My Short Trip to Istanbul Turkey – Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel (Day 1)

It was a last minute decision for the business trip, I could not get a direct flight from Singapore to Istanbul which is available on Singapore Airlines, I had to transit via Doha before reaching Istanbul. We arrived almost 5am in the morning and there wasn’t much crowd and the weather was freaking cold !

Change Currency and Purchase Sim Card !

Turkey does not really relies on Euro currency for daily usage and 23 did not managed to find any currency exchange for Turkish Lira while we were in Singapore or Qatar airport. The first thing was to find a currency exchange counter to change my US dollars into Turkish Lira. Internet connection would be the second on my mind. While strolling inside of the departure hall, we managed to purchased a 4GB sim card for 84 Turkish Lira (est. 44 Singapore dollars), sufficient enough for our 3 days in Istanbul. We had to deal though “finger language” as the salesperson only speaks their local language.

Tip: Try downloading World Nomad’s Turkish Language App from iTunes App Store, I believe that will help with better communication in Turkey.


Getting From The Airport To The Hotel

taxi stand outside of Istanbul airportAs we walked through the departure hall, a relentless cold wind blown across our face, sending shivers down to our spines. However,  that didn’t stopped me from lighting a cigarette before pulling out my winter jacket from my luggage. A line of bright orange taxis were waiting for customers, chatting among themselves.

We finished our last puff of cigarette and hopped into the first cab in the queue. The driver was not able to understand english and I had to pulled out my hotels.com booking confirmation and showing him the address below he drove off. It was an exciting journey to the hotel while the cab driver was speeding and we could hear our luggages rolling for side to side in the car’s boot. It took us less than 10 minutes before reaching our hotel. The driver looked annoyed when I was trying to pay him with a 50 Lira note and rudely demanded that I should change at the hotel’s reception counter. I searched through my pockets and managed to pulled out some small changes to pay for the cab.

Tip: Try to get more small changes at the money exchange counters as it will be much easier to pay for the cab and other stuff. It was understand later from my Turkey’s friend that they does not like to accept large notes.

Our Hotel – Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel

We was greeted politely by a intern staff and I tried to check in our rooms but in normal cases, they only allowed us to check in at 2pm in the afternoon. It was only 6am in the morning and there was still a couple of hours to go before our appointment. There was two choices – either we stay at the lobby and check in after our appointment or we pay for another night’s rate. Fortunately, the intern staff tried to consult his manager and they allowed us to have an early check in for an additional 100 euros which we agreed immediately. This allows us to have a good bath and rest, keeping ourselves refresh. Furthermore, they have upgraded us to a sea view room without any additional cost !

Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel
Sahilyolu Cad. No: 2 Yesilyurt
34149, Turkey
Tel: + 90 212 414 1800

Coffee Break at Made By Lauren Jasmine on Amoy Street

Made By Lauren Jasmine is a new concept store that combines its namesake label with a cafe, to give you a one stop location to shop, eat and drink. Housed in a cozy shophouse on Amoy Street, the frontage is a cafe with 2-3 tables that patrons can sit down to enjoy a cup of aromatic coffee and dessert.

Right at the back alley of the shophouse, you will be able to see the boutique shop. Lauren Jasmine is a local work wear label which was conceptualized and co-designed by Singaporeans Hazel and Liyana who had inspiration to design chic, work-appropriate fashion that are in favour of a corporate look.  The area is lined with ornaments and dresses, of course you can pick and bring it home, with a price.


Conclusion

Having a coffee on a quiet afternoon at Amoy Street is definitely one of the most relaxed activity you could do to break away from the bustling city and settling yourself in the cafe, enjoying a cup of aromatic coffee and a delicacy pastry.

Bijin Nabe Japanese Steamboat at Tsukada Nojo Chinatown

Tsukada nojo at chinatown point
People queuing outside of the restaurant waiting for their turns.

Before the end of year, I hope to fulfill one last resolution for the year of 2014 and that was to visit Tsukada Nojo again for their Bijin Nabe. I had a wonderful ramen lunch at Tsukada Nojo in Westgate previously and today I am here again for their Bijin Nabe, but at their Chinatown Point‘s outlet.

Though plans have been laid days ago before the year end dinner, they does not accept reservation if the timing is before 6.30pm and the only way was to personally queue for seats. Traffic was bad that day and since we arrived, it was almost what we had predicted – people lining outside of the restaurant. Do not get it wrong, it was not the festive event that resulted the long queue, it has been this way all the way.

Related: Collagen Rich Ramen Lunch at Westgate Tsukada Nojo

Tsukada Nojo chinatown point
Waiting area with seats at the entrance of the restaurant.

The restaurant did some good arrangements to have some seats for those that has been queuing up and at least a place to rest their feet before ushering them to their tables. After 20 minutes of waiting, one of the Japanese waitress came and ushered us to our seats at the back of the restaurant.

Looking at the dinner menu, we were slightly confused thus requested the waiter to brief us on how we should order the food. If you are going for the steamboat, there is no hassle to choose between type of soup or ingredients, it is fixed. The only important factor was to determine the number of portions (1 portion per pax). It is not necessary that each person has to order one portion, but a lesser portion can be chose to share among a few (minimum two person). This is a really good concept because it allows you to leave more rooms in the event you decided to order some ala carte from the dinner menu as well.

The Bijin Nabe (美人鍋)

Bijin Nabe
Watch slowly while the “beancurd” starts to melt and turned into a pot of boiling collagen rich chicken soup.

Soon after, the waiter brings over a claypot with some beancurd look alike substance residing on it. That you saw above is actually the chicken gelatin. The restaurant painstakingly simmered the stock for 8 hours before reaching this texture. While the heat slowly breakdown the gelatin into a more liquidity state, you can start to smell the aroma of the collagen rich chicken soup.

Like a wine tasting session, the waiter filled four small ceramic cups with the soup and distributed to each of us. The purpose is to allow us to taste the soup’s original flavour. While we sipped carefully from the dedicated ceramic cup, you can feel a stream of hot and creamy texture soup running down your throat and at the same time leaving a strong after taste in the mouth. However, maybe due to its richness, you may feel slight stickiness along your lips as well.

Pieces of chicken meat hidden in the gelatin. 

That was not all. Hidden within the gelatin was pieces of chicken meat, which was only revealed after all the gelatin has melted off. As opposed to prolong boiling of chicken meat in water that could cause the texture to be hard and difficult to chew on, the meat was very tender and smooth. Even without any seasonings, it has a brilliant taste. What an eye-opener !


A platter full of fresh vegetables, meat and seafood.

While we are busily munching on the collagen rich chicken meat, the waiter started to arrange the ingredients on the platter carefully into the steamboat, like an artist trying to create a masterpiece. Matter of fact, as explained by the waiter, the steamboat is most of the time being served by the waiter rather than self-service.

Finally the Bjin Nabe is ready !

After about ten minutes of waiting, all the ingredients are ready to eat. All the ingredients has been inserted except for the prawn and noodles. This was to prevent the soup to taste differently and we were advised only to put it in after we had finished all the ingredients in the steamboat. Looking back, this was really a very healthy pot ! Collagen with fresh vegetables without any special homemade sauce nor the need for any seasoning. With all the flavoured absorbed into the ingredients, it has already tasted heavenly !

We ended the steamboat with a high note with the prawns and noodles cooked together. Much as what the waiter mentioned earlier, the soup indeed taste much different ! The prawns makes the soup slightly sweeter and fresher.

Our Ala Carte Orders

Below are some of the ala carte we have ordered on top of the Bijin Nabe. I will only write about the Coriander salad since I have already covered the other two dishes in my previous visit at Tsukada Nojo Westgate.

coriander salad
Coriander Salad. Price: $6.00.

Coriander is just like durian, either you loved it or you hate it to the core. For both my girl friend and I, we are the die-hard fans for coriander. The salad comes in a mixture of coriander and radish with some seasonings and sesame seeds. The radish is very refreshing while unlike coriander which you eats in Chinese restaurants, the smell are not that overwhelming. My sister whom was not a fan has tried and simply loved it too. The chilli sauce is an option, it just gives you extra spiciness you need if you have a heavy tastebud.


Nikumaki Onigiri – Original and Yuzu. Price: $3.80 per piece.


Chicken Nanban with spicy tar tar sauce. Price: $8.50.

While we are coming to an end for the dinner, the waiter has dished out an complimentary dessert with decoration on the plate saying “Happy New Year 2015”. The dessert looks like Osmanthus cake and had the some refreshing taste, but it is still hard since there wasn’t much hint you can find physically.

Conclusion

Bijin Nabe is certainly a delicacy not only for the women, but those that enjoy natural taste as well. Japanese are well-known to prepare and cook food that brings out the quality of the ingredients and I think this is no different. However, it can only be a occasional feast as you might grow sick of the collagen rich chicken soup if consume within a short period of time. Having the choice to chose the number of portions instead of compulsorily having everyone to get a portion is also one of the advantages that the restaurants has as well. Price at $25.00 for the steamboat, the price is definitely reasonable.

Tsukada Nojo
#02-37 Chinatown Point
133 New Bridge Road
Singapore 059413
Tel: +65 6444 8840

Opening Hours
Daily: 11.30am to 3.00pm (Lunch), 5.00pm to 10.00pm (Dinner)