Avoiding bill shock at restaurants

We kicked ourselves for not doing enough research, but we heaved a sigh of relief at the same time. We were slapped with a cover charge for five pax at a restaurant in Sapporo (see image below) on our second last night in Hokkaido. Thankfully, this was the one and only instance.

Costing 2,105 Yen, the cover charge came up to 21% of our total bill. And my, we didn’t know about the charge till we got the receipt. With loads of gesturing at the menu, Google Translating and speaking in simple English, we found out from the cashier than the cover charge would apply even if we were to order a glass of water, and water is chargeable too.

IMG_8410.JPG.jpeg

So in essence, the cover charge would apply once you sit your butt on the chair – non negotiable; compulsory. The English menu contained mention of “cover charge”, but we assumed it was for consumption of alcoholic drinks. How wrong we were! Aside from “cover charge”, restaurants may use other terms like “seat charge”, “table charge” or “appetiser charge”, based on an online search.

Food was no doubt good, and we ate a lot, but it was surely a painful experience. We learnt from this; hope you won’t fall into the same pit.

##

Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom 
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants [You are here]
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

 

Advertisements

Teardown: Diamond Water Filter System

My first teardown in forever. For years, my family relied on Diamond Energy Water, after having put the water through various tests which showed the benefits of drinking Diamond (instead of drinking directly from the tap).

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Diamond Energy Water System

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Diamond Energy Water System

The time came for us to change almost all of the six filters embedded within the system. We decided not to, mainly due to cost and the age of the system. The white cabinet is no longer white.

For me, I have always wondered why manufacturers don’t encase their filters in transparent materials. A water filter system is defined by its filters. Show off what your filters are made of. Be proud.

So, for you guys, here’s a teardown, a look into – and inside – the filters. We put them filters under the knife, for you. You can then make a decision on whether to get a Diamond system, or not.

Filter A

Official description: The world’s best impregnated ceramic filter, which has been awarded NSF Certification, thoroughly removes bacteria and impurities like dirt, silt and rust.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter A

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter A

The ceramic filter inside Filter A, when new, is pure white.

Filter B

Official description: Activated carbon removes unpleasant odours and colours, while natural mineral stones regulate mineral content.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter B

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter B

Filter C

Official description: Composed of Grade A activated carbon and a KDF metal ion converter (meeting the standards stipulated by the FDA and EPA of the United States), this filter completely removes heavy metals, chlorine, and other chemical contaminants.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter C

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter C

Filter D

Official description: The CE3000PI Energy Conversion technology of Japan effectively breaks water molecules into the smallest possible clusters; making it easier for our body to absorb. It also increases the dissolved oxygen content in the water.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter D

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter D

Filter E

Official description: A high-tech ID3 energy stabiliser with far infrared technology stabilises energy in the water to keep water molecule clusters at the smallest size for a prolonged period of time.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter E

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter E

Filter F

Official description: High-density activated carbon combined with natural magnetic stones help balance the water to a mild alkaline level and increase the number of calcium ions to further enhance health.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter F

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Filter F

After dissection, filters B, C, E and F look similar + Black material plus some stones, just in different colours. Filter C comes with an additional thingy – KDF-55. Filter D is filled with whitish balls in two sizes. Filter A is expected and required in water filtration systems, just implemented differently.

And you may have noticed the different filter label designs – Older design = the blue and white ones labelled Diamond. Newer design = the green and pale yellow ones labelled TDM (I don’t know what is TDM).

I’m just glad we moved away from this bulky, costly 6-stage system, which to some is filled with (activated) carbon and only carbon.

Buying a fridge can be tough, till today

The subject sounds so optimistic. Too much. But anyhow, I’m writing this to help fridge seekers, as it is a desert out there when it comes to getting opinions on large home appliances.

The Hitachi R-VG690P3MS (I didn’t know Hitachi makes fridges actually) two-door fridge caught my eye with its dark tempered glass finish and large storage capacity, 544L all in all. It caught my eye as I walked through the electrical shop. An outstanding design that far outshines the fake stainless steel vernier variants. Just in time to keep packet drinks cold for Chinese New Year!

Our 15-year-old Fisher & Paykel served us really well, but the stubborn mould has overtaken its rubber seals. No pictures as I don’t want to spoil your appetite. Haha.

2015/01/img_8685.jpg

It was also one of the very few models that comes with three ticks for energy efficiency.

As the World Wide Web has no behind-the-door pictures of the Hitachi, here’s some for your viewing pleasure.

2015/01/img_8686.jpg

2015/01/img_8684.jpg

What I don’t really like about this fridge: The internal LED lights are quite dim and won’t light up the fridge as evenly. I think a number of LG models will do better in this.

Some other considerations you have to take note of:
1) The fridge is huge, like really big. It can’t fit into the usual designated pocket in the kitchen.
2) Measure the doorways, gates, etc to ensure the fridge can even get into your house. This Hitachi spent about 10 mins outside my place while we figured how to squeeze it in. 🙂

Noise levels: Reasonable.
When the dual fans are working to cool the fridge, there is a slight hum. Of course, there will be no noise when the fans aren’t working. When standing like really right beside the fridge, noise levels are at about 40dB. Ambient noise = ~ 32dB. Just for good measure, I measured the din my belt-less washing machine makes – ~ 43dB.

2015/01/img_8682.jpg

And no, I didn’t get the fridge free. 🙂 This is not an advertorial.

Dining in Christchurch, New Zealand

Because we mainly ate our breakfast and dinner in while in Christchurch (to use our money wisely and since the supermarkets are nearby), I have just three key dining options to highlight.

Addington Coffee Co-op
Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Addington Coffee Co-op

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Addington Coffee Co-op

I don’t have pictures of the food and coffee, as they don’t look too presentable (partially eaten =p). But this place is a must-go. Good coffee (that doesn’t matter to me) – you can really smell and taste the freshly roasted nature of the drink. Food’s excellent too. No complaints.

Pedro’s House of Lamb
Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Pedro's House of Lamb

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Pedro’s House of Lamb

Served out of a container-like hut, the baked lamb shoulder is one kind of awesome – huge serving, juicy, soft, mild seasoning. Slurps. However, if you don’t really like potatoes, please let them know you would like less. They gave us a lot of potatoes. Like a lot.

Magnum ice cream
Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Magnum Honeycomb Crunch

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Magnum Honeycomb Crunch

LIke how we would crave for Magnum ice cream while is Malaysia (if you know, you know), you would need to do that in NZ. They have so many more flavours, like Honeycomb Crunch and Peppermint, which are not available in Singapore. Assuming the exchange rate remains, the price is comparable to Singapore’s.

###

Click here to return to the main content page on my trip to New Zealand.

Dining in Punakaiki, New Zealand

To be accurate, it should be dining in Punakaiki Resort. As food options are extremely limited in that area, we didnt even bother to venture out. To save some time, we decided to have our dinner at Jacobs Grill. This restaurant is right beside the resort’s reception – extremely convenient. Food quality wise, let’s just say the wedges and the green curry worked for me. The turbot was fresh too, but it was a little too mushy for me.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill within Punakaiki Resort

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill within Punakaiki Resort

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill - Menu

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill – Menu

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill - Green Curry with Chicken

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill – Green Curry with Chicken

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill - Turbot fish dish thingy

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill – Turbot fish dish thingy

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill - Perfectly fried wedges

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Jacobs grill – Perfectly fried wedges

###

Click here to return to the main content page on my trip to New Zealand.

The day the Pasar Malam concept becomes a part of history

20140620-080958-29398058.jpg

This day will come to past when the food served isn’t great anymore. And I think this day is coming faster than expected.

As a child, my eyes lit up everytime the tents went up. It’s Pasar Malam time. The first thing I would go for is to get a stick of Taiwan Sausage. Every single time. Now, that habit hasn’t rubbed off me.

About a week ago, workers started putting up tents at the junction of Bedok North Road and Bedok North Avenue 3. The Pasar Malam drought is over, I thought.

Like a kid, I waltzed up to the Taiwan Sausage booth yesterday, took out a dollar coin and got myself an oily, grilled red tube of goodness for a dollar. But it wasn’t all that good. My mouth has to chew through fillers and an extremely hard outer binder. It wasn’t piping hot too.

I wasn’t put off just yet.

Instead, I went to queue up at the Ramli burger stall. About 30 hungry minutes and 15 patient patrons later, I got myself a $3 mayo-filled beef delight. All was well, the service was good, but the buns weren’t grilled. They were cold and tasted raw, not like the usual buns I know. Being more efficient was more important to them, I figure.

Again, I had faith in getting good food, which failed me terribly. I ordered my second Taiwan Sausage and boy, it was terrible. Tasted nothing like meat, which isn’t surprising for processed food.

So, if you are planning to make a special trip down to the Pasar Malam here in Bedok, think again. You may not want to waste part of your precious 2,000 kcals on such food.

Nonetheless, as a Pasar Malam fan, I will go down this evening to try something else. If it were to fail me again, I will just have to exercise the junk (literally) food away.

Dining in Franz Josef, New Zealand

Accommodation options are limited in Franz Josef. So are food outlets. Thankfully, there is a small Four Square supermarket in the main town centre. If you want more meat, seafood choices, it’s best you bring them in from elsewhere.

First day – Dinner

We ate in. Cooked our own dinner with produce from a nearby supermarket. Simple yet filling. Made with love.

Second day – Lunch – Aviators Cafe

After coming back from the Heli Hike, we were famished but as we were tired, we didn’t have much appetite. We decided to share a meal here.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Aviators Cafe

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Aviators Cafe

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Aviators Cafe - A Cuppa

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Aviators Cafe – A Cuppa

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Aviators Cafe - Burger that's better than Carl Junior's

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Aviators Cafe – Burger that’s better than Carl Junior’s

Second day  – Dinner – Alice May

We decided to have dinner here mainly due to the free drink vouchers 58 On Cron Motel gave us. Voucher = free drink with any a la carte main. And my, it was quite good. Notable dishes = Roast Pork and Curry Chicken. Don’t ask me why they can do curry chicken so well. The curry is thick, the chicken is not overcooked.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Inside Alice May restaurant

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Inside Alice May restaurant

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant - Curry Chicken

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant – Curry Chicken

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant - Roast Pork

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant – Roast Pork

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant - Pumpkin soup

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant – Pumpkin soup

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant - New way of doing calamari

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant – New way of doing calamari

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant - Creamy pasta I think -  Not memorable

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Alice May restaurant – Creamy pasta I think – Not memorable

###

Click here to return to the main content page on my trip to New Zealand.

Dining in Wanaka, New Zealand

We ate at a restaurant once while in Wanaka. Only one, so this review is gonna be quite short. We chose this place as it topped TripAdvisor’s list. More importantly, we craved fresh oven-baked Pizzas. Okay, just me maybe.

Day one – Dinner – Francesca’s Italian Kitchen

Important: As the place is pretty small and popular, please call 03 443 5599 to reserve a table. Reservation is a must to avoid disappointment.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Francesca's Italian Kitchen

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Francesca’s Italian Kitchen

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Nice and warm, and crowded.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Nice and warm, and crowded.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Fried potato skin - Remember, remember to ask them to give you the unsalted variant

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Fried potato skin – Remember, remember to ask them to give you the unsalted variant

In fact, if you wanna eat fries and all there, please ask them to serve them to you without salt. Let’s just say they are pretty generous with the sprinkles. Or should I still say sprinkles. hur.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Can't rmb this beef dish. Not memorable.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Can’t rmb this beef dish. Not memorable.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The Pizzas are a must try. Like must.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The Pizzas are a must try. Like must.

We got their salmon Pizza and my my, it was awesome. Finger licking good. Pair good food with excellent service – thumbs up for this joint.

###

Click here to return to the main content page on my trip to New Zealand.