Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dining in Cebu: What I Ate and Where*

I went to Cebu for a quick trip. Let's just say I gorged myself silly. If there is one takeaway from this travel, it's that Banilad is teeming with restaurants, just like Quezon City's Maginhawa Street. I have to credit Eat Out Now for the resto recommendations.

1. Giuseppe Pizzeria and Sicilian Roast

My first stop after landing at the airport and depositing my carry-on at the hotel is at this Italian Restaurant. I fell in love with the excellent seafood spaghetti / spaghetti marinara. It was simple and straight-forward, the flavors of the sea  taking center-stage. The noodles were firm and they were generous with the fresh seafood. I love bite of the green chilis. Since we're surrounded by water, I've always believed we should have more of the best that our seas offer. 

For dessert, I had tortino with ice cream, and it was worth breaking my diet for. I love the classic choco and vanilla ice cream on top of choco cake. These two alone made my trip to Cebu worthwhile.

View from my table:

Giuseppe Pizzeria and Sicilian Roast
Paseo Saturnino, Maria Luisa Road
Banilad, Cebu
(+63) 32 343-9901

2. Zubochon 

When in Cebu, Zubochon is a must-visit, and when I read from the man behind the restaurant himself that they will be offering Duhat /Lomboy Shake  for a limited run, I knew I had to book a flight down south. The shake was a sight to behold--deep purple and very inviting. It was refreshing, just right for the heat, and without the heavy mouth feel from eating too much fresh Java plum. One sip and I'm instantly transported to my childhood where one of the best ways to enjoy the fruit was sprinkled with rock salt and shaken in a covered bowl.

My view from where I sat:

IT Park, Lahug, Cebu City
(+63) 32 236 8256

3. Little Saigon Big Bangkok 

This is tucked away inside a compound of restaurant and retail establishments, so keep looking, otherwise you'd miss this charming joint specializing in Asian street food. You can either dine al freso or inside (airconditioned!), and since it was a sweltering late morning, I opted for the latter. I love the Bohemian feel of the resto. It felt like Malate in its heyday, where it could nestle perfectly alongside Batavia Restaurant. Adding to the quirk factor was they were playing an old song: Dancing Cheek to Cheek. And the items won't hurt your pocket. I only spent less than P500 for my meal, all featured here. I love it!

The Goi Con, Vietnamese spring rolls with lemongrass grilled pork. Spring rolls are either vegetarian or meat, and usually have shrimp, fresh herbs like basil and cilantro , lettuce, cucumbers, rice vermicelli, encased in translucent rice paper. I love the authentic flavors from the greens and the sweet, sour, salty combo of the fish sauce.

The Mieng Kam, described as a refreshing leaf snack that distills Thai cuisine in one bite. Also spelled Mieng Kham, it is a Thai and Lao street food snack popular during festivals and consists of chaplu leaves, roasted coconut shavings, shallots, red bird's eye chilis, ginger, garlic, lime, roasted peanuts, and dried shrimps. 

This snack is really pretty. It was minty, sweet, nutty, and and spicy. Each biteful was a delightful explosion of flavors in the mouth. This is only my second dish, but I'm already starting to soak in sweat. 

The last item I had was the Penang Spicy Noodles, fried wide rice noodles, nam prik (a Thai chili-based hot sauce), fish and pork. This is actually better than the one I had in Singapore. It was tasty, chewy with the firm noodles and the crunch of the bean sprouts.

My view from where I sat:

Little Saigon Big Bangkok Restaurant
1 Paseo Saturnino Drive Banilad
Maria Luisa Road, Cebu
(+63) 932 455 9063
(+63) 32 415-0228

After eating from these excellent restos, I'm raring to go back to Cebu.

* The title was inspired from a post from one of my favorite blogs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ilocos Norte's Bistro 51 for Crispy Binagoongan and Poki Poki

In my last visit to Laoag, the capital city of Ilocos Norte, we were fortunate to be billeted at a hotel near Bistro 51. The place reminded me of Baguio City's Cafe by the Ruins, re-imagined as a beer garden. The dishes border on the very tasty, best paired with your alcohol of choice. 

We had an excellent dinner there, but the following are the stand-outs. 
The excellent spicy-sweet crispy binagoongan, pork sauteed in shrimp paste. Very tasty, the pork and innards envelope your mouth in umami goodness. This is a unique take on the binagoongan--I love the  mix of textures.
Another winner is the poki-poki, a vegetable dish made of grilled eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and egg. It is like tortang talong, only less dry and without the chopped meat. Bistro 51's poki poki is smoky and tasted like it was cooked on fire.

If your trip to Laoag  will revolve around food, here are my recommendations:

Bistro 51
Escoda National Highway
Laoag Cioty
(-63) 77 670 6607

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ramen Nagi's Black King Butao Ramen

I have to admit this was difficult for me to write, not because the food was not stellar, but because a robbery took place nearby while I was having this very bowl of ramen. To this day I haven't returned to the mall.

At the beginning it was all about this ridiculously excellent bowl of squid-ink ramen. Long lines plagued the SM Aura branch, and so when I heard there was a branch at nearby SM MOA, I thought I have a better chance at scoring  a seat. I went on a Sunday, on a whim, and although the restaurant was full and had a long waitlist, they were able to seat me outside. I didn't mind sharing my table with another lone patron.The service was efficient and personable, and before I knew it, a steaming bowl of Black King Butao Ramen came my way. I went for the chef's recommendation, chose hard noodles, and ordered extra pork belly. After the first sip of the broth I thought I was in heaven. It was so good--tasty, garlicky. See the black orb in the middle--that's the good stuff. It was my first time to try squid-ink ramen, and it was a good change. 

And then I heard gunshots, followed by people scampering from inside the mall, the customers ducking for cover. I didn't finish my bowl of ramen, I wasn't able to pay for it. I want to go back to try the other variants. But not now.

You can go here for more details of the robbery

Below is my ranking of what are the best ramen houses to date in the Manila/Pasay area:
1. Ukokkei Ramen Ron / Nagi Ramen
2. Hokkaido Santouka Ramen
3. Menya Genki Tonkotsu Ramen House
Kokoro Ramenya
5. UCC

Ramen Nagi
SM Mall of Asia
Ocean Drive, Manila Bay Reclamation Area
Pasay City

Sebastian's Ice Cream Studio's Mango and Suman Ice Cream

If you're a regular visitor to my blog (thank you), you'd know I'm a fan of Sebastian's Ice Cream Studio. I love their take on flavors, which ranges from festive holiday fare, to unusual variants that are meant to be tried at least once. For this feature, I chose another rice-cake inspired flavor, the mango and suman ice cream. Suman is made from glutinuos rice cooked in coco milk, and wrapped in palm leaves. They're either sprinkled with sugar or paired with ripe mango. 

My verdict: they had the texture and mouth-feel right. I can't quite decide if I'm eating ice cream or the rice-cake. I love that the mango component was sweetish-tart. Honestly, I prefer this to the real thing.

Sebastian's Ice Cream Studio
SM Mall of Asia, North Parking
Seaside Boulevard, Pasay City
(+63) 915 489 5753

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Desserts of Cagayan de Oro's La Vetta Wine Bar and Restaurant

This is not the first time I went to La Vetta, ranked by TripAdvisor as number one among the restaurants in the city. I was smitten during that visit, so the next time I was in Cagayan de Oro, I made sure to drop by. You can read about my first visit to the restaurant here

We opted for desserts, and what an excellent selection they have. We tried the double mud choco cake, which is always a sure bet.

We also tried the mango flambe, which was also awesome.

My colleague, Rouschelle, looked like she could whip up the dish herself...

...but we left the cooking to the professionals. I love the theatricality behind the preparation of the dish.

Of the desserts we tried, our favorite was the apricot strudel. Strudels are a popular Austrian pastry.

The other desserts were good, but this was the most unusual. It warmed our hearts, it was creamy, not too sweet. I love the nice textures courtesy of the meringue and dried apricot.

The view from our table.

La Vetta Wine Bar and Restaurant
Rosario Crescent, Limketkai Drive
Cagayan de Oro
(+63) 88 856 1207

Mom and Tina's Bakery Cafe's Blueberry Cheesecake

My favorite dessert is blueberry cheesecake. Through the years I have drawn a checklist of what makes a good blueberry cheesecake: the toppings, the cake, and the crust should not be too cloyingly sweet, and the cake must have the right cheesiness. Mom and Tina's version acquits itself in these categories, plus it comes in the prettiest presentation I've seen of its kind.

Mom and Tina's Bakery Cafe
GF, Unit 14 Tropical Palm Plaza
Perea cor De La Rosa Street
Legazpi Village, Makati
(+63) 02 840-4299

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Kokoro Ramenya's Tan Tan Men

I've been quite scarce, bear with me, since I'm buried under tons of writing projects. I apologize for the glut of ramen entries, but I have to post this. After going over my photo archives, I noticed that I forgot to write about this sooner. Forget Ukokkei. Kokoro Ramenya serves the better Tan Tan Men. (I prefer Ukokkei's Shio Tan Tan Men, though). Both establishments serve complex, milky-creamy, and nutty ramens, but Kokoro's is spicier. There's the usual visible layer of fat, which coats the noodles with the flavorful broth. This is one glorious ramen. 

I was happy to see more diners, Pinoys and Japanes, eating there during this particular visit earlier this year.

For an earlier post on the restaurant, go here

For my ramen house rankings in the Pasay and Manila area, go here

Kokoro Ramenya
2F S1-S2 1388 Roxas Boulevard cor. Sta. Monica & M Guerrro Sts.
Ermita, Manila
(+63) 02  254-9716

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mitsuyado Sei-men for Karashi Ramen and Black Pepper Chicken

Part of what I love about researching for this blog is the thrill of discovery. There's nothing like finally coming face-to-face with the resto you've only known previously online. The first time I ventured to Jupiter to look for Mitsuyado Sei-men I got lost. I was lucky the second time. The place was larger than I imagined, and was quite full with local and Japanese patrons. I love how the owners tired to replicate the traditional ramen houses in Japan. Another bonus are the well-trained staff, who know their way around the menu. I did not try the cheese noodles during my visit, but opted for the spiciest ramen in the menu.
The karashi ramen was complex and multi-layered, spicy and a tad smoky. There's a hint of fish sauce in the dark broth. Compared to a Greenbelt-based ramen house, whose name I will not mention, the onion stalks did not overwhelm the dish. This is the first time I tried the thick noodles, and I'm not too crazy about it. I like the slivers of funky bamboo shoots and the seasoned chashu. 

In my second visit I tried the Cheese Curry Tsukemen, opting for cold noodles. I was told to pour the cheese on the noodles, and then dip the noodles in the sauce. The combination of creamy savory sweet and sour was not to my liking. Well, at least my curiosity was satisfied. 

I prefer the Black Pepper Chicken more. It was lovely--smoky and moist with just the right amount of heat. Best eaten warm. I was fussing with my notes I forgot to eat it right away. 

Mitsuyado Sei-Men
#22 Jupiter Street cor Galaxy St
Brgy. Bel-Air Makati
(+63) 02 511 1390