As I grow (older), I come to the realisation that there's nothing you can buy as a present that truly means something. We're very fortunate to live a life that needs are seldom a worry. Then, any gifts you can buy with money simply becomes a mean to fill a want. Even then, it's not necessarily beneficial. (Imagine game consoles to kids who spend hours a day on it & you can't tear them away from it.) So rather than buying hubs a present, I chose to buy him an experience that I've no doubt will become a fond memory for years to come.
|The only photo we have of the escape the room game.|
We were trapped in a science lab, the canister containing the virus in my hand. I could see where the antidote was but I need the code to unlock the cabinet. It was dark. The moment I took the virus off its holder, we were plunged into darkness, similar to that of an old fashioned photography darkroom. I managed to find a single torch. We had only 1 hour to escape. We finally did with 10 mins to spare. But alas! We went straight into another room & we had to solve even more puzzles to unlock the final door to our freedom. I panicked as I watched the timer count down. I knew we were out of time.
We didn't make our escape. The staff came & ran through what else we needed to do to solve the puzzles. We were allowed 2 hints but the staff came in more than that to push us in the right direction. They later told us that we got the hints immediately which was rare. Just that a successful escape usually requires at least 4 players. Too many & everybody just gets in everybody's way. It was truly something different.
We went home to get ready for dinner. I had booked a table at the restaurant in Mandoon Estate. It was for 6 pm but I wanted to leave by 4 pm so we could take in the sights. By the time we got home, it was already almost 2 pm. So I slowly started to get ready; have a shower, get dressed, get the make up going. We got there around 5ish. We didn't really get to wander around as it started to pour shortly after we got there. The only place open for business was their beer bar. So, why not? Hubs ordered the Black Swan, their award winning black beer (not stout). In hindsight, I should have chose something else but I went with the safe choice, apple cider. I knew the degustation would be small portioned so I suggested a snack. He wanted a pizza so I ordered a lamb, feta & mint pizza which was absolutely divine. But also absolutely a mistake. I was so stuffed at the end of the night. Totally overestimated how much I can eat.
We finished up at 5.55 pm & walked the 10 paces to the restaurant. We were shown to our seats & I went, "Err... what cutlery are we supposed to use?" It was our 1st ever fine dining experience. The plate with knife on the left was a no brainer, definitely for bread & butter. Hubs was saying that it should be from outside to inside but he wasn't sure. We were thrown off by a teaspoon on the right most outer corner. I said the teaspoon should be for dessert so it should be from inside to outside. He countered that the biggest knife & fork were on the inner most & they were for the mains. Also, dessert cutlery are usually given out later. In the end, I said, "Let's just look up the internet." Yup, outside to inside. But it didn't solve the mystery of the extra teaspoon.
After bread & butter, we were given a small shot glass of beetroot veloute which wasn't on the menu. I drank it straight from the glass. When the waiter came, he cleared the teaspoon & it was then it occurred to us that the teaspoon was for this. Ooops. It was all good. Food was smashing. While I understood the concept of contrasting textures as valued by the judges in Masterchef, this was the 1st time I experienced it 1st hand. Like on top of the veloute, there was a small piece of crispy sweet potato. Like in the desserts, there was creamy, crunchy bits, soft bits etc. I heard "perfectly balanced" a thousand times in the show. But what is perfectly balanced? No such thing in hawker dishes that we're so familiar with. No such thing with the franchise casual restaurants we've been to (think Jack's Place, Swenson). I knew it meant incorporating a contrasting flavour into the dish & yet have it complement each other. But I've never tasted it. I finally did.
I'm citing the veloute again. (Becoz it's the easiest to describe.) It was sweet but not overpowering so. Then there was a hint of saltiness to it. The bang came from the horse radish cream, gently swirled on top of the veloute. It brought the beetroot veloute to a whole new level. We were unanimous in our opinion that the venison with brussel sprouts was the best dish from the savoury menu. Savoury done. All the cutlery gone. Here came dessert cutlery. Again, there was an extra teaspoon. When the mango sorbet (which wasn't on the menu) came, we knew immediately the teaspoon was to be used for this. Lol. It was then I came to realise that the veloute & the mango sorbet were not on the menu becoz they were palate cleansers. They were not strictly speaking, a dish. We had different opinion on the 2 desserts. I preferred the rose granita with honeycomb & lavender jelly while hubs preferred the sparkling sorbet with strawberries & white chocolate. But, oh wow!
As I grew as a cook, I found myself drawing away from franchise restaurants. Hog's Breath was 1 of the last we had a meal at. I remembered thinking to myself that, "I can cook better than this. Why am I paying 60, 70 dollars for this?" I think this will profoundly change my restaurant choices in the future. Of course, I still miss economic beehoon/noodles/kuey tiao that is so readily available in kopithiams. But when it comes to restaurant dining, there's no turning back.
$240 bill (after Entertainment Book discount) concludes our evening. By then, the apple cider that had gone straight to my head had dissipated & I drove us home. Beautiful. You can bet we'll be trying out other restaurants for all future special occasions.
|Mandoon Estate Beer Bar.|
|1st half of the menu.|
|2nd half of the menu.|