7/29/2018
Everybody hates a critic

For some reason I've been reading a lot of restaurant reviews lately. It's not that I'm trying to live vicariously through them, pretending that I have a seat at some of the world's (all right, London's) most interesting restaurants, although one review did make me crave for a bowl of laksa. For me, it's more about how these writers capture the essence of what a restaurant is, whether it ultimately is a good bet or a ridiculously bad one.

I've enjoyed reading these because, let's be honest, not everybody can do that. I can't. I write in an extremely self-involved manner. I noticed this when I was reading back at old essays and realized that most of them start with the word "I". I - I - also noticed that these essays are peppered with sentences that refer to an I. But of course, you might think, for this is your personal blog, and this is essentially a diary but only out in public. But then, a part of me is hoping I would be able to get past constantly talking about me, and instead looking at the greater world around me. I'm turning thirty, for heaven's sake. Stop being so self-absorbed, Niko!

But then again, not everybody likes people who write about the greater world. That's a different kind of annoying. Oh, great, you know everything about the world. Please, tell me more. Sure, it's partly down to how some people write these things, but then, it's more down to how people don't want to be talked to. And then it's also down to how people don't want to be seen. No, we aren't idiots. We don't need to be constantly guided around. We're grown-up. We're smart, too. You're not the only one who's smart. Actually, you're not smart. You're a smartass, pretending to know a lot when, actually, I know a lot more about you. Fuck you. Why should I be listening to you?

Yeah, that did go farther than I expected. But I - there goes that word again - am also reminded of the time I was talking about some meal I was having at a restaurant we haven't been in before. My brother wanted me to shut up. "Kumu-critic ka na naman," he said, in that asshole-y way he always does when he talks to me.

Well, sometimes that is down to me, especially when I get carried away and would not stop about something, when I begin going granular, when I lose sight of who I'm talking to in my obsession with digging up every little detail to paint the context they don't really want. That's me and Shalla some times. "Yeah, I've moved on," she would tell me - with a laugh in her face, at least, because she knows otherwise I would be annoyed, and I would not move on. Good heavens. I am self-absorbed. Niko. You're turning thirty. Not everything is about you. Stop writing this shitty essay right now and think of the greater world. Think of the greater world!

Umm... yesterday I had chicken curry at what used to be Toast Box at BGC. All Toast Box branches have disappeared, which made me sad, because that was where Shalla and I had one of our first dates. The BGC branch, though, hasn't entirely gone, as it's been replaced by what they call Toast & Co., with essentially the same menu (except, regrettably, the Horlicks), which is a bit of good news because sometimes you can be in the mood for some somewhat proper nasi goreng.

I had a bigger bowl of curry than I expected: two cuts of chicken, lots of tofu and potatoes - understandably bland because you know restaurants and their predilection for throwing things together upon order. It was a revelation. I don't mean the curry is groundbreaking - I have certainly tasted better - but I realized that it's been so long since I had proper Malay-style curry, with a zing and zip that far surpasses the creamier, mellow Japanese ones. One sip of the gravy (they do call it gravy, right?) instantly brought me back to my week-long stints in Singapore for work, and it made me wonder whether I'd ever return to the country as a tourist. And then I thought of Malaysia, and why I did not have curry there. Oh, right, Shalla's not too keen on spicy food. But that's another long-delayed essay.

At least there's still Toast & Co. It may not be the most Singaporean place to be in, but most of the Singaporean restaurants around me have disappeared, and Wee Nam Kee, while good for some things, doesn't quite replicate it. (There's also the weird detail that they do not have a branch in Ortigas, not after the Shangri-la Plaza branch closed down.) Chinese food is too ubiquitous for me to look forward too, and I won't always be in the mood for Korean or Thai. Why is it so hard to find something Malay? But then, I am at BGC almost every week, so that's something.

I should have bought laksa though, considering my recent craving for it. Soup. That's what we need in these rainy days.

And your responses...

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