Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Projector

Too consumed by work and other assorted activities, the man and I rarely catch movies at the theatres. It's even worse trying to date the friends to do so when all of us run on different schedules. Many of us simply buy stuff off of iTunes and all that and watch it whenever, or trawl through various selections of inflight movies. Made time to go to The Projector to watch Ivan Kavanagh's 2014 'The Canal' that wasn't too B-grade; the scariest scene was the creepy and bloody dirty toilets. Also caught Hal Hartley's final film that wrapped up a decade and a half's saga- his 2014 'Ned Rifle'. Surely you'd have caught 1997 'Henry Fool' and 2006 'Fay Grim'. Those were uhh grim and full of mystery.

This final film is unlike the other two. It's slightly more...introspective and in that sense, less exciting. Quite an apt finale to a long-hinted-at trilogy. You don't exactly need to watch the previous films to understand the third although references are there. With the addition of Susan in the storyline, played by Aubrey Plaza'Ned Rifle' could stand alone because it focused on Ned, and less on the backstory There's hardly any mention of Ned in 'Fay Grim' almost a decade ago. He was supposed to be only seven then. In this film, he's 18, played by Liam Aiken. Although I was underwhelmed, this concluding film didn't disappoint. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)

While The Projector has been refurbished and given a new coat of paint, it still isn't plush, retaining its slightly gritty and super old-school image. Why not? We don't need all cinemas to be lux and gleaming. The cafe serves up pretty decent brews from Tiong Hoe, offering beer, pizza and shoyu butter popcorn. It's a good place to chill out before a movie. If you drive, park at Level 5, look for Speak Cryptic's wall art in a corner that would lead you to the back of the cinema at the restrooms. Any other floor might take you on a merry stroll around Golden Mile Tower which holds some creepy shops. (Can't believe that there's a youtube video on directions.) Speak Cryptic's trademark masked wall figures lend cheer to the area and keep you company in the stairwells. Follow it down to the foyer entrance. As brightly lit the restrooms are, I love how they have that desolate feel. Woohooo. Kinda atmospheric for horror movies.

So pleased that we now have something similar to London's Curzon (well, minus the home cinema subscription). How awesome to convert it from the old Golden Theatre into this incarnation of The Projector. It showed a series of Stanley Kubrick's films earlier in January. They've got recent releases, oldies and repeat goodies. The man wanted to re-watch Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil', for the fourth time since 1985. I wasn't keen. Watching it twice was enough.

People, go catch some films at The Projector. Keep it going. We've been wanting a cinema like this for years, and now it's in existence, don't let it shut down.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thai Food Over The Weekend

The Thai friends aren't usually in town for more than five days at a stretch. I'll never understand why they keep looking for Thai food when they're not on work trips in transit, and only flying to and fro Bangkok. Whatever. All weekend, we had Thai food for most meals. What my darling friends want, they get. I'm certainly not complaining. In spice heaven.

Cafe Pal

We like this small family-style Cafe Pal run by our friends Victor and his new wife Claire. Food comes from the big kitchen of parent restaurant Yhingthai Palace. If you don't want restaurant-vibes, skip two streets over to its little cousin. It's a dependable little bistro in the middle of town that does good food. We've always had fair service here. Victor and Claire do lovely desserts of light chiffon cakes- coconut, orange and green tea.

This May, Cafe Pal has renovated slightly, shifted furniture around and added more items to the menu. They offer good hot tea and iced tea of green pear or lychee. I like their not-too oily phad thai. It still serves one of the best chaa yen (Thai iced milk tea) and minced chicken basil rice around. Unlike other eateries, Cafe Pal use non-fatty minced chicken, which is exactly what the friends would cook at home. There's tom yam soup on the menu now. My fav sort of tom yam seafood clear soup. This version ranks among one of the good ones in town. Slurrrrrrp.

Diandin Leluk

The Golden Mile area is already our default supper venue. It makes total sense to also eat here when we catch back-to-back movies at The Projector. Between Golden Mile Tower, the familiar Complex next door, and the Food Center across the road, there're plenty of eateries for your choosing.

There're Nong Khai, Na Na Thai, another similar eatery at the back, and at the Tower, a Thai-style BBQ Happy Mookata (it really is moo-krata, หมูกระทะ, literally pork skillet), and even a tiny Yorimichi Yakitori which functions more like a casual izakaya.

Diandin Leluk at the Complex remains a hot favorite with us. One should preferably come here with at least two others so as to order loads of food. We kinda like having our own dishes of fried rice or phad thai or fried vermicelli. Then add on vegetables, meats and all that. Especially tom yam soup. Could never tire of these fantastic Thai spices.


No, Artichoke hasn't swapped out its Middle Easter/Mediterranean menu to do Thai cuisine. But they hold special Sunday evening dinners, or cookouts really. Walk-ins only. No reservations. Last week was all about sausages which saw long snaking queues. This evening was themed 'Bangkok Jerk-off' with guest Chef Tim Ross-Watson doing Caribbean-style juicy Jerk chicken, pork ribs and fried plantains. Chef Bjorn Shen did Bangkok street-style chicken wings, Waterfall pork belly and som tam.

We ordered everything on the menu except for the Waterfall Pork Belly and sticky rice. One set for each person except me. I shared of course. How to eat this much meat??! Crazy amounts of food. Rocked up at 5.30pm and didn't leave till 8pm. I loved the grilled corn. Mmmm. Nothing ever goes wrong with corn on cob. The som tam was not spicy even though Bjorn promised "fiery". Gaaaah. It served as a lovely foil to the heavier meats. Aiiiight. That's how a cook-out should be done. Everyone except me bought a stick of Neh Neh Pop to round up the night.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hypo-ETE Concentration Districts

Stumbled upon a new unread single in the Kindle. Oh dear. I've got many unread physical books. Now e-books too. Eeeks. Jess Walter's 'Don't Eat Cat'. I didn't mind the author's other novels, especially 'Over Tumbled Graves'.

'Don't Eat Cat' describes a world in 2040 where zombies are kinda integrated into everyday living. Zombies are made by people taking club drug 'Replexen' and apparently could be hired to do mundane jobs. It's set in Seattle and when 'Starbucks Financial' popped up, I knew it would be nothing else but corny. And oh, apparently we're not supposed to call zombies 'zombies'. It's a bad word. Call them "unfortunate sufferers of hypo-endocrinal-thyro-encephalitis". Or 'hypo-ETE'. The ending was a bit of a let-down, but otherwise a cool little read over lunch that was a welcome pause to the madness of a work-day.

The e-short took all of 15 minutes to read, even at a really slow pace. It's really too short to talk about the matter of the curious relationship of protagonist Owen and the break-up with his girlfriend Marci. She took 'Replexen' and left him. After two years, he finally went into a Hypo-ETE Concentration District to look for her. The e-book isn't long enough to discuss sickness of the human psyche or the state of the environment. People were frustrated by reproduction and intelligence laws that seemingly set them on a path of life dictated from birth. Hahah. I couldn't help sniggering at that.

My guess was that Marci had disappeared into what was starting to be called Z Town. And if that was the case, of course, I was too late. Seattle was one of the worst cities for derelict zombies—old Fremont had been turned over to the hardcore clubs, brothels, and shooting galleries, to bars that supposedly released rodents during happy hour—places that made Andrew's shitty club seem like a Four Seasons. 
For two years after that, I waited for Marci to come back. But it wasn't until my last doctor's appointment and the bad news I got it—it wasn't until after Brando snapped and the death of that poor zombie girl—that I finally felt compelled to go to Z Town and look for her, for the only woman I have ever loved. 

The first documented zombie attack in months triggered by Owen yelling at a zombie Starbucks barista for burning his latte, and culminating in a vigilante zombie attack. Points and comments on society were underdeveloped. Kinda fluffy. I suppose this is what an e-short can't quite do for certain stories. There isn't much space to elaborate. A quick read. And about the cat. In this world, zombies love eating cats. The mere mention of the word turn their brains into mush. I would have loved to hear some more talk about zombies and cats.

But four days after the Starbucks Financial incident, Apocalpytics began protesting Starbucks Financial headquarters, and the company announced the complete suspension of its zombie retraining program, which got the hypo-ETE activists and support groups going again about the 60 percent zombie unemployment rate. Then worst of all, some vigilantes came to Seattle from the country and killed a nineteen-year-old zombie girl with an antique hunting rifle, shot her outside a club and left her body outside a Starbucks Financial. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Udang dan Kepala Ikan Buah Keluak

A precious tub of udang dan kepala ikan buah keluak. OMG. I like these flavors more than babi or ayam. Except very few commercial restaurants would do it, and it's too shameless to ask the friends to cook it. Unless they randomly offer to, like this tub. What an awesome gift. The tremendous amount of effort that went into cooking this one tub.

With a huge snapper fish head and prawns as rempah, the dish is no less rich and savory. Without meat of pork or chicken, the seafood lends a slightly lighter flavor. This tub used red grouper heads and the usual Tiger prawns. Loads of buah keluak. It was superbly well cooked.

One evening, we split the contents of the frozen tub into two- a bowl held fish head, and the other contained buah keluak and prawns. The contents were enough to feed everyone for dinner and lunch. Heated them in the steamer. The dishes looked like a mess of brown and black and not exactly colorful and appetizing. But they tasted SO GOOD. For me, this was a one-dish meal. More than sufficient to fill the tummy when brown rice was included. I didn't need additional vegetables or anything. Fish and gravy rocked fine.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chakra :: Swara Sandhya

A rāga holds a series of notes, guided by the eight parts it falls into over the 24-hour cycle. More than the melody, it's intended to convey the mood of the day, of the seasons, to color, to tint one's mood. During music theory, we also learnt about the underlying scales of a rāga in the form of swaras. Yes, it's as complicated as all scales are on any musical instrument, and it's a brand new set of music theory from the western classical learnt as a kid. My head exploded from counting the beats. Each rāga is a 72-note scale with a different number of notes ascending and descending; up to 12 notes can form the octave of a rāga. I was pleased that the friends invited me to Esplanade's Chakra: Swara Sandhya: Confluence of Sunset Melodies.

We heard a series of rāgas written for dusk. It was a unique pairing of musical instruments- the sitar (Shakir Khan) with the violin (Srividya Sriram), the tabla (Nawaz Mirajkar) with the mridangam (T Ramanan). Together they form a jugalbandi- a performance of Indian classical music in a duet by the various musicians. This concert saw a pairing of the two streams of Indian classical music- Carnatic (south) and Hindustani (north).

Beyond the very basic, I know nothing about the musicians or the musical pieces. Did a lot of frantic reading before and after the concert. The more knowledgeble friends gave me a summary of the pieces as well. Whewwww. All that mattered was, the musicians were very good. Sunset rāgas are meant to evoke feelings of reflection, grace, devotion. They can also be playful, upbeat and pensive at the same time. I'm not proficient at identifying rāgas aurally. Not good at describing because I'm not familiar enough with the beats. Read coherent words and thoughtful observations of the pieces over at notabilia.

It was a close to two-hour concert. Luckily it began at 6pm; we caught most of it. A pity we had to slip out before the end in order to catch some bits of Cheating Sons at the Outdoor Theatre. Wanted to hear the new songs played live from their recently released eponymous album. What a glorious evening of vastly different kinds of music enjoyed with the friends. Loved it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oakham's 'The Kraken's Ink'

The good folks at Smith Street Taps told us they would be tapping Oakham Ales' seasonal black IPA 'The Kraken's Ink'. Aiiight!!! Hurried down to Chinatown Complex to have dinner, meet this beautiful keg before it's finished, and say hello to Daniel and Meng.

It was a torturously hot humid night; the air was so still that the fans didn't help much. Bit uncomfortable. But we were dressed down and all prepared to sweat it out. We needed a really cold shower after. Phewwww. Don't need fancy venues all the time. It's always about the beer, and the company. Much needed, for me. A time to unwind after long hours at work. During these moods, often, I prefer sitting down with friends over drinks rather than gorging my face with food.

'The Kraken's Ink'. Big hops, lots of roasted nuts and chocolate. YUMMY. Another proper dark ale. I couldn't stop at one. At the risk of filling up the bladder way early, I had three awesome pints. They went down easy. Smith Street Taps pours them good.

We had packs of fried insects brought in by the truckloads, courtesy of my Thai friends. Took out four packs for everyone to nibble on. Certainly not finishing these packs on our own. Forget those pork crackling or chips to complement beer. Like those deep fried Japanese baby squids, insects yo, are the way to go. Environmentally friendly too. Hahahaha.

These packs were fried, dried with a ton of salt and probably MSG. They kinda crumbled like powder in the mouth. Zero nutritional value, but provided loads of laughter and eiooow-ing. No, we couldn't bear to finish all of it. The 'fresh' ones fried along the streets of Bangkok still tasted way better, like...kinda juicier. Hurhurhurhur. However, we draw the line at water bugs and cockroaches. Those really raise goosebumps. I can't bear the thought of chewing them feelers and all. UGH.

And of course three lads from IEHAC were there to down pints. Missing one lad and lass. Extra pints were gulped in their stead. After all, Oakham's special release is right up there with the similar names and graphics, and IEHAC's recent release 'The Kraken'. :)

From left: Bruce of Ale N Cider, the good folks at Smith Street Taps- Daniel, Meng,
and 3/5 of IEHAC.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

English National Ballet :: Le Corsaire

Since the friends flew into town for a long weekend, I joined them for English National Ballet's Le Corsaire. Artistic director and lead principal dancer Tamara Rojo led this production to Singapore. Even though we had seen this production on film, we didn't mind seeing it on stage. We like Anna-Marie Holmes' contemporary choreography of Le Corsaire with new orchestral versions of the score. The set design and costumes by Bob Ringwood are amazing. Rich and vibrant colors, gold, chalices, sequins and crystals, all of which we couldn't help being charmed by and they drew the audience into the world of the ballet.

The story unfolded in three acts- of a righteous kidnapping, a mutiny, another kidnapping, double-crossing, a fake wedding and complicated plotting. All one needed to know is- handsome corsair- pirate Conrad braves the seas to save the beautiful slave-girl Medora from the evil clutches of Pasha (an ancient Turkish rank, like a knight of sorts) Seyd. There're the support characters- an ally in harem-girl Gulnare and a mutinous corsair Birbanto who simply refuses to die. It was kinda funny. One wouldn't usually link pirates, fancy costumes and ballet together. What more with fights, murder and a shipwreck. As they jumped, spun and pirouette-d, the dancers looked too clean. :P

Apparently ticket sales were slow. Well, to stage an under-the-radar classical ballet for five performances over four nights and a matinée, that's brave, and kinda overestimating the Singapore audience, and the numbers who would fly in to watch it. (They performed Swan Lake and Coppélia in China.) Anyway. I didn't care who danced Medora or whatever, or how the dancers interpreted each character. That wasn't the point of the evening for me. The characters don't matter because in this ballet, I'm not watching it for the story or the social themes. If I did, I would have been more irritated by how women are depicted in the ballet. I was watching it like how it is- a glitzy slick Hollywood-style production. Yah, the dancing was rather fine, competent and enjoyable.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Singapura Club at Tiong Bahru

The biggest reason why I never bothered about The Singapura Club at Tiong Bahru at the corner Block 57 on Eng Hoon Street was its decor. After the make-over from the old Hainanese curry stall which moved a few streets down, this new bistro looked terribly hipster, which didn't inspire a load of confidence for its food. Its latest Namly outlet has a similar decor too. Brand owner of Chaiholics Jerry Singh is behind these new bistros. Some friends mentioned that the food was surprisingly decent, so I kept that in mind.

On an evening out with the visiting friends exploring Tiong Bahru Estate, we went to The Singapura Club for dinner. We were pleasantly surprised by how good and properly-spicy the food was. No air-conditioning, just fans, and you sit right by the street. Be prepared to sweat it out. I rather enjoyed that. We completely sold by its dum biryani. The menu comprise the usual local bistro mix. What you'll see at most delis and cafes at the country clubs, but probably better. We shared food; portions were generous. They loved the masala chicken liverlamb biryani, and this version of laksa with rich thick gravy. The kitchen didn't dumb down the spices. Although the servers went trigger-happy with lime juice over my sambal belachan. Too sour. Otherwise, everything's really decent. Clearly, the kitchen at the Tiong Bahru outlet could really cook.

What a convenient venue for casual eats. Definitely coming back for the rest of the menu, especially the Indian food. Those were so good. The other friends said they really liked the devil's curry and its mulligatawny soup. The beer menu isn't exciting; some uhhh...German options. I really don't fancy German beers. At least it's got Asahi dry on tap and a Coopers Pale Ale in a bottle. Those did nicely to match the spices.