isolation would be fine, but when we're eating two salty pastas immediately after polishing down an entire plate of salty Prosciutto ... you probably get the picture. Perhaps the wait staff could have (should have (?)) given us a head's up when taking our orders?

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore Tagliatelle with Oxtail Ragu

All the pastas are also available in roughly double-priced (and presumably double-sized) secondo portions if you're so inclined. We decided instead to share a gorgeous Pan Roasted Iberico Pork Chop with fennel, onion and sambuca ($68) - cooked medium. Did we already mention it was gorgeous? Both on the plate and in the mouth. The pork was cooked just right, and with the perfect amount of fat to ensure a taste of heaven in every bite.

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore Pan Roasted Iberico Pork Chop

By the end of the pork chop we were absolutely stuffed and passed on dessert, except for a scoop of candle-lit vanilla gelato - compliments of the house as congratulations for our anniversary.

Osteria Mozza Best Italian Restaurant in Singapore Vanilla Gelato

Food here doesn't come cheap - around $240 for the both of us. We're not quite sure whether this is expensive, to be honest. On one hand $120/pax is a lot of money; on the other hand the food's damn good (except for the sodium overload) and the price tag is a hell of a lot lower than any of the other nine Singaporean entrants on Asia's top 50.

So we conclude that the food here is both pricey and reasonable at the same time (yay indecisiveness!). Price tag aside the pasta here is miles better than that other celebrity restaurant Jamie's Italian, which frankly was somewhat disappointing given Jamie Oliver's immense popularity.

Osteria Mozza is in Marina Bay Sands. Reservations highly recommended - the restaurant is always full even on weekday nights. Non-halal.