Posted by Mark
Pizzeria Amami used to be located in Salmiya near AUK and behind Smash Burger, but last week they moved to a new location in Symphony Mall. I hadn’t tried the place until earlier today when I passed by for lunch with a friend of mine.
The place was empty and quiet so we picked a table near the window overlooking the Gulf Road. Once we sat down an Italian waitress came up to us with the menus. From what I could tell everybody working there was Italian which was a great first impression. The menu on the other hand was fairly disappointing being just A4 sheets of paper printed and then enclosed in transparent plastic. Mine was all bent and it just looked very cheap. The waitress recommended us the Parmigiana di Melanzane to start with which was fried eggplant with cheese and tomato sauce. I also ended up ordering the closest thing to a simple mushroom pizza I could find on the menu which was a pizza called Capricciosa containing, tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, olives and artichoke (I asked them not to include the artichoke). The waitress asked me if I wanted fresh mozzarella with my pizza and I figured the alternative was frozen mozzarella or something so I said yes. Once the bill arrived later I realized by fresh mozzarella she meant extra cheese on my pizza. Not cool but it must have been a lost in translation moment.
The first thing that arrived was the Parmigiana di Melanzane starter. Although the presentation wasn’t appealing the dish did taste better than it looked. But, I’d still order something else next time since it tasted more like a pizza topping than a standalone starter. Our main dishes arrived once we were done, my pizza was pretty big and looked delicious. I was hesitant to ask the waitress for ketchup since I know it’s usually frowned upon at Italian pizzerias but turns out they didn’t have any issues with ketchup and I was able to get a bottle. The pizza was good although I found it pretty heavy the rest of the day. I left there feeling like I had eaten something very unhealthy but I think that had to do with the fact my pizza had all the extra cheese on it which I hadn’t asked for (I should have said no to fresh mozzarella).
My biggest issue with the place was with their prices. My pizza cost KD5.5 while my friends Penne Al Formaggio (cheese pasta) cost KD6. With two mains, the starter, three soft drinks and 750fils for the extra cheese, the bill came out to KD19.250. The pizza barely makes it into my top 5 favorite pizzas in Kuwait ranking, maybe at #5 so combine that with the restaurants atmosphere and interior which was bland and the total experience just wasn’t worth it for me. If you’re interested in trying out the place they’re located on the Mezzanine floor of Symphony Mall in Salmiya [Map]. They’re open daily from noon till 11PM except for Fridays when they open a bit later at 2PM. Their phone number is 25770733 but the waitress told me it will only be active from next week.
Posted by Mark
Koryokwan is a Korean restaurant that’s been around since the early 80s. They’re considered to be one of the best and even provide the catering for Korean embassy events which is how I found out about them. This past saturday when I passed by the Korean embassy for their lunar new year’s they had the catering from Koryokwan (The Korean embassy in Kuwait by the way has to be the most beautiful embassy I’ve ever been to anywhere). So anyway, I didn’t end up eating at the embassy that day but I did pass by Koryokwan a few days ago to try them out.
Koryokwan is located on the ground floor of the very old Carlton Hotel in Kuwait City. It’s a 3-star hotel that was refurbished awhile back but the building still looks really old from the outside. The interior of Koryokwan on the other hand is just beautiful, one of those places where once you enter you feel like you’re no longer in Kuwait. I actually had the same feeling when I first visited the now defunct Singarea Korean restaurant in Dajeej. I used to love that place and it’s why I ended up mostly being disappointed with Koryokwan. Lets begin with the interior of Koryokwan, even though it looked amazing they had regular English radio music playing and CNN on TV. If this was Singarea for example they would have had either Korean music playing or some strange Korean soap opera on TV. I also found the prices of the dishes expensive. The soups started at around KD4.5 and the main courses at around KD6 and up. That’s 5-star hotel prices which is expected when you’re at a 5-star hotel and getting 5-star service like at Peacock or a restaurant at the Sheraton but this wasn’t the case here. Service was similar to a casual dine in restaurant and it wasn’t that great. Our order for example arrived in this order: Main course followed by our rice 5 minutes later and then followed by our soup. I went there specifically for one dish, the fried chicken with chili sauce and I liked it but you can’t really judge the food on just one dish.
The place is definitely worth trying out but mostly for the experience of trying something new. If you’re interested in passing by they’re open from 10AM to 3PM and then again from 5PM to 10:30PM. They’re located in the Carlton Hotel [Map] and their phone number is 22452759 or 99608277.
Posted by Mark
Around a month ago I was at the airport early morning, I had just finished checking in and headed towards the money exchange to get some currency. I gave the exchange employee my Knet card but got an error saying my card was declined. I tried it again but got the same error. I knew I had money on the card since I had double checked the night before. In any case I decided to log in with my banks app and double check but I got an error logging in as well. I then told the money exchange clerk I would be back and headed to one of the ATM machines at the airport to withdraw money but also got an error. So I called the banks call center number and spoke to an employee who proceeded to tell me their system was going under maintenance and I wouldn’t be able withdraw any money or use any of my cards for the next two hours.
I was furious.
Here I was at the airport about to travel and I didn’t have any cash on me and I wouldn’t be able to get any cash either and not because I didn’t have any money but because my bank wouldn’t give me access to it. When I asked the employee why they didn’t inform me and their other customers about this so that we would be prepared (I could have converted currency the night before and withdrawn money), his response was we did… on Instagram and Twitter. And this is where the problem lies. I hung up with the call center employee and headed to the lounge where I proceeded to tweet my frustration as well as send their customer care an email. I didn’t get any response from them until 30 days later when I had to tweet and remind them that it had been 30 days without a response.
Now this is where I would be interested to hear from you guys since maybe I’m over reacting here or maybe it’s me being an asshole but wouldn’t you agree it would be best if the bank SMS’ed their clients important information like when you won’t be able to access your money or any of your cards for two hours instead of posting that kind of important information on twitter or instagram?
First of all why the hell would I want to follow my bank on twitter or instagram? I follow only 15 friends on twitter and I follow around 100 friends on Instagram. The image above is a result of me following my banks twitter account (I had to so I could send them a direct message). They tweet so much and so often they ended up taking over my twitter feed. Why would I want to flood my twitter feed with their tweets on a daily basis?
Secondly, my bank have my phone number and I receive a ton of useless advertisements from them all the time. Why is it ok to SMS me useless adverts but not ok to SMS me important information like when I will not be able to use my ATM or credit cards because their system will be down?
So this is my suggestion to my bank (you know who you are):
1- SMS or Email your customers when there will be a major disruption in the service
2- Be clear about what the disruption will be. “System will be undergoing maintenance” could mean anything from I won’t be able to log in to your website to your call center employees won’t be able to order their daily fix of Caesars pizza. It’s too generic, instead tell your customers clearly that on a certain date at a certain time they will not be able to use their ATM cards.
3- Respond to emails. 30 days with no response means you’re ignoring me. I sent an email to Zain the other day and got a response in 15 minutes so if they can do it so can you.
That’s my 2 cents. And yes this post was censored by Fajer.
Posted by Mark
Elysium was one of the movies I was looking forward to watching this summer and it turned out to be a disappointment. Not sure how it scored a 7/10 on IMDB, maybe I just don’t like Matt Damon. The trailer made the movie look really interesting and the story line of two different worlds where people live, a space station for the rich while regular folks lived on a decaying planet earth sounded epic but we just didn’t get to see enough of these two worlds in my opinion.
With movies like this I like to see and explore the worlds, I know a lot of people didn’t like Waterworld, The Postman or even the recent Oblivion but what I liked about those movies was they felt epic because of the amount of exploration we as viewers got to experience. I would have loved to have seen more of the space station in Elysium, how it worked, where they got their food from, maybe a history of how it was built etc.. and same with earth, it’s dying and it’s over populated, what are they doing about water, food, are there still any animals, did we over fish, did we poison all the waters? etc… It’s these kind of questions that I wanted answers to and I never got.
It’s a fast paced movie so you won’t get bored watching it, just don’t expect it to be very deep.
Posted by Mark
Back in April I bought the Bang & Olufsen A9 sound system for my apartment. The A9 had looked so beautiful in the store but when it came time to take photos of it for my blog I just couldn’t make it look good which is why I ended up using stock photos from their website instead. I realized I couldn’t make it look good because my apartment looked horrible. Around the same time I was invited by the team at West Elm in Avenues to pass by and check out their store. I had only passed by the store from outside before and had gotten the impression it was an expensive brand so never really went in. But on that day I got shown around the place and I just fell in love with everything since their furniture had a very New York loft feel. Then I found out their prices were slightly more expensive than IKEA but less than THE One and it hit me, I needed a makeover. My apartment was looking outdated and I needed a fresh start anyway with my recent divorce and all so I asked them if they’d be interested in doing a makeover and they liked the idea. Last week I finally had everything done.
My apartment is a beautiful duplex located in one of my favorite places in Kuwait, the old Salmiya shopping street. The apartment has very nice space and a lot of potential but wasn’t getting any TLC. When I first moved in I was broke and couldn’t afford to furnish it properly and then later when I did have money I was spending it all on my apartment in Lebanon. Not only that but the walls had the most horrible colors that somehow seemed like a good idea years ago. The first thing I did when West Elm came over to check my place out was let them know what my issues were with the current setup and what I was expecting from the makeover. For example my living space had enough seating for around 5 people so when my friends were coming over I wouldn’t have enough space for everyone and the space I already had was very focused around the TV. I couldn’t have big lunches or dinners at my place either since my dinning room table fit only 4 people. I hated the lights in my apartment, I hated my kitchen which was an ugly purple and my living space was a bright magenta (it was a phase I went through so don’t judge me) which I honestly couldn’t stand anymore. I didn’t want a TV in my new space because I thought having a TV would be anti social plus I already had a TV room upstairs. I wanted the space to be very social and one that could hold a lot of people. Usually when people come over the groups are divided between the kitchen and the living space so I wanted people sitting in the living space to be facing the kitchen so they’re more connected. Finally I needed to have my iMac downstairs because I do most of my work on my iMac and I didn’t want to take any work with me upstairs. Based on those criteria’s we sat down and decided what we were going to do.
The first thing we decided on obviously was to change the color of the walls. They recommended I go with a dark grey which I was hesitant to at first but now I’m so glad I did. I also ended up ordering really beautiful Orla Kiely wallpaper to add a bit of color to the walls. I’ve loved Orla Kiely’s stem patterns for a very long time and figured it would give a slightly retro feel to the space which it did. I’ve also always loved baby blue walls and thought it would match perfectly with my KitchenAid Mixer so I had my kitchen painted a baby blue. I actually ended up repainting my whole apartment including my bedroom and my TV room since after I saw what a big difference it made to my space downstairs I wanted to change everything.
On my first visit to the West Elm store the first thing that caught my eye was an incredible bookcase/sculpture they had on display. I right away asked them about it and they told me it wasn’t for sale and that it was actually built by one of their talented employees out of wood recycled from their crates. It was love at first sight and I knew I had to have it. So after nagging them about it they finally told me I could take it. This was going to be the centerpiece to my living space. It was just insane looking, it wasn’t perfect, it had flaws and it was all over the place but that’s who I was and that’s why I needed this.
For the couch we decided to go with the Tillary 8-piece Sectional. It was comfortable, cozy and it would fit perfectly in my space while holding a lot of people. It came in a bunch of colors but I wanted grey which I thought was very bachelor pad’ish and worked well with the wallpaper and the black glossy floor. For the dinning room table we went with the Parker Dining Table. I liked it because it was minimal while still looking slightly retro like my wallpaper and it was also expandable so it could hold 6 people when closed and 8 when open. To give the table a funky touch we chose the John Vogel designed chairs and got matching barstool versions to use with my kitchen bar. Finally the accessories and lights, they had a ton to choose from and other than the lights I let them decide on the accessories for me and damn what a difference the accessories make. The rugs and the random accessories on my tables all around the apartment just give the place such a warm and cozy feel.
I can’t believe how my place looks so different after the makeover. I still need to buy my dinnerware and a few more accessories from them but the overall look is done. The difference is night and day and I now love spending time chilling on my couch listening to music while browsing on my iPad or hanging out with friends. Friends are also loving the fact that I don’t have a TV in the space since without it all the attention goes on socializing. To think all this started because of my Bang & Olufsen A9. I just wanted it to look good at home and I ended up getting a whole makeover done around it. Now my A9 looks like it was made for the space and the bookcase looks like it was built around it. If you’re interested in checking them out, West Elm is located in Avenues Phase III near Harvey Nichols and opposite Life with Cacao. Here is a link to their [Facebook Page]
Photos of the bookcase and accessories were taken by the super talented @tammyque
Posted by Mark
Last week I was craving Chinese food so I headed with a friend to Oliversan in Burj Jassim. Oliversan is the new Asian restaurant owned by the same owners as Maki. On any other day I would have visited Caesars or China Kitchen, my two favorite Chinese restaurants, but that evening I felt like going to a “nicer” place and until Peacock reopens, Oliversan is the only alternative.
The interior looks nice and cozy but like most restaurants during Ramadan, it was empty when we arrived. We were given the menu and I started looking for sweet and sour chicken (my favorite dish) which turns out they didn’t have. That was a good thing since it allowed me to try something new which wasn’t hard to do since their whole menu was full of dishes I hadn’t heard of before. We ended up ordering the following:
Velvety Creamy Chicken Corn Soup KD1.5
Spicy Garlic Sweet Snap Peas KD2.5
Oliversan Duck Salad KD4.5
Sweet and Sour Ostrich Fillet KD5
Braised Short Ribs with Oolong Tea Leaves KD6.5
Regular Oliversan Fried Rice KD2.5
The soup arrived first. I generally wouldn’t order cream of chicken soup at a Chinese restaurant but they only had three soups on the menu and I felt like soup that night. Glad I did because the soup was actually the least disappointing thing I had that night. The Spicy Garlic Sweet Snap Peas came once the soup was done along with the Duck Salad. I wasn’t too impressed with the Duck Salad, not for that price point at least since I didn’t think there was enough duck in it. The dressing was good though and it was a pretty light starter along with the snap peas which left lots of room for the main course.
Once we were done with our starters the waiter brought us our main dishes. The food presentation looked great specially the sweet and sour ostrich. Taste wise my friend liked both dishes but I personally didn’t. I thought the sweet and sour ostrich was the better of the two dishes but it was slightly bland. The meat was surprisingly tender and had good flavor, its just the sweet and sour sauce that let it down. The braised short ribs I had high hopes for but I didn’t end up liking it at all. I thought it was too dry and it should have been served a lot hotter. My guess is since they’re still in a soft launch phase the menu is still being fine tuned which is why I left them this same feedback before I left.
The service was great but since we were alone in the restaurant I wouldn’t have expected anything less. One thing that I found odd was the food plates. The main courses were served in huge plates while our dinner plates were tiny (similar in size to the bread and butter plates). I found it very unpractical eating out of a small plate since I could barely fit a bit of rice with two pieces of ostrich without food starting to spill out of the plate.
In the end I wasn’t too impressed. Maybe I should have gone for the Spicy Chicken with Box Choy or the Mongolian Ostrich with Thai Basil since those two dishes were the other ones I was considering. Anyway if you’re interested in trying them out they’re located in Burj Jassim and their phone number is 22901051.
[Menu Shot 1] [Menu Shot 2]
Note: Interior shot taken from their website
Posted by Mark
A couple of weeks back Fasttelco hooked me up with a product they have called Aloo ISDN. Aloo ISDN is a phone line to use when traveling which will allow me to make and receive unlimited calls to and from Kuwait for free. It’s a really great simple product but a bit complicated to explain so I will try my best to be very clear.
- When you sign up to Aloo ISDN, Fasttelco will provide you with a local number, in my case its 22200XXX (XXX because I don’t want everyone to have my number)
- Once you get the number you then need to download the free app “Media5” from the app Store and follow Fasttelco’s setup instructions. I am personally using the application “Bria” instead of Media5 but it isn’t free. Both these apps work on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
The product requires the internet to work so your device needs to be connected to WiFi or 3G/4G LTE. I used Aloo this past weekend while in Lebanon and I thought it was great.
Before I left Kuwait I forwarded my Viva number to my Aloo number so that any phone call I receive while in Lebanon I would get to answer using my Aloo number. You don’t have to do that but I found it easier than giving everyone my “travel number” and that way I also avoid getting calls on my regular number and paying roaming charges.
The product works. I didn’t have access to WiFi while in Lebanon but I did have a 3G connection. I used the Aloo number a bunch of times and only on one occasion did I have a connection problem but at the time I was driving on a mountain road so my guess is the 3G connection was dropping. Using the number is fairly easy. When you get a phone call the app would pop up and ask me if I want to answer the phone call. To make a phone call I just launch the app and either dial the number or find one from my contact book. I was actually surprised I was able to use the service with a Lebanese 3G connection since the connection in Lebanon isn’t that fast. If it works in Lebanon it should work even better in European countries or the States.
If you travel a lot and pay a lot of roaming charges then this product could save you a lot of money. For a regular number is costs KD70 the first year and then KD60 every year after that so unless you make and receive over KD60 worth of roaming calls a year Aloo is not worth getting. They also have more premium numbers, the number they gave me for example is a silver number and costs KD120 the first year, gold costs KD200 the first year, platinum 500, diamond 1000 and royal 5000. All the numbers then cost KD60 a year after that. If you’re interested in signing up or getting more information you can call Fasttelco on 1838485.
Posted by Mark
I’m holding an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session right now up till 11AM. You can ask me anything you want in the comments below and I’ll try my best to reply to you right on the spot. If you’ve ever been curious about anything or just want to know more about me then this is your chance to get your answers. I will be answering all your questions truthfully and if there is one I won’t answer I will say so.
Update: I am extending this session past 11AM since there are too many questions and I am still trying to go through them all.
Update2: I’m closing this at 11:30AM
Update3: And I’m done! That was exhausting. All questions have been answered and no questions were deleted or ignored. Hope that was informative for everyone. Might hold another session in the evening one day (no date set) for those of you who couldn’t take part in this morning session because of work or other issues.
Posted by Mark
I’m going to hold an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session tomorrow morning similar to the ones that take place on Reddit. You’ll basically be able to ask me anything you want in the comments and I’ll try my best to reply to you right on the spot. I was originally thinking of holding two sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening but I figured we’ll see how the morning one goes first before setting up a second session.
If you’ve ever been curious about anything or just want to know more about me then this is your chance to get your answers. Just check this blog tomorrow at 10AM and I’ll have the “Live” Ask Me Anything post up for you to ask me questions under. The AMA session will take place from 10AM to 11AM tomorrow July 8th. I don’t think I will set any rules or have any subjects that are out of bounds, we’ll just have to see how it goes.
Posted by Mark
A couple of weeks ago I was driving on the highway when a Jaguar F-Type drove past me. It was the first time I had seen one in person and I thought the rear end looked amazing which is why once I got home I emailed my contact at Jaguar asking if I could borrow the car, which I did, last week.
The F-Type turned out to be smaller than I was expecting it to be and that’s a good thing since I’m not a fan of large sports cars. It’s a 2-seat roadster convertible with a soft top that comes with either a V6 or a V8 engine. The model I tested had the V6 S-type engine which has 40 more horsepower compared to the regular V6.
The F-Type is by far the best looking Jaguar in production right now and is easily one of the hotest looking roadsters available on the market. I love the direction they went with the rear end but even the front of the car looks slick and aggressive. The interior of the car I drove was a combination of black and tan. I’m not usually a big fan of tan but since the dashboard and everything else was black and just the leather seats and leather trim in tan, the combination looked pretty good.
Performance wise although the car I drove was the F-Type S it wasn’t as fast as I was hoping it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I risked deportation a number of times while driving the car (by accident of course) but it wasn’t the “this car is going to kill me” kinda fast. On the other hand the car sounds INSANE! The model I drove was the fully loaded F-Type S with the optional exhaust system installed and if there is one option you have to get with this car this is the one. The exhaust system by default sounds fairly normal but there is a little switch on the centre console which once pressed transforms the exhaust into a completely different beast. The car was easy to drive (slow and fast) and it felt pretty responsive and agile weaving in and out of traffic.
I didn’t have or spot any major issues with the car during the time I had it but I was supposed to drop a friend off at the airport with the car and I couldn’t. The trunk of the F-Type is so small that I couldn’t fit a medium sized bag into it. I also had an issue with the car dials, during the day they just seemed a bit dark and I kept wishing they were much brighter. Finally the soft top, it’s not just with this Jaguar but in general I’m just not a fan of soft tops in Kuwait. For the good part of the year the roof is going to be closed and a foldable hard top would be much more practical solution for our weather.
One thing that surprised me about the car was the price. Whenever a friend asked me how much the car was worth I told them I didn’t know but that I assumed it cost upwards of KD30,000. When I was returning the car I found out the car actually starts at around KD22,000 which I felt was undervalued. The car looks like it’s worth a lot more than that and if you look at what else is available at that price range the Jag looks like a great buy. Of course with all the extra options the price does add up. If you want the F-Type S that starts at 25,000 and the model I drove was a fully loaded F-Type S (exhaust, rear camera, 20inch wheels etc..) which costs 29,500. The V8 model is even more expensive of course.
Anyway if you’re interested in test driving the car yourself you can pass by the Jaguar dealer in Al-Rai (Al-Zayani) and check it out there.
Posted by Mark
A few months back I upgraded from the entry level Kindle to the Kindle Paperwhite and although I hated it at first I’ve grown to like it, a lot.
Literally 10 minutes after getting the Kindle Paperwhite in the mail I was offering it up for sale because I hated it so much. I found it incredibly sluggish and hated the new graphical interface. I just couldn’t see myself using the Paperwhite without hurling it out the window 2 minutes later and I just wanted to get rid of it right away. Thankfully I didn’t. Some of my followers who found the Paperwhite frustrating at first told me if I used it for awhile I’d get used to it and a week later I was.
Once you get used to the Paperwhite it’s actually a pretty good ereader. First of all the biggest improvement over my entry level Kindle is the fact the Papwerwhite is backlit which means I can use it in complete darkness. The second improvement is the fact the Paperwhite has no buttons and uses a touch screen. At first this annoyed me but after using it on the beach a few times I now appreciate the fact the Paperwhite doesn’t have any buttons where little grains of sand can hide under. The Paperwhite is slightly larger and heavier than the entry level Kindle but I no longer notice the difference. Battery life is still extremely long, even with the backlit on it still lasts over 2 weeks with me per charge, maybe even more.
Yes the interface is still sluggish specially when compared to other touch devices like the iPad or any touch screen phone on the market, but I’ve really gotten used to it and it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I’ve now given my older Kindle away because I can no longer go back to it and yesterday when a friend asked me which Kindle to get I recommended the Paperwhite to them. Even with whatever little faults it has, at KD35 it’s a really good deal. [Amazon Link]