Public Service Announcement: Internet Scam Alert!

Recently, I found myself a victim of a security scam that took me off guard. It was similar to those that you read about in the media, of victims being duped by scammers or fraudsters and you thought you wouldn’t fall for them, because you are more cautious or smarter. Well, I thought I was until I was a victim myself. 

I went to this website that offers free animated movies because I wanted to show the Hayao Miyazaki’s film ” Nausicaa of the Valley Of The Wind” to buddy.  It was not the first time I had accessed this site, and, admittedly, there are ads of young women in skimpy bikinis. But I figured it was a way for the site to make money, since it is offering free cartoons and animated movies. Besides, it is almost impossible to find streaming of Miyazaki’s movies online, and anyway I have McAfee Internet Security app installed on the PC.

That turnes out to be the first of a series of mistakes. Despite knowing there is no free lunch in this world, I was fallible like the next guy to think I would be the lucky one. Besides, I didn’t have any issues with this site during previous visits. So I clicked “play” when I found the movie. 

The next thing I knew, a Microsoft page appeared follows by another smaller window. The smaller window stated that Microsoft had detected that my computer was infiltrated by a malicious spyware and that an error response had been generated and a number was assigned to this problem. To add to the tension, an audio recording started playing repeatedly “please call the number on the page for technical support, otherwise we will shut down your computer for security reason”.  Ok, I know you might find this pretty dramatic and maybe even comical. But I panicked! Seriously, when you are in a situation where you know the site might not be entirely secure and something like this happened, you would freak out! (Or most people would.) So, without thinking, I called the number and was connected to a customer service center or what seemed to be judging from the chattering in the background. 

I asked the lady on the other line if this was Microsoft customer support, and she said she was from 3rd party technical support. I just went ahead to give her the error number, and she then explained that she would guide me through a scanning of my PC to detect the malware. But in order to do that I would need to give her control of the PC. I should have stopped there and think before acting. But again I didn’t, and this was the biggest mistake I made. I actually swallowed the story hook, line and sinker,  and stupidly ceded control to her! 

The woman went through the drive programs, while making comments about the problems the computer faced and that the McAfee was not useful because it could only detect viruses. All the while, I was nodding along, as if hynotized by the Alien light. Just then, my husband appeared, wondering what the commotion was about. He stared at the PC and asked, “what’s going on?” I gave him the story, and as I was at it, we were aghast to see a list of my husband ‘s accounts and corresponding passwords being displayed on the screen. That was when my husband flipped!

He took over the phone and demanded,”who are you? Why do you have control of our computer?” The woman gave the same line of being some technical support provider and I was the one who ceded control, but my Husband wasn’t gullible like me. He demanded to know where exactly she was calling from, and that was when she start threatening us. She said she had our number and address and would report us to the police. That pissed off my husband further, and he slammed the phone shut and turned off the computer. 

I was ordered to report to the police immediately, who instructed me to turn off the wireless connection or just not turn on the PC. And, needless to say, I received a fierce tongue lashing from my husband. We spent the next hour changing passwords for those major online accounts. But the biggest concern was whether that scammer had put in a spyware into our computer, and how could we get rid of it. 

I sought advice from my IT colleagues the next day, and was told the best thing I could do was to reset the PC to factory setting. However that requires the CD rom provided by the manufacturer. Considering that ours is at least 7 years old, we were not sure what happened to it since we had moved house during this period. 

My husband decided to do a PC reset, which I was told by the IT colleague, would only be 70-80% clean. But we couldn’t find the required CD rom, and this is the next best option. He also ran the McAfee scan, and did another PC reset the next day for assurance. This clean up turns out to be a blessing in disguise because the PC is We have decided not to use the computer for any sensitive transactions, and it’s now basically an educational tool for Buddy. The silver lining is that the computer is now working much better after the reset. I guess it had accumulated a lot of junk over the years.

So, the lesson from this moral story is that Microsoft doesn’t monitor our PCs and  will never proactively reach out to us to provide technical support. In fact the company is well aware of such scams and has provided advice on how to avoid them.  If any of you encounter something similar, don’t panic like me. If you have any slightest doubt, stop and seek advice from family members or trusted friends.

Deserving of gold

Last Friday I volunteered to get some food for a mini farewell party in the office. A colleague suggested dim sum from Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine. At the mention of the name, my interest was piqued as I had heard on the radio that morning it won the Gold award at the inaugural Best Asian Restaurant Award. Since I was there, I also bought a couple of noodle dishes for dinner. Thar evening, despite the food had been reheated, we were bowled over by it.. I told my husband we should check the restaurant and try the food onsite. So, we made a trip to town specially for it last Sunday. 

The restaurant is located on the 4th level of Ngee Ann City mall, where Coca steamboat restaurant used to occupy. (Coca has moved to a smaller premise on the same level.)

We arrived shortly after 10.30am, which is the opening hour for the day, and were the first guests. The staff led us to a booth table; I hesitated because I had read a review that those booth seats were warm despite being more comfortable than the regular ones. The staff assured me that the building management had since installed aircon on the ceiling above the booth tables, and we won’t suffer a warm fate like previous diners. 

Like any high end restaurants, the table arrangement has white table cloth with white porcelain utensils. There is even a warm towel for each guest. In fact the classy interior reminds me of a western restaurant in that dark wood and soft lighting are used.


My husband did the ordering.  We had two appetisers: shredded mix vegetables salad (top picture) and fungus marinated in vinegar. 

The salad (otherwise known in Chinese as “小菜”) is more refined than the one offered by Din Tai Fung. It has a slight crunchy texture and is lightly seasoned. The subtle flavoring results in a refreshing dish. As for the fungus, it is also superior to the one serves at the Paradise restaurants. Compared to the latter where the dish has an overpowering vinegar flavor, the one here is much more subtle, and doesn’t overwhelm the taste buds. The pieces are also proportionally curated. 

I must say that moderation and subtlety is the calling of the day when it comes to the cuisine here. The Chef  has learned this important skill which the best chefs of the world have mastered. 

A dish that surprises us is the deep fried sesame bun stuffed with scallion, which is amazingly yummy. The pastry is slightly chewy and combined with the slight crunchy texture of the scallion and sesame seeds, it is simply freaking delicious!

Another fabulous and a must-have dish is the noodle with diced chicken and chopped vegetable in thick soup. I had this for the takeaway dinner, and already it wowed me. I had it again, freshly cooked, and I slurped down all the soup Buddy absolutely loves the dish, and kept asking for more.  The soup is made using chicken stock, and the noodle is covered in its sweetness, and it feels so comforting that I can feel the love in it. This is truly chicken noodle soup that nourishes the soul!

My husband also order a stir fried noodle with shredded pork and vegetable. Again, tasty and right balance of flavorz, but I still prefer the noodle soup.

As expected, the restaurant also offers dumplings (“小笼包”), the ubequitous dim sum found in any self respecting shanghaines restaurant. And boy, does this blow us off our feet! 

The dumplings have got to be the best we have ever eaten. It is superior to those from Din Tai Fung or the Paradise restaurant. Until we had this, we didn’t realize that dumplings with thicker skin can taste so amazing. Well, the skin is only slightly thicker than those found at DTF, but the thickness actually adds to the chewy texture, as well as to hold sufficient soup inside the dumpling to make it very satisfying.  There is also no porky taste that I dislike. We like the dumplings so much that we ordered another portion.

For dessert, we had the fried red bean pancake. Again, better than the competition! The right crispy texture, the right level of sweetness. 

Seriously, the food at IT Shanghai Cuisine is so good that till now, I’m still thinking about it. It deserves a Michelin star, just on the food alone. Whoever the Chef is, that guy or woman is a master!

Cheongsam update at Lai Chan 

I know I haven’t been putting up new posts regularly in my blog for the past couple of months, and it’s because work has been really busy. I have little time to look for materials for the blog, amidst juggling between family and work. Anyway I finally made a trip to Lai Chan a few days ago to check out the new designs. So, let’s take a look at the dresses first.

The cheongsams are mostly in classic Lai Chan style with semi precious stone buttons, though I spotted quite a few retro prints among them, like this white polka dot black dress.


This tweed fabric cheongsam is slightly different from the rest in that it has stud buttons, making it easy to put on. I find the seemingly simple design belies an  understated elegance.

Below we have a Japanese cotton fabric with a retro flair.


Another easy to wear cheongsam with back zip, though there are few classic styles available with such wearability. But I am not into this print; I feel it looks a little matronly.

When I first saw the below dress with abstract print, I didn’t think much of it until I took a closer look. I like how Lai Chan used the polka dot binding to juxtapose against the print, creating an interesting combination. However, I wish the dress has stud buttons instead. Though the stone buttons make the cheongsam looks good, they can be a pain because they really test your patience.


Another cheongsam with retro print here.


One of the few cheongsams that Lai Chan made with pockets. This design was actually launched end last year but in solid colors. This time Lai Chan used what looks like jacquard fabric, which gives it a regal look, but the color is not easy to pull off.

We have a new design here, a modern cheongsam for the formal occasion. This will please those looking for something different from the classic style.


Other than dresses, there are a number of cheongsam tops available. One is an elaborately embellished vest which I find is a little too ornate for me.

I do like the below modern top with the stripy collar and polka dotted front with side zip. Combined with a yellow back panel, this is pretty striking.

Most of the tops are in the classic style with side stone buttons, and some are designed with denim back panels.




If any of these pieces caught your eyes, do check them out at the store at Raffles City mall. Since these are one-off pieces, I cannot say they would still be available though. But it’s nice to browse through the collection, and you might fancy something not featured here.

Michelin or no Michelin?

Last December, during my vacation, we decided to check out a couple of eateries that have been awarded the Michelin stars in Singapore. The first to catch our interest is the one-michelin star Putien restaurant at Kitchener Road. For those unfamiliar, the name, Putien, is taken from its namesake coastal city located in the Fujian province, which naturally serves cuisine from that locale. This Singapore-based restaurant not only has many outlets here, it has also expanded regionally. However, only the one at Kitchener road, which is also where it started, is awarded the star. 

We have tried the food at its other outlets, which we thoroughly enjoyed, but never been to the original restaurant. We were curious if it would serve any special items  and if the quality would be a notch better than the other outlets, and so the taste test. 

Braised pork intestines

Marinated seaweed with mini shrimps

Fried pork knuckles

Braised bitter gourd in special sauce

Fried tenggiri fish fillets

Chinese spinach in century egg and salted egg stock

Puréed sweet potato in pumpkin cream

Rice cake stuffed with crushed peanuts

 

Some of the food we had were ordered by my Father-in-law and so there was some focus on pork dishes. Now, I have to admit I didn’t try them as I don’t take pork. But my father in law and husband thought they were pretty tasty. Like the intestines were well prepared with no porky smell, and the pork knuckles were crispy on the outside and moist inside.

The vegetable dishes are also cooked to expectataions, with a good  balance of seasonings and texture. The fried tenggiri fish is one of my favorites, very tasty, not oily, and smells really good.  As for the desserts, I like the sweet potato purée, perhaps because I like creamy texture. But I am not impressed with the rice cake which I found to be a little too chewy and dry. 

All in all, a good lunch. But if you wonder if it is worth going all the way to Kitchener road just because this outlet has a Michelin star, we don’t think so. The food is not significantly better than its sister outlets (we have tried the ones at Parkway Parade, Tampines Mall and VivoCity when it used to have a small eatery at Food Republic foodcourt). In fact, we couldn’t taste any difference. So, we will stick to those outlets convenient for us. Besides, traffic is a little crazy around the Kitchener road area, though valet parking is available if you drive.

From restaurant cuisine, we went to the cheapest Michelin food available in the world: Liao Fan Hong Kong Soy Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. The guide has included street food in its rating. Even though Liao Fan’s fare does not technically considered as street food (since this is not available in Singapore) and it is not a hole in a wall eatery,  it is located in a hawker center where prices are generally low. Specifically, it is located at Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre.

Check out the Michelin award story by the side of the corner stall.

Liao Fan is an unassuming stall. Hanging at the glass display are the beautifully roasted chickens in golden brown color with glistening skin and juicy-looking char Siew. I read that the owner, Chef Chan, only prepare 180 chickens a day to ensure quality of his food. He had also opened a restaurant, after the award, that is located just across the street from the hawker centre. He is mostly based at the restaurant, though he does pop by the hawker stall to check on things, while his wife and an apprentice prepare the food at the original stall. Of course we went for the food here instead of the restaurant. 


    Before coming, we had done some research and read about the horrendously long line. So we decided to be there when it opens at 10.30AM, and hoping the queue was tolerable. But it turned out others had the same idea too. So if you are in the area and want to try the food, look for a long snaking line shown in the picture below. You just have to go to the back of the queue and join the wait.

    There were some people, whom I don’t know if they were acting ignorant or what, tried to place order with the assistant at the stall without joining the queue, but was directed to it. They then turned and walked away. The assistant is pretty diligent in asking only the customer at the head of the line to step forward. 

    Finally, after nearly an hour wait, I managed to place our order and get the food.  We had a plate of roast chicken with rice, a plate with noodle, two vegetable dishes of kailan with oyster sauce and broiled bean sprout. The chicken rice is S$2, the chicken noodle is S$2.50, Kailan at S$3, and bean sprout at S$2. A meal with sufficient food for two persons at less than S$10. I also ordered a takeaway pack with chicken and Char Siew for Buddy.

    To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations of the food  despite it being awarded one Michelin star. Firstly because I had never heard of this place, and I guess I was a little skeptical that it would wow people. Secondly, I am really not a fan of soy sauce chicken. In fact during the queue, I thought to myself, “this has better be damn good for such a long wait!”

    So, how does the chicken taste? Well, I’ve to say, it does deserve the award. It is amazingly moist, the skin has a bit of crisp to it, the soy sauce marinade is not coyingly sweet like what mosr tend to taste, and instead it has a well balanced flavor. The flat rice noodle is tasty, however my husband feels the chicken goes better with the rice. The vegetables are standard fare, but they are not the main cast anyway. My husband loved the chicken so much that he regretted not ordering half a chicken for dinner. 

    By the time we finished the lunch, the line was longer than the one we joined earlier. So we decided to quickly pop over to the restaurant, hoping the queue would be shorter and we could get dinner. But it was wistful thinking that there would be a shorter line there. 

    Is it worth the long wait for the chicken? Yes, it is really very tasty, probably the best chicken rice we ever had. Admittedly the long line can be a dampener, so we haven’t returned for another tasting. But I’m looking out a day when I have time to wait in line.

    A cheongsam update 

    Over the past few days, I went to Peter Kor’s boutique to check out the sale and to the pop-up store of Laichan.

    As mentioned in my previous post, Peter is holding a sale for the previous collections including the CNY cheongsams from 30-70%. Most of the cheongsams are going for 30% off, and there are a number of new designs that I didn’t spot during my visits before CNY. Take a look at them here! The sale will end this Sunday (19 February). So if you are interested in any of them, do make a trip down to the boutique at 222 Queen Street. 

    There are quite a few cheongsams with retro prints, such as these below with the ruffled hemline. 


     



    Also available are dresses  embellished with lace or intricately-embroidered floral buttons.




    Lai Chan’s pop up store opens 2 days ago at Raffles City Mall, on the second level. The exterior wasn’t fully done up when I was there, like the shop name wasn’t put up then. Eddie told me that everything would be completed by next week.

    The interior design has a clean line feel about it which makes it looks cool and edgy, though it wasn’t intentional. I was told the shop was previously occupied by Nike, and not much was done to the design since it is temporary. To add to the cool factor, a snake-skin print cheongsam with sequins was on the mannequin. 

    I will return when the shop is all done up, ready for pictures.  Hopefully there will be some new designs I can showcase as well.

    Cheongsam news snippets 

    Some of you might be aware that Laichan‘s boutique at Raffles Hotel has closed because the hotel is undergoing a major refurbishment. But fret not, he has a temporary store at Raffles City mall, #02-29, starting from 16 February till 15 July. He will relocate to a permanent shop at Paragon from 1 August. 

    Peter Kor is having a post CNY sale at his boutique at 222 Queen Street, #02-03. If you have been eyeing his collection, you should go check it out since it’s going at 30-70% off. 

    If you are still hankering for cheongsams or considering if you should get one, here are more suggestions for you.

    Utopia at Parkway Parade

    Blum at various locations

    The Proposal at Capitol Piazza


     

    Tong Tong Friendship Store at Shaw tower

    Mandarin Peony at Tang 

    Clothier at Tang

    Looking good in the Lai Chan cheongsams

    There are only 5 days to CNY; not much time left to grab a cheongsam for the celebration. If you’re been following my posts, you will see there are a lot of choices available still. Though if you require alteration service, then tough luck! But it’s ok to get a dress that you can wear after the festivity. 

    Some of you may not like the choices offered in the earlier posts, especially if you are looking for something fabulous, that stands out. So, I had made a trip to Lai Chan yesterday to check out what is available (but I cannot guarantee any of them will still be after this post is published.) 

    One of things I like about getting a cheongsam at Lai Chan is the after-sale service. The boutique is one of only two I know of which strives to ensure the dress fits the customer nicely. I might have mentioned it before but the boutique once told a customer, who dislikes alternation, that if the dress didn’t fit after it was done, she would get a full refund. That is how much emphasis the boutique places on making the customer looks good. It didn’t matter how many alterations are required, most important is that the dress has to fit. If alteration is not possible, the customer will be asked to have the dress custom made.

    There are dresses for those who prefer something bright and cheery, and those who want light colors.




    A pleated cheongsam with pockets! A rare desire from Lai Chan. 


    How about a loose fit cheongsam for those who want to feel comfortable in it? The collar is also lower than those in the usual dresses. Another good thing about this is that there is a zip instead of multiple buttons which can put off some women.

    Enough of dresses? There are cheongsam tops available. Lavender and fuchsia pink stand out!



    The dresses go for more than S$750 and the tops are more S$400. But each piece is unique, and workmanship is excellent. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the important alteration service.

    Going for the non-red cheongsams

    Many women are not into looking like a red packet during the lunar new year. Some will prefer subtle colors, though bear in mind that it is not easy to carry off pastel/light colors especially on photos. Most times, the person looks washed out in them. So, instead of red, I think blue is a really nice color. If you are adventurous, there is also purple, green, yellow, and of course, an offshoot of red, pink! Even black with splashes of red is acceptable as well. 

    There are many options for non-red cheongsams available right now, in various price range. Check out these if you  want to be non-traditional!

    Couture by Szan @ Changi Airport T3 (below S$100)

    Mazzario @ One Raffles Place (from S$159)

     

    Utopia @ Parkway Parade (below S$120)

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    Seoul Fashion @ Raffles Xchange (from S$129)

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    Nana @ Arcade (below S$200)


    Miz Apparels @ One Raffles Place (below S$200)

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    Peter Kor @ Studio 55 (from S$250)

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    Y by Yann @ Isetan Scott (from S$329)

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    Lai Chan @ Raffles Hotel (from S$780)
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    Hana @ Arcade (from S$1,000)

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    Painting the town red  in the cheongsams

    Chinese New Year is all about bold bright colors. And red is always associated with it  because of a folk lore that claims red is an auspicious color that warded off the monster, Nian. So when it comes to the cheongsams, the color abounds. For those who want to make a CNY statement, here are the firecracker red cheongsams you can proudly put on.

    Mazzario @ One Raffles Place (from S$159)

    Seven @ Raffles Place (below S$200)


    Seoul Fashion @ Raffles Xchange (from S$129)

    Little Qipao  @ Isetan Scott (below S$180)

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    Couture by Szan @ Changi Airport T3 basement (below S$200)

    Nana @ Arcade (from S$140)


    Peter Kor  @ Studio 55 (from S$250) 

    Y by Yann @ Isetan Scott (from S$328)

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    Hana @ Arcade (from S$1,000)

     

     

     

    The cheongsam collection from Blum

    When it comes to the cheongsam, Blum is one brand that is closely associated with it. In fact, I have been featuring its collections all these years, and the dresses are among those pictured in my first post on the qipao “I love cheongsams”. 

    Most of my earlier cheongsams are from Blum as I was attracted to their elegant designs and prints. But that was the time when there were few cheongsam retailers around, and I did not know about  other brands like Peter Kor or Mama & Misse then. 

    In terms of designs and price range, I will say Peter Kor’s collections can be used to measure against those from Blum. They are in the range of S$200+ to almost S$400, though selected Peter Kor cheongsams have been retailed for more. They both have the modern cheongsam designs albeit in their own styles, and interesting prints. However, when it comes to workmanship and fabrics, I have to say Peter Kor has a big edge. Peter is able to source interesting and good quality fabrics, and the workmanship is also better. A reader wrote to me a couple of months back to lash against Blum cheongsam, saying the fabrics were very lousy. So, for this price range, I rather go for Peter Kor’s cheongsams than Blum’s. 

    I find this year’s collection from Blum features similar prints and designs as last year’s. And even the range seems a little thin as well. The brand appears to be struggling to launch standout dresses in the face of increased and intense competition. Even the number of stores has reduced; there is only one at Raffles Place now compared to three stores a few years ago. 

    Anyway, here is  the collection spotted so far. 


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