Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Hate-Turned-Love Story With Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken

First impressions last. But they're not necessarily accurate.

Such is the case with our first try of Nando's peri-peri chicken. That was in Mid Valley Megamall, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Kuala Lumpur. We were in search of a place to dine with one simple criterion — the food must not be available in Singapore. We can't remember exactly why it wasn't very pleasant — or more precisely, why we didn't like the chicken. Maybe they served it cold. Maybe the whole experience was something we'd rather forget.

Forget we did, but not entirely. Thanks to a faulty memory and the branch's proximity to the bus terminal, we found ourselves trying out Nando's peri-peri flame-grilled chicken once again in Puduraya, Kuala Lumpur. We were making another visit to the megacity then. Had we remembered that we've already sampled their food before, we may have chosen to dine some place else.

We realized the blunder only after the waitress had taken our orders. It was a little too late to walk out. I was saying peri-peri repeatedly like a chant while we went over the menu to learn more about the place and what they offered. The chant must have worked some kind of magic for we ended up asking the same question simultaneously, "Hey, haven't we been here before?"

We answered our own question by recounting the details of our previous visit. We wished it wouldn't be so bad on our second try. We might not have remembered the restaurant's name, but we certainly remembered what peri-peri meant.

It's easy enough to get the hint from the menu and the posters that the term peri-peri refers to chili. Wikipedia says:
Piri-piri, peri-peri or peli-peli is the name used in Mozambique and Angola to describe the African bird's-eye chili" and that "the variations in spelling derive from the various pronunciations of the word in parts of Africa, although 'piri-piri' is the correct spelling in Portuguese.
Nando's and the term peri-peri make a good pair indeed. Nando's is a Portuguese-themed chicken restaurant but has its origins in South Africa, where it's first restaurant was born in 1987.

It didn't take long for us to confront our fears. The waitress arrived with our orders shortly. I must say that whatever doubts we had about Nando's and our memories of a previously bad experience dissipated as soon as we had our first bite into the chicken. Our second try turned out to be a serendipitous blunder.

Since then, we've looked forward to dining at Nando's every time we go to KL. We make sure to visit the same branch at Puduraya though, just to be sure.

We've tried three out of the four flavors — garlic, medium and hot. Maybe next time we won't be so chicken and we'll try the extra hot.

Makes me wonder, will there ever be a Nando's Singapore?


More about Nando's on the Web:

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Friday, January 9, 2009

A Visit To The Saujana Kuala Lumpur

So it's 2009. What better way to start the year than taking a short break to recharge and plan for the next 11 months?

In our case, those were among our objectives. But visiting Captain X, who was at a training with other pilots in Malaysia Airlines Systems (MAS) and staying at The Saujana Kuala Lumpur, was first in the agenda.

Getting to the hotel without your own car is a challenge because it's 30-45 minutes away from the KL city proper. This leaves you with only one choice —taking a cab. Now I know from previous experience that this may not turn out to be very pleasant, but it must be one of those things that I might just have to learn to live with.

Anyway, after several minutes of hailing taxis here and there, we managed to find a cabbie who was willing to take us to our destination for RM60. That amount was of course sufficient to pay for the ride to and fro, had he opted to use the meter. We tried bringing the amount down to RM50, but I guess the cabbie was shrewd enough to know we didn't have any bargaining chip to begin with.

The driver ended up bringing us to the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport. I guess he wasn't able to read the entire address on the map I showed him earlier in his haste to close the lopsided deal. Good thing the hotel was very near from there. Equally good was that he had no qualms about turning around and bringing us to right place.

The right place, Saujana Kuala Lumpur, is actually located in Shah Alam City in the Selangor state. I initially thought the hotel name was misleading, but I later found out that Shah Alam is part of Greater Kuala Lumpur or Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan Area(KLMA), also known as Klang Valley. We got there at about 4:30 p.m., approximately seven hours from the time we left Beach Road in Singapore.

The hotel was designed with golfers in mind. The driving range could be viewed through the windows in the lobby and two 18-hole golf courses are but a few minutes walk away. They even have a dining area called the Golfer's Terrace, where local favorites are served. You'd make the most of your stay if you're a golfer. Otherwise, you might as well make use of their other facilities such as the swimming pool, fitness gym and tennis court.

They also offer spa services. We decided to give their Swedish a try. At RM190 per person, it's a bit too costly. We took the only available slot in the evening, which was at 9 p.m. We had to be served cold ginger tea (I prefer it hot) while waiting for the 8 p.m. couple to finish.

It wasn't as great as we wanted it to be, but we had a good laugh when we talked about it afterwards. I thought my lady masseur was wearing a Band-Aid on her thumb because I could feel something rough rubbing against my back. Joanne thought her masseur was wearing a ring. Apart from that, the masseurs were moderately skilled. There was none of the usual custom of asking whether the pressure applied was sufficient. It wasn't bad, but we've gotten better massages for less than a fifth of what they charge. Not to nitpick, but I do wish they'd also clean the bathroom in the spa suite more regularly.

As for the rooms, they're nice, clean and comfortable. The usual necessities are there, including an electronic safe. The cable channels are not that plenty though. To my satisfaction, Internet connectivity was provided for free. The other thing that surprised me but wasn't as pleasant was that the room comes with free breakfast for only one person. They charge you RM50 for the extra.

The people are averagely friendly and attentive. When we arrived in the hotel, there were none of the usual welcoming courtesies. No offers to carry our bags, not even after we checked in. We had to ask for an extra pair of slippers and one more bathrobe, when we had booked for two. The free shuttle service provided is never on time and the driver may refuse to take you to the places in their regular routes citing heavy traffic as the reason. To be fair, there are others who make up for it — the courteous cleaning ladies, the efficient waiter, members of the staff who greet you in the corridors, the driver who went the extra mile by bringing us to the Pudaraya bus terminal instead of just the KLCC. Of course, with a basis for comparison, you learn to appreciate these people even more.

I think what makes a five-star hotel truly shine are its people.


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Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Singapore Marina Bay NY Countdown: A Blast!

This year, we chose to take part of the Marina Bay Countdown (MBC). We were a bit disappointed with our choice last year, when we opted to go to Vivo City.

We almost didn't make it, because the Sistic website was showing that the Party@The Float was canceled, without clearly indicating that the countdown was going to push through. Good thing Channel 5 continued advertising the event, which prompted me to go beyond the first few clicks in the Sistic website to make me realize my earlier mistake. I learned from a number of friends however, that I wasn't the only one who misunderstood the ambiguous message.

Anyway, the MBC was definitely a blast! Spectators started queuing before 7 p.m. Young and old, male and female, Singaporeans and foreigners alike, thousands of people chose to leave the comfort of their homes to participate in the countdown.

That may not have been enough to fill the 30,000 seating-capacity in the world's largest floating stage. But for those who chose to take part in the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration event in the country, they couldn't have been disappointed.

There was a bit of a ruckus between 9:00 - 9:30 p.m. when a number of people crossed over from the blue benches to the yellow ones through an opening in the barriers. They must have misunderstood the emcee's call for people to find good seats. The emcee was explaining that rows nearer the stage would definitely give them a good view of the celebrity show but not a very good one of the fireworks and that no one would not be allowed to changed seats once the fireworks display started. The exodus ended with some people returning to their original seats and some getting a better deal.

The televised show started at 10:30 p.m., but performances by Ash (from By Definition) and the band Rivermaya rocked the house as early as one hour before. The band from the Philippines and recipient of the prestigious Best Asian Artist Award, Rivermaya also sang a song in their mother tongue, much to the delight of Filipinos present among the crowd.

As promised, performances by showbiz personalities dazzled the audience. Celebrities who were present include Gurmit Singh, Michelle Chia, Fiona Xie, Utt, Michelle Chong and Adrian Pang.

The spotlight momentarily left the showbiz stars when the fireworks display started.

What word describes the fireworks best but spectacular? The oohs and ahhs of the people watching the 8-minute display definitely indicated their approval.

The queue for food was awfully long and painfully slow. If there was anything that needs improvement, this would be it. The servers were clearly at a loss on how to handle the huge volume of orders: spilling beverages in panic, forgetting to display new stock coming in, not having enough change, being unsure of what exactly they had ran out of. A few customers couldn't help voicing out their frustrations after queuing for over 45 minutes and finding out the food or beverage they wanted were out of stock.

As far as national TV is concerned, the show concluded with the stars gathered on stage while Rivermaya rocked the house with another song.

Ash performed the closing act as spectators left the venue.

We ended up taking a long walk to the MRT station, among with several thousand others.

We got to Pasir Ris before 2 a.m. and had to take a walk all the way to the house because no more bus services were available. We already anticipated this, as this is exactly how it went last year. How could we complain?

Happy New Year!


I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.

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