Friday, August 23, 2013

Introduction to Persian Cuisine at Arya

One of the things I love about maintaining this blog is that I'm constantly researching for my next post. I'm also open to new experiences, thus I was doubly excited to try the Arya Restaurant, since I can't recall having eaten Persian or Iranian cuisine before. A quick online search yields this nugget that typical main dishes from this area are combinations of rice with beef, lamb, chicken, or fish and vegetables, nuts, spices, and herbs.

Fittingly enough, I ordered lamb biryana, a rice-based dish, on my first visit. The lamb was oh-so-soft and flavorful with herbs. The rice, which was plentiful, was perfect counterpoint to the strong, meaty flavor. The lamb wasn't gamy. I wished the dish had more sauce. The green pepper made the dish spicier. I wonder if back in Iran this dish had more heat. I had a big plate, but I was able to finish it without difficulty. Before I knew it, I was scraping the remaining meat from the bone.
For dessert I ordered the almond baklava, a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of  phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. Arya's version had raisins. It was light, not too sweet, and served a tad warm. It was cinnamony, chewy, and firm. Compared to the picture in menu, the actual dish looked quite slight.
A few weeks later i returned. I was craving for shawarma, and the beef koobideh wrapped in pita bread fit the bill. Koobideh is an Iranian minced meat kabab, often mixed with parsley and chopped onions.

I just love how it was presented. And the Iranian lady who waited on me was solicitous, patiently answering my questions.

I love the creamy, sweetish garlic sauce and the spicy sauce--Ican't decide which sauce was better. The koobideh was a tad smoky, the bread warm, and the torched tomato added just the right acidity.

Arya Restaurant
Midtown Wing
Robinsons Place Manila
(+63) 02 567-7200

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Diamond Hotel's Ensaymada, Pretty Pastries, and Homemade Ice Cream

Starting this blog has been such an awesome ride. Although my resources are limited, the opportunities to sample what could be the topic of the next post appear to be endless. What it requires is being open to possibilities, and this could be simple as saying yes more. When an invitation came my way to join a series of planning meetings at Diamond Hotel, I readily accepted.

If there are two things that Diamond Hotel is known for food-wise, these would be the ensayamda and the delightful confections of its Cake Club. Once the first meeting ended, I trooped to the dark and handsome Lobby Lounge and ordered the bestselling Diamond Ensayamada, which you can see below, was drowning in butter and melted cheese. It was pillow soft and melts in your mouth, with just the right sweetness. I wished that the saltiness of the cheese came through more. There was ube but it was muted by the rich butter. I paired my order with green tea, and allowed my mind to wander. 

I've been to the Bonifacio Global City branch of the Cake Club, and I know I'm in for a treat. You can check my post on that visit here. I ordered Danielle, first, because it was pretty, and, two, it was sugar-free, to assuage my saccharine-overload guilt. The cheesecake component was not overly sweet, and there was enough raspberry to tart the pastry up.

"danielle-white chocolate raspberry sugar-free cheesecake"
I also bought pastry Mont Blanc, which reminded me of an upside down beehive. After scarfing down the humungous ensaymada, I decided to bag the two pastries. I ate one the next day, and kept the other one in the ref for almost a week. Did the Mont Blanc hold up? I was doubtful, but it was still good. It was delicate, not too sweet. My very Pinoy palate detected hints of sweet potato and a lovely, sweeter center of tamarind. Read the caption below. Ang layo! :) 

"mont blanc--made of fresh chestnut paste, chantilly cream,
prunes soaked in dark rum on almond tart"
When it comes to buffets, I need no convincing when it comes to home made ice cream. Pictured below, clockwise from top, are scoops of vanilla, salted caramel, and raspberry. Lately I've been leaning towards butterscotch and caramel, and thus I was sold with the salted caramel. I wasn't keen on vanilla at first but it was the best seller, and now I know why. I's not a one note variant--I sense a touch of mint. It went well with the salted caramel ice cream. 

Diamond Hotel
Roxas Blvd. cor. Dr. J Quintos St
(+63) 02 528 3000

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cebu's Zubochon for Boneless Lechon, Monggo, and Sizzling Squid

This year, as of this writing, I've been to Cebu three times. From my perspective this is good, since I get to check out restaurants multiple times and see if the good ones perform consistently. I've been to Zubochon before at their Escario branch, and left smitten. I made a mental note to try their boneless lechon. A month later I was in the island again, and this time at their Mango Avenue branch we ordered the Bonless Zubochon. It was  perfect with the salty, garlicky rice--the latter cutting through the rich roasted pork. It was good even without any sauce. I love the crunchy skin and the lean, moist meat. So what was better, the original of the boneless Zubochon? I'm partial to the original. I love the more pronounced herbs in the former, and there's something about being cooked with bones intact that adds a distinctive flavor.

For roughage, we also ordered the Monggo with Zubochon. What I love about it is the rather unusual addition of gata (coconut cream).

Zubochon's garlic rice was stellar
I think we ordered too many items because by the time I got to sampling the Sizzling Squid Stuffed with Zubochon Sisisg, I myself was already stuffed. I love this dish because, apart from the filling, the squid was creamy and so melts-in-your-mouth soft.

Next month I'll be in Cebu. I think I'll have a hard time not paying Zubcohon another visit.

One Mango Avenue Bldg.
Gen. Maxilom Avenue, Cebu City
(+63) 032 239 5697

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cyma for Grilled Marinated Octopus, Spinach and Artichoke Fondue, and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I'm writing this while the country is braving for the coming of a strong typhoon. It's been raining and the weather is cool, perfect for snuggling in bed after a hearty meal. My thoughts linger on a meal I had at Cyma, one of the more reliable restaurant chains around.

In that particular trip the aircon was not working, but one taste of the smoky grilled octopus lifted my spirit. I've been coming to Cyma several times before (the first visit was way back in the early oughts), and I always order this.
ktapodi xidato (grilled baby octopus, drizzled in extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, and oregano) 
My friends were raving about the spinach and artichoke fondue, and so I ordered it. The warm goodness of what I thought was eggplant was very seductive. It also tasted like creamy laing. The lime and the tomatoes cut through the rich taste. Best with smoky garlic bread, pictured on the left below.

The mint choco chip with almond and honey is a sure-fire way to beat the heat, whether induced by summer or the aircon bogging down. This is one superb dessert, second only to this.

Cyma has quite an extensive menu, and this early I'm plotting my next meal. 'Til then, to my country-based readers, keep safe.

2F Robinsons Place Manila
Adriatico St., Ermita
(+63) 02 354 3909

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Laguna's Purple Oven for Soft Cinnamon Rolls, Apple Crumble and Choco Banana Walnut Loaves

There are many ways to go to Tagaytay, and one of the faster ones allows you a stop at Soledad 2, where one branch of Purple Oven is located. A colleague mention that the bakeshop supplies pastries to a well-known coffee chain, and that got me hooked. In particular, the soft cinnamon rolls came well-recommended. Let's juts say it's one heavenly specimen of cinnamon. It was creamy, pillow-soft, and to die for. Some say it's a tad sweet, but it's just right with unsweetened tea or black coffee. I was sorry when I ate it all.

I also brought home two loaves--one was the apple crumble loaf. Again, it was just right, perfect with coffee. I love the cinnamony sweet apple crumble and the soft dough.

Naturally greedy, I also bought the choco banana walnut loaf. I let it sit in the ref for a week, yet it retained its moisture. Who could resist a slice of  banana bread filled with melt-in-your hands chocolate chips, perfect with tea?

For my next visit I have my eyes set on the crinkles.

The Purple Oven
Solenad 2
Tagaytay Road cor Nuvali Boulevard
Santa Rosa, Laguna

Monday, August 5, 2013

Soi Restaurant for Beef in Red Curry, Crab Rice, and Thai Rice Noodles with Fish Balls

I've been to Thailand a couple of times, and let's just say I love their spicy cuisine. Unlike many Pinoys with delicate palates, I would like to believe I have a high-tolerance for spicy food. If you see someone breaking into a sweat, nursing a runny nose, and suppressing a cough, that's not me, LOL.

I'm wary of going to local Thai restaurants--I fear many would have tempered the authenticity out of their offerings. But one thing I learned is that you can request them to prepare the dish the way it was meant to be served. This lesson I gained when I first ordered the Beef in Red Curry. It was rich and adequately spicy, although it could be stellar with added heat. I love the greens and the baby corn. I paired it with Crab Rice, which didn't stint with crab meat. A tad salty, the rice was good on it's own. I made a mental note to pair the Beef in Red Curry with plain rice next time, to appreciate its complex flavor.

A few weeks later I returned, and this time I asked the staff not to temper the heat. It was superbly spicy, subtly sweet, creamy, with the unmistakable aroma of kaffir leaves--I love it!

I also ordered Thai Rice Noodle Soup with Fish Balls--light soup of flavorful fish balls and crab balls, and fresh fish. I love the crunch of the sprouts. Both dishes left my tongue on fire! 

Soi Restaurant
Ground Floor Robinson's Place
Ermita, manila
(+63) 02 523-1189

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chef's Quarter's Surprise

If you're a sucker for ambiance, this restaurant is for you. Perfect date venue, right? This is how I imagine a Southern California restaurant would look like (no, I haven't been there, but I have a vivid imagination).

Unfortunately, the main dish I ordered was was underwhelming. Good thing I always order dessert, in this case the aptly named best-selling Surprise, because otherwise I won't be back. There was scant information on the menu or online on the components of this dish, but it had well-balanced layers of cheesecake and choco, two things that always does it for me. There were granules of burnt brown sugar that provided textural interest. Fresh mango slices and strawberry swirl provide the necessary acidity.

This was not my first visit--I still recall how good their Tessie Tomas salad was. I just wish next time I'll have more pleasant surprises.

Chef's Quarter
Robinsons Place Manila
Pedro Gil cor. Adriatico St.
Ermita, Manila
(+63) 02 381 3449

Friday, August 2, 2013

My Favorite J Co Donut Variant Is...

For my first post this month I wanted to feature something pretty, like my favorite J Co Donut variant, the Hi Lychee, pictured on the right. No, I have not experienced braving the long lines to get my J Co fix. I'd rather wait when all the hype has died down, and see for myself if the franchise has legs for the long term. Fortunately, there was a way to get around this self-imposed obstacle: an office-mate was doing brisk business selling pieces on retail.

I had no idea how this white-and-green donut tasted when I was offered to pick one from a box. I was taken by its looks, a promise that it could be light and refreshing, and it was. I also bought the best-selling Al Caponne, pictured on the left, which was  light, not too sweet, and filled with the delicate taste of almonds. But I love the Hi Lychee more. One bite, and I knew it was made of lychee right away.