Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Kogane Yama is the latest kid on the block to join the Ten-don craze in Singapore. Japanese for “golden mountain”, that is the image the folks behind Chir Chir Fusion Chicken and Masizzim want to evoke in you when you stare at the pieces of golden brown tempura piled up high on a mound of sticky, warm Japanese rice (if you order the set with udon or soba, then sorry you might have to imagine a golden field instead, since your tempura comes served on a plate!).
Located on Level 2 of Bugis Junction, Kogane Yama is a cosy restaurant that seats around 40. As with any specialty restaurants, you do not get a lot of choices as the menu is kept very lean. The decision making process involves 4 steps, from choosing your tempura, to choosing your carbs, then choosing the spiciness of your sauce and finally whether to make it a set. Simple! If you don’t eat tempura, or do not espouse deep fried food, then you might want to go somewhere else instead because there really isn’t much else of an option for you.

Kogane Yama offers a choice of 4 types of tempura bowls (or plates) - vegetable, chicken, prawn or combination. If greedy or indecisive are qualities ascribed to you, then the choice is simple- the combination bowl offers two prawns, a piece of fried chicken (that reminded me a lot of Long John Silver, not a bad thing since I love the batter but that of course is personal!) and an assortment of tempura vegetables. As the items are fried-to-order, you should expect a bit of waiting time; after all this is no fast food restaurant!
Most of the items served are pretty standard; the chicken I had was a tad dry although other diners commented that theirs were ok. The prawns were fairly sizeable and fresh but not mind blowing. But don’t get me wrong, it is definitely delicious for the price. The standout items for me were the tempura seaweed (essentially deep fried Taokaenoi) which was crispy and not too salty, as well as the deep fried prawn heads that were served detached from the bodies! All that crustacean brain goodness! Less commonly seen in Ten-don restaurants is the tempura Shisho leaf, an acquired taste for many because of its minty, herby taste. The tempura is drizzled all over with your choice of sauce- the Level 2 (out of 3) spicy level was the favourite for the night. It was a good mix of sweet and spicy without being overbearing.
When questioned on what is Singapore heritage food, most would think Peranakan but it's only a subset of it. Chef Damian D’Silva of Folklore will tell you that Singapore heritage food is a cuisine that represents the various ethnic groups in Singapore. It consists of the age-old recipes passed down from generation to generation; food that we eat at home; the my-grandmother-cooked-it-better dishes that are special to each family; the lost recipes that are not found in restaurants because they are too labor intensive to make. Because of one man's dedication to documenting his family's secret recipes, we now have Folklore
This man is passionate, some say crazy, to commercialize this sort of artisanal home cooking. Painstaking labor and long hours go into coaxing the flavors out of the handpicked ingredients. For the prices that he charges, I'm not sure if it makes any profit sense. 
Let's bring on the rendang, chap chye, hae zor, assam fish and more! 
We started with some cold appetizers. A spicy refreshing start came in the form of a Four Angled Bean Salad ($12). Green mangos, chilies, ginger flower and dried shrimps tossed in a sweet sour sambal belachan sauce. It can be very spicy!
When we were planning our 16 day South America trip, other than making sure to include Machu Picchu Peru in the plans (read about it here), we also wanted to sample the new world wines at the source. The plan was to sample the award-winning Malbec in Mendoza (since we were starting in Argentina), but the airport was closed for maintenance then and i didn't want to waste too much time on the roads. So we looked to Chile for inspiration!
There was a time when Chilean wines were considered cheap and pedestrian, but that is not the case now. Do you know that Chile produces more Cabernet Sauvignon than the U.S.? The ideal climate allows for the production of exceptional reds at very affordable prices! 
Also, Chile has their unique Carménère, a savory medium-bodied red with a red bell pepper note. The vegetal red goes very well with greens of course and works for those who likes some spice in their wine. This grape was thought to be Merlot when they first imported the grape cutting from Bordeaux in the 1800s. It was not till 1994 that they found out that it is actually a Bordeaux variety Carménère. This varietal is nearly extinct in Bordeaux now and and thus is exclusive to Chile.
Nose-to-tail eating doesn't seem to have taken off in the majority Chinese populated Singapore. I find it strange because we Chinese are (supposedly) familiar with offals and innards (hello kway chup), so much that we even eat that for breakfast (sometimes). It thoroughly surprises and bewilders us that a gorgeous Spanish restaurant like Dehesa isn't packed every night (like Esquina). Perhaps they have gone overboard with their marketing of their "inner" beauty? 
For those who are intimidated by the alternative cuts and random parts, your fears are unfounded. Chef-Owner Jean-Philippe Patruno aka JP, previously of Bomba Paella Bar and Una, fires up more than just the grey matter. Classic Spanish dishes are available here and he's more than adept at delivering them. 
I let my weakness for Croquetas (4 pcs, $14) take over and swooned in bliss as I bit into the creamy filling encased in the crunchy panko crust. This is one smooth morsel! Make sure you give it a good chew together with the spiced paprika aioli and jamón joselito. I struggled with my need to finish this and saving space for my main meal. 

That should ease you into starters. If you don't go into the nitty gritty, the Dehesa platter of cold meats ($32), is what you would likely order at any other restaurant- a rotating homemade charcuterie consisting pate, lardo, deep-fried pork scratchings. We all know where the ingredients are from, we don't need to be told/reminded, other than how good they taste. 
Well if that doesn't go down well, take a few bites of the smoky Pimientos De Padron ($14). They will sure cleanse the palate of any gamey leftovers. 
If you're not for the cold platters, have the Chorizo ($24) which is served with soft cooked eggs and a smoked mash, and pork crackling! This comfort food combination never fails. If only I could find some bread to go with this.
Not sure if i've mentioned this before but il Cielo at Hilton Singapore is one of the hidden gems in Orchard Road, where you to enjoy a delicious Italian meal without having to deal with the crowd. With Chef Yohhei Sasaki helming the team, there's now an interesting Japanese flair to the Italian dishes served here. 
The best way to sample the interesting Japanese Italian signatures is through Chef Sasaki's degustation menus for lunch and dinner. Lunch is a shorter affair with 2 or 3 courses ($25/35) and you can choose between a 5 course Italian ($88) or Japanese ($118) style degustation for dinner. The dishes are also available a la carte.
We started with the Kinmedai Carpaccio ($36) served with seaweed tuile, Madeira wine dressing and pink grapefruit snow. Not quite sashimi, yet not quite the regular Italian starter. The seaweed tuile added a nice crunch and umami to this dish and the scattering of the snow provided a theatrical start to the meal.
I love the Fullerton Bay Hotel for its amazing Marina Bay waterfront view and their high tea at The Landing Point remains my go-to for decadent bites. Well i've now found another reason to love them better with the newly refurbished French restaurant La Brasserie
Enjoy your customized Gin & Tonic ($19) as you enjoy the sunset from the opulent surrounding. I don't drink enough G&T but this was pretty refreshing.

The French brasserie classics and dishes here have the hallmark of ‘cuisine du soleil’. This ‘cuisine of the sun’ is the representative food of the South of France, a region that is said to be blessed with the sun for 330 days of the year. It is a cuisine characterized by Mediterranean flavours and a lighter touch.
Start with a hearty Traditional Onion Soup ($19) which is a caramelized sweet onion soup made with beef stock. The beef bones are first boiled with trimmings without fat for at least 4 hours, and then combined with caramelized white onions for another 3 hours. The hard work culminates into a sweet hearty broth. It's topped with a day-old sourdough with gruyere cheese that has been gratinated under the salamander. Eat it quick before the bread turns soggy!
Could we do with more Japanese food streets in Singapore? For sure. Shokutsu Ten Japanese Food Street has launched its third venue at Great World City, presenting a total of five food and beverage and retail brands under one roof. Sure it's slightly away from the main Orchard stretch, but you can easily grab a meal here and a movie even with the weekend crowd.  
Other than the existing Ichiban Boshi and Kuriya Japanese Market, 3 concepts are added. Check out new restaurants like Ami Ami and Men-ichi Sapporo Ramen, and also my old favorite Shimbashi Soba.

Ami Ami
Ami Ami is a seafood restaurant helmed by award-winning Master Chef Naoki Tsuzuki, who amassed over two decades of culinary experience in Japan and Singapore. Seasonal catch of the freshest quality is air-flown from Japan thrice weekly, and prepared sashimi/robatayaki/tempura style.
Over at the tempura counter, feast on fresh tempura that is deep-fried a la minute and served piece by piece. An original blend of sesame oil and soya bean oil is used to fry the tempura, giving it an additional fragrance and crisp. Go for the affordable set meals such as the Ami Ami Tempura Set ($45.80), which comprises fresh sashimi of the day, charcoal-grilled live scallop, assorted tempura, and the signature egg tempura served on a vegetable kakiage tempura rice bowl. 
The Original Egg Tempura (a la carte price at $6.50, served with rice) is a hit. This original creation by Master Chef Tsuzuki is an onsen egg wrapped in deep-fried beancurd skin. Poke it and let the runny yolk flow into the pearl rice. Before you eat it, make sure you give it a good drizzle of the tempura sauce.
Mountain climbing has been on my mind for a while and we have some interesting climbs in the South East Asia region. After several failed attempts to climb this year (we ended up in JKT and Perth instead), we turned our "failed" South Africa trip into a "do nothing and chill (but still climb Mount Rinjani" holiday. Yes. Climbing a mountain is our idea of doing nothing. I mean, it's just a 3276m uphill no? Well, more on that in a bit.
It's not mandatory to climb Mt Rinjani with a trekking company. You can read about some pros/cons here. However, I'll definitely recommend going with a company, just choose a right one! It makes a lot of difference to your comfort and safety. 
Which trekking company to choose for Mt Rinjani?
We went with Adi Trekker given their excellent reviews and paid USD280 each (not inclusive of tips). We were told it was only gonna be us but there were 2 other trekkers and i think they paid lesser (probably USD250). You could possibly bargain with Adi if you want but we didn't. Of course, there are plenty of  cheaper options if you were to book your trip in Lombok but you are likely to end up in a very big group (we've seen groups that are 12 - 14 pax with only 2 guides), and you will definitely not be as comfortable.
Our deluxe trek included the following:
1. Land transfers- Between airport/jetty/hotel and Senaru before and after the trip.
2. One night stay in a basic "hotel" (more like homestay type) at Senaru prior to the start of the trek. There's no AC but at least there's a hot shower.
3. Guide, porters, and entrance fee. The porters will carry all the food, drinks, and tents for you. You'll only need to carry your own backpack (clothes and gear) and other personal snacks if you wish. You can also pay more to hire a porter to carry your personal items.
4. Heaps of food with fruits, water, beverage, snacks (chocolate wafers and cookies) throughout the trek. Think local Indonesian food that is hearty and comforting. We also had Bintang beer! We were provided with camping chairs to sit on when we have our meals.
5. Good tent with thick mattress
6. Super warm sleeping bags with pillows
7.Toilet tent (pitched at campsite) to protect your modesty. Other than that, it's just a dump hole.
We didn't quite know how to tip and it wasn't easy finding the "market rate". So based on what we found, for a 3d2n, you should tip 100k per porter, and 300k for the guide. Thing is we didn't know if it's supposed to be a group thing or what. So that's what we gave for the 2 of us. Feel free to give more for their hard work! We also gave our trekking poles to our guide as well.

Which Mt Rinjani itinerary to pick?
The itineraries are all the same, so pick the one that fits your schedule. If you wanna summit and trek different terrains, do the 3d2n, or 4d3n for a slightly less strenuous version (since it's the same route with just more time to complete it). To save time, minimize discomfort (of not showering) and maximize chilling, we opted for a 3D2N summit trek via Sembalun. TIP: Starting at Sembalun is a better idea for a summit climb as you'll have more energy for the summit on the 2nd day instead of on the last day if you had started from Senaru. 
How to prepare for a Mt Rinjani summit trek?
One would think that with regular runs, HIIT, yoga, and wakeboarding sessions, this mountain wouldn't be that much of a big deal right? WRONG. You probably should do lots of stairs and rock climbing, and inclined marathon runs to prep for this trip. We didn't die but there were times we questioned wth did we choose to torture ourselves. If it's for the view, forget it guys. You can enjoy an equally gorgeous sunset from your ocean bedroom in Maldives. But if you are out for a physical and mental challenge, Mt Rinjani will deliver.
Tips on packing for your Mt Rinjani trek!
1. Sweat wicking clothes for the regular treks- my yoga wear served me very well (it's Liquido pants and Lululemon).
2. Warm clothes for the nights and summit- Waterproof windbreaker is definitely required for your summit trek. I also bought the Forclax 200 Women's hiking fleece ($19.90) to keep me warm at night. You should probably also bring gloves to keep your fingers toasty for the summit climb and a beanie if you don't have a jacket hood.
3. Trekking boots- Recommended! Sure you can go around in sneakers (the porters can climb in slippers) but you'll be in for a slippery hike. Our Timberlands were very grippy and provided great ankle support (i could have sprained my ankle when i landed on it but i didn't thanks to my boots). Sure they may be expensive but we used them so well. Mine was the waterproof Goretex ones and they were really light and comfortable and i didn't even have to break them in. Plus i didn't get any blisters as well! The same cannot be said for Jr and he suffered from 2 huge blisters at the back of his heels. Sure they are expensive but it's the best buy for the trip (other than the trekking poles).
4. Trekking socks- Remember to get the high ones and make sure it forms a muffin top around the top of your boots so that sand/soil/rocks doesn't get into your boots easily). I bought a pair of warmer ones from Timberland ($25/pair) and also the Forclaz 500 mid high trek socks ($12.90/2pairs)
5. Trekking poles- Recommended! Ours came in very handy and helped usa great deal, especially with steep downhills. We shared our poles with the couple in our group on the last day as the descend can be quite slippery. They are a little trickier with uphills because you will have to switch between free climbing and using your poles to provide some leverage. They are very useful for the summit too!
6. Headlamp- To illuminate the tent at night, nightly toilet runs, and summit climb. 80 lumens is good enough.
7. Wet wipes and Snack Brand Prickly Heat powder- Recommended! This is the best solution for not showering. Do a proper wipe down and then powder everywhere. Plus it also keeps the bugs away apparently. #endorsedbySingaporeArmy
8. Medication and plasters (lots of it)- You may experience some altitude sickness and breathlessness (not sure if it's just from the climbing). Blisters are very common and i'll recommend getting the bigger blister plasters from Guardian or Watsons.

TIP: Decathalon is the best place to get your trek stuff IF you're not a serious, heavy duty trekker/mountaineer. We got our dry bags, ponchos, 80 lumens Onnight 100 hiking headlamp ($9.90), Arpenaz 200 hiking poles ($13.90/pair) and socks from there. Jr also bought a backpack for $40 and it has all the right compartments, even hooks for the poles.

What to expect? 
Day 1
We were picked up by our driver at our Senaru accommodation before 7am for a 1 hour ride to Sembalun Village (1150m). The climb up to our campsite at Sembalun Crater Rim (2639m) started proper at about 8am.
The first part of the trek was through the rather open plains with an increasing incline. The journey only gets tougher from here. With a small group, you can take breaks any time you want but generally there's a rest stop every 1 to 2 hours. Lunch was at POS 3 Pada Balong (1800m) after a 3.5 to 4h climb.
Here we experienced our first camp meal! Everything that we ate/drank was carried by our amazing porters. Just imagine the load they have to carry! Even though they climb in slippers, they are always faster than us. We are always welcomed by hot food and beverage when we reach our lunch spot/campsite.
Our first meal which was a mountain of stir fry vegetables, fried chicken, omelette, tofu and tempeh, chicken frank, and rice. On the drinks menu, there's Pocari Sweat, coffee/tea (we always chose ginger tea), hot chocolate, and water. A fruit platter is served at the end and there's a mix of apple, orange, rock melon, watermelon, banana, and pineapple.
A gruelling 3-hour steep climb to the Sembalun Crater Rim (2639m) quickly followed after lunch. The weather was pretty cool and that certainly helped with the climb. However, we really weren't prepared for the continuous "stair-climbing" and it took me the whole of day 1 to get used to it. 
And guess what? Our porters had already pitched our tents and were cooking dinner when we arrived! While we were "washing up" with our wet wipes and powder bath, we were served a snack to reward us for the tough climb!
Fresh goreng pisang (fried banana fritters) with chocolate sauce and cheese, with our choice of hot ginger tea. LIFE IS GOOD.
Plus this sunset view of the Segara Anak lake while having dinner. Chicken curry (lontong style with mild coconut flavor and light spice) with rice, Bintang, and also a surprise popcorn snack for dinner!
Once the sun sets, there's nothing else to do but rest. Make sure you get all your packing done while there is still light. A night light is a must and our head lamp served us very well for toilet trips and packing at night. We went to bed by 7.30pm!
Day 2
The day starts at 2.30am for a light sandwich breakfast and coffee and we started the 1+km climb up to the summit in the cold darkness. It's important to keep warm! I had my gloves and jacket on the whole time.

The first 20% of the climb is actually one of the hardest part (about an hour)! Pace yourself for it. It's easier to get out of the way of climbers for a short rest here. Don't worry, it gets slightly easier after this. You have a brief 30 mins long trek before continuing with a steep 1h climb up the loose volcanic rocks to the summit. 
We summited just in time to catch the sunrise at about 6.40am. That took us about 3.5h with some puking involved (LOL #notme). You may want to start a bit earlier just in case you miss the sunrise. 
At 3726m above sea level! Jr was starving by the time he reached the top and immediately devoured an entire tray of Tim Tams! It's crazy cold up there at the summit and we honestly couldn't bear to stay there for too long. Told you it wasn't for the sunrise. Plus what goes up must come down. Get ready for a sandy ride down as the scree can be very slippery. Jr suffered from a very bad scratch on his forearm and i landed on my bum too many times.
Our descent from the summit was a lot faster and we reached back just a little after 8am. The day doesn't end here. After an hour's breakfast, we continued downhill to the lake. It's all huge rocks on the way down and took us about 2.5h. Jr and i are better with downhills (the poles really helped) but we were all moving quite fast because we were promised a soak in the hot springs near the lake! 
Time for a swim! Mind you the water at Segara Anak lake is cold. The hot springs are about 100m from the lake. Do not make the mistake of wearing your slippers there. Our guide played a joke on us and i really felt like killing him. Jokes aside, our guide Mala was awesome and helped us a lot during our climb. The hot springs were awesome and really helped to soothe the aches, even if it was for a short while.
The joy from the hot springs and the comforting nasi goreng lunch did not last long as we started on a crazy steep scramble up to the Senaru Crater Rim. It was 3 hours of climbing and a large part of it involved using our hands to pull ourselves up the rocks. Plus it also started raining and well it's not that easy climbing with poles and poncho. Dinner was in our tent due to the rain and we each had a mountain of fried maggi mee with our hot ginger tea as usual. The insane day of trekking left us pretty much dead to the world that night and we clocked an impressive 12 hours of sleep!

Day 3
Be prepared by the ache from Day 2's climb. Thankfully it's downhill all the way. That said, it's still rather harsh on the knees and ankles. The forest terrain at this part was a bit slippery. We were really thankful for our poles once again. We were still expecting a long trek actually but it ended much earlier! It was about 2-2.5h to our very last lunch on Mt Rinjani and we had spaghetti bolognese! 
For the first time I finished all my food (only because I asked for a small portion). 
Celebratory Bintang!! The trek ended quite shortly after lunch and we got to Senaru Village by 12.30pm for our transfer to the next segment of our travels. 
Happy Smelly Campers! This was the most exhausting thing I've done in my life but it was certainly a memorable and enjoyable experience for the both of us. Also, if you want to stress test your relationship, try climbing a mountain! LOL Needless to say Jr and I aced this challenge. :)) Just don't bring your princessy other half here unless you want to be killed, or to kill someone. 
Finally our first Peruvian cevicheria in Singapore! Given our love for raw fish (just look at the number of sushi and sashimi restaurants, plus the recent poke craze), i'm surprised it's taking so long for ceviche to take off! TONO Cevicheria is also Asia’s first-ever Peruvian Cevicheria opened by Peruvian Chef Daniel Chavez, co-owner and chef of OLA Cocina del Mar. Expect authentic flavors and strong Pisco Sour from the team of Lima-trained Latin American chefs.
If you're wondering what Peruvian food is like, well... It's kinda fusion, with influence from the Incans, Spanish, Africans, Italians, Chinese, and Japanese. We can see a mix of all flavors in their national dish, the ceviche. (I'm just making this up, there isn't a national dish but if there should be one, it has to be ceviche.) Learn more about Peruvian food in my post on my Lima food tour here.
For the uninitiated, ceviche is made with fresh seafood, citrus (usually lime), chillies, and onions. The creamy marinade that comes from the run-off of the seafood is called Tiger's Milk and it is used to cure the seafood. What's best with ceviche? Pisco Sour. The one served at TONO was delightful though it could do with a bit more Sour. 
At TONO, there are a few types of ceviche to pick from. Starting with my favorite Tono Ceviche ($28). This mild but balanced dish uses an interesting tiger's milk which features charred ginger, and smoked aji amarillo (peppers) among the typical citrus-fish jus. Plus there's an added crunch from the crispy baby calamari to go with the fresh fish.
If you want something to kick start your appetite, the Nikkei Ceviche ($24) is a tart Japanese style yellowfin tuna salad with a soy, mirin, hondashi tiger's milk. There's a lot of lime in this one! There is some avocado puree with the dish but i couldn't detect much of it due to the overwhelming acidity.
Another Japanese inspired dish is the Yellow Pituco Tiraditos ($24). The yellowfin tuna is sliced thinly in this one (almost carpaccio style), and dressed with chilli vinaigrette and some cream sauce. The spiciness is one that will take you by surprise and give you a hacking cough (like that when you choke on ma la). The garnishes depends on chef's mood for the day and we had radishes, crispy quinoa and plantain chips on ours.
Fun fact of the day. There are more than 4000 varieties of potatoes in Peru. Well we only had 1 type in the Escabeche causa ($22) which is served with 2 types of chicken (chicken shreds mixed with mayo, and grilled chicken with panca chilli sauce) served with potato mash and escabeche sauce. The piquant sauce is made with fresh peppers and aji panca (dried red peppers), garlic, tomatoes and onions, with chicken stock. The aji panca gives the dish a light smokiness.
Skip the Jalea ($32), which is essentially a crispy seafood platter with tapioca chips, salsa criolla and smoked chili mayo. It's not that it's not nice, it's just that there's nothing special about it. Plus we can always get more interesting seafood elsewhere in Singapore.
Same goes for the Lomo Saltado ($40), a Chinese influenced stir-fried beef with red wine vinegar and the other typical Chinese aromatics. As with their Chi-Fa (Peruvian Chinese food stalls), this is served with french fries and rice. My take? I'd have the authentic Chinese stir-fry. 
Anticuchos (chicken or beef, $22/25) are meat skewers which have been marinated in a mix of red wine vinegar and aji panca before being seared on a plancha. It is served with a Chalaquita sauce made with a little tomato, pepper, onions and white tiger's milk (used in ceviche clasico). The beef was more juicy than the chicken skewers. Peruvian meat dishes, actually most dishes, have varying degrees of sourness. It's appetizing at the start but sometimes you just want something heavy to anchor the meal. 
Thankfully we had the Arroz con Mariscos ($34) a seafood rice with crabmeat, fish, prawns, and calamari in aji panca, aji amarillo and achiote oil base. Long grain rice is used here and provides more bite. The seafood remained succulent as they areseared separately before being folded into the rice. 
Peruvians love their sweets and i had too many alfajores con dulce de leche when I was in Peru but these Alfajores ($12) at TONO are way better! The light butter cookies with dulce de leche and mango mousse simply disintegrates into powder when you bite into them. The dulce de leche is housemade, as is the mango mousse. Both are delightful without being cloying.
More rice for desserts? Sure if it's Combinado ($12), a comforting spiced vanilla rice pudding and purple corn Mazamora. The rice pudding is made of bomba rice cooked with milk, cream, sugar, orange peel and vanilla, with coconut puree added at the very end. While the purple Maxamora syrup may look strange, it's made with Christmasy ingredients like star anise, apples, and quince, along with pineapple skin and purple corn. It made me miss the sweet Chicha Morada drink which is served everywhere in Peru. 

Make sure you call ahead for a table at TONO. They are packed everyday already!

7 Fraser Street
#01-49/50 Duo Galleria
Singapore 189356
Weekdays: 12 - 2.30pm, 6 - 10pm
Sat: 6 - 10pm