Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Amari Nova Suites Pattaya: Home Away From Home!

Its quite self explanatory why hotels that were located further away from city centre/hotspots were cheaper, though I found the situation more obvious in Thailand.

My one night stay in Pattaya was at Amari Nova Suites, a brand new apartment-styled hotel that had a fair bit of distance from the beach, but nonetheless convenient with complimentary tuk-tuk services. If you loved to hit the beach right from the doorstep of your hotel, this probably wouldn't be it. But we pretty much enjoyed the neighbourhood's tranquility.

Hotel lobby was rather simple with a single front desk and sofas decked in black and bold red at the side. Rather liked the minimalist design!

The hotel also had a swimming pool at its rooftop and a well-furnished gym. For those looking for a drink, the hotel housed two bars; one a Supperclub type with food and drink served on beds, while the other, -5degrees, had a vodka room that served drinks at of course, -5degrees!

On to the apartment! I awed at the interior design as it was exactly the type that my ideal home would be; White marble floor, clear-cut furnishing with a futuristic touch, spotlights and hidden tubes to illuminate the place. Looking really good already!

I really liked how the portraits hanged around various parts of the house gave it a homely touch. Cable TV was pretty much a standard item with Caucasians making up a large part of the local population. I could laze around watching HBO for the whole day!

Kitchen was small but had everything you would need for a meal, completed with plates and cutleries in the cupboards. Induction cooking, oven baking or lazy microwaving, depends on your skill level!

But don't expect too much of a view from the balcony though. Like I said, it was a quiet neighbourhood with many ongoing constructions. Stay inside to avoid the dust!

The bedroom had plenty of space with a corner for wardrobe, make-up table and another balcony that I didn't bother stepping out. I supposed the bed frame used a Thai design, but my dad and I constantly got our shin poked by the pointed edges. Another 32" LCD tv for my lazy moments? Awesome!

There was only a standing shower in the toilet, but I'm still loving its overall clean, white design without looking like a dental clinic.

Mcdonalds Samurai Pork Burger

With no in-house restaurant and room service coming from a pub 5 minutes walk away, eating in could especially be a problem late at night. My solution? Da bao from the malls!

For years, I had heard about the aptly dubbed McPork that could never appear in Singapore due to religious reasons. But really, nothing worth hyping over as it was just a substitute of pork patty with their sweet onion sauce. Oh well, washed down nicely with Singha beer!

CP Prawn Wantons with Hor Fun and Baby Asparagus

If there was one Thai food brand that we were familiar with, it would be CP and its frozen packs of shrimp dumplings that were so crunchy and yummy in an instant. Using stuffs from the supermarket, mum whipped up a breakfast that was even better than room service!

My comfortable stay in Amari Nova Suites was probably way too short to fully utilise the facilities, a difficult decision between staying at home for a quiet, rejuvenating day and going out to explore the exciting town of Pattaya. Will return with more time on hand!

Amari Nova Suites Pattaya
254 M.9, Soi Petchtrakool
Pattaya City 20260
Tel. +66 (0) 38 489 488
Check their website for online booking!

Taken with Nikon D70
Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thailand Food Courts: Food Loft @ CentralFestival!

As mentioned in the previous post, CentralFestival was the latest shopping mall to open along Pattaya Beach, owned by the same parent company that operated the humongous CentralWorld in Bangkok.

I thought it was also the largest mall in Pattaya too, completed with cinema halls, a departmental store, a supermarket and dozens of eateries. If you were tired of the sun and sand outside, I guessed you could easily spend the entire day in here!

Food Loft was not the default food court of CentralFestival (which was another one located at the basement), but a chic Marche-like place that housed various restaurant brands for Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese and Korean cuisines.

By the way, many food courts in Thailand adopted a prepaid card system in which you would top up a card for food purchases, then had the remaining money refunded upon exit.

With free seating arrangements, we were all eager to grab a table near the glass windows for more pretty view of the beach in the comfort of aircon! After ordering your items, just pass the receipts to any of the waiters and they would deliver the dishes right to your table when ready. That kind of amazed me as they relied entirely on memory for whom to deliver to. Wondered about the accuracy on a busy day!

Seafood Squid Ink Pasta (฿240)

Frankly, we didn't have high hopes for this and true enough, there was barely any trace of squid ink in the spaghetti while the white wine sauce had only a salty aftertaste. At least the seafood toppings were decent with ice cold Asahi beer saving it as well!

Tom Yum Goong (฿220)

We realised that it was pretty hard to not find a good tom yum goong in Thailand. Seriously, its their national soup! With fresh, huge prawns, the seafood broth had fragrance of lemongrass and was suitably spiced.

Pineapple Rice (฿150), Phad Thai (฿120)

Strange enough, it was the first and last time we had this for the trip! With sweet raisins, pineapple bits and cashew nuts, the rice were nicely flavoured and perfectly fried with fluffy, individual grains. Left only a clean husk!

By then, my parents already knew that this was a standard item at every meal. Again, I could not further emphasis on how much I loved the texture of their noodles. Bonus points went for frying the beansprouts together which got rid of that cold raw taste.

Mango with Glutinous Rice (฿125), Banana Crepe (฿120)

Okay this really was the last one for the trip (not that we didn't lugged back fresh mangoes by the kg though!). I was almost taking sweet mangoes and al dente glutinous rice for granted already!

My dad was in the mood for crepe when he ordered this, though it didn't leave much good impression with limp texture and syrupy orange sauce.

With premium pricing at Food Loft, you are indeed paying for cheerful Thai hospitality and an excellent view to boot. Pamper yourself more on a holiday ah!

Food Loft
3rd Floor, CentralFestival
Pattaya Beach
Tel: 66 38 930 985

Taken with Nikon D70
Thursday, April 21, 2011

Edge, Hilton Pattaya: High Tea of The Year!

Back to the last parts of my Thailand trip! On the last two days, we left Bangkok for the sunny beach town of Pattaya, also notoriously well-known for its steamy nightlife. But I'm not gonna talk about suntanning or Agogo bars (hell no), but instead bring you to possibly the best place for high tea in Pattaya!

Located along the bustling beach boardwalk, the Hilton hotel was built on top of the spanking new CentralFestival mall. Barely 3 months old (when I was there), some of the hotel restaurants were not even in operations yet!

I initially suggested finding a cafe inside the mall for tea break, but my parents obviously had other plans!

Being the hotel's residential buffet restaurant, Edge also had an ala carte menu with tea options. Using natural wood as theme, the interior design was stylishly modern with ultra high ceiling and plush armchairs. Besides us, there was only one other Caucasian at teatime, quietly writing her own diary of sort. Loved the tranquility!

Of course if you were the sunshine type, go for the alfresco dining area where you could have an awesome view of the entire stretch of Pattaya beach.

Sauce Platter, Complimentary Bread Basket

I loved how the Thais were meticulous with the pairing of dips for almost all their dishes. And yes, the bread assortment was fantastic. You got warmed herbalicious foccacia, salted crackers, chewy breadsticks and doughy walnut loafs. I can munch through a whole basket by myself!

By the way, prices shown in the menu were inclusive of all taxes, a pleasant surprise we realised only after payment!

Hot Latte (฿130), Iced Cappuccino (฿130)

Coffee at only SGD6.50 in this kind of environment? You must be kidding me! And these weren't of slipshod quality either! A word of caution though, iced drinks were served with a shot of sugar syrup while hot ones were served with a shot of warm water. So be careful not to accidentally sweeten or dilute your drinks!

Oriental Salad with Tempura Prawn (฿150)

Served with bacon bits, mix of shitake and enoki mushrooms and two lightly battered prawns, this was one salad I could comfortably live by!

Fried Prawn Wrapped in Egg Noodles (฿150), Phad Thai (฿250)

Served piping hot, the fine noodle strands were wonderfully crispy, enclosing a crunchy fresh prawn. Pairing it with mango cubes struck the balance chord for sweet and savoury!

No doubt, the other was an upmarket rendition of rice noodles, but nonetheless very well done with a fluffy omelette on the outside.

Total bill for three was ฿940 ~SGD47.00, definitely worth it for the kind of settings, quality and service we enjoyed. A darn memorable experience, I only wished I got more afternoons to laze around!

While you are there, do explore the hotel a little further and be wowed by the futuristic lobby. Then head for the outdoor lounge with comfy beds in the middle of water pools, watching the sun sets with a martini in hand.

Who needs Infinity Pool when you have a view like this?

Edge, Hilton Pattaya
333/101 Moo 9 Nong Prue Banglamung, Pattaya Chonburi
Tel: 66-38-253000

Taken with Nikon D70
Monday, April 18, 2011

Shin Yuu: Worthy Japanese Ala Carte Buffet!

When a friend asked me to recommend a good place for Japanese buffet , I realised I could barely name three of them. Yes there are Sakae, Suki, Nihon Mura and whatever Japeanese-sounding restaurants that are wallet-friendly, but mass-produced, poor quality sushi just don't quite cut it these days. Hanabi? Not outstanding. Kushinbo? Too much of a crowd and irritated by their hourly "dong-dong-dong" special.

Thankfully, there was this unique place that I thought to be better than the rest, independent of brand chains that served run-of-the-mill stuffs!

Located at Greenwood Avenue, Shin Yuu could be quite a hassle to visit if one didn't drive. But hearing much good things about their ala carte Japanese buffet made me determined to drop by for a lunch visit, car or not!

The small restaurant could barely hold 40 customers, though there were more private rooms hidden way inside. Strangely, my two days advance booking warranted a sit right next to the entrance with the staff telling me that the empty tables inside were already taken, though I never saw anyone walking in afterwards. Never mind, bring on the food!

Sashimi Platter - With 6 types of fishes available, every one of them was fresh with natural sweetness. Off to a good start!
Chawanmushi - Decently silken with plump salmon roe toppings, appreciated the small portion that didn't evilly filled us up.

Aburi Salmon - Flamed with a blow torch, the salmon was nicely charred, simply melting with the savoury aftertaste of mentaiko. Many, many reorders of this!

The complimentary one-time-only Tuna Belly Aburi was really good as well, while the Smoked Duck Breast was just the usual frozen type that was sliced and served.

Spicy Tuna Hand Roll - Touted as must-try, this was good but nothing fantastic really.

Unagi with Avocado Sushi Roll - Well obviously, this was nowhere close to the premium version at Sushi Tei, but was still nicely done for a buffet standard with creamy avocado slices.

Fried Gyoza - A tad oily with little fillings.
Cheese Fishcake - Yes I know, very normal Supermarket stuffs, but I have a soft spot for these tender snacks that oozed with cheese when bitten.

Prawn with Miso and Mayonnaise Sauce - Oh wow, this was a really pleasant surprise! Omelette that was so fluffy and creamy with crunchy prawn and mushrooms. Refill please!
Grilled Unagi - Passable and decently sweetened.

Wafu Steak - Too chewy for my liking
Grill beef short ribs - This was more like it! Nicely marbled with that bit of fatty lining around the bone.

Grilled Pork Loin with Miso Sauce - Tenderly grilled, it went well with the thick miso sauce.

Grilled Scallop - Pretty sure it was of frozen grade, but I'm not complaining and it went with the same mentaiko sauce too.
Pork Cutlet - Too much flour, too little meat. Forgettable.

Tempura Platter - Made upon order, it was sure to arrive piping hot every time. Delightful batter.
Soft Shell Crab Tempura - This looked rather limp in comparison to the platter, but nonetheless alright in taste.

Grilled Salmon - A tad overcooked.
Dory Fish with Cheese - The creamy sauce was yummy in small amount but easily overkilled, while dory was just, well, dory.

Braised Grouper - Another unexpected hit! Though looking dry, the meat was very moist and tender, absorbing the light ginger sauce. Definitely choosing this over the other two!

At $35++/pax for lunch, there were still many items on the menu that I didn't try. But if you are one with a sweet tooth, you can forget about ending with one here as there were zero desserts on the menu, an improvement that would certainly be welcomed.

Otherwise, with attentive service and excellent quality for some of the items, Shin Yuu is definitely one of the places to go for a satisfying Japanese buffet experience. I'm drooling of the aburi salmon already, by the dozen!

Shin Yuu
16 Greenwood Avenue
Hillcrest Park
Tel: 6763 4939
Check out their facebook page for latest news and menu!

Taken with Nikon D70