Just Acia

Just Acia is a restaurant located in the Downtown East Mall in Pasir Ris, Singapore. My wife and I went to the mall to meet up with friends we hadn’t seen in months. Singapore is such a small island, but life gets so hectic that we still seem to only find rare opportunities to hang out with our friends.

When we arrived, the first thing on everyone’s minds was dinner, so off we went. One of our friends already had a place in mind that she said was fantastic, and had a great deal. We’re always keen to find places that are both “fantastic” and have a “great deal”. She didn’t disappoint!

Just Acia is on the ground level, back past a huge children’s play area. We’d probably never have even found it without her taking us to it. I didn’t even realize that the mall had a back area before tonight.

As we walked up to the restaurant I saw a sign that said all “set meals” come with freeflow (as in free refills) ice cream and drinks. That got my interest up, because free refills on anything isn’t common in Singapore. I was extra excited about the ice cream, because ice cream in Singapore is sold for a fairly high price. Most dairy products here are quite a bit more expensive than what I was used to in the US, because it all has to be imported. For those of you who don’t know and don’t care to Google it, Singapore is an island nation and a city-state.

When we got to the table and flipped through the menu, I was surprised again. The set meals were reasonably priced and the food looked really good. My wife placed an order for beef bulgoggi and I got the deep fried chicken, as well as a side dish of steamed dumplings. Right after ordering we were given cups and small metal dishes so we could start getting our drinks and ice cream from a buffet style bar near the front of the restaurant. The drink choices included Pepsi, Mountain Dew, some teas, cappuccino, lattes, and mocha. Again, impressive for the price.

By the time we sat back down our orders were hitting the table. The meal came with a bowl of rice (no surprise, this is Asia), a small bowl of broth soup (standard fare in Singapore), and a small dish of what I think was kimchi, though I could be wrong.

The food was fantastic! The first thing I tried was the dumplings. They were so much better than I had hoped. I’ve had a lot of dumplings in Singapore and these were the best so far. The deep fried chicken was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It wasn’t over cooked, and it tasted like the oil they used was fresh. My wife and I swapped a portion of our meals and her beef bulgoggi was great as well.

The cappuccino I had after my meal was fairly strong. It was nothing special, but I have no complaints about it either. The ice cream also wasn’t anything premium, but it did have a good taste to it, and I wound up getting three servings.

The last thing I’d like to mention is that the staff is very friendly and very helpful. They were always smiling and always quick to ask if you needed any help. The only drawback I found was that the hostess seemed a bit hard of hearing. She spoke English, but she either didn’t listen to or didn’t understand what I said back to her. When we first approached the restaurant, two of our group had gone on ahead, with the rest of us lagging behind. I tried to explain that we were with the other two people, but she kept saying, “Group of four? Please come this way!” Finally, we just ignored her and walked past her into the restaurant to where our friends were waiting. Later, I stepped out for moment and when I came back, she asked me if I wanted to be seated, as if she hadn’t just seen me 4 minutes previous. Still, this is Asia, so you can’t expect everyone to be as proficient in English as a native speaker, so I can’t even call this a bad mark against the restaurant. It was just a minor annoyance that most foreigners have probably come to occasionally expect while traveling abroad.

All in all, this place serves some great food for a great price, and we’ll definitely be visiting them again.

Amigos; Western Food

When I moved to Asia I knew I was going to be giving up a few things. One of those things was easy access to cow meat. Singapore doesn’t have much in the way of cheap beef, or reasonably priced steaks. Or, so I thought.

During my first visit to Singapore in March of 2008 I saw that a typical diet here consists of mostly chicken, pork, or fish and rice or noodles with a small portion of some green leafy vegetable. Soups containing those ingredients are also popular. That’s pretty much all I’ve eaten for the last year as well. Not that I’m complaining! A lot of those dishes are delicious! But, I had a craving for something a bit more solid than that, and the last time I had a good amount of beef was on my birthday in the Philippines in March of this year. Even then it wasn’t a steak dinner as most Americans would envision it.

I had resigned myself to the belief that I would only have a good steak dinner when I was back in the US, so I wasn’t actively looking around for good deals. I didn’t want to break my budget to get something I can easily do without.

When my wife and I first agreed to rent our current place in Pasir Ris, the agent that located the property for us gave us a short tour of the area. Well, actually we went on an hour long walk around a good portion of the neighborhood but it was so exciting that we hardly noticed the distance we covered until we looked at it on a map later.

During this walk, we passed a small shop that was part of a hawker area. It’s called ‘Amigos; Western Food’ and doesn’t have a very impressive exterior, but the agent went into detail about how good the food they serve is. I smiled and nodded, but I wasn’t really convinced, and wasn’t in any hurry to try it. A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with a guy from Egypt, who also had nothing but good things to say about the place.

Last night, my wife and I finally got around to checking it out. Good thing the place is open late, because we didn’t make it over there until about 1am! I think we were the only customers there. We took a look at the menu, and I was surprised to see that there was a steak available for only 13.90, so I ordered it. My wife got a plate of lamb chops, which was also reasonably priced at about 9 dollars or so. Still, it was cheap, so I wasn’t expecting much. I certainly wasn’t expecting something that looked better than the picture on the menu. That’s sort of a joke, where what you order rarely looks as tasty as the picture. This time, the opposite was true, and we were more than pleasantly surprised to find such great looking dishes at a hawker stall.

The lamb chops.

The steak.

So, I suppose the real question is, how did it taste? That was the second surprise. The stuff was better than great! It was fantastic! In anticipation of a potential fail whale, we asked for Tabasco sauce, but we wound up not needing it. As you can see from the pictures above, both dishes came with a sauce. Each had a distinct taste that seemed appropriate to the meat. The potato wedges were also fantastic and the veggies used for the small salad were crisp and fresh. As for the meat, it was tender and had just the right amount of fat on it. My steak was a little undercooked, but it had been so long since I’d had a good steak dinner, and it tasted so good, that I didn’t care. I gobbled the whole thing down, then cleared the rest of the plate, and was very satisfied. My wife and I traded bites of lamb for steak, and her lamb was just as good.

If anyone’s looking for a reasonably priced place to get a great steak or set of lamb chops, this is definitely the place to go!

Seashell Park

When my wife and I first moved to Pasir Ris we noticed that there are lots of parks in the area.  That’s great, because we enjoy taking walks, or jogging.  Lately, we don’t seem to have time to just wander around on weekdays, but the last two Saturdays we’ve made sure to get out of the house for a while.

Last week, we went to Pasir Ris Park, which was incredible!  That park is huge!  We’re looking forward to going back, but we also wanted to check out the other parks in the area.  So, this week, we decided to take a look at Seashell Park.

DSC03034

Seashell Park isn’t quite as big as I’d hoped.  We looked through it all in about 20 minutes, in fact.  It’s a small park nestled in behind the shopping center we usually go to for dinner.

The first thing I noticed about Seashell Park is that it seems to be a bit rundown, at least compared to the other parks we’ve walked through in Singapore.  By rundown I don’t mean horribly run down though.  I just mean it hasn’t been well kept up.

DSC03037

As we walked into the park we were greeted by this fish head under the sign.  It’s a bit hard to read in this photo, but it says “Seashell Park.”  I looked at the fish head and the area around it, and it looks as though there was water flowing through it at some point.  I wonder if there used to be a constant stream of water that sprayed out of it?  As we walked up the stairs to the back of the fish head, we saw that it was fed through a channel from higher up on the hill.  It looked terraced, and each terrace had its own fish head and a channel leading down from the higher area.

DSC03041

My wife’s theory is that these fish heads are just an artistic way of setting up a good drainage system.  The majority of the park sits at the top of the hill, and it rains a lot in Singapore, so erosion is definitely an issue here.  It makes sense.

One of the best parts of the park is that it has a 400 meter track that runs around the top of the hill.  It’s not completely even, which is nice in a way, because it provides for some variety in your run.  Also, there’s a great view all the way around.  We’ll probably go back there in the future to give it a go.

 

DSC03049

There is a playground in the park, but I didn’t include any photos of it because it was littered with garbage when we passed through.  I’m sure that’s not common, but … well, even Singapore can become dirty if people don’t take care of things.

Two Tiered Bicycle Stands

Everyone knows that in Asia, bicycles are used quite frequently as a means of transportation.  It’s even used in jokes occasionally, but it’s true.  People do use bikes quite a bit, for quite a few reasons, here in Singapore at least.  It’s cheaper, as opposed to buying, fueling, and maintaining a car.  It’s also smaller and easier to park or store.  In fact, there are some foldable bikes here that you can take on the buses with you.  That could be perfect for a family outing to a nice park that you want to bike through, but that’s too far away to bike to.  Plus, it’s a great way to get where you want to go and get some exercise at the same time.

The problem with having so many bike riders is that there’s rarely enough room to accommodate all of the parked bicycles, especially in major traffic hubs or around the malls.  For example, if you go to the Tampines MRT area, you’ll see bicycles jammed in at the bike racks, but you’ll also see bicycles chained to poles, fences, gates, or basically anything that’s stuck to the ground.  In some extreme cases you’ll find bicycles that aren’t chained to anything at all, but just have a chain through the wheel spokes instead, because there’s just no space available.

It all seemed crazy and amusing to me and I never really gave it any thought.  Apparently, someone did though.  At the Pasir Ris MRT station there are also bike racks, but the bike racks there are two tiered.  I guess they figured that if there wasn’t enough horizontal space to accommodate all of the bicycles, they could go vertical with them.  It looked like it worked well too.  There was more space to park bikes, and as a result, the area looked a lot nicer and neater, which seems to be something Singapore as a whole looks highly upon.

This isn’t the only measure I’ve seen to accommodate the bicycle riders in Singapore, but it’s definitely the neatest.  There are also bicycle only lanes that run parallel to sidewalks on most major roads, as well as Park Connectors that run between major parks in different regional areas.  Also, there is a wide path that follows the MRT tracks that seems to get used pretty heavily by cyclists.  I think I noticed a bicycle lane there as well.

Pasir Ris Park

My wife and I enjoy getting out of the house when possible, and we’re interested in finding new ways to get some exercise.  It was only natural that we would find ourselves in Pasir Ris Park sooner than later, considering how close it is to our house.

When I looked at the map of Singapore, Pasir Ris seemed to be such a big area.  I was sure that we would have to take a bus to get anywhere.  That doesn’t seem to be the case though.  We can walk to either of the two malls in Pasir Ris in about 15 minutes and there are two parks close to us.  One is the Pasir Ris Town Park, which is just around the corner.  We’re planning on checking it out in a few days.  The bigger one is Pasir Ris Park, the one that borders on the water.  That’s about a 25 to 30 minute walk from our house, but it’s well worth the trip.

We entered the park through one of the larger walkways and we were greeted with the fantastic sign pictured at the top of the post.  We didn’t get to see everything, not by a long-shot, but we really got to stretch our legs.  Don’t let the map fool you!  It’s bigger than it looks!

What stood out to me the most about the park wasn’t just it’s well manicured appearance, but how lively it was.  The place was packed with people, all engaged in their own activities.  I saw groups of friends rollerskating, couples walking under the trees or sitting on benches, joggers, bikers, people walking, kids playing, and even one football (soccer) game.  Oh, and there were campers and fishers too!  Everywhere I looked there were people, out having a good time!

It gave the place a very lively feel that made walking through it a joy, despite the heat.  In fact, my wife and I have decided that it will be our primary jogging location in Pasir Ris.  It looks like you could spend weeks going to the park to jog and rarely cross the same path, other than the main junctions where the bridges are.

Below are some great photos I got of the park!