Review: Taste of Jamaica

Post by Mark

Yesterday I passed by a small Jamaican restaurant that’s run by a Jamaican woman living in Kuwait. I only found out about the place last week from the owner of Caribbean Hut but turns out Taste of Jamaica has been around for awhile now. This is another hole in the wall place that had around four small tables inside an a few outside. The interior was decorated with Jamaican ornaments like flags and photos of Bob Marley while the radio was pumping out some Jamaican tunes. I think everyone who was working at the place was Jamaican although I should have asked just to be sure.

I never had Jamaican food before but one of my friends had before moving to Kuwait so we put him in charge of ordering and we ended up with the following dishes:

Caribbean Shrimp KD3.5
Jerk Chicken KD3.5
Braised Oxtails KD3.5
Curry Goat KD3.5
Spinach Rice KD0.800
Rice & Peas KD0.800
Baked Potato KD0.800

We had also ordered sides of Stir Fried Okras, Jamaican Patty, Corn Bread and Mac & Cheese but we were told they were out of them.

Once the food arrived my first impression was that the presentation of the dishes weren’t as good as Caribbean Hut. The dinnerware were regular looking and the food was just filled onto the plates like you would at home. The food on the other hand tasted a lot better than it looked. I’m not a fan of chicken on bone but my friend who had the Jerk Chicken thought it was pretty good. The caribbean Shrimp was good, nothing special but the Braised Oxtails and the Curry Goat were the two dishes with lots of flavor. Between the two, Curry Goat was my favorite but the oxtails was super tender as well. They both had new exciting flavors I hadn’t tasted before which is what I was hoping to experience by visiting this place.

On the negative side I thought the prices were a bit high especially when compared to Caribbean Hut which I thought was a super good deal. But other than that I found the place interesting and worth passing by just for the experience especially if you’re bored of your regular routine and are looking for something new to try out.

Taste of Jamaica is located in Mangaf, Block 4, Street 19 and Building #1. Their phone number is 67086852 and they’re open from 5AM to 11PM.

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Review: Caribbean Hut

Post by Mark

Caribbean Hut is a small tiny restaurant located in Abu Halifa and owned and run by a Puerto Rican chef who’s helped out by his father. I found out about Caribbean Hut by chance when I accidentally landed on trip advisors top restaurants in Kuwait list and I noticed Caribbean Hut was ranked first. A restaurant I hadn’t heard of ranked first in Kuwait? I knew I had to go check it out for myself.

First things first just so you don’t get mislead by the beautiful food shots. Caribbean Hut isn’t a big fancy restaurant in a nice mall. It’s a small place located in a dodgy part of Abu Halifa, the restaurants surroundings aren’t pretty and the restaurant itself doesn’t have a good looking interior either. They didn’t even have cute Caribbean music playing and the whole place was lit up by cold energy saving lightbulbs. So don’t go there with expectations of fine dining even though the food is very well presented. That’s really the only negative thing I have to say about the place because everything else about it was pretty great.

I got there at 3PM just as they were opening. The chef was there alone since his father works a full time job and only comes by to help once he’s done. I hadn’t had Caribbean food before so I had the chef help us choose our dishes and in the end we decided to go with the following:

— Appetizers —

Chicken Empanadillas
Puerto Rican styled patties deep-fried and prepared with chicken

Beef Empanadillas
Puerto Rican styled patties deep-fried and prepared with beef

Tostones (Plantain Chips)
Deep fried plantains

— Main Course —

Beef Carne
Mashed fried plantains filled with fried beef, seasoned with Caribbean spices, served with white rice

Shrimp Camarrones
Mashed fried plantains filled with sauteed shrimp, seasoned with Caribbean spices, served with white rice

Trinidadian Chicken Curry
Trini style chicken curry served with white rice

— Dessert —

Leche Flan
Made with condensed milk, sweetend milk and caramel

Made with coconut milk, sugar, and cinnamon

From the two Empanadillas I preferred the minced beef and would order that again. Even though they were deep fried they didn’t taste or look oily, if anything they actually looked and tasted like they were oven baked. The Tostones were very interesting and would have even been better if they had salsa on the side to dip them into. They actually do have salsa on their menu but it wasn’t available to order when we were there.

Once we were done with the starters the chef brought over our main courses. We started with the Trinidadian Chicken Curry which was in the menu under the section called “Our Neighbors” alongside the Cuban Stewed Beef and Jamaican Pulled Chicken. The Trinidadian curry tastes fairly different from the traditional Thai or Indian curry and although it was good, after trying the other two dishes I probably wouldn’t order this one again. The Beef Carne and the Shrimp Camarrones were both incredible dishes with lots of new flavors I hadn’t experienced before. The presentation looked great and I wouldn’t be able to choose between the two the next time I pass by. I’d probably order them both again.

Finally when we were done we had our desserts. From the two I preferred Leche Flan which is similar to Creme Caramel and like Creme Caramel, it’s not very exciting. While having the desserts I chatted with the chef who’s the owner as well. I thought they had opened a few months back but turns out in a few days it’s going to be their one year anniversary. It’s pretty surprising how a great place like that has been open for so long and isn’t well known yet.

If you’re looking for something new and different to try then I would definitely recommend Caribbean Hut. The food was great, the owner was really friendly, it’s a small family business and most importantly, it’s not another burger joint. Other than the location there really isn’t anything to complain about. Price wise it’s a steal. We had two starters, three main courses, two desserts and four soft drinks and the total came out to be KD9.550 and that’s mostly because of the shrimp dish which was double the price of anything else on the menu. If you want to find out more about the place or the exact location you can check out their website where they even have their full menu available [Link]

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Review: UP by Jawbone

Post by Mark

Last week the Jawbone dealer sent me the UP wristband to tryout and review. The Jawbone UP tracks your sleep and movement patterns and I am going to start this review by saying I am not UP’s intended user. The UP is meant for casual users who want to get a rough idea of how many calories they’re burning or how active their lifestyle is. Since my lifestyle is already pretty active I need more accurate data which the UP can’t provide me with since it doesn’t monitor your heartbeat and it doesn’t have a GPS to track distance. But, after having used the UP for a week I ended up liking the device and I’ll explain why a bit further into the review.

The UP reminds me a lot of the Nike Fuelband and it should because they both basically do the exact same thing. Both the Fuelband and UP track your movement patterns and then converts that data into pretty graphs. The biggest difference for me with the UP is that it also tracks sleep patterns which is something that I was really interested in. When you run the app for the first time you enter various information about yourself and then you choose two targets, the amount of hours you would like to sleep and your daily target for steps. The defaults are 8 hours and 10,000 steps and I left them that way. Throughout the day all your movements are recorded by the wristband but you can also help make it more accurate by telling the wristband what activity you just performed.

Within the UP application on the phone you have the option to log specific workouts like a run or a weight lifting session. You select the kind of activity you performed based on preset ones along with the intensity of the activity and also the duration. The application then calculates how many calories you burned using published MET values. This isn’t very accurate because you have to estimate the intensity of your activity and so you’ll only end up with a ballpark figure which should still be fine for the majority of people.

Sleep tracking is a very interesting aspect of the UP. Before you go to sleep you put the device into sleep mode and when you wake up you just turn sleep mode off. UP then takes your nighttime movement data and plots them out for you. My aim was to get 8 hours of sleep every night but based on the data my average has been less than 6 hours. UP also lets you know how long it took you to fall asleep and how much light and deep sleep you’re getting. Finally UP can also help you take a proper power nap during the day. By pressing the button on the UP twice and then holding it down it will turn on power nap mode which based on your previous nights sleep will calculate the optimum duration for your power nap which could range from 27 to 45 minutes. When it’s time to wakeup the UP vibrates.

Synchronizing the data between the UP and the app is a simple process, there is small cap at the end of the UP band which when removed will reveal a headphone connector which plugs into the phone. The wristband is also water resistant which according to the Jawbone website means I can shower with it but I actually swam with it all day over the weekend and it’s still working perfectly fine. Actually the website says NOT to submerge it in water so if you do so you do it as your own risk. Battery life according to Jawbone is 10 days and based on my experience that seems about right.

So yes the UP isn’t very accurate but I personally still loved it and the main reason being is I’m wearing it like a normal bracelet, a fashion accessory. The UP looks good, I don’t have to remove it when I shower or swim and other than charging it once every 10 days the UP doesn’t require any maintenance. It’s like a nice looking bracelet that has the added value of letting you know approximately how active you are while also letting you know how much sleep you’re getting.

If you’re interested in the UP you can order one directly from the dealer by calling them on 97337221. It costs KD45 and KD2 for delivery. You can also check out their Instagram account for other ways of ordering [Here]

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Review: Oliversan Asian Restaurant

Post 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

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Aloo ISDN by Fasttelco

Post 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.

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The Jaguar F-Type

Post 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.

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Hayete Bed & Breakfast – Beirut

Post by Mark

I really shouldn’t be posting about this place since I love it so much and don’t want it to be fully booked every time I want to go down to Lebanon. But, since I always put the blog ahead of myself, here is everything you need to know.

Hayete is a small bed & breakfast situated in the very beautiful and super busy Achrafieh area. It’s an apartment located inside a traditional/old Achrafieh style building that was converted into a cozy little guesthouse. The place is managed by a very friendly husband and wife and I’ve stayed there two times so far and on both occasions I had a great experience.

Hayete which means “My Life” in Arabic has just 4 rooms. Two of the rooms share a bathroom, the third room has its own bathroom and the 4th one has its own bathroom and an extra room (so it’s actually two rooms with two beds). The first time I stayed in the large two room room while the second time I stayed in the regular room with a shared bathroom. I loved staying there on both those visits.

No two rooms are furnished the same or even look the same. The floor tiles are exposed showing the original apartment tiling while the furniture is all vintage and really beautiful. There is a nice lobby area for entertaining guests and a balcony as well with a wooden table and benches in case you feel like sitting outside. I usually rent a car when I’m in Lebanon but since Hayete is located in Achrafieh, I usually prefer to skip the rental and cab it instead. Hayete is a 5 minutes walk to the main road where you can easily find a cab. More importantly though, Hayete is a short walk to the trendy Gemayzee street.

The rooms are pretty affordable starting at around $75 a night and that includes a traditional Lebanese breakfast served on the balcony every morning. It’s a super cozy guesthouse that feels like an apartment which is why my friends always love coming over to hang out a bit before heading down to Gemayzee. I highly recommend the place unless I find it fully booked the next time I plan a trip and then I’m going to delete this post. For more information and beautiful pictures of the place, checkout their Facebook page [Here]

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Review: Kindle Paperwhite

Post 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]

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Four Seasons Hotel – Beirut

Post by Mark

I was in Beirut over the weekend and on this trip I ended up staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Beirut. The hotel is located in what I think is one of the nicest looking towers in Beirut, right in front of the very popular Zaituna Bay and so I was really looking forward to staying there.

Right from the moment I stepped out of my rental I knew I was going to be enjoying my stay at the hotel. The customer service at the hotel was just better then any other I had previously stayed in before and I’ve stayed at many. The feeling I kept getting is that every single employee wanted to help make your stay better, and by every single employee I don’t mean just the reception staff or managers, I mean everyone from the valet guys, to the housekeepers to the waiters. I think its the words they use but you just get this feeling that you can ask them for whatever you want and they’d love to do it and that made me super comfortable in asking them for stuff which I tend not to do.

Other than the excellent service my room was also very comfortable. I had overpacked on this trip but there was more than enough closest space and drawers to accomodate all my stuff. The room wasn’t that big but the bathroom was with a large sink area, tub, shower room, toilet room and a makeup table. The room had a balcony that was big enough to fit a table and two chairs and finally there was free wifi in the room and the whole hotel. My favorite part of the hotel though would have to be the roof. During the day the roof is a cool place to swim and tan but at night it’s an open air lounge overlooking the Mediterranean sea and Beirut.

I do have two minor complaints though. The first issue the hotel really can’t do much about but the view from my room could have been better if there wasn’t a large sand lot right outside. I live in Kuwait so I would rather not see sand lots when I travel. Even though the hotel is right in front of Zaituna Bay, my room was more on the side and I could only see the marina if I was on the balcony looking left which was disappointing. The other issue I had was with their breakfast. It’s not a breakfast buffet and one of the things I look forward to the most in hotels is their breakfast buffets. At the Four Seasons they have a dried fruit, fresh fruit and cereal buffet but if you want any hot dishes you have to order them. The advantage obviously is your breakfast is made for you and so is fresh, but the disadvantage is it takes time to make and you also can’t just fill up your plate with whatever looks good like you would do at a regular buffet.

In the end though I had a really good time at the hotel. I generally don’t tend to spend much time at hotels but on this trip I was having all my friends come over so we could just chill out on the roof. The incredibly friendly service and the lounge on the roof made me really love my stay. I’d most likely stay there again once I’m done reviewing other hotels in Beirut.

Here is the link to their [Website]

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Review: Bang & Olufsen A9

Post by Mark

When I picked up the B&O Beolit 12 last month I also ended up picking up the Bang & Olufsen A9. I wasn’t planning to originally but it was so hard to resist. I first spotted the A9 when I was at the B&O store in Prague and it was love at first sight. It’s an AirPlay compatible speaker that will allow you to stream music onto it wirelessly and in case you don’t have Wifi you can connect your iPhone/iPod using a USB cable. The speaker has a very minimal design being just a circle with no buttons on the front and even in the back other than the power button there isn’t anything else. To increase and decrease the volume you just caress the speaker on the top from the left to right, to decrease the volume you swipe your hand right to left and to mute it you just hold the speaker on the top. The touch controls are very practical to use.

Sound wise the speaker is pretty loud and bassy for it’s size. That’s what actually sold me since I was not expecting the sound to be that big. I mostly listen to indie and electronic music on it and so far there isn’t anything really that it had difficultly playing. If we go back to the looks I should mention the speaker can be customized when it comes to colors. The front fabric cover by default comes in white but you can purchase different colors as well to match your environment like black, red, green etc.. Same with the wooden legs, you can get them in 3 different colors. In case you want to mount the speaker on the wall you can do that too.

Setting up the device was as easy as setting up the Beolit 12 and I didn’t have any trouble although a lot of people do get stuck and frustrated but that’s because they don’t follow instructions. I actually love the iPhone App since it allows me to control the settings on both my B&O devices with great ease.

My only gripe about the A9 and one many of you will remark on is the price, it’s KD890 (including the legs). At that price point it’s pretty much competing with full fledged sound systems that would deliver a lot more bang for the buck. But obviously none would look as good as the A9 or come in as simple a setup. The only other speaker system that I imagine could compete with the A9 is the Parrot Design Zikmu by Philippe Starck. But that isn’t affordable either costing around KD600 and the A9 is nearly 5 times more powerful (100w vs 480w RMS). It’s a luxury product that’s for sure but that’s the case with everything B&O produce. I love it and don’t regret getting it.

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