Saturday, June 18, 2011

Siem Reap Report - Amansara

Having heard so much about the legendary AMAN resort, I decided (after reading the good reviews on TripAdvisor) that AMANSARA will be the best choice of accommodation when we visit Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is the most expensive hotel in Siem Reap, but it also supposedly offers the best tour planning and service.

We stayed at Amansara from 8th through 12th June, and I now fully comprehend why AMAN resorts have such stellar reputations. Here's why you should stay at AMANSARA if you are planning to splurge when visiting Siem Reap...


Amansara is located near most sights and markets, but not right smack in the hustle and bustle. It felt very much like a private residence with convenient access to most tourist attractions, but without compromising on the tranquility. To give you a sense of bearing, it's 15 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes to Angkor Wat.

2. Heritage

Amansara was once known as Villa Princere, built in 1962 for King Shihanouk to accommodate visitors such former French President Charles de Gaulle and Jacqueline Kennedy. It has since been transformed into a 24-suite retreat.

3. The Rides

Airport transfers via a vintage 1960s Mercedes Benz. Need I say more? Love the old school glamour.

Daily transport in the form of pimped-up 'remorks', similar to tuk-tuks. I can see serious remork-envy from other tourists when they passed by us.

Ex-military jeep was used for one of the daily tours. What an experience!

4. The Design

The corridor leading to the rooms, facing a peaceful courtyard.

The peaceful courtyard. More like a house than a hotel.

Modern and well-designed room. I could find no design flaw in it. Seriously, and I am a serious fuss.

The spacious and bright open-concept bathroom

There are 12 pool suites available, each with its own small pool. I love the design of the shower area as the glass panel creates an "outdoor" feel without the invasion of insects.

Pool by the restaurant

The pool by the restaurant is more of a decorative feature and I haven't seen anyone swimming in it. Perhaps I was there during the off-peak season.

The secluded lap pool that is zen in design. There's no gym at Amansara, so swimming is a good alternative form of exercise.

5. The Dining Experience

The circular dining hall with its seven-metre high ceiling offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. There's also a walk-in cellar and cheese room. The informal sofa area is also a good place to lounge about during tea time, where we helped ourselves to the homemade cakes and cookies. The banana cake is a must-try!

The house menu features Khmer and international cuisine. The menu changes daily to include fresh, seasonal produce... so dining there everyday was a new discovery for me. I am now a fan of Khmer cuisine.

The Khmer menu option offers 5 dishes each time and it is right up my alley. They even have fish sauce and chilli padi as condiment. What's there not to love?

Special fish curry noodles for breakfast. You need to order this a day in advance so they can prepare in time for breakfast.

The best porridge I ever had. Bor Bor is Khmer porridge served at breakfast. I love it so much, I had it for breakfast and lunch.

We had breakfasts twice a day when we had morning temple tours. We get a petite breakfast at 5am before we set off and then at 10am when we are back from tour.

For more information, please visit

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Jackson Plan

Before I left for my trip to Siem Reap, I went to check out newly opened The Jackson Plan (TJP for short). Located at 40 Duxton Hill, TJP is a 90-seater British Gastrobar by restauranteur Beppe De Vito (who also owns Il Lido and Forlino).

Quaint during the day

Charming al fresco garden at night

When asked what is TJP all about, Beppe said, "TJP is named after Lieutenant Philip Jackson, the engineer who first divided Singapore (then a British colony) into four main districts of Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam and the Eurasian quarter in 1822. The idea came about as I used to live in London before settling down in Singapore, and I wanted to combine these two unique cultures and experiences. Over the years, I learnt more about Singapore's colonial past and its trading heritage with Britain and East India Company, and I wanted to revive that era's spirit of adventure, boldness and discovery. In short, TJP is about the best of great British meals meet inspiration from heritage Singapore."

The Bar
I love the clean white industrial interior with yellow accents and vintage floral motif tiles.

The Dining Hall
Wooden and vintage floral tile flooring, bright dual-coloured wall, and vintage furniture creates a cosy and authetic feel.

I'm not much of a cocktail person as I prefer my champer or whiskey as an aperitif, but I have to say the cocktails here are definitely worth a try. Why? They taste and look good! You can order by the glass or by the pitcher (if you have a couple of mates to share with).

Pimm’s No. 1 Cup

Coolie’s Cup
Rum, Absinth, Kalamansi, Mint, Gula Melaka, Cinnamon

Queen’s Cup
Vodka, Tomato, Cucumber, Lemon, Masala

More than just your regular pub grub, TJP serves up some authentic Brit fare such as Black Pudding, Real Chips (to be eaten with malt vinegar and salt), Potted Smoked Mackerel and Cured Ox Tongue. Serving portions are generous so don't go overboard with the order. I would recommend sharing a few dishes among friends so you get to sample a good variety. Here's what we ate...

Smoked Haddock Rarebit, Poached Duck Egg - $12.50

Potted Smoked Mackerel, Rye Toast - S$12

Scallops, Black Pudding, Smoked Cheese - S$28

Saltmarsh Lamb, Irish Champ, Duke of Argyll Tea Leaves - S$28

Celeriac Coleslaw - S$5 and Real Chips - S$8

Farquhar Mess, Mango, Gula Melaka - S$11.50

Burnt Custard, Toffee Caramel - S$9

For more info, please check out

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wild Rocket - Mod Sin Cuisine

Last month, I had the opportunity to meet Chef Willin Low at a Gaggenau press event held at The Cape showflat. I learnt that he was working as a lawyer for eight years, and was the in-house lawyer for Far East Organization. Recently, he was asked by Far East Organization to contribute to the kitchen design and choose from Gaggenau's high-end kitchen appliances to equip the The Cape's apartments.

Chef Willin was identified by fellow contemporary chefs as one of 100 emerging culinary stars in the book titled 'Coco: 10 World Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs'. The New York Times also sang praises about his culinary creations.

I frequent his restaurant 'Relish' at Cluny Court but never made my way to 'Wild Rocket'. Hence, I decided to finally make my way to Mount Emily to check out his very first restaurant that he opened in October 2005.

Wild Rocket is located within Hang Out, a backpacker's hotel on Mount Emily on Wilkie Road. I got lost the first time I went there as there was no signage of Wild Rocket anywhere to be seen on the road or the facade of the building. So do take note if it is your first visit.

Cosy and unpretentious interior

When asked what Wild Rocket is about, Chef Willin said, "When I first opened Wild Rocket, everyone kept asking me what type of cuisine do I serve. I didn’t know how to describe it and always described it as food that I would eat. But that was a problem because every journalist and guidebook that wrote about us always have to find a way to label us. So in early 2006, I coined the term “Mod Sin” (or modern Singaporean) to describe our cuisine since most of the dishes are inspired by Singapore flavours, hawker dishes or food I grew up with as a child."

So let's look at the food now. I would describe his food as a modern interpretation of local Singapore cuisine. It is not exactly fusion nonsense as the food is really delicious. It is something Singaporeans can understand, while being something foreigners can accept and appreciate too.

Amuse-bouche - Slow braised pork cheek with tau cheo garlic (bean sauce)
*If this is a main dish, I would order it. It taste a lot better than it looks. In fact, it was such a tease to have only 2 thin slices as it was so amazingly good.

Herbal bah kut teh consomme with foie gras and pork wontons
*This is one peppery soup. Order only if you can handle your spice. I love it.

Burmese tomatoes and blue swimmer crab salad
*Yummy salad and I could eat this everyday. A pity Wild Rocket is not located conveniently near my residence.

Salmon carpaccio on octopus & bonito spiced brown rice
*Chef Willin told me he was inspired by Japanese Chirashi when he was asked to make a brown rice dish for a friend who was on a special diet. It became popular and made its way into the menu.

Roast Chilean seabass with chai poh and congee
* This is my favourite dish and one of Chef Willin's signature dishes. I have to say this is one of the most innovative take on Singapore cuisine. Chai poh is fried pickled radish that is commonly found on chwee kuay (rice cakes that Singaporeans eat for breakfast). To serve the fish on a bed of congee reminds one of Teochew porridge. Must try!

Laksa pesto linguini with tiger prawns and quail egg
*Laksa is another local dish that Chef Willin re-interpreted into a pasta dish.

Wild Rocket Chendol
*This is Chef Willin's deconstructed version of the local favourite Chendol dessert. Coconut ice cream and gula melaka crumble. I dare say it's better than the real thing!

Lychee martini white chocolate tart
*I was expecting a white chocolate tart served with lychee martini sorbet but I was wrong! It turned out that the frozen lychees infused with martini were in the tart! Amazing texture and I got a kick each time I bite into the frozen lychees!

For more information, please visit