Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

kabila. the other side of what, we wonder

In eating in manila on March 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm

kabila lumpia

each time i’m faced with filipino food gone upscale, i tend to problematize and ovethink. take this lumpia from kabila (p275), the alternate menu at the m cafe. the egg wrapper the subject of much care. was it delicious? yes. the ubod perfectly seasoned and the side of ground peanuts and sugar the perfect condiment. maybe the garlic on the side could have been more generous (but more on that later). but all in all, it was very good.

but was it worth P275? i suppose that’s really up for debate. but if you take in the overall dining quality and given that this is a museum restaurant and a number of the clientele are foreign, then there’s a lot to justify this concept of fancifying filipino food a bit. and the idea worked great with their kabila pancit (P375)

kabila pancit

this is a loaded pancit – see that chunk of bagnet up there – that seems to take its inspiration from quezon’s pancit habhab. very tasty. a most satisfying dish although i’m not 100% sure there isn’t any msg in there to, um, help it along the way. sadly though, the bagnet was disappointing. it was tough and chewy rather than crisp. fix that and this becomes an excellent dish.

the side of vinegar though could be a little more generous. like the garlic. but it’s not like kabila is being stingy. if you ask for more, they’ll give it. it’s just that the initial portion should be bigger so you don’t have to feel like you have to scrimp. and diners might be shy to ask. it’s vinegar and garlic, surely the restaurant can be generous with that.

the least satisfying dish was the “mpanada” – a version of the popular and utterly delicious ilocos empanada (P195).

kabila empanada

one look and it’s easy to see where this dish doesn’t quite make it. that crust. it says “i’m a chicken pie” more than ilocos empanada. it’s heavy and thick and clunky whereas one of the beauties of the original is that crust is light and thin and crisp. right now i can’t think of anything to justify this decision. the filling was a little too modest for our taste. modest meaning little. we know that portion sizes tend to get smaller the higher you get in the fine dining scale, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of texture or flavor. with this one, we lost the gooey egg, the crunch of the papaya. that chili rock salt on the side though was nice (but you know what we have to say about that tiny vessel of vinegar).

oh, they had a kamias and calamansi shake that was terrific!

kabila drink

sweet and tart, the perfect accompaniment to fatty food.

so overall, kabila is worth another visit. on the whole i think they’re on to something conceptually and there are other dishes on the menu that are worth a look. we’re cheering kabila on. given that the traditional western global culinary world is finally giving us a look, a restaurant like this can do much to champion our cuisine.

cue. waiting for a chance to return

In eating in manila on March 12, 2013 at 10:14 pm

cue popcorn


i’m a sucker for restaurants that serve free things as soon as you sit down. and i’m a sucker for popcorn. so when i saw people munching on popcorn while waiting for their orders at cue restaurant in bonifacio high street central, i was instantly happy. even if our popcorn was taken from another table that didn’t eat it. ok, yeah, i should be a bit upset at that. but at that time it was no biggie. the restaurant was very busy and, hey, it was free popcorn.

but what made us really REALLY happy was the steak and bone marrow taco (P485). read all those words: steak, bone marrow, taco. beautiful, yes?

cue steak


the dish is actually under the appetizer section and consists of a slice of steak cubed up and served with a nice hunk of bone with marrow in it, tiny flour tortillas, chimichurri and corn. very very nice. the meat is very tender and tasty and the condiments are a perfect match. and bone marrow. no need to say anything more, really.

now for me grilled meat is a food group unto itself so it was with great anticipation that we waited for the main dish of the night: baby back ribs, dry-rubbed and grilled (P650 half slab).

cue ribs


it was good. nice, bold flavors. the balance was also good. but the meat could use a little more tenderness. and maybe just a tad more flavor in the inner parts. i wouldn’t call it underwhelming, but it didn’t elicit gasps of delight. so we’re not 100% sure if we’ll be having this again especially given a lot of other interesting items on the menu.

but that steak and marrow taco? absolutely worth going back for.

chef’s lab fail. there’s a wham burger across the street, go there instead

In eating in manila on March 10, 2013 at 9:35 pm

once again, something from deal grocer. a 4-course meal at chef’s lab by bruce lim. something we were actually excited about – what with bruce lim being a celebrity chef and all. at the end of the meal, all we could do was sigh, shake our heads in disappointment and wish we had eaten at wham burger across the street instead.

first of all when we got in we were given a table. then we went to the ladies room. when we got back, somebody had taken our table. wtf?! they couldn’t do anything about it they said. off to a terrible start. would have loved to walk out right there and then but the meal was prepaid (sometimes it doesn’t pay to be cheap. we really should have just left).

our mood was somewhat lightened by the soup – a corn chowder made with grilled corn and bacon

lim chowder


this was actually nice. very flavorful. having bits of grilled corn on top was a great idea. really can’t go wrong with anything that has bacon.

when the salad came, we knew we were in for trouble

lim salad


some lettuce, a little bit of this and that… the main flavor kick was supposed to come from candied walnuts and blue cheese. now don’t get me wrong – i like candied walnut + blue cheese. i love the combination in fact. but it is, by no means, a new concept. and for something that calls itself a lab and a very chef-centric one at that, i expect playful experimental food.

main course was surf and turf. a little steak with truffle butter and a bit of salmon with a compote of dried fruit

lim main


underneath the steak was… buttered vegetables! and before you think there was something nice and original here, you have to know what they served were corn, carrots and beans. just like any run-of-the-mill buffet. sigh. ok, fine, the steak was nicely cooked. but c’mon. again, chef-centric lab! the dried fruit compote was ok, but the fish was fishy.

then came dessert. first off a fruit tart

lim tart


a little pineapple, apple, and canned lychees thrown into a pastry crust lined with a thin layer of cream. very uninspired, unthoughtful. oh, and as a clincher they served this with a long spoon – like what you use to eat halo halo. look at the dish and think of the spoon. parang hindi bagay.

last (thankfully), a chocolate mousse

lim mousse

this i finished. because my family has a history of diabetes and we love sweet things. and this was very very very sweet.

i’d love to think of a good closing statement. but i actually can’t. revisiting this experience, i feel the let down all over again. i suppose the only thing i can say is, we’ll never be back and we don’t recommend this place – unless maybe it’s free.