We landed in London on my birthday and celebrated the next day with lunch at Murano. At the time of visit Gordon Ramsay was part of the team running the restaurant although Angela Hartnett was the Executive Chef. Murano has also received a 1 Michelin Star rating. Now Gordon Ramsay is no longer part of the team at Murano and this restaurant is run by Angela Hartnett. Prior to our visit, we've not heard much about Angela herself and later found out that she worked under the wings of Gordon Ramsay and she became famous from her TV appearances with him.

Murano is in Mayfair and it wasn't hard to find. With advance reservations made before we left for London and a map in arm, it was easy. We walked through the alleys of Shepherd Market which by the way is a lovely pedestrian-only area with boutiques, restaurants, and pubs, and then landed ourselves on Queen Street where the restaurant is located. Murano's elegant decor and ambience was well suited with its fine dining cuisine. Service was professional throughout and the noise level of the restaurant was low. The lunch crowd was a mixed of people in working professional attire who were probably there for a business lunch and there were also people like us who dined with our significant others.

We ordered a glass of wine to go with our 3-course prix-fixe. To start every table was given a platter of cured meats and a basket of assorted bread and crackers. The thinly sliced meats were a perfect way to start lunch.

Cured meats, bread, and crackers
£30 for a 3-course meal was actually a really good deal considering that Murano has a 1 Michelin Star rating. The food was well thought out and prepared. Some of the dishes we had still stick to our minds. The chicken ravioli was large enough to be presented with just a piece of it as a starter. It was sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds and drizzled with soy vinaigrette. I generally am not much of a ravioli person (when it comes to types of pasta, I go for the long noodles) but this was lovely.

Chicken ravioli
The braised mutton was very tender and soft to bite, with a couple slices of potatoes and zucchini to accompany it. After eating 3/4 of the mutton, I felt like I probably couldn't stomach much more of it. Maybe it was the gaminess of the meat itself. My husband T is always a great fan of salmon no matter the way it is prepared and claimed he loved the smoked salmon.

Braised mutton
Smoked salmon
The manager knew we were visiting from Chicago and chatted with us about Alinea, the very well known restaurant run by Chef Grant Achatz himself in Chicago. Incidentally, Alinea received a 3 Michelin Star rating. He told us that he had heard about Grant Achatz, although this is not surprising because alot of foodies have heard about Achatz and his wonders and creations in his food. Nevertheless it feels good to have someone from Murano recognize Chicago for that.

Enjoying his wine
Dessert was pure indulgence. Right after our meal, we were presented with an assortment of sorbet to act as a palate cleanser after the main entrees and before our desserts were served. We were presented with two tiers of sorbets. Each scoop was a different flavor as reflected by their range of colors on the platter. The chocolate ganache and coffee ice-cream was a perfect blend for the husband T as chocolate and coffee are his two favorite things.

Assortment of sorbets
Chocolate ganache with coffee ice-cream
Assortment of nougat and chocolate pieces
The food and level of service at Murano well deserved the Michelin star recognition. Now that Angela Hartnett has fully taken the reins of Murano, we hope to see Murano continuing to succeed.

20 Queen Street
London W1J 5PR, England



There are about a hundred things that we love about London. A city rich in history, culture, and architecture, people are living the everyday contemporary life in this place where modernity and history are a perfect blend. Old buildings are preserved and maintained for today's everyday purpose. It's the 21st Century and yet history still exudes itself in the gorgeous architecture of the buildings. Walking the streets of London one sees the reflection of what a melting pot the city is while maintaining one's cultural and ethnic identity at the same time. It is incredibly cosmopolitan.

One of our favorite things is that the city keeps its world-class museums free-of-charge which makes it extremely easy on visitors' pockets. We only wished we had more time to spend at the museums but otherwise we were very glad to set foot into the Tate Modern, The British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Victoria & Albert Museum.

National Potrait Gallery

1. Mayfair/Marylebone
Our highlights of Mayfair: 1) Murano (a Gordon Ramsay restaurant with 1 Michelin star) for my birthday lunch, 2) Connaught Bar which made it to the 10 Best Bars in the World by Food and Wine Magazine. We're subscribers to this magazine and are always making dog ears out of the pages of our magazines in order to bookmark useful tips like this when we travel to the cities featured. Mayfair was beautiful, decadent, and rich. Bespoke suit shops, retail, and restaurants abound.

Royal Arcade, Bond Street
Oxford Street
Located right by Mayfair is Marylebone. Strolling along Marylebone High Street felt a little more carefree and has more of a neighborhood feel to it with cute little boutiques, bakery, bookstore, to name a few. We later realized that Marylebone High Street was voted as the best street in London-- "a haven in the middle of a frantic city."

Marylebone High Street

2. Covent Garden
Pubs, restaurants, shops, arts and crafts market dominate Covent Garden. Here there is Neal Yard's Dairy which is any cheese lover's dream. We walked in and the entire store was like a freezer or a very cold fridge to keep the cheeses in an optimum condition. They have another location at Borough Market. Covent Garden was also where we've had our best dining experience which was at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. With 2 Michelin stars, this place completed our London dining experience.


Neal's Yard Dairy
3. Soho
Soho is stylish. If retail therapy on Oxford Street isn't already enough, veer off Oxford and find yourself along Carnaby Street, a pedestrian-only street. Pubs abound. But then again, we found a pub at almost every corner of England. We made our way to Soho Square and how exciting, the sun was out. London always creates the impression of overcast skies and wet dreary weather, but we had sunshine and it made everyone happy even though the sunshine did not stay.

Enjoying the rare London sun
I also especially like the fact that I can walk into any pub and order a half pint of beer if I didn't want a full pint. Why can't I do that in the States? Once in a while I like to enjoy a half order of beer. Beers are also cheap over there, compared to the States. And while we're still on beer, we noticed that at anytime we walked into a pub we saw men in suits having a pint even at 10am (yeah, no kidding) or at 4pm.

Half pint, if you wish

4. Borough Market
Lovers of fresh produce and food retail, we hit up Borough Market and it only made us wonder why didn't we have one like this all year round in Chicago. Farmer's Markets in Chicago are only found in the summer. We've been spoiled after visiting Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia and Borough Market. They have made us feel that no Farmer's Market in Chicago can compare to these two great markets especially when it comes to variety of vendors and stalls. At Borough Market, there are baked goods, pastries, cheeses, meats, seafood, cider, vegetables, fruits, and ethnic cooked foods. We each had a couple of freshly shucked oysters from one of the seafood vendors. Then we hit up a sausage stall that served wild boar and ostrich. Next I made a mandatory stop at a Middle Eastern sweets stall and picked up some baklava (when it comes to baklava, it is mandatory for me. I love it this much).

Borough Market
Cow heart tomatoes
Pie mania

Right outside Borough Market was also where we had arguably the best coffee ever: Monmouth Coffee. They have another location at Covent Garden. Our latte was absolutely creamy and rich. We love our Nespresso lattes which we have the luxury of making at home with our Nespresso machine, but Monmouth Coffee took it to another level. Every sip was savored. This is definitely a must-try.

Arguably the best coffee ever

5. West End: Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square
This district spells entertainment. It is alot like how many people envision London to be. When the sun is down, the streets and theaters in the entertainment district turn glitzy and glamorous. People are everywhere. It was a great reminder to how metropolitan London is. If not walking on the streets, we saw them sitting around the memorial fountain at the road junction of Piccadilly Circus which is also the site of huge advertisement signboards, which incidentally reminds me alot about Times Square in Manhattan. Or, they were seen relaxing at Trafalgar Square.

Shaftesbury Ave

Trafalgar Square

 6. Camden Town
We hopped off the Camden subway and found ourselves in an entirely different world. Sunday was clearly the best day to visit as we saw people flock to the streets with their bohemian or gothic style clothing. Tiny shops abound with a huge selection of extremely affordable clothing if you're into the style. There are six markets in the area; some are outdoor and some are covered. We wandered around while absorbing the vibrant colors of merchandise on displays. People watching in itself was interesting. Camden Town has so much character that defines what it is. It reminded me about why I like living in Chicago: several neighborhoods make up the city of Chicago and each neighborhood has its own character and personality that defines the neighborhood.

Other places worth noting:

Cadogan Arms: Runner up for Best Gastropub 2009/2010 in London by Time Out Magazine. Thanks to Dave, Nat, Kay, and Dash who brought us there. Located in Chelsea.

Tayyabs: Best Indian food we've had. Ever. Thanks to Alden who brought us there. We made reservations and nevertheless had to wait to get seated but it was worth it. It was a weeknight and the place was bustling. I repeat, best Indian food we've had. Located in Whitechapel.

Primrose Hill: Excellent 360 degrees view of the city.

Some of our favorite British grub (because what good is a trip without awesome food?):

English Breakfast: We really made it a point to have traditional English breakfast before starting our day. Grilled tomatoes, English bacon (which actually has meat in it unlike American bacon that is comprised of 90% fat and 10% meat), black and white pudding (sausages), eggs, and baked beans. Before hurrying off to catch the Changing-of-the-Guard at Buckingham Palace, we managed a quick breakfast at a nearby cafe that actually served breakfast with chips (fries).

Steak and kidney pie: In between our trip to Victoria & Albert Museum and Harrods in Knightsbridge, we lunched and had a pint at a pub. I'm very much a pie person and loved every bit of the steak and kidney pie. The crust was flaky and upon stabbing my fork into the pie, a waft of steaming delicious smell from the gravy comes up. The beef and kidney pieces are in the delicious smelling gravy. And to top it all, there was an additional serving of gravy if the amount of gravy inside the pie wasn't already enough. 

Fish and chips: It is debatable where to get the best fish and chips in London. It's almost like someone asking us where to get the best pizza in Chicago. We have our personal favorite but different people will have different opinions about this. In London we've tried fish and chips from immigrant-owned restaurants where customers mostly do carryout (by the way, you can dip your chips in curry...yum) as well as from pubs. We liked them all.

Bangers and Yorkshire pudding: Yorkshire pudding is really something that I've come to like alot. Made of flours, eggs, and roast drippings and then baked in the oven until it pops up from the pan, the texture is light and fluffy if it is made well. Cover it with gravy and I'm all set to be happy.

English breakfast
Steak and kidney pie
Fish and chips
Bangers and Yorkshire pudding


Finally, Michelin stars come to Chicago

Chicago foodies have long awaited the prestigious Michelin star ratings to come to town. Finally, the list is out and it has gotten people (foodies in particular) talking. It was just a few months ago when Tim and I were lamenting the absence of Michelin star restaurants in Chicago especially when there are outstanding restaurants and chefs who deserve the recognition. Though we haven't had a chance to try the restaurants that received 3 and 2 stars, I am excited that we've been to 9 out of 16 restaurants that received 1 star. Naturally, now our aim is to visit the restaurants that made it to the list which we've yet to try.

3 Stars

2 Stars
Charlie Trotters

1 Star
Crofton on Wells
Graham Elliot

I think it's fair to say that there were mixed reactions to some of the restaurants who made it to the list. First of all, L20? 3 stars? L20 offers fine dining with their degustation menu. I've known it to be a place for a special night, one where you will save up to spend on a special occasion, but my impression was that it was never on par with Grant Achatz's Alinea. I've always thought that Charlie Trotters has passed his prime, but clearly it isn't so according to the books of the Michelin inspectors. Blackbird and Graham Elliot well deserve to be on the list. Excellent service and food. Our experience at Boka has been unfortunately forgettable. We've only had Sunday brunch at Nomi and came away impressed that I'm sure their dinner service is even more impressive. Sepia is good in a classic American way of dining and not one where you will expect to find new age or avant-garde combination of ingredients in your dish. It's not a bad thing. They do their thing really well. Spiaggia was where Tim and I celebrated our engagement and how can I forget reading in the news that Barack Obama commented that Tony Mantuano from Spiaggia was his favorite chef. Spiaggia's squid ink spaghetti is still etched in my mind today. Takashi himself has a great personality. We saw him in person at a cooking demonstration and I will always remember his little humor when demonstrating how to braise pork belly. He told us in the audience, "Don't worry too much about the fat in the pork. Sometimes, eating a little bit of it is OK." The food in his restaurant was impressive with a combination of Asian cooking and French techniques. I have been extremely impressed with TRU among all the restaurants with a 1-star rating so I'm a little disappointed that TRU wasn't rated higher. The dining experience at TRU itself is an experience unto itself. The servers are trained to synchronize their movements when it comes to pouring water into everyone's glasses on the table, and when placing or removing everyone's plates on the table. My favorite part of TRU is their unbelievably good cheese cart. I only wish they can wheel me out of the restaurant on their cheese cart.



Graham Elliot

Graham Elliot



Another party, for our wedding

Two weeks after we tied the knot in Chicago, the merriment continued and we flew to Singapore for our second wedding celebration. There's always a reason to party, yes. And this time it was with family and friends mostly from Singapore and Malaysia who couldn't make it to our big day in Chicago.

We loved how everything turned out at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore. Everything was beautiful. The ballroom felt warm and cozy with our white paper lanterns, ivory roses, and gold taffeta table overlays.


Wedding Day

One and a half years of wedding planning, and everything went by in a flash on September 18, 2010. These were the best pieces of advice we ever received from two friends on the last few days leading up to the wedding:

"Remember to stop, take a moment, and just look. Look at everyone there celebrating with you and look at all the details that you've put your hardwork into making all this come together."

"Take a deep breath before everything begins and absorb every moment of it."

Bridal bouquet: ivory roses + green hydrangeas

Old St. Patrick's Church

Entrance of Old St. Patrick's Church

White hydrangeas + willow branches
Running theme wedding cake

Rivers Restaurant, by the Chicago River and overlooking the skyline
Bridal party

Favorite ladies

 The goofy bunch