Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

mellben seafood place. this is where you go for crab

In places on December 31, 2010 at 5:11 pm

in a way, it was the idea of crab that got us going on this trip. i had very pleasant memories of chili crab, but this time i wanted to try it in a hawker stall. fortunately, our friends april and chinie inocentes thought of bringing us to a crab place for our first dinner. mellben on block 211 lorong 8 toa payoh. remember the address well.

before the main event we had pork ribs marinated in guiness stout and then grilled

these were very very good. tender and moist, getting the best qualities of the stout in terms of caramelization.

we then had scallops with macadamia nuts

i don’t know how common this combination is in chinese/singaporean cuisine, but it’s the first time i’ve ever tried it. while there was no intense interplay of flavors here, it was a very interesting study in textures which for me was the strong point of the dish.

then it was time for the crab. the first was something unexpected

the sauce is milk and cream and butter. a little sweet with an undertone of spice. it was almost too rich, but wow was it delicious. i must admit this is a combination i never thought would work. i love it when i’m wrong like this.

next up was the more recognizable chili crab

this was brilliant. the spice was there but not overly done – the flavors of the actual crab came through. enough sauce to soak up a whole bunch of fried buns. lovely lovely lovely crab.

all this washed down with coconut juice

this little thing doesn’t taste like your regular coconut juice. it is very sweet. a result, we were told, of the juice being boiled thus concentrating its flavors. something we are now curious to try.

i can’t give prices because we were treated to this dinner (a very generous move), but i was told the crab is easily half the price it is in restaurants like jumbo.

you know mellben is a good place because hardly any tourists here. all local. and locals were the ones who recommended it as being one of the best crab places. and seeing it jampacked at 10:30pm, and tasting all the wonderful dishes i’d have to agree. the next time we go to singapore, we are definitely finding this place again

ya kun. recommended in singapore, tried in manila

In eating in manila on December 24, 2010 at 5:26 pm

before we even went to singapore, camille knew about kaya toast from a friend who had studied there. hotel staff were recommending ya kun, but we didn’t get to try it in singapore having had breakfast at a less popular place. but we were so taken by the kaya toast experience, camille googled and found that ya kun actually had manila branches! so off we went

the first component of the basic breakfast set is kaya toast – which is toasted bread with kaya (coconut jam)

the bread slices aren’t thick. think one slice of our regular loaf sliced in half through the middle. ya kun puts butter and then kaya. personally i don’t care much for the butter.

the next important component is egg. soft boiled egg to be precise

on the eggs goes some soy sauce. the thick-ish singaporean soy sauce used for hainanese chicken. and a little pepper

then the whole thing gets all glooped up because this is the mixture into which the kaya toast is dunked

and this whole thing is really really good. washed down with either coffee or tea. being allergic to coffee, i go for milk tea

ya kun in manila has a full set for P150. this includes 2 pieces of toast, 2 eggs, and a cup of coffee or tea. not really cheap as this goes for something like half the price in singapore. but since this is one of very very few places to get kaya toast, it’s worth the money. and if you haven’t had this breakfast yet, it’s something to be experienced.

dining at rock inn – sagada dining part 2

In places on December 24, 2010 at 12:18 am

we had the majority of our meals at the inn, partly due to the curfew but largely because they had a pretty good looking menu themselves. we wanted to try log cabin, but it was closed the day we went

our favorite meal at rock inn was breakfast. we tried their tuna and mushroom omelet

this isn’t a gourmet dish by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely a good way to start the day. it’s filling and healthy, and quite tasty without being too dense.

the other dish we tried – which we liked to the point of imitating it was red rice with vegetables, bacon and egg. and the whole thing had a curry flavor to it

we loved this, plain and simple. it seemed like a whimsical dish – throwing in whatever they could find in their kitchen including leftover curry powder, but the result was very good. a must-try in my opinion.

we also had a couple of dinners at rock in. we tried their beef in red sauce, which was supposed to be a bit spicy

honestly, not spicy enough. it wasn’t bad, just didn’t pack the punch we were hoping it would have.

also tried the sisig

i have, and will always have, a problem with mayonnaise on sisig. it just isn’t right. rock inn’s “sisig” was overly mayonnaised. now that being said, and this applies to all establishments who put mayo instead of what should be pork brain, just call your dish something else. it doesn’t taste bad, really. this sample from rock inn was nice. tasty and comforting on a chilly night. just don’t call it sisig.

but generally, yes – it’s worth having a meal or two at the inn. the surroundings are so pleasant, that’s already half the experience. prices are just the same as those anywhere. just make sure you have breakfast

the famous yogurt house – dining in sagada

In places on December 21, 2010 at 3:44 pm

almost everybody who has been to sagada told us to try eating at yogurt house. even the owners of rock farm recommended it. so as soon as we arrived, ragged and starving from the very very cold bus ride, we made our way to this extremely popular eating place. the menu contains a number of continental dishes, salads, pastas, and of course yogurt. being in the mountains, we knew we had to start with a garden salad

vegetables this fresh really have a different sweetness and crunch to them. it’s almost a crime not to eat them this way.

we had a pasta dish – with tomato sauce and mushrooms

this was tasty, but i was wondering if the mushrooms were canned. i sure hope not, but they could’ve been.

we also had roast chicken on top of potato rosti

this was great. hearty and filling. enough to warm us up. the chicken was moist and tender – something not many restaurants manage.

for dessert, the specialty of the house

i love yogurt and frozen yogurt, but all that i’ve eaten here in manila didn’t prepare me for the sagada yogurt experience. this stuff in the pic is the real deal. it’s thick and barely sweetened. it isn’t creamy in that milky sort of way, but it is smooth. it was so pure i could feel my digestion getting better with every spoonful.

the meal wasn’t cheap though. each dish was close to the P200 mark. except the yogurt which was under P100. i realized food in sagada in general is a bit pricey, simply because of the difficulty in logistics – getting supplies up, etc. but dining at the yogurt house is certainly worth it. and yes, this yogurt is really the bomb.

sagada – how to get there and where to stay

In places on December 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm

there are actually many routes to sagada, but we decided to the one via baguio because i couldn’t take the thought of being on the road very long. so we drove up to baguio, spent the night, and early the next morning caught the bus

the bus station is beside center mall, along magsaysay ave almost right beside st louis university. tickets are at P220 per person per way and the buses leave every hour starting 6:30am. it’s fairly efficient getting this bus – you get seat numbers and everything when you buy your ticket.

just make sure you won’t have any big urge to pee on the road. there are only 2 stops, one is rather dinky and the other is far far dinkier. if you must, pee at the first stop.

the bus ride is 6 hours, climbing up the mountains the entire way. but the scenery is beautiful and the sense of isolation rather magnificent.

upon the suggestion of camille’s brother, we stayed at the rock inn. from the moment we made our reservations, we knew it was the right place. the owners (it’s a family place) are very friendly and helpful and the communication was excellent. i was even more impressed by the communication when i realized how hard it is to get a steady cellphone signal.

the rock inn sits in an orange farm

it’s about half an hour walk from the center of town, but when you book you get 2 free shuttle trips. suggest you use those to get to the inn when you arrive and get back to town when you leave. in between, walk. it’s a beautiful walk.

we stayed in a room with a queen bed and a single bed, which cost P1,500/night. the room was very spacious, the bathroom too – and there’s running hot water. very clean. a steal at that price. the surroundings are so quiet but that’s part of what we loved. the only thing is some of the walls and floors are a bit thin so if you have noisy neighbors, you’ll hear them.

there’s a 9pm curfew in sagada so you can’t stay out late. but the inn has a restaurant with fairly good food (subject of another post)

or you can always just hang out by their dap-ay

which you may have to because sagada gets cold. baguio is warm compared to sagada. which, again, we liked.

we’ll have more about food and the town – but for this first post, we do want to say that sagada is a must-visit. and rock inn is an ideal place to live.

crystal jade – chinese food in filipino-chinese neighborhoods part 3

In eating in manila on December 13, 2010 at 9:49 pm

we were already thinking of trying crystal jade xiao long bao at v-mall, so when a friend from singapore mentioned the good food, that kinda hastened the process. on the way to the restaurant, we were actually browsing other blogs to get an idea of the menu. we were excited to see hot and sour soup (spicy and sour soup on their menu) and so we started with that

this is P150 and is good for 4-5 chinese soup bowls. so good enough for 2, stretchable to 3 people. the flavors of the soup were all very nice, but not strong enough – at least not what i was expecting for spicy and sour. for the meal we had, it was ok because the soup didn’t dominate any other flavor. but overall i think it needed a bit more oomph.

next we had the salted duck

this dish was a shade under P200 and was exactly what it said it was – slivers of salty duck meat. but it had nice clean tastes and was a nice, light way to proceed.

next up, the restaurant’s specialty – xiao long bao (under P100 for 5 pieces)

xiao long bao is basically a meat dumpling with soup in it, so that when you put it in your mouth, a burst of liquid comes out in a torrent of flavor. so yes, each of these dumplings is bite size. it is tasty, and even if  not spectacularly so, i think the technique of getting the soup in there and keeping everything delicate and whole at all is fairly amazing. definitely worth a try. and for fun, you can watch the dumpling dudes through glass.

we then tried the eggplant and pork in a claypot (P250)

now this dish we loved. the pork was almost all fat giving the dish a beautiful thick texture. it’s a bit on the sweet side, but packed with taste. recommended.

after that richness, we went with a very light dessert. longan with snow fungus (P98)

now this i really want to know. does “snow fungus” sound yummy when translated to chinese? this dessert was nice – light and very refreshing – but i can’t help but think there must be a more palatable way of saying fungus.

the table next to us was having peking duck and so we’re now plotting who to bring to crystal jade so we can try that out. all in all we had a dining experience we think others should have. crystal jade in hong kong, after all, gets a michelin mention.

the little store on the hill – chinese food in filipino-chinese neighborhoods part 2

In eating in manila on December 8, 2010 at 11:57 am

we had an appointment in greenhills in the afternoon so decided to have lunch at the little store on the hill. turns out, it really is a little store packed with lots of goodies, primarily chinese treats

but to the side of the store is a little nook that sells cooked food and a few tables. their specialty is the lumpia – which is basically what we went there to try

at P90, it isn’t particularly cheap – but this thing is packed with ingredients. one for lunch is enough. and on the table there is lots of fresh garlic, perfect to top the lumpia with. a little bite of fantastic goodness.

we also had crab cake

this had a squid ball texture to it. so not really real crab flakes or anything like that… but tasty enough.

we also had pork ribs – the kind that’s usually served as dimsum

this was also quite good. tender and moist. went well with the lumpia, to add some fat into the mix.

all in all our bill came out to around P300, so this place isn’t too pricey. but i suppose pricey enough for something that isn’t a restaurant. but the lumpia, yes, that’s all worth it.

ylaya in banawe – chinese food in filipino-chinese neighborhoods part 1

In eating in manila on December 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm

we were in the area of mayon-banawe to pick up some tennis balls and planned to have a chinese lunch. the idea was basically just to stop where we could find parking. that ended up being ylaya – which is actually a few meters from the corner of banawe and retiro.

we figured the best way to go was to order the waitress’s recommendations and so we had lumpia (P60)

i love chinese lumpia with the strong wansoy flavors and this was a very toothsome sample. it wasn’t overly filled making it light enough to eat with other food. so we did.

next up, soy tofu

fried tofu soaking in a light soy mixture. can’t go wrong with a dish like this. very healthy, very tasty.

we also had sate noodles

good ol’ kikiam

and… siomai

the siomai was actually a revelation because it was much lighter than the ones usually found in, say, food stalls.

not a meal that blew us away, but everything very tasty. i can’t remember the prices of each dish, but the total bill came out to around P500 – so very reasonable. fair enough to look for this place when you’re in the area, or waiting around having your car fixed.

kebab factory at burgos circle, the fort

In eating in manila on December 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

haven’t really explored the eating places near the office, but camille had been mentioning kebab factory and so when we found it just a couple of blocks from where i work, we had to give it a try. first of all, the burgos circle area is very pleasant. the roads and pavements are wide and there is a decent enough variety of places to eat ranging from a more rugged type of cuisine like kebabs to french food and wine in bordeaux.

we were starving when we got to kebab factory and ordered quite  a bit starting with potato tikki (P150)

an indian croquette served with an onion-tomato relish on the side. i loved this – it was a burst of flavor (a lot of the usual indian tastes – cumin and tumeric) and the texture was great, crisp on the outside and soft inside. and the relish, the perfect accompaniment – don’t eat the potato balls alone.

we had bread. roti and nan. the nan was not the way i like it. it was too doughy. the roti though was pretty good and came with a little cup of curry dip.

we also ordered lamb kebabs (P280 for 2 sticks). the waiter asked if we wanted one or two skewers. two of course!

one bite and i had to say “yum!” it was very juicy and tasty with just enough lambi-ness to be delicious on the grill.

we tried their coriander chicken (P275)

this is why food shouldn’t be a certain shade of green. i know it’s coriander, but it was so shockingly green it was off-putting for a while. the taste though was fine. the chicken was a bit dry, but nothing major.

one more dish. the vegetable curry (P280)

this wasn’t too good. didn’t have the zing i want from a curry. seems they had the right ingredients, but couldn’t elevate.

as can be seen, we walked out of this meal very very full. there were some hits and misses. the only thing though that may have been really worth the money was the potato dish and maybe the lamb. everything else was rather expensive and much better indian can be had at a place like new bombay. but still, it’s nice to know this is just around the corner.