Solo Pizza Napulitana

Posted by Mark

Around a month ago I found a video on YouTube of a guy in Kuwait making pizzas and since then I’ve been eagerly waiting for them to open up. I’m a huge pizza fan and the pizzas in the video all looked delicious but they hadn’t opened the restaurant yet and so I had to wait. Then a few days ago while I was in Lebanon I get an email saying they’re opening on the 15th but since I was busy yesterday I decided to pass by tonight instead to try them out.

Solo Pizza Napulitana is a new small Kuwaiti owned business that’s located in an old building in Kuwait City right behind the newly opened Japanese restaurant Tatami. From the outside it doesn’t look very appealing and on the inside it’s honestly not that great looking either. But the restaurant is as close as you will get to a mom and pop store in Kuwait. This is not a franchise, this is not a big business, this a tiny pizza joint where the owner makes the pizzas and from what I could tell his friends help him out waiting on tables and taking care of the payments.

I passed by after the gym in my shorts and t-shirt expecting the place to be empty but to my surprise it was pretty packed. I decided to sit on the one table outside but no one served me. So after growing impatient I popped my head inside and asked if I could have a menu. A minute later I got the menu which is pretty small, I think they had only 3 pizzas and 3 salads and maybe 2 desserts. I’m a fan of small menus as I’ve mentioned before and I quickly looked through it and decided to go with the Margherita since I couldn’t find a mushroom pizza on the menu. A few minutes passed by and no one came to get my order so I decided to move inside. I was seriously thinking of just leaving since I didn’t want to wait indefinitely for someone to come get my order but I kept reminding myself that they’ve only been open for 2 days and they’re already packed and probably not prepared for this much pressure. Finally a guy came over and was very apologetic for making me waiting very long. I told him it wasn’t a problem and asked him if they had mushroom pizza. He told me they did so I decided to go with that. From my table I could see the owner prepare my pizza and around 2 minutes after taking my order my pizza arrived. I was thinking to myself that’s ridiculously fast!

The pizza wasn’t sliced up which I thought was interesting since I don’t think I’ve ever had a pizza that didn’t come cut up into triangles. I took some shots quickly and then dug in. What a pizza, it was ammmaaaazing. The pizza crust, the tomato sauce, the cheese, the mushrooms… it was all just delicious and I couldn’t find anything to pick on. I was eating it and thinking to myself where have I ever tasted a pizza that was as good as this and I couldn’t think of any place. I mean sure we don’t have many pizza places in Kuwait to compare to but I’ve had a ton of pizzas in Lebanon and I even just got back from a trip where I tried two new great pizza places over there and yet here I was sitting in this tiny little restaurant in some dodgy back street of Kuwait City having what I thought was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had anywhere.

Once I was done with my pizza and I paid my bill (KD3.750 for the pizza), I decided to go up to the owner and introduce myself. I told him what I thought of his pizzas and he explained to me how he worked at some famous pizzerias in Naples and how he belongs to this group that’s trying to preserve the famous Naples pizza. He also asked me if I noticed how quickly the pizza gets done since it takes less than 60 seconds to cook. I wished him good luck and told him I would definitely be back again.

So if you are looking for what I think are the best pizzas in Kuwait then you need to pass by this place. It’s in a crappy location, it’s tiny and the interior isn’t that great looking but damn the pizza is just really great. Here is a link to their website where you can find a map and a phone number. They’re currently only open for dinner. [Link]


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Review: iPod Shuffle

Posted by Mark

I’ve had a lot of iPods but I don’t think I’ve been impressed with one recently as much as I have been with the latest iPod Shuffle. I got it to use while I am running or walking since the new Nano although small and light, it doesn’t have any physical buttons which makes it difficult to control without looking at the screen. The Shuffle on the other hand is super light and has buttons which for me makes it the perfect iPod for exercising.

Of course the downside is that there is no screen.. you would think but it isn’t. The shuffle has a nifty feature (like the nano) called voice over. There is a little button that you press and a guys voice comes in over your music to tell you what song is currently playing. Click that button twice and the voice tells you how much battery is left. Hold down the button and the voice will flip through your playlist and when you decide on one just press play. This feature is extremely helpful since it really allows you to control the shuffle and find out what you’re listening to all by just feeling your way around the buttons.

Price wise the shuffle is cheap. Sheeel had them on sale for just KD10 and I should have bought one then but I didn’t, instead I bought one from the market for around KD17. Still not too bad, it’s more expensive than Amazon but if you include the shipping cost it comes out the same. The Nano sells for around KD50 here as well so the shuffle is less than half the price. Really the only problem I have with the shuffle is the fact that there is no hold button which is annoying since I accidentally managed to press the forward button a few times by brushing against it. Because of that I was going to give the shuffle a 4.5 out of 5 BUT, I just decided to check the manual and make sure there isn’t a way to put the shuffle on hold and guess what? Turns out there is a hold mode, I just need to press the play/pause button for 3 seconds to activate it. So now it’s perfect. If you’re looking for a music player you don’t want to worry about scratching, breaking or losing and if you prefer physical buttons over a touch screen then the Shuffle is perfect for you. Final score is a 5 out of 5.


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Shawerma: Dandosh

Posted by Mark

When I was walking back home from work the other day I spotted this shawerma place called Dandosh. What grabbed my attention was a red skewer of chicken which according to a friend of mine I met there was their “mexican mix”. So since I was taking a day off from my diet I decided to pass by tonight and try out their shawermas.

I didn’t try their meat but I ended up having three different combinations of chicken shawerma which are:

– Mexican chicken shawerma with regular garlic and fries
– Regular chicken shawerma with red spicy garlic and fries
– Regular chicken shawerma with regular garlic and fries

I had all the above without their onion/greens mix.

The Mexican shawerma was a bit too strange for me. It had a lot of different spices and I tasted a hint of green pepper which I don’t like. The regular chicken shawerma with their special red spicy garlic was good although I thought it was a bit too spicy. My favorite shawerma turned out to be the classic, regular chicken with regular garlic. The garlic wasn’t too strong and the overall combination I think might be better than Badar Al Badoor although I would need to go back and try it one more time just to be sure. They also have benches outside if you want to sit and eat.

I would definitely recommend the place and if you want to know how to get there here is a link to [Google Maps]. For those of you who know where Badar Al Badoor is then it’s very easy to get to Dandosh. Just go straight instead of taking the right turn that takes you towards Badar Al Badoor.


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Review: Sennheiser Adidas PMX 680i

Posted by Mark

I got the headphones above specifically for one thing and that’s to use when exercising. None of my other pairs of headphones are suited for sports because they’re either the type you stick inside your ear which isn’t practical when playing sports or they’re the kind you put over your head and then spend the whole time adjusting them so they don’t fall off. The 680’s are made for sports and I’ve had them for a couple of weeks now and really really love them.

First off these headphones are very light, once you’ve got them on you really can’t tell they’re there. You can also jump up and down, wiggle your head and probably hang upside down and they wouldn’t fall out of your ears. The headphones wrap around over your ears and then behind your head and once you put them on there is absolutely no need to fidget with them anymore, they just stay there the whole time. I’ve used them for running, walking and biking without facing any issues or having to adjust them in the middle of my routine.

The versions I got are the 680i, the “i” standing for ipod or iphone since the remote that comes with it works with them. By that I mean you can pause, play, forward, rewind, fast forward and fast rewind with the remote as well as raising and lowering the volume, activating voice over, answering calls as well as acting like a mic when talking on the phone. Now the problem is ALL the above is done with just 3 buttons. That’s where it gets tricky since you have to memorize a lot of button combinations like a double click is forward, a triple click is rewind, a double click and hold I think is fast forward, a single click and hold does something else… they’re just too many to remember and with my memory all you end up doing is rewinding a song by mistake instead of forwarding it or accidentally ordering pizza while trying to fast rewind.

Sound wise they’re pretty good, at first I found them a bit too bright but that got solved once I put on the tiny black ear foams that came with them. Another solution is to run them through a headphone amplifier like the FiiO E5 which I did and got some great results (without the foams). Only problem is you add bulk by running around with a small amp clipped to you as well as the fact you lose out on the iphone/ipod controls. Overall though I highly recommend these headphones for fitness and other sport activities. I ordered mine from Amazon for $70 but I found the same headphones except the cheaper 680 version without the “i” at Go Sport for KD18.5.

Here is the link to Amazon. [Link]


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Quick Movie Reviews

Posted by Mark

The past few days since I’ve been in Lebanon I’ve been watching a lot of movies at the cinema. Here is a quick summary of what I thought of them:

Unknown
– Not bad, you think you know whats going to happen but then you get a nice surprise. I like Liam Neeson although the past 3 movies I watched he’s played a similar styled character which is becoming as annoying as Johnny Depp.

Battle: Los Angeles
– This might have been a good movie if no one spoke in it. The cheesy cliche dialogue just ruined it for me and nearly put me to sleep a few times. The movie is like Transformers but without the Autobots, just the evil Decepticons.

The Adjustment Bureau
– Watch The 13th Floor or Dark City instead.


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Review: EasyHotel Dubai

Posted by Mark

On my trip to Dubai I decided to stay at EasyHotel. I had a good experience with them on my last trip to London so was interested to see how the hotel was in Dubai. What attracted me to the hotel was the fact rooms start at just KD7.5 a day (99dhms). Yes KD7.5 a day! I thought that was ridiculously cheap and specially for a hotel in Dubai. I looked for reviews online but couldn’t find anything and the only pictures I found were the PR shots. I was a bit worried to book a room but figured what the hell its only for 3 days so worse comes to worse it would be over quickly.

The hotel is located in the Jabel Ali free zone which is around 40 minutes from the airport and 30 minutes from Dubai Mall. I rented a car from the airport and headed with my GPS towards Easy Hotel. Even though the software on my GPS is the 2010 map it seems since the map got released the roads in Dubai changed because the GPS made me take the wrong exit and I spent 40 minutes trying to get back to the main Sheikh Zayed road. Once you find the hotel though its pretty easy to get there.

My first impression with the hotel was positive. The building was very clean and simple on the outside with ample parking underneath. The reception was also very clean with a few vending machines on one side and some computers connected to the internet on the other. I should mention this in case you didn’t know already but Easy Hotel is a no frills hotel in the same way how Jazeera and Fly Dubai are budget airlines. The rooms are cheap but that’s because you get just the basics and you pay for extra stuff. The Easy Hotel I previously tried in London was also extremely tiny (see review here) but if all you care about is a place to sleep at night then you really won’t mind it all.

The rooms at Easy Hotel Dubai are pretty big compared to the London branch. There was ample space around the bed , a flat screen tv (with just 4 channels), a small open closet with shelves and hangers. There was even a little desk next to the window and a small safe to put your items in. The bathroom wasn’t that bad as well, the sink was kinda small but the shower area was pretty big.

As I mentioned with Easy Hotel you pay for extras. For example the fact I wanted a room with a window.. thats an extra cost. If you don’t care about a window then you pay less for the room. TV remote? You pay for that as well (although we were given one for free), extra towels? you pay, Internet? you pay, you want your room cleaned? you pay, water? you pay, room service? its a vending machine in the lobby. Surprisingly I didn’t have to pay to park my car at the hotel!

But with all that I loved staying there and in the end my room with extras came out to just KD10 a night which is still incredibly cheap and this is DUBAI!!. The hotel was super clean, the Internet was fast and the staff were very friendly. From now on that’s the hotel I will be staying in when I fly there.

Things to keep in mind though, you need to rent a car since the hotel is 30 minutes away from places like Dubai Mall. There are no cabs outside or near the hotel so you would have to order one and I don’t know how long that would take. There is a metro nearby but not walking distance. There is also nothing around the hotel, nothing you can walk to. But, because the hotel is so cheap you can splurge on a rental, my Toyota Yaris from Budget cost me just KD15 a day with all the insurance, gas and crossing 4 electronic toll systems a day. Would I recommend EasyHotel? Yes I would.


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SSD Hard Drives

Posted by Mark

Awhile back my MacBook was starting to feel sluggish and I was really tempted to buy a newer model but since I was just using the laptop to get online from the couch or for when I travel, I didn’t think it was worth buying a new laptop. Instead, I decided to upgrade my MacBook from a 2.5inch 5400rpm 250GB hard drive to a 64GB SSD.

What is SSD? SSD stands for solid-state drive and to keep it simple its just a hard drive with no moving parts and is around 5 times faster than regular notebook hard drives. I ordered the ADATA 64GB drive from Amazon since based on my research I found it had the best bang for the buck. I also looked at two other brands before deciding on ADATA which were OCZ Technology and Crucial Technology, both of which have extremely fast performance drives but at a slightly more expensive cost.

I could easily review the drive in just 7 words: “It makes all other computers feel slow”. It cut down the boot time of my MacBook to less than half and it also sped up the launch time of all the applications. For example it now takes 1 second to launch Photoshop while other applications like Safari and Microsoft Word launch practically instantly. No waiting or spinning colored wheel just click and they’re open. The SSD drive not only brought new life to my aging MacBook but for day to day use it made it feel a lot faster than all my other computers including my already very fast iMac and Mac Pro.

I got the 64GB SSD and not something larger because the prices became tooooo expensive with the larger drives. For example a 256GB SSD would cost you around $500 which is nearly half the price of a brand new MacBook! The 64GB drive on the other hand cost me around KD35 with shipping to Kuwait and after installing the OS and ALL my software I still had 40GB of free space left. That’s more than I need since I just use my MacBook to surf the web, edit some pictures and for traveling. If you’re planning on storing media like your photo or music library than I highly doubt 64GB would be enough.

I would definitely recommend everyone pick up an SSD drive if you can, it really makes a HUGE difference. But, if you need a large drive and are not in a rush, the longer you wait the cheaper the prices will get. Here is the Amazon link to the hard drive I got [Link]


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The Piaggio MP3

Posted by Mark

After dropping off the Vespa over the weekend I picked up the Italian made Piaggio MP3 and looking at the picture you will straight away notice that this bike is in fact a trike since it has two wheels in the front and one in the back. It’s a strange and futuristic looking scooter that to me could have been perfect if it wasn’t for two annoyances which I will discuss later.

The MP3 has a few features I liked which the Vespa didn’t, first of all it shows me the outside temperature on the digital display. This was actually important the past few days since I wanted to know how much I was freezing my ass off. Secondly it had a large front windscreen which helped block the wind from my upper body which played a crucial role in keeping me warm during the cold mornings. Finally and most importantly it had three wheels! The three wheels were a bit strange to get used to at first but they quickly grew on me. They offer better grip on the road specially when it’s wet and the MP3 felt a lot more stable at high speeds and when running over potholes. It also brakes a lot better than a regular two wheeled bike. In one incident I was riding in the left lane on the Gulf Road when the car in front of me decided to slam the brakes and make an illegal u-turn (seriously wtf?!) I quickly slammed the brakes and swerved into the middle lane and managed to avoid him. Later I realized if I was on a two wheeled bike I would very probably have slid the bike doing that. The scooter can also hit highways speeds easily so you can take this onto the ring roads and not worry about being too slow. As you can see in the video above it also has a lot of storage space.

Now that I got all the good stuff out of the way here are the negatives. There are three issues I found, 2 being major. The first minor problem is the fact that the scooter isn’t as nimble as the Vespa in parked traffic. The MP3 is a heavy scooter and a big one so weaving around parked cars in traffic is a lot more difficult. But that’s a minor issue. The two major issues I have with the MP3 relate to comfort. I found the MP3’s seat uncomfortable. I’m 6’1 and so I found the seat a bit low for my height and it also felt like it was tilted forward. The Vespa on the other hand was extremely comfortable and made me want to spend more time on the bike while the seat on the MP3 was giving me a wedgie the whole time. The second comfort related problem I faced was with the foot rest. The right footrest of the MP3 had a foot brake that activates all three brakes of the bike at once. I didn’t feel comfortable using the foot pedal so I had to place my big feet behind it which resulted in very little and cramped leg room.

So although I was really impressed with the MP3, the two comfort issues were a major let down specially since this is a scooter I would easily have considered for long trips. The Piaggio MP3 I rode was a 400cc and costs around KD2,800. They have a 250cc version for cheaper as well. If you’re interested here is the link to the Bike World website [Link]

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Note: If you are a company and have an interesting product you want me to review (bikes, cars, gadgets, whatever) then email me. Reviews are for free. I get content to post while you get publicity, here is the [Contact Form]. I must be allowed to post a positive or negative review!


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Review: Microsoft Kinect

Posted by Mark

Last week X-Cite sent me a Kinect to review for the blog. I had been reading a lot about it online (mostly all the cool hacks people were doing) and was interested to try it out. The Kinect is Microsoft’s answer to the Wii and the Sony Move except unlike either of those two, the Kinect doesn’t use a physical controller, you become a controller. When I first opened the box I was surprised by the size, I was expecting it to be smaller but the Kinect is pretty big. I struggled to find a place to put it (you’re supposed to have it either on top of your tv or below). The second issue I ran into was space, the Kinect requires you to be standing at least 1.8 meters away from it. My living room is pretty small so it was having trouble detecting me. Finally I moved the Kinect to my other TV where I had more space in front of it and managed to get it working there.

The Kinect is freaky, it recognizes you, your hands, your head, your legs… your whole body. With the Wii and PS3 you need to actually hold a controller in your hand and move that around but with the Kinect you don’t need any of that. It’s like a much more advanced version of the PlayStation Eye. In the games I was playing, if I put my hand on my head so would my character in the game, if I clapped my hands or started stomping my feet so would my character. It felt like I was inside the game.

The Kinect comes with a game called Kinect Adventures. Inside it there are five different games that show off the Kinect’s abilities. The games are:

20,000 Leaks – In this game you’re basically standing in a glass room under the sea and fish and sharks come and bang the glass to create leaks. You need to try and cover the leaks as they happen. In some cases you get 5 leaks at the same time so you have a hand on every leak, your head covering another leak and each foot on a leak as well. It’s fun for a few minutes but gets boring quickly. In two player mode it’s slightly more fun.

River Rush – You’re on a raft going down the river and you should avoid obstacles by either shifting your weight to one side of the raft or by jumping. I didn’t find this fun even when playing it two players.

Rally Ball – This was my favorite game, it’s a mixture between the classic breakout game and dodge ball. You have to throw a ball towards objects down a hallway and try to get rid of them. Sometimes you hit objects that doubles or triples the amount of balls so you have to start moving quickly trying to throw them all back at the objects. Me and my brother enjoyed playing this the most.

Reflex Ridge
– The most physically exhausting game of the bunch since it’s kinda like a track and field game. You’re standing on a moving railway cart and you need to avoid objects by other jumping, ducking, moving left or moving right. Video games shouldn’t be this physically active and after one round I was all sweaty and out of breath.

Space Pop
– The most boring game of the bunch, you’re in space and you need to float up and pop balloons all around. Not fun, didn’t even bother playing it two players.

Playing the games two players is more fun than alone. You only need one Kinect to play games two players but you need to stand at least 2.2meters away from the Kinect device. The games that come with the Kinect aren’t that great but since they’re free you can’t complain that much. There are more games you can buy that work with Kinect but I didn’t have a chance to try them. The PlayStation Move is more advanced than the Wii and sometimes like in a first person shooter it would be cool to physically hold an assault riffle, but the Microsoft Kinect is a more advanced system than the Move and because your whole body becomes a controller it really opens up a lot of doors. I’m giving it a 4.5 out of 5. I just wish the games that came with it were more fun.

The Kinect is available at X-Cite as either a standalone for KD54.9 or with the Xbox Slim 4GB for KD126 or with an Xbox Slim 250GB for KD148.


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My Fiat 500 experience

Posted by Mark

After I posted about the Fiat 500 being available in Kuwait their brand manager contacted me and offered the Fiat 500 to test drive over the weekend. So I picked it up on Thursday and spent the weekend just driving the 500 around.

The car is cute, to me it’s like a Vespa except it has 4 wheels. Everywhere I went people would check it out, kinda like the effect the Mini and VW Beetle had when they were modernized and first launched. The dealer has currently imported one version of the Fiat 500 which is the Lounge model with the 1.4L engine. It’s fully loaded with leather seats, electric sunroof, dual logic semi automatic transmission, automatic climate control, steering wheel controls, fog lights, chrome trimmings and more. It generates only 100hp which I thought would be pretty lifeless but was actually surprised by the performance… for a small 1.4L car.

Friday morning I woke up and headed out to the junkyard to take pictures of the car. I know junkyard? But truthfully it’s one of my favorite places to take pictures since the place has a lot of color. Driving the Fiat 500 on the 6th ring road the car easily managed to keep pace at 120KM/h without a sweat. What I found though is that the car is a lot more fun to drive in more densely populated roads and areas where the Fiat is easy to maneuver and navigate. Finding parking isn’t a problem for the 500, I got to Ruby’s Friday night and found a tiny parking spot where some motorbikes had parked, with a little skilled maneuvering I was able to squeeze the Fiat in and parked alongside the motorbikes. The trunk is pretty small as well with enough room to fit just one large travel bag. But when you fold down the rear sits you end up with a lot more space. I picked up my dad from the airport Friday night and I managed to fit two large bags and one carry-on with still plenty of room to spare. The interior console is also pretty cool, very retro and definitely an eye grabber. Headroom was a slight issue for me, I’m 6’1 and had maybe an inch or two of clearance on top of my head so someone taller than me might have a problem.

For me the car would make a lot of sense back in Lebanon, the low gas consumption and the small size would make a perfect day to day car. I could easily imagine myself driving the Fiat 500 to work daily and then using the Toyota FJ on the weekends. In Kuwait on the other hand gas is cheap and unless you’re driving around in Shuwaikh at 1PM you could really drive around in a Hummer H1 and not run into problems. But I guess sometimes when you just need to go on a quick short trip, maybe you need to go down to Hawalli and pick up a new hard drive or pass by Sultan Center in Salmiya on a weekend, I can see the Fiat being very practical in those cases. University students looking for a first car might also be attracted to it. There aren’t that many cars in the Fiat’s price range which have a personality of it’s own.

The Fiat dealership is launching sometime at the end of the month. At first they will just be selling the Fiat 500 but they will also be bringing in other Fiat models as well. The Fiat 500 is selling for KD6,500 which is similar to the UK prices. They’re also going to be bringing in a model without a sunroof which should cost around KD6,000. Now the #1 question I was asked by my friends about the car is if the dealer will be bringing the turbo charged Abarth models. Well according to the brand manager they are currently in talks with Abarth and they’re hoping to open the first Abarth dealership in the region here in Kuwait. So that’s good news for people waiting for the Abarth model. If you have any questions about the car you can ask me in the comments below and I’ll try to answer it.


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