Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Kitchen by Chef Chris at Paco Park Manila

I for one never got what the big deal is with "panizza" or the pizza that is built on a very fine crust in which you roll arugula and alfalfa sprouts for extra flavor and texture.  To my knowledge the panizza craze in the Philippines started a few years back in C's, an Italian restaurant in Pampanga which became the foodie destination back then though I personally cannot understand why people would travel far - say from Metro Manila just to eat pizza.  I would recommend a trip like that if you make at least an entire day out of it say go to Clark, Pinatubo and what not then go to C's for dinner before heading back.  I actually mentioned that I wouldn't travel for food and everybody disagreed with me, go figure.

Anyhow, the panizza craze then spread through Yellow Cab's "Dear Darla" version but now the Chef of C's moved to Manila so Metro Manila folk can now find his panizza at the Oasis Hotel beside Paco Park in Manila.   Now if you plan to go I also suggest seeing gorgeous Paco Park too.

You may wonder why I, someone who wouldn't go very far for food (or haven't found the food I would travel for yet) have eaten at My Kitchen at Paco Park, well it is because I actually work near there :D

Parking is a bit of an issue, it may seem odd parking at the side of a busy street looping around the Paco Park but the security guards seem to be very vigilant though I decided to lug all my valuables to the Oasis hotel.

There were four of us on this trip, my parents, my sister and I.  My sister bought coupons for the panizza at 50% of on some coupon site.  I suggest doing that too, after all savings are savings!

Angelico - chorizo, salami, bacon and mushrooms

Your add on toppings, arugula and alfalfa sprouts - Don't forget the chili oil!

Don Carmelo - chorizo, anchovies and peccorini cheese

The Panizza here is fantastic, absolutely no comparison to others in Metro Manila I have tried. I love pizza period whether fastfood type or the more upscale restaurant types (but more of the former).  The Panizza in My Kitchen appeals to my taste because I prefer less crust and more toppings, I feel like I am biting into a cheese slice with toppings on it - the dough crust is sort of my paper plate to hold it all together -which I eat.

Don't forget the chili oil before you roll your panizza!

Bistecca Sirloin
 I do not recommend the sirloin, it was not soft, expensive and unremarkable.  Now it came with roast squash, potatoes and carrots which I like but the meat itself was so so, it is P850.

Penne Roberto
 Now everyone liked the Penne Roberto Pasta, this I highly recommend along with the panizza for the ultimate carbo fest.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Preserves
 Hmmmm, dessert is so so.  The gelatto was icy.

This is our bill less two senior citizen discounts, remember the two panizzas were not included because we had coupons 
Now the Oasis Hotel isn't difficult to get to from anywhere in Metro Manila.  It won't take you long from the end of South Superhighway (Manila side) if you go at an off traffic hour, go during weekday rush hours and well, hmmmm - remember that the Paco area and the areas going to it are the truck routes and we all gotta love seeing all the commerce.  Another restaurant in the area worth checking out is L' eau Vive, perhaps My Kitchen then Paco Park then L'eau Vive  to make your Manila trip worth it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Seoul Express at the Fort Strip

Seoul Express is a hole in the wall looking place - in the Fort Strip BGC which is puzzling considering the posh, high end appearances of all its immediate neighbors such as Cafe Puccini and Kasbah.  Seoul Express looks like a kitchen counter and has a small outdoor eating area in the space in front of it under a tarpaulin rood.  I have always looked at it inquisitively and yet never ventured to eat there.  I have to admit I like street food hawker type establishments when I am off exploring a sidewalk but not in the Fort Strip.  I am a simple guy and this out of place little restaurant did not compute in my brain.

There it is!  Right below Fitness First!  Shot taken from outside URBN

Months since I first saw Seoul Express, I noticed that it was thriving and never seemed to lack for a crowd, there must be something to it I thought.  So the next post rainy day my girl and I decided to check it out.  I had such a great time a KPub that I felt any Korean Food could do no wrong.

Prices aren't bad, I think the small portions are usually enough

Original Bibimbab

Tuna Sashimi Bibimbab
One thing about me, I will always choose the dish with egg, always.  I love eggs, they are delicious and add protein so I ordered the original Bibimbab while my girl got the Tuna Sashimi Bibimbab, we both got large which you don't really need, small next time.  Funny but a lot of the beverages are imported from Korea, including the bottled water - how cheap could the shipping be?  Or do Koreans miss the waters of home?

As for value, at 280 and 300 pesos I wouldn't say its cheap.  But I do have an idea of what Fort Strip rent is so I completely understand.  The food is good, the red, spicy sauce and the "appetizers" are all in your bowl which you are supposed to mix together -  another favorite of mine, I love "arroz ala cubana" and love mixing it all together and eating the complex mix of each component in every bite.  No need to portion and plan each bite, just mix it all!

What can I say?  Its good Korean food made right their by a Korean couple.  Eating outside isn't so bad as long as it isn't full on summer.  The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.  To sum this up, its really a hawker market experience that sticks out like amidst one of the swankiest areas in Metro Manila.  Dining here is a novel, non commercial experience, like dining in exactly what it is, an authentic Korean kitchen.  Try it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lights On Studio and Lechon (Lydia's) at Roces Avenue, Quezon City

I found myself in Roces street in Quezon City for a little e commerce project of mine.  I needed really good pictures to make the items look appealing.  I love my products very much and want to show them to others but seriously there is only so much you can do with a phone camera and even with a great camera there is only so much you can do yourself and that is why there are professionals.

Work aside, one thing that really interested me was the full service Lydia's Lechon restaurant across the street.  For some reason, I cannot resist anything pork, I once contemplated the deepest question "if I could choose only one animal to eat for the rest of my life, which would it be?"  simple answer, "pork".

Work started at 8am and by ten thirty I was thinking that its a lechon place in a relatively busy street and would no doubt be filled to the brim by noon.  So I asked the owner and Lights On Studio photographer, Chad Ong to have lunch with me.

Lydia's Lechon is awesome, they are an institution in Filipino culture - at least in Luzon as I bet anyone down South has different best lechon bets.  But I grew up watching Lydia's lechon television ads in noon time shows and afternoon shows.  Nothing pleased me more than seeing this Lydia's Lechon sit down restaurant.  The ambiance is very nice, its sit down fast food but in a relatively less fastfood setting.  They have the menu of a Filipino Food Restaurant in a Food Court if you know what I mean.  Some bopis, vegetables, pinakbet, barbecue and of course, lechon.  Php155 gets you one viand with vegetables and PhP175 gets you two viands.  I went for the PhP175 - lechon and barbecue served with soup and rice of course.

What really got me are the "party packages".  Currently for PhP1400 you can get seafood paella, ten sticks of their very large barbecue and two kilos of lechon.  I am not mathematician but I am sure you are getting crazy savings (P175 for 1/4 kilo lechon, P65 per barbecue stick and no idea how much the paella is).

After the great meal it was back to work.  I have worked with quite a few photographers but really enjoy working with Lights On and am very happy to write about them.  They are receptive to client (me) ideas and have many of their own, they do not rush the work.

Photography is really all about preparing to take the right shot.  You study the subject, see how to best present it and capture it then create the best conditions (light, distance, background etc).  No hightech camera can make something look good, yup folks, its all on the photographer.  We ten to think of mall studios taking a few quick shots but for really professional portraiture it takes time to discover the best angles which explains why the studio shots of people at Lights On look so good.  You cannot rush it.  Pressing click on the camera is just a quick culmination of much preparation.

Lights On Studios is located at 34 Scout Reyes cor Scout Castor, Don A Rocess Ave. , Quezon City, Philippines.  They are a full photography studio that does Wedding Coverage starting at PhP60,000 for photos, video and albums.  Which is the lowest rate I have ever heard of for high quality work.

Master Photographer at work

Lights On Studios does:
- Wedding Coverage - Photo and Video
- Party Coverage
- Corporate Events
- Portraiture
- Child Photography
- Maternity Shoots
- Kids Photography
- Macro Photography
- Outdoor Shoots
- Prenup Shoots
- Debut Coverage
- Studio Rental
- Photography Workshops
- Makeup Workshops

You can reach them at (02) 998 4398

Monday, July 8, 2013

Congo Grill in Jupiter Makati

Congo Grill and Grilla, both have Gorillas as their logo mascots which leads me to believe that there must be something between the two beloved "grills".  Grills to me all began during the very early days of going out for me, before Fort Bonifacio was "da fort" and entertainment was composed of going to Tia Maria's or drinking Pale Pilsen in someone's house.  Then the grills made their invasion, starting with Padi's point, everyone flocked to these places that had lots of outdoor tables, cheap beer by the bucket and all the artery choking hotplate what nots such as the venerable sisig, squid, chicken and what not, all on hot plates.

These were good times, soon many came to challenge Padi's Point and we had Dencio's, Gerry's Grill, my obscure favorite but now closed Hutu's Hut, Congo Grill and Grilla.  Oddly the "grill" changed its model from seedy beer joint where people would actually go to hook up with people to family restaurants, making them nice Filipino Food restaurants where people would actually go with their kids, cute.

But anyway, to me good sisig is only found in these grills, they alone have mastered the formula of giving you the greasiest parts of pork accentuated with chicharon and what not.  So when I missed the taste of sisig there was only one place to go, a grill.

Now the thing is, where did all the grills go?  The once ubiquitous Gerry's and Dencio's are now very hard to find.  I guess during the early days they situated themselves in places with cheap rent and people flocked to them.  With the onrush of development pushing property value sky high its hard to maintain their formula of cheap prices in a good location.  So like before, you kinda have to travel to them but further.  Luckily Congo Grill is still in Jupiter - new location from Kalayaan in Makati I think.

Sisig as served, a pale color as freshly placed on the hot plate
The Sisig after a few minutes, now looking glorious and golden brown
Pork Barbecue

Kinilaw na Vegetables - I mean Tangigue - I think
Really can't go too wrong with sisig but Congo Grill gives you a very generous serving for P180.  Seriously its good enough to share if you plan to eat it as a main with rice.  It was worryingly pale at first but you have to remember that sisig has many styles of cooking some are wet and some are dry.  And again, you get a lot for your P180, you have to remember that Pork face and sisig bits are among the most expensive pork cuts.  The taste of the sisig was excellent and the whole meal was very filling and relatively inexpensive.  The kilawin just had very little fish, my only complaint.

Thank you Congo Grill for my truly nostalgic meal at one of my favorite food types, I shall be back.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

KPub Barbecue at the Fort Strip - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Pasig day today means that my girl had the whole day off and I had promised to take her somewhere to eat.  It was early enough so on my lunch break we decided to try the "All you can eat for P499" of KPub Barbecue at the Fort Strip.

KPub is loud, loud visually because how can you miss the bright, intensely colorful,  almost neon panels when you pass by at night.  During the day it still is an imposing structure and you enter through what looks like a small glass door and people dressed in uniforms complete with military shoulder decorations or epaulette (you learn something everyday).

Inside it is batshit insane, KPub is wide with high ceilings and there is a stage like area where there is a wall of widescreen Plasma TVs that play an endless loop of high definition K Pop videos with really awesome surround sound.  This place is indescribable, I can only attempt to say it is more entertainment lounge, concert hall, movie theater, casino, Las Vegas, dance fllor - as a matter of fact restaurant would oddly be the last thing that comes to mind.  I can honestly say I haven't seen another restaurant with so much personality.

This hive pattern reminds me of Hyve.....

Opulent, extravagant interiors in Royal Purple
Our server Sarah brought us the menu.  Now the 499 eat all you can is for a limited (but quite a bit) selection of meat and unlimited Korean appetizers and rice - good for one hour.  The thing is, piggy me was thinking "is an hour enough?".  I eat fast and a lot (especially if its a buffet I'm paying for) so I was wondering if an hour was enough because they cook the meat in front of you (hence eating downtime).  Oh let me tell you, an hour is absolutely perfect.


On the side wall is a large poster with the owner, George Pua sitting like some godfather pimp/Hugh Heffner in shades surrounded by his choicest staff.  Unforunately I don't have a picture of that.

The unlimited appetizers - half of them!

Sarah and friends slaved over a hot grill to cook everything for us, talk about great service!

This was my favorite, thinly sliced pork - kind of like bacon less the salt

My girl kept eating this, its a Kimchi pancake which tasted very cheesy to me

 Steamed Egg
 Birthday Gangnam Style Dance

Our nicely grilling meat thanks to Sarah
Dessert Rice Drink
The food is wonderful, freshly grilled, high quality meat along with vegetables and spicy sauces make this a really fine way to spend about P540 - what it comes out to with taxes. Everything is cooked right in front of you and everything is good, I haven't been this pleased about anything in quite a long time!

They tirelessly cook everything in front of you and immediately put the ready meat in narrow, long dish in front of you.  All the meat gets mixed together making it a bit difficult to identify what you're eating.  Its ok, everything is good, you just have to remember what you liked if you want to order it again.  I suppose getting the meat mixed up could be fixed by having more plates with specific designations - say yellow for chicken, Brown for Pork and Blue for Beef but that would be a lot more work and investment for the restaurant and staff.  I didn't mind at all, it only added to the fun.

All I could think of what how much I loved KPub!  Chicken and Beer at Burgos Circle gives you a similar experience with good food and K Pop but KPub magnifies this to the point that you feel like you're eating in a game show or in front of a slot machine at a casino.  There was a PSY medley and by the time "Gentleman" was playing I started bobbing my head while eating, hypnotically affixed to the tv screens.  KPub is gaudy, over the top and one of the most fun and interesting eating experiences I have ever had.  I will have to be back to bring my family soon, this place is just too good not to share, I want other people to be as happy as I am right now.  I am writing this with a smile on my face :)