30 April 2012


There are some places in Singapore where you just have to know someone in order to find them. Paul and I were introduced to our now-favorite restaurant by two friends who have been expats here for years. When our previously-established dinner plans were foiled by a nearly last-minute attempt to obtain reservations at a celebrity restaurant, they made a call to see if we could get a table at a local place called Valentino’s. We did and that night we made history.

The restaurant is at the end of what we would call a strip in the middle of the island nowhere near public transportation. Since the place is practically unheard of, I am confident that Paul and I never would have come across the place.

A straight-off-the-boat Italian family works together in a small restaurant with hard floors and exposed brick to serve the best food Paul and I have ever tasted – anywhere. The family tree, with photos, is on the first menu page. The daughter runs a pastry shop next door. The place is just perfect.

Paul and I were invited to one of the most exclusive sites in Singapore, The Island Club, for a business dinner. At the club that evening we enjoyed a nine-course meal that started with a whole suckling pig and ended with mango puree. The food was amazing and the views of the club grounds were equally as nice.

Yesterday, Paul and I had yet another opportunity to visit a place we never would have found on our own. A new friend, who will likely be a new professional ally as well, invited us to join him and his associate for an afternoon on the water.

We arrived at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club and enjoyed a beverage before heading out onto the water. Though the thunderstorms were loud and proud in the morning, the afternoon revealed a near-perfect day. The sun was out, the sky was Singapore blue and giant, puffy white clouds formed around us.

We travelled up to 40 knots but the air was not chilled. The last time we were on a boat, we sailed around Nantucket in late May and I remember that the air was crisp. Since I always freeze, I brought a hoodie with me this weekend but never pulled it out of my bag.

The water was calm so the boat sped over the water, sometimes flying in the air and bouncing onto the water below. I have to admit, I was a bit scared in the beginning and truly wished the captain would have slowed the catamaran to a more relaxing speed, but I eventually go the hang of the ride. I realized that, as crazy as this may sound, speed boating is like horse riding in that one simply needs to find the rhythm. Once I found mine, the trip was enjoyable.

We went halfway around the island, from the southwest to the northeast near Pulau Ubin and pulled into a floating restaurant that sat amongst floating fish villages. Sometimes I forgot that outside of the hustle and bustle of the big city, there are still remote areas of Singapore where the locals live the local life away from the shopping malls and the MRT.

There are quite a few villages, on land and on the water, where locals live in tiny bungalows away from running water and electricity. They live the simple life and care for their families by catching fish and selling their catch.

In the middle of one fishing village floated a red and white almost boat-looking building with trees all over.

With a few honks of the boat horn, we were greeted by the restaurant staff as we pulled into the dock. We walked to a serene porch and just sat for a few minutes, taking in the experience.

The driver/boat captain disappeared to put in our drink order but the drinks returned well before he did. Paul and I wondered where he went, so we asked. We all laughed at the response that he was catching our food but we were soon advised that the aforementioned task was no joke at all.

Excited and curious, Paul and I went to see just what this “catching our dinner” entailed. We walked from the floating restaurant onto floating planks and over to the area where the fish were kept.

The staff caught the first fish, Paul’s favorite, grouper, in a net.

The second fish, a red snapper, was my prize. That’s right – I got to be in charge of dinner. To my dismay, I was not only provided a target but a weight goal as well. I needed to catch a red snapper weighing approximately 1.5 kgs.

A staff member prepared the hook and the bait, a slimy piece of squid and then tossed the line into the fish bed. The second the line hit the water, sounds of fish fins flapping through the surface abounded. It caught me off guard and I had to remind my brain that I needed to work. I laughed as I fumbled for the pole, looked for the winding mechanism and thought back to a time a decade in the past as I seriously thought about whether to wind the wheel toward or away from my body.

The fish was pulling so hard that I needed to hold the end of the pole at my belly button so that I could use my stomach muscles to hold the pole steady. I caught a winner on the first try, which was exciting. I don’t know why people complain about how boring and time consuming fishing is – I caught one in under four seconds!

Once the fish were caught, the staff gutted them on the spot and then sent them off to the kitchen. We enjoyed a great spread of boiled peanuts, fruits, shrimp fried rice, baby kailan and the fish we hand selected. And then there was the ice cream sundae.

We solidified what will surely be a great friendship and I found a team who will help me start my business and possibly hire me to do some contract work in the near future.

Just when I thought the day could not get any better, I looked at my watch and noticed that it was nearing 6 o’clock. We made one stop before heading back to the Yacht Club and we watched the sun set the whole way.

My GQ husband

It was such a great day, I could not have asked for more.  

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