Tag Archive | Asian Civilisations Museum

So who let the dogs out?

First there was the curious case of the 300 pieces of Peranakan artefacts and silverware  whose value went from $15 million to under $2 million within a matter of three expert valuations. And all because of a complaint, it seems!

The donation to the Peranakan Museum was made in 2008 and announced last year amid much fanfare. The donors, Mr and Mrs Tan Eng Sian, eventually asked for the collection to be returned.

Mr Tan, who is in his 80s, is a descendant of pioneer and philanthropist Tan Kim Seng.

The expert who gave the $15 million valuation is Mr Peter Wee, a well-known Peranakan artefacts dealer and a fourth-generation Baba who is a descendant of prominent businessman Tan Keong Saik.

He is standing by his valuation and also revealed that he received a $15K fee for his job, not the $100K that he was widely rumoured to have received.

National Heritage Board chairman Tommy Koh wrote to the Straits Times to explain why further valuations were called for after the gift had been accepted by the Asian Civilisations Museum.

“…  the Asian Civilisations Museum board felt it had a duty to review the original valuation, after receiving a complaint …..”

While we know that the gift was returned, that there were two sharply lower valuations after Mr Wee made his and that there was a complaint, the Singapore public remains in the dark as to

  • who made the complaint
  • who the two Peranakan experts whose valuations carry more weight than Mr Wee’s and last but not least
  • how much were the subsequent experts paid for their valuations?

Care to enlighten us, Prof Koh?

Now, the Tan Eng Sian donation isn’t the only multi-million dollar deal that has come a cropper as a result of a complaint.

Last week the Singapore stock market, which already had its hands full from the Grecian debt and deficit fall-out, had to deal with the fall-out from an 11th hour (OK, 12 hours, if you must be precise)  pull-out by IPO aspirant, China’s New Century Shipbuilding.

Rumours there were aplenty with various unnamed sources close to the matter giving the same story: the withdrawal was due to the Chinese shipbuilder’s failure to disclose that its subsidiary is the defendant in a US$60 million lawsuit filed by Singapore-based Sino Noble. Also, New Century is alleged to have included two shipbuilding contracts worth a total of US$180 million, which had already been terminated some time ago

And how did our bourse SGX get wind of that lawsuit allegation and contracts inflation? A complaint apparently is New Century’s undoing.

Some powerful complainant it must have been surely for  those astute professionals working on the offering — and whose faces must now be covered in egg, if the complaint is true — to take notice? How can a lawsuit involving a Singapore company, which would easily turn up in a search on public records, be overlooked?

Like NHB and ACM over the Peranakan donation, I’ve a feeling we are never going to know who complained. SGX, MAS, UBS, Morgan Stanley and DBS will probably seal what they know about this fiasco in a … a… kamcheng?

what we know, we'd keep in a kam cheng


Turning 57 at FiftyThree

Now for the other birthday party which was held one day earlier than the actual day, more for convenience to dine out on a Saturday nite than because of the superstition that older folks must celebrate earlier, just in case.

The birthday boy’s best friend chose the venue and we went along with his choice. As it was the rather pricey FiftyThree at Armenian Street, we sought and found a way to enjoy a 10% discount on the bill which in fact helped finance me to a one-year membership of the Asian Civilisations Museum.

This is how it works: as an ACM member, one gets, among other discount privileges, to dine at 15% less at True Blue, a peranakan restaurant also in Armenian Street, and at 10% less at FiftyThree.

At this point I must salute the new ACM membership manager,  Ms Danielle De Feo, who went out of her way to ensure that I became a member in time to enjoy the dining discount privilege on Saturday, Feb 28.

And because my membership card couldn’t be ready in time, she both emailed and called the restaurant to ensure we could activate the privilege.

This may sound like being over cautious but as stated by TK, citing a mutual friend, in these recessionary times, one mustn’t be “pai seh”.

And so we weren’t, checking again on arrival, that our dinner for six would enjoy the ACM members’ discount, which the wait person cheerfully acknowledged. We also checked abt the complimentary cake for the birthday boy and were similarly assured that it was in hand which indeed it was at the end of the meal, and better still in our mouths.

birthday compliments

birthday compliments


apres the vultures' feed

apres the vultures' feed

When birthday boy produced his own bottle of special red for the dinner, the wait person looking after us informed that there would be cockage. $60. Which is fair enough. As FiftySeven’s wines ran from about $90, if I remember correctly, the corkage amount effectively discourages diners from bringing plonk.

wierd and wonderful spread

wierd and wonderful spread

Also most accommodating, from my perspective, was that the dinner menu was sent to us in advance: because I could see what I would eat and won’t eat and then ask for substitutes accordingly.

Readers of this blog would know the big no-nos to my taste buds are: beef, lamb, mutton, duck and goose. For health reasons, I go very very easy on prawns, tiger or otherwise, other crustaceans and squid.

Thankfully, the only stuff I objected to on the FiftyThree menu was duck’s tongue, so the request was to set that aside for the other five dining with me who looked on that as a delicacy, but to each his own.

The collage (above) I made of our interesting never b4 tasted meal is the result of  not finding my trusty Nokia 6500 when we got to the restaurant and I thought I must have left it behind in EC’s Merc, parked on the hill behind the restaurant.

That nite’s torrential rain and the fact that I was teetering in my 3.5cm heels  down a wet slippery slope were the excuse for my forgetfulness. And I wasn’t going back in the wet n the dark to retrieve my camera fone.

Hence EC took the pix with her Blackberry and as she didn’t know how to transfer the images to her PC and then eml them to me, she sent them via MMS. And hence the compression of all images into thumbnails and the reason for the collage.

Highlights: we started with what was said to be chicken skin crisps to be eaten with dips on stones; there were bread rolls made from some sort of Canadian wheat flour, chewy but delicious and which had each of us wolving them down, disregarding perhaps the centre pieces to come. All of us are suckers for bread, as witnessed what happened at Gunther’s.

The lobster claws were served in two versions tho I couldn’t make out any real difference. Both were equally delicious, and perhaps also because there wasn’t enough to overwhelm my palate.

The Iberian black pig did cause me to pause a little as the slices looked and tasted distinctly raw. However, as I’m not familiar with the school of cooking — emanating from the world famous Fat Duck and the legendary ElBuli — served up by Michael Han, the boss of FiftyThree, I decided to hold my tongue.

So I was grateful when b-boy’s best friend voiced, ever so tentatively, “Isn’t pork supposed to be well done?” But he was shot down by one of the other co-hosts who declared, “I’m sure Micahel Han won’t dare to serve raw pork if it isn’t supposed to so!” 

And true to our money careful ways, we turned down the wait person’s suggestion of coffee or tea when we saw each cuppa cost $13, be4 triple +! So by being restrained and also thanks to FiftyThree having only a one-price menu (no attempt to push us to go for a la carte or alternative but higher price sets), B-Boy contributing the wine and the ACM member discount, the five co-hosts paid $255 each.

Despite a far lower bill than what we stomached at Gunther’s, we had a far better time and it wasn’t just the unusual and provocative food alone.

What are the plus points that I would assign to FiftyThree, as compared to Gunther’s of Purvis Street?

I would say the restaurant ID itself. Light, breezy and pure Scandanavian cool. Like Carlsberg’s long cool Dane.

There was plenty of room between tables so that you won’t hear what the next table is saying (though I would love to have heard what our immediate next table was saying as Hsieh Fu Hua, CEO of SGX was having dinner with his sister, wife and kid) and they you –unless you happen to be making a lot of noise like our table, which got approving nods from fellow diners, (they even clapped when we sang Happy Bitrthday) unlike what happened to one of the co-hosts at our last birthday gathering at Gunthers.

According to this co-host she was “shusssed” for making too much noise, although I didn’t hear that despite being there, perhaps because I was equally noisy and oblivous.

And possibly the best, besides the unusual food experience (nothing I could replicate at home), I think is the wait staff. While the maitre d at Gunthers was archly friendly, there was something of an undercurrent, like his friendliness was a marketing ploy so that he could push us something special, which indeed that was what he did.

At FiftyThree, the waits, all young enough to be my nephews, had an agenda-less friendliness, so that we could talk openly about discounts, freebies and even saying no to after dinner cuppas without being made to feel that we have wasted their time and attention.

And it was at this juncture that I discovered my Nokia 6500 was with me after all, right at the bottom of my handbag — just in time to snap the freebie birthday cake (above), be4 and after all six of us had a go at it.

Given the price tag, FiftyThree isn’t my regular club lounge for me to drop in for a cheap drink and bite whenever I feel like it but it’s certainly worth every cent for a memorable celebration which doesn’t break the bank, even for a penny pincher like me. Especially when I still have 11 months of free ACM visits to look forward to, a $25 membership financed from the shared dining discount.