Saturday, January 24, 2009

Need your Help...

For those who have seen the old layout of the webpage and the new one (right now), which would you prefer? Comments would gladly be appreciated! Thanks!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


4.5 out of 5 stars

I just saw the folders of restos I would want to write on, and it's still so numerous :o At the risk of delaying some work, I decided to write on my New York line-up since it would be harder going back to these places unlike the ones in Manila.

I'll start the line-up right with this cute little place called S'MAC. It's a quaint place in the East Village that serves nothing guessed it, macaroni and cheese. It's been featured in several shows and magazines for being a restaurant with such a specific niche. Nothing intimidating about it when you enter, at all. The interiors are small but sunny, literally, since the furniture is all in yellow, except for the red brick wall to one side and the red trimmings on the wall. The decoration is modern, yet kitschy to the point of being cute. Wired chandeliers, inverted cone lamps, those kinds of things.

It's called S'MAC cos it's owned by Sarita Ekya. Her recommendations are posted along with the rest of the menu on the counter, and you place your orders here like in fast food joints or a canteen. Actually, her recommendations make all of the menu, but there's another section where you can build your own mac and cheese and you just tell them what toppings to place. The great part is, they have take and bake, where you can order then bake and eat your S'MAC later at home, as well as delivery. They're also considerate enough to provide you a choice of regular, multi-grain or gluten-free elbow macaroni, with or without breadcrumbs on top.

My friends and I got a nosh (being the smallest serving, then major much, mongo and partay! the last one serving aroun 8-12 people) of Buffalo Chicken, Parisienne and Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese. You know it's American sizes because when it came to us, our noshes still looked huge, and we regretted getting three servings because we were still up for brunch (which became a 3 pm brunch, the line was that long) at Prune later.

All three of them looked the same, the sauce slightly differing in hues of yellow. But once you bite into it, it's a world of difference! The Cheeseburger ($5.75) is for the hearty meat eater. As described, it's "ground beef done to perfection with onions, garlic and a hint of ketchup and mustard. Don't forget the best part - a combination of American and Cheddar cheeses." It honestly tasted like a cheeseburger, and I liked it out of the three because of it's mild but beefy taste, and is likeable to most palates.

The Buffalo Chicken (&6.75) is basically "cheddar & American cheeses with boneless chicken pieces and buffalo wing sauce. We’ll even top it off with crumbled blue cheese if you’d like!" This had the most zing and spice, and I had to reach for my soda several times because my mouth tingled after (but in a good way, of course :) The taste of this mac and cheese actually grows on you as you get accustomed to its bold, chili-barbecue flavor.

Lastly, the Parisienne ($6.75) is written as "mac-n-Cheese for the "upper crust". Creamy brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary. It's addictive!" I liked this the least, though my friends love it. I guess I'm not used to my mac and cheese, which is usually savory, being somewhat sweet due to the figs and brie. I love brie, but alone or baked by itself in philo. The shiitake was a brilliant addition, though, and I could really taste the flavor of the rosemary permeate the entire dish.
From top to bottom: Parisienne, Buffalo Chicken, Cheeseburger

Even if we said that the servings were big (considering that we're still going to eat less than an hour later), we gobbled everything down it was that good. Creative concept, fairly quick service and easy on the pockets...It's a great hole-in-the-wall that is truly unique to NY.

Click on the MENU to magnify.

Manhattan's East Village
345 East 12th Street
between 1st and 2nd

Monday- Thursday and Sunday: 11 am - 11 pm
Friday - Saurday: 11 am - 1 am

Delivery is available for free, on orders of $15.00 or more, from Houston Street in the south to 23rd Street in the north, and from Broadway in the west to Avenue D in the east.

There is no minimum for delivery if you live on 12th street between 2nd avenue and avenue A, or on 1st avenue between 11th and 13th streets. Otherwise the minimum order is $15.00 with no exceptions.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Aubergine 4.8 - 5 stars

I need not describe Aubergine yet again because of my last review on it, which was already quite exhaustive (to read/reread the previous Aubergine entry, click here). Needless to say, in my next visits here (three, to be in fact), it has remained consistent in providing excellent meals and service. Although there may be others who disagree, I prefer to stick to visits I personally experienced (which, fortunately for me, have been all good). Of course, everyone is free to voice out their own opinions, and I would gladly message any replies that would need my response.

I'll only talk of my most recent visit, because this was the only time I brought out a camera, and I still remember the taste quite vividly. In the next resto reviews to come, I may be inaccurate with the details because the restos waiting to be reviewed have been sitting on a backburner due to the heavy load of my "day job." If only I could do this for a living, I'd be in foodie heaven! *wishful thinking* But enough of my rambling, and back to Aubergine.

When my friend, Anna, and I went to the resto on a Saturday night, the place was packed. I forgot to reserve, which is why we got the bar tables near the chef's window. Even if we were on high chairs and tables, we didn't mind since it wasn't so uncomfortable, plus we got an unobstructed view of the kitchen where you can see the ISCAHM people prepare your food in front of you. (see pic to the upper left)

The complimentary bread and creamed butter was the same as before, as they served it with their signature mascarpone cheese and eggplant spread (that looked like pate, but tasted way better). The bread was kind of tough, though.

Our amuse bouche (the chef's gustatory calling card) for that evening was a breaded fried vegetable ball. Even if it sounded strange, your misgivings would be dispelled when you eat that tiny morsel. I wasn't really sure what vegetable it was, but the flavors were so intense, and I loved scooping it up from its bed of diced cucumber with mint and yogurt, dotted with tomato coulis.

The menu has been modified somewhat, and I guess some of the prices have also gone up because they can afford to do so at this time. The favorites have stayed on the menu, starting with the duck confit (760 now 850 PhP), the Wagyu beef tri tip (980 now 1,100 PhP), the Chilean sea bass (980 now 1,100 PhP) and the baked pesto and horseradish encrusted lapu-lapu (660 now 720 PhP). They've replaced the grilled tuna steak nicoise with coriander and ginger flavored tuna steak, the gindara with lobster tail and fried scallops and the over-roasted chicken with US Cornish game hen, to name a few. Since I've tried all of the regulars but the confit, I chose that dish, while my friend Anna picked the US Cornish game hen.

The food took awhile, and the staff were quick to apologize for its lateness due to the heavy crowd of customers. It's a good thing we weren't ravenous, and kept up our heavy banter of conversation since I haven't met up with her since her side trip to France.

We weren't disappointed with the wait, as our food came to with a grand flourish. The presentation took our breath away, and I have always marveled at their intricate presentation. Anna's US Cornish game hen two ways (690 PhP) is an oven roasted leg stuffed with mushrooms and foie gras and grilled breast served on sauteed spinach, rosemary flavored potato gratin and Grand Marnier jus. I didn't get to taste her chicken, though she was raving about its flavor, being cooked two different ways. I did get to try her gratin, which was flavored in rosemary, and gave that wonderful je ne sais quoi, the delicate aftertaste of the herb lingering in the back of your tongue past the cream, cheese and potatoes. It went well with everything, even dipped in froth and the Grand Marnier jus, blending acid and starch in a merry mix of savory flavors.
US Cornish game hen two ways (690 PhP)

My French Duck Confit (850 PhP) was served with creamed brussel sprouts and parsley marbled potatoes. Confit is a cooking method that renders the duck in its own fat (considering that duck is pretty fatty anyways), and they cooked the duck to perfection. The skin was even and crispy, and the meat was so succulent, that I couldn't stop eating. The food even made me stop talking, which is quite a feat for a chatterbox like me. I also loved the brussel sprouts, and how it didn't taste bitter as I normally expect it to be....but hey, it was creamed, so you can mask a lot of unwanted flavors that way, I guess. However, I found the potatoes too sparse, as well as the duck's own jus, with the cream overpowering the rest of the flavors. They also seem to decorate most of their dishes with the same technique to the foam, which may be novel in some but not all the dishes.
French Duck Confit (850 PhP)

Even with that critique, I loved my food, and it won't stop me from going back here again when they have a menu overhaul. The service was top-notch, and I was even embarrassed that Chef Schallenberg asked on how our food was during two "extenuating" circumstances --- one, I was mid-conversation with a client on the phone, and the next I was chewing on a mouthful of duck! I had to garble out a "delicious" and really, it wasn't just lip service.
complimentary pralines

click to magnify MENU. Degustacion to the right.

beside HSBC, across S&R
32nd and 5th Building
5th Avenue cor. 32nd Street
Fort Bonifacio 1634 Taguig
(02) 856-9888
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Su, Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 6:00 pm - 11:00 pm

*Be sure to reserve before dining.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Chelsea 3.75 Cuillere 3.5

I already wrote on Chelsea and Cuillere...but I've eaten there several times again, that I just couldn't resist whipping out my camera and taking pictures of the other dishes that I've ordered. I won't describe the restos any further (just check the links provided above), but I will give some comments on the dishes. So far, Cuilliere will have to remain at 3.5 stars, while Chelsea will go up from 3 stars to 3.75 stars. The latter restaurant has gotten accustomed to its dishes, and is able to execute them well consistently. They have also expanded their menu to include separate sections for pizzas, pastas, cheeses, sandwiches and meats (ribs, chops & steaks). On the other hand, Cuillere has stayed the same. At least it hasn't gotten worse, either.

The Chelsea 100% Pure Angus Beef Burger
Beer battered Onion Rings/ BBQ Sauce/ Ginger-Lemon Mayonaise
It was a really good burger!!! The beer-battered onion rings topped the burger, and they were generous to include another side of thick-cut wedge fries. The meat was rich, and juicy and looked so appetizing with both sauces, jumbo tomato slice and onion rings. Orkun ordered this, and though I always chastised him for ordering dishes that are too "safe" (as a foreigner, he never tried venturing out into the more exotic dishes), these are one of the few "safe" dishes I didn't mind him ordering. I even finished off his fries, dipping it it in the yummy tangy mayo. The prie isn't so bad either for its size.

Pan Roasted Gourmet Sausages
Bacon Soaked Sauerkraut/ Mashed Potatoes/ Creamy Peppercorn Sauce
This is Pao's (mika's boyfriend's) favorite dish, and I felt bad he ordered it with all of us there. Being the nice guy that he is, he shared it openly with all of us. Being the "walang-hiya" (shameless) people that we were, we just chomped down the pieces of meat down happily. This is also a great dish! There were 4 different kinds of sausage. I'd love to tell you what they were, but this pic's real old, my apologies. How can you go wrong with sausages and cream? It even had spices such as chopped parsley, different-colored peppercorns and salsa in it. The sausages also came from their very own deli, so you know that the quality is fresh. And the sauerkraut? Yes, fried in bacon drippings. Again, how can you go wrong?

Slow Cooked Norwegian Salmon
Salsa Verde/ Classic Mashed Potatoes/ Toasted Pinenuts
Mika ordered this for herself, and this is one of the dishes that has stayed on the menu even with their menu overhaul/expansion. This is what I said about it before:
My other friend, Moe, had the Slow Cooked Norwegian Salmon (350 PhP). It was served on a dark Japanese-inspired plate, with salsa verde, roasted tomato rice cake, toasted pine nuts and blanched asparagus spears. The steamed fish looked kind of bland, and Moe said it was just okay. He agreed with my comment on it looking like it tasted “healthy” (Oh no! Spa food :S) . The salsa verde reminded me of pesto, because that was what was usually paired with pine nuts, though I never got to taste his dish because I was too full. I’ll just assume that he liked this dish enough to not leave a crumb on the plate. But still, Chelsea reminds me of a cooking school where they have all the freshest resources at their disposal, but then the complicated cooking techniques were somehow a bit off, as if we’ve got the end result of the culinary students, and not the chefs.
This time, the salmon tasted better! It still tasted healthy, but looked more appetizing. They kept the salsa verde as a siding, and were more generous with the portions. It's not in the picture, but the vegetables were slowly roasted and taste even great by itself (and reminded me of a ratatouille). The salmon's blandness (because it was steamed) was spiced up with a pesto-based sauce, toasted pinenuts and a circular drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction and olive oil. It tasted good on its own, but when you combine it with the salsa verde, it felt like it was brought to life. And the price hasn't changed after two years!

Jalapeño Cheddar and Emmenthal Cheese Fondue
Crispy Tortillas / Bread/ Potatoes/ Market Vegetables
Myta ordered this for the group. She says it's one of her faves, as well. It certainly isn't the famed fondue of Old Swiss Inn spiked with kirsch, but it's actually a pretty good variant of the fondue. It had more items to dip with, with me loving the marbled potatoes and cherry tomatoes. The jalapeno cheddar gave the fondue a little kick, and for 395, it's way cheaper that Old Swiss's 700 a piece Waatlander.

Chelsea Market and Cafe
Serendra Piazza Ground Level McKinley Parkway, Fort Bonifacio
Taguig City, Metro Manila
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 9:00 am - 10:00 pm

Chorizo Arrabiata
Angel hair pasta in chorizo arrabiata sauce
Anya made me taste this and its simplicity is what made it delicious. I also love the fresh shaved parmesan on top. I wish though that there were more chorizo than tomato chunks.

Here are the pictures of what my other friends ordered. Sorry I didn't get to check it on the menu, but one is lamb on skewers, while the other one is a stuffed chicken leg. I won't comment on these because I didn't get to taste them.

What I did order, though was the Filet de Bœuf, Sauce Fromage Bleu (Tenderloin Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce, P545 - not in the picture). I ordered this because this is what my cousin got the last time I blogged about it, and I was raving about it. This time I won't rave about it so much anymore. It was good, but not spectacular. The meat was hard to cut through, and the artichoke pieces were missing with the spinach siding. The steak lacked that robust flavor associated with quality cuts of meat, and the blue cheese dressing was actually a way to mask what it lacked. Though I did like the rice pilaf that I chose as a side (it's either that or mashed potatoes).


Bonifacio High Street
The Fort
Taguig City, Metro Manila
(02) 856-3325

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Thanks to my MAS sister, Micah, I was able to freelance for the maiden issue of TSUPER (Travel Super) Magazine, published by Octobereighty. I reviewed a traveling journal, the content of which is posted below. The magazine is very graphic, creative and well-thought out, and it can hold a candle to its sister magazines Flow, Rogue and Bounce. Go grab a copy now! :)

Lagalag’s Voyage Home

Filipinos are known for their resilient character, adapting to circumstances that others have failed in miserably. Their personal journey of survival have sometimes led them to venture out of the country, leaving them no choice but to redefine what the concept of home is. The others that have chosen to remain weave equally interesting accounts of their place in the sun, creating their own identity in the world at large. “Lagalag: The Traveling Journal of Filipinos” is a project that documents the life stories of forty Filipinos, who come from all over the world and from all walks of life, imparting varied experiences linked together by their common sentiment of love for our home country. Though they have never met, they share one amazing journey in the form of two Moleskine notebooks.

Created by Wilfredo Pascual, a U.S. based Filipino writer, the notebooks were inspired from pictures uploaded on Flicker, a photo-hosting website, specifically one taken by an Ilocano US Air Force man of soldiers playing domino. That picture led Pascual to his blog, where its sounds and images rekindled a personal mantra felt during his wide-eyed days of wanting to change the world. “Dahil ang buhay ay isang laro ng domino sa gitna ng digmaan: ugnayan ang magliligtas sa atin (Because life is a game of domino in times of war: we are saved by that which links us to each other). My mind was burning with ideas and only one image withstood the fire. A notebook.” These traveling journals addressed big, painful questions about home to strangers who only shared the same nationality and online presence in Flicker.

Pascual made sure that diverse voices were well represented, that the notebooks traveled to destinations with a quicker turnaround, and that its progress can be tracked online. Thus, chosen participants followed a system of passing on the notebook to a pit stop either personally or by mail. “Mailing the notebook, that period when it was neither here nor there, was scary,” notes Pascual. “I was always afraid of it getting lost knowing how much the pages meant to those whose hands it had already passed. Changes in people’s schedule and their availability were also a challenge. Original routes were changed a couple of times.”

Such daunting logistics and collective efforts from participants were amply rewarded by Lagalag defining its concept of Filipino. Pascual recounts it off the top of his head as “a medic in Iraq, a hairdresser in Makati, an installation artist in Houston, a graphic novel illustrator in Manila, teachers in China and Islamabad, a filmmaker in New York, a gaming industry employee in Pasig, an architect in Qatar, a graphic designer in Cambodia, a mother in Ontario and a climber in Mt. Fuji, among others --- the Filipino, in short, as a walking metamorphosis.”

The journey starts with Pascual, born and raised in Nueva Ecija, two-time winner of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award as well as the 2008 Philippine Free Press Literary Awards for Essay, alumni of New York University’s creative writing program and a Breadloaf Scholar for Creative Nonfiction in the United States. After living in Thailand for 10 years, he moved to San Francisco where he joined an international non-profit organization called “Room to Read” as a global program officer aiding the publication of children’s books in developing countries. His job has made him travel many places, just returning from Johannesburg, Vientiane, Katmandu and New Delhi. Traveling for the past two years, uncertain about his decision on where to settle next, he drew a blank on his permanent address. This provided a canvas for the next writers to jot on their two-paged spreads.

Half of both notebooks are outward looking, telling tales of their country left behind. We get to meet Remedy Medina, an OFW actually thankful to Iraq for giving him a career where no med tech industry in the Philippines would. Working in a war-torn place nobody would dare set foot on has its silver lining. That’s where he met his wife, and that’s where he earned money to migrate to the United States. But what is the price of the American dream? For him it was being absent at his mother’s deathbed, or forsaking his role as a big brother. His story is just one of the 19 who recount their story of the Philippine Diaspora. “They, in the pursuit of happiness will drop some of their precious belongings along the way,” Remedy recounts.

The other half is an introspective anthology of 20 writers who remained in the country. One is an anonymous revolutionary comrade who replaced her gun with a pen, quoting prose from a deceased fellow guerilla and appending a disc of war songs to ponder on.

Both notebooks reached their final destination in the hands of Daphne Osena-Paez, noted television host, producer and magazine editor. By the time the journals reached her, they were bursting at the seams, full of memorabilia and keepsakes, well-thumbed and cherished. From numerous photographs, scribbles and pasted tickets, to professional inserts and customized graphic text, these notebooks contain more than just stories --- they’re living, breathing words and phrases, metaphors and imagery.

Being the last person to complete Lagalag, she represents the Filipino people who have returned to their roots. “For me, it was not only a physical move, but also an emotional one, coming back home to a country that once rejected my family,” she tells us, referring to the time when her diplomat father was held back from returning to the Philippines. “But once I made my move from Canada back here for work, and to help dad obtain justice for being wrongly accused of a military cause, the country ironically embraced me and gave me more than what I expected.” Aside from her journey back home, she intends to talk of the future and what it holds for her family.

When asked of what the project wants to convey to its readers, she is quick to reply, “that the Filipino is searching for himself and is longing for his home no matter where he is or what work he does. As one of the writers mentioned: I’m proud to be Pinoy, but right now, I’m a citizen of the world.”

This concept of home; reiterated in the pages of Lagalag, is aptly described by Pascual: “Home is a nebulous idea, a state of perpetual haunting. Abroad, resilience is marked on its pages along with the soul-stirring need to belong, to rise above, to define the self in a new place. In the Philippines, home is that profound place we celebrate, where we forge our strength, find compassion and forgiveness. Home is also a breathing revolution. It is where you seek justice. Home wounds and heals, thriving in contradiction, and can mean being at two places at one time. Home makes you question your assumptions. Home is where you are shaken and where you stand your ground. Home makes you proud.”

The ultimate goal is to share this work to as many people as possible, through a traveling art exhibit and publication scheduled at 2009.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


4 out of 5

I took foodie protégé Pao out to Pasay road for his birthday. Instead of giving him a gift and letting him guess what’s inside, I’d (and maybe he would, too) rather take him to a new restaurant and let him figure out what it is.

Even before touching Buendia, Pao was already asking over and over what resto it is. I just kept mum and drove continuously near the Greenbelt area, piquing his interest all the more. Would I finally succumb to the resto-mall that I often made fun of? Maybe not, as I drove up the incline parking of the Milkyway Building. Tsukiji, perhaps? Haha, sure, if he wanted us to wash the dishes.

I don’t think he figured out where we were eating until we literally stepped into the doorway. The restaurant itself is not big, but with the way things are arranged, it looked very spacious. If there was a “Thai minimalist feel,” that’s what it’d be described as. The decoration was found more in the architecture, with its embossed wooden panes on the ceiling, and small industrial lights circling the room. There were accent pieces here and there, a bouquet of white flowers by the side of the bar, some potted plants along the sides of the room, a huge Buddha right smack on the hallway…this simplicity was carried into the centerpieces composed of a lacquered tray filled with water, marble stones and a single orchid (bottom right).

Fortunately for us, it also had a small private room for smokers (pic to the left), where the purifier was efficient with removing any odor of smoke. The waitress recommended the spring rolls while we perused the menu. And though I was hesitant to get a vegetable dish and that it was just three pieces, I still went through with it anyway, along with spicy seafood noodles and baby crispy pata.

The Fresh Thai Spring Rolls or Poh Pia Paksot (195 PhP) came first, and I was pleasantly surprised on how much nicer in presentation it was than expected. It was a healthy roll of lettuce, carrots and cucumber, and yet it was so delicious for just some vegetable dish! What made it so good was the glutinous rice wrapper and its special peanut-based sauce. The wrapper didn’t feel like the wrapper commonly used in our own lumpiang ubod, but felt sticky, almost like the wrappers of hakaw only a little less moist. Meanwhile, the sauce was sweet, yet had a hint of citrus and cilantro, making it as vibrant as the vegetables it accompanied. There was also a darker vegetable lining the wrapper, and I didn’t know what it was, but the most similar vegetable I could probably compare it with is the wakame seaweed found in miso soup.

The Spicy Stir-fried Prawns, Mussels and Squid with Egg Noodles or Pad Kee Mao Talay (395 PhP) can be a meal in itself. Apart from the egg noodles, you have your seafood and lots of healthy vegetables, including, spinach, beans and baby corn. The menu was not kidding when it wrote it as spicy! My lips were tingling the entire meal, and I even had to chew on the cucumbers used as garnish to cool my tongue down.

Finally, the Baby Crispy Pata with 2 Thai Sauces or Kha Moo Tod Brob (795 PhP) was presented with a garnish of jumbo tomato slices. It differed from out version of crispy pata since it was smaller, and had less fat. The skin was also thinner, and very crispy. It had two sauces --- a red one and a green one. I thought I’d like the red one more, but I liked the green instead. It was sweet, yet tart, and I could heap lots of it with the crispy pata, along with some of the tomato. I never felt so healthy eating so much vegetables, and yet I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing taste.

This is a great place to dine in. Considering this resto is brought to us by the Gamboas, who also own Cirkulo and Tsukiji, they have opened up our options by giving us Thai food in a classier and more sophisticated setting. Among the three dishes, I would surely do a repeat of the fresh spring rolls. I’d stay away from the noodles though (too spicy for me) and stick to the classic pad thai. Ooh, and I'd also try their desserts. For sure this will not be my last visit here!

What a feast!
other recommended dishes:
Papaya Salad
Crispy Shrimp Cakes
Tom Yum
Crispy Plapla with Fried Basil
Banana in Syrup and Coconut Ice Cream

The menu. Click to magnify.

, Makati
G/F Milkyway Bldg., 900 A. Arnaiz Ave. cor. Paseo de Roxas
Makati City, Metro Manila
(02) 817-6252
M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:00 am - 2:30 pm
M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Related Posts with Thumbnails