It Wasn’t A Sequel To Begin With
November 29, 2012 – 18:32 | No Comment

My 3rd novel wasn’t meant to be a sequel to the 2nd novel in the first place. Then something happened. Characters began to beg to be included in the story. Thus, a sequel was born.

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Job Description: Restaurant Reviewer

Submitted by on January 3, 2010 – 05:544 Comments

There was this period of time in my life when my mom enjoyed telling others about what I do for a living. She boasted about me going to cinemas and shopping malls to write reviews, and talked a lot about why I am gaining so much weight thanks to my hearty job. I could understand where she is coming from because I was gaining weight (fast) and I was getting bored (fast too!) of all the grand food and chef talk. But the wine was always good.

As a writer for Crave i-mag (a F&B magazine) previously, I covered various F&B-related articles which includes recipes and restaurant reviews (which kinda explains why I am getting fatter by week). We featured 4 F&B outlets every month in the i-mag and I have been attending almost each one of them, either as a photographer or the writer assigned.

What is required of a restaurant reviewer? Dine and get fat, of course!! I am not kidding, I gained a few pounds since the launch of the i-mag in September. Bear in mind that I am not talking about mamak or street food, I am talking about good expensive meals served for free! These are meals that I could never afford to dine with my family even for an once-a-blue-moon occasion. Suddenly all the fine dining classes I attended the past years became useful tools – like how the utensils are supposed to be placed or which glass shape goes with white wine, etc.

While you can sit and talk loudly at the mamak over a plate of mee goreng (fried noodles), the same scenario will never take place in restaurants such as Cilantro (my personal favourite), Izzi (they serve my favourite coffee), Soi 23 (they serve splendid tom yam soup), Cava (I love the wine cocktail known as Cava No.1), Tea For Two (great garden ambience) and Opus Bistro. Everything has a system to it – how you drink the soup, the kind of glass specified for certain wines, the utensils for different dishes, etc. Sometimes when I am in a restaurant doing a review, I’ll be paranoid enough to imagine the waiters sitting at the far end watching the way I dine just to see if I make a mistake (which I shouldn’t since I am a food reviewer).

What happens if you are not a food expert? A typical editor will tell you, “Go and read other F&B magazines – learn the jargons and keywords. Then implement what you read to what you write.” Personally, I don’t do it that way. I read F&B magazines and do research on how reviews are written. However, at the end of the day when I am present at the restaurant itself, I realize that it’s always important to just sit back and enjoy the whole process as if I am a superstar because by the end of the trip, words will come to you instead. Trust me, you won’t need to go hunting for words to describe the place and food served (no matter how delicious or awful it is).

I have tasted the strangest dishes since I started writing for CRAVE i-mag and the experience was just superb. It’s just once-a-lifetime kind of food tasting. From goose livers to vegetarian pizzas, ox tongues to ginger-starfruit healthy juice blend, I thought I’ve tried it all. But there is still this one dish that transformed my perception of food. It’s known as Wagyu Tartare with Anchovy Toast and Egg Mollet found in Cilantro restaurant, Micasa Hotel. Layman terms – it’s raw beef with cold egg yolk (refer to photo).

So how do you deal with raw food? Simple – Just tell yourself you have to be professional. Like it or not, being professional is the game. The chef will be standing by your side waiting for comments so you better act professional when it comes to food tasting.

I remember particularly the time when this dish (Wagyu Tartare) was served during one of my food review sessions. I went with my intern, Joa, and we went through photo shoots before settling down to taste the dishes. So starter was served and I was a little surprised to find a plate of raw beef in front of me. Cold raw cubes beef as starter? Sounds more like a prank except that it wasn’t.

Unsure whether Joa knew what she was about to scoop into her mouth, I decided to shut up and gave the dish a try. I broke the egg yolk with the tip of my folk, placed some raw bits on the cracker and (actually) ate it. First mouthful was strange yet surprisingly tasteful. Second was okay and enjoyable. By the third, I am starting to like the cold raw pieces toying around my tongue. Not for long though. By the time I am 80% through the dish, the beef began to taste bloody.

Joa was traumatised a little and we can’t stop talking about it in the car when we left the restaurant. I thought it was quite an amazing starter if it was a smaller helping while Joa stopped eating beef for the next few days. Notice the way the egg white surrounds the yolk in the photo – It’s food art. Totally impressive. Honestly, I don’t mind having one of these starters again (when I can afford it).

After all these years, my tastebud has been sharpened and I can describe more when I taste dishes now. I talk about the texture, temperature, taste and smell so much so I freak my family out when we go out for meals sometimes. That’s the blessing in disguise for a restaurant reviewer – You’ll learn to fall in love with food and food alone.

As for now, once a while I still do get an invitation to write a review on restaurants and bistros. Normally I’ll just bring another food-lover along with me for yet another dining adventure. If you own a dining place and would like me to write a review for you, drop me an email. The pleasure is mine.

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Main Responsibilities:

  • Write reviews for all sorts of restaurants and food.
  • Interview chefs and related personnels for special write-ups.
  • Source for new dining places to be reviewed and introduced to the readers.
  • Contact and organise food tasting sessions with the chef and restaurant owners.
  • Proofread write-ups before production sends out for printing and distribution.
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