Thursday, August 24, 2006

4 out of 5 stars


Hole-in-the-Wall Winner

Michael's Place is literally a hole-in-the-wall for the following reasons:
1) you wouldn't know there's a commercial establishment in this entire area unless a friend or a magazine has referred you to this place;
2) The restaurant doesn't make itself available to you. It is effort on your part to find it and dine here;
3) The area is really small, but the cozy feel compensates for the lack of space.

Although the address is indicated at the bottom of this page, it would be best to describe the directions since it's impossible to locate just by looking at the adress. I usually go here through Buendia. Take Buendia and keep on going straight up until you reach Gil Puyat. Go ride G. Puyat past the post office building. Take a left immediately after the train tracks (going right will direct you to Manila) and just keep on going straight for several minutes. Note that directly above you are overpasses leading to Magallanes. Since you're under a flyover, there are low cement dividers separating the big left area of the highway and the small right area that leads to eskinitas. Before reaching the Magallanes juncture, stay at the small right area of the road. Take a right when you see an eskinita sandwiched between a 3M building (the big 3M logo is impossible to miss) and Makati View Apartelle on its other side (from this direction, you'll see the 3M building first before the Apartelle). After less than 100 meters, you'll see the Fat Michael's sign.

ExteriorJust from the outside of Fat Michael's, you can already see how playfully quirky this restaurant can be. A seemingly handmade tarpoline saying "Fat Michael's Place" overlooks chabby chic wooden benches that comprise their outdoor porch area. People usually end up smoking here since the inside is cigarette-free. Wooden bead curtains are hung from their door that is opened by green grill panels. Two windows, the yellow one displaying a plate collection and the other being covered by an intricate blue wooden molding. Mismatched, i know, but they seem to fit together just right.

Once you step inside, the chabby-chic mismatched furniture theme is played to the hilt. All kinds of paisley fabrics are put into any upholstered furniture. No chair is alike. No table is the same. There are ceiling lights where they place lampshades draped in fabric instead of a chandelier. Floor carpets are put on walls. Piles of books are arranged artfully one side of the room. A picnic basket of wine is straddled in one corner between a tea pot collection in an armoire and room divider filled with notes and pictures. There is a wall of paintings of different periods, an opposite wall full of family pictures and memorabilia, and a last one were there are different chalkboards with their menu written on them in various colors. I understand that as you read this, you'd think that it might seem too offbeat. I'd like to assure you that it's not. There seems to be a homey charm to this place that makes you feel as if you've visited this place a million times before.

InteriorInterior 2

Handwritten wall menusHandwritten wall menus 2

Sir Reuel and Lola NatyEvery seat you get has a different story to tell. Since we were just two, we were placed at a table up front beside the wall of pictures. The one that led us to our table was Sir Reuel, who is a member of this family-run business. We chatted Reuel up, and found that one of the pictures in the wall next to us is Michael of "Fat Michael's Place" and his siblings. Michael is Reuel's nephew, and they jokingly named the restaurant after him so that he would be less lazy. It was a good thing at that, because at present, Michael is not fat and is a very industrious businessman. Also, being a shoe aficionado after the heralding of "Sex and the City," I got enthusiastic when Reuel pointed out that Manolo Blahnik's photo was positioned next to Michael's family. Wow, apparently they've come across this man personally!

Let's get on with the review!Reuel also introduced us to Lola Naty, his mother, who served us some of our courses. Don't be surprised to find their different family members serve as Maitre D' all the way to running the cash register, and of course, their Chef, whose name is Judy. This restaurant is their baby, and they make sure to keep a tight watch on it. I suggest that you have a conversation with some of them; they have much stories to tell, and you'd get to know more about their restaurant and delicious food better.

We started with a Fruit and Walnut Salad. I've been here twice before, and I always make sure to get this when I return. It's made of iceberg lettuce, croutons, dates and papaya in sweet red wine vinaigrette. This salad always starts my dinner here right, and I'd highly recommend anyone to order this, too. Another thing I always make sure to get would be their Blended Iced Tea, which tasted slightly different from your typical Lipton, and really fun to drink cos it's frothy.

Fruit and Walnut Salad

Next was our main course of Chicken Kebab and Gambas with Saffron Rice. I had the chicken, and it was paired with gravy and semi-sticky fried rice. Chunks of chicken were generously seasoned with spices of what tasted like cayenne, paprika and cumin. People who aren't into spicy food might find this a little overpowering, but I personally liked it, and the gravy helped balance off its spiciness. I guess my only complaint was that there were too much rice and vegetables in the skewer as compared to the ratio of chicken, Nevertheless, the presentation of the skewer with its alternating ingredients of chicken, mushroom, onion, and green bell pepper looked very fancy for its price.

Chicken Kebab

The shrimp was also delicious-looking. Saffron-infused rice was combined with shaved garlic cloves, chilis, peas and shrimp. It didn't seem like a lot, but it was surprisingly filling. This is also another spicy dish. Not only did it have chilis in it, but the rice also seemed to have paprika or cayenne mixed into the paella-looking rice.

Gambas with Saffron Rice

Food that looked promising for larger groups based on my spying of the dishes from neighboring customers (C'mon, admit it! You do this, too! haha) were the paella and pizza. I'll keep a mental note to try these out next time.

Finally, we capped off our meal with dessert. We asked Reuel for any recommendations, and he told us to get the Cherry Walnut Torte. I'm glad we asked him because I wouldn't have initially picked out a dessert so different from their usual selection of chocolate cake or banana split. Funny thing though was that when the torte arrived, they served it on a really hot plate so that the frozen torte would melt a little. It's endearing foibles like these that make Fat Michael's food remind you of home-cooking --- but ones cooked during special occasions. Anyway, even if the top (not the bottom cos the hot plate warmed the lower portion) half of the cake was partly frozen, it was still delicious. It reminded me of a sans rival, only that it had whip cream and cherries on top, and that walnuts were scattered into its different layers.

Cherry Walnut Torte

We spent around 820 PhP for all the things we ordered (1 drink, salad, 2 main courses and dessert). So for a meal and ambiance that is unforgettably Boho-chic, the price is quite reasonable. Try it out and taste the experience for yourself! There's nothing quite like it.

Caveat: The owners are quite a character. Even the back of their handmade menu can attest to that (Check out the picture of the menu below). Be charming and patient, as the food might come late, but at least you'll be sure to get a conversation with them.

We cook slow.  Live with it.

115-A Rodriguez Ave., cor. Gen. Lacuña Street
Makati City
Tel. 843-1953

M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:30 am - 3:30 pm
M, T, W, Th, Sa: 5:30 pm - 10:00 pm
F: 5:30 pm - 12:22 am

Thursday, August 17, 2006


4 out of 5 stars

Dinner by CandlelightDinner Pic


My good friend and foodie, Anna, went with me on our culinary quest for new restaurant haunts. This one is called Lemuria, a cozy restaurant tucked in Horseshoe village. Proprietress Marina Bru Schroeder says that they intend on keeping the privity of this establishment, but I think this gastronomic delight won't remain secret for long. Word-of-mouth has spread like wildfire, and blogs like Anton's have done full-length reviews on it.

Lemuriaq signI, for one, have heard raves about this place, which I downplayed so that I wouldn't end up disappointed in case they overcompensated the descriptions. Folks, there's no room for exaggeration, after all --- this is the new hole-in-the-wall DATE find! The descending driveway to the restaurant is reminiscent of Antonio's, though on a smaller scale since it's right smack in the city. Candlelit stairwells lead to the entrance with "Lemuria" discreetly placed on the side of the wall. In fact, one would not see this sign from the outside, with only two other cornersigns from the street saying "The Winery" to indicate their wine cellar found in the restaurant's basement.


The interior is small, fitting only around 20 people. It looks much larger, though, because they put an entire wall-length mirror to one side, and the grilled arches leading to the kitchen also have mirrors in it. The design is very "French Bistro," with just the right amount of yellow light to make you feel as if the entire room's bathed with candlelight. Service is prompt and responsive, mainly because there are more waiters than necessary (but heck, for the amount you're paying, who cares?).

Appetizersand Salads MenuMain Course Menu

We both started with fresh grape shakes and soup. Anna had the "Mushroom and Gruyere," while I had the "Tomato Consomme flavored with Tea." The shake was average, probably a little better than Cibo's because the grape skin was less perceptible. On the other hand, their soup (or mine, at least) was a winner! The clear broth tasted refreshing but savoury at the same time. I was worried that the tea would not mix well with the tomato consomme, but somehow, they made it work. Its presentation was just as delectable --- the clear brown consomme contrasting well with the reds of the diced tomato, greens of the alfalfa sprouts and yellow of the small mounds of cheese.

AnnaGraeyFor main, Anna had the "Grilled Salmon, Corn and Mushroom Crepe with Spinach." She said the fish was good, along with the "deceiving" crepe because it was heartier and more filling than how it actually looked. My "Veal Chop, Sweetbread and El Shallot Sauce" was also delicious, but not extraordinary. The veal wasn't too tender, such that I had to request for a steak knife, while its siding of mashed potatoes was forgettable. What redeemed it was the sweetbread (viand made of the thymus/pancreas of calves) which didn't have a bad aftertaste that usually comes from bad prepping/quality. It blended well with the shallot gravy and the cocktail onions, where the latter were surprisinlgy fresh and not pickled.

Grilled SalmonVeal Chops

The "Valrhona Chocolate Souffle with Mandarin Orange Glacee" was literally and figuratively the dinner's icing on the cake! They bake it fresh so it's a 15-minute wait. The wait is worth it though, considering how nice and tasty the dessert was! The souffle was crunchy on the outside and gooey on the indside, just as how every souffle and lava cake should be. The orange glacee (almost like ice cream, but mixed with merengue) was piled creatively on top of a triangular sugar crust that was supported by small mango scoops. Hardened caramel drizzle, a shaved white chocolate triangle, a fluted brown chocolate stick and a fanned strawberry completed this colorful dish. At first I didn't think that the orange cream would pair well with the chocolate, but the glacee's taste was so mild that it didn't overpower the souffle at all. It was actually a little too mild for my taste because I never even tasted the mandarin oranges at all. But anyway, the dessert still tasted great, and I guess that's all that counts, even with all the mile-long phrases they put into the menu to define one dish.
Valrhona Chocolate Souffle

A meal would probably cost 600 to a grand without the frills, depending on the entree that you order. But in a place like this, you might as well go all out and order from appetizers to dessert, which would cost you around 1500-2000 a head with shake. It would probably cost around 2000 to a little more if you accompany your meal with a bottle of wine, depending on the number of guests and the quality of wine. Their wines are extensive (they have a wine cellar, after all!) , and according to anton's blog, their reislings are recommended. Since we were just two and I didn't want to get just their house wine, we settled for a rain check. We'll be sure to come back with our Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs! In the meantime, we'll be hitting the gym burning off that dinner. No regrets.

Lemuria PART 2

Closed on Mondays
Lemuria & The Winery
5 Julieta Circle, Horseshoe Village
Quezon City

7245221; 7222185; 7245192; 7215352
mob: 09175250129

Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 10:00 am - 9:00 pm

Dinner Pic 2

Saturday, August 12, 2006


4 out of 5 stars

Those who know me know that I'm not fond of restaurants in malls. My reasoning is, if you have money to spend on food, why spend it on the same restaurant chains over and over when you could use the same amount to discover new establishments? Who knows? You might discover new ingredients, new flavors, or new cuisines you never even knew you enjoyed --- all for the same amount of money that you would have spent for, say, TGIF. Perhaps the only impediment to trying out new restaurants would be the money and the effort in looking for new places. The solution to the money problems would be to be creative. Amici di don bosco in Makati, for instance sells authentic handmade pasta and pizza for the half the price of Italianni's. Their carabao's milk gelato only costs 35 a pop, and it tastes even better knowing you don't have to empty out your wallet for a meal. Fat Michael's near Magallanes is an offbeat restaurant that has charmingly mismatched furniture to complement their creative yet down-home comfort food for only 200-400 pesos. Latasia in Katipunan serves vegan dishes for 60-150 pesos --- a steal I know. For those who are too lazy to look for restaurants, there are a lot of bloggers out there who love food as much or even more than I do. Here are some of the sites I keep in my bookmark for easy reference:

Wysgal's blog
Lori's blog
Anton's blog
Bogchinoypi's blog

So I hope with these tips, there's no excuse for you all to be a little more experimental with restaurants. But I digress from my mall-restaurant story.

Pasha, this restaurant found in Greenbelt, is not your typical mall resto. These are one of the few restaurants in Greenbelt that actually make an effort to fix up an authentic Middle Eastern treat. I have a Turkish friend who visited and said that out of all the restaurants he's tasted, this is the closest to being authentic as you can get.

Actually, the menu serves the same dishes you'd find in other Mediterranean restaurants --- kebabs, shawarmas, falafels, baklavas --- the only difference is that the quality and taste is way better than your regular cafe. For example, we started our meal with their Pasha special platter --- a mix of their top-selling mezzes. It was served creatively in a large wooden platter, the rich tabbouleh in the middle being flanked by hummus, muttabal , lamb koftkas and filo sticks, with the pita basket to one side. We had a great time trying the mezzes one by one, or trying out certain combinations and making them look like mini-gyros. The hummus was delicious because it had the right amount of tahini with a lemon kick that was not overpowering, drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of sumac to bring out its flavor. The muttabal was very earthy from the flame-grilled eggplants, also with a lemon-y kick to tie up with the other mezzes. The couple of Turkish beef kofkas (meatballs) were delicious on its own, because it had a green filling (falafel, I suspect) topped with a tomato relish. And lastly, the two filo sticks were in fact halloumi cheese wrapped in filo pastry, and the taste was so delicate that it was the perfect dipping stick to the hummus, muttabal and tabbouleh.

One of my friends had the beef shawarma, while the other had the beef shish kebab. I guess the main difference between these two is that the latter is charbroiled and served with Turkish rice, while the shawarma (as we know) is wrapped in pita that is flavored with their dipping sauces. The presentation was superb, the shish kebab lined up in this horizontal white glass plate, while shawarma looked colorful with its sauce and sidings. My friends liked their dishes, only that one of my friends found the coriander or tumeric spice too overpowering. I ordered the Pasha lapu-lapu. It's this big fillet of chargrilled lapu-lapu that you squeeze lemon into. It's paired with blanched vegetables and Turkish rice. Actually, I requested for the Turkish rice, because it's really supposed to be just plain white. But for anyone who's ordering a rice dish, I suggest that you pair any of the viands with their Turkish rice because it has this tomato-based spice that gives the rice such a rich taste that pairs well with their normally grilled meats. My meal was delicious, and it was accompanied by a yoghurt cream dip that i slathered all over my fish and vegetables. Yummmmmy!

Be prepared to shell out 500 - 800 per meal. It's quite pricey, but the service, ambiance and food is excellent. My only regret is that we had lunch in Pasha instead of dinner. The ambiance is defeinitely better at night, with the subdued yellow lighting and candle-lit tables that accentuates the coziness of their middle-eastern architecture. Although you don't need to reserve, it's better to do so, so you can request for this couched area found in a small private alcove tucked to the side of the restaurant. I don't know what it's called, but I'm sure the waiters will know what you're referring to if you used the same descriptions. Happy eating!

Pasha, Greenbelt 3 Ayala Center; Tel. 63-2-757-4981, 757-4983

Wednesday, August 9, 2006


4 out of 5 stars

Japanese with a twist

I learned about this through my best friend foodie-in-crime Bernice, who will not give up her search for the perfect foie gras and/or peking duck *wink, wink.* Omakase is a quaint restaurant tucked in the same corner as Pizza Hut right before entering Eastwood. This is a must-go for adventurous eaters! Their menu includes the typical tempura or California maki, but I suggest you toss these down the drain and go for their specialty fusion dishes. For sushi, I almost always order the “American Dream,” though I’ve uselessly tried convincing myself to order other appetizers. It’s deep-fried sushi with kani, salmon and cream cheese; trust me, you won’t regret ordering this bite of heaven! Another good bet is their “Jurrassic,” which is an inside out maki of ebi tempura, kani, ebiko, and salmon skin. Being bold as they are, their dips are not just your plain soy sauce, but kabayaki (viscous dark brown Japanese sauce, which accompanies other vianda like gindara or eel) with Japanese mayo and wasabi for that kick. If you’re into raw food (which I am unfortunately not), my friends have also raved about their spicy tuna salad.

American DreamJurassic etc. Platter

For viands, I suggest the “Seafood Dumpling” – all kinds of seafood, wrapped in nori then deep-fried in tempura batter, slathered in the same kabayaki-mayo sauce. It almost tastes like their specialty maki since they use the same dip, but the crunch and cooked seafood pairs excellently with plain Japanese rice. Their chicken teppanyaki is also excellent --- and this is probably the few “normal” Japanese dishes that one should order, being that their ebi tempura etc. were below average --- as well as the “tofu steak,” with big chunks of them wrapped in beef.

For dessert, one should try their “tempura ice cream” at least once, even for the sheer thrill of eating something for the first time. Their cold tea beverages are quenchingly yummy, too!

Around 300 per meal
no reservation necessary, except for weekend lunches where it gets packed
Unit 207, Intrepid Plaza
E. Rodriguez Ave.,Libis
4370075 (delivers)
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:30 am - 2:30 pm
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 5:30 pm - 10:00 pm

other branches:

Omakase, Tomas Morato
Scout Rallo corner Tomas Morato
Quezon City, Metro Manila
(02) 412-0002

Omakase, Alabang
Casa Susana, ATC, Alabang Commercial Corp.
Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila
(02) 771-1443 (delivers)
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:00 am - 2:30 pm
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 5:30 pm - 10:00 pm

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