Monday, March 3, 2008

PINO

3 out of 5 stars

Pino restaurant and bar is a surprise. Hearing about it from a lifestyle program, I trekked not too far from where I study to see if this could be my new food hangout apart from In-Yo.

It is a very small café, fitting only 20-30 people without elbowroom. But a lot of though was put into decorating the place, from their black and white mural of "We Will Doodle" on one wall to the industrial fixtures and modern furniture that is nowhere to be found in other restos along maginhawa.

An outdoor banner claims that they are “Japanese fusion.” But upon eating here, it is very different from the also Japanese-inspired dishes of Inyo. As much as they elevate the dishes with adding entrees such as steak or cod, it is still casual dining. This place is meant to draw in crowds that frequent Cibo, Friday’s or Chili’s. And I guess it does its share in filling in the void of refinement eateries in Katipunan often lack.

We ordered an appetizer and two main courses. Our appetizer was Wasabi Onion Rings (130 PhP). Of all the dishes, this I liked the most. The onion rings was served on a vertical skewer with a lime base, and had two sauces: ponzu and balsamic mayo. We devoured this in a matter of minutes. The onion rings were green with the wasabi, and it was fun dipping it in both or either the tart ponzu or creamy balsamic-mayo. The balsamic-mayo had a subdued taste that complemented the onion well, while the ponzu was nothing short of genius to include, as it added that hint of citrus that brought a unique flavor to the onions. My only wish was that they added more wasabi to the batter, but perhaps not everyone would appreciate loads of wasabi as much as I do.

Wasabi Onion Rings

The entrees come with free iced tea, as well as salad or soup, so the prices are very, very reasonable. I got the salad and Vietnamese Beef (310 PhP), while Pao got the soup and the Chicken Confit (250 PhP).

The freebies were delicious! The salad was a pomelo salad and described as “fresh salad greens tossed in sweet, sour & spicy dressing.” And it was just that: mixed greens with some carrots, pomelo and alfalfa spouts on top. But the magic was in the dressing. You couldn’t even see it, as the way it should be since lettuce shouldn’t be drowning in it. Rather, from the taste of it, it was exactly as it said: sweet sour and spicy. I know I’m not a fan of all three tastes combined, but the dressing was mixed so well that it blended all taste sensations so beautifully.

Pao’s pumkin soup was also excellent! Imagine a pumpkin soup that had loads of flavor, but was not cheated by adding heavy cream? I didn’t think that an “uncreamy” pumpkin soup would taste that good, but it did, and it had that nice Japanese touch of adding togarashi (Japanese hot spice) that almost looked like cinnamon on top.

Pomelo Salad and Pumpkin Soup

Sadly, the main courses were anticlimactic. My Vietnamese Beef (310 PhP) described as “US hanging tender marinated Vietnamese style served with shitake mushroom risotto cake, grilled vegetable stack and red wine sauce,” was just average. It was nice to take pictures of, but the taste wasn’t there. For instance, the beef was so tough, that one needed to exert a lot of pressure on a steak knife for it to be cut. The starch was certainly not a shitake mushroom risotto cake… it was just rice!!! The grilled vegetables of onion, zucchini, eggplant tomato with alfalfa sprout garnish was the only decent side, and it was grilled in what seemed like mirin. But the red wine sauce did not certainly taste like red wine, tasting more like a tomato-based puree, just like the ones you find in a caldereta.

Vietnamese Beef

Pao’s Chicken Confit (250 PhP) was also just fine, not spectacular. Described as “chicken leg marinated in duck’s fat served with sweet tamarind sauce & cilantro marinated croquette,” it also looked better than it tasted. Garnished with the same alfalfa sprouts and cherry tomatoes and asparagus. But the croquettes did not have that cilantro twang at all, and seemed like solid mashed potatoes. The “tamarind” sauce looked exactly like the "red wine” sauce used in my dish. And the chicken itself tasted just slightly better than my beef.

Chicken Confit

I went here a second time and got the Fish Krapao (240 PhP), “pan-fried fish fillet, served with mango-cilantro fried rice, sautéed bok choy and stir-fried vegetables” as well as the Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich (170 PhP) “perfectly cooked chicken with stir-fried vegetables.” The fish was really good, and I liked the spicy vegetable that they put on top. As for the sandwich, the baguette slice was really tough, and the chicken was dry. I had to ask for an extra serving of teriyaki sauce to drizzle over the dry chicken. But I really liked the homemade curly, thin shoestring potatoes that came along with it.

All in all, Pino needs a bit of sprucing up, especially on their entrees and sandwiches, since the food is sometimes not reflective of their creative menu, and the taste needs the same spark they have with their freebies. But for the very reasonable price and accessibility from home, I wouldn’t mind eating here while they polished up their food along the way. This restaurant is one place to stop by if ever you happen to be in the Katipunan area. Oh, and they serve decent wines and cocktails, too!

click to magnify.
sandwiches. entrees. dessert.














wine list. bar chows.












Pino Bar and Resto
122 Maginhawa St.,
Teacher’s Village, Q.C.
M, T, W, Th: 5:00 pm - 1:00 am
F, Sa: 5:00 pm - 3:00 am

*No need to reserve. Casual dining.

10 comments:

aznpoptart said...

it says "asian fusion" not "japanese". :D anyway, i think the term "fusion" is so 5 minutes ago. like when people used to always say their music taste was "ecclectic". it started to annoy me around 1999. lol ;)

i agree with your beef with the beef. >.< the food is being worked on fo'sho! i can be a pretty harsh critic when it comes to food and my bro kinda is an owner of pino. lol

graey eats said...

aznpoptart: really? well, I'm sure that Pino will do even better with advice from you, then! :D

and I found your "fusion" comment hilarious! That term is often abused by people who use it as a catch-all for menus which have no theme whatsoever. Others who are truly in "fusion" get affected in the process. But then again, "fusion" (like what you said) hasn't been de rigueur for some time now that I wonder why resturant owners still use the term anyway.

aznpoptart said...

actually, my brother doesn't listen to me. they (the owners) found your blog. he showed it to me and that gave me the sweet right to say "i told you so". :D

i'm told they have 4 new dishes next week. one of the dishes will be something wrapped in bacon. i dunno what it is yet, my guess is beef. i don't really care 'cause it makes me happy to think of bacon. mmm bacon.

Sakai said...

a new place to put on my list.. hehe

canDIshhh said...

The wasabi onion rings looks goooooooooood!!

will link you up! (hope you don't mind!)

Franco said...

Hi Graey,

Great blog. Thanks for the tip. Oddly enough, been getting leads for interesting eats along maginhawa street lately. :)

Go figure. Will be trying this place out soon.

graey eats said...

candish: not at all! I'm fact, I'm honored :D

franco: yup! finally, they're putting up new places to try Katipunan side! Fastfood can get pretty tiring... oh, and your blog rocks! :)

Link said...
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Date places philippines said...

nice food shots! Agree that resto pino is one of the best - we tried the kare kareng bagnet and the crispy tenderloin tapsilog - here's our review and some foodshots: http://dateplaces.ph/pino-resto-bar-maginhawa-teachers-village/2009/12/

graey eats said...

date places phil: nice review :)

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