Joseph Phua is one of the founders of mobile dating app Paktor (, which allows you to scan profile images of nearby users, and to “like” their images anonymously, until someone you “like”, “likes” you back. (A bit like the better known Tinder.)

How did you come up with the idea for Paktor?
I was spurred to create Paktor while living in the US. After suffering the heartbreak that accompanied ending a long-term relationship, I realized how hard it is to meet people and date. Dating websites certainly helped, but they were far from perfect, particularly for an Asian. If I was struggling to find a date in the US, surely those facing similar problems in Asia—where fear of rejection is much worse than it is in the US—must be going through an unbearably difficult time.

What is your target age group and why?
Paktor’s target age group spans people from 18 to 30. Singapore’s long working hours have become a hindrance to an active social life, making it difficult for them to find a suitable partner.

What’s special about the Asian market?
A reserved, simplified approach to dating is preferred by Asia’s socially conservative and introverted society.

Before Paktor, did you try any other dating services?
Yes, I’ve tried many during my time in the US: Some good, some bad. Online ones tended to be better. Part of the reason we launched Paktor was because of the lack of similar products and services in Asia. We took some things we liked in the West, then adapted them for the Asian market.

Any tips for people using the app?
Don’t be afraid to like somebody’s photo. We keep it all anonymous.


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Bitter flavors are oft neglected but are the key to some truly great cocktails.
Here are four drinks that use them to brilliant effect.

Amaro Smash
Comprising smashed pineapple and amaro montenegro served up in a big glass with lots of crushed ice, this modern cocktail is a great palate cleanser.  
$14 at Sopra Cucina.

Ca Phe Sua Da #2
Mikel Mulraney, Mixologist at Ding Dong says, “Bitters and amaro add depth of flavor and bring all the ingredients in a drink together.” He uses Vietnamese coffee, VSOP cognac, amaro and agave nectar in this potent bittersweet digestif.
$21 at Ding Dong

Nin Jiom Old Fashioned
Adrian Ling, founder of Pidgin Kitchen & Bar says, “Fernet branca and angostura bitters impart a refreshing mix of herbal and botanical nuances to this unique spin on the Old Fashioned,” giving it a fresh new twist.  
$20 at Pidgin Kitchen

Topless In Church
Of this drink comprising Speyside single malt, sugar, orange zest and Mozart dark chocolate bitters, Zachariah Elias, the bartender at Suprette says, “The bitters strongly invoke the aroma and nuances of cocoa, free from the cloying sweetness of chocolate liqueurs.”
$20 at Suprette


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These joints with charming open air areas are just the place to dine on breezy evenings.

Alkaff Mansion Ristorante
The two-storey dining room’s interior channels the same regal air with starched table linens and understated furnishings, ideal for a special occasion; it even accommodates a cheese and charcuterie room in the center.

GRUB’s part of these new generation shack restos and it’s got a sweet location at Bishan Park, right next to a lovely stream. The eatery has great vibe: Fresh, idealist and full of bohemian values.

Lower East Side Taqueria
This Mexican eatery offers items like octopus and squid burrito ($18) and chilli con carne tacos (from $13)—in three levels of spiciness—which you can wash down with milky horchata ($5), craft beers (from $7) and tequila tasting flights (from $28).

Madame Patisserie
Very femme, with lots of pink and adorable plant fixtures on each table. There’s also a charming alfresco area out front covered with faux grass—it’s quite the serene oasis in nightlife-centric Boat Quay.

Tamarind Hill
It feels just like a tropical resort. Located in a historic colonial building, the place is outfitted with Asian-inspired elements such as golden Buddha statues, swatches of fabric with ethnic embroidery, and dark wooden furnishings.

TWO FACE Pizza & Taproom
Gussied up with blackboard dividers and playing smooth tunes by crooners like Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, the coffee shop becomes a cool yet comfortable spot to chow down on simple Western recipes with a local twist.

The Green Door
There’s an alfresco area amid lush greenery for outdoorsy types, while the rest of us who need air-conditioning can still enjoy the kooky interiors stuffed with vintage trinkets.

Wild Oats
An intimate bar-café where you can stretch out on rattan chairs on the sprawling alfresco area, enjoy cold beers, cool cocktails like the honey Choya martini as well as lemongrass and blueberry margarita while grooving to the laid-back music.


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Regional Italian cuisine is all the rage in Singapore, with new restaurants and revamped favorites offering lesser known recipes from the food-loving nation.

Executive chef at Hilton Singapore Fabrizio Aceti, who hails from Piedmon says, “Christmas is very close to my heart, since I am away from my family, I’d like to share a taste of home with my guests in Singapore.” For the Christmas buffets (Dec 24- 25; from $175) at Checkers Brasserie, he'll put out northern Italian dishes like gnocchi Castelmagno, utilizing produce from the region.

Chef Kentaro Torii of Forlino says, “The most underrated cuisine has got to be from Liguria.” The chef’s tagliolini verdi ($28), green tagliolini with basil pesto (a specialty sauce from the area), showcases the flavors of the north-western region.

There are plenty of restaurants dedicated to the food of central Italian region Tuscany, but our favorites are Burlamacco Ristorante, which puts out a mean beef tripe stew ($18)—a speciality from the regional capital Florence—and Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse for their gargantuan Fiorentina ($178), a hefty 1-1.2kg T-bone steak of (marble score six) Aussie Wagyu. Also, inITALY Bar Ristorante does a comforting version of lesser known Tuscan specialty gran bollito misto ($28), a pot of boiled beef, veal and veal tongue, as well as pork and chicken.

Retro glam newcomer Sopra Cucina & Bar—tucked away at the back of fivestar hotel Pan Pacific Orchard, right by Orchard Towers—is a pioneer in putting out Sardinian specialities, including fregola pasta and carasu bread. For a good overview of what the cuisine has to offer, there’s a four-course degustation menu ($98).

Warming family favorites from chef Carlo Marengoni’s hometown Bergamo in Lombardy are on offer at Trattoria Gallo D'Oro. The landlocked region is best known for meaty, rich recipes with plenty of lard and butter, so loosen your belt and dig into the house specialty of veal ravioli stuffed with bacon and sage ($20).

Chef Denis Lucchi of Buona Terra has launched a series of Gastronomic Tour dinners, each featuring a different regional cuisine. The next event spotlights the food of coastal Veneto, on January 14, with a five-course meal featuring traditional recipes like fegato alla veneziana, calf liver and polenta. Also check out Cicheti, a brand new Venetian snack bar serving classic bites like spicy prawns.

Emilia Romagna
OTTO Locanda recently introduced regional set dinners ($58). Through to the end of November the focus is Emilia Romagna, with four courses of dishes like parmesan risotto (the region’s most famous cheese).

The “heel” of bootshaped Italy is the south-eastern region Puglia, home to OTTO Locanda’s (see Emilia Romagna, above) head chef Marco Violano who cooks up specialties like frittelle alla pugliese ($18), ham wrapped scamorza cheese served with dough fritters.

Sicilian restaurant Gattopardo Italian Grill & Pizzabar’s last day at its current location is December 31—so get there quick. Helmed by Sicilian native Lino Sauro, the restaurant puts out dishes like angel hair pasta with sea urchin ($38), a classic from the seafood-loving island. Alternatively, visit their new address (34 Tras St.), when it reopens in January.


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As one of the founders of urban farm consultancy Edible Gardens, here’s a man used to going against the grain. He talks to Chin Hui Wen about following your dreams and leading the simple life.

The rat race makes life meaningless. I reckon if I can grow my own food and produce my own power in alternative ways, I won’t have to work in the corporate world.

Mother Nature is a great teacher and I’m humbled by her daily.

One Straw Revolution is a book by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher who practised his craft for a lifetime, living a simple life, while inspiring people the world over.

I lived in a Mongolian yurt in 2010 with no electricity, and a less than helpful wood burning stove, in the middle of Wales, surrounded by rolling hills and sheep. We had little but somehow life was good

My ultimate aim is to one day own my own farm, small enough that I can manage without machinery and yet big enough so I produce enough food for my family and to lead a simple life.

I believe that treating people well and generating goodwill is the currency of the future and my values center around that.

The food scene is thriving, lots of great chefs opening up new joints around town. There is a strong sense of competition that really creates a positive vibe in the dining scene.

The biggest thing we lack is the freshness of produce as everything is flown or shipped in.

I truly miss cooking and eating with the seasons. It’s nonexistent here as we have access to all types of food year round.

Everything fell into place, though I was your average kid who didn’t do too well in school, and was a pretty late bloomer.

My first real job was in an interactive agency called BLUE as a suit.

We got drunk most Fridays, mostly to drown our shitty week with pints of beer. Life was pretty good.

As a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist. It didn’t go too well as there was no career plan or course I could take to be one in Singapore, and our museum didn’t help much. So I ditched that.

I lived with a few archaeologists in Wales and worked on a few excavation and restoration projects. That was fun though I wouldn’t have made it my career.

There are always surprises good and bad that await you in the garden.

To stay positive, I always practice impermanence.

“Stay in your old job cause you need the security,” is the worst advice I’ve ever gotten.

“Take the risk and follow your dreams,” is the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

Be appreciative of the food that you eat because a lot of hard work and sweat went into growing that!

I love mee pok ta because you can’t get anything that resembles it anywhere else in the world except in Singapore.

Education is the key to the world, but once you open that door to the real world, you realize that it’s merely a guide in your life journey.

I got my name from my aunt. She said, “Oh, I can’t remember why but it has to be either Bjorn Borg or Bjorn from ABBA.”

I would like to be remembered as “that urban farmer.”


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Before you head to work, dig into the most important meal of the day at these restaurants which serve food from 8am.

Caveau Wines & Bar
This wine specialist is a coffee bar by day (8am-5pm), using beans from local roasters like Papa Palheta, and serving light breakfast nibbles.

Start your day with popular breakfast items like the ham and cheese croque monsieur ($18). Or have one of their pastries (from $3.20) such as croissants and pain au chocolat in a laid-back café setting. 

Common Man Coffee Roasters
This café and roastery offers a mean cappuccino ($5) and a killer Turkish Common Man Breakfast ($25), comprising poached eggs—with golden runny yolks (from organic New Zealand eggs)—and savory feta pastries balanced with a drizzle of honey. There’s also some amazingly smooth hummus alongside.

NamNam Noodle Bar
At this Vietnamese joint, $5.90 scores you a bánh mì and coffee/tea for brekkie (8-10am).

Nassim Hill
This cozy spot next to the post office has a menu sporting items like smoked salmon omelet ($20), and almond brioche French toast ($13).

Oxwell & Co.
Dig into simple breakfasts (from 8am) and good coffee (care of their Slayer Espresso machine) at this hip British eatery.


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Danish microbrewery Mikkeller’s brewer and co-founder Mikkel Borg Bjergso was recently in town for a series of talks and appearances at The Great Beer Experiment. So we grabbed him and had him share what he thinks are the three hottest trends in beer right now. 

“Canned craft beers are a big thing in the States; you can get extremely good beer for very little money, and that’s why it’s so big there. It keeps better, you don’t have to keep it out of sunlight, and it’s a lot cheaper to ship.”
Evil Twin Hipster Ale. $9 from Working Title.

“Using citrus fruits in beer is really popular at the moment—in the brewing community, we've actually started talking about ICU rather than IBU (International Bitterness Units). There are so many citrus fruits being used now, like yuzu, orange, lemon, lime. I think it’s perfect for beer.” 
Mikkeller Green Gold IPA. $13.50 from The Great Beer Experiment.

Low alcohol
“Low alcohol with a lot of flavor is a big trend at the moment. I’m often asked what I think the perfect beer is, and in my opinion that would be a beer without alcohol—but with all the flavor—so you can drink it like water.”
Brewdog Dead Pony Club. $7.50 from Thirsty - The Beer Shop.


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The general manager for Treasury Wine Estates (Southeast Asia, India and Korea) demystifies the language we use to describe wine.


What are the most common words you use to describe wines?
I tend to be quite descriptive, for example I love full bodied, vivacious and fruit driven wines. I also tend to focus in on the fruit flavors in wine like blackcurrant in reds and the gooseberry and passion fruit in a sauvignon blanc, which is always amusing to the wine novice because it smells of these fruits but all wine is only made from grapes.

Would you say many wine terms are quite culturally specific? For example, what might usually be described as rhubarb, might to someone who grew up in Asia recall hawthorne flakes.

Absolutely, I recall when I first started in the industry in Australia someone was describing a wine saying it smelt of asparagus. I grew up with a mother of Italian background who would serve us fresh asparagus char-grilled and smothered in olive oil, salt flakes and ground black pepper, so I didn’t get it at all. But upon more questioning, I found that he was talking about an old Aussie favorite, which was tinned asparagus often served on dry biscuits and it smelt completely differently. However, a lot of wine terms are universal. For example, if I describe a wine as opulent, it means that the wine is rich, smooth and bold, such as the Penfolds Grange Shiraz.

What are some ways to get around confusion?
A simple rule to remember is that most wines from France or Europe are named after the region. On the other hand, wines from the United States, Australia and other non-European countries are named after the variety of grape used. For example, one of Australia’s most renowned wine brands, Penfolds, names its wines according to the variety of grapes used, such as the Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon. A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous but go to tastings, ask your wine merchants and never be afraid to ask. Wine is a complex category but lots of fun once you jump in and start asking questions. Don’t let yourself be intimidated—at the end of the day it’s a great social lubricant.

What words do you wish people would use more to describe wines?
I have a saying that “wine should be taken regularly not seriously”. So describe what you smell and what you taste, look for wines and enjoy wines that you like the taste of not what someone tells you to like.



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The founders of new dating app Paktor (which allows you to scan and “like” user profile images anonymously—to protect you from rejection) talk about adapting mobile dating for the Asian market. 

How did you come up with the idea for Paktor?
Joseph Phua: I was spurred to create Paktor while living in the US. After suffering the heartbreak that accompanied ending a long-term relationship, I realized how hard it is to meet people and date. Dating websites certainly helped, but they were far from perfect, particular for an Asian. This led to frustration, which brought me to the realization that if I was struggling to find a date in the US, surely those facing similar problems in Asia—where fear of rejection is much worse than it is in the US—must be going through an unbearably difficult time.

What is your target age group and why?
JP: Paktor’s target age group spans from 18 years old to people in their 30s. Singapore’s work culture with long working hours has become a hindrance to an active social life, making it difficult for them to find a suitable partner.

Why did you decide on focusing on the Asian market, even with while you were both studying in Chicago?
JP: With Asian roots, we understand the culture here and the reserved, simplified approach to dating preferred by Asia's socially conservative and introverted society.

Christopher D'Cruz: Paktor’s culturally-compliant features align seamlessly with Asian societal norms. It aims to resolve Asia’s most tempestuous dating concern: the fear of being snubbed by a potential date, at the same time easing the process of finding a partner.

Before Paktor, did you try any other dating services?
JP: Yes, I’ve tried many during my time in the US. Some good, some bad. Online ones tended to be better. Part of the reason we launched Paktor was because of the lack of similar products and services in Asia. We took some things we liked in the West, adapted them for the Asian market and launched Paktor.

Any tips for people using the app?
JP: Don't be afraid to like somebody's photo. We keep it all anonymous for you.

It can be difficult to get people to post appropriate photos of themselves. Is there any way you filter out lewd or inaccurate photos?
Charlene Koh: Paktor users login via Facebook, providing that trust factor that ensures the authenticity of the account, ruling out any photos that might be offensive. There's also a little red flag on the top right corner of each photo where users can also flag the photos that they deem inappropriate.

What are some other ideas you have in the works?
CK: We work with partners to host fun events for our users, such as the We Said So Cover Night Party at Fallabella in Bangkok last month. In Singapore we're also planning to host activity based dates or networking sessions at different outlets.

Check out mobile dating app Paktor.


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