Friday, December 19, 2008

On a sidenote...

Lately, I've been less inspired to write about food in the city. To me, it seems as if the restaurant industry has gone on a "food plateau." Gone are the days where new restos would come out with innovative concepts that blew our socks off. For instance, Cibo was the first to make dining in a trattoria trendy. Or Omakase started making their crazy makis in a stall by Christ the King a decade or so back before transferring to Libis. Or we even have Laudico who made private dining at home so classy...

New restaurants that come out just slap on what's "safe" on the menu, without a care of building its own character and establishing its place in the dining scene. It's either a new Japanese restaurant that almost always has fried maki rolls and agedashi tofu to call it "contemporary." Or some repeated twist to the classic kung pao chicken to term it "fusion." Or adding new terms to the same old gourmet burger started by Brother's. No one even bothers to expand the constricted world of cheeseburgers, fried rice, pasta, siomai and inasal to note that there might be a smorgasborg of food choices that may be explored. Perhaps it's not even the conformity issue, but because we can't afford to sustain the novelty and variety. I don't really know. But it's just a waste to let a lot of the budding and talented Filipino chefs be put to work doing the same thing over and over again.

With that, I'm waiting intently for the next food boom to happen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


2.75 out of 5 stars

A piece of wagyu by any other name...... doesn't taste the same. This I've learned in Malcolm's Place, a two-storey corner cafe specializing in different wagyu cooking methods.

Take the intro any way you want, good or bad. It could swing both ways. Good because I've never tasted wagyu in so many different varieties. Bad because in some ways, the wagyu just tastes like....regular beef.

When you enter the place, it feels very airy with their floor-to-ceiling glass walls and exposed kitchen with glass dividers. When you eat upstairs on the second, it's less roomy, but more cozy with colorful cushioned seats and small booth areas. The ambience is very laid-back, and you can really let your hair down.

It's a welcome treat that they offer you fried wonton skins to nibble on while ordering from the menu. You dip it in this mayo-calamansi sauce that was a little too sour for me. But hey, it's free, who's complaining?

Being the "trying-to-be-healthy" people that we are, we started with the Kani Krunch (165 PhP) and the Napa Time (160 PhP). The first is made of greens, jicama, mangoes, kani and the same fried wonton skins (that were served as freebies) on oriental dressing. Jicama is english for "singkamas," and even if it's somewhat bland, it absorbs all the dressing, and is a good complement to the salad. Even the wonton skins gave the Kani Krunch it's Krunch, but the dressing somehow tasted off, like it was a little too sour, or it had too much balsamic vinegar. It would have been better if they used the bright, citrusy accents of a Yuzu dressing and perhaps exchanged the wontons for avocado or fish roe.

The Napa Time was, I think, a better salad. It was composed of mixed greens with candied walnuts, grapes, goat cheese and drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette. Goat cheese has a bland but rich taste, so it matched the sweetness of the caramelized walnuts and grapes. And they were very generous with the fruits and cheese, too, which is always a bonus. The salad was tossed perfectly with the dressing just coating the salad instead of drowning it.

The Wagyu Salpicao tasted great. It was seasoned thoroughly and had a well-rounded meaty flavor characteristic of wagyu. However, it wasn't as tender and melt-in-your-mouth like butter as I expected it to be, what with its high marbling content. It wasn't even just chewy, which is brought about by the finer-marbling of Pinoy wagyu (yes, friends, we have our very own wagyu cattle in CDO cross-bred from Australia). It was tough, hard to slice through and had ligament portions. Maybe we can attribute it toughness to other factors like the way the meat was stored, or how it was cooked, but certainly something wasn't entirely right in the process. Don't get me wrong, though. It tasted delicious because it was so flavorful. It just wasn't tender enough to bring in all that hype about wagyu. Being the eater that I am, though, I inhaled this dish in a matter of minutes.

The Wagyu Burger Steak was alright. I wasn't really sure whether this was a burger steak or a wagyu stroganoff anymore since it's been awhile since I ate here writing about it now, but I do remember the salpicao tasting a lot better than this dish in terms of seasoning. Anyway, both of them are not a part of the regular menu, but is only included in the insert, so I'm not sure if they still serve this up to now.

This actually isn't a great loss, because the core menu may actually be more delicious. I've been here before and have ordered the Wagyu Cheese Steak (330 PhP) a couple of times. It's strips of marinated Wagyu beef tenderloin with sauteed onions and peppers and laid on a French baguette with provolone cheese and a special sauce. It's a favorite of many customers like myself, where the cheese steak is made even better with better quality cattle. Besides, anything stuffed with cheese on it it sure to be a tasty treat. I'd recommend this order for any first-timer who plans on eating here in their foodventure.

All in all, I'm okay with Malcolm's Place. I wouldn't go out of my way to drive here, but if ever I'm stuck in the area, this is one of the places I'd consider eating in. Although there's nothing remarkable about the service and some food options, the restaurant has a good vibe to it, and the old-timer dishes pretty much stay consistent.

Oh, and free wi-fi when you eat here! That can't be beat ;)

click on menu to magnify

Malcolm's Place
, Salcedo Village
108 H.V. dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village
Makati City, Metro Manila
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 7:00 am - 11:00 pm

Monday, November 17, 2008


4 out of 5 stars

Here's another Subic eatery to whet your appetite....and it's prices are very, very reasonable. That's why during peak hours, you always have to wait in line for at least half an hour for a table. My good friend's family part-owns this place, and even she can't get a table herself, haha! What resto am I referring to? Meat Plus, of course!

You haven't completed your Subic eating journey till you've stopped over this place. Up and running for more than ten years, it's considered a veritable out-of-town steak tradition. Made to look like an upscale canteen, you pay and order in the front counter, then the food is served to your table.

You'd be a fool not to taste their steak. Meat Plus supplies meat to most of the places in Manila from delis to restos such as Mamou and Tender Bob's. Steak is actually what you go here for. But if you're not into eating steak, they have other dishes, too. Though I wouldn't think it's anything remarkable. I mean, it's good, but it's taste doesn't linger in your memory unlike their premium steaks.

With the steaks, you can get the local budget ones ranging from 225-250. I like to indulge and get from the chiller to the side of the counter, where they keep their USDA Angus ones from Australia or the US. Angus is just a type of hornless cattle, while USDA graded means that the US Department of Agriculture inspects it, where it gives its stamp of approval to only 2% of the steaks out there. From highest to lowest, we have USDA Prime, then Choice, then Select, with Prime having much more marbling and younger cattle, leaving the meat buttery, juicy and flavorful.

I think I had the Australian Sirloin (500+), which I slathered their homemade gravy can be seen from the picture. I love java rice, but apparently, it makes a pretty bad combo with the steak, which is why I kept on reaching for Pao's plain rice from his plate.

The steak was awesome, even if it was just USDA Select, because the meat was so fresh and tender. To be honest, there's not too much technique in the way they cook their steaks, cooking mine a little to well when I said medium. But with meat like this, how could you go wrong? You can even just pan-fry it and it would still taste rich and velvety! And for just 500 pesos for a huge slab of meat, who am I to complain? Here's another shot of the steak for posterity's sake.

Pao got the same order, and even if it doesn't look as appetizing in the picture, he had a bigger slab, and I thought his tasted better (You always want what's greener on the other side, haha).
These pictures came from two separate trips to Meat Plus when I went to Subic twice within the span of one month. Our other friend from my "MAS" trip also got his from the chiller. It's a ribeye steak with garlic rice, and it looks absolutely appetizing. Look at the great grill marks on those!

I think it was Micah who had the local Topsirloin Steak (255+), the most prized part in the sirloin area. She had to resend hers to the kitchen because the inside was raw. As I said, the staff may not have the most skillful chefs, but their meat is certainly worth raving about. And check out the prices....they can't be beat!

I was surprised some of my friends got other dishes apart form the steak, but there it is! The following pictures are posts of their other food:

Meat Plus Burger (110 PhP)
2 beef patties, tomato, cheese and bacon

Beef Stew (195 PhP)

Baby Backribs Platter (250 PhP)
with java rice and coleslaw

Grilled Boneless Chicken (130 PhP)
served with steamed rice and mixed veggies

I wasn't able to take a picture of Da'Bomb, but this is a must-order siding from Meat Plus! It's not in the menu, but they know how to cook it. It's basically thin slices potatoes baked with tons of cheese, heavy cream and butter on a ceramic ramekin....mmmmm---mmmm! It's definitely a guilty high-cholesterol pleasure, but since you're splurging on a steak meal anyway, might as well go all out, then exercise the next few days ;)

As I said, your Subic trip would not be complete without passing by Meat Plus! It's down-home comfort food, with friendly and efficient service, and low, low prices to boot!

Meat Plus MENU. Click on the pic below to magnify.

Meat Plus Part 2


Building 65 Sampson Road
Subic Bay Freeport Zone
Zambales 2222
tel: (047)252-7091
fax: (047)252-6365

10am to 9pm

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BUGSY'S chicken tenders

Not one to write much about bars, this blog has been devoted to food. It doesn't mean that I don't enjoy my share of drinking and unwinding. Probably my latest dive would be Bugsy's, for several reasons. One, the atmosphere is laid-back and relaxed. Overdressed or underdressed wouldn't elicit too much attention either way. Two, the place is in Ortigas, so for those of us who live in the QC area, it's a heck of a lot less driving to grab those weekday beers. Three, you're bound to come across friends you haven't seen in a while (or only see when out). And lastly, since this is a food blog after all, the chicken tenders are to die for! It's basically their buffalo wings gone boneless, which is a treat for lazy people like me who don't want to fuss with the bones! The bbq glaze is real good --- tangy, spicy and sweet all at once. The chicken is also delicious since it has so much crispy SKIN! And the sour cream dip cools the taste of the spicy bbq glaze perfectly, even if sometimes it's literally cold from the ref. Will update this post to include a picture of the place, as well as prices.

Ground Flr Citygold Plaza
Ortigas Center, Julia Vargas Ave.
Pasig City

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


4 out of 5 stars

The only reason why I rated this 4 stars was due to pressure from Paolo when he insisted that Antonio's still tops the bar in Tagaytay. Not getting a consensus from him and other foodie friends, my lemming self shelved the star down a notch.

Chef David Pardo de Ayala is the corporate chef for the Discovery group of companies, where Verbena is located in their Tagaytay branch called Discovery Country Suites. He was born in Columbia, where he took basic cooking courses, but later specialized in CIA, NY. He then worked in NY restos like Bouley, Le Bernardin and Lespinasse, before moving to the Philippines, where he cooked for Aqua and opened the former Soleil Cafe Moderne. Being the chef who created Verbena's menu, I was excited to try this 80-seater place with Pao on our Tagaytay weekend spree.

Verbena is located right at the lobby of Discovery Country Suites, where the interiors flow into the decor of the bed and breakfast. You don't really know where the concierge area, nor the hallways of the b&b starts or ends, because the restaurant was merged into the whole lobby area. Thus, the main area of the resto is strategically fronting a fireplace, with a huge painting on its mantle. The place is elegant, decorated like a grand living room complete with the armoire and potted plants. Yet, it maintains its rustic feel, with the wooden, log cabin theme and quaint country bric-a-bracs.
Even for its rustic charm, expect five-star service. The waiter was attentive and quick to get our orders, notwithstanding the fact that we were the only customers at that time, haha (it was around 9:30 pm already, past closing). After ushering us to the balcony area (smoking section), he offered us bread and butter with a romesco dip that tasted almost like the tomato and garlic dip of Bravo!.


We were munching on our bread leisurely while we placed our orders. The menu is 2-paged short, but complete, covering appetizers, soup, salad, pasta&risotto, stews (stews, casseroles & classic broths) and main (grilled, roasted & seared). We were quick to choose from this "Contemporary Country" menu, getting an appetizer, pasta and main since it had a short description of the dish (which always helps!).

For appetizers, we had the Pan-Roasted Foie Gras (670PhP). Bernice must've rubbed off her love for it on me, cos when I see it on the menu, it leaps off the page begging to be ordered. Well, only for seared ones like this one, haha. It was cooked with pancetta, prunes and figs in a cognac sauce. And was it ever tasty! The sweetness of the fig and prunes balanced off the heavy taste of the foie gras. They were also pretty generous with the pancetta, which is a bonus. But let me go to the taste of the foie gras. It was melt-in-your-mouth goodness that I'd probably eat a lot of if it weren't so fattening. They deglazed the bits stuck to the pan with cognac, and putting it on liver intensified the taste even more. One thing I did wish for were probably more foie gras, because there was an awful lot of prunes and figs on the bottom.
Pan-Roasted Foie Gras (670PhP)

As for the pasta, we had Black Pepper Fettuccine (360 PhP). It was a pasta mixed with smoked bacon, roasted garlic and seared portabello mushrooms. I love this pasta because it was light (having no sauce, just st olive oil and flat-leaf parsley), yet filling. Garlic can be pretty sweet, especially if it's roasted as in the pasta. There were whole cloves of it, and biting into its sweetness with the smokiness of the portabello mushroom was a great combination. The bacon picked off the flavor of the mushroom, and thank god they used the deli-type slab of bacon and not those instant honey-cured ones. My only comment though was that there was a strong aftertaste from the mushroom that wasn't salvaged by putting something slightly acidic in the pasta, like maybe a hint of lemon.
Black Pepper Fettuccine (360 PhP)

We had Verbena's Sampler Plate (780 PhP), which is a combination of BBQ Lamb Baby Back Ribs, Grilled Norwegian Salmon with Arugula-Mushroom Salad, & U.S. Beef Short Ribs "Goulash." Of the three dishes, the one I expected to taste best was the disappointment of the three. The ribs did not have much of the sweet and spicy bbq glaze it touted to have, and it was awfully tough, as if it had been microwaved along with its polenta "fries" siding. The salmon was delicious, pan-fried in a wine sauce that complemented the vinaigrette of its arugula salad. Finally, our goulash sandwich was rich, tasting like a caldereta that was spiked with the spicy-sweet taste of caraway fruits.
Verbena's Sampler Plate (780 PhP)

This is definitely a restaurant to check out when dining in Tagaytay. The crabmeat and corn ravioli is highly recommended, and I would love to try it again on my second visit!

Thanks, Pao! Our posterity "I was here" shot.

Verbena menu. click to magnify.

Cafe Verbena
Country Suites, Discovery Tagaytay,
300 Calamba Rd. San Jose
Tagaytay City, Cavite
(046) 413-4567
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Elbert's 4.5 stars
Red 5 stars

Think of the top 5 upscale restos in Manila, and you're bound to hear either "Red" or "Elbert's Steakroom." I just happened to join these two because they both specialize in steak, and they're both fantastic date places in different ways. Let's compare and contrast (I know it's a redundant phrase, i know, hehe) these two, since a lot of bloggers have already done their own reviews on it, to wit:



1. The Ambience

Red conjures up wide, modern spaces, with high ceilings and wall-to-ceiling glass windows giving a spectacular view of a meticulously maintained tropical garden. Everything is in white, and kept to a bare minimum, from the walls, to the tables, linen and plates. It serves as a contrast to the bold red carpeted pathway and high chairs that aren't only beautiful to look at, but also so comfy to sit in. Certainly, apart from its obvious red theme, this place is the perfect canvas for rich colors brought to life by its food.
view from the bar area
(c/o Allanko)

the lobby

interiors at day

my family being seated

The first thing that comes to mind even before entering this place is their intention to make it obscure, much like an exclusive gentleman's club. The steak room is housed in this dingy old building, where you have to walk three flights of stairs to reach it. The first time I ate here was with my family, and my parents were almost going to walk back down because they started to have doubts about its existence upon trodding on the second floor. But just when you think that you made a mistake, an entire red wall opens to this small, secret room. Albeit its lack of square feet, it is spacious enough to sit 15-20 comfortably. It is literally a room, but the interiors are so rich, from the ornate leather chairs and chandeliers, to the wooden paneling of everything that they can make into wood (ceilings, floors, cabinets, you name it). Since this place already has its own stock of wines to complement the steak, the only thing lacking to truly make it a "man's" room would be a cigar area to lounge in.
Red wall from the outside
(c/o Anton)

Gentleman's Club interiors

Bar Area

my family in the inside corner table

2. The Food

In general, the each food can stand on its own. This place can cater to all types of people, from health-conscious vegetarians to down-and dirty carnivores. The menu is divided into three categories: starters, entrees and desserts, and though most would just head straight for the steak, their other viands are just as good as (but of course never better than) the steak.

Before anything else, their complimentary bread is one whole loaf of crusty potato bread with whole bits of potato and what seems like pimiento inside. It came with a creamy and cheesy spread that fit the bread to a tee, along with butter, if you want to make it even more decadent.

My sister, Gia, got the "Duo of Duck Foie Gras" as a starter. When Gia's foie gras came, she was dismayed that the other piece was chilled, and she ate it quick so that can leisurely savor the seared piece.

As we went on to the entrée, I got the U.S. Chilled Beef Fillet (1980 PhP), Gia got the U.S. Chilled New York Strip (2200 PhP), while the rest of the family (Georgia. Gayle, Mom and Dad got the U.S. Prime Rib Eye (1490 PhP). Gia and I got the chilled steaks because I read about it from Lori’s site who also got to interview the chef, as written down:
“Presently, Red is the only restaurant in the country that serves chilled steaks. How different is chilled from frozen beef? “Like night and day,” affirms Chef Romine. “The most important part about serving a chilled steak is you know exactly the shelf life of the steak. It’s 45 days for a chilled, vacuum-packed steak. With frozen steaks sometimes, you never really know how they were handled. For chilled steaks, you know how long it’s been aged, you know how long it’s been handled, you know how fresh it is. We’re bringing it in (from the US) twice a month because demand’s been so strong. A frozen steak is great if it’s been properly handled and properly thawed out. But with a chilled steak, it’s never been frozen. With a frozen steak, it develops a thin film and when you thaw it out, the blood comes out and the juices. With chilled meat, it never really bleeds when you grill it until you slice it.”

U.S. Chilled Beef Fillet (1980 PhP)

U.S. Chilled New York Strip (2200 PhP)

U.S. Prime Rib Eye (1490 PhP)

The chilled steaks definitely taste different from the normal ones. It tastes fresher, and is denser. When you look at the pic, and when I first saw it, I felt shortchanged since it seemed too small. But actually, it is quite thick, one of the thickest steaks I've ever cut through, and by the time I was finished, I was ready to burst.

The menu is short and simple, but extensive enough to cover a whole gamut of cooking styles. They change their menu after a few months, so it's like visiting a whole new restaurant on your next visit. For example, I've taken a few pictures from Lori's site ( and Allan's site ( to show you how varied their food could range. Note that most of these weren't on the menu, so we must've all gone at different times:

lobster roll (P325), a visually riveting dish of minced lobster and pear formed into a sushi roll. The individual portions are misted with a hot and sour jus which sit contentedly on mint oil, a flavor component echoed by the garnish of shredded mint leaves. It is at once crunchy, soft, zesty. (c/o Lori)

pan fried foie gras with milk risotto
(c/o Allanko)

Chilean sea bass with cauliflower puree, red caviar and champagne foam
(c/o Allanko)

fried valrhona chocolate moelieux bonbon.jpg
(c/o Allanko)

Red dessert sampler
(c/o Lori)

If you're anything but a carnivore, skip this place. This restaurants centers on one type of food and that alone: steak. (Yes, they do have seafood, but it isn’t listed down, and I’m not sure if they prepare it as well). As a matter of fact, all the other courses just play a supporting role to the steak, which is the climax of this whole gastronomic experience. But of course, since this is a review, I’ll take you through every course leading to their crowning glory.

Their bread basket has one loaf that flutes out like a puff pastry fan, very light and chewy and served with soft herbed butter.

The salad was simple but delicious; mixed greens with bell peppers, onion and cherry tomatoes tossed in a simple Asian vinaigrette with mild ginger undertones.

The pumpkin soup was also thick with cream (yum!) and decorated with seasoned croutons. Really, they tease you with these courses just enough for you to salivate for the steak.

The whole family got the “Super” Prime Grade Ribeye (2,900 PhP), and it was heavenly! It almost cut through like butter, and the meat was velvety when you ate it. It was also huge, and I never got to finish everything in one sitting. Never do you order meat to be well done in this place, because you never get to appreciate the quality of the meat when it’s that burnt. The taste is rich, needing no more additives. But when requested, they still provide you with sauces: (from upper left clockwise) red wine and shallots, béarnaise, au jus, and peppercorn. Because there was a lot of marbling in the meat, there was also more fat, though.

Along with the steak picture are also side dish choices of (from left to right): traditional pommes frites (or French fries, in other words), truffled mash potatoes, porcini mushroom risotto and creamed spinach. Each cost 150 PhP each. And unlike Red, these side dishes are good, but pretty plain and served in small plates which can serve only one. Like I said, if you’re not getting steak, just don’t go here.

food other people got were the following (c/o Anton):
Steamed Salmon (600 PhP)

Filet Mignon (1,600 PhP)

New York Strip (2,300 PhP)

3. The Service


Just like the Shangri-la chain of hotels, Red’s service is impeccable. Dishes are taken out unobtrusively, food is brought promptly and your water glass is never empty. In all the times I’ve been here, I’ve always been treated like a VIP, which is how any other person would feel with that much waiter-to-customer ratio.

The first time I was here was with my family. They were very courteous and prompt, but the food came in so slowly. We even had to talk to the waiter several times so that they’d bring the steak out.
The second time I was here was with a date, and they weren’t as nice; we didn’t even have the free dessert plates they usually give out! Sorry to say, but I think you get better treatment if you look like a CEO or you’re with a huge family.

4. The Price
Red and Elbert’s have one thing similar about them: they’re both heavy on the wallet. Make sure to have at least three thousand per person to make sure you don’t end up washing the dishes. Red’s steak is cheaper than Elbert’s, but their appetizers and soups are understandably more expensive, where the starters don’t even have any price listed in its menu! Elbert’s, on the other hand, already has the soup and salad complimentary with the steak. You only need to pay extra for the sides, your drinks and perhaps your dessert.

5. The Verdict
If I had to choose between the two, I’d choose RED. Not only are the choices more varied for all kinds of palates, but they change their menu every 3 months, so you’ll feel like visiting a new place every time you revisit. The ambiance is also unrestricting, very clean and modern, while the service is a lot better. I’m not discounting ELBERT’S, which I would also rate with nearly five stars. For sure, if you’ve never eaten in Elbert’s, you NEED to go there cos it’s a whole new different experience, from their secret room up to their ginormous steaks.

Hope this article whets your appetites into trying steak that is out of the ordinary. Happy eating!

MENUS (click to magnify)

Lobby Level, Makati Shangri-la, Manila
Ayala Avenue, Makati City

Elbert's Steak Room
3/F Sagittarius Bldg, 11 HV De La Costa Salcedo, Makati
339-3363 or check out or
M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm

Related Posts with Thumbnails