Friday, December 31, 2010

A Tranquil X'mas Evening...

It was just soOoo sweet of AMDG to have arranged a Tranquil Evening for me with my GrandMentor; Mr. Eric See and my Artiste & Talent Manager; Ms. Rena Shi.... It really wasn't anything to be hyper or over-excited about (I know)... but when I was told that the plans for that evening were kept as a SURPRISE for me, I was elated!

I luuuurrrve surprises!!! And when they specifically told me to DRESS UP, I just got excited! I wondered what they would be planning, where they might take me to and what we could be doing... But most importantly, I wondered why the sudden mysterious occasion... I mean, we do have meals casually every now and then, but it was the first time AMDG has planned something this special for me!

The night before the Tranquil Evening, I was rummaging through my wardrobe, picking something suitable to wear for an occasion that I need to dress up for... It was pretty stressful choosing my outfit because I didn't know where I was going...  I picked four dresses of different types and looked at them back and forth, not being able to decide which to wear.

Besides choosing my outfit for the evening that night, I too... had something up my sleeves and got down to work on a surprise specially for Mr. Eric See and Rena!

28th December 2010, Tuesday evening, three hours before the arranged time Rena and Mr. Eric See would be coming to my place to pick me up, I showered, blew my hair, decided to put on a LBD (Little Black Dress) – you can never go wrong with that choice whenever the occasion calls for you to dress up – and applied my make-up.

Singing along to the songs playing on my laptop, I was grinning to myself as I packed my bag... I could have conveniently carried a small bagette or clutch bag to match my dress, but I needed to carry my tote so my “surprise” for Mr. Eric See & Rena could fit nicely into it (They would definitely figure out I had something planned for them if I were to put them in a paper bag)...

Somehow, I was kinda nervous too... Because now my challenge came... How was I supposed to SURPRISE them with it when both of them were so sharp?!!??

I had thought of doing it after dinner, when the dishes have been cleared... I would pretend that something interesting was going on to divert their attention and then take out my “surprise” quickly... Then just when they turn their heads back and ask, “What? Where...?” I would say, “SURPRISE!!!I often see this cliché trick on TV, but I seriously questioned my ability to pull it off; especially when it's The GrandMentor and one of his most able students (protégé) that I'm surprising...

Even back then when I had organized the Christmas Party in AMDG office (To read about this Christmas Fine Dining event, please refer to Chapter 30 in “This Is My Story...”), I had  to get the help of Rena, so that my surprise for them wouldn't get busted...

At six in the evening, Rena and Mr. Eric See arrived (Rena’s driving today) and I got into the car. I was excited to know where I was going and kept looking around the streets for a signboard, a street name or a building that would at least give me an idea or a clue... But... What I saw around were high-rise buildings (Not those you see in the CBD area), but those that are HDBs...

I grew curious now, wondering if we were really gonna dine in a hawker centre or coffeeshop... Please don't get me wrong, I have nothing against hawker centres or coffeeshops; and I honestly feel that most delicious & satisfying food can only be found in these places in fact... But can you picture the three of us dining in a hawker centre or coffeeshop, dressed up?!!?? It would look so weird... and I’d definitely feel weird! (The reason I have this thought is because Mr. Eric See & Rena will choose a normal hawker centre anytime over a posh 5 stars restaurant... As what Mr. Eric See once said in jest, "Regardless how good or bad, cheap or expensive the food may be... It would eventually still come OUT from ONE "place"... And THAT One "Place" don't separate good or bad, cheap or expensive S*** right? As long as the food is decent & nice... Hawker Centre or Coffeeshop is good enough for me..." (Its not what he said that was funny, it's how he said it that was hilarious...)

I finally saw a sign that fitted very well with our outfit and occasion... and I was quite certain we were heading there. I fixed my eyes on the signboard that read “Mount Faber”; and waited for Rena to make a turn towards it; to conclude my guess... But instead of approaching it, the “Mount Faber” signboard passed us by as my eyes followed in that second. Was there another place with similar or better ambience around here...?!! (I wondered deeply…)

I waited patiently, and finally Rena said to Mr. Eric See, “I think I missed a turn somewhere behind...” And I continued with; “Could it be Mount Faber that you missed???” I asked… Trying to fish for my answer to confirm my guess, but Rena simply smiled… Then I asked Rena again if she could let me know the street name or any particular signboards; so I could help keep a look-out in case she misses any signboard again, but she was simply tight-lipped...

We managed to find our way back again soon... and it really was Mount Faber!!!

Upon reaching the top of the hill, The Jewel Box welcomed us with its huge Christmas decorations, sparkly & twinkling signage and bluish neon-lit entrance... I took the chance to snap a few pictures and they turned out looking like some place you see overseas!

Ever since they renovated the place, I've not been here and it really is a beautiful place with a magnificent view! Even their washroom was incredible! Basins circled a stone monument with water spilling down the sides were placed right in the middle of the washroom, a velvet couch was lounged against the floor-to-ceiling glass window that showcased the night scenery and at the opposite end where the couch is, placed a rectangular fish tank... There may be lots of men trying to peer into the see-through windows from the second or third floor, but you can be assured that you'll be safe from watchful eyes as the cubicles are tucked behind two large mirrors.

We headed up to the third floor and walked into Empress Jade Restaurant with our reservation. Its smoothly-finished Hiba wood arcs and amber spotlights gave an inviting appeal... With the same floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a paranomic view of the surrounding landscape was presented. It is a peaceful and quiet place to dine; the blue neon lights (coming from the ground floor) which could be seen from the balcony; compensated the restaurant with much cosiness & warmth. The ambience and decor of this place gives you that mood to slowly enjoy your food without the pressure of that scary, high-end quietness you find in those luxurious restaurants.

Besides having a good birds' eye view and a pleasant ambience, the food served were delicious too! They all had their merits and if I had to list my three favourites... My first choice would be the Steamed Cod Fish with Minced Garlic (Because I love Cod! And with the minced garlic puree, this dish alone accompanied with white rice, is more than enough for me!).

My next favourite dish was the Braised Abalone Mushroom with Homemade BeanCurd (not because I love bean curd, although I really do... but because the bean curd is very tender, it just slides and melts in your mouth...). The dish that clinched the third spot on my list was the Sautéed Scallop in 3 Treasures... Scattered around three individual scallops in varying sauce (Wasabi Mayonnaise, Sweet Chilli and Mango Sauce), are the colourful Capsicums and crunchy Asparagus topped with Salted Egg Yolk flakes. This dish makes me happy just by looking at it... and digging into this creation, brings freshness to your palette!

The remaining three dishes we ordered were the Sweet & Sour Pork, Shanghai Smoked Fish and the Crispy Dough Fritter with Chinese Sausage. Although these three didn't make it into my top three favourite, they certainly tasted good too!

Sipping our Osmanthus Gold Flower Tea as the waiter cleared our table, I contemplated in my mind if I should hand out my “surprise” now... I practiced a few times in my mind to suddenly point behind their backs and say, “See that thing!”, but I just couldn't do it... I was afraid that if I was too slow, they would catch me in action of taking out the “surprise” for them; and then it wouldn't be a surprise anymore... So when finally Mr. Eric See called for the bill, I backed out and decided to look for another better opportunity... Perhaps at our next location; which was also a surprise for me.

While Rena was driving towards our next location, I saw the towers of Marina Bay Sands and guessed that was our next destination... and indeed it was!

But this surprise sadly was; more of a disappointment, NOT ONLY just for me, but for Mr. Eric See and Rena as well.

Watching The Amazing Race Asia Season 4 Finale episode, where the last pit-stop was at the Marina Bay Sands, SkyPark, I had since wanted to go there and see how exclusive it really is, as depicted in all their advertisements...

My hopes were brought up (and I was feeling so excited like a little girl) as we walked toward the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, passing by the boutiques and casino - Before we could take the lift to SkyPark, we had to go through a line that had a board which said, “Attire: Smart Casual”, but a lady in front of me was wearing slippers instead... So I asked Mr. Eric See in whispers; as softly as I can, “I thought the attire was smart casual?” Mr. Eric See suggested that MAYBE she was a hotel guest, but when we finally reached SkyPark, MOST of the people there weren't in smart casual attire either...

The place was filled with children running through that one small walk-way (one small lane but a "Two-Ways traffic"), some hotel guests were in the pool and mass of people from the general public were standing around everywhere to enjoy the cool breeze blowing; as well as to admire the night sky (and/ or the ladies in the pool... These hotel guests, I truly wondered how they felt as normally the pool area is meant for hotel guests' access only... Of cos, the general public cannot get INTO the pool in this instance, but my point is... Picture yourself relaxing; wanting some quiet moments, where there is serenity at the poolside and you can just kick back and relax, without hearing everyone else talking (or yelling away) so loudly at the same time... But instead, the reality... Hundreds; if not thousands pair of eyes are looking at you, and they are NOT even guests from the hotel; neither are they going for their dinner or drinks up at SkyPark, but YOU are paying exorbitant price for your exclusive hotel stays & so-called privacy).

Simply put it, it’s PACKED, like sardines in the can.

There were simply too many people crowded around and the place was noisy & disorganized...

I had actually expected it to be exclusive for hotel guests, and the public that goes up there, the very least is to patronize the Dining & Drinks establishments there; but its not the case... Most were there to simply "Look-See-Look-See-&-Hang-Everywhere-As-Long-As-There's-A-Spot-For-Them-To-Stand..."  This made us very uncomfortable; but still we decided to stay for a drink and chill out at Sky on 57.

However, it was drizzling before and the tables outside were damp & wet, and two serving staffs standing beside us, though waiting for us to be seated, made NO ATTEMPT to clean & dry up the table & chair even when we were standing just beside it... They just stood there... Thus we agreed in unison to move to another place... (AFTER Mr. Eric See, without a second word; walked out of that place with a straight face, and neither did he took another glimpse at the 2 "robots" as so he calls...)

Bottomline... We had a bad experience at SkyPark.

And a great move we made, 'cause we ended up in the comfortable sofa seats in the Lobby Lounge of Shangri-La Hotel; one of the BEST lounges Mr. Eric See & Rena recommends... and I absolutely agree! (Mr. Eric See has been a regular there since he was in his mid 20’s)

The lobby lounge is big and spacious with just enough distance between each table for privacy. The service staff too, had an impeccable service attitude with great persona... And they actually bow or go all the way down on their knees when they serve you... It really does show how humble and genteel they were… (No wonder Mr. Eric See always tips them well.)

A great dinner has to end with something sweet like desserts, so Rena and I ordered a Lemon Pie Meringue and an Apple Crumble respectively, together with a platter of straight-cut Fries, crispy Spring Rolls and three pots of tea; Rose Tea with Petals (for Mr. Eric See), Japanese Sencha (for Rena) and Sweet Kiss (for myself).

We ate and talked, and drank and laughed, but I waited for an opportunity for my unfinished business... My SURPRISE for them!

My opportunity came when Mr. Eric See excused himself to the Gents and Rena went to borrow a pen from the service staff, 'cause she needed me to sign a document... I looked around to make sure they were both out of sight and sneakily took out my “surprise”, placing it on the marble slab under the table. (Our teapots and teacups were placed directly above my “surprise” so I hoped they could notice...)

When they both came back to their seats, I waited for them to discover the “surprise”, but both said nothing and we continued talking about our plans for the Year 2011... I fidgeted around, trying to suppress myself from letting the cat out of the bag... Coming to 2am plus in the wee hours of the morning, they suggested its time to head home... I was so sad... and had no choice but to tell them my surprises… Saying softly; in my faintest voice I could exude from my mouth, with my heart feeling so down, I said, “I actually prepared a surprise for the both of you... I put it somewhere here; but you guys didn’t even notice it...”

And immediately (almost spontaneously) they both looked under the table, and laughed-out-loud, in UNISON…!  And Mr. Eric See said, “That's OURS??!!! We already saw it! But we thought it belonged to someone else who might have left it here & forgotten to bring it back… So we couldn’t be bothered to check… Of all people, you should know we are NOT the curious or “Kay-Po” types, so how would we have expected it to be OUR gift right?!!” (And they continued to laugh heartily at themselves the way I knew they would be…)

From under the table, they each took a box of my home-baked Lemon Bars wrapped with black paper and chocolate brown ribbon linings, with a self-decorated card of my heartfelt thanks. It is the one way I know best to convey my deep appreciation towards them...

For Always Having Me In Their Heart & Mind...

For A Wonderful, Well-Spent & Delightful Evening...

And For Being Such A Caring, Loving & Protective Friend To Me...

I Thank You BOTH SoOOoooo Muuuccchhhhh!!!

And Not Forgetting...

ALL My Lovely Readers, Supporters, Fans & Friends…

"May You Have A Zestful 2011 That's Filled
With Hope, Joy & Love…!!!"

To See MORE Photos Of This Tranquil X'mas
Evening Of Mine... Kindly Click HERE.

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