Friday, August 26, 2022


The LED lid lights up when you switch it on after charging

Lifelike 3D images with LED backlight adorned circular mooncake boxes from Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur for Mid-Autumn Festival this year.

Photo courtesy of Concorde Hotel KL

Choose from four eye-catching designs: a pink crescent moon with pretty blossoms, a goldfish frolicking amidst lotus flowers, a pair of birds perched on delicate floral branches, or a lotus flower in full bloom with a pair of gold fishes adorning the lids of the gift boxes.

Priced at RM168 nett per set with 4 x 180g mooncakes, take your pick from these sets available:

A.             Pure Lotus Double Yolk, White Pure Lotus, Pandan Pure Lotus, Green Tea Red Bean Paste

B.            Golden Pandan Pure Lotus Single Yolk, Japanese Red Bean, Assorted Fruit Nuts & White Pure Lotus Paste

C.             Snowskin with Red Bean Paste, Snowskin with Green Tea, Snowskin with Pure Lotus Single Yolk & Snowskin with Yam Paste Single Yolk

Mine was Set B and the batch of baked mooncakes seemed on-point: the knife came away cleanly after I cut into each mooncake – an indication of the good quality paste and crust. 
The red bean paste was deliciously rich with that irresistibly sweet ‘beany’ taste I love. For savoury-sweet variant with vanilla-like fragrance, the golden pandan pure lotus single yolk won't disappoint.

Since I’m partial to fruits & nuts, the slightly chewy, nutty filling scored with me too. TBH, I know some folks may eschew this variant altogether. The white pure lotus paste should please purists as it left no room for complaint.

Handmade with pure musang king durian flesh, the Hotel's yearly best-selling Snowskin Musang King Durian Mooncakes (RM198 nett for a set of 4 pcs) again proved winsome. A cooler bag (while stocks last) is provided to keep the mooncakes chilled upon collection. Remember, the delicate mooncakes are best kept in the fridge to maintain their freshness and should be enjoyed soonest possible.

Once hailed as the best snowskin durian mooncake in town by a major newspaper, it’s the next best thing to eating the actual king of fruits. They’re decadent and you’d find it hard to stop after the first mouthful.

Credit cardholders of CIMB, Citibank, Hong Leong Bank, Maybank, OCBC, Public Bank, RHB, SCB and UOB are entitled to 20% discount for mooncakes under Set A-C.

For more information, WhatsApp +6 012 399 5021 (office hours) or email:

Friday, August 19, 2022


The hotel of choice for KL-lites. Newly appointed General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur (FSHKL) Blaise Montandon aims to attract local city dwellers as well as international visitors to the FSHKL, making it the most happening place in town.

Having relocated from Hoi An, Vietnam over a month ago, Blaise Montandon is no stranger to Malaysia and Asia. He has been to Melaka and Sabah previously for brief holidays and worked for two decades in the Asian continent.

Enthusing over the vibrancy of Kuala Lumpur, Montandon is eager to get acquainted with our multi-cultural society, and explore the diverse food scene.

Hailing a small Swiss town, young Montandon became enamoured with hotels whilst holidaying with his parents around the country and in neighbouring regions. “I was fascinated by the energy, the glamour, and the opportunity to meet people from around the world. I knew this was what I wanted to do!”

After graduating from the Hospitality Business School in Lausanne, he studied management at the University of Lausanne before cutting his teeth at two reputed hotels in Geneva.

Since then, his hospitality career path has taken him to Singapore, Japan, China, Thailand and India, alongside stints in Europe and North Africa. His last outpost prior to KL was at Four Seasons Resort Hoi An (The Nam Hai).

His appointment as General Manager of FSHKL sees Montandon moving to an urban environment. “It’s completely different from Hoi An which is a resort, so I’d be drawing on my strengths and diverse experiences as a hotelier to see what I can bring to this Hotel.”

Montandon cherishes the time spent in Hoi An as it gives him great satisfaction to see how the various stakeholders collaborated and worked together to come up with distinctive products and services, the way his opening team members grew and developed, and how they managed to create different experiences for their guests.

He says: “There will always be different challenges for new and even existing properties. Otherwise, life will be boring. Sometimes challenges can arise from people, the product, or the location. You’d have to understand your clientele, the market, and the situation. For instance, when I was at the Four Seasons Hoi An, we have to open and close thrice during the pandemic.

“It was a difficult time but it was also most heartening to witness the solidarity amongst the people and the community. We had the involvement of key team members throughout those trying times to keep things going. Thanks to the support of the resort owners, every team member was retained during the two-year pandemic period. Our team members were deeply touched as their livelihoods affected not only them but also their dependents.”

On his plans to make FSHKL as the preferred hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Montandon affirms he will need to get a thorough feel of the Hotel then delve into understanding the team, the market, and the local community better.

“I want international visitors to fall in love with this dynamic, kaleidoscopic city. This Hotel should be an active place in town – I want to attract the city people to come here: for lunch, for tea, to stay, and to celebrate any and every occasion.”

Conversant in French, English, German, Italian, and Dutch, Montandon admits he hardly gets a chance to pick up Asian languages. “I often speak English with local team members as it’s to help them brush up their English-speaking skills at work.”

On the personal front, Montandon can’t wait to immerse in the city’s gastronomic scene, especially its legendary street food. Also on his agenda: exploring the local arts scene through museums, galleries and events. A lover of contemporary and modern art, opera and musicals, Montandon finds experiencing new cultures through their art forms “reveal so much about a place and its people”.

According to Blaise Montandon, the best thing about being a Four Seasons Hotel GM is the strong values they uphold. “Our philosophy is simple: treat people like how you would like to be treated. We believe in and apply that core value to every level of our team. We want to create an indelible impression on our guests and make a connection with them so that when they leave, they will have lasting memories of their time spent at the Four Seasons.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2022


Appalled at the plight of young girls involved in the flesh trade moved author Paul Callan to pen The Secrets of The Sakura Girls.

Central to the heartrending story is Aoki and her fellow karayuki-san – Japanese women and girls who were forced to become sex workers in 19th century Singapore.

Similar to his previous works such as The Brigadier’s Daughter and The Dulang Washer, Callan once again brings a richly nuanced landscape and multiple social vagaries to life: from the limitations faced by the local police force to the inner workings of the Sakura or Cherry Blossom brothel.

The story opened on a sombre note, with Reverend Harry Gilmore and his young son Rupert suffering an unexpected personal loss during their voyage en route to Singapore.

As the pair tried to settle down in their new home, Reverend Gilmore had to grapple with his single parenthood, the lack of funds and necessary church repairs, as well as his own desire for companionship.

A brutal murder in the community created astir and drew constant police visits to the brothel. The investigations caused undue stress to the Sakura Girls which later led to unexpectedly tragic consequences for one of them.

According to Paul Callan, he was working on another story when the topic of prostitution in Singapore in the bygone years touched him so deeply that he became diverted.

Callan said he was appalled at the plight of the young girls and the lives they found themselves living. "I was outraged, angry, and disgusted, especially at the thought such treatment of young girls could still be happening today.

“I wondered, would men really visit a brothel if they knew girls of such tender years, or so vulnerable, would entertain them? I decided I would write the story as a mark of respect for the girls, both then and today.

“I wanted to write, not a sex story, but a story about the lives of the girls, their hardships, and what they had to endure. I want the reader to know them through their emotions, and nothing at all about the activities they were forced to undertake.”

It took Callan two years to complete research for the book. Often, he found himself waking up in the middle of the night, to write a thought down. “I learned from past experience if I didn’t get up and write what had awakened me, I’d lose the thought forever. So, I often write at unholy hours of the day or night. Many times, I write until the wee hours to get the story down.”

When asked about parts of the book that resonated with him, Callan said “Many years ago I was confronted with the issue of suicide. To find young girls resorting to such action (as my research revealed) drove me to seek justice for them by writing the story I did.”

After reading the novel, I asked Callan if he has any plans to follow up with a sequel as there seem to be some potential leads to develop a few of the protagonists’ stories.

Callan responded, “I’ve been asked frequently if there might be a sequel to the book. Right now, I’m waiting for the publication of my next book – a part historical, part fantasy story set in Malaya in the early 19th century by Penguin. While I’m deep into a new story, it’s very much outside my comfort zone and it's a story dominated by one character. Perhaps, after that, I will look at writing more on the outcome of the characters in The Secrets of the Sakura Girls.”

It looks like readers will just have to console themselves with The Secrets of The Sakura Girls for now.

Note: The review copy of The Secrets of The Sakura Girls was courtesy of Paul Callan and Penguin Random House SEA

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