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.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Stella Wood Fire Bistro

Good girl Stella and her party girl twin Rocket Room are two adjacent establishments in Bonifacio High Street Central that never seem to be empty.  It was for that reason that I hadn't been there before, one look and I would conclude "full" and go elsewhere.  Now on the eve of our 13th monthsary, yes I celebrate that....  my girl and I were looking at it when I said my usual "its full".  But she insisted, so we made our way past the many drinking and smoking on the tables outside to my surprise, finding tables inside empty.  We promptly seated ourselves in a booth made for four.

Traditional fine dining really isn't my thing.  I like the new wave of restaurants where:

a) I am not overserved - you can go overboard with service, I can't even stand a napkin being placed on me 
b) I actually understand everything on the menu - and yes, pictures help
c)  I can have a conversation and not feel like I am in a library
d) I can stay and have a drink
e) Have comfort food 

Stella does the trick.

The Rocket

Truffled Beef Belly

Butcher's Choice Pizza

Cookie Dough with Vanilla Ice cream

I was very impressed with the Truffled Beef Belly, I could smell the truffle oil in all its delectable potency.  The beef was tasty and thinly sliced, I even made a sandwich with it and the complimentary bread.  The pizza is rich and normally I chuck away pizza crusts to my awaiting dogs at home this crust I actually enjoyed.  Airy, not too thin and not too thick, the wood fire pizza certainly lends a certain something, something that made me really enjoy it.  

The pricing wasn't too bad either, the beef was 580 and the pizza was 350 making this a great date meal at a budget.  Stella's menu proclaims that their dishes are meant to be shared.  This is one place I shall return to soon.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Yukinohana Resto and Bar at Ortigas Home Depot

Years back I would have laughed at you if you told me there was a good restaurant at anyplace or area with "Home Depot" attached to it.  Seriously, why would you put a restaurant at was is essentially a very large hardware shop where you only go if you are building or repairing something?  Well since hardware shops in Metro Manila supersized themselves starting with those American Mall based Hardware chains such True Value and Ace all the way to behemoths such as MC Home Builders Depot, Ortigas Home Depot, Federal Hardware and Wilcon Builders.  But I disgress, basically these new fangled hardware chains have found ways to utlilize areas within their massive complexes to turn them into commercial establishments.

And one such establishment is the Yukinohana Resto and Bar at Ortigas Home Depot.  Its funny that we ended up there because we were planning to go to Pivo, the beer place but upon entering we were greeted by blanks stares and utter silence from the staff, I gestured to slowly retreat because it felt as if we were intruding some arcane ritual.  Back to the safety of outside we turned east and saw Yukinohana.

Pretty Yukinohana interior gives you an authentic feel

Japanese food for me is food you eat after gastronomic debauchery, a sort of dietary detox if you will.  And a wonderful detox combination are combination Japanese and Korean food restaurant such as Izakaya Snow Man at Polaris St, Makati and Izakaya Yukinohana Resto and Bar at Ortigas Home Depot.  There is something about minimal oil, fresh fish and spicy vegetables that make me feel quite light inside.

And nothing gives a truer air of authenticity than a national of the appropriate culinary ethnicity greeting you when you enter then scuffling to the kitchen hastily putting on a kitchen apron.  Boy this is going to be good!

Chicken and Mushroom Springrolls

Uni Rice Topping

Sashimi Plate P180

The Complimentary Appetizers - Egg, Spicy Vegetables, Kimci and Hotplate Cream of Corn
The food felt extremely authentic.  Raw and unadorned, the food was free from the drowning in sauce that filipinized name the country cuisine here suffers from.  And testament to this was a group of what seemed to be young Koreans entered to get a taste of the motherland.  The flavors here are up to the food and free from any enhancers and quite sublime.  The eel was soft and fresh with minimal sauce just drizzled on top while the mixed sashimi on rice was only emboldened by a dab of flavor from the typical soy dipping sauce.

This place is funny because the restroom is very steep climb down to what feels like a gangster den underground.  The graffitti on the wall of "bakero!  nippon!  bansai!" would probably been more authentic if done in Nihongo characters so I would be apt to believe they were done by my rather enthusiastic kababayans who were too swept up by the Yukinohana experience.

I really like this place.  Now Japanese is not were I usually eat because of my rather large appetite but this place fit the bill, a long night of drinking and eating the day before led me to want to give my system a rest.   Yukinohana Resto and Bar at Ortigas Home Depot is a place I shall be visiting again.

Tip:  Check out the Korean Grocery next door and get the two liter bottle of tomato juice.