Catch Alvinology on Channel NewsAsia’s SG+

CNA interview in my home
CNA interview in my home

I was interviewed for an episode of SG+ which will be showing on Channel NewsAsia (CNA) on Tuesday (1 Oct 2013) at 8pm.

SG+ is described by CNA as a weekly current affairs programme that examines complex long-term issues facing Singapore as we redefine our future.

The topic I was interviewed on was whether social media affects Singaporeans’ trust in the government – in a densely connected online world, social media and networks have great potential in influencing our thoughts and actions. Does it affect our trust in the government and public institutions?

I hope I did okay as I was running a slight fever that day. I decided to go ahead with the interview as the CNA crew had specially arranged to come over my home for the shoot.

Do share your thoughts on this issue by leaving comments. 🙂

Movie Review – Prisoners (2013)

Thanks to the folks from Cathay, Rachel and I caught the preview screening of the movie, Prisoners last week.

Prisoners is a 2013 American crime thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve, with screenplay written by Aaron Guzikowski, and with Mark Wahlberg as the executive producer. The film stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Paul Dano. It premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival.

Synopsis:

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His 6-year-old daughter and her young friend are missing, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, but a lack of evidence forces the only suspect’s release. Knowing his child’s life is at stake, the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. The desperate father will do whatever it takes to find the girls, but in doing so, may lose himself, begging the question: When do you cross the line between seeking justice and becoming a vigilante?

Prisoners received positive reviews from critics. The film currently has a 79% approval rating on review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 130 reviews. It was also a second runner up for the BlackBerry People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Rachel and I both enjoyed the movie very much and agree with the critics on the positive reviews.

At 153 minutes, the movie is pretty long. Nonetheless, there are enough twists and turns to the plot to keep you in constant suspense.

The director and cast also put in excellent work on the characterisation of each role. Gyllenhaal was particularly noteworthy as a twitchy cop who is a little unorthodox in his methods with half-hidden tattoos and a devil-may-care attitude to his superior. Although he is the one with the badge, his character is ready to play around within the system when he is pushed to his limits.

Detective Loki interrogating a suspect
Detective Loki interrogating a suspect

Jackman plays his nemesis of sort, as a concerned father turned criminal, ready to take things into his own hands when driven to desperation.

It is a crazy, stressful race against time when two young girls go missing and you know their chance of survival ticks away with each passing day, each passing minute. The audience is kept in constant suspense and tension, anxious for the girls to be saved.

At a macro level, the movie revolves around the theme of being trapped, like prisoners – in direct reference to the girls; indirectly, Keller Dover and Dectective Loki who are both pushed to their limits to find the girls; even the perpetrator of the crime who sees the crime as a battle against God and humanity, without giving away too much of the plot.

Prisoners is now showing in Singapore cinemas. If you enjoy movies like Silence of the Lamb and Twelve Monkeys, Prisoners is a must-see. Go catch it! 🙂

Clear Men Fresh Tips

Do you use your girlfriend’s or wife’s shampoo?

Do you know how much shampoo you should use each time you wash your hair?

Unilever’s Clear Men, the world’s number one male shampoo has come up with a series of fresh tips videos for men.

Check them out via Clear Men’s official youtube channel, starting with these two:

The videos are kept short, fun and witty, making them quick to watch for the time-starved urban males. 

For more tips, follow #freshtips, Clear Men’s official facebook page for Singapore or their official Twitter account.

[Book Review] Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Book cover
Book cover

We all have fixated views about beefcakes and supermodels don’t we?

When you hear the name Arnold Schwarzenegger, what comes to mind?

Himbo?

Dumb beefcake?

Arnold is living testament to how wrong stereotypes can be. His autography, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, tells an extraordinary story on the extraordinary success of a very smart and driven person.

Born in a broken and poor Austria after WWII, Arnold documents his journey to the United States and how he worked towards his single-minded dream to first become the top bodybuilder in the world, followed by one of the top stars in Hollywood and eventually, the mayor of California.

Was the autobiography honest?

Yes and no. I find him more candid on the earlier part of his life. The accounts read more guarded and scripted in his description on how he became a Republican and how he came to run for political office.

On a personal level, the story reads like a long apology note to his wife, in an attempt to patch up their recent divorce due to his infidelity in fathering a son with their housekeeper.

Otherwise, I find this book pretty inspirational and enjoyable to read. This is better than a lot of self-help craps out there – at least we know Arnold walked the talk with spectacular results to show.

Arnold signing a copy of his book (picture via The Guardian)
Arnold signing a copy of his book (picture via The Guardian)

At the pinnacle of his bodybuilding career, Arnold had the perfect body both men and women would die for.

He had his fair share of beautiful women in his lifetime and eventually married Maria Shriver, a rare combination of beauty and intelligence. They had three lovely children together and a happy family.

Even before he started his Hollywood career, Arnold was already a self-made millionaire from shrewd property investments. He arrived in America dirt-poor, self-schooled himself through community colleges and worked his way up doing sales, construction and all kinds of odd jobs. This is a true story of the American Dream.

Arnold set a goal to become one of the top star in Hollywood and he achieved it by sitting out for only leading roles. Who can forget his role as the Terminator? He could have become a mediocre action star during his era who faded into obscurity now like Chuck Norris or Jean-Claude Van Damme, but he rise above all through shrewd career moves.

When he entered politics, there were lots of skeptics who were happy to poke fun of him as a caricature, but look what he has achieved. He leveraged on his perceived weakness as strength, gaining ground by playing up the underdog image.

Reading Arnold’s book impressed upon me that nothing is impossible with a can-do attitude and good work ethics.

I was not a fan of Arnold before reading this book, neither am I after reading it, but I am an admirer of what he have achieved and how he went about achieving all the accomplishment he set out for himself.

Instead of reading self-help books written by self-help gurus who only became rich and famous by writing those books, Arnold wrote his book after he became rich and famous.

The book is a good read. Do check it out.

Bellwethers Bistro Bar @ Desker Road

Yes, you read it correctly.

Bellwethers Bistro Bar is located at Desker Road, the infamous red light district in Singapore for the budget-conscious.

Bellwethers Bistro and Bar
Bellwethers Bistro Bar

The owners were inspired by their travel to Amsterdam and felt it will be interesting to locate their restaurant in a colourful neighbourhood. Geylang is the designated red light district in Singapore, but is also where all the good food are. Why not Desker Road too?

The restaurant’s location makes it an interesting place to hang out and do some people watching – the foreign workers diaspora in the Little India area, budget travelers staying in the many backpackers’ hostels in the area and of course, a little of the sleaze that sometime spill from the hidden back alleys.

Open bar
Open bar

Rest assured it is safe. We are still in Singapore whereby it is safe in the street, even past midnight. The restaurant is also located on the main street along Desker Road, near to many commercial shophouses where the pedestrian traffic is quite high.

I quite like the ambience. Who would have thought there is a nice little restaurant hidden in a corner of Desker Road?

All the meat at the restaurant are freshly prepared by the chef at an open grill:

The open grill
The open grill
Bellwethers' Chef Warren at work
Bellwethers’ Chef Warren at work

Here are the items I tried at Bellwethers Bistro Bar:

Pan fried prawns and eggs tapas (S$10)
Pan fried prawns and eggs tapas (S$10)
Cucumber drink
Cucumber drink
Iberian pork collar salad (S$13) - love this, must-try
Iberian pork collar salad (S$13) – love this, must-try
Chicken strips with spicy tomato dip (S$9)
Chicken strips with spicy tomato dip (S$9)
Grilled Herb Infused Chicken (serves 3) S$30
Grilled Herb Infused Chicken (serves 3) S$30

The chicken is marinated in brine and herbs for six hours to tenderize the flesh, then grilled over fire. The dish is served with chicken port sauce and Romesco sauce (a blend of almonds, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil).

Iberian Presa with roasted pineapple (serves 3-4) S$70
Iberian Presa with roasted pineapple (serves 3-4) S$70

The Iberian pork collar is dipped into a marinate that consists of soya sauce, thyme, garlic, balsamic vinegar and hot oil. The oil mix creates an emulsion thus enhancing the flavours of the marinate, giving a crispier caramilisation.

Close-up shot of the pork
Close-up shot of the pork

The dish is served with homemade pork sauce made with roasted pork bones and chicken boiled with mirepoix (chopped vegetables) and red wine vinegar. The pineapple is first poached in a mixture of sugar syrup, rosemary, black peppercorn, Szechuan peppercorn, star anise and cinnamon to infuse the flavours. After infusion, the meat is roasted on the grill with olive oil.

Lamb Rack with grilled vegetables. (serves 2-3) S$60
Lamb Rack with grilled vegetables. (serves 2-3) S$60
Close-up shot of the lamb
Close-up shot of the lamb

The lamb rack is cooked as a whole and then rested to make sure the juices circulate. A layer of fats is kept on the lamb so that it is moist as it grills.

Close-up shot of the grilled vegetables
Close-up shot of the grilled vegetables

The lamb is served, dressed with a raspberry mint sauce, together with grilled vegetables seasoned consisting of carrots, onions, red and yellow peppers and kailan stem. Note that the vegetables may vary according to market seasonal offering. Sometimes there may be bamboo shoot, asparagus or beetroot.

Beef prime rib with chunky mash (Serves 4-5) S$130/kg
Beef prime rib with chunky mash (Serves 4-5) S$130/kg

Rangers Valley dry-aged 300 days grain-fed Wagyu beef is used for this dish. The beef is further dry-aged by the chef for at least 10 more days in the kitchen to enhance the flavours, then broiled over the open grill. The mashed potato side is cooked with homemade roasted garlic butter and rustically served for sharing.

Close-up shot of the beef
Close-up shot of the beef

Nice isn’t it?

The prices are pretty reasonable too, considering the premium meat cuts and the generous servings.

Bellwethers Bistro Bar is running a special promotion with Alvinology.com. Simply say” “I am from alvinology.com” if you visit Bellwethers Bistro Bar  and enjoy a FREE glass of lychee Martini per person, no strings attached, no minimum order! This offer is valid till 30 October 2013. Sweet? 🙂

Bellwethers Bistro Bar

Address: 120 Desker Road
Phone: 6297-9066
Hours: Mon – Sat: 17:00 – 01:00, Closed: Sun

Ayataka – Heaven and Earth’s newest Japanese Green Tea

Coca-Cola Singapore recently announced the launch of Ayataka, a ready-to-drink Japanese Green Tea bearing the taste and cloudiness of authentic Japanese teapot-brewed tea.

Ayataka is the newest addition to the Heaven and Earth tea range, which includes other drinks such as Jasmine Green Tea, Ice Lemon Tea, Ice Passionfruit tea and Honey Chamomile Green Tea.

Ayataka is described by Coca-Cola as  brewed using carefully selected tea leaves, contains no preservatives and is calorie free. By gently swirling the product before drinking, you can see the cloudiness and enjoy the experience of drinking traditional green tea on-the-go.

I tried Ayataka and like the fact that it is not sweet. I like drinking tea, but I find many of the canned or bottled tea drinks too sweet for my liking. Ayataka is a nice addition to a narrow list of non-sweet tea options for me.

The part on the cloudiness is interesting, but I do not find it necessary to masquerade the drink into authentic Japanese teapot-brewed tea which it is obviously not. It works for other consumers though – like the 100 maiko (apprentice geisha) and geiko (geisha) whom Coca-Cola said it did a taste test with:

“In a taste test conducted in Kyoto, Japan, with 100 maiko (apprentice geisha) and geiko (geisha), Ayataka emerged amongst other leading Japanese green tea brands in Singapore as the closest to authentic Japanese teapot brewed tea, as well as the best tasting Japanese green tea.”

Heaven and Earth Ayataka Japanese Green Tea comes in 315ml cans, 500ml bottles and 1.5L bottles. It is sold at all major supermarkets, hypermarkets, convenience stores and coffee shops across Singapore and is priced from S$0.75 to S$1.75.

In conjunction with Ayataka’s launch, from 20th August to 15th October 2013, consumers will stand the chance to win authentic Japanese experiences that include a trip to Japan, Japanese spa treatments, as well as Japanese dining vouchers. Visit the official Coca-Cola Singapore website for more details.

Tim Ho Wan (添好運) @ Toa Payoh Central

Riding on the success of it’s first restaurant in Singapore at Plaza Singapura, Michelin star Hong Kong dim sum restaurant, Tim Ho Wan (添好運) has opened a second outlet in Singapore.

Tim Ho Wan at Toa Payoh
Tim Ho Wan at Toa Payoh

I am super happy because it is located in Toa Payoh Central, my residential neighbourhood. Now, I can boast to others that I stay near a Michelin star restaurant!

I had always wanted to try the dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, but I cannot bring myself to join the long queue at the Plaza Singapura restaurant. Queuing more than an hour for food is too crazy for me.

Now with a second outlet opened and a third one upcoming in Bedok, hopefully, the queue will spread itself out among the three restaurants. 

I was among the fortunate few who were invited for a private dinner tasting at the Toa Payoh outlet opening together with Tim Ho Wan’s chef-founder Mak Kwai Pui and the Singapore restaurants co-owner, Singapore-born, Hong Kong-based Mr Robert Chua, a well-known television personality often credited for being one of Asia’s pioneer broadcasters.

Chef Mak on the left with me and my friend, Han Joo
Chef Mak Kwai Pui on the left with me and my friend, Han Joo
Han Joo and I with the super friendly Mr Robert Chua
Han Joo and I with the super friendly Mr Robert Chua

These are the dishes I sampled:

The signature Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (S$4.50 for 3)
The signature Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (S$4.50 for 3) – Top must-try item!
A little crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside
A little crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside
Prawn dumplings ($$5.50 for 4) - I love these, the skin is thin and it's juicy inside
Prawn dumplings ($$5.50 for 4) – I love these, the skin is thin and it’s juicy inside
Fried Noodle with BBQ Pork and Soy Sauce (S$6.00)
Fried Noodle with BBQ Pork and Soy Sauce (S$6.00)
Deep Fried Dumpling with Salted Meat (S$3.80)
Deep Fried Dumpling with Salted Meat (S$3.80)
The filling
The filling
 Vermicelli Roll with Sweet and Sesame Sauce (S$4.20)
Vermicelli Roll with Sweet and Sesame Sauce (S$4.20)
Wasabi Salad Prawn Dumpling (S$5)
Wasabi Salad Prawn Dumpling (S$5)
Pan Fried Carrot Cake (S$4.50 for 3)
Pan Fried Carrot Cake (S$4.50 for 3)
Steamed Spinach Dumpling with Shrimp (S$3.80 for 4)
Steamed Spinach Dumpling with Shrimp (S$3.80 for 4)
Steamed Chicken Feet with Abalone Sauce (S$5)
Steamed Chicken Feet with Abalone Sauce (S$5)
Steamed Egg Cake (S$3.80)
Steamed Egg Cake (S$3.80) – must-try
Mango Pomelo Sago (S$5.00)
Mango Pomelo Sago (S$5.00)
Tonic Medlar & Osmanthus Cake (S$3.50) - this is good, must-try
Tonic Medlar & Osmanthus Cake (S$3.50) – this is good, must-try

Delighted with what I tried, I braved the queue over the next weekend with my wife and son, determined that my family should also savour the good stuff I had tried.

Surprisingly, the queue took only about half an hour even though it extended all the way from the restaurant entrance to the elevator. There are also seats for those queuing, so the experience was not too bad. Rachel and I did some reading while Asher was fast asleep in his stroller.

Queue outside the restaurant
Queue outside the restaurant

The food was really good. Here are some additional items I tried with my family:

Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver (S$5.50) - must-try
Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver (S$5.50) – must-try
Porridge for Asher
Porridge for Asher
Asher enjoying his meal
Asher enjoying his meal

So good I went back again a few days later for my farewell lunch with two of my omy.sg colleagues. I also ordered 15 boxes of the signature char siew buns to bring back as treats for my SPH colleagues. Note that the restaurant does not offer takeaway service – they will provide you with styrofoam boxes and plastic bags, but the 10% service charge and 7% GST still apply for takeaway orders.

After having eaten at Tim Ho Wan, I now understand why people are willing to queue for over two hours for it. You have to try it to understand. 🙂

Tim Ho Wan (添好運)

Address: ERA Centre, 450 Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #02-02, Singapore 319394
Tel: +65-6483-2000 (no, they do not accept reservations)