Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

a dinner date to pick up the weary

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2014 at 11:07 am

the past two weeks have been a little rough. well, the past two months have been hectic, but the past two weeks have been particularly so – which is why we decided on a nice, kinda fancy dinner. a datey date. 

we’ve been generally wary of dining french because we’re afraid the food might be to rich, heavy. but something tugged last night to champetre at the fort, and we’re glad.

first dish – a special of the night, an appetizer not on the menu. so following the rule of always ordering the special, we agreed to try the portobello mushrooms in cream and baked with an egg


terrific mushroom flavor! tasted some thyme in there. the cream wasn’t heavy at all – just rendering a nice, silky base to the dish. underneath that, a perfect egg. unctuous and earthy. lovely way to start the meal.

then the main course – good thing we were told this was good to share so we didn’t order another main: algerian couscous with lamb chops and sausage


served with a rich mediterranean soup (afraid i can’t recall what it was called)


the whole thing worked together: with chicken and beef, and we saw onions, tomatoes, zucchini, cloves and chick peas in it – the broth was robust and, poured over the couscous, gave a wonderful flavor base that in no way contradicted the lamb. the chop itself was perfect – seasoning and doneness – although the sausage was a little on the dry side. the little bowl contained hot sauce, a delightful punctuation to the dish. inspired. washed down with a chateau saint jacques bordeaux. perfect.

dessert was homemade almond and honey ice cream


deeeelicious. texture not as creamy as we would have thought ideal (ie, there was a bit of ice in there), but the flavors were really very very good. a bright, perky note to end the meal on.

the vision for this restaurant (i read somewhere before) was to provide french countryside cuisine. rustic and hearty. it does just that. french food that is not snobbish, but with all the flavor that the cuisine is famous for.

ho hung kee (not to be mistaken for hunky ho)

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 at 10:20 am

still on the cheap michelin star thing, we also made it a point to dine at ho hung kee – famous for their wonton noodles and congee. founded in 1946, ho hung kee started as a small noodle stall and just recently moved into the upscale hysan place. we saw the size of the congee serving and decided we couldn’t manage, but we did make sure to have the wonton noodle soup


what makes a superior noodle soup? our technique-and-not-just-flavor theory seems to hold here as well. the actual noodles had the perfect texture: they were firm and springy, you could feel each individual strand. the wonton wrap, very light, amazingly held form throughout. the taste was of course good, but not mind blowing. so we’re sticking to our belief that what makes this a cut above is technique. and this was supported later on when we had some random noodle soup a couple of days later – the wrap was thick and clunky and the noodles a little clumpy, although the broth and actual wontons weren’t far apart in flavor.

we also ordered another house specialty, the rice roll



we got the sampler plate – and unfortunately i forgot what they were filled with. i’m sure there was shrimp in one but the others are lost to me (forgot to take notes). this dish also very satisfactory, we’re praising again the texture of the rice wrap. however, i realized that this form is not my favorite because of the wrap to filling ratio – a little too much wrap. and this was also true for what we had in tim ho wan so i understand it’s the way it should be. but i personally wouldn’t mind a little more filling.

still on the wrapped stuff dishes, next was deep fried dumpling, aka pinsec frito


loved this. light and crispy. but you know, we had something very close to it in a shabu shabu place in manila (lau chan along mabini – we’ll write about that soon) so while this was a little lighter, the one in lau chan is also very good.

the last dish was the one that gave our palates quite an adventure: fishballs with a fermented clam dip


that dip was unlike anything we’ve had. in theory, it could have resembled bagoong isda, but it didn’t. its flavor was far more funky – more fermented (?) much closer to the whoops-stored-that-a-bit-too-long end of the spectrum. we ate the whole dish, it was good. but yeah – considering we’re filipino and fairly adept at fermented condiments, this one was really trippy.

i’m afraid i didn’t note prices either. but the whole meal cost us something like HK$200 (P1200) so it wasn’t crazy expensive. the noodle soup i remember was HK$35.

so yeah, ho hung kee is something we’d like to come back to because we missed the congee and it did look spectacular.

that and the fact that there is a major major apple store in the building.

shock your stomach into wakefulness with an indian breakfast

In Uncategorized on December 25, 2013 at 5:28 pm



in little india in penang, there are spice shops where you can buy almost any spice you want on a per gram basis. the colors and smells are so bold, extravagant. and we remember why white guys from europe sailed to asia and waged wars – the spices, the spices are that sensational.

after buying our spices and dates – the dates were crazy inexpensive (at least by our standards). something like less than P150 for a kilo – we decided to have brunch at an indian restaurant called woodlands. because we were limited to their breakfast menu, we had idli


this is essentially, a rice cake. puto. but with lentil flour mixed into the rice flour. dip into the gravy and munch happily. the other dish we had was an onion pancake (afraid i forgot the name). the idli was something like 2 RM (P30) and the pancake around 4 RM (P60).


so yeah, these guys don’t hold back on the spice no matter what conditioning your stomach is in. none of this breaking in with milder food. first thing in the morning and everything is already bold and brazen. and understandably so. the cuisine hails from the subcontinent that possessed the coveted spices. they made superb use of this prize.

asam laksa. the rightful culinary ruler of penang

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm

people say the one dish to eat in penang is asam laksa. people were right.

the dish is so important, there are many competing opinions where to eat it. we had ours at a food stall at a corner along jalan penang, at the joo hooi cafe. a regular bowl for one cost around 4.5RM (P65) – it’s probably the best P65 we ever spent.Image 

the base of asam laksa is fish and tamarind, but is heavy on herbs and spices like galangal and lemongrass. so in taste it’s kind of like a cross between tom yum and sinigang. and it packs a huge wallop. in our lives we’ve had a decent sampling of tom yums and other sour and spicy soups, but this one is tops right now on the boldness scale. halfway through i needed to tissue to wipe my sweat. but it’s not just the heat – it’s the intensity of all the flavors in delicate balance. the main difference between this and the laksas many of us are more familiar with is that this one does not have coconut milk. which, i guess, makes it edgier. 

this is something we would love to replicate – once i feel i have enough audacity to try. because this is truly a most audacious dish.

our first encounter with kway chap

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2013 at 2:54 pm

this post has been a long, long time coming. 

it’s the first of a couple of entries about penang. now penang has got to be one of the food capitals of the world. a whole bunch of what we know about malaysian (and singaporean) cuisine hails from this part of the country. 

the first dish in this series is something we stumbled upon quite by accident. i was looking at a food map and trying to get to this popular char kway teow stall around lebuh kimberly. but we were so hungry and the stall appeared to be located at the end of the street so we were getting rather grumpy, and then we saw this


and we had no idea what it was, but it looked sensational. then we saw a whole bunch of people come up carrying plastic containers taking out the food. so naturally we had to order some. once assembled, the dish looked like this


and we dug in and it was delicious. the broth was thick and savory and hot! it was filled with flat noodles, duck, pig innards, and an egg. each morsel was tasty on its own. the whole dish was beautiful! it was actually the most expensive dish we had in penang at 7 rm or around P100 (yes, one hundred), but it was a massive serving. we could have easily split one bowl.

full and sweaty and immensely satisfied, it was only then we thought to ask what the dish was called. after many whats from me (poor hearing) i finally understood: kway chap.

apparently a fairly common dish, this is something that we would like to try again somehow. but part of me thinks it may never be as good as the one we accidentally stumbled upon at a corner of lebuh kimberly.

(for those who might find themselves in penang and would like to try this, the stall is along lebuh kimberly, but is at a corner. near the sin guat keong coffee shop)


Antonio’s is all it’s made out to be

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2012 at 8:27 am

a few weeks ago, my family went out on our first vacation together in about 25 years. we were heading to taal town (for the wonderful heritage houses) and then tagaytay. my sister helen offered to treat us to lunch in antonio’s. my first thought was – at those prices, it better live up to all its hype. and so it has.


each main course (with prices ranging from P1250 to P2500 per head) comes with salad, soup, dessert, and coffee or tea. so in essence, dining in antonio’s is always a 4-course affair (5 if you count the coffee).

the salad is a hefty one


this is half a serving. it consists of a couple of kinds of lettuce, spinach, arugula, alugbati (a nice surprise), blue cheese, candied walnuts, and candied fruit. it perhaps wasn’t the most awesome of salads, but it was very good. certainly a very nice palate primer to start the meal. the contrast of the bitter of the arugula and the alugbati went along perfectly with the pungent saltiness of the cheese. the candied walnuts sent the flavor combination over the top.

soup was cream of upland rice and vegetables, which was well done albeit not terribly exciting.

we all shared a few main courses. the one i ordered was the duck breast with braised red cabbage and mashed potato topped with foie


one bite and i instantly felt the whole experience was special. the duck was perfectly done. and that foie – now i understand all the dying-from-deliciousness that comes from seared foie.

a few others shared a couple of steaks


this is what camille and i will come back for as soon as we save up. in a word – fantastic. the steak comes with 3 condiments: gravy, chimichurri, and lemon and sea salt. the lemon and sea salt was our favorite, bringing out the flavor of that beef. wow.

there were also a few desserts such as a dark chocolate souffle with creme anglaise


a very well-done souffle, but our favorite dessert was the chocolate mandarin which was an orange sorbet coated with chocolate. 

all in all the food in antonio’s showed great execution and spot on flavors. it’s not wildly imaginative or playful or anything like that – which is fine. the food is classical, so is its ambience, and so is the whole experience of dining. we hope to be able to return



a quick note on batchoy

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm

we did a major batchoy tasting during this trip to negros. we were there for 5 days and had a batchoy everyday. the full article of that will come out in sidetrip magazine, but we can’t help but still say something about this utterly delicious soup.


it’s easy to imagine the origins of batchoy as coming from the pig parts nobody really wanted. the scraps made into broth and the meat in the soup usually composed of intestines, liver, and some pork. batchoy is garlicky, having its fair share of toasted garlic. it is sweetish, coming mostly (ideally) from caramelized onion. it has crunch from chicharon and heft from the meat and noodles.

some restaurants fancify batchoy – like 21 in bacolod now puts marrow instead of liver. we didn’t try that version because the parameters of our article were to go with traditional preparations.

usually priced at P60-90 a bowl, this is truly a must-try for anybody visiting iloilo and bacolod.

la puerta al paraiso in guimaras: good potential

In Uncategorized on April 7, 2012 at 11:05 am

we did a little overnight trip in guimaras before doing work in iloilo. finding a place to stay online was a challenge – we didn’t want anything too rugged nor too crowded. la puerta al paraiso looked fine. everybody’s word of warning though was it was far from the docks.

the docks themselves are easy to get to. guimaras is a short, 15-minute boat ride from iloilo and costs only P14. boats leave as soon as they’re full (40 to a boat), or around every 15-20 minutes.  when we got to the jordan wharf and tried to find our way to the resort, we realized everybody was right. it was far. about an hour or so by tricycle – the last 10-15 minutes on pure rough road. this cost P500 going and P700 coming back. our first word of advice: take the multicab for only P200 more.

the biggest plus of la puerta is the location of their cottages


each of them face the beach or the open sea. thoughtfulness in giving everybody a view – plus points. the cottages themselves though were quite small and the verandas could have used a bit more furniture. in fact, the whole resort would totally be better off with more lounging chairs around the beach, near the rooms, etc. the beaches were nice and there should be more ways to relax by them. 

facing the restaurant, one beach to the left is where the boats dock


and on the other side was a more people beach


the beaches were quite pretty and the sand very white and very fine. but the shore was also very short. the isolation serves la puerta well – because if they ever had more than 20 people, it would be uncomfortable on the beach.

the restaurant was big and airy and the staff very accommodating


the food was ok – as resort food generally goes. the servings were big enough, but still overpriced. we attributed this to the isolation and therefore the high cost of getting things there. in the future though, these costs need to be revisited. and little things like – they run out of mangoes (in guimaras!)… makes no sense.

we got to speak with the owner and he said they never really actually formally opened and their operations kind of “just happened” – we agree. it does feel that way. a lot of little details need to be attended to for this to become a really good resort. right now we’re totally open to staying in other places in guimaras – but once la puerta gets the other things done, then it will be worth a visit again.


eating in bohol – off the menu

In places, Uncategorized on March 23, 2011 at 10:21 am

the best dishes we’ve had in cebu were actually those not found on regular menus. like this seaweed salad

we asked the resort kitchen to buy some lato (seaweed) in the market and they were happy to oblige. they just charged us for the seaweed and a P50 prep charge. not bad at all!

the other find happened one day when we were lounging by the beach and we saw these people walking by carrying buckets.

looked like a fresh catch of something so we ran down and peered into the buckets and saw these

aninikad, or a small sea snail a relative of the popular bahamian conch. freshly harvested from the seagrass. looked perfect – and at P15 for a 1-liter container, a no-brainer buy. so we took our haul to the kitchen and asked them to make a soup

it was warm and gingery and tasted of the sea. perfect. that P15 buy plus the P50 cooking charge lasted us two meals. memorable.

so now we’ve determined to try this at every island place we go – ask where we can find fresh local catch and have it prepared. we have a sneaking suspicion that whatever it is, it will surely be good.

really yummy sansrival by rosanna

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2010 at 9:43 am

last week, some family friends came over for lunch and they were kind enough to bring dessert – sansrival, one of my and my family’s favorites.

i finished my meal quickly and happily cut a slice of desert. once the knife went in, i knew i was onto something good. the sansrival was perfectly crisp and the knife went through easily. forgetting my fork (and my manners) i picked up a layer of the sansrival and popped it into my mouth. fantastic! just the right amount of crisp and thinness – and also just the right amount of butter. not too much, but enough to give a rich, creamy flavor.

and the best part is, this little chunk of heaven is available about a kilometer from where i live. the baker is somewhere in la vista, qc. i don’t know the price though – felt it was impolite to ask the people who brought it. but you can call rosanna and ask – the numbers are 929-3873; 09209521874