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