Jade versus Opus in an East versus West

Thursday, 31 March 2016

By doing an East versus West cuisine comparison, it would seem like I am taking apples to compare them against oranges, or even bananas. However, read on, and you'll understand why I'm using the comparison as the theme of this post.

My food-loving friends and I have a regular (almost) weekly meet-up over good food. Indeed, our love for food is probably one of our strongest friendship glue. In fact, we had recently joked that our list of places to visit was just growing too long. Just a couple of weeks back, we managed to knock 2 off that list. We visited 2 hotel-restaurant establishments. First the Opus Bar and Grill at Hilton Hotel (yup, the one which had the foyer ceiling collapse) and a week later, Jade at Fullerton Hotel.

By the end of the meal at Jade, we all unanimously agreed that Opus was no longer on our foodie list, while Jade had been promoted to the "Let's come back again" list.

Let's start with Opus Bar and Grill, henceforth just simply typed as Opus. Yeah, much easier to type and reference. Anyway, we were there on a Thursday, and I thought we might be fortunate to avoid the crowds on a mid-week evening. Wishful thinking. While we were one of the earlier groups, as the evening/night wore on, the crowds got a hell lot nosier (no doubt helped along with alcohol).

Ordinarily, I wouldn't have minded the crowds that much if not for the poor service. Yeah. Surprising right. From a well-established hotel and restaurant, poor service?

As I mentioned earlier, we were one of the earliest groups who were seated. As some of us were shopping earlier, we were also laden with a lot of shopping bags. Well, lets just say the floor around us was littered with our shopping bags. My friend hence asked if there was a basket or an extra chair where we could place all our shopping bags. 5 minutes (ok, this is an estimate since we were all busy discussing menu options) passed, and no one got back to us. My friend hence asked a second waitress the same question, and added on that she did not get a reply from the first waitress. This time round, we finished ordering, were offered complimentary bread and all, and still no one got back to us. We tried a third waitress and only got a reply on the fourth attempt. Yup. You read that right. Fourth attempt. And you know what they said? The reply was that if we were to add an extra chair, it would take up space.

I guess what they were trying to say was that we might feel uncomfortable or cramped if an extra chair was to be added. I could be mean and add that yes, we were aware that a chair took up space. I didn't think their chairs came from Hogwarts and had magical properties that made them float or take up no space. But honestly, the poor reply was not what irked us. It was that we had to ask FOUR times just for someone to reply us. I don't think I'm unreasonable when I think that it wasn't acceptable.

That left a pretty bad taste, and we just didn't feel comfortable with the service. It was difficult to get their attention even though a couple would keep walking around. Their only saving grace was the sweet girl working alone at the deli when we went to grab some cakes. She was attentive, gave very helpful advice, and even asked us to return to our seats in the restaurant while she packed up our orders and delivered it to us in the restaurant. All alone and serving 4 customers (ok, granted there were 2 of us, but the other 2 were strangers!) equally and with a smile!

In comparison, we had pretty decent service while at Jade in Fullerton Hotel. Nothing spectacular to shout about. It was the usual "polite, prompt and I'll keep refilling your teacups whenever it's half empty but otherwise, I'll leave you pretty much alone" kind of service standard. However, when put into context (and in comparison), I'll think that it could be considered pretty good. While we were there, Jade happened to be hosting several tables of delegates and a private room of (whom I assumed, since there was a camera dude) were VIP guests. 

Plus, when I asked a question to clarify on my pre-ordered Peking duck, while the waitress was not able to provide a confirmation, she immediately went to get her manager (who was in that private room) to answer us. At least we weren't made to feel like shabby customers.

Food wise, it was also a disappointment for me and my friends at Opus. 

We first started with their complimentary onion and cheese bread with butter at the side. Now, despite the earlier statement, I'll have to say that this was one of the best cheese and onion bread I've had. Fragrant and soft, plus the butter went very well with the bread. 

I had also ordered the foie gras for appetizer. This was the only other dish that I enjoyed really. Well-cooked and tasty. The passion fruit and foie gras also went very well with the side toast.

With these first 2 dishes, I guess I was being set up for a huge subsequent disappointment.

Some of my friends and I added the seafood bisque to our set dinner. One of my friend enjoyed the raw seafood taste to the broth. However, the texture of the seafood foam and that raw taste was too much for me. I guess this was one of those dishes where you'd either love or hate it, no in-between.

My main disappointment though came from the meat I ordered. In fact, we all ordered. Honestly, that was the main highlight for me, and hence the biggest disappointment. I'm not even going to bother describing which cut of meat I ordered, not when half of my table had our meat over-cooked. Which was honestly surprising for me.

We had also ordered some side sides, including aparagus, mac and cheese plus some fries. Tired and flat - descriptors that keep popping up in my mind when I think back to them. Honestly, it was as if they had a harder day at work than I did. 

By the time it came to desserts, I just couldn't bother anymore. While I refrained though, my friends were glad to report that it was at least the saving grace to the lackluster meal. Hilton is rather famed for their cheesecakes afterall. By the time I dug into them (I bought some home) the next morning, I was regretting not ending the dinner with them and not getting more.

Still, got to watch the waist a little.

On the other hand, Jade impressed with their consistency in the yum factor. Since it was an ala-carte buffet (plus we really ordered a lot), I'm just going to highlight some of our favourites and put up some pictures. 
I have no idea what happened to the pictures in my phone, so these were all off my friend instead.

Fried tofu with salt and pepper. This was a huge hit with us. We ordered 2 bowls and were fighting for the last piece.

Salted egg yolk prawns. Nowadays, everything seems to have a salted egg yolk version. This was decent.

Siew bak aka roasted/cripsy pork belly. Another hit.

Peking Duck. The main reason why we headed to Jade. We wouldn't mind a return trip either.

I wasn't too impressed with their soups, but considering that this was buffet style, ok lah. 

Other stuff that landed on our table: Sweet and sour pork with a strawberry twist,

Beef done 2 styles; in black pepper plus the ginger and spring onion pairing.

Siew mai (pork dumplings) which was pretty normal. The har gao (prawn crystal dumplings) was sold out, so now I really want them.

And the host of desserts that we ordered. 

Finally, my last comparison and the one that really sealed the nail shut on Opus' coffin - price.
Now, (and not to sound like I'm bragging because that's really not the intent) my friends and I don't mind paying for food, especially when it's good food. Well, of course we do have our limits on budget, but in general we don't mind forking out a bit of good money for a good meal.

However, when we compared Opus and Jade, we could not help but feel like Jade was the better deal, and not because it was a buffet. Instead, it was because we felt that Opus wasn't worth the money we paid.

At Opus, each of us shelled out almost a hundred each.
Jade - the Peking duck was at a promo price of $48 (which was divided by the 6 of us) and price per pax for the buffet was $58 +++

In the end, we agreed that we would rather fork out the sum for steak at Lawry's or even Morton's. At least, we would not be disappointed by the steaks.
And at least, we now know that Jade's pretty decent for a Chinese ala carte buffet.

Gardens by the Bay: Blossom Beats

Monday, 21 March 2016

I was out on a date with my mom this afternoon. A flower date. My mom had always loved flowers and she's been wanting to see the Sakura for quite some time. Originally we had planned to bring her to Japan for that, but we sort of missed the March deadline this year. Yeah. Lazy daughter me had procrastinated until the air tickets got too expensive.
Well, fortunately for lazy daughter me, Gardens by the Bay brought the Sakura to sunny Singapore! Obviously that was a chance to fulfil mom's wishes, so filial daughter me definitely had to take time to bring her! Good call. Mom's still tired from walking around but she loved the flowers.
The Blossom Beats Floral Display (that's their Sakura display) features a variety of blossoms including the well-known Cherry blossom (that's the Sakura), Peach and Plum blossoms. Like their counterparts overseas, the display is expected to last about 2 weeks. Yup, delicate, fleeting beauty all right.

Gardens by the Bay had done a deliberate display of these blossoms amidst a Japanese-themed garden setting. So while walking around the display, we saw bonsai arrangements, arch bridges, mini pagodas, and even a Torii gate.

I'll have to say this, because the displays are deliberate and within a small area, please do not expect the grandeur of sweeping, cascading blossoms that you might find on the streets/Sakura gardens of Japan/Korea. As long as you don't have that expectation, you would probably be able to enjoy the Blossom Beats display a lot more.

Another point to note, expect crowds. Especially if you're there for the photography, you'll really have to find a good time to go. Otherwise, you'll be jostling with many others for that perfect photo spot or you'll get photo-bombs or you'll get irritated with inconsiderate people who refuse to budge from where they're standing.
Another alternative mind-set (especially if you're not that into photography), just go and enjoy the blooms. Any nice photos are a bonus.

While mom and I were specifically there for the Sakura, we were also quite taken with their other displays. We took a pretty long time in the Flower Dome admiring all the work and displays.


There! I swear there were other flowers! Weird cactuses too! Mom and I had a good time scaring each other with stories of spiders and weird alien shows when we came across the ones in my photo below!

Since we were already there, mom and I bought tickets to both conservatories. Once we were done at the Flower Dome, we headed off to the Cloud Forest, which was only a short hop away.
Given how hot and humid Singapore can be, I was extremely glad that both conservatories had to be at cool temperatures of 23 to 25 degrees. What's even better was the mist created by the man-made waterfall that greeted us as we entered the Cloud Forest. I would think that if this had been your first stop coming in from the heat that is Singapore, you'll love to just stand there and soak it all up. Apparently, at 35 metres, that's the world's tallest indoor waterfall as well!

Near the entrance to the "mountain's" walkway, was a lego display of some carnivorous plants! I could recognise the Venus Fly-Trap, the Pitcher plant and the Rafflesia. Ok, the Rafflesia isn't carnivorous, but it's some sort of smelly, parasitic flowering plant native to this part of the region.
Whatever the species, it was an awesome lego display. Mom and I stood there for quite a while just admiring the artwork!

The main feature at the Cloud Forest (apart from that waterfall) is a walkway that surrounds the mountain shrouding the waterfall. Take the lift to the top of the mountain to begin your stroll along the walkway. Pretty darn cool aerial view of the canopy and the lush plants covering the mountain.

So if you're planning to visit the Blossom Beats (Sakura) Floral Display, please head to Gardens by the Bay soon! It has already been around for about a week and given how fleeting the Sakura blooms are, I don't figure you'll have much time left.


Gardens by the Bay
Address: 18 Marina Gardens Drive Singapore 018953
DID: +65 6420 6848
Website: http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en.html
Operating hours: 9 am to 9 pm
Last ticket sale at 8 pm and last admission at 8:30 pm
Specific attractions may have different operating timings, so please do check the website before going down

Ticket rates for local residents:
1 Conservatory
Adults: $12
Senior Citizens (>60 years old): $8
Children (3-12 years old): $8

2 Conservatories
Adults: $20
Senior Citizens (>60 years old): $15
Children (3-12 years old): $12
Additional discounts can apply for Passion, NTUC or OCBC card members.

Otherwise Standard Rate for all other non-local residents are for 2 Conservatories
Adults: $28
Children (3-12 years old): $15