Friday, June 13, 2014

Banana Leaf's Penang Char Kway Teow and Chicken Pandan

This is my third post on Banana Leaf. You can read my earlier post here and here. What I love about this chain is that it allows you to savor the best of Asia's varied cuisines without having to board a plane. For this visit I tried two of their bestsellers.  

First was the Penang Char Kway Teow

Char Kway Teow, meaning stir-fired ricecake strips, is popular in Malaysia and Singapore, and is made of flat rice noodles, soy sauce, prawns, cockles, bean sprouts, chives, egg, sausage, and fishcake. This was originally a cheap source of energy for laborers. Banana Leaf's version is smoky and spicy, with the distinct aroma of fish sauce. I love the crunch from the sprouts, the chewy flat noodles, and how the fried egg absorbed the strong flavors. Imagine how glorious this could be if they didn't dial down the heat (note to self: remind restaurants you don't mind dishes as spicy as they should be).

The second dish was the Pandan Chicken 

Banana Leaf's Pandan Chicken was - juicy and succulent, with a pronounced pandan aroma. This comes close to Azuthai's version (click here for my review), which is the best for me. They paired this with sweet spicy sauce. I noticed that they let the meat soak in the mixture a tad too long, but the dish was still good nonetheless

Banana Leaf Asian Cafe
188-189 Level 1 Robinson's Place
Midtown, Ermita, Manila
(+63) 02 567-1888

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Tagaytay's Tootsie's for Turon Halo Halo and Bibingka

Today I'm featuring Tootsie's versions of two popular snacks, one a ubiquitous street food, the other usually served during the holidays. 

Turon is made of slices of plantain and slivers of langka (jackfruit), dusted with sugar, then wrapped in spring roll wrapper and fried. Tootsie's Turon halo halo came with heart-warming ube (purple yam) filling, and drizzled with langka sauce. The crisp outer layer and warm delicious soft filling make this a winner.

Bibingka is a rice cake traditionally served during the Christmas season. It is made of rice flour, coconut milk or water, eggs, and milk, and infused with the aroma of toasted banana leaves. I love Tootsie's version: redolent with egg, oh-so-soft, and buttery. It was also freshly baked. They need 25-minute lead time to prepare the dish. 

J Abad Santos cor. Aguinaldo Highway
Km. 57.5, Tagaytay City
(63) 46 483 46 29

Friday, June 6, 2014

Arya Persian Restaurant's Couscous Salad and Chicken Koobideh

Scoring a good meal is more art than science. Sometimes I overlook certain restaurants just because they're mall-based or I had one bad experience with them. Fortunately I'm always open to recommendations which may come anywhere--from friends, fellow bloggers, food writers in traditional media, even celebrities in the know. All these I enter in a database of restaurants to visit. One thing is sure--the list gets longer and longer. 

I had already eaten in Arya before (click here for my review), and I thought that was it, until I reviewed my database. While waiting for a movie to start I headed to Arya to cross a couple of times from the list. 

First is the lovely, refreshing Couscous Salad. Couscous is a traditional Berber dish of steamed semolina (granules of durum wheat). The salad is tart from the vinegar and tomatoes, crunchy from the veggies and peanuts, and with the welcome sweetness from the raisins. The ingredients came well together, all these on top of a tortilla-like base.

I then had the Chicken Koobideh with pita bread. I'm a fan of anything that resembles shawarma, so this is a no-brainer for me. I  love crushing the grilled tomatoes over the smoky meat, which I also douse in chili and garlic sauce, and wrapping everything  in the bread.

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tagaytay's Carlo's Pizza for Buffalo Wings and Quattro Formaggi Pizza

My current food obsession is blue cheese. Blue cheese is a general classification of cheeses that have cultures of the mold Penecilium added, resulting to the characteristic blue spots or veins and strong smell of the final product.  Up until a few years ago I was indifferent to this oh-so-pungent cheese, but after eating this and this, I'm joining the bandwagon. 

The Buffalo Wings came with the said ranch dressing, but we prevailed upon our server to give us the blue cheese dip instead. I love this dish because of the soft, hefty, juicy chicken, perfect with the blue cheese dip to cut the sweetish coating. The chicken wasn't too cloying, making you want even more, and this is good enough for us. 

Another winner was the Quattro Formaggi, the toppings of which are made of blue cheese, parmesan, cheddar, and mozarella cheeses. This was one tasty pizza., very cheesy, but of course, with the pronounced aroma of blue cheese. Didn't I i mention I love the blue cheese? It has jut the right crust--not too thin or thick.

Carlo's Pizza
One Destination
Tagaytay City
(+63) 46 483 0707

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ferdie's of Meycauyan, Bulacan for Special Palabok

This is one Special Pansit Palabok. My officemate served this as his birthday treat in the office, and he had it shipped all the way from Meycauayan, Bulacan to our office in Manila. 

Pansitabok Palabok is a noodle dish topped with shrimp sauce, shrimp, pork, crushed pork rinds, smoked fish flakes, fried tofu, scallions, and garlic. It is usually served on large woven trays (bilao) during gatherings and parties. 

What makes Ferdie's Pansit Palabok special is it is a touch spicy, garlicky, and rich, with generous toppings of chicharon bulaklak (artery-clogging fried pork intestines). You have to order it in advance and pick it up yourself, but I guarantee it's all worth the trouble. 

Dinar Street, St. Micahel's Home
Meycauayan, Bulacan
(+63) 915-4995500

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cafe Mary Grace for Vigan Longganiza and Kesong Puti Sandwich and Spanish Sardines Pasta

One doesn't have to go far to eat well. Some of the best restaurants need not be inaccessible. Take Cafe Mary Grace, for instance, spread out in malls all over the metro.

Friends have been raving about Cafe Mary Grace, first because of the ensaymadas, and lately for two items in their savory menu.

The first is the Vigan Longganiza and Kesong Puti  Sandwich. Kesong puti, literally white cheese, is made from skimmed carabao milk, salt, and rennet or vinegar. It is similar to coattage cheese and it is slightly salty. The sandwich is delightful, warm, and wholesome. And very generous. The kesong puti was a perfect foil for the savory longganiza bits. This is one meal you'd wish would never end.

I also love the chips and the accompanying aioli dip.

The next is the Spanish Sardines Pasta, a hefty generous dish. I love the tang from the tomatoes, the salty smack of the olives and the cheese flakes, and the earthiness of the mushrooms. This is my second visit and they are consistently good. 

Cafe Mary Grace
Robinsons Place Manila
Midtown, Ermita, Manila
(+63) 02 466-2812

Azuthai Restaurant's Shrimp Cake, Pandan Chicken, and Phad Thai

As you already know by now, I love Thai cuisine and I always ask the servers at local Thai restaurants to make the dishes I ordered as authentic as possible. My gauge is all is good when I break into a glorious sweat while eating. But can I enjoy the same with the spice level dialed down? Up until now, I thought that was impossible. 

A recent lunch at Azuthai proved that I can enjoy Thai cuisine without that much heat. It helps that I've always wanted to eat at Azuthai, which always come out as one of the go-to places in the local foodie scene. Their shrimp cake and pandan chicken are hefty, juicy, and succulent. 

The pad thai was also excellent: nutty and sweetish, with crunchy pork bits. I love how they presented it: initially wrapped in egg,

and ready for digging in.

Azuthai Restaurant
900 Arnaiz Ave. cor. Paseo de Roxas
San Lorenzo Village, Makati
(+63) 02 817 6252

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tagaytay's Downtown Pizza and Pasta for Bacon Mushroom Melt Pizza

Downtown Pizza and Pasta share the same premises with Red Engine Diner. For its premium prices, we were disappointed with what we ordered from Red Engine, save for the appetizer platter. This was one bright spot, though, Downtown Pizaa and Pasta's bacon mushroom melt. This is one for fans of meat and cheese. Imagine pomodoro sauce, mozarella cheese, beef and bacon bits, white onions, and lashings of cheese sauce. We were one big group, and we voted unanimously that this is the best from what we ordered. But will we be back? Not in the near future.

Downtown Pasta and Pizza
Sky Ranch
Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City
(+63) 46 413 1396