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Monday, December 08, 2008

Balducci Ristorante and Deli, Serendra

I hadn't seen my favorite couple Travis and Meling in a while, so I arranged to have dinner with them at Balducci Restaurant at Serendra. They live near Alabang, so I figured the Fort would be a good compromise in terms of driving effort on both our parts.

I ordered their ravioli in cream sauce, or "Ravioli alla Balducci di Ricotta e mascarpone". In terms of volume, it was not a lot; just the usual serving of ravioli. But in terms of heaviness (and calories!) it was more than enough to fill my stomach.

Ravioli in Cream Sauce

I also had some of the pizza that Trav and Meling ordered, since it contained only seafood. I like Balducci. I like its dark interiors and its food, which is priced similarly to those in nearby restaurants. It was a nice place to meet up with my good old friends, and a good jumping off point for drinks somewhere else in the area.

Balducci Ristorante & Deli
Serendra, Bonifacio High Street
Fort Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City, Metro Manila
Tel. No.(632)856.0676

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Noodle festival at EDSA Shangri-la

The following entry is a story I wrote for the lifestyle section of I will write a separate entry to talk about the food that I ate during the press lunch held to promote this festival. The festival runs until November 27, so noodle fans, you have a couple of days left to catch it.

Chinese chef demonstrates art of noodle-making at EDSA Shangri-la

By ALEX ALIKPALA, | 11/23/2008 12:18 PM

Noodles are a ubiquitous presence in Filipino culture, from noodle dishes served on birthdays to symbolize long life, to instant noodles that now make up a big part of the busy Filipino’s diet.

Noodles in hot soup (or cold, if one prefers) certainly qualifies as comfort food, to be eaten plain or fancy, depending on one’s mood.

There is much more to the common noodle; for example, the way it is made. Although a lot of these are now factory-made, Filipinos can witness the art of making noodles by hand.

EDSA Shangri-la’s Heat Restaurant is paying homage to this comfort food by having a noodle festival. The hotel’s General Manager Christopher Chia calls China the “noodle capital of the world”.

Thus, they have brought in a chef from China, Chef Wang-Yi of Shangri-La Hotel in Xian, to demonstrate the different ways that noodles are made.

There is a live noodle-pulling station at the restaurant where guests are shown how one piece of dough is transformed into hundreds of noodles through the simple process of pulling. Chef Wang-Yi said that the number of strings produced from one piece of dough depends on the tensile strength and elasticity of the dough.

Chef Wang Yi, who speaks only in Mandarin, said through an interpreter that if the dough’s tensile strength is enough, he can make noodles that are as fine as hair.

Another way of preparing noodles is by slicing it with a knife. This process is rather dramatic and looks just a bit dangerous, if not done by an old hand.

The chef deftly slices off noodle-thin pieces from a lump of dough as big as a fat loaf of bread into a boiling pot of water. He said it took him six months to learn this technique.

A less complicated way of making noodles results in the hand-pressed pearl noodle. Diners can try this for themselves as it does not involve much skill. All one needs to do is cut off a tiny piece of dough and roll it under one’s thumb until it curls up into a shape that is much a like a small seashell’s.

Pearl noodles

The dishes served at the festival include knife-sliced noodles with minced pork sauce, hand-pressed pearl noodle soup, and traditional homemade noodles sprinkled with sesame oil and chili powder. The noodles are available in buckwheat and egg variants, and come in carrot and spinach flavors. These dishes go very well with dimsum.

EDSA Shangri-la’s Director of Communications Malou Rosal said they hold such food festivals and invite guest chefs to expose their diners to the cuisine offered by the hotel’s branches in other countries. “We hold these festivals for food authenticity,” she said.

The noodle station is available for lunch and dinner until November 27th at EDSA Shangri-la’s Heat Interactive Restaurant.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Crispy Bangus at Jollibee

There are limited choices to be had for pescetarians in fast food chains. This is why it's not very hard for me to decide what to order in these places. At McDonald's, I have the Filet O' Fish; at Burger King, I have their Big Fish sandwich, at Wendy, I order the Shrimp Sandwich and at Jollibee, I have their Tuna Pie. (At KFC I have to content myself with mashed potatoes and coleslaw.)

I was recently pleasantly surprised to see that Jollibee had another fish offering, and this is their Crispy Bangus. You can order this as a one-piece or a two-piece meal. During breakfast hours, the one-piece bangus meal (with fried egg, garlic rice, and sliced tomato) costs P64.00.

During regular hours, the meal is priced at P62.00 for the one-piece version, and P99.00 for two pieces of fish. It doesn't come with the egg after breakfast hours though, and the rice served with it is plain, not garlic.

The fish is very tasty. Although the piece of fish is not very big, its taste will be enough to accompany the rice. If you're in the mood for a very Pinoy-tasting meal, this will definitely do.

I hope this meal will be available for some time to come. I noticed that fish products rarely last very long at Jollibee. Years ago, they tried out a couple of versions of tuna sandwich, then they had fish and fries (fried fish fillet with french fries), both of which were eventually phased out.

Then a few years ago they introduced their Tuna Pie, which also disappeared for a while. I was glad when they eventually brought it back to life. Products like these are usually given a new lease on life during the Lenten season, when people try to abstain from eating meat.

I remember that McDonald's also pulled out their Filet O' Fish (to my dismay) for awhile. They brought it back only after a few months, and yes, the sandwich's comeback was timed for Lent. Wendy's shrimp sandwich started out as a Lenten offering, so I'm glad they eventually made it a part of their regular menu.

I do wish fast food chains would no longer pull out their fish/seafood products. It's very disappointing for a very hungry pescetarian to pull up to one of their stores in the hope of grabbing a quick bite and find that there is absolutely nothing there to eat. (French fries and a sundae do not really count as a meal.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Antonio's in Tagaytay is #10 Asian Restaurant in "The Miele Guide"

The Miele Guide describes itself as "the first authoritative and independent restaurant guide to Asia’s finest restaurants". Antonio's Fine Dining in Tagaytay was the only Philippine restaurant to make it to the guide's top 20.

According to The Miele Guide's website, "Thousands of people from around the world cast more than 75,000 votes for restaurants in 16 countries. Despite the intense competition, there were some restaurants that garnered significantly more votes (from both the voting public and our Special Jury) than others—which mean the restaurants at the top of our list truly stood out against their peers."

Here is their first-ever list (The Miele Guide was just launched a few days ago).

1. Iggy’s, Singapore
2. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Hong Kong, China
3. Les Amis, Singapore
4. Gunther’s, Singapore
5. Mozaic, Bali, Indonesia
6. Robuchon a Galera, Macau, China
7. Garibaldi, Singapore
8. Yung Kee, Hong Kong, China
9. Hutong, Hong Kong, China
10. Antonio’s Fine Dining, Tagaytay, The Philippines
11. Caprice, Hong Kong, China
12. Zuma, Hong Kong, China
13. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Tokyo, Japan
14. Bukhara, New Delhi, India
15. Grissini, Hong Kong, China
16. Nobu, Hong Kong, China
17. M on the Bund, Shanghai, China
18. Fook Lam Moon, Hong Kong, China
19. Zanotti, Bangkok, Thailand
20. Kyubey, Tokyo, Japan

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween pastries at Hong Kong Disneyland

My friend Michelle insisted that we could not leave Hong Kong without going to see Mickey Mouse in Disneyland. I wasn't in the mood for theme park-ing, but since she stated this vehemently, Yeng convinced me to go with them to have Michelle's wish granted.

We got to Disneyland pretty late, so we didn't really have time to go on a lot of rides. After Michelle's photo-op with old Mickey, mostly we sat around and ate whatever was there (we're on holiday, remember?). Since Halloween was fast approaching, there were some spooky-themed pastries that we could buy.

These were really cute, but they weren't really very good to eat. They were a bit dry and hard. But I gave them an A for presentation. After all, it was how these pastries looked that got us to buy them.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hong Kong food trip

Yeng is getting married in the US in December, so she asked me and our other friends from the defunct morning show Alas Singko Y Medya if we could go out of the country to bond before she exchanged "I do's". After much discussion about conflicts in schedule, the group finally set off for Hong Kong.

One of our first meals when we got there was at a nondescript noodle house in the middle of a random street. We were very hungry at the time after a lot of walking around, so we just decided to eat at practically the first place that we saw after we all realized we were hungry.

I ordered some noodles with prawn dumplings, as well as some fried fish skin. I finished the noodles, mostly because I was so hungry, but I didn't finish the fish skin, mostly because it was too fishy.

Fresh Prawn Won Ton Noodles

Deep Fried Crispy Fish Skin

My sister-in-law Tintin believes that Hong Kong is incomparable as far as strike-anywhere dining taste is concerned. She often raves about how good the food is in HK, no matter where you eat. I personally prefer the food in Bangkok, and the fare in this first meal in Hong Kong I had with my friends only strengthened this preference. Then again, it's too early to pass judgment. Maybe when we are not in such a rush, and have more time to think about where to eat, I'll come across a meal that's worth raving about.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Omakase Restaurant, Tomas Morato, Quezon City

My friend Kennie (one of my reliable eating partners) and I had an impromptu get together one night. She called to say we should have dinner, and that she felt like having some Japanese food. I suggested that we eat at Omakase Restaurant, which I’d heard so much about from other friends but never had the chance to visit.

Spider Maki

She was hesitant at first. She told me that she’d eaten there once, and that she was not very happy with what she had. Thankfully, Kennie was willing to give it another chance, saying that maybe she just ordered the wrong thing that one time.

She picked me up after work and off we went to the restaurant. The place was pretty packed, but we managed to get ourselves seated at a booth. We ordered the usual things- ebi tempura, fried tofu, and miso soup. Then we ordered the rolls that were to be the highlight of the meal.

The ubiquitous Ebi Tempura

The tempura, tofu, and miso soup tasted pretty much like they do in similar Japanese restaurants. So, although they were okay, they were not particularly memorable. However, Kennie and I were both very happy with the rolls that we had. She ordered the Dynamite Roll, which had some spicy scallops while I had the Spider Roll, which had soft-shell crab. I liked the slight spicy kick of the Dynamite Roll, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Spider Roll’s soft-shell crab, something I don’t get enough of.

Dynamite Roll

We polished them off in good time (along with the other things we ordered). The rolls were delicious, and Kennie and I congratulated ourselves on the success of our orders. We both repeatedly said that we were happy that we chose to go to Omakase after all.

Omakase Restaurant
Scout Rallo corner Tomas Morato
Quezon City, Philippines
(02) 412-0002

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mocha Mudpie at T.G.I.Friday's

Mocha Mudpie

One other dessert that is guaranteed to give me pleasure is Friday’s Mocha Mudpie. It’s rather pricey as desserts go (then again, almost everything in that restaurant is), but I am willing to shell out the cost of this dessert for the happiness that it consistently gives me. (With a minimal tip, one order would end up costing P300.)

When I was in the US, I would try to order this whenever I found myself at T.G.I.Friday’s. But either it had been discontinued (at least where I tried to ask for it), or it was never part of their menu. So, when I got back to Manila, this dessert was one of the first things I had.

I’ve been having this dessert for years, and I have to say that as satisfying as it’s been, the way it’s been presented is sometimes inconsistent. The dessert consists of a chocolate cookie crust, ice cream, almond slivers, and a thick chocolate fudge topping. The composition of the dessert has been pretty much the same, by which I mean those ingredients are always present. However, the amount of fudge is what has changed from time to time.

The last time I had it, the top was just crisscrossed with the fudge. I am used to having the entire top of the Mudpie covered with it, sometimes even dripping down the sides and covering the bottom of the plate. Whenever I find that the fudge is much less than I’d think to be ideal, I find a way to fix it. That is, I ask for extra “mud”. The servers always graciously give me some more, which is why I always end up satisfied anyway.

The dessert is a little too big for one person to consume after a complete meal (it IS an American franchise after all), so I usually share it with whomever I’m eating with at the time. Sometimes though, if I’m in the mood to have a little more of it, I just forego the meal and have one whole Mudpie to myself. Not the most nutritional lunch or dinner one could have, but the perfect choice for some comfort eating, or that much-needed sugar rush.

Hotel Rembrandt
Tomas Morato Avenue
Quezon City

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gran Caffe Casanova Ristorante Italiano, QC

My friend Angel was telling me to try this Italian restaurant in Quezon City that can be found in a place that I might have a hard time getting to. But considering that I get lost very easily, that's not exactly something that would distinguish one place from another. Actually, my pride was a little piqued when she said this, so I resolved to find my way there without asking for any help. (But only after I got detailed directions, of course.)

We decided to meet up at the restaurant with our other friend Kennie. Angel couldn't really remember the name of the restaurant, but I found it easily enough. (Hah!) It turns out that the name was quite a mouthful- Gran Caffe Casanova Ristorante Italiano. It had very cozy interiors, and looked very much like a date place.

We tried their ricotta-filled spinach ravioli (ravioli verdi ricotta spinaci) and their four-cheese pasta (quattro formaggi). Angel and Kennie also shared a pizza with chicken. I liked both the ricotta and the four-cheese pasta, mostly because of the cheese (of course). I liked the taste of the ravioli better though.

Four cheese pasta

Both dishes were very heavy, as expected; not exactly diet food. Then again, when I'm out with my friends (especially these two), dieting is not exactly on anyone's mind. I would probably go back to this restaurant, because we weren't able to try any of their desserts this time.

Gran Caffe Casanova Ristorante Italiano
The Clubhouse, Corinthian Hills
Temple Drive
Quezon City, Metro Manila
Tel. No. (632)638.2989

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I heart Uno Restaurant (Tomas Morato, Quezon City)

Uno Restaurant (or Restaurant Uno, depending on how you choose to read the sign that hangs outside its quaint glass and dark wood façade) has been one of my favorite restaurants in the Tomas Morato area since I started working for ABS-CBN twelve years ago. It is a favorite among my work friends as well.

There are many things to love about the place. First off, there’s the (free) store-made bread that they serve almost immediately after they seat you. It’s usually freshly baked, and you can ask for basket after basket without being charged an extra centavo. Then there’s the bottomless iced tea and brewed coffee. Sometimes, when I’m having an intense conversation with a friend in the restaurant, I mindlessly eat the bread and drink iced tea until I’m almost too full to eat any more when the main course arrives.

Another thing I like about Uno is that they change their menu every so often (every quarter, if I’m not mistaken). This means a regular customer never gets bored of their dishes. The obvious downside of this is that if there’s a particular dish you love, it might be gone in a few months. Sometimes though, if you ask nicely, and if they have the ingredients on hand, they will whip up the dish for you, even if it’s off the menu already.

Spinach tortellini

I went there a couple of times recently to get together with some old friends from work, and I ended up very happy with my selections. One time, I had the Spinach Tortellini, while my friends ordered two other kinds of pasta. We all had a taste of each other’s food, and the tortellini that I ordered was declared the winner of the bunch (or, as I like to call the winning dish in these informal contests, Ms. Universe).

Another time, I ordered their lunch special, Sashimi-grade Seared Tuna Steak, which came with a salad. I enjoyed this meal as well. The fish was fresh, and the couscous went perfectly with it.

Sashimi-grade tuna steak with couscous

A visit to Uno for me is never complete without ordering dessert, and the choice is usually Fallen cake, their version of the flourless chocolate cake. For some reason though, that time, the cream that usually tops it was liquid, running down the sides of the slice, instead of the whipped version, crowning the cake. No matter. I still loved it. I’ve started ordering their brownie though, and I like this as well. Both go perfectly with coffee.

Fallen flourless chocolate cake

Uno, because of its ambience, its helpful and loyal staff (some of them have been around since my first visit there), and of course the food, is a perfect choice for having an extended lunch with friends. Just make sure you have a LOT of time to linger. If it’s a regular workday, you are highly likely to stay longer than the one hour your company usually allows.

Uno Restaurant
195 Tomas Morato cor. Sct. Fuentebella
Quezon City
Telephone no. (02)374-0774

Monday, September 08, 2008

Molten Chocolate Cake at Chili's

One of the most comforting things in the world in my book (and I know many will agree) is a delicious, sufficiently-calorie-laden dessert, preferably involving chocolate. I have a short list of my favorites, and sometimes when I am having a hard time deciding which restaurant to eat at, I would simply choose one which serves one of my top sweets.

Molten Chocolate Cake

The Molten Chocolate Cake of Chili's Grill and Bar is part of my list. When my girlfriends and I want to meet up after not seeing each other for awhile, we often go to Chili's, so we can have some of this cake while catching up on the latest gossip.

Since this cake is quite big for only one person to consume (especially after a big meal), we just order one, and ask for extra forks. Don't get me wrong, though, it's not as if I'm talking about a big group who will have to divide the cake amongst four or five people. Usually, it's just me and one other friend, two at most. If we had to divide this cake more than three ways, it wouldn't last five minutes.

This cake never fails to satisfy me. I think it's the combination of the coldness of the ice cream and the heat of the gush of chocolate filling. That hot/cold sensation... Bad for the teeth, fantastic for the palate (and sometimes, for the soul).

Chili's Grill and Bar
Tomas Morato Ave.
Quezon City

26 Missouri Street cor. Nevada
Greenhills, San Juan

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cibo Restaurant at 9501 closing down?

My good friend Kate called my mobile yesterday morning and started the conversation off with a rather alarming opening sentence. "I have some bad news," she said. From the rather light tone of her voice (considering her words), I figured it wasn't REALLY horrible news. So I said, "Have you done something bad?" It was a rather ungenerous comment, I realized too late, but there it was. She laughed and said that of course she hadn't.

Anyway, after that mysterious opening salvo, she came out and told me that the branch of Cibo in our office building was closing down at the end of September. This WAS bad news. That Cibo has been around for years, and I've had countless satisfying lunches with my office friends there. We even know the servers by name. They hand us Cibo giveaways whenever Christmas comes around, as a token of thanks for our loyal patronage.

Kate and I would laughingly bump into each other in the restaurant, both of us coincidentally planning to dine there alone. It was a place of refuge when things got a little too hectic at work. No better way to beat stress than with a plate of Farfalle a la Genovese.

I had lunch there today with Kate to find out for myself if the rumor was true (and also to partake of said farfalle). The server confirmed Kate's earlier report, and it certainly looks like one of my favorite restaurants will no longer be around (at least in a place where I can walk to) in a matter of weeks. One of my comfort zones will disappear.

Which is why I intend to eat farfalle every week this month. I have to give the closing down of Cibo a tribute it deserves.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Asian Delights Cafe, Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Malaysia

Our dive trip to Sipadan was drawing to a close, and we were on the last leg of the epic journey back home (going to and from Sipadan included air, land, and sea transfers within Malaysia). We were in Kota Kinabalu International Airport, and we had a couple of hours to kill after checking in, so we had some time to have a last Malaysian lunch. We ended up in Asian Delights Cafe at the airport. An unassuming place, but good enough for our purposes (we were hungry enough to be not very choosy). I had their Malaysian Style Tenggiri Fish Rice, and I ended up quite satisfied with it.

Malaysian Style Tenggiri Fish Rice

This was one instance when the food they served actually looked better than it did in the photo in the menu. It also tasted better than I expected. I really like Malaysian food, and this airport meal turned out to be all right as my final meal in Malaysia, at least for now.

Asian Delights Cafe
Mezzanine Floor, Terminal 2
Kota Kinabalu International Airport

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Joey Pepperoni Pizzeria

There's a Joey Pepperoni Pizzeria across the street from our office, so one lunch break, some of my officemates invited me to have some pizza there. I found that they offered budget-friendly set meals, so I ordered the one that gave me some pesto pasta and two slices of vegetarian pizza. The pasta came with some garlic bread, which I liked best among what I had on the plate.

What I was really looking forward to, however, was their frozen cappuccino mud pie. I was hoping it tasted somewhat like my favorite mudpie in Friday's, but it didn't. Joey Pepperoni's version was just as sweet, but the texture was not as fine. In fact, I could taste the grains of sugar in it.

Frozen Cappuccino Mud Pie

Taking the prices into consideration though, it wasn't a bad lunch at all. The meals were easy on the pocket, and can probably compete with the other restaurants in the area.

(Blogger's note: The branch mentioned here has since closed down, but other Joey Pepperoni branches are very much alive and kicking.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Secret Recipe at the Fort

My friend Kennie is one of my favorite eating partners, mostly because she can eat as much as I can. This means I don't feel like a pig when I have dinner (or dessert) with her. She actually amazed me with her capacity to chow down (and this is not easy to do), when we once had a buffet dinner at a Japanese restaurant. She had plate after plate after plate of this dish and that... but I digress.

Since Kennie is an athlete and a badminton champion, she can afford to eat a lot. Her daily training as a professional player burns a lot of calories. This is how she manages to eat as much as she does, without turning into a blimp.

After an extended period of not seeing each other, we finally fixed our schedules and made dinner plans one night. She invited me to try one of her recent favorite restaurants, Secret Recipe at the Fort.

I went to her house and she drove us to the Fort, which I really appreciated. I hate going to that place because I get lost so easily in that area. Because Kennie took over the driving, we got there in good time.

She ordered the Curry Seafood Laksa, while I had the Caribbean Style Dory. I liked my fish, but I ended up eating off Kennie's bowl a lot. I like curry, and I should've ordered what Kennie did, instead of finishing all the soup from her bowl and stealing her calories (which I could ill-afford anyway).

Caribbean Style Dory

Curry Seafood Laksa

After our meal, Kennie suggested that I try the Chocolate Banana Cake. She said that the main reason she invited me to try this restaurant was actually because she liked this dessert a lot.

Because of her recommendation, I had high expectations for the cake. I was a bit disappointed when it arrived though. Kennie herself said that it was a bit drier than what she normally had. It wasn't all bad, but it just didn't live up to the hype.

Chocolate Banana

Secret Recipe
Ground Level, 32nd St. cor. 5th Ave.
Fort Bonifacio
Taguig City, Philippines
Tel. No. (632)856-2953

Monday, July 07, 2008

My current addiction at Cibo

One thing I like about Cibo is that each time I eat there, I can always rely on the food to taste almost exactly as it did the last time I visited it. The pasta is always al dente, and the sauces are consistent in their... well... consistency.

There is a branch of the restaurant in our office which has been around for almost a decade. It's the place I go to when I particularly want to be alone during a meal. It's perfect because there are booths which afford a degree of privacy, and also because I can count on having food that I will surely enjoy.

Farfalle ala Genovese

One of my favorite dishes there is called Farfalle ala Genovese. Farfalle is my favorite kind of pasta because I think it's very cute and fun to look at. I also don't like pasta that is thin (which is the best way I can find to describe it), like angel hair, or even spaghetti. I like pasta that I can really bite into, like penne, rigatoni, and farfalle.

The sauce of Farfalle ala Genovese has cream, pesto, and mushrooms. The combination is just heavenly to me. It's very heavy and I usually feel super bloated after having a plateful. But I don't much care. I really enjoy this dish, and recently, my fondness for it has been revived.

I recently had it three days in a row, and in one of those days, I had it for lunch AND dinner. After that week, I've had to consciously stop myself from going to Cibo so often. It was throwing my food budget off-whack, not to mention that all that cream has made my jeans a little too tight.

I do miss it though, and if my wallet and weight were not a consideration, I'd eat Farfalle ala Genovese every day of the week.

ABS-CBN Compound
Mother Ignacia St.
Quezon City, Philippines
Phone number: (63 2)410-2116,(63 2)410-2122

Friday, June 27, 2008

Laguna Garden Cafe, Cebu City

I recently flew with some friends to Cebu to join a Dive Safari- a scuba diving trip that took us to various underwater sites off Cebu, Bohol, and Dumaguete. The diving was fantastic, and the food, just as great.

One of the restaurants we went to was called Laguna Garden Cafe. We went there after all our diving was done, and we were just spending some time around Cebu City. The cafe served traditional Filipino food, and frankly, we wanted to order everything on the menu (and very nearly did). When we got there, it was early enough to have breakfast. So we ordered Pandesal with Kesong Puti, and Suman, Mangga, at Tsokolate (among other things).

SMT-Suman, Mangga, at Tsokolate

Pandesal with Kesong Puti

We enjoyed the food so much that we stayed there long enough to have lunch. I ordered Baked Scallops, while my friends ordered various dishes with rice. Looking at our second round of orders, you wouldn't suspect that we all just had breakfast a few minutes earlier.

Baked Scallops

We stayed in the restaurant for quite some time, and it wasn't just because the food was good. The ambience was also perfect for whiling away time with friends. The lighting, the comfortable chairs, and the decor all contributed to a very enjoyable, leisurely, and pretty long meal.

I want to go back to Cebu soon, for the diving, and the dining.

Laguna Garden Cafe
Garden Row 1 Biliran Road
Cebu Business Park
Cebu City, Philippines
Tel. No. (032)233.8600

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Likha Diwa sa Gulod, Quezon City

I've been going to Likha Diwa sa Gulod for a few years now, usually with my friend Yvette. The place is pescetarian and vegetarian-friendly, so I like going there knowing there are many things I could have from the menu. The place is frequented by people who work in NGOs, as well as students and faculty from nearby UP Diliman.

Yvette and I used to work in an NGO along Katipunan, which is probably when we got to hear of the place. She now works with the UN (specifically, in Lebanon), and I work in media, but we still both like going to the place when we do get together. We see familiar faces in Likha Diwa, people we used to work with in the past.

A few years ago, we would go there often after an afternoon of wall-climbing in PowerUp Tandang Sora. The restaurant is quite near the climbing gym, and having the choco-banana dessert at Likha Diwa was always a good way to reward ourselves after a particularly gruelling workout.

Choco Banana Dessert

During our most recent visit to the restaurant, I had some salted egg salad, and daing na bangus which also came with salted egg. That was not really the most healthful of choices, but again, I don't go there necessarily to eat healthfully. I like salted egg, and I felt like having a lot of it that evening.

Salted Egg Salad

Daing na Bangus with Salted Egg

There are actually a lot of healthy choices on the menu of Likha Diwa. However, I sometimes choose not have these. I just go there usually to have the choco banana dessert. Everything else is considered a prelude to the main event.

Likha Diwa sa Gulod
Vegetarian and Seafood Cafe
C.P. Garcia, Krus na Ligas
Quezon City
Tel. No. (632)925.5522

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tang's Asian Fusion Restaurant

My friend Gines invited me and our friend Alain to pig out on Chinese food at Tang's, which is owned by the company he works for. He said that the restaurant had the best Pata Tim (made of pig's leg) in town. I wasn't enticed by this, understandably, but it was enough to get Alain's interest.

I was sure there would be a lot of seafood I could eat, as is usual in Chinese restaurants, so it didn't take much convincing for me to come along.

There were so many dishes, I wasn't quite sure where to start. When I saw the Century Egg with Japanese Tofu, I made it my first stop. The dish made me sentimental because my friend Yuying used to prepare this for me. It wasn't the exact same recipe, but the taste was similar enough.

Century Egg with Japanese Tofu

After that, I went through the crab, more century egg, this time with jellyfish (Yuying also used to make a similar dish), some fried shrimp, and many others. With a lot of Shanghai Fried Rice on the side, I might add.

Golden Brown Crab

Century Egg with Jellyfish

Shanghai Fried Rice

While I was attacking the seafood dishes, Gines and Alain got busy with the Pata Tim, which Alain declared to be excellent.

Pig out, we certainly did. It's difficult not to do so in a Chinese restaurant, especially in one like Tang's.

Tang's Asian Fusion Restaurant
Glorietta 3 (Besides Gold's Gym)
Ayala Center, Makati City
Tel. No. 816.1340

Monday, June 02, 2008

Proud Mary Cafe and Diner, Quezon City

A restaurant that my friend Chi recently invited me to try is Proud Mary Cafe. It's very near our office, and she said she noticed the place because she has passed by it so many times. She finally decided to give it a shot, so off we went. It's walking distance from the station, so it's convenient for us as well, considering gas prices.

It's a small place, but clean and quiet. (According to Chi, it's owned by some people from ABS-CBN.) We got there a bit early for lunch, so there were no other people around. Just the way I like it.

I ordered their fried catfish, which is served with eggplant and bagoong. The fish and bagoong went perfectly with the rice. I don't normally like finishing a whole cup of rice with a meal, but this time I just couldn't help it. I would classify this meal as Pinoy comfort food. Lots of salt and rice... yum.

Fried Catfish

Since we were feeling a bit sinful and indulgent, Chi and I had the banoffee pie. (One slice each!) I miss the banoffee pie of the now-defunct (?) Area Cafe in Megamall, and this was a perfect time to honor its memory. Having the dessert was also a good way to wash off the taste of the fish and bagoong.

Banoffee Pie

It's a good thing we just walked to Proud Mary. That meant we had to walk back and burn a few of the calories that we had consumed. The place is so near though, we probably just burned five of those calories on the walk back.

Proud Mary Cafe and Diner
233 Tomas Morato Extension
Quezon City
Tel. No. (63 2)473.7742

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Greens Vegetarian Restaurant, Quezon City, Philippines

One of my favorite places to eat in Quezon City is Greens Vegetarian Restaurant. I like Greens because I can eat pretty much anything on the menu. I usually go to this restaurant with my friend Yeng, when we want to discuss whatever's going on with our lives. The place is relatively quiet, so it's a perfect place to catch up with friends. One lazy Saturday afternoon she asked me to have lunch with her there, and I was excited because it would be my first time to go to their new location.

I like the layout of their new place, which is bigger than their former location. There is not much parking though. Also, it’s now harder to park on the street outside their new place because it’s a much busier area.

Yeng and I quickly got down to business. The business of eating, that is. To start, we had the vegetarian chicharon (pork rind). It actually tasted a lot like the usual kropek (fish crackers), but with the shape and texture, you could pretend for a just a little while that you were eating the real thing. (It’s a stretch though.)

Vegetarian Chicharon

We then had the vegetarian sisig and Greens Vegetarian Barbecue. First... about the sisig. It’s made with mashed tofu and gluten, and is seasoned the way sisig usually is- with garlic, onions, and ginger. I thought the serving was pretty generous considering the price of P140. If there were only two of you, and each of you had a cup of rice to go with it, the meal would be more than enough (for a normal appetite, that is).

Vegetarian Sisig

I like their vegetarian barbecue a lot, which is made of sliced gluten. I do miss the taste of Pinoy barbecue- the sweet, slightly charred taste that it has. Greens’ version of pork barbecue reminds me of meals in Aristocrat years back when I was a student in UP (and still eating pork). When I would save my allowance by ordering a stick of barbecue and a cup of rice and putting a lot of sauce on it. Greens also serves their barbecue with achara (pickled salad), which is how I’d eat it in Aristocrat.

Vegetarian Barbecue

I also tried their pumpkin soup. Among all the dishes, this proved to be the disappointment for me. Pumpkin soup is one of my favorites, and Greens’ version was just too bland for me, and that comes from someone who doesn’t like too much salt on her food. It almost seemed like there was no salt at all in the soup. Could be an oversight by the cook, or an overzealous stab at healthy cooking.

All told, I would still come back to this place again and again. Mostly for the barbecue.

Greens Vegetarian Restaurant
92 Sct. Castor Street, Quezon City
Tel. No. 415.4796

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dencio's Grill, Quezon City

Choosing a place where to have lunch during the workweek sometimes presents a bit of a challenge because of the many options available in the area where I work. This is particularly true when I’m eating with friends who have a hard time deciding where exactly to go. Sometimes we lament not having a type A personality in our midst, someone who will simply decide unilaterally and tell us where we should eat.

At any rate, when we have narrowed down our choices somewhat and feel like eating a serious, heavy meal (and if we are in the mood for lots of rice), then we choose to go to Dencio’s. It’s right across the station, and it’s an old reliable place to eat. Like most other restaurants where I eat often, I’ve pretty much narrowed down my choices after some trial and error.

Kangkong with Bagoong

I almost always order one of the following: their Lumpia Bites, Bangus Sisig, and Kangkong with Bagoong. And rice of course. Garlic, if I’m in the mood to indulge.

I like their Kangkong with Bagoong, which is a relatively new choice for me. In the past, I'd usually order the sizzling version. Since I discovered the one with bagoong, that's always my vegetable of choice. All that salt can't be good, and all that cholesterol from the tiny shrimp can't be all that healthy either. But hey, I didn't say we went to Dencio's because of the food's nutritional value.

I like their bangus sisig because the green chili adds just the right amount of hotness. Also, if they put ginger in there to remove the fishy-ness of the bangus, I can't taste it much. I really don't like it when I order some sort of seafood sisig and I can distinctly taste the ginger that they put to fight the fishy taste.

Lumpia Bites

Their Lumpia Bites has a filling also made from bangus. (No, I never get tired of this fish.) I like the homemade taste of this dish, including that of the sweet and sour sauce that most Filipinos are familiar with.

I noticed recently though that the number of pieces in their Lumpia Bites has lessened a bit. I never really kept count so I can't tell for sure how many pieces one order used to have or how many it has now. I just know that there's less lumpia to go around when I order it nowadays.

For dessert, I usually like having the Turon with Ice Cream, but for this visit, my friend Chi tried the healthy alternative, which is the fruit platter. I shared some of her fruit, but since we almost fought over the mango and we both ended up ignoring the rest of the fruits, we decided to just have the Turon next time.

Fruit Platter

Dencio's Bar and Grill
Bohol Avenue, Quezon City

Friday, May 09, 2008

Grams Diner, ELJ Building, Quezon City

When construction on the 9501 ELJ building of ABS-CBN was completed around seven years ago, one thing that we employees looked forward to was the row of restaurants that would open along with it. There are a lot of restaurants near the office, but sometimes, you can just get too lazy to drive to eat out.

So, it was great to have places to eat right at the building. At that time, the three restaurants that you would encounter at the building's main entrance were Cibo, Starbucks, and Cork.

Cibo and Starbucks have withstood the test of time (thus far), but Cork has since folded up. In its place now stands Grams Diner. I remember that we featured this restaurant years ago on the now-defunct lifestyle show "F". At that time, Grams could only be found in Rockwell. It has expanded and now has four branches.

The restaurant serves "feel good comfort food" as their tagline says. It now is very popular among ABS-CBN diners, and is definitely busier than Cork was. I think it has survived because the prices are reasonable and its market is different from its neighbor Cibo. Numerous office meetings are held in the diner, because of its proximity to the TV station, and probably the bright fluorescent lights which can be useful in (some) meetings.

Because the diner is at the ground floor of the building I work in, it's easily the default place to go to when I want a quick uncomplicated meal. In fact I go there so often and I always order the same thing that sometimes the waiters already know what I will have. "Carrot and squash soup and fish steak?", they ask. I don't like being so predictable, but that's really what I have most of the time so they can't be blamed for knowing exactly what I want.

Carrot and Squash Soup

The carrot and squash soup is a steal at P55. I hope they don't raise their price because that is one selling point of this dish- it's cheap. I do like this soup though. I did notice that it has become a little watery of late, and that the soup fills less of the bowl than it has in the past.

Fish Steak

The fish steak is nothing really complicated. It's fish with sauce made mainly with sauteed minced garlic and soy sauce. The dish is pretty simple, but as their tagline says, it's comfort food. It's exactly the kind of dish that my mother would cook when she didn't have time for much fancy preparation.

Coffee Torte

When I need to have my sugar fix (which is pretty much each mealtime), I have their Coffee Torte, which I personally think is the best thing Grams Diner has to offer. (Although admittedly I've only tried around seven things on their menu.)

The taste of this dessert is quite close to one of my favorite desserts, which is Coffee Pie at Chateau 1771. Sometimes though, the Coffee Torte runs out, since they only have a few pieces available each day.

These things that I usually order are exactly what Grams touts them to be. Feel good comfort food. The Coffee Torte, particularly.

Grams Diner
The Loop, ELJCC Building
Sgt. Esguerra cor. Mother Ignacia
Quezon City
Tel. 412.2871

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Good Earth Restaurant, Metrowalk

One of the restaurants that I wanted my balikbayan brother and his family to try was Good Earth. It's one of my favorite Chinese/Asian fusion restaurants, and so I made reservations at their Metrowalk branch for one of our dinners out.

Again, my siblings and their families were all in attendance, and we stayed in the function room so that all the screeching and screaming that my nephews and niece were bound to do would terrorize the minimum number of patrons in the restaurant.

Prawns with Crab Egg

To use the function room, you have to order from their set menu. Thankfully there was seafood in the selections. We chose the set which included Prawns with Crab Egg. I love crab fat in all its many forms. So regardless of the aligue's high cholesterol content, I had a lot of this dish.

My siblings are very understanding of my dietary needs. They allowed me to get the bigger share of the prawns, since they could pig out on the chicken, pork and beef entrees.

Seafood Chow Mein

For noodles, we got the Seafood Chow Mein. I liked this dish because it did not have too much of a fishy smell or taste, (a.k.a. not malansa) and the noodles were not to mushy nor too undercooked. Just right, in my book.

Shrimp Balls with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Another thing I had a lot of were the Shrimp Balls with Sweet and Sour Sauce. This was not on the set menu, we just ordered it a la carte. I do love shrimp balls, and I order this dish in any restaurant where they are available. Again, I ate more than my fair share of this dish. Actually, if left to my own devices, I would have devoured the two platefuls that we ordered.

For dessert, Good Earth offered selections from Sebastian ice cream. We were very excited to have some, since we are fans of this brand. However, when we ordered some, we realized that it had the crystallized look of ice cream that had already melted and was just re-frozen. Like what happens when you don't finish a pint of ice cream, leave it on the table until it's melted, then put it back in your freezer to eat at another time.

That was an anti-climactic end to an otherwise good meal.

Good Earth Restaurant
Ground Floor, Metrowalk Mall
Meralco Avenue, Pasig City
Tel. no. 687.2881