Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: April 2018

Bite Size Review: Wild Honey

Wild Honey has two branches in Singapore; one in Scotts Square and one in the Mandarin Gallery. We rolled into the Scotts Square establishment early on a Saturday evening. Decor is quite homely and living roomy. We were greeted by a hostess at the door and in a brain spasm I said we had a room booked instead of a table. That was fun. And also the last form of non-robotic human interaction we would have.

Wild Honey’s raison d’etre is an all day breakfast menu. It’s a wide ranging menu with a lot of choice. These were our choices:

I opted for the Norwegian to get my brain ready for the type of fare I’ll probably be stuffing my face with for the coming few years.

Here’s what they looked like when served ala expectation vs reality:

Not bad.

Not bad again.

So Mrs. Horizons was very happy with her bowl of grains but I was less so with my Norwegian. It tasted fine, don’t get me wrong (Pretenders, 1986) but it was just too soft of a dish. Gloopy. Mushy. Sloppy. Everything had a runni-ness to it. “What about the asparagus and brioche bread?” though I hear you yell. Didn’t help. The bread has a nice initial crunch but then that had the soft vibe to it. Then the asparagus was just too hard in the midst of all the splurge. Balance is what is needed. Remove the hollandaise, remove the salmon pearls, remove the avocado (tiny portion that is is). The poached egg yolk is all that is needed for a sauce component. The salmon ends up drowned in egg yolk and hollandaise. Respect the salmon!

Anyway this is what it looked like when you cut one portion in half. Nsfw.

It has to be said the beer choice is not wide; one IPA and one Belgian ale. A mojito was chosen under duress here. Both dishes were steep on cost and were in the mid to high $20s.

Service, as I alluded to earlier, was to-the-point and monotone when ordering the food. It was fine just not overly friendly. Getting the attention of the servers to pay the bill was more work than I wanted to put into it.  And I was full of gloop at that point too. Wild Honey is also cashless so don’t bring your birthday money. All cards that exist accepted. Probably.

I would go back again to appease the veg(etarian)an but would choose another dish. And grow a fondness for drinking Mojitos more.

 

Finnair Economy Comfort Helsinki to Singapore Airbus 350-900

As Finland will be our new home come June we planned a trip to check out our proposed city of dreams (Helsinki) with Finnair. People are surprised when they find out Finnair fly direct to Singapore daily but it’s a pretty popular route nonetheless. It takes about 11 hours and 30 minutes SIN-HEL and 10 hours 40 minutes HEL-SIN.

The Booking Details

Finnair’s website is fine; nothing to complain about. The upsell of Economy Comfort is not too “in your face” but on first glance there is not too much difference seat-wise and once you get on the plane and sitting down you realise how little a difference your experience is from the “normies” in normal Economy seating. Do not expect Singapore Airlines level of Premium Economy on Finnair’s fleet! This is what Finnair offers with their Economy Comfort model:

Our Economy Comfort seating option in the front section of the Economy Class cabin makes your intercontinental travel even more pleasurable.

  • 8–13 cm (3–5 inches) more legroom
  • Seats are located on the first four or five rows in the Economy Class cabin (depending on the aircraft type)
  • Better headrests (excl. A350)
  • Boarding and exit among the first customers
  • Only on intercontinental flights: Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Only on intercontinental flights: Personal amenity kit: earplugs, eye shades, socks, toothbrush & toothpaste in cotton bag with Marimekko “Kivet” pattern
  • Free Wi-Fi for 1h in widebodies

On Board

The 3-5 inches of legroom are welcomed, surely. On our flight from SIN-HEL we did not get an amenity kit but on this return route we did. Odd. The EC seats are part of the main cabin; there is no feel of this being anything more than a few inches legroom offer. They are the same seats and they don’t offer any more width than normal economy seats. Economy Comfort seats also get noise cancelling headphones which is good. Personally, I’m an ear buds person due to over-ear headphones pressing against my glasses making them uncomfortable after a few hours.
The seats.
Bare bones. Thinnest seats evar. I know this is becoming the thing to do to cut costs and weight on A350s and 787s but, man, these seats are minimalistic. Every movement from one passenger moves the row. Comfortable they are not. The headrest is fine and adjustable.
Foodwise, yeah, it’s airplane food. It was edible. Nothing at all to commend or to vilify here.
Flight attendants are cordial and communicable and on this route tend to be Singaporean based. I know this as I had a chat with one of them in the galley (swaying back and forth in the un-ending chop). They do the route, take two days off, and do the return route. Rinse and repeat.
One nice feature of Finnair’s A350 fleet are the two in-flight cameras; one on the tail and one underneath which gives some stunning views of the planet as you zoom along. On this particular route the camera underneath was not working but the top one was and it was interesting to see how the plane reacted to the turbulence; it actually was more reassuring to see how little the plane was moving when it felt as if we were bumping around quite a bit.
The in-flight entertainment is ok with a range of movies and TV shows but after flying Singapore Airlines a lot over the last seven years I found the range to be quite limited. I guess I will have to get used to that. The TV screens are big with a USB port situated underneath for phone/tablet charging.
Free wifi for one hour is available to Economy Comfort customers. It didn’t work. I tried several times.

Finnair own two versions of the A350 and we had the pleasure of flying both versions on this trip:

Version 1 Version 2

Version 2 is slightly more favourable to flying in Economy Comfort due to the bathroom proximity although if you are flying as a couple and you want a two seater then row 1 in version 1 is for you. The problem is you never know which one you’re going to get (just like chocolates so you could find yourself in a version 2 instead of version 1 and you will have the extra seat beside you in row 21.

The Flight

Roughly an hour shorter than SIN-HEL but it is still a double digit flight time at 10h 46min (which mentally makes it looooongggggg). We were lucky I guess as some days this route takes up to 11h 30mins.

The route is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately for us, on this particular day, no matter what altitude (we were at 37k, 39k, and finally 41k feet) we were at there was light chop nearly throughout the entire flight. There might have been maybe a half an hour when it was silky smooth. It made for an annoying flight experience to say the least.
With a departure at 23:55 from HEL; this flight suits people who can sleep during the night. So that counts me out. It took me 3 or 4 days to get back to normal once back in Singapore; that’s even with the A350’s extra technology bits to help combat jet lag.

End Result

It’s a unique route; one that might attract inquisitive travellers from each country. Obviously with Finnair using the latest and greatest plane it’s an attractive flight package for the average flyer. Looking closer though and you will see some distinct flaws in the flight package. The seats have to be the highest concern; too hard and too thin. In-flight entertainment needs to be more comprehensive; with the price and size of SSD drives these days Finnair must be able to get more movies and TVs squeezed in their platform.

Bite Size Review: Sanpoutei Ramen

A number of years ago if you mentioned ramen to me I would initially muster up visions of lid peeling and add-boiling-water-to-sachet-contents endeavours. Followed, naturally, by the depressing and soul sapping wait for all the processed ramen things and dried up sachet contents to congeal together to form a cheap and instant artificial flavour buzz to keep you going.

Perhaps those instant ramen cups are one of the worst slights ever bestowed upon a cultural dish in the world. Ever. If we are to point fingers we have to point them at Japan as not only did they invent the insanely delicious fresh and flavourful traditional ramen dishes but they also kicked off the instant ramen industry too. You can even visit the Instant Ramen museum in Yokohama if you so wish.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that ramen in its traditional form and actually created fresh and from scratch with no artificial flavours or cellophane is an amazingly flavourful and filling eating experience.

Sanpoutei Ramen sits underneath the bustling and busy Shaw Plaza on Orchard Road. It’s quite Japanese looking on first impressions, and we managed to get into a booth near the back past the more open front of house. The decor brought me back to being in Japan. Well done interior designers.

So basically ramen is delicious. Good ramen is better than mediocre ramen. Most ramen will hit the spot regardless. But good ramen is what you want. Obviously. And Sanpoutei Ramen has good ramen, in my opinion. Specifically the Tonkotsu ramen variety with which I am most familiar with. I fell in love with this type in Fukuoka and I don’t see why I would try any other types! I will but it will take a lot to deter me from ordering Tonkotsu.

What is Tonkotsu ramen then? Primarily the main difference is the broth which is made of pork bones (tonkotsu actually means “pork bones” in Japanese). It transpires into a creamy, soupy broth which is rich and highly flavourful. Plopped into this amazing base is a heap of noodles (Sanpoutei Ramen uses a beautifully soft noodle), some strips of pork, hard boiled egg, mushrooms, and some green onions. Filling? Yes. Tasty, yes? Filling? Yes.

After my 10 years in Asia and as I look forward to my impending move back to Europe I will always endeavour to hit up a ramen place from time to time to refresh my love for this dish that never fails to delight me.

You can find Sanpoutei Ramen here:

Singapore Food Staples: Roti Prata

On a gloomy, overcast Saturday morning I uberred (soon to be Grabbed) my way to Roti Prata House on Upper Thomson road for some…roti prata.

Roti prata is….a kind of flatbread/pancake which can come with many different fillings. Inspired by south-Indian cuisine it’s found in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia.
Roti means ‘bread’, and prata or paratha means ‘flat’ in the Hindi language. So there. Flat bread.

Roti prata can be served with a myriad of fillings (or toppings) which speaks volumes about the versatility of the dough/butter combination of the bread that they use. I opted for the popular egg and onion combo which comes in at a paltry $2.

All roti prata dishes come with a side bowl of curry to dip merrily away. And merrily away I dipped.

The dough is light and crispy and with the egg and onion combo it makes for a pleasing forkfull. With a slathering of curry on the roti another layer of taste is added on to the whole shindig.

I would probably order the egg, onion, and garlic roti next time to add a little bit more flavour. I found myself wanting a little extra kick of something. The curry, although tasty, was a little lacking or a little thin and the egg and onion combo needs something to help them get over the finish line. Garlic could be the answer. For a day starter roti prata is definitely a cheap and cheerful option to get the day off on the right footing.

The service was prompt and efficient and the food is really cheap. I was going for seconds but some fine workers started grinding boulders in the construction site next door. Next time. Next time. Find The Roti Prata House here:

Singapore Food Staples: Mee Siam

I meandered towards Robert Mee Siam recently to try out a quite underwhelming (visually) dish called Mee Siam. It was perhaps one of the weirdest (but not in a bad sense) taste experiences so far. “What even is it?” I asked as I experienced the various tastes with each chopstickfull? Let me ask the internet…

Ok, so Mee Siam mean Siamese Noodles in Malay. It’s a bunch of vermicelli noodles (bee hoon) plunged into a shallow bowl of sour sweet gravy accompanied with a boiled egg, chives, and little crunchy airy fried bean curd things. Added to it, is a dollop of sambal chili paste which I found to be more sweet than spicy. Prior to serving some generous squeezing of lime took place.

I accompanied mine with some sugar cane with lemon drink thing. Was nice.

The elderly couple who run the Robert Mee Siam stall were very friendly and the wife half of the partnership was curious about me as I waited for the husband to serve up their pride and joy. And laughed at me when I asked for chopsticks as opposed to the old fork and knife.

The gravy definitely has the most influence in this dish. Made up of (or as the internet tell me) a concoction of rempah spice paste, tamarind and taucheo (salted soy bean) it has a gritty but light texture. It definitely leans towards a sweet sector of the taste spectrum with tart undertones. You can see a few chili flakes floating around in the gravy but it certainly is not spicy (or I’m becoming immune like a hawker centre super hero).

The vermicelli noodles are soft and when eaten with a few crunchy bean curd cubes, some chives, and a bit of egg it actually is a pleasing taste mixture of flavours.

Mixing the sambal chili paste all through the dish makes the most sense and getting everything all mashed around gets the myriad of flavours clambering over each other throughout the meal.

All in all, an interesting and unique dish with some very unexpected and unusual flavours. I think I liked it. But it was weird. I would try it again. I think.
At $3 a serving, it’s a perfect introduction to a dish you may not go out of your way to try.

Find Robert Mee Siam here (the car park outside the Whampoa Food Centre also houses some Blue-crowned hanging parrots at random times):

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