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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas treats at Starbucks

Starbucks enjoys particularly brisk business in the runup to Christmas day, judging from how their branches are packed up to the wee hours of the morning. I suspect this is mostly because so many people want to acquire their Christmas planners. For those who are not familiar with these, well, every Christmas season, people covet these planners, and spend literally thousands of pesos to get one.

This is because you are not able to buy them, you have to fill up a card with stamps. You get a stamp each time you buy a certain kind of coffee from Starbucks, and once you fill up the card, you finally get one. This year, you get to choose from several colors. I chose the silver one. Luckily for me, I didn't have to drink all these coffee concoctions to get my planner. Every year, my friend Chi (who DOES drink all these coffee concoctions), gives me a Starbucks planner for Christmas.

Aside from these planners, another draw at Starbucks during the holiday season is their Christmas-themed offerings. They have fancy(er) drinks, such as their Toffee Nut Latte, and they also have pastries that they only serve during the holidays. When I went to Starbucks recently, I was very happy to see that they had Molten Chocolate Cake. I don't know if this is just a new addition to their pastry lineup in general, or if it is part of their Christmas menu. At any rate, it was pretty good, as these kinds of cakes go. I hope they are now offering this regularly, so I know where I can have a treat when I go on my coffee breaks.

Molten Chocolate Cake

Ground floor ELJ Building
ABS-CBN Compound
Quezon City, Philippines

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A new favorite at Il Terrazzo: Bistro Napa

Bistro Napa is found in Il Terrazzo along Tomas Morato, and it takes the place of Aresi Restaurant in the building. I believe Bistro Napa has the same owners, and they probably just renamed, re-conceptualized and relaunched the restaurant.

I like it better now in its new form. Aresi in Il Terrazzo was a bit overpriced (unlike its earlier incarnation in the early 2000s), in my opinion. It was probably because the restaurant was pretty big, so the overhead most likely was too. Bistro Napa is smaller than its predecessor, and the hole it will burn in your pocket is considerably smaller as well.

I like Bistro Napa not just because of its lower prices. It's also cozier (maybe also partly due to its smaller size) and less stiff than Aresi was. They offer reasonably priced lunch specials, a different one per weekday, probably to attract the office lunch time crowd. This was what we certainly were, when my colleagues and I visited it for the first time.

On my first visit, I had their Citrus Vinaigrette Salad, which had candied walnuts, blue cheese, and orange segments on greens, and their Salmon Cakes. Chi and Irene both ordered pasta, with Chi having their Shrimp Pesto, while Irene had their Italian Sausage. We were all happy with what we ordered, although I really liked what Chi had (I ordered it on our next visit).

Shrimp Pesto
Salmon Cake

We ordered a host of their desserts, to find our right away which one was best. Chi had the dream sampler, which had vanilla pannacotta, tiramisu, and cheesecake. Among these, the panna cotta was the least popular, because it was the only one that we didn't finish. I had the lava cake, which was my favorite. Like other molten cakes, it took fifteen minutes to prepare. I thought it was worth the wait.

Lava Cake
Dream Sampler

My officemates and I have been to Bistro Napa several times since then, and we will probably continue to have lunch there once in a while to take a break from the restaurants in the station. Well, just as long as they keep their prices low, and their food interesting.

Bistro Napa
Il Terrazzo Mall
Lower Ground Level
35 Tomas Morato Ave. cor. Scout Madriñan St.
Brgy. South Triangle
Quezon City
Metro Manila, Philippines

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nasi Goreng at Cafe Jeepney, Hotel Intercon, Makati

It's that time of year when bazaars are sprouting up right and left, enticing Christmas-crazy consumers to make purchases to wrap and temporarily put under their own Christmas trees while waiting to give them out on the big day. I recently went to one held at Hotel Intercontinental where a friend of mine had a booth selling jewelry. Along with a couple of friends, we wanted to show our support, so we were off to brave the bazaar crowds.

After going around and buying random things I didn't really need and consuming calories I couldn't really afford to be taking in, we decided to indulge in even more at Cafe Jeepney. I hadn't eaten at this place in a long time. I have happy childhood memories of this place, eating breakfast with my family when it was still more famously known as the Jeepney Coffeeshop, and when your tables were inside actual jeepneys.

I chose to have their Nasi Goreng. which according to the menu included fried rice, egg, shrimp crackers, satay chicken, and peanut sauce. I asked the server if I could have a fish substitute for the chicken, and he said it was no problem.

I liked the food that I had (I generally enjoy Nasi Goreng in almost any form I find it), and I thought that the servers were very helpful and accommodating. One of my friends though thought that the four-cheese pizza that he ordered reminded him a little too much of the famous 3M pizza. Since the taste of the pizza was very Filipino, we jokingly said that maybe the four cheeses included Eden filled cheese, Quickmelt, Ques-O, and Queso de Bola.

Nasi Goreng

Un-Italian quattro formaggio or not, I still liked ending my bazaar day with a visit to the cafe. It was good place to relax, recover (from all the shopping) and reminisce.

Cafe Jeepney
Ground Level, InterContinental Manila
1 Ayala Avenue
Makati City
Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel. No. (63 2)793.7000 loc. 6771

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chelsea Market and Cafe

I found myself at Bonifacio High Street during yet another hot and lazy Sunday, after my friend Z invited me to spend the afternoon browsing the shelves at Fully Booked. After several hours of reading and skimming through dozens of books, we worked up a pretty good appetite which we decided to indulge at Chelsea Market and Cafe.

The place was quite packed, and initially we were seated at a small table where we were practically (and literally) rubbing elbows with the diners at the next table. Thankfully some people left and we got to move to a table that would properly accommodate the amount of food we were planning to order.

I've long intended to eat at Chelsea, and when I finally got the chance to do so, I think I went crazy looking at their menu and wanting to have so many things on it. I first tried to order their Grilled US Halibut Gratinee, which sounded really good on the menu. Unfortunately, it was unavailable. Instead, I ordered the Oven-Roasted Seafood and Tomato Cream Pesto.

While waiting for that, Z and I shared a couple of appetizers- Molten Cheese Risotto Balls and their Chelsea Cheese Selection. The Molten Cheese Risotto Balls looked very promising. According to the menu, it had some spicy jalapeno cheese sauce, deep fried olives, and parmesan cheese. It looked appetizing as well. However, it didn't have as much cheese as I expected

Molten Cheese Risotto Balls

It's a good thing we had the cheese platter, to satisfy my as-yet unfulfilled craving for cheese. I particularly liked the truffled honey that came with it. Its sweetness perfectly complemented the taste of the different cheeses.

Chelsea Cheese Selection

What turned out to be the thing that I enjoyed most, was... their bread! I loved, loved, loved it. I loved spreading the baked garlic on it, which was so soft it spread on the bread like butter. I had so much of it that I was very full by the time the main course arrived.

I decided to not eat the pasta that I ordered and just take it home so that I could have room for dessert. It turns out that Chelsea is from the same company that runs Momo and M Cafe. I had a dessert that I remembered ordering at Momo, which was their Snickers Fudge. Although I think they were one and the same dessert, I enjoyed the one I had here at Chelsea more, because it tasted like it was freshly made.

Snickers Fudge

Despite my slight disappointment with the Risotto Balls, I definitely want to come back to Chelsea. I want to have more of that bread, and I want to try more of the entrees on the menu. I do hope they have the halibut available next time.

Ground Level, Serendra Piazza
Mc Kinley Parkway, Fort Bonifacio
Taguig City, Metro Manila
Tel No. (632)909.7011

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My "Diver's Breakfast" at McDonald's

Going scuba diving usually entails waking up super early, like three o'clock. This is one of the instances when I don't really mind and I am actually physically able to do it.

One downside of waking up so early is that I get hungry very early too. While I usually have to wait to get hungry for breakfast on a regular day, My tummy starts grumbling around 5:00am whenever I go diving.

So what usually happens is my dive buddies and I head to the most convenient McDonald's to have a mobile meal. I almost always order the same thing there, so I call it my (pescetarian-friendly) "diver's breakfast".

Egg McMuffin without ham

This is simply an Egg McMuffin with the ham/Canadian bacon removed. When I'm feeling extra famished, I indulge and add a hash brown. Not the healthiest of meals, but it fills me up and prepares me for a long day of underwater activity.

P.S. I saw this sign on the restroom of this particular McDonald's, and I thought it was rather amusing.

Everywhere, Philippines

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Miele Guide says Antonio's in Tagaytay is #5 restaurant in Asia

The Miele Guide is an Asian guide to the region's top restaurants. Last year, Antonio's made it to number 17. This year, it's number 5. I haven't been there in years. The last time I was there was when my brother got married a few years ago. I remember that it was a beautiful reception, with excellent food. It's good to know that it remains to be a great resto that Filipinos can be proud of.

The latest guide features 450 restaurants from 16 countries. I hope I get around to checking out the guide one of these days. Below is a list of the top 20 restaurants and a short description of each, which I copied and pasted from the guide's website. It's a good list to have when doing some regional travelling. I hope to get to try some of them out too.

1. Iggy’s

Singapore’s gastronomic icon has been growing from strength to strength since its inception 6 years ago. Already a favourite to critics and gourmands alike, Iggy’s further cemented its growing influence in the regional restaurant scene by coming in 28th in this year’s San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, making it Asia’s second-highest ranked restaurant. This year also sees Ignatius Chan’s popular establishment move to sleeker, larger, more modern premises at Hilton Singapore Hotel. The larger space allows for a bigger, more sophisticated kitchen – the perfect playground for Iggy’s international culinary team to cook up delightful menus, typified by an Asian touch to European fare and served upon bespoke Limoges porcelain dinnerware, no less.

2. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong

Presiding on the 4th floor of Hong Kong’s classy retail haven The Landmark, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is an epicurean favourite with its extensive menu, iconic decor and casual, unpretentious atmosphere. One of Chef of the 20th Century Joel Robuchon’s many outposts in the Asian culinary frontier, Hong Kong’s L’Atelier boasts an extensive menu and wine slection. The food is prepared by Chef Michel del Burgo, a household name in the Parisian culinary scene, and his international team. While del Burgo can recreate Robuchon signatures with finesse and adds his own unique dishes to the menu, don’t miss out on pastry chef Tadashi Nakamura’s sweet, decadent, very presentable desserts.

3. Robuchon a Galera
Macau, China

Robuchon a Galera is another restaurant to thrive under the guidance of Joel Robuchon. Executive Chef Francky Semblat’s menu is an order of gastronomic excellence. His dishes tend to be elegant, yet rich, flavourful affairs and these qualities are epitomized in crowd-pleasers such as the mille-feuille of tomato and crabmeat and lobster cocotte with black truffles and asparagus. On top of that, its wine list features more than 2800 labels, allowing the restaurant to be accorded Wine Spectator’s Grand Award in China. The best thing about Robuchon a Galera is that while it serves extraordinarily delicious, high quality fare, its prices remain affordable. Indeed, Robuchon a Galera is, by itself, worth the trip to Macau.

4. Jaan

Last year, Jaan made its debut on The Miele Guide at number four, a testament to then-head chef Andre Chiang’s mastery in the kitchen. Chiang’s two-year stint helming Jaan culminated in the restaurant coming in 39th at San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list earlier this year. Chiang then left to set up his own restaurant, and was replaced by relative unknown (in the region at least) Ebbe Vollmer, making Jaan the dark horse for this edition’s Asia’s Top 20. Vollmer’s style was also vastly differing from the more experimental methods of some modern chefs. The Swede prefers the classics, and therein lies Jaan’s new appeal. Vollmer serves up elegant, refined European dishes unburdened by the latest culinary trends. Judging from this year’s votes, this straightforward, old-school approach works deliciously, allowing Jaan to retain its number four spot.

5. Antonio’s
Cavite, Philippines

Antonio’s is the perfect place to leave your urban burdens. Housed in a one-hectare compound tucked away in the Filipino countryside, Antonio’s seems, at first sight, more state manor than restaurant. The French windows, chandeliers and impressive collection of art are no gimmick, however. Antonio’s is a well-established restaurant whose gastronomic selection contributes to the overall charm of its locale, rather than vice-versa. Chef-owner Antonio Escalante prepares excellent dishes by combining Western ingredients with the freshest local produce. His salads, for example, are a melange of fresh, crisp vegetables, harvested from his very own garden, and exquisite imported cheeses. They make the perfect side dish to a perfectly glazed foie gras or a succulent Black Angus steak.

6. Mozaic
Bali, Indonesia

The wondrous experience of dining at Mozaic includes the journey to the stunning restaurant in the posh Balinese district of Ubud. You drive through verdant hills and past ancient Balinese temples, to reach a romantic garden, decorated with local art. The service here is flawless, and the food is even better. Chef Chris Salans’ cuisine is essentially French-inspired, but he utilizes Bali’s traditional ingredients to give his dishes an East-West balance that tantalizes the taste buds. Mozaic has a few menus to cater to different preferences – the Indonesian Discovery menu marries fine ingredients with Indonesian influences, the Chef’s Classics features Mozaic signature dishes and the restaurant also has a Vegetarian menu. There is also a Chef’s Surprise menu, for the more adventurous.

7. Zuma
Hong Kong, China

Another brilliant restaurant housed in Hong Kong’s The Landmark, Zuma is a beautiful establishment designated for more formal dining occasions. Sophisticated as it is, Zuma also makes space for the chic and cool, with its sixth floor bar. Here, a charming open terrace provides a prime location to soak in the stars on a cool Hong Kong evening. Zuma was not designed for heavy feasting, with excellent selections of sushi, sashimi, grilled items, along with cocktails and the delectable desserts of pastry chef Eddy Lee. For those with bigger appetites, Zuma does have a shorter list of dishes that offer bigger portions.

8. Cilantro Restaurant & Wine Bar
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Not only is Cilantro Kuala Lumpur’s prime destination for French-Japanese cuisine, it has also long been considered the Malaysian capital’s finest restaurant. Helmed by Chef Takashi Kimura, Cilantro takes pride in everything it offers – even pre-meal bread and butter. The butter, for example, is Takashi’s own decadently rich, aromatic, well-refined butter, while the bread is served warm and fresh. Cilantro’s menu changes depending on availability of ingredients, so dishes can take on an European style mere days after the menu features Japanese cuisine. Despite this, the food remains of an impressive quality, exhibiting Takashi’s culinary intelligence.

9. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Tokyo)
Tokyo, Japan

This was the restaurant that paved the way for L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon to become an upscale household name both in the region and globally. Guests sit behind a 40-seater counter, while the black-clad chefs, headed by the brilliant Ryuta Iizuka, masterfully prepare their orders before them. Besides chef Ryuta and his team’s elegant, exciting dishes, long-time fans of Joel Robuchon can indulge in the Menu Decouverte, or ‘Discovery Menu’. This multi-course menu showcases Robuchon’s signature creations. Such consistent quality, given the restaurant’s variety in its menu, pushes L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Tokyo up by 11 spots to ninth on this year’s Asia’s Top 20.

10. Caprice
Hong Kong, China

A three-Michelin-star restaurant, one of only two in Hong Kong, Caprice astounds with both its view and its food. The restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer a breathtaking view of Victoria Harbour. The interior, crowned by four magnificent chandeliers, epitomizes French elegance and glamour. The food served here is fitting of such a locale. Chef Vincent Thierry and his team of 25 chefs add modern relevance to French classics, not afraid to lend Asian influences on popular French dishes. On top of a wide selection of cuisine and wine, Caprice also offers a cheese platter that includes 30 of the best cheeses in the world. It was only the natural course of events that Caprice breaks into the top 10 for this year’s list.

11. Les Amis

The popular Singaporean establishment again exerts its status as one of Asia’s best restaurants with a third consecutive entry into the Asia’s Top 20 list. Its consistently excellent food, impressive wine collection and reliable service have ensured this. Current Head Chef Armin Leitgeb’s skills and instincts have introduced impeccable classic European cuisine – with a dash of Asian influences – to Les Amis’ menu. The menu changes every three months, but the Les Amis favourites are available all year round. Also worth mentioning is the restaurant’s impressive wine collection stored in two climate-controlled cellars – one for reds and another for whites. Owing to that, the restaurant has been accorded the prestigious Wine Spectator Grand Award worth S$5 million.

12. Yung Kee
Hong Kong, China

Yung Kee is one of those rare success stories of street stall-turned-multi-million-dollar restaurant business. From its humble origins, Yung Kee has grown to become virtually synonymous with Hong Kong. Housed in a six-storey building in Hong Kong’s prime Central district, the restaurant can attribute its success to its world famous roast meats, amazing service and remaining unperturbed by what can be likened to peer pressure in the culinary industry. Executive chef Choi Wai-Chor frowns upon change, and is very reluctant to add items to a menu that is not very different from the one at the Yung Kee street stall of decades ago. Frequented by commoners and the super rich and famous alike, Yung Kee is testament that sometimes, sticking to tradition can spell success.

13. Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine

Three years after its opening, Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine has steadily built and developed itself from just another food and beverage establishment along Singapore’s Purvis Street to an inductee into this year’s San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, at 84th spot. The appeal of Gunther’s is in its steadfast commitment to simplicity, without forsaking taste or quality. Diners shell out top dollar for an experience that excites but doesn’t overwhelm. Chef-owner Gunther Hubrechsen’s food is always light, clean and refined, with little embellishment but plenty of flavour. To put it simply, his brand of food is stamped by his delicate, knowing touch, which invariably appeals to lighter, more sophisticated palates.

14. Bukhara
New Delhi, India

London-based magazine Restaurant hails Bukhara as Asia’s best restaurant, and it is no surprise that the New Delhi restaurant stays among Asia’s Top 20. While it is housed inside the upscale ITC Maurya Hotel, with a spacious premise that can accommodate 130 people, Bukhara maintains a simple, non-fanciful interior, with broad wooden beams and rugged stone walls. Owing to that sense of traditional simplicity, diners can expect to eat with their fingers (although cutlery can be requested for). A must-try is the restaurant’s signature dal Bakhara – a tasty dish of black lentils simmered slowly with tomato, butter and spices.

15. Tippling Club

One would be hard pressed to find a sexier and more innovative counter dining experience than the one offered at the Tippling Club. Set against a leafy verge of Tanglin Village, Tippling Club makes full use of its natural surroundings with a chic industrial look fronted with floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu, meanwhile, flirts with molecular gastronomy and is famed for its progressive nature. Refreshing and exciting as it is, Tippling Club’s fare might not appeal to purists, but in a city chock-a-block with traditional French, Chinese and Italian options, there is always room for a restaurant that elicits an opinion and makes no excuses about its cuisine direction.

16. Nobu
Hong Kong, China

Nobu is located in the Intercontinental Hotel, and boasts one of the most stunning panoramic views of the Hong Kong skyline at night. The menu is stellar, too. Stars of the menu are 14 chef recommendations, created by Head Chef Eric Idos, which include a Saga beef nigiri sushi and avocado roll served with plum sauce. Their most famous dish, however, are the yellowtail sushi with jalapenos and black cod saikyo yaki. Dishes are served in courses and are paired nicely with Nobu’s exclusive line of Hokusetsu sake.

17. Dum Pukht
Mumbai, India

Dum Pukht, named for the “slow oven” style of cooking practised by the Nawabs of Awadh, is a restaurant in Mumbai that aims to preserve the culinary traditions of the aforementioned erstwhile people. The Nawabs are known for their grand gestures as well as their epicurean delights, and Dum Pukht is a modern manifestation of these. Its interior is replete with glowing marble, gold leaves, crystal and royal blue and gold furnishings. Similarly, the dining experience at Dum Pukht revives the traditional royal style of course service. A typical meal here begins with shorba, progresses to kebabs and the main course of shahi nehari before ending with a minty paan.

18. Ku De Ta
Bali, Indonesia

Ku De Ta is Bali’s coolest beach-side destination to socialise, wine, dine and dance. The decor is an extension of Bali’s tropical charm. For example, it is furnished with wooden tables and sofas that its beautiful clientele can sit back in, and watch the waves of the Seminyak coastline. At night, Ku De Ta doubles off as a dance club as international DJs spin tunes into the wee hours. While it seems that Ku De Ta is primarily a watering hole, the cuisine offered here is delicious. Popular choices include the baby lobster risotto with braised fennel and garlic confit, and Wagyu short rib with asparagus and Bordelaise sauce.

19. Bo Innovation
Hong Kong, China

Bo Innovation’s chef-owner Alvin Leung is a brash, unapologetic go-getter who dares to push the boundaries of convention, and this is apparent in the Hong Kong restaurant’s menu. The items in the menu, at a glance, seem to be typical fare in a Chinese restaurant. It is only after sampling that you notice Leung’s influence in the dishes. His version of a Shanghainese xiaolongbao (soup dumpling), for example, is made using molecular “spherification” to create a skinless ravioli that is entirely liquid soup inside. It is this fearless, experimental attitude of Leung’s that has helped his restaurant become the most avant-garde Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong.

20. Beijing Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant
Beijing, China

While most restaurants that have made it to this year’s Asia’s Top 20 list by serving Western food with a touch of Asia (or vice-versa), Beijing Da Dong Roast Duck made a very compelling case for its inclusion with its signature Peking duck. Chef-owner Dong Zhengxiang claims to have perfected the art of preparing Peking duck, citing “super lean” ducks that retain considerably less fat than ducks from other restaurants. Leaner ducks aside, the Peking ducks here also have a terrifically crisp skin full of flavour without being overly oily. Beijing Da Dong Roast Duck is also appealing for reasons besides its Peking duck. Service here is excellent – if you find yourself waiting for a table, the restaurant provides you with an endless flow of complimentary wine and soft drinks.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back at Angelina Italian Restaurant, Malapascua, Cebu

When I find myself in Malapascua island in Cebu, I just have to eat at Angelina Italian restaurant. I ate there several times during the trip, and my meals were a combination/variation of the following: four cheese pizza, four cheese pasta, squid ink pasta, and dessert.

Four cheese pasta

Four cheese pizza

Squid ink pasta

I forget what this dessert is called. All I remember is that it's some kind of flan (Obviously!).

Except for the inconsistent amount of cheese specifically on the four-cheese pasta, I loved eating at this restaurant. I think all my friends did too. Till the next Malapascua trip!

Angelina Restaurant
Tepanee Resort
Malapascua Island

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Just another fabulous lunch at Uno Restaurant

I've sung enough praises for this restaurant, so you don't really have to guess how I feel about Uno. Anyway, I had another lunch date there with my officemates, and again, I chose to go with one of their lunch specials. It's always interesting to find out what the chef has cooked up specially for the day.

I had their tomato mozzarella salad to go with their braised opakapaka fish. It was the first time I'd heard of this fish, which is apparently (after a quick google search) also known as Hawaiian pink snapper. It was also good to learn that this fish is considered an ocean-friendly seafood choice.

Tomato Mozzarella Salad

The tomato mozzarella salad was good, although I could always use a bigger serving. As for the main course, according to their blackboard, the fish was braised with lemongrass, achiote, and coconut cream. I'm not quite sure what achiote is, but after another quick google search, I learned that it's a kind of seed. And I don't know if I'm right, but I'm guessing it's what we call "atsuete" in the Philippines. Achiote is its Spanish name, and "atsuete" sounds very much like it. So, if anyone can shed light on this etymological question, please enlighten me.

Braised Opakapaka

As usual, I finished my meal with a very distended stomach, partly because I had way too much of their bread. I always tell myself not to have too much of the bread (while waiting for my food) to leave space for everything else I will be eating, but I somehow always fail to do so. Their bread is just too good to pass up.

All in all, it was another very satisfying meal, which is something I've come to expect from Uno Restaurant.

Uno Restaurant
195 Tomas Morato cor. Sct. Fuentebella
Quezon City
Tel. no. (02)374.0774

Monday, September 27, 2010

KaLui Restaurant, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

The last time I went to Puerto Princesa in Palawan, I asked around to find out what their best restaurant is. The consensus of many people was that Kalui Restaurant was the must-visit resto in the city. So, my friends and I went to have lunch in the restaurant which (according to its website anyway) is "the most famous and best value restaurant in Palawan".

The place was very pleasant. It had a native look and feel, and you are asked to remove your shoes before entering, so as not to dirty their highly polished wooden floors. We chose our table, ordered our food, then looked around the place while waiting for it to be prepared. The restaurant is relatively big, and they had a lot of native art and decor. It was a very humid day, though, and we were soon sweating as we walked around because the electric fans couldn't stir the air enough to dissipate the humidity.

Our food soon arrived and we got busy with our respective plates. I ordered Fish Cordon Bleu, primarily because it had cheese. It was not bad, but I did feel envious of my friends who ordered the Tuna Steak, of which I had a few bites. I should've known better not to order the fried fish. The freshness of the fish was more apparent when served rare. I had to stop myself from getting a lot of my friends' food, as I was enjoying it way too much.

Fish Cordon Bleu

After lunch, I went to the back of the restaurant to check out some clothes and other things they had for sale. The clothes were colorful, pretty, and well-made, but a little pricey.

I understand why both tourists and locals flock to the place. The ambience is perfect for family and group lunches, you can go shopping for some souvenirs, and the food is very fresh. I should just remember to order the tuna steak next time.

KaLui Restaurant
369 Rizal Avenue
Puerto Princesa City
Palawan, Philippines
Tel. No. (63)(48)433.2580

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Stock Market, Bonifacio High Street

I spent a rare afternoon shopping at Bonifacio High Street with a couple of friends, and we decided to have some dinner at The Stock Market at the end of our spree. I've always been intrigued by this restaurant's interiors, so I wanted to finally try the place out. Apparently, the place is owned by Del Monte Philippines, and is so named because Del Monte sells its "stock" of products there. It's more of a family place that serves American food.

One of my friends ordered a burger of sorts (since I don't eat burgers, it didn't interest me enough to remember the name), then my other friend ordered some pasta with salmon. I ordered their Blackened Fish with Mango Pineapple Relish and Seafood Creole Rice. I think I order blackened fish whenever I see it on a menu. I love New Orleans cuisine, and this is one thing that I almost always end up happy with.

Blackened Fish

I liked their version of this dish, and although I was avoiding carbs, I couldn't resist the Creole rice. After finishing all of it, I declared it worth the carbohydrates. My friends though were not as satisfied with their choices. The taste of the salmon pasta (which I tried) was okay, but the sauce was way too watery (as you can see from the photo). We ended up putting a lot of cheese in it to try and make it thicker.

Salmon Pasta

The burger, I was told, was not memorable either. A little too small, and not particularly tasty, for its price. All in all, I'm not sure I would return to this restaurant. I did like what I ate here, but maybe next time I find myself in Bonifacio High Street, I'll try Clawdaddy to try their New Orleans cuisine instead.

The Stock Market
Bonifacio High Street
Bonifacio Global City
Taguig, Metro Manila
Tel. No. (632) 856-6301

Friday, September 17, 2010

Girls' Night Out at Taverna Verde, Ortigas

My friend Z told me she and her good friends Jan and Girlie were in the mood for a girls' night out, and invited me to come along. It sounded like a great way to spend a Monday night, so I told her I was in. The plan was to go to Taverna, a bar that Girlie said was a great place to just chill and hang out. We agreed to go there around eight to have time to have something to eat, then have a few drinks after.

When we all got there, the place was empty. I didn't really mind. I liked the place and its high-backed soft cushioned seats. We decided to have some pizza and pasta to start off the evening. I couldn't order any of the pasta because they all had either pork, beef, or chicken. So, for pescetarians looking for their pasta fix, this is not the place to go. Thankfully, they had a couple of pescetarian-friendly pizzas.

First, we tried their Spicy Sardine Pizza. I enjoyed it because the crust was very thin and crunchy, which is just the way I like it. The ingredients also came together very well- a good combination of sardines, slices of tomatoes, mozzarella, and capers.

Spicy Sardine Pizza

We also tried their Mushroom Pizza. I liked this as well (mostly because I was relieved that the mushrooms were not canned button mushrooms), but I have to say the sardine pizza was declared the favorite of the group.

Mushroom Pizza

While eating, we had a few drinks, then ordered even more food. There was a mix-up about the nachos that we ordered. We asked that the beef be served separate from the nachos so Girlie (non-beef eater) and I could eat it. When the nachos arrived, the ground beef was on top of the nachos, while the other sauces were in separate containers. I guess there was some confusion about what we wanted. The server thankfully seemed appropriately contrite, and remedied the situation right away.

We all enjoyed the food (and the drinks!), but we ended up moving to another place because there were hardly any people in the bar. Maybe because it was a Monday night, or maybe because it was just a particularly slow night. We did have fun on our girls' night out though. The pizza (and the company!) mostly did it for me, while the alcohol did the rest.

88 Meralco Ave. cor. Julia Vargas
Ortigas, Pasig City

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mien San Noodle House

I hadn't seen my friend Kennie in a while because she was quite busy the past few months. She suggested that we get together so she could bring me to an authentic Taiwanese restaurant while we catch up. One evening, I picked her up then we went to Mien San Noodle House, which was packed, especially for a rainy week night.

I tried to order some dumplings, but unfortunately, the ones I ordered, or tried to order (prawn or vegetable), had some pork in it. I really hate it when that happens- when the menu says "shrimp dumpling", "shrimp cakes", "vegetable rolls", and so on, and they have pork mixed in it.

I've seen this in several Chinese and Thai restaurants. That's why pescetarians have to ask specifically if these dishes (usually with ground or chopped ingredients) have other kinds of meat, because they fail to mention that there is pork, or sometimes chicken, mixed in them.

Kennie told me to try the Fried Manthou, which she said was usually served with condensed milk (of this, I am a great fan). But, in this case, no condensed milk was to be had. No matter, I still enjoyed the fried bread. I don't know if it's usually done, but I added some butter to it.

Fried Manthou

According to the menu, another authentic Taiwanese dish was the oyster pancake, which I ordered. It was bigger than I expected it to be, and I wasn't able to finish the whole thing. (The leftovers were enough for lunch the next day.) Kennie said it had more of the glutinous stuff than she was used to. I myself couldn't judge, not having tried too many oyster pancakes in my day.

Oyster Pancake

I also had their century egg with tofu. This one I particularly liked, as I am fond both of century egg and tofu. The garlic was not too overpowering, just enough to make the dish very tasty.

Century Egg with Tofu

I would go back to this place, although parking is a bit difficult, and you come out of the place smelling like food. Next time I might actually get to try the noodles.

Mien San Noodle House
Granada St., Bgy. Valencia,
New Manila, Quezon City

Tel. Nos. (632)721.5794, (632)723.0558

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A birthday lunch at Zucchini's, Quezon City

I haven't gone to Zucchini's in a while, so when Yeng said she would treat me to lunch there for my birthday, I was all too happy to oblige. I really like eating in this restaurant, so Yeng and I stretched out our lunch (basically by eating too much) to enjoy the place.

To start off our meal, we shared the Barbecue Shrimps Salad (Although it wasn't really a lot and I'm sure we could have polished off one each). It was flavored with wasabi cream sauce and jalapeno vinaigrette. I liked how the shrimps were barbecued. Very tasty.

Barbecue Shrimps Salad

After that, Yeng ordered the Potato Crusted Fish Fillet, while I had the Fillets of Lemon Sole. The waiter, in a sort of warning, told me that the dish I ordered was pretty big. He said the serving was big enough for two. (Two whats, he didn't exactly say. It was certainly not big enough for the two of us.) It wasn't that the serving was undersized, it's more that our appetites were oversized.

Fillets of Lemon Sole

Potato Crusted Fish Fillet

Yeng told the servers that it was my birthday, so they thoughtfully made a birthday cake out of their Lychee Panna Cotta, complete with candle. Thankfully, they didn't sing any embarrassing songs as they brought it to the table.

Lychee Panna cotta

This lunch was the first of a series of meals I had to celebrate my birthday. A great way to kick off what turned out to be a very long celebration. Thanks Yeng!

20 Scout Tuason cor. Scout Castor
Quezon City, Metro Manila

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Healthy Desserts at Hui Lau Shan, Hong Kong

I came across some photos that I hadn't posted from a trip to Hong Kong, and I just had to put them up because I remember how much pleasure these desserts brought me. I'm talking about Hui Lau Shan Healthy Dessert, a popular chain in Hong Kong. I remember going to this place as often as I could during my short stay there, judging from the number of desserts I had in the photos below.

Some stalls were bigger than others. In some of them, it was hard to get a place to sit, and I had to take out my order. They offered a variety of desserts, but I liked the ones with mango best. They did have different fruits, while some desserts had rice balls and beans.

This photo below shows the dessert I liked best. It had mango ice cream, mango chunks, and some kind of jelly which, if I remember correctly, was called "glass".

Unfortunately I can no longer remember all the names of these desserts, since I neglected to write them down at the time. When I tried to check the website of Hui Lau Shan for some help, it was in Chinese and I couldn't get the Google translate function to work for me.

But when you're in one of Hui Lau Shan's stalls, it doesn't take a genius to figure out which dessert would appeal to you. I do recommend though, if you're a mango lover like me, that you try their different mango-based desserts.

Hui Lau Shan
Everywhere, Hong Kong

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shakey's Ultimate Cheese and Garlic Pizza

My favorite pizza place, no contest, is Shakey's (only for the thin crust pizza, though). It must be the crunchy thin crust, oil, and special cheese (some of my friends insist their cheese is what margarine is to butter, but frankly, I don't care). It could also be the happy childhood memories I have of kid's parties held at this restaurant.

Whatever it is, Shakey's is always my first choice when it comes to pizza. When I arrived home after I lived a couple of years away from the Philippines, the first meal I had was in here, and I ordered what I'd usually ordered there for years and years and years... which was their garlic and cheese pizza.

A few years ago, I was very, very happy to find out that Shakey's had introduced a new flavor- ULTIMATE garlic and cheese. I had some as soon as I heard about it. It turned to be just as good as it sounded. If there is any pizza that deserves that name, Shakey's version has to be it.

Shakey's Ultimate Cheese and Garlic Pizza

As this photo illustrates, I usually have this pizza in a box. This means (at least for the Shakey's-savvy) that I have a Shakey's pizza-natic card and have more pizza delivered than is healthy for anyone. For those unfortunate souls who do not own a pizza-natic card, you are basically missing out on a free pizza and a bottle of coke for every large or party pizza you have delivered. The free pizza is either pepperoni or hawaiian, but since I'm pescetarian, I request a free- you guessed it- garlic and cheese pizza instead.

Now some people might think that one large (when I'm on a diet) ULTIMATE garlic and cheese and one large garlic and cheese pizza would be too much garlic and cheese (and pizza for that matter) for one person. I beg to disagree. Of course, I end up having it for breakfast and lunch the next day. But I don't really mind. In my book, you can never be too rich, or eat too much pizza.

Shakey's Pizza
Everywhere, Philippines

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Gigi's birthday lunch at A Taste of LA, Quezon City

Last week, Gigi treated Chi and I to lunch to celebrate her birthday. And as we did for a years back, we headed to A Taste of LA along Roces Avenue. As I mentioned in an entry a few years ago, this place holds some sentimental value for the three of us. We often ushered in Gigi's birthday here while having pizza and wine as we waited for the clock to strike twelve.

This year though, we made do with lunch. We started off with some oysters. Gigi also has a love for cheese, so we had the Oysters Formaggio. They were delicious (as things swimming in cheese inevitably are), and it was such a waste when the cheese dribbled over to the salt that the shells lay on.

Oysters Formaggio

In the interest of diet damage control, I didn't order anything carbo-loaded. Or at least, not till dessert. I had some roasted pumpkin soup, and butterflied shrimps to go with it. I usually enjoy pumpkin soup, and their version was as satisfactory as any other. I also liked the dip for the shrimp, which had some anchovy and cheese.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Butterflied Shrimps

For dessert, we wanted to have their cheesecake, which is one reason why go back to this restaurant. Unfortunately, and to our great disappointment, they didn't have any. But we couldn't end a birthday meal without anything sweet, so Gigi and I had their African Date Pie along with some coffee. Chi ordered the chocolate cake, though I don't think she was as happy with her choice as we were with ours.

African Date Pie

All told, another great meal at one of our favorite restaurants. Happy birthday, Gigi!

A Taste of L.A. Café
171 Roces Ave., Tomas Morato
Quezon City, Metro Manila
(632) 374-2461

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In praise of Starbucks' Fudgy Butterscotch Bar

When Starbucks landed on Philippine shores in the late 90s, I immediately became a fan; not because of their coffee though, but because of a certain pastry that I found there. It was called "Butterscotch Fudge Bar" at the time, and it made me frequent the Starbucks branch along Tomas Morato, the closest one to our office at the time. I remember that I would bump into my friend Gigi in that branch in the morning, and we would find that we were there for the same reason- to have this particular bar.

Fudgy Butterscotch Bar

I love the random strips of chocolate on the bar, as well as the nuts on it. I like the dense texture when I sink my teeth into it. Some of my other friends find it too sweet, but I think it's heavenly. A few years ago, the composition of this pastry was changed. All the chocolate was placed at the bottom of the bar instead of being randomly found throughout the pastry. It wasn't as delicious as the original recipe, but thankfully they reverted to the old style of making it.

I still have the Fudgy Butterscotch Bar whenever I am in Starbucks, and whenever it's in stock, of course. (I'm sometimes tempted to throw a fit when I find that they've run out.) The taste has remained consistent throughout the years (aside from the aforementioned lapse), and biting into it is one sure way to cheer me up and make me ready to face the remainder of the day.

All over Metro Manila

Monday, July 19, 2010

Conti's Pastry Shop and Restaurant

Whenever I eat at Conti's I usually end up eating too much dessert (usually Mango Bravo). It is, after all, a pastry shop. So when I do find myself having lunch or dinner there, I force myself to have a light lunch, so I have a lot of space for their delicious pastries. During this particular visit, I started off with some asparagus soup.

Asparagus Soup

The soup was just enough to warm my tummy, so I could get right down to business. I was with my fellow dessert-lover Isabel, so we ordered two desserts between us- Turtle Pie and Mango Bravo.

Turtle Pie

Mango Bravo

I've tried several of their desserts, but I think that so far, Mango Bravo remains my favorite. I liked their turtle pie, but I still prefer the version of Sugarhouse. Conti's Mango Bravo, however, ranks very high among my favorite mango-based desserts. It's so good that I've had to forego the restaurant's main dishes just so I can make room for a big slice of it. Maybe I should eat at Conti's when I'm not having a sugar craving, so I can give proper attention to the rest of their menu.

Conti's Pastry Shop and Restaurant
1C-17 Serendra
Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City
Tel. No. (632)856.2352 to 53, (632)901.3486

P1 Level, Trinoma
EDSA corner North Avenue
Quezon City
Tel. No. (632)900.5013 to 15

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cantinetta, Burgos Circle

I've liked the Italian restaurant Cantinetta since I first tried it years ago. I remember that we featured it in our lifestyle show "F" as one of the year's best restaurants (I think that was in 2004). I'd only been to their branch in Rockwell, so I was glad that I would get to try their branch at The Fort, when some of my friends decided to meet up for dinner there.

Since I hadn't been to Cantinetta in a while, I decided to have my favorite dish there; the very simple but delicious pasta with olive oil, garlic, and chili. I like the size of the servings in Cantinetta. Not too small, but not obscenely big either. Just enough to fill you up. In fact, I had no more space for dessert after I finished the whole plate. Though maybe that was more because I also had a few slices of pizza from my friends' plates.

Penne with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Chili (Aglio 0lio e Peperoncino)

The dinner didn't last too long, because it was a weeknight and a few of my friends were tired, while some others had somewhere else to go. Next time I go to Cantinetta, I'll make sure I'll have enough time to eat even more slowly, have a few more courses, sip some wine, and enjoy some dessert.

Cantinetta, Burgos Circle
Forbes Town Center
29 St. Rizal Drive, The Fort
Taguig City, Metro Manila
Tel. No.(632)403.5220

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

UCC Coffee Vienna Cafe, The Podium

I recently had an overnight planning meeting with some colleagues, and we had a couple of our meals at UCC Coffee Vienna Cafe at The Podium, which was walking distance from our venue. I like the food in UCC, I just think it's a bit expensive for a coffeeshop. Maybe the prices are steep because of the cost of the franchise. Or maybe it's a prestige thing, which seems to be working out just fine. After all, it's been around for quite a while, so I guess people don't mind shelling out a little more for the goods they offer (myself included, occasionally).

One thing I've noticed though about the few branches of UCC that I've gone to is that the wait staff don't really move all that quickly. Since I hadn't been in a rush during those few times, I didn't really mind. But I figure that if I were, I would be a little upset at their pace of service.

Salmon and Spinach Penne Gratin

For dinner, I had their Salmon and Spinach Penne Gratin. I liked the taste of it, though I did wish it had more spinach. To top off the meal, I shared some chocolate French toast with several people. Considering how many calories were in the pasta dish I had, I thought it would be a bit much to have it all to myself.

Chocolate French Toast

The next day, I had their tinapang bangus. This is one of my favorite breakfasts, so having this with garlic rice and a runny sunny-side-up egg, and coffee to boot, was just perfect. A bit heavy for breakfast, (especially since we split another order of chocolate French toast) but perfect nonetheless.

Tinapang Bangus

UCC Vienna Cafe
The Podium
18, ADB Ave.
Ortigas Center
Mandaluyong, Metro Manila
Tel. No. (632)687.3107,(632)637.3118