Wednesday, August 31, 2016

First Bite: Gabe's Homegrown Dishes

I have known Gabe’s Homegrown Dishes for quite some time now as it has been active in tagging me on Instagram. It sure was an effective marketing tactic as it made me curious and I ended up checking food apps to read reviews about the humble Filipino restaurant. After a few tags and likes, Dan of Gabe’s got in touch with me and invited me to visit his restaurant to sample some of their dishes. 
Hello, Gabe’s Homegrown Dishes.
It is quite easy to miss this restaurant if you are not so familiar with how its signage look like. Located at the second floor of YDG building along Katipunan Avenue, it is on the same side of Sandwicheese and at the opposite side of the biggest Banappple branch. 
The space is quite small and could accommodate around 20 customers maximum at a time. I love though how family friendly the place is with its comfortable couch for sleepy toddlers and a bunch of board games and cards to entertain kids and kids-at-heart. 
Dan arrived with his family a couple of minutes after we arrived. And while waiting for the dishes which were being cooked by his lovely wife, we had a chat with Dan and he told us that most of the dishes are based on family recipes with Kapampangan influence. As for the restaurant’s name, it was named after the couple’s firstborn, Gabe. 
After a few minutes of chatting, our order of Lemonade (PHP65 per glass) was served and it was well-loved. It was tangy and sweet at the same time; making it a great thirst quenching drink. 

It took a while for the first dishes to be served as the restaurant was understaffed the night we visited. It took a bit over 30 minutes for the first dishes to be served. 
Lengua (PHP250) was first to come out of the kitchen and it was an instant kids’ favorite. The tender lengua could be easily mistaken as your usual well-cooked meat. We all enjoyed the thick, creamy and slightly salty gravy that complemented the beef’s tongue.
Next served was the bang for the buck Pancit Malabon (PHP100, single serving | PHP300, good for 6-9 pax | PHP600, good for 10-16 pax | PHP950, good for 20-25 pax).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

First Bite: Birdhouse

I think I have a fairy (food) godfather in the form of He got in touch with R and I again to cover yet another event—the media launch of Birdhouse in Uptown Mall. It sure is exciting to be among the first foodies to sample a new restaurant’s dishes. And I can’t help being in my fan mode being surrounded by several social media influencers. 

Hello, Birdhouse!
Before heading to Uptown Mall, I did a quick check of the restaurant and found out that Birdhouse is under Relish Group, the same team that brought Kumori, Wee Nam Kee and Osaka Ohsho to Manila. It sure made my expectation shoot up. 
The new fried chicken player is located at the food hall of Uptown Mall and it would be hard to miss Birdhouse with its very visible signage and adorable scarecrow.
After registering, we immediately took snapshots of the dishes Birdhouse offers while everyone was preoccupied indulging in their fried chicken and sandwiches
And it sure took us a while before heading back to our table and place our orders. 
We went with Barnyard D (two piece chicken, one side, one sauce and crispy chicken skin for PHP255) and Barnyard E (Salted Egg Lava Chicken Sandwich and one side for PHP290). We also got Waffle and Ice Cream with Crispy Chicken Skin (PHP150) and Peach Iced Tea (PHP60).
The iced tea was served prior to us ordering as it was an SOP of the staff to give everyone one. It was refreshing and a great drink to pair with Birdhouse’s offerings. 
It took a while before our orders were served but it was understandable given the crowd. Nonetheless, they still manage to serve ours in less than 15 minutes. 
First served was Barnyard D. We chose mac and cheese for the side and truffle ketchup for our sauce. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Second Bite: Buffalo Wild Wings

R and I have been trying to cut our food expenses by staying in on weekends. When we feel the urge to eat out (simply because I’m lazy to cook), we try to stick to places where we have gift certificates. One of the restaurants where we could eat for free is Buffalo Wild Wings and we decided to head to the wings place one weekend.
This place has a bit of sentimental value for us as it is the first restaurant we visited on a weeknight. I still remember how smooth R invited me. I was just at home then waiting for The Walking Dead to air when he messaged me if I want to eat out. “Eat out.” He said the magic words. 
Anyway, to reminisce that night, we sat on the same bar but ordered different dishes. We went with Parmesan Garlic Chicken Flatbread (PHP375) and Juicy Steak Burger (PHP625). We also got Unlimited Iced Tea (PHP105). 

The perk of sitting by the bar is that you’ll never be out of drinks. Our glasses were refilled countless times! 
First served was the burger and it was delightful! The thick burger patty stayed true to its name… juicy. It was also seasoned well and each bite was packed with flavor
The thin prime rib cuts added flavor and texture to the dish. I also enjoyed the crisp and gigantic onion rings. The fat fries were also great and went well with the filling burger. The Buffalo Wild Wings sauce added a bit of sweet spicy kick that made it very irresistible.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Restaurant Love: Fish & Co.

R is such a big fan of Fish & Co. and that is the very reason why he avails of a Bistro Group card each year. He gets perks such as 30% discount on Mondays and 20% on the other days of the week. Not bad if you frequent the Bistro Group establishments. And during a long break, I managed to visit R at work and we had lunch together at… yes, Fish & Co.

Hello, Fish & Co. 

The place was not packed when we arrived. We easily managed to get a table and ordered R’s favorite Pork Knuckles Platter (PHP995) and a liter of Jungle Freeze (PHP335) split into 3 mugs. I also ordered a cup of Mushroom Soup as I was really hungry.

First served was the messily poured Jungle Freeze. 
The nice blend of pineapples and rambutan made this drink very sweet. No wonder R loved it. I hardly managed to finish my mug and R gladly finished it for me. 
The mushroom soup didn't leave much of an impression and I could not recall anything about it. 

The platter arrived next and it looked delectable!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Restaurant Love: Passion by Gérard Dubois

Passion (or Passioni as how I first read it) by Gérard Dubois is now one of my favorite dessert places in Fort Bonifacio. Its beautiful interiors and mouthwatering display of pastries never fail to lure me inside the store whenever I pass by it.
Hello again, Passion!
After dinner, I headed to this Instagram friendly store for some pastries to go. I was looking around when the server told me about their Buy 2, Get 1 Free (where the free item is the one with the lowest price) promo which starts at 9 p.m. daily. Woohoo! A deal!
I circled around and looked for pastries with the same prices and spotted some fruit tarts all priced at PHP108. I went for Strawberry DanishMixed Fruit Danish and Mixed Fruit Tunnel
I had the pastries to go but was worried that its beauty will be squished. I told the server my concern and he assured me that they pack it well. 
I headed home and hurriedly unpacked some of the pastries and… it was slightly squished but still quite good looking. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Love at First Bite: Urameshi-Ya

It has been months since I saw J's Urameshi-Ya Instagram post and I can't help dream about unlimited wagyu, oysters and scallops. The best part is that it only costs PHP500 (plus service charge). Thankfully, some loolooers were game to brave the Makati weekday traffic to visit the Little Tokyo's not so hidden gem. Since most are free today, July 4 (which also happens to be a Monday, the surest day that Urameshi-ya has wagyu), we decided to go for it! 
Hello, Urameshi-Ya!
Little Tokyo was a ghost town when we arrived as most restaurants open at 5 pm. While waiting, we enjoyed some ice cream from Dojo which I will review separately. 
It was just 4:30 pm when Che Che of Urameshi-Ya approached our table asking if we're complete as we could already start if we want to. We were pleased as it means that we could eat earlier as I was famished! (I only had SkyFlakes in preparation for this feast!)
Soon, we were given tongs and griller. (We were given two but the other griller was placed on our table after 10 minutes or so.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Second Bite: Sunnies Cafe

Sunnies Cafe has been a favorite dining destination ever since it opened last July 31. With its lovely hues and charming interiors, this place is highly recommended for catch up with friends or friendly lunch or dinner dates. I visited this adorable restaurant on its first week and I was lucky to be invited by its owner, Eric Dee, to sample its other dishes. And I decided to pass by last Saturday. Yes, I went to High Street despite the crazy rain that day. 
Hello again, Sunnies Cafe!
The friendly staff greeted us and ushered us to a nearby table. Eric Dee welcomed us right after and ordered the following for us to try: Crispy Tacos (PHP270), Salmon Poke Quinoa (PHP280), Pumpkin Purée (PHP150), Whole Roasted Cauliflower (PHP340), Pan-Seared Miso Salmon (PHP470), Camarones al Ajillo (PHP460), Spaghetti al Funghi (PHP260), Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie (PHP340) and Chocohoe (PHP400). For drinks, we went with Charlie Golden Ticket (PHP190) and Iced Coconut Milk Latte (PHP170).
While chatting with Eric about how dynamic the food scene is here in Manila, the poke salad was served. Sunnies Cafe tried to add a bit of twist to this Hawaiian dish by using fresh salmon instead of the usual tuna. And it came out to be very good. The fresh salmon had a bit of spice and it went well with the smooth and subtly sweet avocado, mixed greens, and quinoa. The citrus ponzu dressing added character the dish, tickling my tastebuds with its slight tangy taste. 
I was curious with the crispy tacos as it has been raved by foodies. The cute small tacos are made of asado steak stuffed inside homemade parmesan taco shells and topped with cilantro cream sauce and fried quail eggs and such combo did not disappoint. 
The sweet taste of the steak chunks was balanced by the salty and slightly tangy taste of the taco shell and the cilantro cream gave the dish a burst of refreshing flavor. It would have been perfect if Sunnies Cafe tone down the steak’s sauce as it slightly overwhelmed the other elements of the dish. 
Our drinks were served next and I fell in love with R’s rich and creamy milk shake. It was the simple and not overly adorned drink that I love. It was sweet but not to the extent of being at risk of developing diabetes. I loved it a lot and I’m sure that kiddos who like chocolate chip ice cream, molten milk and milo would love this too!
My drink on the other hand was not as sweet and had a faint coffee and coconut taste. This drink is perfect for those who do not like very flavorful beverages and prefer the type that quenches thirst. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

First Bite: Hey Handsome

Hey Handsome has been receiving praises from notable influencers from the foodie community for a month now. Actually, just knowing that the minds behind this concept are the ones who brought Your Local already convinced me that I have to visit this place ASAP. I really respect these young talents as they are not afraid of the insanely crazy restaurant industry we have now. And to use unconventional raw ingredients such as keluak,a big poisonous fruit found in Indonesia, among others, proves how passionate they are in their craft and in bringing new flavors to Manila. The restaurant was scheduled to open last Friday but since the owners want to make sure that everything is perfect, they had to delay the opening and moved it to August 17 instead. (Thank you, Charlie Paw for the heads up!) And finally, Hey Handsome is open!!!

Hello, Hey Handsome!
I was greeted by lovely interiors that reminded me of Your Local, only brighter and more Instagram friendly (given the abundance of light). The modern mixed with industrial feel, high stools and white and green tiles turn every corner of this restaurant perfect for shoots. 
I guess Nicco Santos, one of the owners, head chef and a photographer himself, considered how foodies love to take snapshots of food and restaurant interiors. 
The restaurant aims to infuse more “real” Asian flavors such as Peranakan, Thai and Malaysian. Though some of the ingredients are sourced in other Asian countries for more authentic flavors, some are sourced locally. I honestly could not really tell which ones are authentic tasting or not. As long as the dish tastes good, I’m a-okay with it! 
I have read several positive reviews about the Beetroot Paneer (PHP480), Nam Tok (PHP580), Bebek Penyet (PHP680) and Nasi Lemak (PHP645). I decided to go with last one knowing that is considered as a complete meal in Malaysia and Singapore.
Quite unfamiliar with the dishes, I did a quick research and found out that Nasi Lemak is usually composed of meat, salted peanuts, coconut rice, hardboiled egg and dilis. But it is wrong to expect “usual” when dining at Chef Nicco’s restaurant. Instead of serving nasi lemak (coconut rice) with meat, Hey Handsome paired it with sea bass otah infused with spices that is wrapped and grilled in banana leaves served with sambal, pickled soft boiled egg and peanut brittle with dilis.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Brazil in Manila: Boteco Brasil

I always choose Japanese cuisine whenever I eat out. Just thinking about uni sashimi and sake aburi makes me smile like a lunatic. And I have to admit, Brazilian cuisine is something I wouldn’t consider to be in my top picks. However, one Thursday night changed it all.

Hello, Boteco Brasil.
R and I were lucky to get another message from who asked us if we could represent him in Boteco Brasil’s media night. We excitedly said yes but were clueless on what will be served to us that night. Nonetheless, just thinking about having the privilege to be one of the first foodies try a new restaurant’s dishes makes us giddy. 

It was slightly nightmarish to get to the restaurant during rush hour as the traffic from BGC to Makati is getting worse and worse. Combine the crazy traffic with rainfall that proved forever’s existence, 5 kilometres would seem like miles away. Surprisingly though, we were still considered early birds when we arrived.
We were greeted by colorful stairs and wall art with the word Brasil which was like entering a wardrobe that transported us to Brazil instead of Narnia. 

The restaurant has a few cocktail tables outside perfect for those who like to enjoy some alcohol while puffing some smokes. Since R and I are non-smokers, we went inside the air-conditioned area.
The dining area is dimly lit with the bar as the first thing you’ll see. One of the owners approached us and asked us if we want to try some of Brazil’s local beverages. I almost uttered “Oh yeaaah!” but quickly managed to stay proper and said, “sure” instead. 
We were given a glass each of Brazil’s sugarcane cocktail with fruit flavors and a tinge of alcohol.
I chose strawberry as the base fruit flavor and overall, it was a very sweet drink. I think it was because I asked to have it mild; so the sweetness of the sugarcane was hardly offset by alcohol. I didn’t get a sip of R’s lemon flavored drink as I was a bit sick that night and I didn’t want to spread virus. 
Dinner started around 7 pm and the first dishes served were Casquinha de SiriCoxinha Com Catupiry and Pão de Queijo.
The Casquinha de Siri or sautéed crab meat with coconut milk, tomatoes and parmesan cheese had a lovely rich taste that reminded me of our local gata dishes. 
I love the sweet and spicy taste of the sauce without overpowering the crab’s natural flavor. It was served as an appetizer but I would eat this with rice anytime.
The baked goods were instant loves! Pão de Queijo (cheese puffs) was so fragrant and appetizing and I drooled as soon as it was placed on the table. I loved how chewy these small buns were and how the cassava complemented the mild cheese filling. 
The Coxinha Com Catupiry or the Brazilian homemade dough filled with chicken and catupiry (cheese) was a delectable treat too! It was a simpler version of the usual empanada but crunchier. Too bad we were not able to try the homemade ketchup this dish is served with. (Note: We were told that this dish is a popular choice in parties. Boteco Brasil can serve these in private events and could adjust the size to be bigger or smaller, depending on the client’s preference.)