Wednesday, January 30, 2013

List of Restaurants in Manila - My Must Try Happy Hour

Well, to keep knowing where to go you have to do research, scour foodie blogs such as:, Jin Loves to Eat and Dessert Comes first or just see my little list or restaurants in Metro Manila below.

Bubba Gump in Greenbelt 3 has a great ambiance to get the drinks flowing. The restaurant literally looks like a fisherman’s cabin, that said in a good way. The place is warmly lit and there are stools at the counter and tables for bigger groups. The seafood here if renowned world wide. But another reason why this place is quite popular is because of their happy hour deal. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays from 5pm to 8pm customers can drink all the beers, margaritas and wines they want. It costs 299 php to drink bottomless beers and margaritas while for 499 php gets customers unlimited red or white wine. The drinks match perfectly with their shrimp dishes.

Guilly’s Island in Tomas Morato is another popular drinking spot. The reason being cheap beer when happy hour comes. The restaurant is tightly during dinner onwards and is advisable to try and get a seat before that. Everyday from 5:30pm to 10pm, local beers are 50% off. That is a great deal for a company looking to drink the night away. The regular price of beer is usually around 70 php. During happy hour they are more affordable at 35 php. TO complement the drinking session, Guilly’s serves affordable beer matching snacks such as chicken sisig, lechon kawali, crispy pata and lechon baka ribs.

With a name like Watering Hole Restobar it automatically demands a place in this list of restaurants. This restobar is located Shangri-La Plaza Mall carpark. A bit out of the way but definitely perfect to give it a different kind of vibe. A casual dining restaurant, it caters to office workers around the Ortigas area. Plus this place is usually open 24 hours. Happy hours start either 3pm to 7pm and 3am to 11am. A bit unusual but makes perfect coincidence for call center agents. During these times, beers go for 30 php a bottle. They also offer buffet and bands to get the people singing.

Happy hours are much appreciated by loyal customers. They make their favorite drinking spots somewhat their getaway or base central where they can unwind and enjoy drinks along with good food. A list of restaurants that provide happy hours are very much well received. This places get packed pretty tight after work usually the whole week round. Be sure to reserve or walk in early to get a decent table.

Oh and this link to List of Restaurants in Manila is good too, and with complete contact details and maps.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Salon de Ning - Manila's Most Posh

Salon de Ning, of the Peninsula Hotel Manila in my opinion is the by far most outlandish bar or lounge in Metro Manila.  I heard it cost 100 million pesos to renovate. It is a sister Ning bar of Peninsula Hotels such as those found in the Peninsula New York, Hong Kong, Paris and Shanghai.  Named after Madam Ning a fictional 1930s Shanghai socialite it boasts of swanky entertainment and of course great cocktails to boot. 

There are four themed rooms there, the boxing room, shoe room (after our famous former first lady), zepellin room (my favourite) and the Shanghai room.  There used to be a P25,000 minimum to occupy a room before, that alone was strong deterrent for me to not hang out there in the past.  However when I went last Saturday we were led to a table in the “boxing room” so I didn’t expect the table fee (there is an entertainment premium though).  The place is glamorous and interesting, the d├ęcor is beautiful, the finishing is perfect and what not.

The live entertainment is of course top notch, they even played Gangnam Style with very convincing Korean pronunciation.  Some people dance in the area in front of the performers, mostly the foreign guests, the locals usually dance shyly near their tables.

The Salon de Ning signature drink, the Ning Sling, or their version of the Singapore sling is smooth, fruity and somewhat potent.  My girl recommended the “Old Man from the Sea” for me from the bar next door, you can do that.  Order from their and they will bring it for you.  But I recommend sticking to the Salon de Ning menu as there is far more than enough to keep you entertained.  The gummy bear and chocolate mashmallow shots looks insane but I decided it might have been too much to try.

The Ning Slings were P270 a pop, I’m not sure how much the other drinks we ordered were but our bill for four people – no food and seven cocktails and four shots went to P5k.  A bargain considering we got to sit in the themed boxing room.  The extra amounts go to taxes and the entertainment surcharge.
Not a bad night out, but not something I would do too often.

Salon de Ning Website 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Keizo, Authentic Japanese Cuisine at Burgos Circle, BGC

First of all, behold!  The Keizo Mexican Roll which has Tamago, Tempura, Crab Roll and Cucumber with minimal rice with Nori of course.  No nachos here folks but it was absolutely delicious and reasonably priced at P450 a serving considering the cost of the ingredients.

Keizo is a bit hard to find, it is hidden away in Burgos Circle at the Fort beside Korean Marts, Monterey Meat Shop and the newly opened Paulie’sbar.  (It seems Namaste the Indian restaurant that used to be its neighbour is no more)

The food is all fresh, I watched the very authentic looking chef (read: Japanese) open Styrofoam trays of very fresh looking high end seafood such as Octopus, squid and fish.  He then proceeds to make everything from what looks like a stage in front of the guests with the support cooks all in an open kitchen behind him.

The food is all very good, we also had another salmon with tamago dish and grilled mackerel.  There were complimentary amuse bouche of eggplant and noodles that I didn’t understand.

This place is small, but it gets packed.  Proof of the skill of Yasuda san the chef is the Japanese clientele I saw. 

Look at this review to see more.

I recommend this place.  There are set menus at P400 which seem reasonable, I ordered ala carte and spent about P1,400 on three dishes and a beer.  The Katsu don, my perennial favourite is P650, but I bet its very good and will try it someday.

Unit 1-I Kensington Place, Cresent Park, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila

Phone: +63(2)4033839

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Barcinos - Club D' Vino

Barcinos Wine and Tapas Bar is not fine dining nor is it high end wine (although there are pricey selections).  Everyone knows it as it is the most successful wine chain in the Philippines and I believe it is because it is a great first date place.  Its dark, classy and not very expensive making it a great place to go drink wine when in the mood.  The selection of food is wide and you can get great favorites like the potato bombs for less than 200 pesos and a relatively good Borsao wine for less than 500 pesos.

What pleasantly surprised me during my last visit was the notice in the bathroom. 
The new Barcino’s Club D’ Vino!  (Yeah guys, snicker all you want, I know what you’re thinking but this is another club divino, vino means wine, I’m sure everyone knows that).

The Barcino’s Club D’ Vino is obviously a retention, loyalty strategy that rewards patrons and entices them to keep coming back.

You pay 1,500 pesos upfront and get a free Rioja delivered to your place of choice and then 10% off on every bill (food and drink) each time you dine in.  You get 20% off your bill the whole of your birthday month.  Great deal right?  I signed up right away.  My girl being a wine drinker guarantees me the more than occasional visits to wine bars which would make this a sound investment.  Did I mention there is a nice boxed wine included?  Not bad at all.

Funny though, they failed to apply the full 20% to my bill even if I informed them it was my birthday month.  I quickly reduced the tip I was going to leave so it was well quits for me.

Wine consumption worldwide is on the rise and the Philippines is no exception as the health benefits of wine are being known.  With the Barcino’s Club D’Vino card why not get a Borsao now and then?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Maple at San Antonio Arcade

I am a huge fan of breakfast food, I crave a good breakfast of pancakes, sausages, bacon and eggs that most people can make at home but few people actually have the time to do so.  Seeing my mom one day and with her knowing my particular fondness for tapa she recommended that I go to Maple, in San Antonio arcade (it’s the complex across San Antonio Church, Mc Kinley Road, Makati City).  My mom wanted me to try their Prime Rib tapa which she told me she knows I will enjoy it for sure.

I did mention this blog is about my girl and my showing her a good time, well, recently we had a few sour moments and so I thought this new place might cheer both of us up.  I heard of Maple only fairly recently.  It’s the highend version of well, Pancake house – no joke.  Maple is Pancakes house’ Lexus to their Toyota.  It allows them to well, charge higher and serve better food.  Let me tell you, there is nothing in the menu priced close to my beloved two piece Pancake House Pan chicken at P135, I think the cheapest thing they have is P350 for the Huevos Rancheros (anything with Pancake House’ legacy has to have something taco based) which we ordered and the other thing we ordered was what my mom recommended, the Prime rib tapa.  I read Sarie Cruz’ blog right now, what a coincidence that she and her mom wanted to order what I had.

The Prime Rib tapa is P520 with two eggs, the rib and some rice.  I say “some rice” because although I am not a heavy rice eater, this was way too little garlic fried rice in relation to the good portion of rib.  The rib is heavily marinated tapa style and tastes just like thick and soft tapa.  Its good but not quite my cup of tea, I think the best tapa in town is found in Gramms diner.  The Maple Tapa is quite gourmet and is heavily embellished with garlic bits and what not but somehow tapa is so Filipino and traditional that I like it the classic way, thinly sliced, heavily seasoned, eggs and enough fried rice to power you through the most hectic of days.  That said, this version which you have instead of a steak I had for dinner which gave me not the most romantic of breath after, eggs and garlic :D

I would go back to Maple, I was just lamenting the loss of “Flapjacks” in greenbelt.  I like having pancakes and haven’t tried the real breakfast offerings of Maple.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Din Tai Fung, Regal Hotel, Hong Kong

A lovely recent trip to Hong Kong has given me an interesting new perspective on eating.  I write mostly about my Philippine food experiences but Hong Kong was particularly memorable because I was with Filipinos who know it like the back of their hands and that truly gave me a more "native" feel of the place.

Something old but that I only fairly experienced is xiao lung bao or soup dumplings.  Its basically a dumpling with piping hot ginger broth inside.  What makes it quite unique is that again, there is liquid in a dough skin which to the non-initiated to cooking is quite a feat.

I was brought to Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese restaurant that proudly  announces its inclusion in the Times magazine top ten restaurants of the world list.  It is also a Michelin two star restaurant located in the ground floor of the Regal Hotel somewhere in Causeway Bay Hong Kong.  Its main attraction is of course their very famous, xiao lung bao.

What was explained to me is one of the things that make Din Tai Fung’s Xiao lung bao different is the attention to detail, every single dumpling has 15 folds to seal it.  The dumpling wrapper is thin and yet quite durable as I have not burst the skin of any Din Tai Fung dumpling before putting it in my mouth.  Interestingly enough there are dual language instructions on each table explaining the proper way of eat xia lung bao, obviously everyone goes there to eat this delicacy.

Entering Din Tai Fung, the first thing you will see is a glass window to the right where the cooking staff are rolling all the dumplings individually (remember the 15 folds on the skin?).  I went at such an odd hour, a little past 2 pm and I noticed how packed the place still was with myriads of patrons there to enjoy the fine food.    Luckily we were immediately seated, I hear getting a seat during peak hours is difficult.  My gorgeous companion then ordered the truffle Xiao lung bao, Crabfat Xiao Lung Bao, Plain Pork Xiao Lung Bao, Fried Porkchop and Tiantian men noodles.

Being with someone knowledgeable about Chinese food is quite a treat as you will get to eat things you wouldn’t normally order (if you were me that is).  I am well, king of the “normal” Chinese food such as shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, sweet sour this and that, crispy chicken, fried rice, salt and pepper squid pretty much represent everything I know about Chinese food.  Heck Panda express is the bomb to me.  But as anyone in the know will say, Hong Kong or Cantonese food is the height of Chinese cooking (Din Tai Fung is Taiwanese though).

Normal or the type you get anywhere Xiao Lung Bao (for comparison)

The real deal Din Tai Fung version, note the delicate folds

Dang its good!  The broth is perfect (just wait a bit as it is scalding hot), I really don't understand how the skin being so thin can retain the fluid but it just does.  My favorite variant was the truffle and then the normal pork.  The truffle gives a slight taste of truffle and introduces innovation to an ages old favorite.  The thin wrapper and flavor give a delicate tickle to the palette (my attempt at a sophisticated review).  On the other hand, I didn't like the crabfat variant, the crabfat overpowers everything and the "fishyness" lingers in the mouth a bit too long.

The other stuff is good too, I also had the tian tian men or noodles in spicy peanut sauce.  Definitely worth the trip if you go to Hong Kong or Taiwan!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Apenzeller

The Apenzeller is a Swiss restaurant located in the Alabang Zapote road in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.  Named for the town of Appenzell which is in Eastern Switzerland and in the vicintiy of Mount Santis (for which the delicatessen Santis is named for).  Appenzell is known as the "home of good cheese in Switzerland, where they recommend cheese fondue or cheese cooked in a pot until it is melted and different  food is dipped such as bread.

The Appenzeller itself is a liquor shot made of 42 special herbs, this is what the Appenzeller prides itself on, the shot and fondue.  The Appenzeller reminds me of Jaegermeister although at least in the quantity I had not as strong, but mind you, still strong.

The Appenzeller restaurant as they say, does not only serve cheese but has a lot of country Swiss dishes with German, French, Italian and even Norwegian dishes too.  The ambience is quite interesting as a mix of restaurant, pub and sports bar complete with billiard tables and televisions broadcasting sports events.

The primary clientele seems to be European expats in the area who likely work in the Technoparks in the Alabang area.  I was with a foodie chef friend who commented that this is the best Swiss German Restaurant in Manila, he compared it to Swarzwalder and Old Swiss Inn as giving them a run for their money.  I wasn't too hungry so I just had Roestri, hashpotato slices with cheese of course and bacon.  It was good but I found it a bit pricey for the money (about P380) then again, cheese is not cheap.  We also had chorizo which was well, typical of store bought fare.  You can see their menu here.

I recommend going here, but with friends as this is not a date place and if you can spend at least three hours at it is actually a fun, rowdy place with an international flavor complete with expats and their "chicks".  The owner is friendly and warm - strangely this is typical of Swiss-German people I know, they are very friendly and warm, French Germans are not as friendly and I know a few and have been to Geneva.  I used to find people from the colder parts of Europe, well cold.  But not the Germans!  And they know how to throw a party! (Oktoberfest baby!)

The Apenzeller is not in Metro Manila but goes to show that we have to go out of range every so often.  It is located in:

The Appenzeller Restaurant and Bar 
Estrellita Building 2 Alabang-Zapote Road Alabang, Muntinlupa City