Unless you have a penchant for bizarre food, this may not be of much interest to many people who don’t know Anna or myself personally, I’m just jotting this down for my own benefit. It has also taken a lot longer than usual to finish this post due to the apartment we are staying in for the next six months having until a couple of days ago internet at slower speeds than what dialup was in the nineties. Seriously! Anyway, here goes…
Although it still looks like we won’t be going anywhere overseas anytime soon, fortunately Singapore is in phase two of reopening from the “Circuit Breaker,” meaning that we can now dine in at restaurants if you are in a group of five people or less and maintain social distancing laws. Anna’s 40th birthday was on Saturday, June 27 so I had some cool stuff planned a couple of months ago, events that were all nixed when Singapore’s Covid-19 lockdown laws were extended for a month in mid-May. When phase one of reopening began, bars still had to remain closed and restaurants could only do takeaway food, but on Friday, June 19 things changed for the better when Singapore entered phase two of reopening. What this meant was that bars and pubs still weren’t technically allowed to open, restaurants could open properly for groups of five and if a bar had been registered as a “licenced restaurant,” you could still go there for drinks, but alcohol is even then only allowed to be served until 10:30pm. The government here aren’t messing around either, with one establishment being shut down indefinitely for having people still drinking at 10:35pm! Also, all shops were now permitted to open again so that gave me more options for buying a present.
Now, I previously mentioned that I wasn’t going to shave until we could hang out with friends in public again and then do a Beatles-esque before-and-after photo reenactment. Well it was Friday so I was going to cut off the face-fuzz before I went out, but I had a promise to keep:
Anna doesn’t look too impressed in the photo on the right and opinions were quite similar when I posted the pictures on Facebook, with comments ranging from “You look like you shaved a homeless dude’s pubes and glued them to your face!” to “Are you entering Bum Fights?”
Anyway, I now had eight days to get Anna’s 40th sorted, but when I am involved in an event or a process there is a pretty lengthy tradition of things not going smoothly or even to plan at all so I was a little concerned about things coming to fruition. Over the coming week I needed to:
- Buy a present
- Organise a cake
- Book a restaurant
It shouldn’t be all that difficult, but a lot of businesses, particularly in the food and beverage industry, were unable to survive covid-19 so I needed to plan this well. Luckily for me, I already had a good idea of what I could do to cover each requirement; the previous week Anna had lost a necklace that she always wore so that was the present sorted. I know exactly where her favourite cakes come from, I just had to hope the business hadn’t closed down. Lastly, she had chosen a restaurant to go to on the night before her birthday with her friends and myself which sounded a little classy and on the Sunday night her colleagues would be taking her out for dinner and they tend to enjoy the finer things so I wanted to find a place that was a little different.
Friday, June, 19 2020
The first plan of attack was the cake. During the day I looked up the website of Lady M to find the nearest location, because Anna loves the crêpe cakes there. To my surprise, not only could you order the cakes on the website (which I already figured would be the case), but you could also schedule delivery for a certain date and time. Even better, they had a cake that perfectly fit the description of what I was after and it was only available for a limited run, ending on July 31 — The Blueberry Cheese Mille Crêpes:
Blueberry Cheese Mille Crêpes showcases layers of handmade crêpes paired with a lush blueberry cheese. Sweet cheese comes whipped with fresh cream, and marbled with blueberries plus a kiss of kirsch and cassis. The blueberry cheese is brushed between every crêpe layer… twenty at the very least.
Yup, I think she’ll love that so I ordered one and arranged for it to be delivered around midday on Saturday, June 27th, checking and rechecking the details to make sure there were no errors in our new address which I still can’t completely remember, or the cake accidentally arriving a week early. Now all that was required was to wait and hope the order went without a hiccup.
Sunday, June 21, 2020
On Sunday evening we were just kicking back at home in front of the TV and I was secretly looking up restaurants on my phone. Again, I just wanted something unique and quirky and it didn’t take long to succeed when I stumbled upon a place called The Dragon’s Chamber. All you need to do is read The Concept section on the restaurant’s website. It may be a little long, but it paints a decent picture of why I decided upon this place:
You arrive looking for The Dragon Chamber. But you find yourself at the entrance of a kopitiam, where patrons are sipping beer and having bowls of noodles—it’s just an ordinary street food stall.
You think to yourself…
“This can’t be the place…
The hostes [sic] gestures you toward the beer fridge as if to offer you a drink. But instead of pulling out a cold brew, the fridge door opens up a portal into another realm like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
“This is where you must continue alone,” says the hostess, as the fridge door opens into a street alley that transports you into the braised underbelly of the Long Tang Kopitiam.
Things are not always as they appear.
This is it. You’ve found yourself in The Dragon Chamber.
Secretly located within a brightly coloured kopitiam, This speakeasy restaurant and bar offers an unconventional menu serving “guerilla style” food. The dishes are not clearly not [sic] your typical banquet style Chinese food.
Among its own wild concoctions from The Dragon Chamber’s kitchen, the underground restaurant also brings back age-old Chinese dishes that never caught on in mainstream restaurants, because of their unconventional ingredients.
The flavours are immense, contrasting well-loved Chinese-American recipes, Dragon Chamber pushes the diner’s comfort zone with adventurous dishes that may even shock diners with unusual Chinese techniques of nose-to-tail animal preparation
The Dragon’s Claw, touted as one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, features a crocodile foot braised in Chinese herbs, served on a bed of greens and a literal ring of fire. The meat is tender, gelatinous and sweet. Its skin is painstakingly descaled with a torch, revealing a thick and rich layer of collagen that coats the succulent herb-marinated meat with a soft and sticky texture. Every bite is inexplicable.
Crocodile foot and mammal innards excite the bravest and boldest of us. For those less inclined, creative takes on conventional favourites, such as Firecracker Chicken and Wagyu Truffle Hor Fun, delight diners adventurous and meek alike.
One thing is apparent here –
There is no appetite for mediocrity.
By the time your experience is complete, this much is clear. This is no space for political correctness and mellow elevator music. This isn’t the best place to bring your pastor or conservative in-laws.
No, this here, is a contradiction, a convolution. This is a place where old tastes collide with new ways for strange new dimensions of deliciousness.
It is a journey to discover one’s true gastronomic self.
At least for those who dare enter the jaws of…
The Dragon Chamber.
That writeup may sound a little obnoxious in parts, particularly toward the end, but it also definitely seemed like our type of place. I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to eat a crocodile foot? I was able to make an online reservation for two people at 8:00pm on the Saturday night, I just had to hope the place had survived the lockdown and was still operating.
Monday, June 22, 2020
If this were a video game, I had passed the two main levels and was now facing the boss — Buying her present. Birthdays when you are beginning a new decade of your life are generally considered rather special so I wanted to get her a really nice necklace to replace the one that she had lost, however, there was one major setback and that was the fact that Anna and I have joint credit card accounts so if I were to pay for it with my credit card, she would still see the amount on her bill. I made the long walk down to Orchard Road, a shopping strip full of high-end malls, a place I generally despise going, but one that would be completely necessary to make this purchase. I tried a few stores in ION, mistakenly including Harry Winston, and it didn’t take long to realise that, despite having shaved off the beard, I still didn’t really resemble their key demographic. The staff in the jewellery stores were helpful enough, but some of them were also a little on their guard, possibly due to a guy that looks like me, wearing shorts, t-shirt, and a cap more than likely appears as if they are scoping the place out for a burglary rather than looking to purchase. I soon found out about another payment-related drawback and that was that these stores don’t accept NETS (EFTPOS for my Australian friends), paying with a card linked to your bank account, even after I mentioned the whole joint credit account thing. So now I was limited to the amount of cash I could physically withdraw from my account. I found an ATM and tried to withdraw what was the required cash for a necklace that I thought was quite nice, but it was substantially more than the daily withdrawal total my bank allows in a single day so I took what I could and looked for a branch of my bank to see if I could get some more cash over the counter.
Getting to the bank required me to cut through a couple of other malls including Tangs so I figured having a look around couldn’t hurt and then it happened; I know Anna’s tastes quite well when it comes to jewellery and I spotted a State Property necklace that ticked all of the boxes for something she would love, was nicer than the one I was intending to buy, but for a far better price. In fact, it happened to be about $10.00 less than the total amount I had in my wallet without having to go to the bank and beg them to let me take out more of my own money. Perfect!
Later that night once I was home I received a phone call from The Dragon Chamber confirming my booking, as well as an email to verify my cake order and that was when the terror struck — I had managed to order a variety of her favourite cake, book an interesting restaurant, and accidentally happened upon the perfect present for the precise amount of cash I had on me at the time. Things were going too smoothly and that’s generally not how my life works, there were still another five days to hit the obligatory bump in the road.
Saturday, June 27, 2020
The day was here, it was Anna’s 40th birthday. June 26th, the day before, is also a special one for us, because that was the day that we got engaged and that event was now 10 years in the past. Long story short, Anna’s colleagues were taking us to a resort in Thailand for her 30th birthday, but were wondering why I was acting strange, however, it was because I had her engagement ring hidden in my luggage and I was worried about it getting stolen or her finding it, stuff like that. Anyway, I proposed at 11:50pm on June 26, 2010 so she could still say she got engaged in her 20s, even if it was only by ten minutes.
Now here I was 10 years later with another piece of jewellery hidden amongst clothing, this time in our apartment. Dinner on Friday night with her friends was fun, besides the fact that I had slightly overdressed for what was actually just a regular restaurant that Anna was interested in trying, but Saturday was the real test. She loved the necklace when I gave it to her, but I think she might’ve enjoyed the cake even more when it arrived, although it’s not hard to see why, it was so good!:
Anna went shopping with a friend in the afternoon for something to wear, followed by me putting on my ugliest shirt and the pair of us going down to Coq & Balls, now conveniently located across the road from our current, temporary apartment, for a few pre-dinner drinks, and then the big moment was here. She knew when we got into the taxi that I had something planned, but realistically neither of us really knew what to expect. When we arrived she was also confused as to why I had brought her to an empty hawker centre in Boat Quay, an area full of great places to eat, but when the hostess came around from behind the drinks counter and led us to the beer fridge that opened into a dark corridor, Anna knew something was up. The corridor was lined with old Chinese film and propaganda posters, as well as murals, corrugated iron, and inexplicably a sign above an old door that read “Pet Store Restaurant.” Once down the stairs we found ourselves in a brightly decorated dining room with an open kitchen so we pulled up a seat, removed our masks, ordered a drink, and had a look at the menu which can be downloaded here. There was some interesting stuff available, but in the end we decided on:
- Foie Slabs — “Foie gras slices on top of pan seared glutinous rice, goji berries, finished with a dash of yakitori sauce”
- D*** Soup — “Chicken and pork based herbal soup double boiled for 6 hours with crocodile penis. That’s right, penis. You know you’re hungry for that D”
- Dragon Claw — “Singapore farmed crocodile foot braised in herbal sauce served on a bed of kale. Not for the faint of heart—although its amino acids and potassium help to prevent heart disease”
- XO Crab Fried Rice — “Stir fried rice with crab meat and dried scallop XO sauce”
- Kale Stir Fry — “Locally farmed hydroponic kale wok fried with garlic”
There were so many other dishes we wanted to order, but a lot of them served six to eight people. It didn’t matter though, because we were still pretty excited and intrigued by our choices. Many people would probably wonder why we would even consider ordering some of those dishes, but anyone that has read this blog before would be aware that we’re pretty adventurous when it comes to food. I’ll try eating anything and Anna’s pretty brave now too so people who know us wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. That’s why when the opportunity knocks to try something like crocodile dong we both look at each other, laugh, and ask “Why not?” The soup came with a few pieces cut up in it and to be honest if you have ever eaten beef tendons or anything comparable, crocodile penis tastes similar to that, except with a urethra running down the centre. The dragon claw is one of their signature dishes and crocodile tastes great anyway so that was a good enough reason to get it and the way this dish is prepared makes it really gelatinous and sticky, but so delicious. In fact, everything we ordered was fantastic, we keep trying to thing of excuses to take people there so we can try some of the other stuff. Besides the food, I was even able to buy an ironic MAGA-style “Make Chinese Food Great Again” hat for which I have since received a few dirty looks from people who didn’t actually bother to read it when they’ve seen me. Have a look around the place, at our food, and admire my hat for yourself:
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, due to the rules of phase two for the reopening of Singapore, it was nigh on impossible to get a drink after dinner so we ended up back home have a few more in front of the TV, both of us marvelling at how everything I had organised had gone off without a hitch.
Anna’s colleagues took her out for her fancy birthday dinner the following night, but not before we went back to Coq & Balls for the special birthday drink she had forgotten to have the previous evening.
A big thank you on behalf of Anna and myself for all of the birthday wishes and messages and if you were curious what that birthday drink looks like, here it is