dishesandplaces

Archive for the ‘eating in manila’ Category

an unfortunate oil spill at poco deli

In eating in manila on May 28, 2013 at 8:41 pm

poco plate

 

we are sausage and cheese fans and so happily got this treat from poco deli in kapitolyo. for P550 for a double serving we got 3 kinds of sausage and 3 kinds of cheese. satisfying, really can’t go wrong with something like this.

the main reason we will be staying away from poco deli is their sliced steak on a bagel sandwich (P200). on paper, it sounds almost perfect, sliced US beef on a sandwich topped with mozarella cheese. and when it got to our table, it did look yummy

poco sandwich

 

but after the second bite, it turned out to be deeply flawed. the problem in one word: GREASE. the meat was oily, greasy and way overseasoned. almost like it had a knorr bath or something. and then there was mayo and then the cheese. just too much. the bottom piece of bread was soaked through with grease. beef fat would have been ok, yummy even, but not oil and grease.

here’s how the plate looked sans sandwich. glistening.

poco grease

 

now it may be us. this place is very popular and their products do look most interesting. maybe we just had a bad break with this one. but right now it isn’t worth the drive out. maybe if we find ourselves in the area and with a strong hankering for deli meat.

it’s been a while, but we have a good one for you: haru

In eating in manila on May 12, 2013 at 8:09 am

haru interior

Camille found this place first. and one of the things she loved about it was that “it smelled like sushi!” at first i wasn’t sure what she meant, but once i entered, i got it. the restaurant smells very fresh – no “fried” smells!

this post, we’ll start with sushi – seeing as this is the restaurant’s specialty. they had a soft opening menu, but when they were in full operations and released their final menu, it was the sushi section that was obviously beefed up.

first off, the popular tuna sashimi (P220)

haru tuna

 

we’ve had this many times over since and each time it makes me happy. they use a really good cut of tuna. no ligaments. very very fresh. and they’ve been very consistent with this – best tuna sashimi experience.

another favorite is salmon maki (P200). the photo doesn’t show the full order, by the way

haru salmon

 

also remarkable in its freshness. i’m generally not a huge fan of salmon sushi/sashimi but haru manages to retain the sweet of the fish without any of the fishiness.

and because this was a favorite of the makioka sisters, we tried tai sashimi. maya maya (P290)

haru tai

 

in the novel, the sisters would look down on people from tokyo because they enjoyed eating tuna sashimi. we had an idea why they felt that way – tai is richer, creamier than tuna. but, i suppose since our palates are more used to tuna that will remain to be our staple sashimi.

haru is now in full operation and there is much more to explore in their menu. the restaurant has become our favorite japanese place because of the really nice interior, decent prices especially given what we feel to be great quality. two chopsticks up and then some.

we’ll be posting about the cooked dishes soon.

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.

 

suzhou in san juan – hooray for holes in the wall!

In eating in manila on January 27, 2013 at 7:12 pm

dumpling

 

by the time we remembered to take a photo of the dumplings, they were all but gone. steamed kutchay dumplings. very good – still not up to dong bei – but worth going for in their own right. we also appreciate that suzhou is one of the few (actually right now the only one i can remember) places that serves ginger as a condiment to go with the black vinegar as a dipping sauce for the dumplings. yum.

we ate at suzhou along mabini street in san juan – one of the more popular chinese holes in the wall. what we wanted was something cheap and hearty and delicious and we certainly were not disappointed. one of the dishes they recommend is their spicy beef brisket noodle soup

beef noodle

 

most flavorful. one of those dishes where everything just tastes good. not to be missed by noodle soup lovers.

but for us the star (and revelation) of the meal was the spring onion pancake

pancake

 

in a word, terrific. it was thin and crisp and all the flavors were intact – the onion, the egg, the seasoning. yum.

in all we paid a little over P300. easily great value.

suzhou is popular for other dishes – in particular we hear their spare ribs get mentioned a lot. so this is on was just the first of hopefully many many visits. each time we plan to try something different. but that pancake… it just might become a staple.

ninyo. it’s good, but this can’t be the only option in QC

In eating in manila on January 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm

ninyo sushi

one day, we were looking for a nice, quiet, elegant meal. it was a friday night so we didn’t want to have to go through traffic. we were in quezon city – near UP. even morato seemed a little hectic. and so we decided on ninyo.

this was our appetizer. a baked prawn sushi with a side salad. it was good. not a stunner. but very satisfying. and conceptually certainly a winner. best with the side salad which provided the fresh kick it needed.

then we had our main dishes. camille had pasta vongole

ninyo vongole

and i had a hanger steak

ninyo steak

so these were, again, good. maybe even very good. the cook who executes these is very competent. for a meal with these 3 dishes and a bottle of wine we paid P3,000 (!)

and that’s where my beef (yes, i know) with ninyo lies.

it’s a good restaurant, don’t get me wrong. again, it might even be very good. but it isn’t great. it isn’t superb. and it is very expensive. the ambience is charming, yes, but it’s showing signs of wear. the staff is also not bad, but not excellent. so ninyo has the feel of an almost fine dining restaurant, but it isn’t there yet. or has passed its peak already.

the unfortunate thing is, there’s nothing around that area of QC that can fill the void. but maybe the next time we get the same desire, we’ll just brave the traffic. or stay home.

nolita – a restaurant for feeling stuffed

In eating in manila on January 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm

nolita pizza

 

these are slices of nolita’s pizza. the white one is spinach and artichoke and the other one is italian sausage. and they are both quite good although camille and i lean towards the italian sausage because of its spice. they are both big and hearty. and heavy. true to the restaurant’s name – north of little italy, a community in new york – the food is more american-italian than local italian.

so while this still won’t be our go-to pizza place (personally we prefer the lighter, fresher pizzas), nolita certainly caters to particular cravings. like with their potato chip fries

nolita chips

 

a more upscale version of shakey’s mojos. if you like fried potatoes, you’ll love this.

they also have burgers and dishes like chili

nolita chili

 

while this wasn’t as complex or had optimum depth of flavor, it was still a very satisfying bowl of chili.

nolita is also reputed to have one of the better cannolis (if not the best) available in manila. agree it was very good and certainly worth trying here. actually, it’s not a terrible idea to come here just for dessert.

the first time we went to nolita we got a seat inside and came out smelling too much like food. not very pleasant. and the food didn’t seem good enough to entice us to come back. but then we had occasion to come back to the fort and figured a slice of pizza would be nice so we decided to give nolita another chance. this time we sat outside and it was way way more pleasant. it made the overall dining experience much better.

each time we spend something like P300,400 per head. overall this is still something we won’t be looking for a lot – especially given meals are rather pricey. but nolita is one of those places that’s always a safe choice. and, when it comes down to it, who doesn’t like pizza.

a filipino meal frenchified at lemuria

In eating in manila on September 24, 2012 at 11:50 am

with (yet again) the help of deal grocer, we got ourselves a degustation dinner at lemuria. P1250 for 6 courses and a glass of wine, we figured it was a good enough deal. and the menu was very very interesting. french technique on filipino flavors.

for starters, an amuse that was a play on fried lumpia. it was served with a vinegar sorbet

after this meal i learned that one of the functions of turning the vinegar into a sorbet is to avoid mess. makes sense. but the contrast of cold on the lumpia was also very enjoyable. the meal was off to a good start.

next was tinapa mousse

a very pretty plate. the mousse itself was very well-executed and went nicely with the house bread. the powders – chili and tumeric – added good flavor dimensions. not superlative, but a really good creativity on the use of tinapa.

then soup – a bouillabaisse with a surprise of fresh mussels in the shell at the bottom of the bowl

truly tasted of the sea. that was this soup’s biggest success. blending flavor without losing the essence of the ocean. again, perhaps not the most outstanding example of a bouillabaisse, but well-crafted and, yes, that sea taste.

then came a salad using paco and lato – two of our favorite things! also with salted egg and a marinated tawilis on the side

 

this was nice. the dressing, nothing extraordinary, quite what most any home cook would put on their paco salad. but that tawilis added a bit of magic to the whole thing and so taken together it was a very very good salad!

the next dish was my favorite of the meal – bangus ravioli with an aligue sauce topped with danggit chips and kesong puti.

even the choice of serving vessel was fantastic. given the ingredients in this dish it didn’t come off heavy handed at all. the sauce, in fact, was so delicate i though it a light squash puree at first (i had to recheck the menu that they indeed used aligue). great balance and what a nice “surprise” seeing the familiar bangus flakes inside the pouch. i could have eaten more of this.

palate cleanser, calamansi sorbet.

then the main course. i had the chicken leg confit and camille had chicken breast with a sauce made with fresh mushrooms

sadly, perhaps the weakest dishes of the night. technically very good, but the confit fell a little flat on flavor (and it was a little dry). the breast was a bit too much on the rich side. of course, i need to point out that when it comes to a meal like this i will nitpick and i am not saying that these are in any way bad… just not as captivating as the previous dishes.

but then it was all made up in the end with dessert – a barako creme brulee

a beautiful dessert. the top of the creme brulee was perfectly brittle, the inside dark and rich and thick. and sweet. i love sweet. the apples on the side were a perfect accompaniment. this, to my mind, contained almost everything i could ask for in a dessert – especially a coffee-based one.

the meal was a wonderful experience. it was good to have filipino flavors reimagined like this. some dishes worked better than others, but overall it was a menu that should be applauded. one day we’d like to come back and eat here again and try the dishes well within their comfort zone – french.

nomama – not your mama’s ramen. but maybe it could have used a few tips from her

In eating in manila on September 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm

 

nomama (located at the corner of scout tuason and scout castor) apparently generally gets mixed reviews. and so it shall be with this one as well.

we were there last week, friday night dinner. it was pleasantly uncrowded (it was even easy to find parking!). and, what the hey, open kitchens are always interesting. very interesting too was the nomama menu. the dishes kinda sounded japanese, but certainly not the regular ones we encounter in more conventional japanese restaurants. and right off the bat, we want to express our admiration for the chef’s attitude of swinging for the fences.

we started with mushroom gyoza (P125)

 

texturally very good, but crazy sweet. we loved the fact that the dumplings contained not your usual pork and shrimp combo, but yah, way too sweet.

the next dish, the tuna spring rolls (P290), was a definite winner

 

this was raw tuna rolled in with some dressed alfalfa, spicy ponzu, and plated with some edamame. true to the minimalist principle. beautiful on the plate. the flavors were fabulous. a fantastic dish.

the next dish was a ramen (but of course!) we had the house ramen (P295) which had soft boiled egg and chashu – braised pork present in many ramen variations.

 

on the good side it was robust and hearty. the noodle texture was good and the chashu was quite tasty. but i must say i couldn’t understand the flavor of the broth. i wasn’t exactly sure what it was trying to do. of course i’m totally willing to admit it’s a failing on my part and perhaps another tasting is in order to “get it.” but for now, that’s the impression i’m left with.

so, yeah, a mixed review. but this is a restaurant we’re willing to come back to – that menu is too interesting to just leave alone. and we truly appreciate the aristry and playfulness brought into the kitchen. so maybe the next visit will result in something less mixed.