Monday, January 28, 2008


Click here to read my old Sango (Mile Long) review

It's a SANGO TAKEOVER!!!!!! There's a new franchise in Ortigas, Pearl Drive. No need to go all the way to Mile Long for your master double burger fixes....And best of all, they deliver! :D Now that there's a branch near you, there's no reason not to check out this place ;)

picture care of Francis' blog

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


2 out of 5 stars

Not impressed with the Rockwell branch. The prices are jacked up to the hilt compared to the Pasong Tamo branch. Maybe it’s because of the rent, but nevertheless, I think they should have taken a bigger cut off their profit. The prices listed are exclusive of tax, plus they don’t offer the three-in-one pasta combination with steak that the Pasong Tamo branch offers. But I’m ranting….. Let’s talk about the food.

In the picture is the Quattro Formaggi Pasta (370 PhP) and the Deliziosa Pasta (420PhP). The pasta may have had the gorgonzola, ricotta, mascarpone and parmesan cheese as is written in its menu, but the sauce was too thick, buttery and heavy. It wasn’t one of those pastas that blew your mind away.

As for the Deliziosa, which contained artichokes, olives and parma ham, it was average at best. One thing that is good is the crust since they have a really good oven. But the artichokes were so obviously canned; and even then, they didn’t bother rinsing the vinegar preservative off too much. The parma ham was generously sliced, but it wasn’t as good as the ones I’ve tried in other restaurants. It was tough; I couldn’t seem to bite through it.

All in all, this restaurant is authentic Italian, but I’d rather go to the following alternatives: Pepato, Galileo Enoteca, Café Maestro, L’Opera…..or even the Cantinetta in Pasong Tamo! This restaurant has a limited menu like Cibo, yet with the prices of Pepato. Absurd!

But if you want to go check it out, the address is listed below. No need to reserve, unless you have a big company.

ate in:
Cantinetta, Rockwell
Rockwell Drive cor. Estrella St.
Makati City, Metro Manila
(02) 403-0145
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm

other branch:
Cantinetta, Pasong Tamo
Ground Floor Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Pasong Tamo Extension
Makati City, Metro Manila
(02) 892-9873
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm

Monday, January 21, 2008


4.5 out of 5 stars

I have always been a fan of Little Tokyo in Makati. From Seryna to Kikafuji, to Sango’s and their Okonomiyaki bar, I’ve considered that area as the pedestal for authentic Japanese cuisine. So authentic that their menus are written in Japanese, all their patrons are Japanese and their music and magazines are also Japanese. Incomprehensible yet fascinating. It’s as if you’ve been transported to Japan when you step in these places.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that another Japanese restaurant along the lines of Little Tokyo was found near Pao’s condo in San Juan! Based on a good review by Dr. Jeff, Pao and I wanted to go there because if everything turned out well, that would be our default quick fix for Japanese.

And it did! :D Panalo and YUTAKAAAAAAAH! :D And thank God they close rather late (around 10 or 11 on weekdays), because the first time we visited, we just came from a movie. And from our first visit, we’ve probably eaten here around 3 times the past 2 weeks.

I think Yutaka Izakaya is more of a secret treasure for people that live and work near this area, as well as for med students and doctors who are based in UERMMMC, since it is found very close to this hospital. It does not really advertise (much like Little Tokyo restos), and its reputation has remained solid thru its small but faithful clientele. The resto itself is inconspicuous because the sign and place isn’t really that big, and it’s easy to overlook from the highway since one doesn’t really expect much restaurants along Aurora.

The restaurant is definitely not one of those places where it looks small from the outside and big when you step in. The interiors are also small, but very neat and clean, very low profile. It can probably sit about 15-20 people only, with 3 booths, and probably a secret room inside for the owner’s friends or regulars. This is not a fancy date place, more of a resto for authentic, hearty Jap food with very (VERY) reasonable prices.

And oh, how reasonable they are! California maki is only 80 PhP, the tempura bento set is only 150 PhP, and katsudon only 95PhP!!! You will certainly be full if you’re a couple, spending only 350. But don’t think that just because it’s cheap, that it wouldn’t be good. The Japanese owner is the one running the sushi bar at the back himself, so expect your sushi and sashimi to be prepared personally by him. And let me tell you how good the other main courses are!

In the three times we’ve been here, we got the following: California maki (80 Php), futomaki (90PhP for 4 pcs), tamago (50 for 2 huge pieces), gyoza (4 pieces for around 80 PhP) , gyudon (95 PhP), tentoji bento set (108 PhP), and the kushikatsu bento set (120 PhP). Because this resto is a small operation, their menu is limited compared to the Little Tokyo restos. But instead of a curse, we consider it more of a blessing because I’ve never understood the menus in Little Tokyo anyway. Their menus are so encompassing there, that they don’t have a picture for all their dishes. At least here, practically all have pictures. And because menu is kept short and simple, you’re tempted to try and explore the entire menu. Besides, even if their menu is short, it’s relatively complete. You have 4 Donburi Toppings, 14 Teikoshu (bento) sets, 8 kinds of sushi, 5 kinds of sashimi and maki each, 3 kinds of yakimono, 3 kinds of soup, random orders like tofu or rice pilaf, as well as a variety of snacks called “oyatsu” (their counterpart for “pulutan”) for drinking with your sake such as butabara (30 PhP), tsukune (30 PhP) or sonazuri (30PhP).

California Maki and Tamago
The California maki was excellent, and we’ll definitely get that again when we don’t feel like being too experimental with choosing the dishes. As for the tamago, I requested that it be without rice. And when it came, it was a fat and juicy, and around 10 pieces! I forgot to take a picture of it before eating, so I only did when it was half-consumed….

Pao’s comment: I love, love, love the California maki. The tamago is quite generous for its price. But don’t get this if you’re getting the Futomaki since it already has tamago inside it.

Futomaki means “fat roll,” and is usually vegetarian, sometimes containing fish eggs. Ours didn’t have any, but it really was fat, nearly two inches in diameter! It had tamago, kampyo (dried fruit strip), really good mushrooms and probably a thin cucumber strip inside. It had no meat, yet it was more tasty than some of the sashimis I’ve tried!

Pao’s comment: It’s so futz!

I’m not a fan of gyoza, yet a lot of my guy friends, including my boyfriend, are nuts about it. In all fairness, even I like their gyoza. Its dough was thick and puffy, a clear sign of being steamed well, the meat inside wasn’t overpowering by the addition of scallions and seafood, and only the bottom was correctly seared, making it slightly crunchy for added texture.

Pao’s comment: Fresh, flavorful and served hot, unlike the ones served in Isshin, which was my previous favorite.

The Gyudon was very beefy with not an ounce of sugar, and was simply stir-fried with some onions. This might not be too enjoyable for everyone, as some might find it too dry. But I liked its simplicity. If only they could have added more beef, but hey, it’s less than 100 PhP, so I shouldn’t be complaining.

Pao’s comment: The gyudon was not Philippinized unlike in Ajisen Ramen, Kamirori or Zaifu, where they were sweet and saucy, sometimes with egg.

Kushikatsu Bento Set
The Kushikatsu bento set, as all the other bento sets, come with miso soup and rice. But the Kushikatsu itself was my least favorite. It looked and tasted like katsudon on a skewer, only that there was so much fat in it, and even less meat.

Pao’s comment: I didn’t like it.

Tentoji Bento Set
Unlike the Kishikatsu, the Tentoji bento box is the best! Three pieces of tempura bathed in a mild sauce, but different from the one you dip in tempura. It was a little more viscous, with traces of mirin, sugar and soy.

Pao’s comment: SARAP! All Japanese restaurants should have this in their menu!

This is a find, mainly because it’s truly authentic Japanese with half the prices of what you’d usually pay for. And I love the fact that it’s so near where Pao lives. Considering we practically study in his condo all the time, Yutaka has been our guiltless splurge when we’re on a break, or when we’re hungry. A relocated Little Tokyo resto, I won’t even bother asking why it’s displaced since I’m so grateful that it’s there!

Click on menu to magnify (I only took a pic of the important ones)
Donburi and Teishoku Sets

Teishoku Sets

Sushi and Noodles

Yutaka Izakaya
GF Unit X Aurora, Quezon City

Sunday, January 20, 2008


3.5 out of 5 stars

You could almost miss La Grotta as you drive through Rufino St. A lot of the people that dine here are office folk, as word spreads through corporate circles. That’s why it’s usually full here during lunch hours. I even bumped into then-underbar associate lawyer-friends who ate there after work when Pao and I dropped by for dinner.

This entry has been pending since April of 2007, so please forgive me if I don’t recall all the details. One thing’s for sure, La Grotta is a good alternative if you want to feast on authentic Italian dishes at half the price of L’Opera or Mezzaluna. Gorge on veal, truffles and Parma ham without flinching when the bill arrives. Pastas or pizzas on average cost 300+, seafood entrees 500+ and choice cuts of meat around 600+. If you decide to get a pizza pasta combo, it’s definitely good for couple-sharing/four skinny girls. Also, some have mentioned that they don't like the interiors of the place, as if it's a mix of different styles without a cohesive theme. I personally find the place cozy, and the furniture is very comfortable, yet not too modern and new, much like a homey worn-in but well-maintained living room.

I (even more so Pao) get apprehensive when I see extensive menus. More often than not, it’s a sign of uncertainty that is masked by a great quantity of dishes, following the saying “jack of all trades, master of none.” This restaurant is an exception: even if their menu is a lengthy read (with spare time to add new dishes, on top of that), their meals are hearty, no-fuss delicious, and very Italian. Check out an updated menu at munchpunch.

When I researched on what to get in this place, a lot of writers/people/bloggers would mention the veal and truffle pasta, so I ordered the “Costoletta di Vitello --- Roasted rack of veal in red wine sauce” (870 PhP) as well as the “Tagliatelle di Tartufo Crudo --- Homemade flat pasta mixed with porcini and parma ham in truffle cream sauce” (350 PhP).

While we waited for our dishes, we munched on our free hot bread that came with butter, pate and olive oil in balsamic vinegar mixed with parmesan cheese. Very much like L’Opera, only that the latter had salsa and used a variety of bread like their flat foccacia. But hey, the bread’s your standard dinner roll which was very good anyway…and who complains when it’s free? ☺

I also ordered a 4 Seasons --- normally uneventful. But you know how it is when you base your impression of a place on one specific thing? Like for example, how you rate a hotel by looking at their bathroom? Or how you like a certain bar if they play your favorite song? Well, I like a restaurant if they mix a mean 4 Seasons. And for some odd reason, this fruit shake is indigenous to all restaurants in Manila, regardless of cuisine type…Painfully, I found out when I was a preteen that Four Seasons is mixed only in the Philippines. I think I was on a cruise off Florida with my family when I ordered it in such a confident way --- only to receive blank looks. I just mumbled some other drink I read off the list. Correct me, though, if I’m mistaken. I’m not really sure if other countries have this. But I’m digressing. Anyway, the whole point of the story is that La Grotta’s 4 Seasons is decent. Very fresh, and the fruits were just right-ripe. And that automatically lifts this resto several brownie points up in my eyes.

Up to this point, Pao had never tried truffles. Truffles are knobby little black tubers that grow underground several feet of dirt near certain kinds of tree roots with which they have a symbiotic relationship. Because they have stubbornly resisted efforts to be cultivated, there are never enough to go around, and gourmands or chefs would be willing to pay astronomical prices — upwards of 170,000 PhP/$30,000-40,000 a pound — to get a bit of the smelly subterranean fruits. The taste of truffles is indescribable, but if one was forced to, it would be musky, like fermented mushrooms. The best way of getting an idea of it without paying a hefty price would be through the use of truffle oil, such as is found in La Grotta’s Tagliatelle with truffle cream sauce.

When the pasta came, it was heaven for me! Not only is the truffle oil very distinctive, but the parma ham and porcini were sprinkled liberally throughout the dish. The sauce was very thick and creamy (and very fattening, I’m sure), and the sprinkling of parsley on top gave color to creamy color of the pasta. Pao didn’t appreciate the truffle flavor much, saying that even if it tasted different, it wouldn’t be something that he’d actively go look for :P haaaay!

Tagliatelle di Tartufo Crudo

And as much as people were raving about the veal, I honestly didn’t find it that great. Veal is meat made from calves less than 1 year old. The meat is often whitish, as the calves only drink cow’s milk for food. They start having that pink to reddish color once they start eating grass, and they start getting tougher once they become active and older. The veal I had was already reddish, and the meat wasn’t as tender. They probably tried covering up the meat with the wine sauce and gremolata on top.

Costoletta di Vitello

Well, that didn’t do it for me. I should have just probably ordered the appetizer that doc jeff got in his review (that he highly recommended), which was this:
Scallopo Del Ostrecche Forno

Baked fresh scallop and oyster topped w/ spinach and porcini

Nevertheless, La Grotta is still good. Service is on point, ambience is private and cozy, and food is flavorful. Though some dishes may be hit or miss, you don’t really mind it since the price is easy on your wallet. This is a must try for Italian food lovers. Enjoy!

Pao and I --- full and happy after a great meal

La Grotta Cucina Italiana

AETNA Bldg., V.A. Rufino (formerly Herrera St.),
Legaspi Village, Makati City
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 5:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 10:30 am - 2:30 pm

*no reservations necessary, unless you want a corner table.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Les Gavottes

I probably can't do justice describing this French cookie-crepe compared to the company's own, so I just stuck and pasted it. If you find some of these in any duty-free outlet or when you're traveling in Europe or the US, be sure to get some if you're a crepe lover! A brief description:

Crèpes Dentelles - Les Gavottes - Crispy Brittany crèpes
Probably the thinnest cookie in the world ... These extremely thin buttery crèpes are rolled into delightful cookies that will delight the most discerning gourmet. Served with dessert as a crunchy counterpart to ice cream, sorbets and mousses or simply presented over coffee or Champagne they are also used crunched in many pastry recipes to replace "Feuilletine". Light and crunchy they are prepared using only natural ingredients and bring out the reminiscent flavors of their native Brittany.

KFC's Original Recipe Ultimate Sandwich

Pao and I have been stuffing ourselves silly with this yummy fast food staple: KFC's Original Recipe Ultimate Sandwich. Piqued by all the ad hype (yes, Bern, Mark and other advertising execs out there --- we're part of the stat that always fall for 'em!), Pao got his mom to drive through a sandwich for him....and the rest was love at first bite.

Imagine mixing a yummy chicken fillet with lettuce, cheese and a slice of round deli bacon.....slathered in barbecue sauce and stuffed in between a kaiser bun (a bun that folds inwards at the middle) --- it truly hits the spot when you want a fast chicken fix without messing your your fingers picking up whole chicken pieces.

For the price of 120+ PhP with drink and their thick-cut fries, it's a reasonably priced meal that Pao and I hope will be a permanent mainstay in their menu. Though several may have lukewarm reviews on it, we honestly believe that you'd be a FOOLtimate sandwich not to try it! Hopefully, they can have an option to put more cheese and bacon in the future, though....wishful thinking....

Monday, January 14, 2008


4 out of 5 stars

There are only a few restaurants that come into mind when dining in Tomas Morato area: Uno, Fleur de Lys, A Taste of LA, Zucchini’s or Katre. The rest are just a confusing mix of fast food fads and mid-priced fares serving unspectacular food in gigantic portions.

A good friend of mine, Anya, flew home for a holiday hiatus from her stint in Kent State, Ohio. Since I usually end up recommending where we eat for my friends, I suggested that we (meaning Reia, Anya, Paolo and I) eat in Katre, a Mediterranean fusion restaurant as they call themselves (or Mediterranean fused with Filipino sensibilities, as I personally think so). We were all coming from the north anyway (La Vista, Katipunan, ABS-CBN), so Tomas Morato would be an agreeable compromise.

Katre would be hard to find coming from the Scout’s Circle because it’s hidden by big restos that flank the main road of Tomas. Katre isn’t really in Tomas, you see, though a lot just say it that way in order to make things easier. It’s really found in a small street/ “eskinita” called Dr. Lazcano, that is perpendicular to Tomas Morato road. Nevertheless, its street is near Alfredo's or it's the street right after (if you took the E. Rodriguez road) or before (if you're from Scout's Circle) taking the turn to A Taste of LA (review to come!)

Katre almost looks unrecognizable before its renovation. Before, it was only this one-floor restaurant, with subtly ornate furniture, very cozy and dimly lit. Imagine being in the Orient Express in the early 1900s, and you could imagine being in the old Katre --- including the dimensions! (it was long and narrow)

Fast forward to today, and it’s a refurbished white space, keeping up with the trend of modern minimalism. Yet with the stark white space, it maintains its warmth by having country or native furniture here and there, wooden floorboards as well as flowers and candles strewn on the tables.

This is definitely fine dining, and I absolutely approve of their linen napkins, tablecloths and chilled glasses. None of those avant-garde paper tablecloths, odd-shaped utensils and other surprises. And it’s a wonder how its location several kilometers away from the more busy Ortigas or Makati could do wonders to the price! Expect to shell out on average 300 pesos for a main course….not bad! Don’t think its quality would suffer, though. It rivals any good Makati restaurant, yet without its snootiness. Feel free to let down your hair and dress down to smart casual.

Pao and Anya started with soup, Cream of wild Mushroom and Seafood Bisque respectively. I got a salad of grapes, capers and Kalamata olives in bleu cheese. Pao’s soup was fine, though it was a little bland. Anya’s was very tasty, with added yogurt drizzled on top. My salad was delicious, tossed just the way I like it, where the dressing just coats the leaves and doesn't drown them down. The ingredients were fresh, and there was a generous amount of shaved Parmesan, which I scooped off with Pao's bread that accompanied his soup :) My only complaint was that there was too much oil rather than balsamic vinegar in the vinaigrette.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup served with Tortilla Crisp,
Tomato Brunoise, Parmesan and Parsley (180 Php)

brunoise is just a fine cut or dice, making the vegetables almost look like confetti

Seafood Bisque with Crab Meat,
garnished with a dollop of Yogurt and Scallions (195 Php)

Field Green Salad with Grapes, Capers and Kalamata Olives served with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Bleu Cheese (180 PhP)

The main courses were also a sight to behold, looking like edible skyscrapers. My only problem with them was that the plating looked alike, most using caramelized onions, green peas and parsley as garnish, and the same red and green sauces on the side (check out the pictures below). Otherwise, everyone was raving about their food, and we didn't even bother to talk while we were relishing each bite.

Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Calico Scallops
sauteed in garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, capers and bell peppers (358 PhP)
Calico scallops are small, less expensive and more numerous than bay scallops, and are cooked by steaming and aren't shucked by hand.

Seared Tuna served with Tuna Ceviche and Wasabi-Beets Puree
served with Squid Ink Risotto (315 PhP)
Ceviche is a French dish of usually fish marinaded raw in an acidic liquid, or alcohol, which chemically 'cooks' the fish, much like our local "kilawin." Anya said her tuna was good, perfectly seared on the outside, and tender pink on the inside.

Barbecued Spareribs with Fennel, Cinnamon and
Star Anise Essence, served with garlic rice (290 PhP)
Star anise is a spice that is star-shaped and is licorice-flavored. Pao had this dish, and as much as everyone were praising their dishes to the high heavens, he thought this dish was just "alright." It wasn't as good as he expected (or read off the menu), but he said it was still good enough for him to go back here and try a different dish.

Navarin of Lamb with Couscous Pilaf, flavored with
Bell Peppers and a variety of Morrocan Spices (395 PhP)
Navarin is a French term for a stew of lamb with root vegetables or generally carrots, turnips and onions. The lamb was quite delicious, being fork-tender with the couscous also not being too dry. However, they could improve on the lamb by adding more stew juices, especially since the couscous absorb a lot of sauces beautifully.

All in all, Katre is a wonderful restaurant to go to whether as a first-timer or as a regular. They constantly have new dishes, the service is courteous and prompt, and most of all, the flavor of the food alone will make you want to go back... One thing's for sure, they certainly didn't sacrifice the taste even if their prices are more reasonable than others. And because of this,
Katre makes a good alternative to those restos far away in the Makati traffic.

The menu is quite long, but I just took a picture of mostly entrees.
click to magnify. Menu - Meat and Seafood

click to magnify. Menu - pasta, sandwiches and meats

Katre Restaurant
103 Dr. Lascano St.,
Brgy. Laging Handa
Quezon City

Su, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Su, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

*Be sure to reserve before dining.

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