Thursday, 19 February 2009

Valentine's Day 2009: Pierside

14th February 2009

"And no, it doesn't start with 'R' darling," I said, the cold-air of the car's air-conditioner blowing into my face, as I continued to keep my eyes on the road.

"Then does it start with 'F'?" she asked.

"What the hell place starts with 'F'?" I asked as callous as possible, the car moving along slowly amongst the exceptionally-heavy Saturday evening traffic.

"Then does it start with 'O'?" She was relentless.

"Well, knowledge is power my dear, just let me feel powerful more just that little longer, ok?" I answered, sensing that she was on to something.

As the car came to a obligatory stop behind three others at a traffic junction, I placed my hand gently on her lap and said, "Actually darling, it starts with a 'P'".

"Haha, I know, 'cos its a 'place' right?" she said cheekily.

I smirked, and remained silent about the subject for the rest of the journey.


As we turned into the familiar carpark, she probably started to realise that she was on to something with her previous guesses.

Worry started to set in as I parked the car, worried of the sense of underwhelm that came with the grounds of familiarity. I expressed my anxiety verbally as the lift doors shut, while she held my hand reassuringly. I knew that I had probably set a benchmark too high with the last stint, and there was hardly any way I could replicate that sense of wonder, or even come close to it.

As we approached the signboard in a distance, her face lit up with a sense of realization, as I quickly followed up, "See, I told you it starts with a 'P', haha."

She laughed it off as we stepped into the barely-filled restaurant.


The Vacant Room

The Vacant Room

Divided into a ambient outdoor section facing the Singapore Flyer and the landscape that complimented it, and a modern indoor section that was lined with the light-hazel brown of the wooden furniture couple with white-washed walls, interspaced by frames of reflective mirrors; the setting of Pierside was one that was simple and sleek at the same time, with a generally casual ambience lingering in the air.

"So do you want indoors or outdoors darling?" I asked the customary question whenever we had a choice, even though I have already booked one specifically (which is indoors most of the time).

"I don't mind outdoors," she said.

"'Don't mind' doesn't mean 'yes'," I said in partial jest and in partial fervour to correct the indecisive language used in decision making.

Menu V

We were ushered to our seats between two other pairs of love-birds, as the waiter presented us with a little card that depicted the menu for the day. Following the general convention, the restaurant had a Valentine's Day set menu, one that I would normally shun, since I tend to believe that you get more value out of a la carte, but then again, the increasing difficulty in finding a locale without a set menu AND without multiple-seating sessions over the past weeks left me choosing the lesser of the two evils in my book.

Half Full

"We only get to choose the main course, darling." I said to her, as I scrutinized the details of the menu that had been briefly mentioned to me over the phone, "it's either the Salmon or the Beef Cheeks."

Thought Lanterns

Craving for seafood after the slew of meat and poultry dishes that lined my last few fine dining experiences, I had my eye on the Salmon. But her much more recent with a Beef Main Course led us to a little lovers' tug-of-war.

It's funny how these tug-of-wars between lovers tend to play out, instead of trying to claim the winning ground, it tends to become more of a counter-intuitive game of trying to let your partner have his or her way. Obviously, as charming (read imposing) as I was, it was only a matter of time before I managed to give up on the Salmon.

Bread and ButterTrout Bits

"So what was I like last year on Valentine's Day?" I asked her, as the bread was served to the table.

"You were grouchy," she said, clearly remembering my mood then.

Not having the slightest recollection, I probed for a more elaborate response, "Are you sure? I totally don't remember being grouchy at all."

"Haha. Darling has a very selective memory for this kind of things, in the end, you only remember those things that really mean something to you," she said, taking a jab at my rather selective memory, between the praises about the bread being sweet and to her liking.

The words for a retort hardly surfaced even when the starting sampler, a Salmon Cup was served to the table. The bits of Salmon in the complimentary appetizer were merely a tease to the tongue, tingling the sensations of my tastebuds to the euphoria that would soon follow.

Seafood Platter

Seafood Platter - Euphoria

As I witnessed the Seafood Platter being served to the table, I knew in my mind that that was my highlight for the day. With a spread of Fresh Oysters, Fried Oysters, Black Mussel Shots, Canadian Tuscanian-baked Scallops and Smoked Yellow Fin Tuna, the seafood spread was had already won me over with its rich colours and its sheer variety.

Smell the SaltPlatter of Smiles

Not wasting any time, I grabbed the Fresh Oysters and pried away at the succulent flesh with my fork. For me, seafood is one of the draws of Modern Australian cuisine, partially due to the food culture of the island-continent and the freshness of the ingredients.

The Oyster's flesh was effortless detached from its shell, indicating its freshness, and as I chewed on the succulent flesh, I could savour the salty essence of the sea still very much entrapped within its flesh.

Unfortunately, Fresh Oysters are a rather acquired taste, and I failed to see the same level of enjoyment from my company's face, perhaps as a fore-bearing sign of the gastronomical problems it would cause her very much later.

Oyster Savory

I moved on to the Scallops next, and as I bit into it, I could again pick out the freshness of the scallops underneath the succulent flesh and the cheese layering, so much so that I left half to be consumed later, to prolong the enjoyment for a little bit more.

I was pleasantly surprised when she told me of her liking for the smoked tuna, considering how smoked fish is not too far off from the texture of Sashimi that she stays away from on normal days. She also thoroughly enjoyed the Black Mussel Shots, as I heard the acknowledging "Umm" after she downed the remnants of its sauce.

"I can guess your order of preference for the entire platter," I said to her, confident of my all-knowing mind. "The Scallop, the Mussels, the Smoked Tuna, the Fried Oyster and then the Fresh Oyster, right?"

In semi-shocked, she exclaimed, "How do you know?"

With a prideful nod, I told her to guess mine.

"Hmm, the Scallop, the Fried Oyster?" she asked, seeking some assurance.

I shook my head. Indeed, my enigmatic tastes left her permutating her choices a good 5 times before she got them right.


The main courses arrived to my by-then-already-bellowing appetite, as I looked on at her Salmon and wondered if I made the right choice with the beef.

"You know what, I think that everyone for Valentine's Day, we have Scallops." I said to her, as I raised my fork and knife threateningly over the cowering Beef Cheeks below.

"Haha. And Salmon too," she said, referring to her Salmon Fillet at Morton's exactly a year ago.

Salmon and Asparagus

Salmon and Asparagus - Nothing can convince me about Asparagus

As she cut sliced off a piece of the Salmon Fillet and sampled it, she immediately concluded that the Salmon with Asparagus was better than last year's Salmon Fillet. As she fed me a slice of it, I couldn't help but agree. The salmon flesh was juicy and aromatic, and was satisfying to bite into. However, being the believer-of-essence-rather-than-sauce, I prefer the salmon as it was rather than when it was mixed with the sweet, fruity sauce that I couldn't tell if it was bore from Cranberry or Raspberry.

Beef Cheek

Beef Cheeks - Hannibal Lector calls them the most delicious part

My beef main course was of the expected soft texture, considering how some say that the cheeks are 'the best parts' for meat. The dish was overall more salty than sweet, very much more to my liking and leaving me with no regrets for my initial choice in losing (or winning, rather) the lovers' tug-of-war. However, the star of the dish was the crispy potato layer that lined the top of the dish.

"Did I ever tell you why they put potatos in the di-?" I asked.

"Yes," she interrupted me, knowing full well what I was about to say.

"Haha. But I don't care, I still must tell you anyway, it's so that the potato can absorb the sauce and the essence of the meat," I continued regardless. And indeed, the potato layers, both the crispy-top and the mashed-bottom layer fully carried the essence of the dish as I rolled my tongue around them.

How Should I Love Thee?

"You know what else is a tradition on Valentine's Day?" she asked rhetorically, "Good desserts."

Indeed as I made a downward slice to the Chocolate Tart and watched the warm chocolate lava flowing out from within, I knew that it was something different. And true enough, the addition of a little pastry to make it a tart rather than a cake, took it away from the realms of direct comparison to the still undefeated Chocolate Lava Cake from Morton's last year.

Chocolate Platter

Chocolate Platter - Partners in Crime

It's partners in crime also managed to make an impression next to the absolutely delectable Chocolate Tart, albeit to a much lesser extent. The Vanilla Ice Cream was termed to be made of high-quality vanilla according to my Vanilla-connoisseur, while the Chocolate Macaroon was numbingly sweet, nicely complimenting the somewhat sweet-sour taste of the White Chocolate Panna Cotta that was littered with fresh strawberries, another of her favourites.

Thumbs UpMonkey Kisses

The Things we Do to Try not to Bother the Service Staff


As we walked towards the Merlion to walk off a fraction of the unexpectedly filling dinner, my worries of an underwhelming night out were put to ease, knowing that the relatively-casual ambience of the evening played out right, and besides, there was the consolation of the disaster that was the last year.

"I still can't believe that I was such a spoiler and was grouchy on Valentine's Day," I told her, as we looked across the river to the Esplanade's skyline.

"Haha, you were. 'Cos you were tired from work or something and we got lost too, while looking for the place, remember?" she challenged me.

Looking at the very complex with the 3 different hotels across the river, I recalled last year's scene of walking to the wrong hotel and arriving late for the reservation. "Oh yeah, now I remember," I said.

"See, I told you that you only remember things that involve you, or mean something to you," she said, taking another jab at me.

Suddenly, with a rush of inspiration, I replied, "That's because my mind is always preoccupied with planning for the next major event," ending it with a sheepish grin, as she began to construct her rebuttal.

Him and HerCouple


Tuesday, 3 February 2009


The Lake

"See, I told you it wasn't that hard, right?" he said to me in a somewhat-congratulatory-yet-unassuming tone.

As unbelievable as it was, I had to admit that he was right, all that I really needed was a to take that little (big) step of faith off the rock.

Feeling proud of myself, I took a deep breath to enjoy the view of the vast lake that laid before my eyes; sweeping my gaze slowly across the entire breadth of the lake, seeing the serene mountains standing in silence, setting the backdrop for the few of us that were littered across the different areas of the lake; each given more than enough room to learn the ropes of this magical form of movement.

As if able to read my thoughts, he said with a slight sigh of resignation in his voice, "Sadly, this lake is not big enough for all of us."

Slightly perplexed at what he meant, I hesitated in questioning; so as not to spoil the mood of that glorious moment - I wanted to savour my accomplishment for just that little bit longer...

The Deep Calleth onto the Deep

I looked down at my feet, seeing them resting gently atop the water's surface, in an almost weightless fashion. Staring deeper into the semi-transparent emerald waters, I saw what seemed to be fishes; hundreds upon hundreds of them swimming under my feet.

Like Koi to bread, they were seemed to trying to swim atop one another, seemingly trying to best one another to get to the water's surface, each one violently struggling and trying to shake and nudge its way to the top; totaling to what seemed like an interlocked web of colours constantly bobbing under my feet.

I tracked the progress of one particular fish, marked with patches of black and orange atop its otherwise golden-white scaly body; seeing it besting one fish after another, climbing higher and higher up the "web", until it neared the water surface where my feet were. As it looked up, and its eyes meeting mine, I was utterly shocked to see the facial features of a middle-aged, thick-browed man looking straight into my eyes, its lips mouthing something that I couldn't quite make out.

As I stared harder and harder at its lips, trying to make out what it was trying to say; I felt myself getting closer and closer to the strange-looking hybrid of a beast, just as I caught hold of a whisper of what it was saying, I felt a hard upward-tug on my left arm.

"Be careful not to get too close to the Creatures of the Deep, they have a strange manner of bringing you down," he said to me with a slightly stern tone that masked the best of intentions, as I stared at him in a momentary state of shock, with my pants dripping wet well-above my knees.

To Stand but not Walk

"Go on, take a step," he beckoned me, with a slight gesture of his hand following his words.

Obviously, I hesitated. Afterall, I had just learned how to muster up enough Faith in order to stand atop the water's surface, and I was not mentally prepared to take the next step.

Seeing the signs of my hesitation, he went on to say, "It's not everyone that can master how to walk atop the lake's surface; but it's more of a waste for someone who is able to learn how to stand yet not be able to walk, than someone who doesn't even have the gift of being able to stand in the first place."

I stood in my spot, staring at my feet, memories of my face hitting the water from the numerous past failures rushing into my head; a bone-chilling shudder ran through my spine.

"Go on," he said, looking at me with a gentle gaze that was quietly beckoning me.

I faced the mountains, closed my eyes, and lifted one foot off the surface of the water. Without a moment's delay, I quickly put it down and did the same with the other foot. When I opened my eyes, I noticed that I was slightly further away from the rock that I once stood upon.

Feeling a rush of confidence, I took another step, and another and another; each step bigger and bolder than the last. Not much later, I was already hopping, jumping and running circles across the lake's surface, bursting with an innocent, child-like laughter of pure bliss as I skillfully manoeuvred myself across the lake's surface.

Nobody's Fault

"Look at me," I exclaimed to my lone spectator who was actually already doing what I asked; caught up in the overwhelming magic of the moment.

A string of tricks played out in my mind, as I decided to perform a triple jump, followed by a turn-about 180 one-footed landing. I ran to pick up some momentum, and I lifted my feet off the water's surface. A small hop was met with the feeling my feet sinking slightly under the water's surface, before springing up into the air again, a change of footing, followed by a large leap. I turned counter-clockwise in the air and braced myself for the finishing touch.

I felt the the tip of my toes making contact with the water, as I tried to reach my equilibrium; but just as I thought that I almost got it, I felt something moving beneath my feet - a small uneven hump that passed under my toes, causing me to lose my balance.

My arms flailed desperately in an attempt to stabilise myself, but to no avail. I was falling, fast; and there was nothing I could do to stop the all-too-familiar dreadful feeling of the face making contact with the water's surface - and with a vengeance at that. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth, preparing for the worst.

But the worst never came. I opened my eyes to see myself staring eye to eye with a group of the strange-looking Creatures, inches away from the water's surface, as I heard them repeatedly whispering the words, "Help me... Help me...".

"I've got you," he said reassuringly, from behind me.

With a strong tug on my two arms, he pulled me back upright. Still slightly shaken from the near-misfortune, my dwindling Faith almost caused my wobbly legs to give way and had me plunging leg-first into the deep; if not for another timely save.

Finally, able to stand on my own two feet again, something suddenly occurred to me. "That's weird, of all the times, why is it only this time that you saved me from falling?" I asked my companion.

"Well, for all the times before, you fell because of the fault in your faith; but this time around, it was nobody's fault."


Puzzled at his comment, I stared at him blankly. "I don't get it," I said.

"You see that girl over there," he pointed to a short, rather cute-looking girl with long, dark hair not too far off.

"Yeah, she's learning to walk too. What about her?" I asked, still equally puzzled, as I saw her taking a big jump and making a somewhat wobbly landing.

He said nothing.

"Yeah, so what about... whoa! What was that?" I exclaimed in shock, feeling another sweeping sensation, running under my feet, almost causing me to lose my balance.

"That was what we call a 'wake'," he said. "Basically, it follows the general principle, 'For every action, a consequence', and what you just felt was merely an instance of it."

"Take a step, and see what happens," he continued.

Doing as I was told, I lifted my feet gently off the surface of the water and placed it back on the surface, causing circular ripples to spread outwards from the point of contact.

"As you can see, for every step that you take, there will be ripples, no matter how lightly you attempt to tread," he explained. "The thing is, these ripples - or your 'wake', going by our terms - will spread further and further across the lake, gradually building in magnitude as they spread further across the lake's surface."

"There are times that your 'wake' meets and resonates with another person's 'wake'; but there are also times that your 'wake' will not, and will thus produce some kind of discord when two wakes clash, or worse, a direct disruption to others, just like how that girl's 'wake' almost caused you great misfortune," he continued, with a glint of wisdom hidden under his comprehending gaze.

"So I guess it's nobody's fault for my near-fall because that girl didn't actually mean to let her 'wake' affect me?" I asked, starting to understand the meaning behind his words.

"Indeed, but that is the way of The Lake, isn't it?" he answered. "Whether it was intentional or not, there will always be repercussions to whatever action you take."

"And what of her?" I asked, pointing to a short and pudgy, green-skinned, She-Troll repeatedly hopping atop the water's surface.

"Sadly, this magical art of Dream-Walking is not exclusive to the pure-hearted," he said, with a deep gaze into nothingness. "There are some who understand the effects of the 'wakes', and manipulate it to suit their own intentions; most of which involving the greed for power or sheer pettiness of the heart."

"Be careful where you tread my son, but more importantly, be careful how you tread," he concluded with a sternness in his deep voice, as he tilted his head downwards and looked up at me.

"This lake is not big enough for all of us it seems," I said, staring out at the vastness of the lake with a strong sense of irony filling my heart, watching as the sun hid behind the mountains in a distance.

"Indeed, my son, indeed."