Tag Archive | national university of singapore society

Winner’s curse

There are some prizes that are better not to win and I’m not talking about the first prize in 4D or Toto or the Big Sweep.

Rather, it’s those little prizes which, to enjoy, entails much co-ordination, time, effort and spending more money.

Take the 3-hour free use of a karaoke room at the National University of Singapore Society’s Suntec facility that I won some time in January from a lucky draw.

I thought myself rather lucky at that time, as I’d always wanted to use one of those rooms but had been too stingy (not knowing how much a room would cost per hour, so wasn’t inclined to splurge) and lazy to get together the requiste number of friends as that would entail much to-ing and fro-ing to arrive at a date and time  to suit everyone.

But with that free voucher and a deadline of two months to consume, I found myself forced to organise a gathering last week: something I’m not fond of doing.

Calling friends for a meal yes, because worse comes to worst, I could eat with one other. Or we could always postpone the date!

Not when it’s something with a set deadline and entails a minimum number of participants! Not for a karaoke room, with an expiry date!

To my chagrin, apart from two enthusiastic respondents, the others invited hummed and hahhed. “It’s three weeks away”; “It’s week day, leh and have to work next day”; “Not sure if my bad back will be OK by then;” etc etc

In the end, two days be4 the event on March 9, I had three confirmed guests. Luckily I had booked a room for five to six, instead of one for 15 to 20 I was offered by the booking office and which I nearly accepted, tempted by the attraction of maxing out my prize. Thank goodness common sense prevailed.

Then a friend, KL, returned from Shanghai in the nick of time with dresses I asked him to get tailored for me. I asked him to come along with his companion, an invitation which he accepted.

So my quota of guests was filled. End of problems in enjoying my prize? No! On the day of the karaoke evening, those invited but had said no, suddenly had a change of heart! They could “join you” after all.

I had to decide between expanding the guest list or just say sorry, I’m afraid there isn’t room any more. Seriously speaking, what chance was there for anyone to have a go at the mike if there were 10 of us instead of just six?

As a result I could have miffed those who made up their minds at the last minute and were told that I had other guests.

Now isn’t that truly a winner’s curse?

anchor man for the ladies

girls in harmony


Credit card nonsense

This post belongs to the “everything must complain” category. I’ve been encouraged to write about my own experience with the sudden notice from DBS Cards to cancel my Gold Visa (among other cards) starting Dec 1, after reading Boo n Bouquet’s version here.

I was a bit non-plussed on receiving what seemed like a marketing circular that i almost threw away. Just as well I took a closer look.

The circular advised that “as other DBS/POSB Credit Cards bring you market competitive privileges and benefits”, the bank has taken the unilateral decision to close your “DBS Affiinity/Charge Gold Visa/Mastercard credit card XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-7066”.

I hold two DBS cards and at first wondered if the bank meant both since one is what I assume is an “affinity” card (being a National University of Singapore Society card) and the other was once an affinity card too (to Raffles Marina, till some where along the way RM broke off its affinity with DBS and the bank without much ado issued me a new gold Visa card).

Then I took heart. Going by the last four digits provided by the circular, only the ID of my gold card ended with 7066.

And shucks, I’ve got a Giro payment for a small health insurance policy that’s been going on for perhaps 20 years linked to it. With the card gone, my policy may laspe and I don’t want that to happen.

I called the bank’s hotline. I waited for ages b4 I got to speak to a customer service officer and after many more minutes of explanation managed to extract a phone number from him, with the helpful tip on where I might find my policy number in my monthly credit card bill.

No, he could not arrange for the Giro charges to be ported over to my other DBS card. No, he couldn’t do anything. I must contact the insurer and make my own arrangements. And to think I had originally signed up for that insurance package because the card issuer made all the arrangements!

More time wasted with the insurers be4 I got the necessary form to instruct the insurer to instruct the bank to deduct.

I’m not the only DBS credit card holder inconvenienced by the bank’s unusual move to delete a whole slate of cards at one stroke.

Perhaps the 7066 cards are cards which are hardly used by their holders.

If so, DBS should have given card holders a choice: use them more often or give them up. And if you give them up, we will help you move your Giro arrangements to other DBS cards you use. We will also help you to consolidate your reward points rather than force you to consume them be4 Dec 1.

That would have been a lot more customer friendly.

But then, when you are Singapore’s biggest bank, who cares about being customer friendly!

Why I heart Ichiban

The other day the cashier at Ichiban Boshi at Great World City stated as a matter of factly: “You eat here everyday!”

Matter of fact I don’t but when I eat out and I’m paying for the meal then Ichiban, especially the GWC outlet, is my preferred choice.

I go there more often than I go to Tanglin Club, Singapore Cricket Club and National University of Singapore Society, and I’m a member of these clubs.

I also buy a lot of the ready-to-cook cod and salmon, handrolls, chirashi rice bowls, sushi and sashimi from Ichiban’s adjacent Kuriya market takeaway corner.

I’ve been eating at the GWC outlet ever since it opened. I’ve seen changes of staff, senior ones and rank and file. But there’s always a consistent minimum standard of service. As is the case at the other Ichiban outlets.

Why my infatuation with Ichiban?

It serves great food at affordable prices. And its service isn’t bad either, whether it’s the Ichiban Boshi at GWC or the Ichiban Sushi outlets in Novena Square, Jurong Point or Toa Payoh HDB Hub.

Ichiban’s prices are in effect a lot lower for those who hold its rewards card. And anyone who spends a minimum of $20 can start a card rightaway, being awarded one stamp.

With a total spend of $300, one’s card will be complete, giving one the chance to win vouchers up to $80 or what I prefer, a card filled up to 9 stamps which is equivalent to a spending of $180. Then I need to spend just $120 more to qualify for another shot at the top prizes as well as the other embedded mini rewards.

But one doesn’t need to spend all of $300 be4 one gets to taste the rewards, thanks to the mini rewards, including a meal and several of the standard dishes that could be redeemed without needing to surrender the card.

What’s even more diner friendly is the fact that over the years, the Ichiban management has been tweaking the rewards card to make it a cinch to accumulate points and lower the bill.

For example, takeaway food, including uncooked fish that’s not sashimi, from its Kuriya market, qualifies for stamps, in exactly the same way as dine-in food.

Also, a diner is not limited to earning or redeeming his rewards at Ichiban. Stars can be accumulated wherever the money is spent across any of its 6 concept restaurants including Cz’zar and Shimbashi Soba! Likewise redeeming the rewards.

So die-die one doesn’t need to stick to Ichiban at GWC even though I do. As do many others it seems, as this particular outlet always attracts a queue! Whatever time of day!

Guess I’m not the only one who hearts Ichiban!

Are IRs hitting clubs’ jackpot takings?

Joseph Chew, president of the Tanglin Club, said in his message in the June issue of the Club’s magazine that he was asked whether the opening of the two Integrated Resorts (IRs) has impacted the club, especially takings of its jackpot room.

Mr Chew said he checked with the finance department and found there’s been minimal impact. However, he added that it is still early days yet. And although the jackpot room’s revenue may be small relative to other streams of revenue such as food and beverage, it is “not insignificant”.

Tanglin Club may not feel the effect of competition from the thousands of slot machines hosted by the casinos of the two IRs — yet.

But one club’s jackpot room appears to have lost its clientele if what i saw this afternoon is anything to go by.

I refer to the jackpot room at the Kent Ridge Guild House of the National University of Singapore Society.

I had dropped by with mum, her maid and sister Daffy after our lunch at the coffee house. Not to try our luck but to find out where it is as none of us had been there despite several visits to have meals — since the NUSS new Kent Ridge premises opened last year.

The jackpot room was empty. There are about 24 machines and everyone was unoccupied.

OK, I don’t know whether this has always been the state of affairs since the premises opened or whether this is the result of the new IRs.

OK, it was early Saturday afternoon, barely 2.30pm, so perhaps the regular patrons were still having lunch.

OK, this is June and the school holidays have yet to run their course, so maybe the regular patrons have gone on holiday with their children, or simply gone away.

Strangely, thoug, I have never found an empty jackpot room at the old NUSS premises at Kent Ridge, whatever the time or the day of the week or month.

So, the signs are indicative that the IRs have cannabalised the business of our social club’s jackpot rooms.

Come to think of it, that seems obvious. Because with a $100 levy for Singaporeans to partonise the IRs’ casinos, social club members are the natural pool that could afford such a levy — more than the average Singaporean.

That being the case and the fact that jackpot rooms of social clubs are often the cash cow to help subsidise other less profitable club operations, i had better eat more often at NUSS Kent Ridge, be4 the jackpot gravy dries up and prices are raised.

Because where else can i get such a scrumptuous Kampung Nasi Goreng meal — complete with keropok, curry kampung chicken drumstick, satay, prawns, a fried egg, achar and fluffy long grain rice with a small sprinkle of tiny fish — served with good crockery and cutlery in airconditioned comfort, all for $8.50?

all this for $8.50

I spied with my little eye more

Singapore’s who’s who..

Starting with the scion of a very well-known Singaporean lunching with a woman who isn’t his wife at the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) Kent Ridge cafe.

I mustn’t jump to conclusions because his dad in his young days too used to escort young women to meals at places such as the Stables (alas all those fillies have become old nags) at the Mandarin Hotel but he never philandered.

Also having a meal at the same clubhouse but away from prying eyes today (8 Sep) were Professor Tommy Koh and Professor Arthur Lim.

They had obviously been hosted by the NUSS committee and management because when I saw them they were being sent off by the NUSS president Johnny Tan and a committee member (also ex president and ex NMP), Chandra Mohan, with much Korean-drama courtesy (ie a lot of bowing).

Prof Lim was escorted all the way to his chauffer-driven car by Mr Tan while Prof Koh made his own way to the reserved car-parking lot for his. Well, at least a lot had been reserved for him in front of the Guild House!

Nyonya: cheap & good &

all 4 a good cause as well.

This took place on May 12; I was invited to a fundraiser for the Presisdent’s Challenge 2009 organised by the National University of Singapore Society and Singapore Pools at SP’s HQ in Selegie Road.

What’s unique about this event was that it was so incredibly cheap at $18 per head, as donation, not the price of the food of which there’s no mention. Not one of those chi chi fund raising events where the dinner per head could be $500 or more.

In return, donors got to eat the most scrumptous and sumptuous quality Peranakan food, cooked by chef Philip Chia, that in my view is easily worth about 3 times the donation value.

Instead of being short-changed in the name of charity, we benefited from a convival evening filled with lip-smacking delicacies that couldn’t be found outside a true blue generous nyonya home. Sure, there were some small fund raising activities — such as Scratch It and Lucky Draws for repro-kum chengs — to coax the guests to donate more.

These were entirely voluntary and I noticed some guests just sat on their hands, perhaps because they objected to gambling.

But they should have gone for the foto-taking opportunities with two Mediacorp and Little Nyonya stars, Joanne Peh and Pierre Png, tho for my part I wld rather — and did — take a chance with the “gambling”.

In between being entertained by some nostalgic old songs by the Peranakan Voices and nyonya impersonator Francis Hogan, we were served the Tok Panjang in style, starting with kerabu hai tay (jellyfish and prawn salad) and hee peow (fish maw) soup.

decor good enough to eat

decor good enough to eat

nyonya veggie

nyonya veggie

prawn belimbing

prawn belimbing



soup so delicious

my plate overflowth

my plate overflowth


otak oishi!

otak oishi!

i skipped this

i skipped this

nuts over buah keluak

nuts over buah keluak

The  free flow of the buah keluak from the ayam bk dish alone was worth the $18 donation! Typically, one is gets no more than two or three of the precious Indonesian nuts per dish, if one ordered in an Indonesian restaurant.
They are considered expensive and rich in taste. At the Glimpse of the Little Nyonya dinner however, we were loaded with plate after plate of the nuts, so much so that even I who think I’ve gone to heaven whenever I get to eat just two nuts at one sitting, had to say “no” after my sixth or seventh that night.
And what nyonya meal could be considered complete without a sweet ending? And it was such a sweet one that I thought I had gone to dessert heaven, because not only was there an assortment of nyonya kueh, but there was also pengat pisang comprising sweet potatoes, yam, sago and banana drowned in a sweet and thick coconut sauce.

NUSS membership has its privileges..

.. really…and many…
I have four club memberships and the one I hold at National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) is the best value for money, service and variety.

latest NUSS outlet

latest NUSS outlet

I first became a member in circa 1970 when the society, called Guild House then, had its premises in a rather dingy bungalow at 15, Evans Road.

I had no intention of becoming a member but the friend who brought me for a drink there was part of a group trying to expand the membership. The price of membership was $100 and I paid just $50 because one of the membership activists offered to put up the difference, as a sort of incentive.

Atho I wasn’t a product of the NUS (at that time called University of Singapore), I was welcomed as n associate member.

So voila, I became a member and for a few years, paid my monthly subs which cldn’t have been more than $5, but remember in 1970, a Grange Road apartment of 1,400sf could be bought for under $100K.

Thereafter disinterest set in. I stopped paying my subs and resigned myself to the fact that I might b kicked out. The years passed. Then one fine day i received a letter asking me to revive my membership. No demand for past dues; no recrimination.

And I thought why not? Kent Ridge Guild House was about to open and the monthly subs were a “princely” $20!

Unlike the other clubs I joined subsequently (at least two are hugely losing propositions in that I hardly use them; and their membership prices have gone from hero to zero-almost), NUSS didn’t stop at just one location.

It gave me Orchard Cineleisure for 8 or 10 years; and when that lease expired, gave me Suntec City. Be4 them, there were facilities at the then fairly new Amara Hotel as well as Adam Road, altho the latter has never been my favourite destination.

And even be4 the Kent Ridge premises could begin to fray at the edges, NUSS has since the beginning of November moved to spanking new premises at the Alumni Complex still in Kent Ridge.

In a few days time, another outlet opens in the old Singapore University premises in Bukit Timah Road, a five-minute drive from my home.

Great locations; delicious food at very decent prices and usually good service: these sum up why I never regretted being an NUSS member.

But that was not all. A couple of years ago, when I reached a certain magic number (hehe, better don’t reveal my age, hor!) in seniority, I found I no longer had to pay monthly subs which are now $45. Apparently, one has to be a member for a certain number of years to qualify for this privilege.

nasi worth zik-ba-ban

nasi worth zik-ba-ban

 With the $45 saved every month, I could indulge in the above as well as the many delectable sets offered at the Suntec location.

At $22 per person for a three course meal, (with coffee, tea, soft drink and garlic bread thrown in) it’s a steal because the ingredients are excellent, the presentation stylish and meticulous.

A picture speaks a thousand words and all of them directed at our stomachs as a medley of chicken n fish dishes (below) which my family and I had over a recent week-end shows.

nothing fishy here

nothing fishy here

my hallibut

my hallibut

the real mcCoy

the real mcCoy

To round up our lip-smacking mains, was a tiramisu made more delightful with candied orange slice. As usual, we order a liqour to toss into our dessert for an extra kick to end the meal.

sweet ending on a high

sweet ending on a high

I’ve regretted many of my club memberships but never, never being an NUSS member. That’s why I think anyone reading this and isn’t yet a member should make a bee-line for its about-to-xpire offer which ends on Dec 6.

Be4 that date, entrance fees are $3,000, but one-third of this will come back to the member in the form of a $1,000 F&B credit (no limit on what the amout could be spent on in the club’s many outlets).

For the introducer, there’ll be $300 worth of F&B credit but I’ll waive this $300 to anyone who asks me to be their introducer, so that their entrance fee in effect works out to be just $1,700. I’ll also share with the person any winnings from the lucky draw connected with the membership drive.

I’m doing this because someone did it for me almost 40 years ago and I’m still enjoying the benefits today.

After Dec 6, NUSS entrance fees will go up to $4,000 and $10,000 in March 2010. But why delay, as the length of your membership will determine whether like me, you will get a life-time gift of subs waiver when you reach that magic XX years old?