Tag Archives: singapore

Hot Tomato Cafe & Grill @ Nex Mall

Hot Tomato Cafe & Grill
Hot Tomato Cafe & Grill

Looking for a reasonably priced, no frill western restaurant in a shopping mall? Hot Tomato Cafe & Grill is a good choice.

I won’t proclaim the food as fantastic, but they are as good as it get for the prices they offered. Rachel and I seldom spend more than $30+ for a two pax dinner, inclusive of GST and service charge.

We would usually order a steak main and top up to a set meal that  comes with bread, soup and a soft drink.

Soup, bread and drink that comes with the set menu
Soup, bread and drink that comes with the set menu
Steak with spaghetti
Steak with spaghetti
Half a roast chicken
Half a roast chicken
Steak with grilled prawns
Steak with grilled prawns
Restaurant interior
Restaurant interior
Asher playing with the restaurant staff
Asher playing with the restaurant staff

 The service at Hot Tomato is pretty excellent. On our last visit there a few weeks ago, Rachel, Asher and I witnessed how the manager at the Nex outlet dealt with a particularly unreasonable customer.

The lady (let’s call her Beach) had came into the restaurant together with her two teenage daughters a few minutes earlier than us. When their orders arrived, the daughters did not want the salad sides and Beach requested to change it to spaghetti. When the waitress politely told her this was not possible as these are standard items, she kicked up a big fuss and started complaining that the salad and all the food were cold. She loudly asked to speak to the manager and went on a long, loud tirade which all in the restaurant can hear.

A very memorable quote came out of Beach: “We are not cheapskate. I came here instead of going KFC because we wanted better service and a good meal. I am very vocal you know. I am a US university graduate you know, not any uneducated auntie. Just so you know, I am a graduate and have stayed in the US for many years.”

In my head I was thinking – so? What has being a graduate or having stayed overseas got to do with anything? To Rachel and I, it just reflects snobbery to the highest extent.

The manager was surprisingly patient and slowly pacified Beach, offering her free sides and to change the salad for her at no cost. All in the name of good service.

Beach’s two daughters hung their heads in shame, seeing that all eyes were now focused on them, thanks to their mother’s crazy antics.

Their mother went on to tell the manager all sort of irreverent cock-and-bull story about her superior upbringing and how the restaurant has caused her embarrassment and  distress; now that everyone was staring at her table (as if it was not her own fault). Beach particularly singled out an Indian couple seated near to her table for mention, repeatedly saying to the manager that they kept staring at her, making her uncomfortable.

When the Indian couple walked out of the restaurant, the male turned around and cheekily said to Beach with a big smile on his face: “Madam, thank you for the free entertainment tonight.You made my day. Your children are much better behaved than you”.

I find it pretty hilarious and wanted to show the guy a double thumbs-up. Before I could do that, Beach started shouting off the top of her lungs: “You better watch out, you will have karma! I curse your children! I curse the two of you! Stay here I call police!”

That agitated theIndian lady who walked back to confront Beach. Luckily, the very professional manager intervened and got both parties to calm down.

It was really great entertainment that night. It made me learn to respect those in the service line more, having personally witnessed the kind of shit customers they have to deal with at times.

Beach is a total disgrace as a mother and as a fellow Singaporean. By bringing up her “US graduate” upbringing, it reflects the kind of crap elitist mindset that I detest the most, but I fear may be very prevalent in Singapore society.

Anyway, if you are interested to visit Hot Tomato, here’s the details for their Nex outlet:

Address: 23 Serangoon Central, #B1-47 NEX Mall
Tel: +65 6753 4300
Opening Hours: Daily, 11am – 10pm

They have many other outlets spread around Singapore. Visit Hot Tomato’s website for more details. 


Word clouds: PAP manifesto vs WP manifesto

I learnt how to use Wordle.net to create word clouds today and thought to compare the PAP Manifesto 2011 with the Workers’ Party Manifesto 2011. Can you spot the differences?

PAP Manifesto 2011:

Wordle: PAP Manifesto 2011Workers’ Party Manifesto 2011:

Wordle: Workers' Party Manifesto 2011I generated a word cloud from the PAP Manifesto 2006 too:

Wordle: PAP Manifesto 2006Just for the sake of comparison. 🙂 It is interesting that certain words in the WP manifesto have not appeared at all on the PAP manifestos.

Stranger in my own country

I haven’t been out shopping on a weekend for a long while as I do not like crowded and noisy places. On Sunday, over the Hari Raya weekend, Rachel and I decided to catch a movie at Marina Square and do some window shopping in the city hall area.

Once I stepped out of the MRT station, I feel like a tourist in a foreign land. Seriously.

The sights and sounds of the people around me – I would say only one out of ten is clearly discernible as a second generation or above, Singapore-born Singaporean (you have to be really clear and specific on the term “Singaporean” since it is so loosely used nowadays).

Singapore is a young nation state. It took the government more than 40 years to build up a sense of national identity among our multi-racial and multi-cultural citizenry. Yet in the past few years, the rapid influx of foreigners to spur economic growth has quickly eroded whatever national identity that was slowly evolving.

Uniquely Singapore? Beyond food and a series of economic-related world firsts, what else defines Singapore?

These days, I find it interesting that one actually feel a sense of homeliness when you encounter a service staff who is Singaporean – whether at posh shopping malls, your neighbour shops, uppity restaurants or hawker centres.

I am not xenophobic, but it is strange isn’t it? Aren’t we in Singapore in the first place?

Hence the first question I asked Rachel when I met her outside Raffles City: “What country am I in?”

Auditor-General chided sloppy civil servants

Transparency in Singapore Civil Service
Transparency in Singapore Civil Service

You can the full Report of the Auditor-General for the Financial Year 2008/09 HERE. It’s a 62 pages PDF file.

Quite a few government ministries and statutory boards were named and shamed, of which the champion is the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Full story via Straits Times.com:

THE Auditor-General (AG) has chided civil servants for being sloppy in their management of public funds. He accuses them of tending to opt for what is convenient administratively over financial prudence and being lax in enforcing penalties and other contractual rights.

They are also too ready in accepting the recommendations of consultants, added A-G Lim Soo Ping.

One government agency whose slip-ups are particularly costly is regulator Media Development Authority (MDA).

Its lapses, which filled nine pages of a 40-page report released by the A-G on Tuesday, included failing to collect an estimated $9.89 million in revenue. The sum was from 46 films in which it invested and which were screened, some as long ago as 4-1/2 years. In addition, the MDA did not review whether these projects met such objectives as creating jobs for Singaporeans.

Such shortcomings in contract management and in the procurement of goods and services formed a significant portion of the lapses uncovered in the yearly audit of government agencies, the A-G said, in his latest report for the financial year ending March 31 this year.

Mr Lim blamed the lapses partly on officers who were ‘inclined towards administrative convenience with financial prudence taking a back seat’. Also, some officers were too ready to take at face value the recommendations of consultants, without giving enough thought to the financial implications. ‘A small dose of scepticism is always helpful,’ he said.

Contractual obligations were also not followed. For instance, at the Institute of Technical Education, a contractor underperformed for more than a year. There were delays and the landscaping work was unsatisfactory. Yet, no damages were imposed on the contractor.

Another reason for the lapses is that the approving authorities place too much trust in the proposals and recommendations submitted to them, said the A-G. They assume the officers have thoroughly considered all factors, like a fair and transparent procurement process.

‘Many lapses can be avoided if the approving authorities are more rigorous in their scrutiny and ask the pertinent, if inconvenient, questions,’ the A-G said. As a result of the lapses, there is ‘little or no assurance of value for money in projects carried out’, said Mr Lim.

The agencies have promised the A-G to tighten their processes. MDA is, among other things, introducing a system to track revenues from film projects.



Spring Singapore renovated its chairman’s office in Bukit Merah in early 2007. But new chairman Philip Yeo continued to work at Biopolis in Buona Vista, at his old office in A*Star where he had been the chairman.

Spring also paid rent for the Biopolis office. When the place had to be vacated, it leased space at nearby Fusionopolis for the chairman and other users.

About $2 million was unnecessarily spent on renting and renovating these offices, the Auditor-General noted.


The Urban Redevelopment Authority gave the nod for a pilot project on an electronic parking system for its carparks in 2003. It has yet to be implemented.


The Education Ministry could have saved $1 million to $15 million if it had not rejected the lowest 11 bids for school cleaning contracts in 2006.

It felt the bids were not realistic but the A-G noted the bids were only 5 to 9 per cent below the market norm.

Also, four of them were past contractors whose services the ministry had found to be satisfactory.


The Media Development Authority appoints mentors to recommend start-up companies in interactive and digital media. Each can get a grant of up to $50,000. But four start-ups were founded and co-owned by mentors.

Also, an expert appointed by MDA to evaluate grant applications was found to be a shareholder in one start-up and a business partner of the mentor of nine other companies that got the grant.


The Institute of Technical Education did not do an evaluation study before spending $1.25 million on converting multi-purpose rooms into 12 hostel rooms for overseas exchange students.

The occupancy rate last year was only 28 per cent, noted the A-G.

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Quoteworthy – Charles Chong

Mr Chong You Fook, Charles
Mr Chong You Fook, Charles

“When you ask Singaporean residents for feedback, they will complain that they have to wait more than 15 minutes for the bus. But when you ask new immigrants, they are happy that the bus comes in under 30 minutes.”

Charles Chong, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC

Source: Helping foreigners fit in (Straits Times, 16 June, 2009)

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