Sunday, November 10, 2013

Baguio Ketchup and Strawberries

The recent long weekend for All Souls saw a family trip for us to Baguio.  We had visited our departed relatives a week ahead and planned a trip to the cold north.  Its funny because we had always taken trips as a family and each trip sadly reminds me of the people who aren't there with us on trips anymore.  Anyway.....

Undas as the first of November weekend is called for no reason I know sees massive traffic because of the Exodus of people in Metro Manila to see their beloved in provinces.  Now this is a problem but a consultation with actual Baguio residents determined that a good day to go is November 1 morning, as people usually go the night before and would already be at their destination leaving a very nice ride from Manila to NLEX to SCTEX and the newly opened TPLEX.  Well we were all wrong, traffic was insane but we trooped along and go to Baguio in 8 hours.

Baguio is now a messy haven, a mini Metro Manila that is cold if you will.  No more sleepy charm and unique stores opened by retirees looking to keep themselves busy.  Baguio is now filled with franchises and billboards.  There are still a few great places to go and my newest discovery is Ketchup Community in Romulo Drive, Baguio City.

Excuse the cut photo, there is only so much an iPhone can do at close range

Very pretty place

Fish and chips look like corn fritters, crunchy, costing is a bit thick. This untraditional take is interesting to share. Not expensive 195. 

The rib eye came overlooked. Far from the medium I asked for. Strong herb taste that overpowers the meat. The mustard is mixed in instead of on the side so it's on the sour side. Too much rosemary but I am not picky and enjoyed the surprise difference from what I expected.

Ketchup Community is a cluster of small restaurants situated next to each other.  The cute concept is that you can sit anywhere and can crossover order as long as 50% if what you order is from where you are sitting. We did not crossover order however and ordered everything from Green Pepper.

The place feels like an outdoor grill.  Food is good and reasonably priced, had we stayed in Baguio longer I would have suggested going to Ketchup Republic every night as it is truly a delightful place to be.  I highly recommend the excellent house pasta of Green pepper.  Rich, thick with tina pa and chorizo it was truly delightful especially at the 195 price point.  The meat is reasonable too.

The restaurant that had the most patrons was "Canto" situated in the kanto, that will be my next stop when I return.

Then I recommend heading to Mile Hi Center if you are in Camp John Hay and looking for the Strawberries and Ice Cream stand.  You just have to have this!

Strawberry ice cream on strawberry jam, lined by large strawberries and topped with strawberry syrup.  Its the inception of Strawberries!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bamba Bistro at Aguirre, BF Homes, Paranaque

On a visit to relatives in the Alabang area it was suggested we go to Bamba Bistro located at 55 Aguirre Street BF Homes.  It was suggested because my sister in law was seeing a lot of raving posts on Instragram on the food.

Bamba Bistro is the newest in a chain of BF Restaurants from a restaurateur family the Legarda's.  From where we sat we could clearly see Chef Tina slaving away in the kitchen to a relatively full house last Sunday.  
Quaint signage that is warmly backlit

The Gem - Bamba Hamburger 210

Steak Ala Manila PhP 690

baby back ribs

The recommended steak ala Manila was not to my liking at all.  Nothing wrong with it its just that I am not a fan of sweet tapa, if I wanted something sweet I would go find tocino.  I found the meat fatty and tough, the barbecue and char like flavor reminded me of pork barbecue.  I prefer the Maple version of Tapsilog.

We also had pasta which was ok, the mussels in a cream sauce which was fantastic except the mussels were tiny in large shells, I wonder why that is because even local mussels I have had are usualy 3x the size.  The cream sauce is cheesy and makes an excellent dip for bread.

As for dessert, the chocolate ravioli is interesting, just let it cool down a little bit or you will burn your tongue.  The panna cotta a bit too burned for our taste, but it does say it is toasted.  The cookie ala mode was very good.

What I really liked and is an excellent bargain is the burger, soft, juicy, tasty on what I must say is the best hamburger bun I have ever had.  At P210 it is not that much more than a Mc Donald's Quarter Pounder!  It was so succulent and juicy and I kinda have to say tastes a lot like the Friday's Cheeseburger.  It comes with a generous serving of Onion rings and comes with fruit and bacon sauces.  If I had a burger of the year award it would go to this!

Bamba is pleasant, a nice place for a quaint date.  Food takes a while but is worth it when it gets there.  Whatever you plan to get, don't forget to order the burger :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mesa Filipino Moderne at SM Aura

I just absolutely love Filipino food.  Matter of fact I have been to two Filipino restaurants just this week starting with last Sunday at Mesa Filipino Moderne at SM Aura.  

We as a family sought out Mesa at the behest of my younger sister who was craving Pritson, crispy lechon de leche wrapped in pita wrappers with different sauces, the Filipino version of Peking Duck.  I personally never got why some people go so crazy over this dish but to each his or her own.  Mesa even gives you a choice of the second way meaning after enough meat has been stripped for about 16 priston wrappers the rest is cooked - we chose sauteed with garlic.  Just like Peking Duck.

Just like Peking Duck - the Pritson is prepared in front of you

Snazzy, modern interior with interesting touches

Boneless Crispy Pata

Two Way Laing

Naturally as the Pritson is the know specialty there were many orders of it being prepared at tablesides.  I couldn't help myself and asked the poor woman slicing the lechon if it was hot.  After all she was handling a newly cooked pig with thin plastic gloves so that couldn't have been pleasant for her.  She just smiled and said "a little".  A few minutes later we had the first batch of Pritson and were asked how we wanted to second way or second cooking and we went with sauteed with garlic (the other choice is sauteed with garlic and chili).

Can't say I was impressed with the Pritson.  Pritson is all the same to me and the extra thick, chewy wrapper took away some of the Pritson flavor.  A novelty of those party Pritson is the myriad of choices of sauce but Mesa for no obvious reason to me only offers three.

Everything else was pretty good though, I enjoyed the boneless crispy pata and scooped all the extra garlic and chili to top everyone's rice.  The laing too was excellent, my mom mixed the too together as she preferred everything a bit wetter - separately one is dry and one is wet.

The Pritson was good for four at 1,500.  Had we not have that our bill would have been a little north of one thousand pesos, quite reasonable indeed.

Mesa is decent Filipino food at an excellent price.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Antonio's Breakfast, Tagaytay

Antonio's Breakfast in Antonio's is one of those places people go to from Metro Manila just to get away. I see this placed used by car and bike clubs as the destination for a weekend fun run, the breakfast point after an hour or so of spirited dawn driving through sleepy towns forced to wake by the rumble of a convoy of machines.  It could be argued that this venue was selected because of its ample parking space but the most compelling reason is the good food.  I didn't come here because of a fun run and came in the evening but I did see two or three muscle cars parked there.  I was with my family and we went in this cold rainy night.

This wasn't my first time here, I love Antonio's breakfast, the country inspired interior, the fresh bread, herbs and dessert takeout counter on the immediate right of the door and the view of Taal lake at the far side all let you know that you aren't in Metro Manila anymore.  Antonio's is a hallmark of quality Tagaytay cuisine whether it be breakfast, grill or the cliche everybody proposes there coz its so pretty Antonio's Garden. I tell you that most guys only take a really long drive to a destination restaurant to either a) drive a fast ride over a long distance or b) to impress a girl they really like/love.  I however was there because of a previous engagement nearby, destination eating is not my thing.

I just love breakfast food, I love fried garlic rice, eggs, salty meat and what not.  I just don't like eating all of that for breakfast, there is nothing like massive amounts of oil and carbs to slow you down before your day has even began.  However, what I love is breakfast room for dinner, thats right folks and I have come to the right place for my dinner.

Bacon and Cheese Rosti

Mushroom and Truffle Pasta

Reuben Sandwich

Fresh Corned Beef, Cheese, Sauerkraut goodness

Now Antonio's Breakfast is very well known for its Beef Tapa.  Beef tapa, the standard issue Filipino breakfast is indeed good here, but in my opinion it is not what you should be having.  And I present our choices above for your consideration.  The Bacon and Cheese rosti is a wonderful medley or rich, salty flavors which I feel is best shared as a side dish as is can be overpowering as a main.  Another great to share is the five cheese pizza which is good though not spectacular, it is still a good filler in case your main comes short of satisfying you.  Another companion had the truffled, mushroom pasta which too was delicious but none compared to my Reuben sandwich.

As we arrived late I was being hurried into making a decision, being unable to decided I was about to blurt either the tapa or the house burger until the table next to us had the piece of sandwich heaven served to them.  And like a stunned teenager at a soiree I had to shyly ask our waitress for the identity of such a beautiful looking dish and the rest is history.

My Reuben was a delicious combination of fresh corned beef, sauerkraut, cheese and bread.  It was filling, tasty and quite satisfying.  It is now my new hamburger, the dish to be ordered automatically whenever I find it served.  Now the hunt for Reuben sandwiches in Metro Manila begins.

A very odd thing about Antonio's breakfast are the signs that people who speak abusively to their servers would be asked to leave.  This made me wonder just how many rude people come here that necessitate the fixing of the aforementioned signs.  Maybe the testosterone and adrenaline infused idiocy of some people on fun runs but who knows.

Oh, the chocolate truffle cheesecake is something to try.  Truffle oil, cheesecake and chocolate leaves you wondering for a few seconds whether you like it or not, chances are you will.

Breakfast is a great place, drive carefully and always treat everyone everywhere with respect!

Antonio's contact information here, they don't do reservations at Breakfast though.

How to get to Antonio's Breakfast through this map.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hosseins Restaurant: Persian, Arabian and Indian cuisine at Serendra

Filipinos love Middle Eastern food, don't believe me?  Take yourself back to the mid to late nineties explosion of Shawarma joints all over the place.  There was Shawarma everywhere including the famous Shawarma Snack Center (SSC) in Sucat which was the hangout of people there before the recent explosion of establishments within Aguirre road(if you haven't been there in a while you are in for a shock).

Back to Hossein's!  Hossein's in Serendra is one of the nicest looking Middle Eastern restaurants in Metro Manila complete with those booths partitioned by curtains to make you feel like a Caliph about to be served his dinner.

What I like about Hossein's is what differentiates it from the other restaurants serving the same fare, quality and authenticity.  There is something to each dish, extra spices, extra steps such as imbuing smokiness into the grilled meets that make everything ooze quality, no shortcuts here and its worth the premium.

The rich beef kebab can be ordered in mild or spicy is hearty with its saffron rice, filling and again the meat quality is evident as it is free of gristle and what not you get from ordinary ground beef.



Although we went through a crazy day of rain and traffic, Hossein's was surprisingly full.  Its just that good, I can think of few others that give you so accurate (I imagine) a taste of Persia.  Although Persia Grill is quite good and is at half the price and is a great place to drink - read

I highly recommend this place and its great for a date..

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bellini's Italian Restaurant, Cubao X

Bellini's sticks out like a sore thumb at the Cubao X, it just doesn't seem to belong among the thrift shops, shoe stores and other restaurants and bars there that all gasp for space since compared to them Bellini's literally occupies half of the biggest block there.  I have been to Cubao X thrice now, the first two times I was unable to go to Bellini's however, I have been to Fred's Revolucion (brilliant article by Cheryl Tiu).  Fred's is a fantastic experience in Cuban Revolution and well, other Red revolution memorabilia as you see that Soviet Woodblock type art in their propaganda posters and is worth going to after dinner at Bellini's.

Bellini's is a formal looking Italian restaurant that from what I gather was one of the early establishments in Cubao X.  Cubao X for the un initiated is an eclectic mix of thrift shops, shoe stores (Marikina Shoe Expo or showrooms of Markina Shoe Makers) and the odd art store and beauty salon in the mix.

Bellini is well appointed and reminds me of an aged Italianni's, the interior is adorned with famed scenes of Italy painted onto the walls and wine displays of what look like three kinds of wine but in many, many bottles.

I was there on a Sunday with my mom, the great thing was they had a non stop New Wave mix going on which kinda struck me.  We ordered two dishes to share, the spaghetti with longganisa, tomato and chili (p270) and a roast pork (P300).  The waiter suggested Focaccia bread (P100) to go with the order of spaghetti.  Odd because usually you get a few baguette slices with pasta but what the heck.  The bread was a loaf without the end pieces and was crunchy on the outside yet soft and warm on the inside.

Bread sticks are complimentary and quite flavorful with a hint of cheese.  The spaghetti was just the way I like it, with a light sauce, real tomato taste and perfectly cooked noodles.

The roast pork is well, two thin slices quite well made, tasty but very little considering you need meat to balance the carbs out.  I didn't care, I stopped mid way in my meal to sing the chorus of "A Little Respect" by Erasure, wonderful!

I can't give a full opinion based on two dishes but everything tasted authentic, rustic even, free from being drenched in heavy "Italian" sauces, here it is more herbs and vegetables doing the talking, more organic flavors which lend to the authenticity of the food.

The very pleasant owner (Signore Bellini himself!) doesn't seem to speak much English and it is quite endearing to see the waiters speaking Italian to him.  There is even a chalkboard with Italian words of the day and their translations.

Each meal is finished with free red wine in shot glasses a quaint and pleasant touch.  I am coming back with my entire family so we can share more dishes and try everything.  I am typing this while listening to guess.

Bellini's Contact Info from Facebook
Cubao Expo, Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines(02) 913 2550

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sneak Peek at OTKB Olive Tree Kitchen & Bar at High Street, Bonifacio Global City

Known as OTKB, because Olive Tree Kitchen & Bar can be quite a mouthful or a lot to text is the newest restaurant on the block.  I seriously thought OTKB was a spin off NKTOB (or new kids on the block) - something something restaurant on the block.  Anyhow the Olive Tree Kitchen and Bar is the newest restaurant of Master Chef Rob Pengson.

Breakfast Terra Cotta
sous vide egg, baguette

Fresh Ricotta
Roasted Cherry and Heirloom Potatoes, alfalfa sprouts 

Caesar Salad with Chicken Milanese
Caesar Salad with breaded chicken on the side

Pepperoni Pizza

Char grilled Wagyu Bistecca

OKTB Burger
 The pizza is very, very good, so much so I kept thinking of Stella Wood Fire Bistro's Pizza my new pizza favorite, OKTB's pizza is very good and I could come here just to eat pizza.  I actually prefer a thinner crust and more of the toppings area but this was very good indeed.

We tried two of the breakfast dishes or egg dishes which come in deep dishes and you stir everything up to distribute the egg and allow it to cook slightly more.  I love dishes like these, the yolk and bread tend to thicken making this hearty and mellow accentuated with a tinge of spice to give you a bit of a bite.

The salad comes with the chicken and Caesar dressing on the side. The dressing was pleasant and not overpowering and the chicken's breading was delicate and thin.

Everything was good and mind you this is the soft opening or trial period.  The staff is friendly and quite eager.  I see a great future for this really nice family place.  The ambiance is pleasant and although still not completely finished I can imagine more eye catching accents as it comes closer to its grand opening this third week of September.  I will be back.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Peking Garden at Greenbelt without the Peking Duck

Peking Garden in Greenbelt is my family's defacto "high end" Chinese food destination where we go for special occasions to eat the lechon of Chinese food, the Peking Duck.  To my knowledge the Peking Garden Peking Duck is flown in daily from Hong Kong although I did hear that it was being sourced from the US (for awhile).  Regardless their Peking Duck is fantastic and nearly every table in Peking Garden has a chef slicing with precision a duck to slices to be enjoyed in at least three ways (soup, rolled with leeks and pita bread and minced in lettuce).  Going to Peking Garden and not having the duck was unheard of, until now.

We went to Peking Duck as a family last Saturday, the funny thing was, this time we had no Peking Duck.  It was my parent's idea, why not try the rest of Peking Garden's fare without the distraction of their star, the Peking Duck.

The sigh of my heart at the non presence of the beloved duck could have been heard a mile away when I learned of this tragedy, nevertheless I was not paying for this meal and couldn't complain.  After all, this was an opportunity to see what else Peking Garden was good at, they do pack each branch to the brim after all.  I began to stuff my face with the delightful fried wanton chips (you should see me eat these, I'm the cookie monster of wanton) while awaiting the food.  We ordered the Peking Garden Special Fried Rice, Sweet and Sour Pork, Deep Fried Beef Tenderloin, Salt and Pepper Squid, Hot Prawn Salad and Scrambled Egg White with Minced Fish and Dried Scallop.

Always delicious salt and pepper squid

Peking Garden Fried Rice - When your name is one a dish it better be good

Deep Fried Beef Tenderloin

I wasn't able to take pictures of everything as everyone was so famished that we dug into the food faster than I could say "please hold on, I gotta take a picture of that".  By the third dish I wasn't able to take a pic of I was all "f@#k it" and dug in myself like a hyena late to the feeding frenzy.

First of all, the Peking Garden Special Fried Rice is one of the best Chinese Restaurant rice dishes I have ever had.  My brother who was based in Shanghai told me that rice is actually the king of Chinese food and is usually served last however we Filipinos are used to having it along with the food and not a course in itself.
The Sweet Sour Pork is good, drier than a lot of places and slightly crispy but I cannot say it is remarkable, it would be ok but not stellar.  The Deep Fried Beef had an odd marinade flavor of hoisin and was more like a deep fried brisket - none of us cared for this and it was brought home, your taste may vary but 5 of us didn't like it.

Now the Scrambled Egg White with Minced Fish and Dried Scallop is a delicate dish because of the light texture and flavors and requires the accompanying black vinegar to give it a kick.  Odd though, it was reminiscent of scrambled eggs and ketchup in flavor to me, matter of fact if you had me close my eyes and made me eat it that is exactly what I would have said it is.

Now the Hot Prawn Salad is my favorite, think of it as a mayonaissy fruit salad with hot giant prawns in a crispy batter with fruit bits such as  pineapple, I must have!

I really missed the Peking Duck, Peking Garden without the Peking Duck is like having the Chicago Bulls circa 84 to 98 without Michael Jordan.  I would have traded all the dishes we ordered and have had just the duck and rice again.  Peking Garden Peking Duck I miss you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Isogi Japanese Restaurant at San Antonio Arcade

People have been raving about Isogi, the new Japanese Restaurant at San Antonio Church Plaza in Mc Kinley Road.  San Antonio Church in Makati is an extremely popular wedding church because of its location and because it was one of the first to have air conditioning.  And across it is a recently rennovated structure housing quite a few establishments capitalizing on the high traffic of that area comprised of the nearby villages and the large population of Colegio San Agustin that passes by there everyday.  Now back to Isogi.

What drew me to Isogi was that when people would rave about it I would hear two things, good and reasonable.  Now reasonable is a difficult word to argue with so I was intrigued.  Furthermore I would hear about their Wagyu burger while it may seem odd to go to a Japanese restaurant for a burger heck I go to fine dining restaurants for a burger - and they better have them.  Heck, I dare say that all restaurants should have and be judged for their burger - after all when all else fails and you have stared at a menu long enough I bet you almost always say "I will have the burger", right?

Tuna Tartare - very good and tasty.  A good side dish

Tuna Maki-  good, nothing stupendous but good

The Wagyu Burder - Extremely soft, unremarkable at first but take a few bites and it reveals itself through a medley of teriyaki and other sauces.  Comes with shoestring potatos and camote fries

Praw and Scallops Dynamite in CHEESE - So cheesy you should eat it wth a spoon.  There are fish eggs, seasoning and a reasonable amount of scallops.  Not that fresh that day, kinda fishy.

Tuna Sashimi comes with large pieces!  It is fresh and is so large that you can cut each piece to get the size other restaurants regularly serve

Chicken Yakitori at 150 php, what we added when we figured we were still hungy
The food may look like a lot but it really wasn't, the servings were not large but neither were they too small or "bitin". Isogi is a bit cramped and fills up easily so come at an odd hour.  The staff is quite pleasant and happy, its something to see what looks like three front staff whisking around managing to serve everyone.

Isogi is not bad at its price point but my heart still belongs to Little Tokyo for authentic Japanese food.

But that is not what Isogi is, Isogi is modern Japanese food with a twist at a reasonable price point considering its quality and the high rent it must be paying.  Think of it as something to think about vs the Sumo Sams and Red Kimonos.  Its Japanese food modernized and altered to Filipino taste.