Sunday, October 28, 2007


3 out of 5 stars


These days, there are always touches of originality with most eateries that it is ordinary to be original. Be it the famously touted brick oven pizzas in A Taste of LA; the sole provider of chilled steaks in Red; the deli-turned-restos Terry's, Galileo and Mickey's; or the boho ambience of Cafe Juanita and Fat Michael’s…I’m not complaining, just observing. The food and wine industry in Manila has matured in leaps and bounds that establishments have started to carve their own distinctive niche in the industry.
Enter Mamou. Named after the owner, Mamou Fores, also the brainchild behind Blue Kitchen, this place advertises down-home cooking. But of course, home cooking with a twist as value added. One may not realize this from the industrial feel of the place, but being the literate folk that we are, read it from the straightforward slogan of “a home kitchen.”

So what does Mamou offer anyway? You can’t really discern the cuisine. It’s a bit of this and that, a sort of mish-mosh of influences where I guess Mamou takes comfort in cooking. Perhaps these are her favorite dishes that she prepares in her home gatherings, but her taste must be pretty extensive considering what I was holding was the October Menu. I assume that since it is dated, she must revise this every month or quarter, to say the least. Please scan through the menu and give me your opinion on what binds the theme of these dishes together, if you’d like ☺

Dsc01284 We started with an appetizer of Truffle Oil Vegetable Mushroom Dip with Whole Wheat Melba Chips. It’s pretty good, though I was having bread overload since they already served us complimentary bread and butter. Before I go on to the dip, I liked the free whole wheat and white combo breadbasket that they give, especially when it’s served piping hot and freshly baked. As for the dip, Pao said that although it had a hint of truffles, it was too faint to give the dip that truffle punch that I love. Maybe it’s because they use oil and not shavings (which are really expensive anyways). But still, we finished every single bit of the dip while waiting for our main. Then and there, I realized two things: First, I’m not personally fond of melba chips, and second, I still prefer the spinach dip of Cibo. But that’s just me.
Mom had half a serving of the Roast Pork and Chicken (345 PhP). It was citrus-rubbed chicken and pork that came with Spanish rice, a side of beans, grilled plantains and onions. I suggest getting the pork over the chicken. The chicken didn’t marinade as well, and it was somewhat dry. But the pork was juicy and soft, and really flavorful. There was nothing spectacular about each of the sidings per se, but they all blended beautifully with the roast pork. It had a Cuban feel with the plantains and the beans. Though maybe they should include grilling the onions with the plantains next time because the semi-raw onions were too pungent.

Dsc01288 Pao got the Native Duck with Red Chorizo Rice (395 PhP). The menu said that it came with steamed veggies and a chili plum sauce. The duck was, well….duck. You know what I mean. Ducks have that unique taste that wasn’t messed up by bad cooking. It was either pan or depp fried and it tasted well enough, but not spectacular. The red chorizo rice was the same Spanish rice, but had chorizos in it, so it was delicious. But I found it hilarious to think that their concept of steamed vegetables was a single steamed stem of bok choi on top of the chorizo rice!! And the Thai-inspired chili-plum sauce was probably just store-bought plum sauce and chili sauce combined in equal parts. Or at least that’s how it tasted to me, and I carry and use both sauces at home.

As for me, I had the Beer Batter Fish n’ Chips with Malt Vinegar (255 PhP). YouDsc01287 have several sides to choose from, but I chose fries, because that’s how one normally eats it anyway. The English-inspired Fish fillet tasted great, though I could never really discern if there was beer mixed in the batter. It tastes even better if you squeeze the lemon wedge provided on the fish. It came with two sauces, tartar or malt vinegar (where the latter came again, from a Borges bottle that the waiter hastily shook into my sauce bowl). I prefer the malt vinegar to the tartar sauce, as the tanginess somehow matches with the neutral taste of the fish.

Over-all, Mamou is okay. To be honest, I find the hype (i.e. resto to celebrities and politicians) overrated, and I’d go back to this place only if I happened to be in Serendra (like Chelsea). To weigh the pros and the cons: The cons would be the cramped spaces, long waits if one doesn’t reserve during the peak hours, the mismatched industrial chic ambiance and the less-than-generous servings of food. The pros would be the eclectic food flavors and a good play of ingredients in a dish. Oh, and the frozen Mamou iced tea is better than its unfrozen counterpart, only that the latter has one free refill. Now, that’s a pros and cons debate all unto itself!


Mamou - a home kitchen
Unit 1C-15 Ground Flr., Serendra
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
(63-2) 8563569

*Be sure to reserve before dining. It gets pretty packed sometimes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Places I’d bash….with pictures!

1 out of 5 stars (for all 3 restos)

I wrote in my resto list that I’d most likely bash these restaurants because of all the factors that you look into one, be it ambience, presentation of the food, the cost or the remarkable service; there is really no redeeming factor to speak of. Of course, I may be wrong now, but I wouldn’t want to go back to these places again to see if I truly am.

And off we start to number one: Gran Caffe Casanova

Dsc00809 Bern and I tried this place only because it was near my house, being located in Corinthian Hills. It serves authentic Italian cuisine, as I see the Italian owner many times roaming around, but that still doesn’t save it for me. The prices are extremely expensive (i.e. your Hawiaan (?!?!?) pizza will cost you 385 pesos, while a 4 cheese one will cost 435. Note that this is only a small pizza that can fit two people who aren’t hungry at the most. Or how about a seafood main course Grigliata Mista di Mare della Riviera? That will set you back 640 painful ones, excluding tax!) and the place is physically stifling, a cramped room evoking Hollywood boudoir that feels out of place with its surroundings.
I got the Capelli D’Angelo al Tartufo Aspargini e Speck described as homemade angel hair pasta with truffle cream asparagus and cure ham. The pasta was average, and I was grudgingly willing to forgive paying the 400 pesos for it, if only I didn’t recently eat in La Grotta, having their tagliatelle al tartufo, a truffle cream dish that was 10 times better, fit for 2 and only cost around 300 pesos!!! (post to come)

Compared to the latter dish, this one had very little truffle essence in it, and the sauce was runny. I guess you cant expect a heavy one to pair with mild angel hair, but it’s the chef’s fault to even pair it with that type of pasta anyway! Truffle cream has a robust and rich flavor, and the best type of pairing would be with equally thick pasta such as bucatini, linguine, bow tie, or even tagliatelle (like in La Grotta, though this choice may still be contentious). I barely tasted the sauce, and there was nothing special about the ham or the asparagus --- they could be easily bought in any grocery. Even the cheese used was your kraft-processed parmesan…sheesh, they couldn’t even buy it in its original form and have it freshly shaved over the pasta.

Dsc00807 Bern had the Papardelle Nere al Granchio described as homemade squid-ink colored pasta with crab meat in olive oil and white wine. Considering that this is a thick pasta, you’d expect the sauce to be creamy and rich, but again, the sauce was thin and runny. There wasn’t much crab meat, the red sauce looked unappetizing with the color of the squid-ink pasta, and the tomato toppings was exactly the same as the one used with our complimentary bread! It doesn’t make things any better that her dish cost 395 either.

Better alternatives: La Grotta
Galileo Enoteca

So that’s that, on to the next bashed resto: Paloma

Patty, Bern and I tried Paloma in Shangri-la, expecting it to be nice considering it lied on the same hallway as Cyma, SumoSam or Tender Bob’s (haha, plugging!)…. But it failed to meet our expectations.
Our appetizer Boquerones in Olive Oil (120 PhP) described as fresh anchovies with vinegar and oil dressing, was just okay. It was presented nicely on a wooden block with beds of lettuce, but the taste was nothing spectacular. To think fresh, raw anchovies would be exciting like carpaccio, but it tasted too salty and had a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste. I wouldn’t pay to eat this dish, even if the price is reasonable.

Dsc00455 We also had Gambas al Ajilo (155PhP), a very typical dish in any Spanish restaurant. You’d think that the most common dish of your theme restaurant would be the best tasting one. Unfortunately, there was nothing special about it, with the small prawns drowning in oil and garnished leaves. It’s neighbor, Cyma, would carry your known eggplant moussaka, but unlike the gambas, was the best moussaka I’ve tasted thus far.
Our main dish, Paella Paloma (495 PhP for sharing) which had lobster tail, mussels, jamon serrano, squid and sausage, write better than it tastes. Our cook at home who makes paella often, can do a better job of the paella than the one in Paloma. But I guess one thing that it never fails to do is make it look pretty, as can be seen with the picture.

Dsc00461_1 Finally, we had the Caramel Cheesecake (140 PhP). Again, it was presented nicely on a wooden artist’s palette. But by far, this was the worst-tasting dish of all the ones we’ve tried. The cheesecake was too rich, and the cheese component didn’t blend well with the rest of the cake. Also, the cream and chocolate sauces shaped as circles of paint did not taste good at all. We left it uneaten, which is unlike normal dessert sauces where people would usually lick it clean.

Better alternative: Segundo Piso/Terry’s Selection
(get the really yummy chistorrado --- Spanish rice similar to paella
with a capsicum sauce and melted cheese on top….yum!)

Last but not the least, we have: Massimo’s Café, Cliffhouse (Tagaytay)
Kit, Gia, Melo, Nina and I went here after Nina’s party because we heard about their wagyu burgers from a friend. Considering that this is an established restaurant in Tagaytay, you’d expect its extension in Cliffhouse to be just as good, right? Wrong!! This café aims to disappoint….their wagyu burgers (255PhP +35 with cheese, +75 with fries), the supposed centerpieces of this café, tasted like ordinary beef, and it was such small serving for its price, albeit sandwiched in between foccacia buns (they tasted stale, though). There was no good dressing for the burger, only a huge dollop of mayonnaise on the plate, and if you order the extra 75 PhP fries, it’s just those frozen fries that you buy in the supermarket.

Dsc00792 Our other friend got the tenderloin with brandy cream sauce (295 PhP). It was two small pieces of tenderloin, a scoop of mashed potatoes and a huge side of salad that had mere lettuce and tomatoes to accompany it. The tenderloin may have been good, but I wouldn’t pay the price for it. Or if I did pay the price such a quantity, there must be something special about it. But really, it tasted like your ordinary tenderloin which was probably local beef, and there was nothing spectacular with its cooking technique, being pan-fried.
In addition, the iced tea was more than a hundred, but it tasted like that sickeningly sweet Lipton, while the dessert cakes did not look appetizing at all... the place wasn’t remarkable eating in, either. The dining table had a tile top (it felt like a bathroom), and the café itself looked too plain, as if you knew it had a lot less overhead being just a small stall instead of an establishment where you can eat even on the inside.

Better alternatives: more pricey but excellent wagyu ---- Malcolm’s Place
less pricey but more cowboy settings ---- wagyu in Salcedo Weekend Market

Gran Caffe Casanova
The Clubhouse, Corinthian Hills, Temple Drive
Quezon City, Metro Manila
(02) 638-2989
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:00 am - 12:00 mn

6th Flr, The Ledge Shangri-La Plaza, Shaw Blvd. cor. EDSA
Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila
(02) 910-4096
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 10:00 am - 9:00 pm

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