Friday, September 30, 2016

When In Coron: Maquinit Hot Springs

I am not a beach person. I even have a love < hate relationship with the sun. I remember that my nose used to bleed every time I get too exposed to the sun’s harsh rays. Yes, I was a sensitive kid back then. So when R invited me to go to Coron with him and his friends who I do not know then, I wasn’t really thrilled. But I changed my mind when I saw Coron’s beauty.

Hello, Coron!

We were in Coron for 3 days and 2 nights and R’s friend who is based in Coron did all the arrangements for us. We had a tour guide during our whole stay and all we had to do is ride the van, tricycle or boat and follow him.
On our first day, we kept it light and went to Maquinit Hot Springs.

I would have not thought of Coron having hot springs as the first few things that come to mind whenever I hear Coron are rock formations, corals, snorkeling, beaches and giraffes. (Okay, giraffes seem a bit out of place but there is a place in Coron where you could feed them!)
We got to the hot springs a bit past 4 p.m.. We were supposed to be there earlier after our supposed Mount Tapyas climb. But thanks to the ever reliable Cebu Pacific, we were behind schedule by a couple of hours. We opted to delay the hike till our last day in the island.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

First Bite: Nicandro Lutong Bahay

I usually avoid Filipino restaurants when I eat out as I could easily cook most of my favorite Filipino dishes at home. However, whenever I crave for dishes that painstakingly take time to prepare like bulalo and kare-kare, I’d eat out. Honestly, I have not heard of Nicandro Lutong Bahay as it doesn’t seem to be active in social media. I only came to be acquainted with this cozy Filipino restaurant tucked along the famous Lilac Street during a Marikina food crawl sponsored by Zomato and ABS-CBN. And I was not prepared to taste something different.

Hello, Nicandro Lutong Bahay
The first thing I noticed was its tables adorned with machuca designed laminate. It was the perfect flat lay background! 
As we wait for our food, we were served with two types of beverages, House Blend Iced Tea (PHP80) and Fresh Sugarcane Juice (PHP95, glass | PHP185, bottle). I got sugarcane and I wasn’t too happy with it. It tasted off and I just could not pinpoint what was wrong with it.

Love at First Bite: Canton Road

I have been wanting to visit Canton Road ever since I saw its panda bun stuffed with salted egg yolk. It was a powerful combination of two things I love and I couldn’t help nag R about it. However, our weekend schedules were uncooperative and we couldn’t find the time to drop by this new Chinese restaurant in Shangri-La at the Fort. And while I was weeping with sadness, I got an invite from the lovely gals of Zomato to feast on some of Canton Road’s spectacular dishes. Woohoo!

Hello, Canton Road
I have never been to the hotel and residential side of Shangri-La at the Fort so everything looked so new to me. But as expected from a notable establishment, the hotel lobby was majestic and every single staff member was courteous and assisted me to Canton Road.
As I walk closer to Canton Road, I was greeted by beautiful interiors in dark hues and touches of gold. The place screams Asian elegance. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Beat the Heat: Snow Creme

With the never ending summer heat, shaved ice treats have become a staple dessert in the food scene. I find it interesting how it evolved from Cerealicious and Ice Monster to bingsu. Such changes show how locals also evolved as foodies. We are no longer satisfied with rough shaved ice and now yearn for snow-like ones. We also now crave for a variety of toppings and are no longer content with just brownies, chocolates and cereals. And these changes in preferences help push the food industry to come up with better dishes. I was pretty pleased to find a shop that actually merged two of the food trends that made Manila, well, fatter. 

Hello, Snow Creme!
This charming shaved ice dessert shop is located in the same building as some of the famous Maginhawa restaurants such as Wicked Kitchen and Papa Diddi’s. Cat Café Manila is also in the same building. 
I was actually just looking for something to quench my thirst when I passed by this shop. I figured that shaved ice will do the trick and that I’ll be able to satisfy my insatiable desire for desserts at the same time. To my surprise, this shop offers more than shaved ice treats
Snow Creme also offers milk teas, fruit teas, smoothies and light snacks like fries and squid balls.  I ended up getting Strawberry Kiwi Iced Tea (PHP70, Large | PHP80, Extra Large) and Taiwan Shaved Ice (PHP130, Small | PHP180, Large). 
My Taiwan Shaved Ice was served in less than 15 minutes and it looked pretty nice with its generous serving of mochi, red beans and coffee jelly. It sure was a steal for PHP130. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

When in Japan: Visit Owl Family Hakata

My recent Japan trip was a dream come true. I have been dying to visit Japan for the longest time and it finally happened this year. And nothing would have been more perfect than being there during the time when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Obviously, I went crazy over the cherry blossoms and dragged R towards every sakura tree I spotted. It was expected as I have always wanted to see those beautiful trees in real life. But I would have never known that I would also go crazy over… owls

Hello, Owl Family Hakata!
The Owl café was an accidental discovery and it happened when R and I were trying to find our way to visit this temple near Hakata Station in Fukuoka, Japan

After struggling to ask the locals for directions with my survival Nihonggo, we found ourselves walking along this sad looking shopping district. That was when we spotted a bunch of foreigners in front of this quaint café. Curious, we stopped and check the place out. And to our surprise, we saw several owls inside!
Owls of different sizes were all lounging around the small establishment. We were so fascinated by it that we thought of joining the group of tourists outside. But there is a limit with the number of customers who could go inside. Also, we wanted to wait for R’s friend to join us. 
We headed back to the place after a couple of hours and there were still a handful of people waiting outside for the next batch. We got scared that we might not be accommodated as the ones ahead of us made reservations. But we managed to get in. Yay!
We were first ushered to the second floor of the cafe where we were given instructions on how to handle the owls. It was a bit of a challenge as the server was speaking 95% Japanese and 5% English. We only understood the essentials through body language. 
Thankfully, they also have some reading materials in English for us which also explain the same things the staff was trying to convey. 
Before heading down, we placed our orders which were inclusive in our JPY1,000 per person café fee. R and I got hot chocolate while R’s friend, M, got coffee. 
Giddy to mingle with the owls, we didn’t drink our beverages right away. Also, the second floor was a bit too cramped to stay put.
We were given a quick rundown of the names of the owls but the one that got stuck to me is Sumomo, the adorable small owl with eyes that could melt the coldest heart. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Love at First Bite: Providore

The huge Providore signage intrigued me for months. It really made me excited because it has been quite a while since a new restaurant graced SM Aura. And the foodie in me jumped for joy when Chef Kalel and Mela of Raintree Restaurant posted that Providore will open this week. And true to their post, it did open today at 6 pm! 

Hello, Providore! 
This casual dining restaurant is the newest concept of Raintree Restaurant, the same group behind spectacular restaurants such as Chelsea, Simple Lang, Kabila, Stella, Izakaya Sensu and Chotto Matte. And just like its sister restaurants, this one was designed to impress. 
The first thing that caught my eye was the lovely wall of products from local retailers such as Nipa Brew, Manila Eat Up, Traydor and Casa Carmela. I really like that Providore decided to partner with these shops and carry its products. It made it a lot easier for foodies who are not fond of shopping online or driving around for a bottle of hot sauce. With this, we get to save more time for eating! (I spotted a few customers considering some of the goods displayed as Christmas gifts. I might do that too.)
It was their first day when I dropped by and a handful of items were not available then. Thankfully, the kitchen had ingredients to whip a Decadent Bone Marrow Burger (PHP450). I decided to get that sinful bun of meat and pair it with a refreshing glass of Kombucha Lime Iced Tea (PHP120). I struggled choosing my dessert as I was alone when I visited. All of the desserts seem to be good for sharing so I settled with what sounded to be the smallest sweet treat they have and decided to end my meal with a plate of Housemade Leche Flan (PHP95). 

Service was quite fast as I was not even done taking photos of the merchandise when my ginormous burger arrived. 
I was greeted by a good 1.5" U.S. beef burger with bacon marmalade jam and wild arugula sandwiched by a soft buttered brioche with spiced fries and oven-roasted bone marrow on the side. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

First Bite: Cafe by the Ruins

Cafe by the Ruins has been one of the most popular restaurants in Baguio that it became a must-visit place when in the land of ube jams and strawberries. I have tried to visit this place a few times but failed till my most recent trip up North. 

Hello, Cafe by the Ruins!
I have dreamt of dining here for more than a year now. I always drool over its mouthwatering dishes and get mesmerized by the beauty of its interiors I see on Facebook and Instagram. But I was surprised with what I saw when I entered the famous restaurant. 
The place has an ambiance that would make you feel like you’re in the woods dining with pixies and friendly dwarves but with a slight Tim Burton touch. It was poorly lit though and made me a bit paranoid with mosquitoes that I applied insect repellant as soon as we got to our table. We also got a sniff of something not so pleasant during our visit. 
Since we were not that hungry, R and I opted to just order one cup of Rizal’s Tsokolate-e (PHP145) and Chocolate Croissant (PHP100). Service was quick and it was probably because we got there just in time for last call. 
The cup of hot chocolate was quite good as it had a nice and rich chocolate taste to it. It was also thick, perfect for the cool Baguio weather. Unfortunately, it was quite humid that night so I didn’t get to enjoy my cup to the fullest. But I really liked that this cup had a smooth texture unlike the batirol type which was rough. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bang for the Buck: Go Sushi

I love Japanese food and I simply could not say no to it. And when I was invited by Go Sushi to sample its mouthwatering dishes, I quickly said yes despite it being far from where I live. Japanese food is love after all. 

Hello, Go Sushi
Tucked in the foodie haven called Teachers Village, this sushi place is positioned to be a Japanese take out shop with only a handful of tables for those who prefer to dine in. 

I was warmly greeted by Go Sushi's owner Violy and recommended that we order the following: Crazy Maki (PHP79, 4 pcs. | PHP129, 8 pcs.), Philly Cheese Steak (PHP119, 4 pcs. | PHP189, 8 pcs.), Crispy Tuna (PHP129, 4 pcs. | PHP199, 8 pcs.), California Torch Roll (PHP139, 4 pcs. | PHP219, 8 pcs.), Teriyaki (PHP149), Tonkatsu (PHP179) and Tiger Prawn Tempura (PHP399, 5 pcs.). 
Violy and I chatted for a bit while waiting for the dishes and found out that Go Sushi was her brainchild. It all started when she got too frustrated with the hassle of going to the mall just to satisfy her insatiable maki cravings. The long wait to get parking (not to mention pay for it too), affordable but mediocre Japanese maki and the drive back home through horrific EDSA were just too much for her and that motivated her to start her own Japanese restaurant. She figured that since she's passionate with Japanese cuisine and knows what a customer like her wants, she could make it work. And she did. 
The unbelievably affordable maki plates made me think that it would be a so-so dining experience. I've tried a handful of Japanese restaurants offering pocket-friendly meals and I ended up not going back for more. But Go Sushi made me realize that affordable and delicious Japanese dishes are not like unicorns. Just don't be snooty and expect authentic Japanese dishes as the ones offered by Go Bento are designed for the Filipino taste and student budget. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Burpday Celebration at Buffalo Wild Wings

It was my sister’s birthday last weekend and we originally planned to visit Annam to celebrate. But due to conflict in schedule with last minute events, I had to ask my mom and sister if we could move it to Buffalo Wild Wings so that I could also use my gift certificates for it. Thankfully, they agreed and were supportive of my food blogging activities. And so, we were set.

Hello, Buffalo Wild Wings
It was my first time to dine in this branch despite it being one of the first restaurants to open in Uptown Mall. I guess it was because I already visited its Estancia branch twice and because I’m not really a fan of wings. I’d usually order burger or flat bread here. 

I was an hour late for lunch because the event I attended ended late. To my surprise, my mom and sister were not upset at all. I guess I have to thank the Mozzarella Sticks (PHP325) and Chicken Caesar Salad (PHP465) for it. 
I managed to have a bite of the mozzarella sticks and chicken caesar salad; and both were good but not good enough for its price. The mozzarella was not as gooey and the marinara sauce was not as tangy. The breading though had that nice crunch that creates a lovely contrast against the soft mozzarella
The salad was your usual caesar salad with grilled chicken drizzled with parmesan garlic sauce and caesar dressing. The greens were crisp and the grilled chicken added flavor to the dish. Though the serving size seems generous, the price seemed to be still steep for salad

Monday, September 19, 2016

First Bite: Makansutra

Hurrah for new (and posh) food halls and the blooming food business for giving us foodies more and better options. Thank you too for satisfying not just our tummies but also our insatiable desire for Instagram-worthy walls and overall interiors. But I am going a couple of steps (or sentences) ahead of my review for the latest food hall in Manila, Makansutra. 

Hello, Makansutra
This beautifully decorated food hall in SM Megamall is the brainchild of Chef Him Uy de Baron and Pinoy Eats World's JJ Yulo. The spacious food hall has a bunch of food stalls offering several Asian favorites with laksa as one of the most recommended dishes to date. Unfortunately, R and I were still full from lunch when we dropped by and only had room for drinks and sweets. 
We were like lost kids in Instagram paradise as we read through one menu board after another. After several minutes, we finally decided to go with Pulut Hitam with Coconut Ice Cream (PHP160), Bandung (PHP90) and Lime Barley (PHP80). It was actually easy to decide on which dessert to order as most were not available that time. 
The whole food hall has a pay as you order policy and for now all stalls only accept cash payments. (So make sure you have cash with you when you drop by.) We got our drinks as soon as we settled our bill. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

First Bite: Yayoi Philippines

It is so hard to resist good food especially when your foodie godfather invites you to the media launch of a Japanese restaurant. This time, the invite was for Yayoi, a reputable Japanese restaurant with branches all over Japan, USA, Australia, and now in Manila. 

Hello, Yayoi
I've heard about Yayoi from one of my friends working in Ortigas. He was quite excited to try this place out since he was starting to get tired of the usual restaurants in one of the busiest malls in Manila. And finally, it is open to the public! 
After crawling our way out of EDSA for half an hour, we finally reached SM Megamall and scurried towards Yayoi. And we made it just in time! 
We were greeted by the friendly PR team and owners of Yayoi. We were quickly ushered inside and I couldn't help gush over the mix of traditional Japanese ambiance with its wooden walls and technology through the iPads stationed on each table. (The iPads serve as the menu and platform to place your order.)
After feasting on some Edamame (PHP120), we headed to the photo table and joined other bloggers, media personalities and Instagrammers take some mouthwatering photos of Yayoi's highlighted offerings. 

Our orders were served after the welcome remarks of the hosts and we soon indulged in some serious Japanese dishes. 
First served was the Mix Toji Teishoku (PHP425) or breaded pork loin, deep fried shrimp and sukiyaki beef simmered in special sauce and egg served with rice, miso soup and two sides. 
I loved the sweet and salty taste of the sauce which complemented the succulent katsu and breaded shrimp. I also enjoyed eating the egg base with Japanese rice while slurping some hot miso soup. The tofu side dish helped balance the taste and avoided the main dish from being cloying. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Restaurant Love: Nihonkai Tsukiji

R suddenly message me, “What are you craving for?” around 5 p.m. last Thursday. (No, I am not pregnant in case you’re wondering.) I wasn’t really craving for anything in particular but it has been a while since I last had uni sashimi. So I replied saying I want a gooey piece of heaven. He then told me that his dad wants to eat out and we’ll eat wherever I choose. Woohoo! Thank you, Uncle H!

It has been quite a while since I last went to this Japanese restaurant! It may not be as popular as other restaurants like Tsumura, Seryna or Senju but this place serves great food!

We were all famished and quickly ordered a bunch of Salmon Aburi (PHP95/piece x 16), Uni Sashimi (PHP320), Salmon Sashimi (PHP375), Sukiyaki (PHP450), Spicy Tuna (PHP360) and Ebi-Ten Roll (PHP375). Auntie and Uncle also ordered Agedashi Tofu (PHP170), Salmon Belly (PHP320), Chicken Teriyaki (PHP275), Salmon Head (PHP275), Nihonkai Special Bento (PHP1,050) and ramen bowl which I failed to take note of. 
Service was quick as always and our salmon aburi was served first. 
It was so fresh and the type that melts in your mouth. I loved that it was torched and the warmth of the salmon was so harmonious with the slightly cold Japanese rice. 
The uni sashimi was the best! Its freshness was evident with its lovely sweet taste and smooth texture. It was love at first bite. I wanted to order another bowl but I was afraid I might get an upset tummy. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Second Bite: Dohtonbori

R’s parents have been so nice to me and they always invite me to join them dine at great (and fancy) restaurants. I have always wanted to return the favour and kept thinking where to bring them for lunch. And thanks to looloo and Dohtonbori, I managed to treat R’s parents for free! 
Hello, Dohtonbori!
I decided to treat R’s parents during Father’s Day and tried to make a reservation at Dohtonbori for lunch. However, Dohtonbori does not accept reservation on weekends. And so, this marked a Sunday morning Amazing Race. 

We got to the place at 11:30 a.m. and I rushed to the second floor of the building where Dohtonbori is located as I was scared we might ran out of table with chairs. R’s dad cannot dine at the tatami area as he might have difficulty standing up. I was lucky that I managed to score the last table with chairs! (Note: The okonomiyaki restaurant opens at 11 am.)
R’s dad was famished so we quickly ordered the following: Mixed Okonomiyaki (PHP290), Quattro Formaggi (PHP240), Dohtonbori Pizza (PHP340), Grilled Salmon Chanchan (PHP380), Sukiyaki (PHP190), Steak Yakimeshi (PHP390) and Kiwami (PHP390).
We were offered the Father’s Day promo where dads get a free mug of beer. But there’s a catch. This promo cannot be availed with any other discounts and that includes senior citizen discount. Since the discount we will get from being a senior is more than the cost of a mug of beer, we decided not to avail of it. (Oh, and you cannot use your gift certificates too if you avail of the promo which was weird since gift certificates should be considered as cash.)
Since Dohtonbori was so busy that day, speed of service was not at its peak. Though water was served while we were ordering, our request for hot and cold tea was forgotten and we had to follow up more than thrice for it. 
The ingredients for our first dishes also arrived after 20 minutes. Yes, ingredients. We had to wait for a few minutes for someone to prepare the okonomiyaki for us and it took around 8-10 minutes before the dishes were cooked. 

I felt so bad as R’s dad was so hungry already. He ate the salmon chanchan a few minutes short of the ideal cooking time. Nonetheless, it was still good and he liked it! He even asked to have the salmon skin placed back on the teppan plate to make the skin crispy. 
The Mixed Okonomiyaki and Kiwami were prepared next and both were well-loved! 
I loved the different textures in the mixed okonomiyaki. 
The crunch and chewiness of the squid, pork, shrimp, octopus, tempura bits, cabbage, spring onions and red pickles led me to okonomiyaki heaven.