Nylon Coffee Roasters, Singapore

While I was in Singapore, I'd taken a 2-day barista course with BettrBarista (highly recommended for those interested to elevate their coffee education) and needless to say, I've never been so saturated with caffeine before! We experimented with brewing, cupping espressos, and foaming milk. It's a real mind-opener, to realise the amount of hard work that goes into a good cup of coffee! My respect for baristas have increased since. 

In my steadfast effort to source that good cup of coffee, I was led to Nylon. Both baristas and trainers alike have unanimously agree that Nylon is one of the heavyweight players in the coffee scene.

Cradled in an unassuming corner of a HDB residential flat in Everton Park - a location least expected for a hipster coffee bar to be nestled. 

Drinks menu are streamlined, offering black, white (with milk) or brew coffee. Additional options are hot or iced, and sizes in increments of ounces.  I tried to order my usual Piccolo, only to be asked if I will have the 3 oz white instead.

Nylon is the only coffee bar that does not serve food. For them to survive and achieve such popularity says a lot about their focus on brewing that perfect cup of coffee. Roasting is done in-house - few niche cafes can say the same.

Coffee aficionados of all age and types congregate here. A group of senior citizens chat over coffee (occupying the only chairs in the shop), while others finish their coffee standing.

No fancy latte art (too mainstream). Expectations vs reality? It's legit. The coffee is fantastic. It is heavy on the sour side, slightly bitter, with a hint of sweetness. 

So good, I had to have an iced white as well (thanks to Grace who highly recommended an iced latte!)

4 Everton park
Opens daily, except Tuesday from 9:00am - 5:30pm

Flurys, Kolkata

Along with Peter Cat, Flurys is another heritage culinary institution of Kolkata. 

They have been around since the 20s, so that's got to be saying something. Located smack in Park Street, the tearoom is most notably known for their sweet delectables and breakfast fares. 

We arrived at 11am, on a Sunday morning. Huge mistake. A crowd of people are also waiting to get in. We put down our names, and asked for the waiting time. The host doesn't know. But you have a list, surely you have an estimate, we argued. He shook his head and discussion over. 

Total waiting time was 40 minutes, but was it worth it? 

The interior has an old grandeur to it, projected by large, fussy armchairs, linen tablecloths, and silverwares, complete with chandeliers. Service is slow and apathetic (not uncommon in Kolkata). A section of Flurys is dedicated to their pastries and cakes. I poked my nose in there and see that the selection consists mostly of old-fashioned cakes, such as black forest, with ample cream topping. I could not comment further on their cakes as I did not try them.

I ordered a Croissanwich, with bacon, served with crisps.

Croissant was a disappointment. It tasted stale and flat, instead of flaky and buttery. Bacon was greasy, but good, hehe. Fillings of capsicum and onions were generous. You could adjust your preferred level of spiciness with cut green chillies provided on the side. 

I later asked the waiter if their pastries/croissants are baked fresh daily. He insists they are. I am doubtful but did not probe deeper. 

Vinnie ordered their signature baked beans on toast-

It does not look very pretty... and I can't think of a more unsavoury combination or less worthy dish to order in a restaurant, to be frank. This has got to be an easy, no-brainer dish to whip up?

Taste test - is okay, if you love baked beans and toast.

Eggs benedict - poached eggs are overly done. The yolks are 90% cooked and did not ooze out when cut, in a most anti-climatic fashion.

I tried their Viennese coffee - espresso with a dollop of whipped cream. Coffee is strong and bitter, with a hint of sweetness from the whipped cream. Loved it. 

So was Flurys worth the 40 minutes wait? I think not.

18A Park Street
Opens daily, 7:30am - 10:00pm

Peter Cat, Kolkata

A culinary heritage of Kolkata, Peter Cat has been around for over 40 years. I first heard of it from V (who else?!), whose last visit was over 20 years ago. We planned for a visit, a late lunch, so as to avoid the lunch hour crowd.

Little did we know, there is hardly ever a lull with Peter Cat.

We arrived past 2pm, put down our names on the waiting list... and waited. We were told it'll take 20 minutes for a table. Unfortunately, they do not take reservations, and poor V's mom had to sit on the edge of a pillar. Eh hello, Peter Cat, at least have the decency to provide seats if you are not willing to take reservations?!

A congregation of both locals and tourists, dutifully recording their presence at Peter Cat (as is yours truly!).

While waiting, the group of expectant diners swelled in size; I overheard a conversation between the host and a customer - waiting time has increased to 40 minutes! We were lucky just to arrive ahead 5-10 minutes!

Finally, our names are called and we were ushered to a table at the back of the restaurant. Inside, the lighting is dim, but the setting cosy. Servers are friendly, and looked regal in their outfits. 

We both agreed the cat on the menu card looked more like a koala than a cat.

Lighting so dim the photo turned out noisy. Or perhaps iPhone7 needs to work on their low light photos :-)

We placed our orders, and the waiting resumed. Service is quite slow here and we only got our food some 40 minutes later. That's more than an hour of waiting around!

Top to bottom: Kabuli Naan (naan bread with stuffings), Nalli Gosht (lamb shank) and Chelo Kababs.

Chelo Kababs are Peter Cat's signature dish, (under the "Aphrodisiacs For the Harem" section, hehe) -
Special Kebabs prepared in rare spices, blended with Persian herbs, and served on a bed of rice with butter and an egg. 

The "Original" Chelo Kabab comes with a combination of chicken and mutton kebab, long-grained rice (most likely basmati), a dollop of butter, and a fried egg. While Vinnie liked the Chelo Kebabs, I wasn't all that wild about it. The rice with butter felt very greasy; and while chicken kebab is very flavourful, I felt like there was something off about the mutton kebab. I also bit into something hard in the mutton kebab, that might have explained my lack of enthusiasm for it. The poached egg also does not complement the dish, I felt.

On the other hand, the Nalli Gosht was excellent. The gravy is rich and beautifully flavoured, the mutton falling off the bones and deliciously tender. We pretty much wiped the dish clean, mopping up the last drop of gravy with naan.

I got my caffeine dose and dessert all at the same time. Saw "Coffee with Ice-Cream" and made a mental note to order it later. Ice-cream was chocolate chip, but coffee tasted like instant stuff. Not saying it's bad, but I think I'll go for affogato next time....

Post meal: we both had upset stomachs later that evening and remnants of it the following day.... Not sure if it was the richness of the spices that our stomachs couldn't handle, or the greasiness of the rice......

Peter Cat
18A Park Street
(Around the block, right turn at Flury's)
Opens: Daily, 11:00am - 12:00am

Nobu, Kuala Lumpur

Overpriced, bad service and mediocre food - those were the reviews by close friends. We have been there a couple of times since, and although we agree that the service is bad, we absolutely enjoyed the food here.

Nobu represents a fusion of South American and Japanese cuisine. Subtle Japanese flavours, combined with strong South American flavours - these are exciting on the palate. 

High praises lavished for Nobu's food, but disappointment is reserved for their service. Or the lack of it. 

Most notable faux pas: 

1. First visit, we were shown to our seats by apathetic staff. We then spent the next 10 minutes waiting for the menu, even flagged the staff several times. The final straw was when one of the wait staff delivered the menu to another guest (who turned up later than us) and then stood chatting with him for a good 5 minutes while we stare at our hands.

2. Second visit was pleasant enough, although we also had to flag the staff several times due to their inattentiveness (to order, to ask for desserts, the list goes on).

3. Most recent visit: My girlfriends and I had come to try their lunch menus. We all opted for a 3-course dish. My main course arrived FIRST. I told the waiter that I haven't had my appetiser and it didn't seem to bother him. He asked if I'd want him to take away the main course. Errr, maybe not. Appetisers have milder flavours, and should be consumed ahead of the main, otherwise the stronger flavours in main courses will overpower the starters.

So I started on my main course, and a couple of bites later, my appetiser shows up. NOW I have a main course sitting cold, while I switched back to the appetiser. No apologies from wait staff were made.

After we were done with the main courses, it took them some 30 minutes before serving our dessert (we had to request for it). It annoyed me that they hurried with our appetisers and main courses, but then decided to delay dessert..... Finally, our request for the bill took 10 minutes (restaurant was almost empty at this point), so there was no excuse for the slow service.

A most Insta-worthy presentation of the Salmon Anticucho. Salmon on rice, served with anticucho sauce (a South American sauce that reminds me of Peri-Peri!), mushrooms and greens. I love this dish! A hearty meal and the anticucho sauce is a delight.

The starter that arrived after the main course. Such a pretty presentation too! Ceviche of cubed tuna, salmon, octopus, sea breem and quinoa. Superbly yummy. Just remember to stir it all up, or you'll have an excess of the sour lime ceviche dressing at the base.

Salmon in (most notably) soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Very light and refreshing. 

My friends ordered the chicken with truffle sauce (soooooo yummy), and tenderloin (not bad but portions are quite small) - no photos though!

Ah, desserts. I've tried quite a few of their desserts here in Nobu and they do not disappoint. 

In fact, the desserts have all been phenomenal. My favourite is the chocolate sphere  (this option is not available for lunch set menu, though). Nobu's balance of flavours (salt/sour with sweet is impeccable), texture (crumble, crunchy nuts, ice-cream...) are well put together. 

Clockwise from top: Whiskey cappucino (very small portion), banana fritters with passion fruit (deliciously made) and Sata Andagi (deep fried doughs filled with melted chocolate, served with crunchy nuts and pandan ice-cream). Drool!

Lambir Hills National Park & Niah Caves, Sarawak

Finally, a 3-day weekend in Brunei. We toyed with the idea of hiking the Pinnacles in the Mulu National Park, but there are no direct flights from Brunei into Mulu. I was keen to explore more of Sarawak, so I did a quick search for some trekking/hiking near Miri that we could do in 3 days. Lambir Hills and the Niah Caves were the closest proximity to Miri, so they were obvious choices.

We rented a car from Miri (a Perodua Viva @RM310 for 3 days) and started driving to Lambir Hills National Park after a hearty breakfast of Sarawak laksa (I am addicted to this stuff!). The drive took 40 minutes from Miri. I was expecting a pretty drive, with dense rainforests flanking the roads.... but what a naïve thought! For the majority stretch of roads, lands are barren and leaden with palm oil plantation. Miles and miles of it. Crossing over into Sarawak felt like entering a vast and grim industrial land.

We lost data coverage halfway into the drive. But there were signages to help us find our way.

(All photos taken on iPhone 7 Plus)

Day 1: Lambir Hills National Park

Lambir Hills National Park

We reached Lambir Hills National Park just after noon. As we are staying here for the night, we located the administrative office and checked in. I have booked a 2-bedroom chalet with ensuite. The place is basic, but decent and clean. They also provide towels, soap and air-conditioning (in my defense, an American friend was traveling with us and he requested for a/c). All this at only RM150 for 3 of us! You can view and book online at the Sarawak National Park e-booking website.

If staying for the night at the NP, you should also inform the canteen if you intend to have dinner there because they close very early (6pm is the last order!). Also buy enough water to stock up for the night.

We dropped our bags, changed into our hiking things, and purchased permits from the Park Office - RM10 for Malaysians, and RM20 for foreigners. We started with an easy trail, with the intention of returning to the canteen for lunch. The trail branched out into 3 separate waterfalls. Very pretty, and of course it started raining heavily in the middle of our hike!

Drenched, as if we'd gone for a swim ourselves.

The first hike was only 15-20 minutes. It took more time to avoid stepping on squishy, muddy spots than actual trekking. When we got to the last waterfall, we consulted a map of the NP. We realized that where we are, it's already 1/6 of the way in towards the peak of Bukit Pantu. We weren't keen to head back and start over. Also, if we return, have lunch and head out again, we may not have enough time to hike up Bukit Pantu - all visitors are required to return to the Park Office by 4pm.

And so, we trudged on. Without extra supplies of water, nor lunch. The beginnings of a bad idea, no doubt...

I particularly enjoyed the hike, unlike the other two, hehe. There are some pretty steep sections, and we had to tread carefully because of the slippery rocks from the downpour. I was in a paranoid state the entire hike, frequently checking for leeches. I spotted two! One of them was a right stubborn one that clung to my shoes for dear life. I was squealing for V to flick it off and he took quite a while to do so, while my squealing intensified. 

3 hours later, after some precarious steps and even ladders - we were rewarded with this view.

Amazingly, the phone  reception on the peak of Bukit Pantu was good! My phone detected 3G and Vinnie even tried to book movie tickets while we rested and took in the view, hehe.

The journey back to the Park Office was uneventful as we hurried to end the trek. By 4:45pm, we made it to base and made a beeline towards the canteen, heh. 

A quick order with the canteen kakak - veggies, chicken and omelette. Dinner is served within 10-15 minutes. While waiting for our food to arrive, we did a thorough body inventory check... for leeches. 

I gingerly took off my shoes, and socks, and was relieved not to see any. So I sat cross-legged on the chair and when my hands brushed against my feet, I felt something soft and wriggly T_T Another round of squealing ensued... 

The portions served for dinner were generous. Stir fried long beans, omelette and chicken curry with  a large helping of rice. After 4 hours of hiking and missing lunch, this was what we needed.

Later that evening, we drove to Tusan Beach (some 45 minutes from Bukit Lambir NP) to catch the glowing bioluminescence. Unfortunately for us, the waves weren't crashing with enough force to activate the glow, so we humoured ourselves by snacking at the beachside stalls. 

Most notably being sold in excess at the stalls were grilled chicken buttocks - something V is quick to point out. There were coconuts being sold, as well as other drinks and shakes. After ordering a whole coconut to myself, I noticed some very black coconuts on display as well. These were charred, and the juice of these coconuts are supposed to be creamier in flavour.

Day 2: Niah National Park

After a quick breakfast at the canteen (half-boiled eggs and roti kahwin, with a very grossly diluted cup of coffee), we were back on the road heading towards Niah National Park. It took us 1 hour 15 minutes to arrive. As we registered ourselves at the NP office, we were briefed on directions.

A short boat ride across the river, then a 3km walk before reaching the Niah Caves. The two guys were dreading the walk, as it was blazing hot - while I insisted we keep on, after all, we are here.

We have truly learnt our lessons after yesterday's ordeals. We deliberately HAD lunch, even though none of us were hungry yet. The sun was baking hot when we were about to start. So I shifted the car to park it under the shade of the tree.... and in that short period of time, the skies grew overcast. 

Seriously, wtf? 

And true enough, after the river crossing, it started raining. Heavily. Like, proper rainforest downpour.

The 3km walk is otherwise an easy trail. Raised platform of wooden planks make it easier to walk and mentally, you are assured from leeches. 

At the end of the 3km boardwalk, naturally the rain stopped....

The caves are impressive! Long bamboo poles suspended from the highest part of the cave (15-20m height) were used by the local people to harvest birds nests! 

Deeper into the caves, torchlights were required. At one descend, it was so dark below that it creeped me out. V exclaimed in the dark that this was akin to the Mines of Moria and even threw in a few choice dialogues from the book.  

We spent about 2 hours within the caves. Expect to climb and descend lots of stairs. The Painted Cave, which required you to venture towards the opposite end of the cave, exit and enter another cave - was frankly a disappointment. The painted cave section was a restricted area, so you can only gaze from some distance away as you convince yourself that the various shadows make up the paintings. 

What I didn't know was, this cave has been in existence since the Stone Age days, and the painted cave was 40,000 years old! I would have paid more reverence had I known this fact then.

The entire Niah Cave experience was approximately 4 hours, including the 3km walk in and out. We were absolutely reeking! We entered the cave soaking wet, sweated buckets in the cave, and the lack of any ventilation only made the stench worse.

Imagine driving back to Miri for 2 hours in this condition.

Along the way, we stopped by a "Hawaii Beach", just after Tusan Beach. 

This is the only stretch of beach with coconut trees, and hence the moniker.

Btw, stripping off all that disgusting damp clothes and that shower in a hotel, was absolute bliss.

Finally finishing off the night with dinner at a seafood restaurant - Meng Chai.
Stir fried fern leaves in red wine sauce, grilled squid and a barbequed fish in sambal which I forgot to photograph.

The fern was a delight. Crunchy and tender, the sauce is also delicious. The grilled squid could be better, I reckon - it was too chewy to my liking. There is a dipping sauce (you'll have to take it yourself, where all the cutleries are stored) of chilli and a prawn paste - fantastic combination.

The barbequed fish was also very fresh, and tender. Delish! 

The Georgian Adventure - Hike to Chalaadi Glacier

Our third, and last hike in Svaneti. There are so many more places to hike and explore around Georgia, it was a hard decision to premature...