Today I got to celebrate my brother’s birthday with my brother in Singapore. A rare treat for me as we have been living thousands of miles apart since 1991. Kevin found a birthday card under the door from the hotel to start the day. But since he’s not big on breakfast, our celebratory meal was to be at lunch and in the morning we took a walking tour of the Arab district. I thought he would like learning about the history of the sultans that used to rule Singapore, and how the British and the Dutch fought over the spice route. We were lucky to have a very knowledgeable guide and despite the oppressive heat (I thought not as bad as India), we really enjoyed the tour. For someone who had very little previous knowledge about Singapore, I found it both educational and entertaining. I even got to learn how to properly wear a sarong! We walked the streets of the Arab district, learned how Raffles and the subsequent envoys from England bought Singapore from the sultans and edged out the Dutch. We stopped by an old shop that cater to the local Muslim population and gained valuable insights to Islam by visiting the Sultan Mosque. We walked by the former Malay palace, and learned how the sultan and the royal families met their tragic ends. The tour ended with a visit to the royal graveyard, which was in a state of total ruin and quite sad. We covered a lot in 3 hours and we had to rush to get ready for our lunch reservation.
We went to a contemporary Singaporean restaurant called “Wildrocket,” which I had read about from a New York Times article. The cuisine served there was a wonderfully modern take on various ethic flavors you find in Singapore. My appetizer of softshell crab had an intense black pepper sauce that I assume is a take on the Singaporean pepper crab dish (which I hope to have before I leave since last night we opted for the chilli crab). My brother’s starter was also a crab dish (we can’t get enough of these crustaceans!) called the Burmese tomato and blue swimmer crab salad. It was light and refreshing, a huge contrast to my deep fried and peppery softshell crab. For our main courses, we went with more seafood; for me it was a beautiful Chilean seabass with what the chef noted as “chai poh confit” over very delicate congee. Squid ink risotto with fresh and dried cuttlefish is what Kevin chose. The dried cuttlefish was lightly roasted while the fresh cuttlefish was plump and tender. The main dishes took longer than we expected to come out (we attributed the lag to the risotto) but they were both well worth the wait. The risotto was perfectly cooked and my fish was moist yet firm. A real delight.
Even though it was my brother’s birthday I indulged by having two glasses of Australian chardonnay… and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, our desserts showed up. The restaurant was kind enough to present a beautiful strawberry cheesecake with a birthday candle for Kevin to make a wish. It was served in a martini glass; a deconstructed version of the classic cheesecake with macerated strawberries, mascarpone cheese, and a layer of graham crackers. It was pretty spectacular. We had ordered a pink grapefruit jelly with lemon granita and pomelo, as well as an egg tart with salted egg yoke ice cream. They were both wonderful in their own unique ways and we couldn’t neglect the strawberry cheesecake either. What were we to do but eat them all? We sure had a sweet ending to our fantastic meal.
Or so we thought. When we returned to the hotel there was a note saying that guest services wanted to deliver something. We thought it might be a piece of candy or some fruit. So our surprise was great when a guy showed up carrying a large silver tray with a gorgeous chocolate cake with a candle, matches, two place settings, and an orchid. He set it down, wished Kevin a very happy birthday, and started to back out of the room. By that I mean he never turned around to show his back to us, he BACKED out of the room with a smile on his face. Oh my. I thought it was a bit too much but you really can’t fault the level of service here.
I hope Kevin had a good birthday. I know I had fun hanging out with him today…
Wildrocket at Mt Emily: 10A Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore