As Singapore's de facto national dish, Hainanese chicken rice (or, as the locals call it, simply "chicken rice") can be enjoyed from literally hundreds of places—from dedicated chicken rice hawkers to fancy restaurants, and everything in between. I had a little under 3 days to find the best chicken rice in the Lion City. So, with the help of Singapore's famous food bible, Makansutra, I vetted a list of chicken rice places I wanted to try during my short stay.
I ended up eating 6 chicken rice from 5 establishments (one place I went twice) in a span of about 60 hours.
On October 30th, Renzo Piano will give the inaugural presentation of the Frazen Lecture. Admission is $10. As this lecture is co-sponsored by the Architecture League, League members can make reservations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 212.980.3767.
On November 14th, Thom Mayne of Morphosis will speak. Admission is free.
Both lectures start at 6:30 pm and are held, as usual, at the Great Hall inside Cooper Union's Foundation Building (7 East 7th Street).
See their work I have photographed on Figure/Ground:
- Morgan Library Expansion - Renzo Piano (1 photo)
- Auditorium Parco della Musica - Renzo Piano (31 photos)
- Caltrans District 7 Headquarters - Thom Mayne/Morphosis (29 photos)
台灣故事館 (táiwān gùshìguǎn/Taiwan Storyland) is a nostalgic recreation of 1960s Taiwan located in the basement of KMall (an electronics and computers mall across from Taipei Main Station). You would think it would just be cheesy as hell but it is surprisingly well-done, featuring a great selection of vintage furniture, cars, bikes, posters, you name it. It's just like the old days, except it is immaculately clean and climate controlled—which is to say, it is nothing like being in the old days at all, but rather a sanitized, Disneyland version of being in the old days. Actually, to be fair, it's not like Main Street Disneyland since it is not at all cartoon-like or unrealistically colorful. It's in fact quite a faithful recreation, something akin to what you would find in a museum.
I didn't realize how big this fictional neighborhood would be until I walked in. Because it is located in the basement of a building, I had always thought it would be just a big restaurant with some nostalgic decorations, like a Hard Rock or some similarly idiotic theme restaurant. But it is a whole lot more than that—it's essentially a small theme park. They have faithfully recreated a tiny neighborhood, all in the basement. In it, you'll find: a police station, a doctor's office, a dental office, a classroom, a salon, a bar, a tiny cinema showing period films, shops, restaurants, etc, etc. There are alleys and streets and cars and bikes and old signs and posters. Aside from the no-dirt aspect of it, everything looked straight out of the 60s. There are lots of great photo opportunities throughout (there are over 1,400 photos tagged with "台灣故事館" on Flickr).
While I may not have been born in the 60s, a lot of the things in the theme park are stuff I remember fondly from my childhood in the 70s. Things like games and snacks and drinks that you don't see anymore in modern-day Taipei. My favorites were the fun old posters and signs from the past.
The entrance ticket is NT$250/US$7.51, but you are given the entire value of the ticket (NT$250) in vouchers to spend inside.
Everything is slightly overpriced, as can be expected from a theme park, but not exorbitantly so. The traditional Taiwanese food I tried was mediocre, but it's certainly edible. There is also a Japanese restaurant and a Chinese restaurant, serving fancier meals, but I didn't try those. Going for an elaborate meal at a place like this makes no sense (plus, I didn't want to spend any more than what I had in vouchers).
Anyway, it's worth spending an hour or two there, especially on a weeknight. On a Monday night when I went, there weren't many people, so you really get the feeling that you are transported back to some quiet (and slightly surreal) old town in Taiwan and you get to take pictures to your heart's content without having people in your frame all the time.
台灣故事館 (Taiwan Storyland) @ KMall B2, 台北市忠孝西路1段50號B2 (B2, No.50, Sec.1, Zhongxiao W. Rd., Taipei), 0800-887-701
So I went looking at Mac Pros (yes, I've decided to switch back... a long story for another day). I went to an authorized dealer and asked (in Mandarin, of course, so I'm paraphrasing here): "So, is the price for the Mac Pro what is listed on Apple's website?"
"Yes," came the answer.
"So why should I buy it from you instead of buying directly online?" I'm fishing for a discount.
"Well, we could install programs for you."
"What do you mean? I thought everything comes installed and ready to use."
"Well, we could install Office for you, that doesn't come with it."
"You mean, the full version?" I asked.
"What about Photoshop?" I asked.
"Yes, that, too."
"So you can get me anything I want."
And I thought this type of blatant piracy is only available in China.
I promised frequent updates on Figure/Ground, so here it is: another set of photos, this time of the Eames House.
- Eames House - Charles and Ray Eames [Figure-Ground.com]
After laying dormant for close to a year and a half, my travel and architecture photography site, Figure/Ground, has finally been updated! Hopefully there will be frequent updates over the next few weeks as I put up all the photos from the past 2 years (I may not have had the time to update the site, but I didn't stop traveling or taking photos!).
First up, the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters (pictured above) in Los Angeles and the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
- Caltrans - Thom Mayne/Morphosis [Figure-Ground.com]
- Guthrie Theater - Jean Nouvel [Figure-Ground.com]
You are not allowed to eat or drink in the subway system in Taipei and the rule is strictly followed by everyone. The trains and stations, as a result, are immaculately clean.
I was on the train today when I saw a woman accidentally spill some of the drink she was holding (but not drinking, of course) onto the floor. What happened next stunned me. She and her two friends immediately got out some tissues from their purses, kneeled down and wiped the floor clean!
If you follow my Flickr stream you know that I have been living in Taipei since last summer. One thing about Taipei that I learned is that despite its reputation as a great place to eat (and that reputation is well-earned), outside of Taiwanese and Japanese cuisines, most everything else sucks. Come to think of it, this shouldn't have come as a surprise. After all, Taipei is a relative backward 'burb compared to culinary capitals like New York or Tokyo (to name two). The world's best cooks simply have no reason to come open up shop here. And thus, I am limited to good Taiwanese and Japanese food, with the occasional acceptable Thai thrown in there. Every other type of cuisine, I can forget about it. And out of all the good eats I couldn’t get in Taipei (a long, long list), surprisingly it turned out to be burgers that I missed the most.
So when I was in NYC recently for a month, I spent the first two weeks eating burgers basically every other day, making it a point to try out places that I had never been to before. (And in between the "new" burgers, I would stuff myself silly with Shack burgers.) I ended up going to 6 places I had never been to, most of them because they opened while I was gone (man! the city changes so quickly) and one of them (Burger Joint) because when I used to live in NYC, I was an East Village hermit who rarely ventured that far up north.
Here are some general observations. I ordered a burger topped with chedder at each place. Except for Zip Burger, everywhere else asked me how I wanted my burger done (medium rare, of course); however, most of them still came to me on the medium side of medium rare. I guess it makes sense for them to err on the side of over-cooking rather than freaking out the customers with bloody meat, but personally I rather have my burgers slightly under-cooked than over. Also, all the "restaurant burgers" (as opposed to burgers from fast food places like Zip and Burger Joint) are just ginormous. Why is it that restaurants have no problems charging you $4 for one shrimp but can’t bring themselves to make a burger sensibly sized for $10?. All of a sudden they feel the need to provide value? Just give me a burger that is not bigger than my face (and my face is huge) with superior ingredients, expertly cooked to the proper doneness and you can charge me $12 all day long if that’s in line with the service and atmosphere you provide. The two "cheap" burgers (Burger Joint and Zip Burger) came with bland tasting el cheapo burger buns (the kind you get at supermarkets that comes 8 to a pack). All the other burgers came with nicely toasted fancy buns (be it brioche or whatnot). Finally, there was not one bad burger in the bunch. Even my least favorite burger was enjoyable. In twenty years of living in New York, I don’t think there’s ever been such an abundant availability of good burgers. Burgers are in right now and there’s no shortage of good places to eat them.
Here’s a run-down of the six burgers I tried, starting with my least favorite and ending with my favorite of the bunch.
teNeues has published a book, Ultimate Lighting Design, featuring quite a few of my photos (buy it from Amazon and earn me some measely commission). It's a 500+ page hard-cover book featuring the work of New York lighting design firm L'Observatoire. They've worked with all the top names in architecture and the book features an impressive list of cool buildings. I haven't yet seen the actual book, but from what I saw in the layout stages, it's full of beautiful photography (not least of all mine—I'm very happy with the photos I took for this book). Look for my work in the following sections: The Standard Downtown LA, The Standard Hollywood, Chateau Marmont (these three are André Balazs' hotels in L.A.), Jean Georges Shanghai, 66 and Perry St (these three are Jean-Georges' restaurants), and Beige (this one is Alaine Ducasse's restaurant in Tokyo).
I've wanted to taste Jean-Georges Vongerichten's flagship restaurant for years, funny how I finally get to try it half-way across the world in Shanghai. The menus are identical as far as I can tell. The tasting menu we ordered definitely is identical in content to what is served at the corner of Central Park West. (I may not have eaten at Jean Georges, but I have certainly read enough reviews of it to know what is on their tasting menu.) The only difference is the price. Here the tasting menu is 748RMB/US$92.35 per person whereas in New York it is US$125, about 25% cheaper.
Years of anticipation sharpened by counts of absolutely glorious reviews had us all primed for an unforgettable dinner. Yes, yes, we were in "Dalu", not exactly a place where I have ever encountered good Western cuisine (or even many Chinese ones, for that matter, but that's a rant for another day), but I thought: How bad could it be? From the way everyone practically foams in the mouth in awe for the food at Jean Georges (The Original), even if this can approximate that, it should be more than exceptional. The executive chef Eric Johnson worked under Vongerichten for many years and I'm assuming he knows what he is doing. Same menu, same chef, same techniques, best available ingredients: let's go!