Archive for the ‘places’ Category

getting down to it as soon as you arrive in HK: tim ho wan

In places on December 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm

much ado has been made about tim ho wan – cheapest michelin star restaurant – and we will ado with everybody else because hey, we’ve never had michelin star food before. we went to the branch at the IFC mall because that was the easiest to get to. as soon as we got off the airport express at the hong kong station, we took the lift one level up and looked for the crowd. so there we were with our backpacks milling about like everybody else.

because this was our very first time, we ordered what a lot of people had already recommended, starting with the roasted pork bun (HKD 19, P105 for 3 pieces)


the short of it is this is toasted siopao. but of course it is a little more complex than that. the bun is very light with a thin layer of crispness on the outside. it is also slightly sweet. then the filling is thick and sweet and salty. yes, rather delicious. but cloying, the sweetness becomes overwhelming and a tad one-dimensional. we could only eat one apiece. making us the only people we’ve read about who aren’t willing to gobble these down by the dozen.

another house specialty is the steamed egg cake (HK$14, P75)


aka, puto binan. very good, but unremarkable.

now the next dish is what bowled us over. a favorite of ours – radish cake (HK$14 P75)


this we found most delicious. delicate, subtle. adjectives you wouldn’t normally use when describing radish cake. but there you go. so good it puts us at a loss how we can ever eat radish cake anywhere else.

on another visit (we ate there twice in 2 days in HK – would’ve done a 3rd but our flight left before they opened in the morning), we had chicken feet (HK$26, P145) and beef ball wrapped in bean curd skin (HK$15, P75)


very tasty. the chicken feet were exceptionally plump – and we honestly don’t want to think about that too much. this beef ball is also rather delicate and fragrant – full of flavor, but not in any way that dulls the flavor of other dishes. something to order again.

we also had har gaw (HK$25, P130) and kutchai dumplings (HK$25, P130) which had exceptional texture and great freshness.


we realized that one big differentiator was the wrap. the dumpling wrap at tim ho wan is at once light and thin and sturdy. not at all like the clumsier thick wraps of a lot of chain places and even some of the more specialized restaurants. we also had the rice roll stuffed with pig’s liver (HK$20, P110) which also demonstrated this balance.

and then dessert. tonic medlar and petal cake (HK$ 12, P70)


everybody at the restaurant would order this and with good reason. it’s so good. very cool, refreshing. floral, yes a little. actually the perfect end to a tim ho wan meal. don’t skip this.

in the end, we mused about the whole michelin star thing and realized that a lot of what separates cooks (even good cooks) from great cooks and professionals is technique. it’s not just the flavor, but – for example – the making of a dumpling wrap that is so light it doesn’t interfere with what’s inside. or getting that bun the right crisp.

so does tim ho wan deserve a michelin star? well, we don’t have the creds to answer that. but we have eaten enough to know that what they do is certainly exceptional and you must try it.

and just a couple of days ago we got news that they are opening in megamall. how about that.

piccolo padre. maybe needs one more taste

In places on February 23, 2013 at 5:37 pm

this write up will be a quick one.

we were initially hoping to have dinner at our favorite italian restaurant in subic, a tavola. but when we got there, it was gone, demolished. kaput. most sad.

so we decided to have dinner on our way home instead – in piccolo padre in clark. now the reason while this will be a short entry is that my tummy wasn’t in great shape and so i couldn’t eat too much and all the food we ordered was rich.

first dish – oysters rockefeller

clark oysters


in our opinion there are really only two ways to go wrong with oysters rockefeller: 1. the oysters aren’t fresh or 2. the sauce is too overwhelming. fortunately this wasn’t the case with this dish. it was flavorful, but just short (albeit not by much) of being heavy handed. the oysters were also not bad, although they certainly come plumper and fresher in other parts.

the other dish was a prawn and crab meat risotto

clark risotto


this, too, was very flavorful. an obviously very hearty stock stirred in the rice. and it was also just short of being a little overboard. don’t try this without wine.

so while i’m afraid i can’t dissect the tastes too much, in general our conclusion about piccolo padre is that it is worth a visit if you’re in the area. still not sure if we’d drive from manila just for this – right now our thinking is not really. and it isn’t cheap. the average cost of a dish is around P400, P500.

we’ve heard good things about this restaurant. and our first experience was not bad. but we’re still open to finding that one compelling reason to recommend piccolo padre with enthusiasm.

chateau hestia. one reason why tagaytay is much more than the ridge

In places on February 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm

hestia out

the first time we heard about chateau hestia was when we passed by their deli along the sta. rosa-tagaytay road. while the selection was not particularly wide, it was interesting especially since we have very little exposure to austrian food and wine. it took some time though before we got to the actual restaurant, but we certainly enjoyed our visit.

our first visit to chateau hestia we had their gravlax (P285)


it was a good serving, the salmon was nicely cured. but while we understand that gravlax must have an element of sweet, we found this a little bit too sweet. not to the point that it was unpleasant, but the sweetness prevented us from snarfing the dish down (or ordering it again).

we also tried their pizza reale – pizza topped with assorted cold cuts (P500)

hestia pizza

this pizza was good, crust was thin and crisp. the topping flavorful without being overwhelming. but it was a good pizza, not a great one. and at that price, there are certainly others much better.

despite the food not being particularly stellar, we decided to come back and have christmas day lunch at chateau hestia. this time we had the sausage platter (P380 single, P560 to share)

hestia sausage

now this was more like it. the sausages were very tasty (one variety, the darkest one, we were not very familiar with). the sauerkraut most generous and also delicious. this, we will go back for.

we had a salmon pasta that was rather forgettable.

the other dish we tried was kummelbraten – a traditional viennese roast pork belly with servietten knodel, a bread dumpling.

hestia pork

we were excited to try a more traditional austrian dish and this one was very nice. but i wonder if this is really how it’s sliced traditionally or do some households serve bigger chunks of pork? i wonder because this way the meat ended up being a little tough. but that might also be because the quality of the pork itself wasn’t that good – it was a bit too piggy. but that was minor and overall the dish was satisfying and at P440, didn’t seem too expensive. wouldn’t have minded though one more slice of pork and one less slice of bread.

each time we went, we ordered a bottle of Grϋner Vetliner “G+K white wine and loved it. the wine tastes like green apple and is as fresh as the air in this place.

on some top chef episode, the judges said that you go to a restaurant for the food but come back for the experience. and this is why we came back to hestia. and why we’ll probably go back again. the place is lovely, very charming. you don’t necessarily need to eat here. it’s treat enough to sit there with a glass of wine or a beer and enjoy the cool crisp air.

shi lin – a new (at least for us) go to place

In places on October 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

this is a bowl of wonton noodle soup from shi lin. it’s one of the nicest bowls of chinese noodle soup we’ve had. see that broth? it’s actually deceptively clear because that liquid packs a lot of flavor. the wonton is fresh and light, well-seasoned. really, a great piece of food.

and so continues our love affair with shi lin – a restaurant that many have discovered before us, but we’re quite happy to be part of the crowd of fans. really good taste at great prices. this bowl was just a little over P100.

as i love jellyfish, we also had this

loved this one too. cool and refreshing and perfectly chewy! not much spice though – wouldn’t have minded more heat in this one. but at around P100, there’s no way to not order this.

the last dish for this stint was the fried prawn cake

better than expected. great crispiness, prawn flavor intact. the serving wasn’t that big so this is best suited as a nice snack. in fact nothing about shi lin points to it as a pig out place. that’s not what it’s about – it isn’t one of these big chinese lauriat places.

but there are few places that are of this scale that offer flavors as balanced and as delicate as shi lin. this can very easily become your go to place for a chinese fix.

chef’s home – a new favorite in baguio

In places on August 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm



for those who love to order crispy catfish salad in thai restaurants (as we do), feast your eyes on this! one whole catfish, fried crisp and topped with fresh mango, tomato, cilantro, basil, and mint. perfectly dressed and seasoned. this dish has forever been reinvented in our eyes.

finally we can add another restaurant to our regular baguio portfolio. we first heard about chef’s home from our friend ginny mata who was telling us about a hole-in-the-wall thai place that was terrific. when we were up last weekend, we decided to look for it. the first thing we learned was that it’s no longer a hole in the wall. chef’s home is a nice cozy space almost right across the street from the mansion house. the small scale operations though are still apparent when you see their menu which is still just a white board on one wall.



be prepared to wait a while for your order – something like 30-40 minutes might be typical. the orders are processed per table so remember, if you can, who arrived right ahead of you. when you see them getting their food, you’re not far behind.

so we had the catfish (P580. a little pricey, but hey it was a whole fish. when you order this item you pay by fish weight), and we wanted to try one of their bestsellers so we went with the squid curry egg sauce (P250)


this dish didn’t slap me in the face as i somewhat expected it to, and i have mixed feelings about that. one the one hand the flavors were mild and subtle enough that i could taste every one. and it was very good. but on the other hand, i kinda was hoping for a curry that would fight through the cold and rain. maybe we should try this again when it’s a little moderate out and judge again.

we also tried their stir fried okra (P80)


enjoyed this one very much as well. a simple dish. sesame oil, soy sauce. crisp pork fat, garlic, onion. at this price it’s totally unskippable. we had the thai fried rice as well (P80 for a single serving)


mild enough to serve as an accompaniment to food (as opposed to being a dish unto itself) but flavorful enough to enhance.

our main unhappiness came from the restaurant’s beverage selection which was composed of softdrinks and bottled iced tea or juice. bordering on unacceptable. we think the proprietor doesn’t allow alcohol (although we were all set to bring in a bottle of riesling) on religious grounds. that’s fair enough. but a freshly brewed iced tea or fresh fruit juice would be much better with the food.

and this is what we hope we’ll find the next time we go there. and we will definitely be going back. see that menu? we intend to try every dish.

a few tips on eating in hawker centers in singapore

In places on July 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm

we’re not experts on singapore – not at all. but we’ve had a couple of trips in quick succession and had most of our meals (if not all) in hawker centers. some of the famous ones are lau pa sat, newton, and old airport road. in our opinion old airport road wins by a mile. that’s where all these pictures come from. but wherever you go, these tips should be useful.

Number 1. Be calm. When you step into a hawker center, you will be at once faced with around 100 food stalls all with a number of signs like this

Don’t be intimidated. Take your time until you find something exactly to your liking. Don’t worry, all of it will taste good.

Number 2. Many of the stalls are in fact serving the same thing so it’s not like you have infinite choices. A lot serve either exactly the same dish or some variant of stir-fried noodles. The popular ones are easy to find because they have long queues.

Number 3. Sit near where you’ll buy food or buy food near where you’ll sit. It’s easy to get lost otherwise.

Number 4. Eat your food piping hot. That’s when it’s at optimum deliciousness. Don’t take your time chatting – you can chat after you’ve eaten.


Number 5. Bring tissue and hand sanitizer. The stalls won’t give it to you and sellers will try to peddle at P70 (SGD 2) for a small pack.


zubuchon, a nibble of the heralded “best pig in the world”

In places on July 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm

the second i found out we had a chance to go to cebu (for a conference), i immediately searched for zubuchon and where to find it. zubuchon is the lechon that anthony bourdain tried when he was in the philippines (a really fun episode of no reservations) and he pronounced it “the best pig in the world” which is quite an honor given he’s known to be a huge pork aficionado.

anyway, we found a zubuchon branch near our hotel in mactan but, alas, they didn’t have whole pig left! what they had was lechon liempo which appears on their menu as boneless lechon. we decided to go for it after being convinced that it was cooked exactly the same way as a whole pig would.

yes, it was very very good. not exactly though the sort of thing that would make me close my eyes and go mmmmmmm as i savored each flavor. there was a fine, subtle herby undertone (lemon grass and something else perhaps?) it was well salted and none of the heavy porky taste that can make things unpleasant.

but honestly, i’m not sure i’m willing to pronounce it best lechon or liempo much less best pig. but yes, it’s very tasty, very moist and that skin is every bit as good as it looks. to make a full evaluation though i still want to try the actual lechon version as i’m a fan of lechon ribs and would need to try the flavors from there.

to cut through the richness of the pork we had seaweed salad

very fresh, well-presented and with a really nice vinegar mixture on the side.

to drink, zubuchon’s famous kamias shake

this drink is a stunner – retaining all the good flavor of kamias while losing the bite that would make you pucker. don’t drink anything else here but this. we spent P400 for the whole thing (the pork was half a kilo) and felt it was pretty good value.

i thought i’d get to try the full pig version at the airport, but they were also sold out when we got there. i suppose we’ll have to wait a bit longer to really sink our teeth into a zubuchon lechon. what they did have frozen for take out was sisig – but since i’m from pampanga, i though it was safe to pass on that one.

antonio’s grill: kind of like a poor relation

In places on July 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm

because of our really great experience in antonio’s a couple of months ago, we were excited to try antonio’s grill as soon as we had a chance for dinner in tagaytay.

antonio’s grill has a great location along the ridge and the interior is very pleasant. wide and cool with the red and white of the original antonio’s.

since antonio is from bacolod, we ordered two of the better known dishes from the area: batchoy

and chicken inasal

i wonder if it was fair for us to compare these to what we have in negros. on one hand, these are not prepared in the local context by cooks who have spent their lives perfecting the flavors; on the other, these are done by a renowned restaurant name whose flagship restaurant is always mentioned among asia’s best.

we were, in a word, underwhelmed. the flavors of these dishes, while correct, were muted. some time during the meal i wondered if it was because there was a western aesthetic of subtlety being applied when these are not actually subtle dishes. whatever it was, they were simply not as tasty as they could have been.

price-wise, reasonable. we spent P400 for a bowl of batchoy, an order of pa-a (thigh and leg) and isol (ass). but perhaps better to order something else. on our end, we decided to just save up a lot and grab a steak at the original antonio’s where, apparently, the gastronomic delights are concentrated.

sutukil: now THIS is the way to eat

In places on May 19, 2012 at 9:53 am

when in gensan, this is what we suggest you do for dinner: take a tricycle to tiongson street and look for the sutukil and barbecue stands. we did just that our first dinner there and had a most remarkable meal.

sutukil is an acronym for sugba (grilled), tula (soup), kilaw (raw things soaked in vinegar or citrus). the basic concept of a sutukil joint is you pick out fresh stuff and tell the staff how you want it cooked. these were our choices

it was a dizzying array and we were so happy just being able to make such choices! in the end we had grilled tuna panga (cheek and jaw), shellfish soup, grilled squid and grilled eggplant. everything was so fresh and the shellfish soup was particularly delicious! for this spread plus rice and 4 beers we paid P850.

this is what we mean about having good local produce easily accessible particularly in coastal towns. the sutukil places that night were packed with locals – they knew how to eat right, and we were overjoyed because at that moment so did we.

grab a crab in gensan: there’s actually a way to be let down by crab

In places on May 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm

despite having the privilege of being able to travel around, one place we rarely visit is mindanao. so we were both excited and apprehensive at heading to general santos city. there was little information we could find online as to where to stay and where to eat, but one place we saw being recommended was a restaurant called grab a crab, and so we decided to give it a shot.

there were 2 branches in gensan – one at the robinson’s mall and their main branch along laurel street. we went to the latter one because it was closer to the hotel. the menu excited us because there were so many choices. after careful consideration, we went with the chili garlic crab

let me make it clear from the start that this was not a terrible dish. it wasn’t even perhaps a bad dish. just… mediocre. it was heavy-handed. and the crab itself totally disappeared flavor-wise. admittedly too i was surprised by their prices. P900/kilo. in a city known for seafood in a country as cheap as the philippines, i found it unacceptable.

the other dish we had was the grilled tuna belly. we also had high hopes for this – gensan being the tuna capital of the philippines

camille’s first comment was that the tuna was frozen before it was cooked. if it was, that’s an awful thing in a city whose economy is driven by a fish port. but we actually can’t say for sure. what we do know is that the fish didn’t feel like it was in its prime of freshness. either that or it was just dreadfully overcooked. it was certainly over-seasoned. or, more accurately, over-knorred.

the only really good thing we had at this restaurant was their durian shake

now this was really good. rich, creamy, unadulterated durian flavor. the perfect shake. and at something like P60 (or P90), it was reasonably priced. the waiter asked how we liked our food and we said we really liked the shake. he looked a bit crestfallen.

they also have this weird (ie, illegal) practice of not issuing receipts for purchases under P1,000. i took it as a sign that their business isn’t doing too well. so while this is a generally recommended restaurant, we’re going the other way and saying maybe it’s not the best idea. the quality of the food was just too much of a let down.