Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stuff I Like: Papemelroti Earrings Organizer

Once upon a time, I was pretty happy keeping my earrings in this pill organizer:

But then, because life is one big shopping expedition, I got more earrings and more earrings, and the earrings got bigger. And so I was not happy because my baubles didn't fit the box anymore. Then one day, while I was driving along Roces Ave., I decided to have lunch at Chocolate Kiss. But something led me to the store beside it, Papemelroti, a favorite childhood haunt. I haven't been inside one in ages because I thought I have gotten over my cutesy country phase. But I discovered there were so many cool things to buy - boxes for organizing, notepads for gifting, and a truckload of scrapbooking paraphernalia. My little shopping basket immediately got filled with goodies.

Then I was drawn to this head:

A nice metal head. I liked the girl's wide-eyed expression. And what do you know...

I brought the lady home and made her cry. She's not really sad. Those tears are my silver earrings.

I added more earrings. And more earrings. And I'm happy now. My earrings now have a beautiful home.

This is not a very well written story. But my earrings, my lady earring holder, and I shall live happily ever after.

Give Books

The holidays are not over yet. Still have time to give a gift.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Awarded, Flabbergasted

I feel like one of those Oscar award winners without a script. I just want to thank my hairdresser and PinkLady. Well, really just PinkLady for giving me my first ever blog award. I don't feel deserving. Sniff. Sniff. Raising trophy. Thanks, Bing. I am thrilled. And i pass on this Butterfly Award to:

Ed Ebreo who posts beautiful metaphors. Ed has inspired me to write for a bigger audience and has also been so patient in teaching me tips and techniques for blogging. He sees the world i a different way and he cares enough to share his thoughts in very interesting ways.

Manila Bay Sunset

The Filipinos are proud of the Manila Bay sunset. And for good reason. Check out these photos:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve

Who has time to update on Christmas Eve? And if you're in the Philippines, the whole December is a mad flurry of activity. So, here's a hasty but well-meant greeting - Merry Christmas, everyone. May you have a meaningful celebration filled with all that's good about the season.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One Minute Levity

Something made me smile out loud today. My friend Ed got one of those network site invitations from some guy. The extraordinary thing about it is that that guy is dead. Has been for about a couple of months now.

So, it's official. They have internet in the the afterlife.

Insert Twilight Zone soundtrack here.

Chi's Brick Oven Kitchen

209 Aguirre Ave., B.F. Homes, Paranaque City, Philippines

Its unique selling proposition is that every dish comes out of their brick oven. And you have to go all the way to BF Paranaque to have some.

I read about it from a blog post by my friend Jag. 

The USP stated above was intriguing enough, but oh, how he waxed and profaned about that chocolate dessert and we knew we had to try it! And though I no longer profane these days, I understand the role of profanity as a figure of speech for emphasis. Especially for food.

But before we talk about the dessert, let's begin with the appetizers. There's no way baked potato can fail, and the Stuffed Potato Marbles (P110) are winners. I'm a big fan of potato skins, and this one had the skin, the flesh, and bacon and cheese stuffing, and sour cream dip. Everybody around the table liked it. The Wood-Fired Buffalo Wings (P175) failed to leave an impression on me. Mainly they failed to stay on the plate long enough. 

While I was taking pictures of the oven, my dinner mates attacked and left me with a ravaged platter not fit for a picture. I had a piece to eat though, but it really wasn't very memorable in flavor. What is memorable is the Puchon! (P295) This is pork na nilechon sa pugon served with soy vinaigrette. Crispy goodness. And we tried to convince ourselves that it's healthy because it was baked. None of us was convinced, but all of us were satisfied with this dish. 

Somebody ordered Buffalo Chicken Pizza (P315). Though that seemed redundant given that we also ordered Buffalo Wings, it deserved a place on the table. The thin crust was good. The tomato sauce and mozzarella blue cheese topping even better. I'm not a connoisseur with a palate that can differentiate brick oven pizza, but I can tell that this was very good pizza. 

I expected more from the Rigatoni in 3-Cheese Sauce (P235), but maybe mozzarella, cheddar, and quezo de bola are meant to be enjoyed not mixed together in one sauce. It was good, but not exceptional. 

And finally, the Brick Oven Chocolate Cake Ala Mode (P120). It's as good as Jag says it is. The difference with other Lava or Molten cakes is the texture of the outer layer of the cake. It looks as if it were coated with white flour and there's a mildly burnt and yummy flavor to it. Maybe that's the effect of brick oven baking. As for look and ambiance, the place is tastefully done with a homey quality apt for its being a village resto. I like the malaga tile look on the ceiling. And of course, that great looking brick oven at the center is a commanding visual presence and gives the place warmth. 

Bottomline, Chi's Kitchen is worth the trip to BF.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Aubergine Restaurant Patisserie

2/F, 32nd and 5th Building,
5th Avenue, Fort Bonifacio -

Some people exaggerate when they say certain dining experiences are better than sex. Dining at Aubergine makes you think about sex, and sunsets, and sand on your feet, and Puccini when you're sad, and chocolate when you're mad, and everything that's sensual, that feels good, that's sublime and spectacular at the same time. Yes, it is that good.

It's food that makes you wonder why some people invest in illegal drugs when an ounce of foie gras can give you all the ecstasy you need sans the brainfry.

Visually, Aubergine is faultless. Posh decor with the Frenchy trimmings that give character to the place. A towering, gasp-inspiring wine bar. For us, a delightful view of the kitchen that should replace the aquarium channel because I could watch it the whole day. There is a guilty pleasure, like watching porn, in watching the great looking chefs-in-training putter around producing fabulous works of food art. I love the plating area where warm pendant lights keep the food warm. And the dessert station delivers the sherbet in "steaming" teapots. Art!! The lighting is just the right balance of dimness and coziness that gives your skin a golden glow but bright enough for you to appreciate the aesthetic delight of food presentation.

Sounds - ah, that's where they can be faulted. The ambient music does very little to drown out neighboring tables' chit chat noises, especially when the ones at the big round table are type A corporate bigwigs who all love the sounds of their collegiate twang voices. But eventually, you forget about noise as all your sensory functions focus on the sense of...

TASTE! - You're given a choice of soft or hard bread to go with the butter and the hummus in quaint glass squares. The waiter gives you appetizer on the house -- tuna carpaccio. The chervil leaf on top is divine.

Start with Melted French Brie de Meaux (P430) served on grilled watermelon, topped with watercress salad tossed in raspberry dressing, walnuts, and chinese truffles. I love the mix of cold and hot; and sweet and tart and savory rolling on my tongue.

Then, the Baked Oysters (P480) with wilted spinach and crispy bacon in champagne sauce. At first bite, it seems like the Rockefeller variety typical of any oyster bar, but eventually your palate detects something above par and exquisitely good about it. And you dwell on how great cooking can turn ordinary into extraordinary.

Then the main dishes. I figured the Trio of Grilled Mulwarra Beef Tenderloin, Braised Veal Cheek, and Pan Seared Duck Foie Gras (P1,350) would give me a sampler of the Degustation Meal, which was not tempting enough. This is heaven on a plate. I wanted my beef medium rare and they gave me carnivorousness perfection. Seared very lightly on the outside and rosy pink on the inside. I've had Veal Cheek before and this one didn't match the first time. It tasted just a wee bit better than homemade caldereta and didn't melt in my mouth like the first one did. And if I had to nitpick, the vegetables were a bit too wilted. But who cares about the vegetables when the foie gras was ooh-aah-baby-baby-so-good! I'm sorry to be so politically incorrect and insensitive to animal rights supporters, but this is food that really makes me happy to be above the food chain.

Hubbaluvva's US Angus Rib-Eye Beef Steak (P1,550 fpr 300 grams) was also very good.

We have just decided to move to another restaurant for dessert, when the waiter gave us free macaroons and grand marnier chocolates. Perfect to top off a fine meal.

Overall, very very good food that made me want to go back to my Multiply site and change all my resto ratings to one because I was just so bowled over by the food at Aubergine.

Service was very good. It felt like the cute waiters were fawning over us. There was a minor mix-up with the reservations but we got in there early so we got a nice booth with a great view of the kitchen of my dreams.

The only downer was the wine list. I read from the reviews that they have a good selection. I was expecting a great big leather book of exotic choices but we were given a little cardstock paper foldout of obscenely overpriced, not too spectacular, available at Cash & Carry for 229.95 wines. So we brought in our own bottle and coughed up a criminal 750 peso corkage.

We went here for my husband's birthday but I got a treat as well. I was too afraid to look at the final bill. My brain was slush incapable of doing math. And it's probably well and good I didn't ruin the delightful evening with sticker shock. But this was a celebration of my husband's year and life's many blessings, so an occasional splurge was called for.

The feast of the senses can be viewed here: http://islandhopper.multiply.com/photos/album/29/Aubergine

Four Things I Have Learned as an Adult

I was cleaning up my inbox and found this excerpt from one of the email exchanges with friends.


1. Salvation is not about how good I am. It’s about how good God is. Reaching heaven is not about amassing heaven points. Jesus already died once and for all. And He did it not because I deserved it, but because He loves me.
2. Giving is so much better than receiving. And that says a lot considering I get so thrilled about receiving gifts.
3. There is just no excuse to be bored. Every experience, if you look hard enough, presents opportunities for learning and fascination. And if you’re ever bored, you always have the power to stir things up and make it exciting and fulfilling.
4. The power of choice is one of God’s greatest gifts. Take every good opportunity to use it, but use it wisely.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Three Dollars of Happiness

A repost from May 2000
I have been called a nailchick. Definition : a female person who is inordinately preoccupied with her nails.

I guess that is better than being called a nail head. Definition : somebody who has the personality of a metal peg, or somebody whose grandest purpose is to be hammered on the head.

That title was meant to be neither complimentary, nor derogatory. It just is. I just am. A nailhead. I do obsess a bit about my nails. Okay, okay, I obsess more than just a bit. I have more than two dozen colors in my collection, ranging from virginal pink to satanic black. But this obsession goes beyond color, really. This addiction is not just about vanity or aesthetics. I mean, it is not just about whether this season dictates matte or sheen, or if purple goes with my skin tone.

What it is about is that it just feels so damn good to have your nails done. Feels really, really, really good. Better than sex? Nah, I wouldn't go that far in extolling the virtues of nail culture. I wouldn't put these activities in the same level, though there have been days when I would rather be manicured than shagged. It probably isn't as ooh-aah inducing as shopping on a no-max credit card. But when you don't have that utile gold visa, having your nails done delivers temporal nirvana for the puny sum of 120 pesos plus tips. My socially concerned husband would argue that my narcissistic folly is a minimum wage family's lunch and dinner. I will ignore the comment as I get into scrubs, wash my hands and feet in preparation for this delightful, delectable, sensual, luxurious indulgence.

The pleasure starts at home where I keep my arsenal of nail ware and I choose the color of the week. Outside in another world, malls are being bombed, foreign embassies are demanding hostage negotiation rights, the Central Bank governor is choosing between increasing interest rates or devaluating the peso, Erap is distressing over cancelling his European state visit to give priority to the worsening peace and order situation, I am lining up those colorful little bottles, and thinking, will I go for the kohl or the mocha glaze? Electric blue or matte pink? Vampy red or boring beige?

Having made my choice, I walk/ drive over to the parlor. I don't even mind the waiting time. The anticipation adds to the excitement. Witholding the gratification stretches the time spent in the salon atmosphere. My senses take in the scent of hair setting lotion, the screaming, screeching gaggle of salon staff in fag-speak, the heat of the hair steamer, the sight of women in terry turbans and scalps wrapped in foil, and the cerebral stimulation sparked by hollywood magazines littering the waiting room.

Then, the wait is over. The manicurist calls me and I excitedly respond and follow her as she leads me to my seat. Let me point out at this point that most manicurists have unkempt nails. That's their occupational hazard - having to hold acetone-dipped cotton balls and having to use their own nails to tidy up nail color, they can not possibly maintain their own nails. I personally consider that a monumental sacrifice. Thanks to their selfless disregard for their personal vanity, nailchicks like me get to sport the latest shades from urban decay, wet & wild, bobbie and caronia.

So back to nail heaven. I usually have my hand nails done first. The first thing the manicurist does is to remove any existing color. Then she dips this cute little nail brush into this pink liquid imaginatively called cuticle remover. Then she uses an implement called the pusher, which serves a much nobler purpose than those whose occupational title is the same. The manicurist, let's call her Vangie today... Vangie uses the pusher to scrape surface grime. It sounds disgusting, but be assured that the grime is colored white and is really just the topmost layer of the nail, not exactly yuck muck. The thought that this process may be causing damage to my nails is conveniently ignored as I give in to the pleasurable sensations. Vangie brushes all the nails again and then brings out the nipper, my favorite tool. Vangie nips around where the nails join skin removing superfluous dermis called the cuticle. Now, this is a delicate task. The manicuring tyro has caused many a wounded finger. But for us, nail mavens, a little blood, overnipped cuticles, tiny cuts are just minor irritants endured in the line of nailchick duty. Nothing that good old mercurochrome can not handle.

Cuticle-cleaning, actually the most orgasmic part of the process, now over. Everything is a bit anti-climactic, albeit still pleasurable, from this point on. Nails are filed - I go for square tipped. One final buff. A dollop of lotion. A hand massage that exceeds five minutes is glorious. Base coat applied. Two coats of color. Topcoat to protect the color from chipping, at least until after you leave the salon doors. Same process goes for the feet. Only it is much more pleasurable, because there is much more grime and extra skin to zap. Foot scrubs are nice-to-haves that double, no, triple the pleasure.

And as Vangie applies the last coat of polish on the last nail, I become sentimental, already missing the pampering sensations of having my nails done. Sighing. Wishing I had another pair of hands and feet. Hating the re-entry into the real world where our mentally challenged president reigns and dictates policies that diminish the peso, changing the title of this piece to two dollar fifty of happiness.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Give away some Levi's this Christmas

Copy Over

Whew! Finally, I've finished copying my reviews from my Multiply site to here. I'm still updating at multiply since that is home for me. But I will continue to update here as well. I'm just glad I'm done copying and pasting.

Fish & Co.

3/F Greenbelt, Makati - +6327297431
G/F South Wing Mall of Asia, Pasay - +6325560683
G/F Streetscape, Shangri-la Mall, Mandaluyong- +6329102140

I’ve always liked dining at Fish & Co. Sometimes I lie awake thinking of the tender, peppery juiciness of the grilled calamari. Okay, I don’t. But I was so giddy about Sunday’s lunch that I want to wax poetic.

Sunday, of course, as the whole Republic of the Philippines knew, was the day of the Pacquiao – Dela Hoya fight. And those who wanted to watch the fight live, real time, ahead of the can’t-pay-per-view hoi polloi (which included us -- we were just being treated by our host) had to watch it in cinemas, bars, restaurants, or fork up 80 grand to Solar to watch it at home sans Ricoa and Motolite TV commercials.

We actually had reservations at Italliani’s but something conked out and so they couldn’t serve the fight together with pasta and pizza. What?!!? How will we watch the fight?!?!, was the silent scream inside our heads revealed only by our panicked faces. They tried to compensate by telling us they’re going to try getting us seats at Fish & Co.

Fish & Co. had a fight day promo -- 600 pesos per head for a little pan of fish and chips plus watching the fight from the LCD TV and giant screens scattered throughout the establishment. A successful promo it was as the place was packed. Those who had reservations were seated; some not so comfortably as booth chairs designed for 3 lithe diners had to carry 4-5 people. Gym-going men had to practice some butt contraction and semi squatting exercises as 2 men shared one stool. The kitchen couldn’t serve their fish and chips fast enough. Those without reservations were hogging the entrance doors, shouting reservations to the floor manager as if they were brokers at the NY Stock Exchange. A mass of non-paying humanity was inching dangerously close to toppling the velvet ropes and flimsy barriers (see pic). Some jerk of a guy was whining about his food not being served and extra seats blocking his vision. Testorone, adrenalin, and other violent hormones were on the rise as the excitement was building up as people were waiting to watch Pacquiao clobber dela Hoya or vice versa. It was madness. With all the potential for restaurant service disaster.

But it all turned out well. We got seated. We had good food. We got beered up. Pacquiao won. And the Fish & Co. service crew delivered top quality service. An altogether pleasant experience.

Aside from the promo fish and chips, which were served bite sized, we also ordered the non-promo version which is served as a big fillet of fish (P465). I liked the latter so much better. Tender, moist, flaky fish in light, airy breading, and a pretty good dill sauce. We ordered the fried calamari (P405) too; I like the grilled version better. The good food highlight was the Marsala pizza (P380), which I’m about ready to declare one of the city’s best, not just because of the piquant sauce and fat shrimp topping, but because of the unusual crust. Crust like croissant bread. As if layers of filo pastry, and not the usual dough, were used. Really good.

It was hard not to feel guilty having our lunch and watching the fight in our seats when inches behind us were people who stood up the whole 8 rounds, hungry, straining their necks, and probably touching other people’s sweat. There was one senior citizen near to me to whom I was tempted to lend my chair until he started smoking, a dangerous and inconsiderate thing to do in that dense pack of people. As the F&Co. staff and mall security were trying to crowd control. I was hoping no one would get unruly and the staff won’t become rude. As far I saw, they were relatively polite.

Good service that withstood the challenge of a high-stress situation. I suspect the floor manager, Lilet Martinez, headed for the spa right after that lunch ordeal. If she did, she totally deserved some pampering after managing the stress and keeping customers relatively happy. Our server, Jasper, was also able to keep her cool. She managed our expectations by warning us that ala carte menus would take longer than expected. So, we adjusted by being patient, but the food arrived earlier than expected. And the food was worth the wait. We were happy.

The situation, of course, might have been a bit different and all this sense of well being absent had Pacquaio lost.

Casa Rap

Kilometer 90, San Jose, Batangas

"We join with the earth and with each other to bring new life to the land, to restore the waters, to refresh the air..." -- Excerpt from the UN Environmental Sabbath Program -- as printed on a postcard from the Casa Rap store.

Casa Rap is an old favorite. I once celebrated my birthday there with my family. And last year for my big 40th shebang, I had them deliver breakfast (hubad na longanisa, sinaing na tulingan, tawilis) to our farm in Batangas. I also ordered organic cherry tomatoes, cucumber and three kinds of lettuce from them plus their special dressing to serve for lunch.

It's hard to pinpoint my favorite thing about the place. There's the little curio shop with the most charming of items; the owner, Emma Alday, was trained by renowned potter Ugu Bigyan. There are the rustic gardens and pathways punctuated by little surprise nooks and corners, all filled with greenery that relaxes eyes, body and mind. Of course, there's the food, organic, not 5-star fancy but delicious and beautifully served. There's the tranquil ambiance that makes you feel you have escaped all that is urban and noisy and busy.

Maybe what I like best about this place is that though it brings you back to nature, it is a very progressive place. Every time we go there, they have something new to offer. Today, we were surprised by the new things that Sister Emma showed us -- a pigpen that uses a revolutionary method which produces no stink; container gardening that gives encouragement to those who want to go into vegetable farming even though they do not have huge tracts of land; the fact that they are now open for small corporate meetings; the restaurant-side store that has more merchandise to offer -- Batangas delicacies, organic vegetables, and gardening implements. But the most charming surprise was the food presentation. That's always been a special thing at Casa Rap, but this time lunch was served bento-style, so you get to sample a variety of dishes without spending and eating too much. These bento boxes are available for group dining, and depending on your choice of dishes the price can be adjusted. What was served to us could go for about 350pesos per person. And it is so worth it. We feasted on kalabasa soup, lato salad served with purple marigold (yeah I thought marigolds came only in yellow too) flowers, cassava ukoy with taro and thyme, pajo mango salsa, sinaing na tawilis, native chicken adobo, and guinatang sugpo. After all that, we still found space for ice cream with lambanog.

We moved on to a different place, but we had our take home, the suman sa lihiya that Casa Rap is famous for.

After all describing all that, all I could really say is what our balikbayan Tita Nene said, "Ah, talagang kasarap!"

Terry's Selection

Unit 2, Bldg. B Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Pasong Tamo Extension and The Podium, Lower Ground Level

The best time to go to Terry's is when Mr. de Terry is cooking in the kitchen and his gorgeous son is in the dining area. That way, you get yummies for your tummy and for your eyes, candy.

We've eaten at both the Makati and the Podium branches, but we had our best meal when Mr. de Terry was performing chef duties. That was several months back so I can't remember everything now except for the fritata, which was heavenly fluff, or fluffy heaven. We had a lineup of tapas with great wine, all recommended by the younger Mr. Terry. And don't bother doing the beautiful eyes at him while you ask him the difference between chardonnay and pinot noir; from what I heard he's taken.

The ambience was casual, and even though the place was crowded and overbooked that holiday evening, service was efficient.

One of the place's attraction is the deli and wine store filled with all sorts of gourmet goodies and cook's gadgets like gorgeous paelleras and party pottery. One time I was at the Podium and it was all I could do not to open a bottle of wine and sit down by the olive taste test counter. I also loved it when I went there one time desperate for something to bring to a pot luck dinner, and they were friendly, not snooty at all, in accommodating my request for the cheapest possible, but not cheap looking cold cut and cheese platter.

Terry's is guaranteed to be a favorite.

La Cocina de Tita Moning

315 San Rafael St., San Miguel
Telephone: (63 2) 734-2141, (63 2) 734-2146, 0917-5383490

This is a truly spectacular dining experience. And really, I usually try to keep the superlatives away, but this is one of the finest Manila dining experience. Okay, so you cough up at least 1.5k per pop, but you get quite a lot out of it: an al fresco start of baked queso de bola, a tour of the house that brings out the illustrado-wannabe in you (gawk enviously at the Lunas and Hidalgos), and dining on turn-of-the-century, homemade cooking served on the plates the Montinolas and Legardas ate on. It feels so authentic you start looking for Dona Victorina and craving for tinola. No tinola, though. But I will not complain about the paella and the bread pudding. Memorable. Delectable. At kung ano ano pang ble.

I loved the washroom and the adjoining bedroom. Of course, your friend with the third eye will tell you that you weren't alone there. Which is part of the charm, isnt' it?

Reserevations required. Check out the website for menu and photos.

Three Kids Lomi House

Lipa, Batangas (sorry, can't find more specific directions; my husband just knows how to get there)

I'm not a noodle person, and I'm not the type to order lomi, not that there is a type of people who do, but...but...but anyway, lomi is a Batangas must-try, and Three Kids is one of the more famous places. My first try was at the talipapa at Mataas na Kahoy, but I can't remember the name and I don't have photos.

It doesn't matter much where you go since most of them are probably good. And super cheap, er value for money.

The lomi is very thick. I sometimes want to turn it over the way they do it with the blizzard at Dairy Queen. And the traditional way to eat it is to spike it with copious amounts of ca-to-si (I just coined that, so don't ask for catosi, okay?) -- calamansi, toyo, and siling labuyo. And of course, you have to have the sesame sprinkled burger bun with it, or it will not be the complete lomi experience.

Masarap siya, at mura pa. 35 pesos for a big bowl filled with steamy lomi goodness. Even if you're not a lomi person.

D' Original Dawel Restaurant

Dagupan, Pangasinan

We parked at the side of a bridge and entered a dank, dimly lit tunnel. It felt like some subterreanean hideaway. At 8:45 PM, the place was empty, except for an old woman watching TV sitted on an antiquated chair. These are bad signs if you're looking for good eats. But we remembered that we were in rural territories and on that easter sunday, the locals are already home ready to retire. That's why we ended up here in the first place, because every other place in town was close.

They served us a each a heaping plate of rice and I gasped at just how much rice each person gets. At the end of the meal, those plates were empty. Rice shortage, notwithstanding, we put all that to good use to accompany the flavorpacked dishes. We started with sinigang na malaga, the malaga so tender, practically melting in our mouths, going perfectly well with the fish bagoong (balayan style) and calamansi. Of course, we had to have the requisite inihaw na bangus. My husband admired how the fish was cooked completely, no raw flesh, no blood, yet still very juicy. I silently thanked God that I was going to have all that succulent bangus belly. No, I wasn't being selfish. On the top 10 list of things I love about my husband, somewhere in between sexy sense of humor and his Don Bosco training on everything mechanical, is the fact that he does not eat bangus belly. It's bangus belly that makes you close your eyes, forget your name and the fact that fat is a bad word. But the dinner's pièce de résistance is the adobong talaba. While blanched on the shell still remains my favorite way to have oysters, this adobo style comes a very close second. We wish we could say we could say we wiped all our plates clean, but there was enough for another person.

No desserts. But it was sweet to pay only P510 pesos for all that. The only negative thing was the presence of stray cats traipsing around the resto. That cost them a star.


Unit 207 Intrepid Plaza E. Rodriguez Ave.,Libis, Quezon City

Don't you hate it when you try out a restaurant, like it, come back after a few months and find that the servings are slightly smaller, and then come back after a few more months, and the quality has deteriorated? Such is such a familiar story in the country's restaurant industry.

That is NOT the story of this entry.

What I love about Omakase is the consistency. It is consistently good even if your visits are months apart. The other great thing is the price. If you come as a group, you get scrumptious Japanese for pretty reasonable prices. It can get expensive if there are only two of you trying several dishes.

With novelty makis like Jurassic (ebi, tempura, kani, ebiko, salmon), Dynamite (unagi, tempura, scallop), American Dream (deep fried sushi, salmon, kani, cream cheese), and Gyu Chisu (cheese wrapped in beef), Omakase might not satisfy the authentic Japanese food purists. But for those easier to please like me, the unique twists are what make this restaurant's take on Japanese food so interesting and enjoyable. Try their Tofu Steak, which is also different from the usual; instead of mixing chopped beef with cubed tofu, this one wraps the tofu in beef. There is nothing unusual about my favorite -- the grilled unagi; I guess when you're having eel, keeping it familiar lessens the apprehension for the first time eel eater. Don't worry, it takes like fish; very tasty and tender fish.

The only thing that ruined an otherwise perfect lunch was that their American Express machine was down that day we went, and has been down for 3 days they said.

Parking could be a problem on some weekends. But that Saturday, we were able to find spots in the basement.

The other sweet perk is being able to visit Booktopia while digesting and burping the satisfying meal.

A Japanese restaurant worth going back to. Predictably good every visit.

King's Kebab and Persian Grill

221-E Katipunan Ave. Q.C. and 668 Beacon Plaza Shaw Blvd, Mandaluyong City

Remember when Burger Machine was all new way back in the 80s? And it offered a refreshing new take on burger flavors? King's Kebab pretty much offers the same kind of alternative to today's shawarma eaters. If you're looking for that authentic shawarma experience with the middle eastern tickle-your-nose aroma and burn-your-tongue spicy flavors, then go to RA Salas in Ermita. Here at Katipunan, you will, instead, get a Filipinized version with a cold slaw like topping, that's perfectly refreshing in the summer heat.

And they offer much more than just shawarma, of course. The kebabs - chicken, beef, pork - can be had as part of a meal with basmati rice and condiments,

or as wraps. They also have a sampler platter if you can't decide which meat to kebab. You will enjoy the pita bread with hummus and moutabal. All of these at close to street food pricing so you can pig out without breaking a sweat.

If you do like sweating it out, you can opt for open air dining at the ground level which offers a free whiff of the grilling and Katipunan air. For those who'd like to stay cool, go to the second floor where it's air-conditioned, cozy, and the walls and lighting give a warm, rosy cast to your complexion. Huh? Just ring the bell for service.

Banapple Pies and Cheesecakes Cafe

Katipunan Ave.

Apparently, I'm the only person in the metropolis who has not had any of the banacoffee desserts available in different versions at different dessert restaurants. And since I am not fond of bananas in my dessert, and since I have declared a semi-permanent abstinence from all things with non-fruit sugar, then it will probably remain that way.And here is the rest of it.

It's a good thing Banapple offers several non-banana dessert options. With the kebabs and shawarmas from nearby King's Kebab still occupying space in our tummies, we only ordered two desserts to share among the four of us -- caramel cheesecake and apple pie. The caramel cheesecake looked deadly, and the caramel topping was just as sweet as I was afraid it was going to be. To counterbalance it is the the cheesecake center, which was divine. It's just the right consistency, not too airy and not too dense. I could confidently say that this is one of the best cheesecakes in the metro. The apple pie does not look nor taste like the typical apple pie; very intriguingly delicious.

If I weren't on my sugar fast (insert sad face), I would definitely come back to this place to try the other desserts. But maybe this review will make you want to try it out yourself and I'll just have their pies vicariously through you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bobby Chin's

1 Ba Trieu (pronounced Ba Tiow) Hanoi

Fusion of Chinese, Vietnamese, European cuisine. Tops in ambience. Location’s great; right across Hoan Kiem Lake. And if internationally acclaimed chef Bobby Chinn’s around, he will regale you with amusing anecdotes. I particularly love the ceviches, the lamb, and the dessert sampler, but I don’t think they serve anything bad there at all. After dinner, and you’re still keen on satisfying your sweet tooth, you have 2 options. You can turn left then right at the corner and walk over to Fanny Ice Cream Place to people watch, and have ice cream of course. Or you can turn left towards Trang Tien (Chang Tien) street and go to the kem place (kem is Vietnamese for ice cream) where they serve popsicle type ice cream. The rice ice cream is yummy. I know, you wouldn’t think rice ice cream could be good. If you’ve had enough sweets, you can cross over to the Highlands Coffee place by the lake. If you want to burn calories dancing, you can walk along Trang Thi where you will find Century Disco to your right. A bit too wild and carnal for me, but it’s a place to see Hanoi’s version of the nightlife. Okay, that's more than 2 options.

Chaca La Vong

14 Cha Ca, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

The Hanoi experience would be incomplete if you didn't try this restaurant. It claims to be the oldest restaurant in Vietnam, with a romantic history of how the dish and the restaurant came about. No language issues here, for they serve only one dish. You just sit down, and then they serve various bowls in front of you, plus a charcoal cooker with a pan of fish fried right there on your table. Make sure they serve the nam tom, which is their version of the bagoong. How to eat? Take your cue from the locals, and copy what they do. But in case you need further instructions, follow this:

1. Take some of the dill and various leaves and put them into the pan to be sautéed along with the fish. Do not include the mint and basil (served in a separate bowl); those will be used later. Let the dill cook for about 55 seconds; not overcooked, just enough for it to absorb and flavor the oil and fish.
2. In your bowl, put in the glass noodles first. Then on top of that you add the fish. Forget healthy eating. Slather the turmeric-laden oil onto the noodles.
3. Add the mint and/or basil.
4. Add the nom tam.
5. Top with nuts.
6. Goes great with cold local beer; Halida’s okay.
7. After dinner, cross over to BAGUETTE AU CHOCOLAT (11 Cha Ca), where they serve great pastries. Make sure you request a table at the 2nd floor where the lounge chairs are more comfortable. A window seat gives you a view of the hubbub on the street.

This is a five star experience from me, all based solely on the food. Don't expect five-star ambience. People just throw stuff on the floor here. And I've never dared to try the restroom.

I'm still looking for my Hanoi images. In the meantime, I stole this image from: http://photos.igougo.com/pictures-photos-s2-r1318934-p236192-Cha_Ca.html

Brother's Cafe

26 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hanoi, Vietnam

The place used to be a Buddhist temple; now it’s a restaurant and a silk shop combo. A very pretty restaurant. There’s a 10-dollar buffet that combines French and continental fare. The seafood grill’s great. The roast beef’s good. The Vietnamese dishes are not the best representative of the authentic Vietnamese versions, but they’re not bad at all. Make sure you leave room for dessert; there’s a lot to choose from and they're really quite good. Their version of our chico fruit tastes so much like ours, but they seem to be bigger.

Highway 4, Hanoi, Vietnam

They have 2 branches in Hanoi, I’ve only been to the one at:5 Hang Tre, Hoan Kiem District (Hang Tre is pronounced Hang Che).

On a cool, rainless evening, request for a place on the rooftop, where you will stay inside comfortable cabanas. Make sure your socks are presentable, as you may have to remove your shoes. Order the corn-flavored water; very refreshing. The plum wine is expectedly sweet, yet even if I do not like sweet alcoholic drinks, I found this one a pleasant surprise. My favorite dishes - the catfish spring roll, the caramelized pork in claypot, and the clams with shrimp crackers - are delightful! I’ve tried the fear factor fried scorpion dish; nothing to call home about. Souvenir t-shirt’s kinda cool. They also serve exotic wines and potions there, but I steered clear. A lot of them are for virility, and I didn’t need that.


Kamagong corner Sampaloc Sts., San Antonio Village, Makati City

I hate giving an all-time favorite such a low score. If it were based on our collective experiences there, they would get 4 stars, and if we had to rate based on value for your money, this would get a whopping 5-stars. But our last visit a couple of weeks ago scared us a little that as this joint gears up for franchising, the hole-in-the-wall appeal and the let's-just-talk-about-the-food purity will disappear.

We have to take part of the blame, too. We got there late and they were already out of our usual favorites -- the oyster butter itame, the ika butter itame, and the breaded tofu. So, we settled for the bento meal. You really can't complain. For just 123 pesos, you get a sample of ebi tempura, tuna steak, chicken furai, tai kimiyaki, squid balls, pork kushiyaki, rice, and miso soup. Sounds like a lot, huh? Well, it fills the stomachs, but does not give the usual Suzukin satisfaction. Moral lesson: next time come early for the sushis, and the oyster butter.

I hope our next visit will cause us to add more stars to that rating.

Healthy Shabu Shabu

Mall of Asia
The Podium

Healthy Shabu Shabu is God's gift to low-carb eaters. If you steer clear of the noodles, the corn, the fish and squid balls, and the taro, then you can get stuffed with some healthy protein options.

Healthy Shabu Shabu distinguishes itself from first generation shabu shabu restaurants with the first word of its name. The first health factor is that this is not a glutton's all-you-can-eat dream/nightmare. The servings are generous enough for family style sharing, but you get to control yourself by ordering ala carte. The price per order is a great control factor. It also does not offer a butter saute option like other shabu shabu restos do.

The best thing is that you start off with the raw materials sans marinades and sauces so you know you are not getting hidden sugars and starches. Of course, everything looks and tastes fresh and that's part of what makes it healthy. Make sure you load up on the healthy carbs from veggies. The second best thing is the individual hot pots which make it possible for you to flavor your broth as hot or as bland as you want it to be.

The drawback to most shabu shabu restaurants is the free take home smell of the kitchen that you take with you to your next mall stop. The resto at MOA has good enough ventilation that you are spared from that. Or maybe we were just too happy with our meal to care.

Oh, dining here may be healthy for your body, but not for your budget. This will set you back at least 600 pesos per person. The free dessert might make you feel better though.


The Fort, Trinoma and
Westgate Alabang

Zong is Chinese food for those who are not fond of Chinese food. I guess that's what you get when you take out the MSG and the tea-house decor and replace it with zen interiors and a fresh approach to dimsum dining.

Now, is it an "experience worthy of contemplation and remembrance" as the takeout flyer says it is? Uhm, maybe for the few seconds out of the door, when you rub your stomach and say that's a good meal, but contemplation is too big a word.

It did not take much contemplation to order. We looked at the other table and they were having the Spicy Singapore Style Fish Fillet. Waiter, we want that, pointing at the other table. Just don't make it too spicy since we're dining with senior citizens with sensitive stomachs. And though there was a stern warning on the menu about modifications, they okayed the less spicy version. The fillets are a Zong crowd fave and for good reason. We also ordered the Fujian Fried Rice with Scallop -- flavorful, can stand on its own as a full meal. I was just confused because it was generously topped with shrimps, but there was not a scallop in sight. Illegal substitution! Which made me think the scallop must have been missing also from the Squid and Scallop Balls, which is a finer version of the samurai balls served in the malls. I liked the Eggplant & Minced Pork in Hot Pot very much.

By teahouse and regular dining standards, Zong is good value for your money. Expect to spend 200-300 pesos, less with Senior citizen cards, for a meal that is worthy of uhm, "contemplation and remembrance."


Serendra, Fort

This post is long overdue, and since my memory has been ravaged by the passing of time - 6 months, I might mess up with some of the details. I do remember that it was a great dining experience for me. This restaurant could have suffered from high expectations. We checked out the reviews before going there, and most of them were glowing. But, there was nothing not to like. I felt the praise over the steaks was slightly exaggerated; the Porterhouse we had was not the best we've ever tried. But it was good. Other than that, the positive reviews were on the mark. It was also good that the party consisted of 6 adults and 2 preteeners. So, we were able to sample the different dishes. My favorites were the Duck Adobo Flakes with rice and egg (P305), the Tuyo Salad (P165) and the Truffle Oil Vegetable Mushroom Dip with Whole Wheat Melba Chips (P195). I was most excited about the Creamed Spinach (P115), but it was just okay. So was the Corn Pudding (P95). We also ordered Lamb Chops on the special menu, Mamou's Linguine Vongole (P325) and Dark Chocolate Sans Rival (P180), but my memory fails me on the specifics of the flavors. I guess they must have been just fine. I remember though being overwhelmed by all the dishes I had to try, with my palate being accosted by so many flavors. Accosted in a good way.

I remember that the place was all warmth and busy comfort with the owner acting as a gracious hostess to all the guests. Service was excellent. When the waiter saw me trying to take down notes, he offered to photocopy the menu for me. Which I had misplaced, and now have to accept that it is forever lost. That's why this review comes very late. Thanks to munchpunch for posting a menu that helped jog my memory.

Yummy food pics here: http://islandhopper.multiply.com/photos/album/27

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Customized Notepads and Invitations

http://www.mpresstudio.com/shop.html - Yummy letterpressed goodies!

I am so proud of my friend, Maria's work. She's a BFF, and I've always admired her aesthetic sense and her lifestyle tastes. She's a Grammy Award nominee for her CD packaging designs. If you're from the US (well, anywhere in the world really) and would like to order for yourself and your friends customized notecards, invitations with unique artwork and great tactile appeal, check out her site.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gift Ideas: Artesana Travel Journals

Follow this link for ordering details.

What these are are travel journals. You know how it is when you travel, and you collect the ephemera like tickets, cafe napkins and the like, and then you take a gazillion of photos. All these with the lofty ambition of creating a scrapbook when you get back. Then you get back and reality bites and you have to make up for your absence by working on a backlog of personal and job tasks. Scrapbooking dreams forgotten relegated to the chest of broken dreams. Well, this is the solution. Bring your journal with you. Paste your mementos and postcards while you're in the airport waiting lounge. Draw sketches. Write down your observations and ooh-ahh musings. All you have to do when you get back is to paste on your photos. Or if you're too lazy to even do that, just save your electronic pics into a cd and store that in the attached envelop. Your memories are saved. You minimize the self harassment. Your ephemera's organized. And you feel like a real scrapbooking and journaling diva.

Click here for ordering details.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars)

379 Pinatubo Street, Clarkview Subdivision, AngelesCity, Pampanga

Based on one past dining experience at this place, I had high expectations. Obviously from the rating, the expectations were not met. The tuna chowder on the pic was the one saving grace and added one star to the rating. The rest of the meal was underwhelming. The pork sausages had a funky, no-personality taste to it. And the buffalo wings were sad, really sad. My husband ordered chili, and I was envious of his food. To think, I hate chili beans.

It was also irritating to have a lot of the service staff come in late, disheveled, go into the washroom, and emerge with their hair dry and make-up on. It felt like I was watching a waitress vendo machine.

After having said all that, I might give this place another chance when I'm in the mood. Maybe the veterans were just having bad WW2 flashbacks.

Lemon Grass Vietnamese-Thai Culinary Treasures

Level 1, Ayala Food & Entertainment Center Cebu

Memories of Hanoi dining drive me to be in constant search for authentic Vietnamese food here in the Philippines. Funny that I find some degree of satisfaction in a mall in Cebu. The truth is to enjoy the food, I had to forget the authenticity factor and just accept that the only way I can recapture all that is to get on a plane to Vietnam. With that factor gone, I was free to enjoy the food offered at Lemon Grass and judge them by their own flavors. And in all fairness, I really loved the flavors; the banh xeo is a must-try. The presentation added many points to the dining experience - the rice was fancily wrapped in banana leaf. And the sticky rice and mango ending came very close to my expectations.

I hope they would have a Metro Manila branch soon.

Abaseria Deli & Cafe

39-B Pres. Roxas St. Villa Aurora, Kasambagan, Cebu City

If I were to open a restaurant, Abaseria would be a one of my models. Homey ambience to go with homecooked meals. Eclectic furniture. Lots of character with a healthy amount of kitsch. You can take the clan with you for family style dining on the long tables; or catch up with a girlfriend in an intimate corner; or, like me, dine alone with a book. Chances are, though, you'll forget about your book because the cafe doubles up as a shop for export quality Cebu-made bling, bags, and home accessories.

I've forgotten what I've ordered. Based on the picture, I seem to remember having wild rice, a lemony adobo sauce on ribs, okra with sesame seeds and nori. Homemade flavors, but with enough twists so they are not quite what manang makes at home.

When you're done eating, you can check out the baubles, sold at very reasonable prices. They were even nice enough to bring me to the nearby factory to buy more. The only thing that kept me from going berserk shopping were the facts that my bags were already jampacked with dangit and chicharon and I was flying off in a couple of hours.


Royal Garden Estate, Friendship Circumferential Road, Angeles City, Pampanga

I'm hardput to remember a Valentine's night out with my husband. He'd buy me the best floral arrangement his money could buy and make sure it's delivered where and when there would be the highest concentration of people to witness the delivery. He'd give me some expensive bauble, he'd treat me to a spa treatment even if I didn't need one, just don't make him be out there with those pathetic, soppy couples out celebrating the cheesiest occasion invented by man.

But this year, we had a candlelit dinner at an Italian restaurant. Okay, it was a business meeting with 2 other couples, but still.

Cioccolo serves more than just Italian food though. And most of us had non-italian dishes. We started off with deepfried balut, which to me was the best dish of the night. It was also the only dish that didn't take an hour to be served. Okay, the menu described my order as 10-hour roasted ribs, but I didn't know that was to be taken literally. The dishes eventually arrived, and at least they were good. Or we were just too hungry that even the soles of our havaiannas (yes, casual attire is welcome) would taste scrumptious. The ribs were tender and the barbecue sauce just right. My husband ordered grilled lengua; I've never had grilled lengua before and didn't even know that was done. It was good; made mental note to try that at home.

Cioccolo serves a variety of coffees , including Jamaican coffee, Illy, and alamid (I gasped a little when I saw someone drowning the premium alamid coffee with copious amounts of creamer - you gotta go black!). In this day of roll your eyes up and go to heaven desserts, their Oreo cheesecake was just okay.

Even if the place was huge and the diners many, the place still had that warm, intimate feel; thanks to the well designed lighting and the fine furniture. My seat afforded a view of artfully arranged, gigantic cabbage roses, which surprisingly were fresh and real. If you're ever in the area, this place is worth a try, valentine's day or not.


Fields Avenue, Pampanga

Subdelicious sounds like a really bad name for a restaurant. It sounds like the food is just this short of delicious. A totally unfair description of the food. Because the buffalo wings are really good. Something I always look forward to when we go to Pampanga. If we hear of anyone going to that area, we tell them to try out the wings. Even the locals did not know about it, and my husband has invited lots of them to the place. We were one of those happy consumers providing them free word of mouth advertising.

You can order the wings mild, regular, or spicy. Of course, we went for the spicy, which is tempered by the blue cheese cream dip. The restaurant is known more for its hoagies and submarine sandwiches, but I didn't care much about the Philly Cheese Steak Sub; not bad, but I prefer my beef rarer and sliced thicker.

It must be a happening place at night with the billiards and the jukebox. That lunchtime, though, there were just a few of us enjoying the place and the buffalo wings. We were on our last pieces... this after telling my husband that the 20-piece order was too much. And then, my husband accidentally dropped one onto the floor. And this is where the jukebox music suddenly jumps and screeches to a halt and the happy dream scene is over. Because seconds later a mouse runs from under my booth chair and grabs the piece of chicken. Of course, I let out a mini-scream, and just got as far away from that booth as possible. I tried not to make a scene and just waited for the bill to be paid. At this point, I was agonizing, thinking maybe I should just ignore the mickey sighting, and just give them a positive review because I really liked the food, and I didn't want to be nasty, I mean after all Ratatouille has opened the minds of people to rodents touching their fine cuisine. But the nightmare didn't end just then. The manager started asking, more like interrogating my husband about why I was taking pictures. Like this is the first time in history that people have taken pictures in restaurants. I don't want to bore you with the exchange, but I was trying to explain that I was promoting their restaurant so my friends would try them out, but she was mouthing all these obnoxious lines like, "We're all Filipinos here, okay. When QTV and GMA filmed here, they asked permission. We're not stupid; that is a professional camera." I really didn't, and still don't, understand what the fuss was about. It's not as if we can steal their secret recipes by taking photos. We were not doing anything wrong and this woman was blabbing on and on doing more damage to her restaurant than to us. In exasperation and disgust my husband mentioned the mouse, and this woman had the temerity to say with a straight face, "That's normal. All restaurants have rats." Okay, I'm trying not to get upset as I write this so I'll stop the happy reminiscing. Bottom line, I'm going to miss those wings because I'll never ever go to that place of substandard sanitation ever again. I'm not going to stop you from going, though. Just make sure that if you go, you don't drop any food on the floor, sit with your feet on the chair, and be ready with a mayor's permit if you want to take pictures.

Patpat's Kansi

8809 Sampalo St. near cor. Kamagong St. Makati City

You've just had your annual medical checkup. Blood pressure good. Everything else unremarkable. It's now time to live a little and clog those arteries with a flavorful dose of 100% cholesterol goodness. Behind the Metrobank branch at Kamagong (diagonally across Suzukin) is this no-a/c but breezy set up frequented by the office lunch crowd. There's not a lot in the menu. The no-fun sissies who love giving you guilt trips order the boneless bangus (125 pesos), the health-conscious opt for kansi laman (95 pesos) and the carpe diemers go for the piece de resistance, the kansi bulalo (80 pesos). Seize the day, and your aorta, with about 4 lovely tablespoonfuls of marrow slush guaranteed to expedite your entry to heaven, physically and metaphysically. Bring that googled article from the mayo clinic that says coca cola can corrode metail; if it can do that then it can melt all that fat. Down the coke with lipitor bites. Eat this while you're young. Or when you're old enough and too far gone to say it's too late to start eating healthy.


45 Mercer St # A
New York, NY 10013
(212) 343-9012

I'm going to rave, and no one can stop me. I was a fan of Cendrillon even before I got there by virtue of the book published by its owners and chefs, Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa. Memories of Philippine Kitchens is a beautiful book because of the stories and Neil Oshima's pictures. When I found out that lunch at the Cendrillon was part of my relatives' itinerary, I was ecstatic. Of course, being all that excited heightened the danger of the high expectations not being matched by the actual dining experience. I've heard mixed reviews, the bad ones mostly from Filipinos. Well, I don't know what those bad reviewers ordered, but I was happy, happy, happy with everything about

the restaurant. The location was fabulous, with chic shops lining Mercer Street. (The Gourmet Garage some steps away, one of Heath Ledger's stops on his last day alive, is a toys r' us for domestic divas like me. The olive selection (with taste test) rivals Zabar's.) The interiors - - global with strong Filipino touches. The food! The food! Filipino fusion without trying too hard to be fusion, and trying too hard to be Filipino. Amazing, sublime twists on the lumpia and the ukoy.

As soon as I get the chance, I'm going to go back.

Bistro Filipino Chef Laudico

Ground Level Net 2 Bldg, 3rd Ave. Bonifacio Global City

A fine restaurant. Great interiors. A good example of Filipino fusion. We got the sampler dinner - 7 courses, 12 dishes, all paced out just right so that your stomach can adjust to the next course. Notable were the shitake soup and the tuna ceviche.

What kept it from getting five stars is that the food was somewhat overflavored. Too saucy. I mean, wagyu beef does not need much help except for the subtlest of flavors, but Chef Laudico's rendition had it smothered in red sauce; it tasted just like your lola's kaldereta. Good, but you just want to scrape the sauce all off to taste how wagyu really tastes.

Check out our photos of our Christmas Eve dinner: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=24327&id=631171910

Note: I gave this 4 stars after our Christmas dinner, but after another dinner last June, I'm promoting this to 5 stars. The dinner was exceptional. Loved the shitake mushroom puree, the blue cheese mashed potato, the duck patotim, the adobo overload!


2277 Chino Roces Ave. Makati City

Little Tokyo is a wonderful surprise in an area better known (or notorious) for pirated DVDs. It's nice to walk around the courtyard to choose the Japanese restaurant that will be to your liking and within your budget. Tucked away in there are a number of Japanese restaurants all frequented by Japanese expats, so you know they're good and authentic. But if budget's not an issue, then you don't even need to enter the courtyard. Fronting the deeveedee deeveedee den is Seryna. Ambience is cozy, with a low ceiling and interesting decor of rich wood and slate. The food's excellent. I've never met a sashimi I didn't like so it's a given that their sashimi platters would be delightful. The sukiyaki uses fresh top-grade ingredients. The uni (sea urchin) tempura is melt-in-your mouth, eyeballs-roll-up good. Service is tops! The server even discouraged us from ordering a second order of Sukiyaki unless we're sure we could finish the generous serving of the first one. She said she didn't want to see good food go to waste. The only negative point is the unisex washroom. It's quite clean, but I have a personal aversion to unisex restrooms. But that's just me. Overall, this is one of the city's best Japanese restaurants. I'm going back for the uni!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Rest From the Moving,

I have been busy transferring reviews from my multiply site. And now, I just want to rest a bit and say something from the present.

A blog visitor led me to the sites of scrapbookers here at blogspot and elsewhere. And I was amazed at the talent of Pinay scrapbookers. That was something I tried to get into many years ago. Bought the books and scissors and bag, the whole shebang, but so far I've produced very little. The only time I get to complete a project is when it has to be used for a special event and usually the thing goes to somebody else, which means I have nothing to show for it.

My top 3 excuses:
- No working space
- No time
- Expensive photo printing costs

Real reasons:
- Procrastination
- Laziness
- Fear of the mess
- Fear of coming up with ugly stuff
- Expensive photo printing costs

But the creative journaling workshop got me in the mood. And that may be a slow start to eventually get into something bigger like scrapbooking. I need to conquer my fears too. And I will. And I need to solve my procrastination habit. I will. Tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Maga Center, Paseo de Magallanes and Fort

We enter a crowded resto. We sit on the no-nonsense chairs, more comfortable than aesthetic, around an old skool formicaesque table. We almost do not have to look at the menu, as our orders will be the no-brainer, "the usual." For me, it is binagoongang liempo. For my husband, the crispy beef ribs. We add a tall glass of maiz con hielo that reminds me of summers when my mom would hoard cans of creme style corn and our yayas would work out their bicep muscles churning crushed ice on demand. All time favorites. No surprises. No nouveau twists. No pretensions. In an ambiance that does not require prettying up. Just food that tells you that there are places you can run to when you want the world to be familiar, simple, and real.

Now, THAT is comfort food!


Unit 1512 Forbeswood Heights, Rizal Drive corner Burgos Circle, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

If your restaurant or culinary repertoire has no clear, cohesive concept, do not be tempted to label it as comfort food. You will just give yourself a standard that will be too difficult to meet. You're setting yourself up for failure if you take on the responsibility to relax frazzled nerves, mend broken psyches, and warm up cold hearts. Your adobo has to taste exactly like how Lola Pacing or Yaya Sabel cooked it. And you better have blizzard-consistency champorado with a can of Alaska evaporated milk by the side so I can use the milk to write my name on the porridge.

From the outside, in the dining spaces done in posh but generic zen, to the ultra uncomfortable chairs, there is nothing about Basilio's that says, Come to mama and have some comfort food. What clues you in on the all-too-subtle concept is the 500-page essay on the menu that describes comfort food as "not fusion," no pretensions, but with just a little twist from the usual. Okay, that confuses, not comforts me.

Then you look at the dishes on the list and you think, these look like fusion, but you're not sure exactly what categories and cultures are being fused.

So anyway, never mind the concept. Let's just eat.

I like the bite size foccacia bread. The butter was delicious, reminding me of a Geneva breakfast where I tasted the freshest, best butter I've ever had. My husband shattered the mystery and delusions of exotic when he pointed out one of the butter packets marked by a price sticker from Price Mart.

Then, appetizers. Always searching the best buffalo wings in the metro, we ordered the wings. (Sorry, I didn't take notes so I won't be using the official menu names.) Don't believe the menu photo; the real servings are more generous. It was underwhelmingly okay. Not bad. Mildly spicy. Effective in staving hunger pangs as we waited for our friend to arrive. The blue cheese dressing was in portion controlled quantity though, but you can always request for more.

I ordered what the waiter referred to as the bestseller - the beef and mushroom pot pie. Imagining that a comfort food rendition of this dish would have thick, gooey, creamy beef stew inside. And the dish comes and it looks fabulous, with the pastry top crust nicely puffed up ala souffle. The fun ends there because inside, the sauce was rather sad and thin - imagine a can of Campbell soup diluted with 3 cans of water. The best thing going for it was it was steaming hot, leaving a burn that numbed my tongue for 3 days. Generous on the mushroom, which I loved, but hello, where's the beef? Isn't it that the rule of first mention is that in a dish called beef and mushroom, there should be more beef than mushroom? Okay, I made up that rule, but the price seemed to warrant more cow carcass than fungi, no matter how good tasthing the fungus variety is.

My friend's 50 or was it 30-clove garlic chicken is comfortingly tasty, but it was just a couple of notches above SM's rotisserie chicken. Okay, 3 notches. At twice the price.

My husband's comfort food was fish and chips. Not very memorable, except that it was too oily.

I hesitated to order the macaroni and cheese, another bestseller, because I just had baked mac at a workshop catered by the BSP canteen, and I would hate it if the cafeteria edition is better than this 300+peso version. But I couldn't resist so we ordered it, center served it, and shared it among the 3 of us. Now, that was good macaroni and cheese. Most mac & cheese versions use fake cheese of the quickmelt family, but this had sharp cheddar and it was several notches above the cafeteria variety. No regrets ordering this.

The saving grace of the meal was the dessert. The molten chocolate cake was exquisite - dark and just the right balance of sweet and bitter. Delish!

All in all, not a bad meal. None of the dishes were awful, with the molten chocolate cake and the mac & cheese as winners. But any little comfort derived from the food was immediately wiped out by the bill -- when we subtract the price of the bottle of merlot, there was still more than 2 grand to settle among the 3 of us. Gosh, I needed comforting after that.



I thought I would never get to eat at Abe's. For some reason, every attempt to eat there has always been thwarted by uncontrollable circumstances, by difficulty to reserve, or by being outvoted for other resto choices.

What rice shortage? Abe lets you forget about the food crisis as servers go around with pretty native wicker baskets lined with banana leaves as they serve all you can eat rice for everyone. The height of summer noon, however, is not the most conducive for carbo-loading. What is perfect for a hot, steamy day is the lato salad in a light vinaigrette topped with salted egg. Perfectly refreshing. The squid tactics is just as scrumptious as I remember it back in the Bistro Lorenzo days. Tender squid in a light batter sprinkled with a spicy sweet sauce. The crispy tadyang is good, but nothing we could not replicate at home.

It took all these months, or years, for me to finally check out one of Serendra's more popular restaurant. Pretty good food. I really wanted to give it a 3.5 stars, but the lato salad helped me round it up to a 4.

Reyes Barbecue

I almost dismissed this ubiquitous restaurant because I thought it was owned by the same people who ran the just as ubiquitous Reyes beauty parlors of 35 peso haircut fame. It was a good thing that my friend, Raymund, corrected my silly impression and invited me to lunch there. I've been back many times since.

Franchisers, it seems, have the liberty not to offer the full menu. The King's Court branch did not have the butterscotch banana, and The Fort's did not serve the salmon belly because the owner found it too fatty. Both of these dishes are good. The banana dessert may taste almost like the ordinary banana cue, but if you close your eyes and focus your energies on your tastebuds, you will sense the hint of butterscotch and a somewhat creme bruleeish quality to it. The Julia Vargas branch carries the whole range, and even offers you the option of slowly baking inside their lukewarm air-conditioned area, or being grilled in their inuman semi-open air section.

Of course, all the branches have to serve the pork and chicken barbecue, served with peanut sauce, java rice, and achara. If that sounds and tastes to you strangely like Aristocrat's, that's because the Reyeses aristocracy rules this resto chain. Good, lip-smacking barbecue, even if you skip like I do the condiments. Other satisfying choices are the tuna belly and the grilled squid, albeit it being smallish.



In the location, location, location slogan for resto success, Zao hit the jackpot being beside Conti's since it is the most convenient detour for Conti's spillover.

I do believe, however, that it can stand on its own merits.

It was 9PM and our last meal was many hours ago, so my brain and my stomach were too hungry to wade through the menu. So in typical Icebreaker thick-faced fashion, I just asked the people on the table beside us what was good to eat. And they highly recommended the short ribs and the spring rolls. Thank you, people on other table, we had a good meal.

The seafood spring roll is the best item among our orders. Mainly because it was the only one that vaguely reminded me of Vietnamese cuisine. My bro in law said it tasted like fresh Oishi prawn crackers, but he means that in a good way. If you run out of leaves for rolling, the waiter will gladly refill.

The ribs were succulent, good to the bone, juicy, fight-for-the last piece goodness with that lovely carcinogenic charcoal flavor. But there was nothing that suggested Vietnamese gustatory delight about it. Nothing that my husband, the backyard grill king, cannot do.

If squids would ever become endangered, my sister would be one of the prime culprits. So, we had to order the calamari-type dish. At best, it was okay.

And of course, I had to have cafe da - cold Vietnamese drip coffee with condensed milk. Yum!

So, if you're looking for Vietnam in a bowl, Hanoi in a plate, Saigon this is probably not the best place to go. But if you're looking for flavorful, filling meal, friendly service, with a not-too-pricey bill, when you're famished and Conti's is full, or even when it's not, come to Zao's.

Oyster Boy

Cuisine: Seafood

Snazzy interiors. Unique takes on oysters. These are the top 2 reasons for trying Oyster Boy. The menu gives a dizzying array of interesting ways to do oyster. Unfortunately, they didn't offer a sampler platter, so we had to make excruciatingly tough choices. We settled on a Japanese palate theme and ordered the Fresh Oyster with Wasabi Cocktail Sauce (150 pesos for 6 pieces/275p for 12) -- it's the bomb with the wasabi hitting the g-spot of your nostrils. The Oyster Tempura is great too. These two do not erase freshly blanched oysters as my no. 1 favorite version, but they are interestingly fresh, delicious takes. Love them. Match them with lato salad, a counterpoint of buffalo wings (like I said, my husband is compelled to try every wing in the city). The oyster cake is pretty good, but not if you're expecting it to match Singapore hawker standards.