Tanya in the tropics

As an expat, it’s so nice to have family in town. And mine came at the perfect time—I was really craving a taste of home! (Once November hits and Christmas break is in sight, it’s hard to take your eye off that departure date for nearly anything else) And who better to visit then someone that adores you and that you adore too, like my teta and godmother Tanya? (Promise I’m not saying that only because I know she is an avid reader of this blog)

She arrived on Thursday morning, the 26th of October. As much as I tried, I wasn’t able to scoot out of work early, but managed to meet her at her hotel (in a great neighbourhood very near to my office and downtown Singapore!) around 8PM. I was completely overcome with emotion when I saw her—I couldn’t believe I was seeing Tanya in the flesh in my city!! As you can imagine, we had quite a bit to catch up on, so we sat outside at the hotel bar, sharing stories and laughs over a few glasses of wine. It was really great.

As much as I wished I could stay home from work to continue our catch up, I had a big event the next day for the launch of Interbrand’s Best Global Brands report, so I spent the day quite busy, chatting with current and prospective clients. It was a lot of fun and I learned quite a bit from the lectures, but I was so excited when the clock hit 6PM and I could meet Tanya again, and head into a weekend of hosting and exploring Singapore. We met at Folklore, a new restaurant opened by a chef named Damien D’Silva, who I saw on a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Folklore serves Peranakan food, which is a blend of Chinese ingredients with various distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay/Indonesian community. It is considered to be “local” to Singapore, and according to reviews in local newspapers and blogs, this restaurant was supposed to be one of the top five for this type of food!

Let me tell you, Folklore did not disappoint. I ordered a curry dish off the vegetarian menu, and I can’t quite remember what Tanya ordered, but both were delicious. However, I did get a bit cocky with my tolerance level for spice and ask the chef to make it “extra spicy.” THIS WAS A MISTAKE. I forgot people in this part of the world do NOT mess around with spice. I apologised, but had to ask the waitress to ask the chef to add some coconut milk in to the dish to mitigate the spice! Once the spice level was back to my liking/palatable for human beings, the dish was soo good and flavourful. I finished it all, despite having to call in the Singapore fire department to hose off my mouth. For dessert (to cool off the tastebuds), we ordered the baked custard with Gula Melaka (palm sugar), a yummy treat inspired by a Spanish dessert called koka that I used to eat all the time when I lived with my host family in Madrid. It was quite a meal to remember!

After dinner, we walked over to Haji Lane, which is a very cool alleyway and hipster enclave with some quite cool bars, restaurants, shops, and cafes. We landed in a place called Blu Jaz Cafe, which had an awesome and lively Cuban band playing that night. Latin music on the Friday night Tanya was in town…could it have been more perfect?

On Saturday, we met for brunch at Common Man Coffee Roasters, one of the best cafes for java in Singapore (in my humble opinion, which is 100% correct). We split a yummy brunch and sat next to a couple in the middle of a dramatic fight, which made for an extra juicy meal! After brunch we walked around Robertson, Clarke and Boat Quay (all riverside quays close to the downtown marina area here), took some photos, stopped for coffee, and stopped by a new statue that has just gone up by the marina by Botero, a cool Colombian artist that does mostly voluminous, exaggerated sculptures that depict everyday life. But mostly just talked: about life back home, about life in Singapore, about life in general. Teta Tanya, you are always fantastic for a good life chat.

I had to part ways with my dear godmother in the early evening as I had a Halloween party to attend, which was actually okay because Tanya wanted to check out the Gardens by the Bay and get some sleep to recover from the jet lag.

We decided since I’d likely not be up and at ’em bright and early the next day, to meet around 2PM. We headed to the National Gallery, the biggest art museum in Singapore. I have only been there once (with Mom to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition in July), but I am always in the mood to see art, and wanted to show Tanya the impressive building architecture and interior. We spent over three hours meandering around the different floors, checking out the Southeast Asian art, including the works of a Vietnamese-born Danish artist and some ink art from China. Something else that was cool is the ArchiGallery just opened at the museum, and we got to see its inaugural exhibition! The ArchiGallery is a section dedicated to the architecture of Singapore helping visitors educate visitors on its history and heritage. Of course, the first exhibit was all about the beginnings of the building that now houses the National Gallery, and it was very cool and interesting to learn about.

After the National Gallery, I took Tanya to a place where I also took my mom when she was here visiting, which is Mustard, my favourite Indian restaurant in all of Singapore (and there are a LOT). The menu here combines Bengali and Punjabi cuisine, which share one ingredient in common: titular (yes that is the real name) mustard. The food here is just delicious—lots of spicy showboats, creamy lentil dishes, seafood dinners served in coconuts, mmm my mouth is watering just thinking about this place. When we walked in, the owner recognised me right away (STREET CRED!), and was able to give us a nice seat at a four-person table. I think Tanya enjoyed the meal as much as I did, especially given it is such a fantastic value for the portions you receive.

On Monday night, it absolutely poured. To the point where we had to change our dinner plans so we could eat somewhere closer to my office, and avoid the downpour! I took Tanya to Koji, a yummy sushi restaurant just down the street from my office. The sushi is so fresh here, and I know Tanya is a big fan of Japanese food (and all foods, even the most adventurous, which is why we make such a good pair!). It was a delicious dinner, and we had a nice time chatting over donburi sets.

Tuesday: our final evening together!! Super sad. And I was dealing with some Christmas flight ridiculousness, so the first part of our evening was a bit sullied, but…what a difference three glasses of wine can make! And, we were lucky to not have had a place picked out, because we ended up going to Kaz Bar, a place I have been wanting to try for quite a while that is close to my workplace. Kaz Bar is a Middle Eastern restaurant, and therefore I knew it would almost surely be a hit with both of us. And it was! Tasty, tasty food and the service was so warm and wonderful, too. It turned out to be a great evening  and an even better ending to a short but special trip.

Thank you to my teta for flying to Asia to come visit me. It is so meaningful to have family and friends come to visit, and there is no way I am ever able to thank the people who have traveled so far just to see lucky me. xx


Teta Tanya has banned me from posting all but one of the photos I took during the week, instead urging me to post the photos she snapped of me. Twist my arm.

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