General Food News

Max Brenner Chocolate Bar

Nobody doesn’t like chocolate. I know of exactly just one person who doesn’t like chocolate. (Yes Richard, I am talking about you) Chocolate is one of the first things you start eating as a kid. When you break up with someone you turn to chocolate. When your sad you got chocolate. Chocolate both comforts and is an aphrodisiac. So when Max Brenner opened here in the Philippines, I promised myself that once I have enough money I will definitely have to check this place out.

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Damaso at Greenbelt 5

Named after the main antagonist in Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel the restaurant sits adjacent to Fely J’s another well known Filipino Restaurant. Damaso offers Filipino fares with a slight twist and hint of history. From drinks named Tubig ni Maria Clara (Maria Clara’s water) to Crispin and Basilio, the restaurant has themed a mix of Filipino and spanish influences. The place was quite small, but with an outside dining area which it share’s with Fely J’s it becomes quite spacious.

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Clay Pot Noodles @ Jalan Alor

I have a soft spot for hole-in-wall type of restaurants. Add a bit of history and nostalgia and you’ve got the making of an excellent hidden food spots that all foodies troop off to, something like a pilgrimage to the best food spot. My trip to KL was not going to be complete without this. So on my last day, Nicholas Chay, Nuffnang Malaysia’s Country Manager asked me out to lunch and couldn’t say no or rather wouldn’t say no.

We drove to Jalan Alor on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The best place is eating in Jalan Alor. Formerly known as the Red light district of KL, this place has undergone quite a few changes. The street is literally peppered (pun intended) with little restaurants offering everything from Satti to Char siew. I was actually looking forward to getting some Char Siew, but we stopped at a childhood favorite of Nicholas’.

It was called Charn Kee Tasty Corner. They basically served Clay Pot noodles.

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A Quick Thank You and more…

Its been awhile since I last posted an entry here and a lot has happened. Work has suddenly caught with me (so has a depletion of funds), thus making my blogging a little but more sporadic. Just a quick update on the things that happened to Foodie Manila during the break.

Big News Number 1: I won as part of the Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs of 2010. I’ve been receiving votes all throughout the past 12 weeks and after all the dust has settled Foodie Manila emerged victorious. Thank you for everyone who voted. Although I have yet to feel nor exercise any influence over my niche, or the blogosphere for that matter, I am truly thankful that all my efforts are appreciated by so many. When people ask me how I take photos of food so “effortlessly” (mind you it doesn’t mean that I didn’t work up a sweat getting the shot!) I always answer that it starts with the food. So again thank you to everyone and to all those who would’ve voted and for all those who think that I shouldn’t have won, don’t worry you are not alone. *wink* Check out other winners here.

Big News Number 2: I was invited to contribute to one of the best magazines out there. I personally have read one of their articles turn book, and is one of my inspirations for my blog. I don’t want to jinx it, but I really do want to share it with you guys. Well here goes, I was invited by one of the Managing Editors to contribute to, are you ready? The Philippine Tattler. Yeap. The premiere magazine for the high class peeps. Ok so they really are not my demographic but hey who am I to say no right?

To be completely honest, I am terrified of this latter news. But hey, good luck right? Rise to the occasion. If and when I get published on this magazine, I will definitely be giving away copies. Not that they are giving me some free copies, but I’ll personally buy and distribute!

Well that’s it for now. (Unless I edit later and talk about more news!)
Cheers,
The Chubby Chef aka. Carlos

PS.

Thanks to everyone who replied to my plurk! This is definitely one EPIC plurk thread!

Ramen Bar in Manila

I previously posted on Ukkokei Ramen in Makati, which I dubbed as one of the authentic ramen experiences in Manila. But although the entire experience wasn’t pleasant, at least the food was. Fast forward a few weeks later, I get an email from Ramen Bar’s owner in eastwood inviting me to try out their version of Ramen. I quickly obliged as I was doing the research for the Ukkokei article, I chanced upon several blogs extolling this particular resto. I certainly didn’t want to pass that up!

After a quick battle with some food poisoning (ironically! ok so I don’t really think I used irony properly here), I trotted off to Ramen Bar in Eastwood with a fellow blogger named Elyoo. Elyoo being a fashion blogger, was dressed quite awesomely.

We quickly placed our orders in and started chatting amongst ourselves.

On the table:

  • R.B.S #1
  • Sapporo Miso Ramen
  • Chicken Karaage
  • Yakiniku Beef
  • Kakuni Buns

R.B.S. #1 is  Soy infused Tonkotsu Ramen topped with tamago, naruto, nori, negi, chasyu, and Kakuni. Tonkotsu is basically pork bones stewed as compared to the Miso base which is lighter version of Ramen. The reasoning behind the Tonkotsu base is because this is favored by Japanese consumers in Japan because of the climate. Due to the colder climate experienced in Japan, the heavier soup is supposed to keep them warm during winter. According to the owner, (who SMS’ed me all the way from the UK!) since the climate in the Philippines is warmer, the lighter soup is more appealing to us. (Just like Ukkokei’s!) But Ramen Bar will be coming up with their own version of a lighter soup base not to mention a few more side dishes and he promises to have me over once these dishes are on the menu again. I can’t wait!

I’ll be leaving the Sapporo Miso Ramen for Elyoo to review because I didn’t really try out her meal.

Check her out she was wearing something similar:

  • Tamago is soft boiled eggs marinated for 48 hours
  • Tonkotsu is pork bone soup boiled for 20 hours
  • Chasyu is Sliced Pork
  • Kakuni is Braised Pork Belly
  • Naruto are FIsh Sticks
  • Nori is Dried Seaweed
  • Negi are spring onions

Sapporo Miso Ramen is Miso infused Tonkotsu Ramen topped with Tamago, Naruto Negi Chasyu, Butter and Corn.

The Chasyu was absolutely divine. And the Kakuni? Perfection. They were so tender and soft that the meat was literally melting inside my mouth. They were definitely worth whatever I was paying for it.

The Chicken Karaage was definitely a surprise! It was really good! It comes with a plate of salt and pepper but didn’t need anything. What I particularly like about it was that it was boneless. It made for eating it easier.

Highlight of the night was the Beef Yakiniku (焼き肉 or 焼肉) meaning “grilled meat”, is a Japanese term which, in its broadest sense, refers to grilled meat dishes.

Today, it commonly refers to a Japanese style of cooking bite-sized meat (usually beef and offal) and vegetables on gridirons or griddles over flame of wood charcoals carbonized by dry distillation (sumibi, 炭火) or gas/electric grill.

The beef was tender and sweet and for the price was actually quite a lot. I would definitely order this again and again. I think this would go well with some Yakimeshi.

For dessert we ordered Tempura Ice Cream. It was basically vanilla ice cream, deep fried in batter. Its usually eaten in one big bite topped with some chocolate syrup. The medley of flavors of both hot and cold were simply great. I liked in particular the complex flavor of the ice cream and the egg based batter they used for the coating.

All meals come with either hot or cold tea. For the cold tea, they basically add ice cubes and makes for washing down the ramen and other fairs quite enjoyable.

Overall the food was quality. I could see that it was trying to bring the most authentic experience possible to ramen dining. To the communal table sharing, to the look and feel of the restaurant, you could see that great thought and care was put in setting this restaurant up. Food quality was excellent. Service was top notch. The food came out so fast that I was really pleased. In my book, excellent service means that the restaurant cares for the customer. Some people might find the price a bit too steep, but you can’t pay for quality. I on the other hand found the price to be just right. Php 380 for a HUGE bowl of ramen is already ok. If you don’t have a big appetite I recommend sharing one bowl and trying out the Kakuni Buns too. In terms of Ramen, you can’t really compare Ramen Bar and Ukkokei. But in terms of experience, Ramen Bar is a place I will be coming back to whenever I am near the Eastwood area.

*side note: To the bloggers out there, the management allows for you to take pictures!

Ramen Bar
G/F Eastwood Mall
Libis, Quezon City
570-9457

Cajun Red Rock by Chef Tony

I usually don’t blog family gatherings. Its not because I don’t eat out with my family, but its more likely because there is just so much chaos and so many things happening at once, its usually pandemonium during meal time. Imagine, holding up the eating because I need to take pictures of the food while 5 of your cousins nag you to death about hurrying up? Absolutely the worse condition for blogging I must say.

But this time it was different. Gone were the petty arguments over dinner table and light jabs. Gone are the teasing and taunting, in its stead conversations about my blog, work, fashion, and girls take its place. I remember thinking when did we grow up? My cousin was in 4th year high school already about to enter college and my other cousins are about to enter the “real world”. And here we are celebrating yet another birthday of our Amma and another dinner together as a family.

They picked Cajun Red Rock at Retiro because it was something different. No chinese food this time. (My Amma living in Banawe would usually pick some chinese resto for our get together.) I have heard about this place at the restaurant that spurred the creation of Chef Tony’s Popcorn. (which I have yet to try.)

My aunties ordered for the entire group and being on the other end of the table, we got 3 fares.

We got a plate of ribs with 2 sides: of slaw and mashed potatoes. The ribs were well cooked although a bit more tenderness was something I desired. I wanted the meat to literally fall of the bone.

We also got some Fish and Chips for starters. The fish was well cooked and was tender while the skin was crispy and tasty. I’ve always liked fish and chips and this was no exception.

Lastly, we ordered Creole Chicken which was both creamy and tasty. The dish was quite unique as it did remind me of carbonara and yet, it had a very smokey taste to it. The creaminess and smokiness melded together very well in my opinion.

These were all the dishes that we ordered that night. I realized how different in terms of culinary exploration I am from my family. They ordered very conservatively which left the foodie in me wanting more. I guess for our family, food isn’t actually why we get together but rather the conversation and convention of eating together as a tradition.

Cajun Red Rock
108 NS Amoranto St. (Retiro St.), Quezon City

Balkan Express Home Cooked Cuisine

I have recently enjoyed a somewhat of blogging rebirth as of late. Gone are the invites to common restaurants like Chinese, Continental and Traditional Filipino restaurants. Its either I’ve been eating at non-conventional food choices and today was no different.

According to Richard, (who invited me to lunch at 10am in the morning!) it was something we SHOULD try. We had no excuse. It was just around the corner and as a food blogger it was our sworn duty to bring to our readers something quite unique and special.

The Balkans (often referred to as the Balkan Peninsula, although the two are not coterminous) is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains, which run through the centre of Bulgaria into eastern Serbia.

We entered the quaint little restaurant enclosed in large windows so as to make the place really well lit. +1 for me because I love well lit stores especially on a sunny day like it was that day. We picked the further most table for a few reasons. 1. because we knew we were kind of loud when we talked and didn’t want to cause a ruckus since there were just a few customers and 2. because I myself wanted to test out service especially the furthest tables (usually these get the worse end of the stick in terms of service)

But before all this, we had to place our order at the front counter where the menu and pictures of the food were. Richard ordered the Batak, Irene went for the Cevapcici, and I settled for the Goulash (but I knew I was going to order something else after!)

The chicken Batak was grilled boneless chicken thigh stuffed with mozzarella cheese served with Jasmine Rice. For P290 the portion was quite huge and we had a field day sharing the dish with others. The kicker was the chewy cheese that lent a bit of a tanginess to the dish. If you are not an adventurous eater, this dish is for you.

I ordered the Goulash. Goulash or Gulaš is a popular stew made of lean beef, onions and paprika served with noodles. The stew was nice and tasty and the herbs really did stand out. The meat was nice and tender (sign of fresh meat and well cooked meat at that!) and it literally melted in my mouth. I remember thinking to myself that this is how meat should be cooked and served, nice and tasty and soft too!

Irene’s order was the highlight of the meal for this hungry blogger. She ordered the Cevapcici or Ćevapi or Ćevapčići. Cevapcici is a Balkan dish of grilled minced meat. It is served on a burger bun with home made sauce tomato, lettuce, onions, and fries. They may be served on a plate or in a flatbread (lepinja or somun), often with chopped onions, sour cream,kajmak, ajvar, cottage cheese, and so on.

I liked the Cevapcici the best. I liked it so much, that I had to order my own. At P180, it was one of the tastiest “burgers” I had ever eaten. Reminiscent of the infamous “longga burger” of Boracay, the meat was portioned in sausage sizes stuffed in between some really soft and tasty buns. The sausage was so flavourful and the spices just made the entire experience quite enjoyable. The sour cream (or at least I thought it was!) with the red onions was just the perfect condiment one could put on the burger. It was a bit spicy and smoky flavor of the pork (I thought it was pork!) was simply sublime. (yes I am using sublime!)

I knew Richard was feeling quite jealous that I got to order again something so tasty and since the owner came over our table and recommended something new on the menu, Richard did not hesitate to order the Stuffed Pljeskavica. Pljeskavica (Serbian: Пљескавица) is a patty dish popular in Balkan region of Southeastern Europe originating from the city of Leskovac in Serbia. Leskovačka pljeskavica (pljeskavica from Leskovac) is one of the most famous types in Serbia and is usually made of beef or pork, very spiced and served with onions but Richard’s order was served with fries instead. Since it was stuffed, I think there was ham and cheese inside which lent to the creaminess of the dish which I also quite enjoyed. They used the same kind of meat in the Pljeskavica as in the Cevapcici so I was happy.

I love learning new cuisines and tasting different dishes from around the world. Since I started blogging and blogging extensively at that, I enjoyed learning about that country’s history and culture. If a way to man’s heart is via his stomach, I think a way to understanding and appreciating another culture is through their cuisine as well. I am definitely coming back to Balkan Express.

Balkan Express

87 Jose Abad Santos Street cor. Mons St.

Little Baguio, San Juan City, 1500

Tel: 330.0945

Ukokkei Authentic Ramen House

Situated along Pasay road, among rows and rows of Japanese Restaurants lies a little ramen shop. Tucked away beside a bait and tackle shop, it sits unobtrusive and naturally blending in with the city skyline and natural contours of the surrounding buildings. Ukkokei Ramen Shop offers the most authentic Ramen in Manila bar none.

Upon entering the restaurant, the modern yet still very Japanese themed decor did remind me of restaurants in Japan. It was pragmatically themed maiming each space so as hold as much customers it could without sacrificing comfort.
Ukokkei serves Ramen with 3 different soup bases. Shoyu (soy-sauce based), Shio (salt based) and Miso (Miso soup based) all of which promised an authentic taste.
Upon Richard’s recommendation, I ordered the Butter Corn Miso Ramen. He said the butter would make the soup creamy and I could always order extra meat. So I did as he said, and placed my order.
After placing my order, we were served tea with ice. No, not iced tea, but literally TEA with ICE. I enjoyed the drink although it tasted a bit bland. It was kind of refreshing actually.
The Butter Corn Miso Ramen was awesome. The soup was creamy, the ramen was springy and perfectly done, and the taste of miso was very subtle yet distinguishable.
Miso (みそ or 味噌) is made from fermented soybeans, miso is a thick paste-like substance. Miso is brownish in color and tastes extremely salty and tangy on its own. The predecessor of miso originated in China during the 3rd century BC or earlier, and it is probable that this, together with related fermented soy-based foods, was introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism in the 6th century AD. This fermented food was called “Shi”.
The food and ambiance was as authentic as it could be. The kitchen actually was surrounded by glass enclosure so you could watch the cooks at work on your ramen. There was also a bar type so you could dine and go at your leisure.
Note though that Ukokkei does not offer take out service and for bloggers out there, taking photos is not allowed. (Good thing I was done shooting before the owner called my attention to it.)
Overall if you are looking for an authentic experience as well as REALLY GOOD ramen, Ukokkei is the place to visit!

Ukokkei Ramen is located along Pasay Road

Makati City, Philippines

Paseo Uno

I have somewhat become an oracle of sorts when it comes to the amateur foodie. Batchmates of mine would IM me asking for advice regarding food places in and around the Metro. A recurring question which I get more often than not would be “My BF/GF and I are celebrating our Anniversary/Monthsary on [insert date]. What is the best hotel buffet there is?” Don’t get me wrong, I get numerous other questions regarding dining and restos, but I picked this because I struggled answering this before.

The concept of the Buffet Table originates from Swedish snaps(shot of alcoholic beverage) table from the middle of 16th century, and had its prime during the early 18th century, and was developed into the buffet we more know today not until the beginning of 19th century. The Smorgasbord buffet did not increase its popularity until the expansion of the railroads throughout Europe.

The smorgasbord table was a meal where guests gathered before dinner for a pre-dinner drink, and was not part of the formal dinner to be followed. The smorgasbord buffet was often held in separate room for men and women before the dinner was served. SmörgÃ¥sbord became internationally known as Smorgasbord at the 1939 New York World’s exhibition as the Swedes had to invent a new way of showcasing the best of Swedish food.

The term buffet originally referred to the French sideboard where the food was served, but eventually became applied to the form. The buffet became popular in the English-speaking world in the second half of the 19th century after the Swedes had used the smorgasbord in New York.

I usually almost always try to convince the person asking for advice to stray away from the concept of buffets and just either go fine dining or a unique resto but I guess I get the appeal of buffets. Its dining at a hotel, with a WIDE array of choices of food, and well its the over-all experience. I too used to do this with my ex-gf anyway.

There used to be a time when the only buffet that was popularly known in the Philippines was Dad’s/Kamayan/Saisaki (I think it still is?) but one of the first hotels to offer a buffet experience open to the public was Mandarin Oriental.

Paseo Uno, as I understand has undergone a make over. From the traditional look it used to have, a cozier and more modern approach to design and functionality was put into place. Buffets for me were about maximizing space and accommodating as much guests as possible making the place like a large gathering instead of having an intimate meal.

Not true for Paseo Uno.

I loved the ambiance. The modern music subtly playing in background, tunes from Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga, and Lighthouse, covered by a string quartet or solo guitar gave just the hint of modern and yet classy. The huge cupboards which housed different glasses, vases, and ornaments served as the perfect partitions between tables allowing for a more private and intimate meal. The lighting at night was just simply sublime as it was turn down to just the bare minimum so as to leave the guests just enough light to see each other and the food without seeing other people on other tables.

Despite the limited selection, the food was of the best quality I’ve tasted in awhile. From the sushi to the meats, the food was absolutely sublime. The service was personal and the waiters really approachable. This is the beauty with small buffets, the service is much more nicer and faster. In terms of quality of food and service, Paseo Uno has really got it spot on.

I just have to say something about their selections. They of course have the usual Japanese, Meats, and Chinese selections. But what caught my eye were the specialty dishes. They had prawn and egg sambal, Lamb Vindaloo, and some veal! I’ve never seen these choices on a buffet! The quality did not suffer as well.

What I particularly liked about Paseo Uno as well (its turning into a fan blog post!) was that food was plated and served in small quantities. Why? Because it means that the food I get remains warm and fresh instead of sitting on a chaffing dish for hours on end. I particularly appreciated this because I like food served warm and fresh.

The place was warm and cozy. Intimate and personable, Paseo Uno offers a new way of dining buffet style. The selection of fine cuisine, a personal touch to an otherwise impersonal dining experience, Paseo Uno has reinvented buffet dining. Now I know how to answer the question. Paseo Uno is definitely one of my favorite buffets today.

Paseo Uno is located at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

1226 Makati Avenue Corner Paseo De Roxas , Makati

+63 (2) 750 8888 Ext. 2412 or 2413

Delish, Simply Delicious

There has been a recent renaissance in the food industry in the Philippines (especially Manila!) recently. One place in particular has been popping up on the radar, Maginhawa Street in Quezon City. Hidden in a residential area, lies a hot-bed or rather haven for foodies with little restos left and right. But beware though, parking may prove a bit of a challenge sometimes. Since it sits between UP Diliman and Quezon City Circle, the place houses as diverse of culture as can be, with teachers (it is after all called Teacher’s village) from nearby universities, students, and well the occasional celebrity. The unpretentiousness of the place made it worth exploring and daunting as it may sometimes feel  (because it may seem seedy), it is the only place were just below a bookstore a tattoo parlor is open, and adjacent to both places is a local watering hole frequented by university students and teachers alike.

Taking a trip down the road, the sides are literally peppered with a HUGE variety of restos mostly offering affordable prices for quality cuisine of your choosing. I was lucky enough to be invited to feature Delish, a up-and-coming spot along Maginhawa Street which offered Filipino Fusion cuisine. Dare I say, Maginhawa Street’s version of Via Mare minus the steep prices?

We started off with a squash and mushroom soup topped off with toasted croutons. The ensemble of colors and texture certainly did please my palette. What seemed like an unlikely combination was actually a beautiful medley of flavors of two very traditional and common soups. I was pleasantly surprised. (I think it was the theme of the night.)

We were then served a platter of Oysters which were baked with butter and cheese which rested on a bed of rock salt. (Disclaimer: I love Oysters!) I love oysters. I quickly gobbled these up as soon as they landed on my table. But I think I prefer the spinach version topped with bacon bits. (Not in picture) There was something quite familiar with the way the dish was prepared and yet I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I particularly liked the Crispy Pata or Pork Knuckle. It was already sliced making it easier to devour. Each cut, had ample skin on it and the gelatinous part also known as Litid or ligaments. They served this dish with a special sauce instead of the usual soysauce and vinegar concoction. It reminded me of Savory’s gravy only less MSG.

The chicken wings were somewhat of a surprise as well. They weren’t too spicy as it would turn off most Filipino palettes, and the sweetness was just right so as to enjoy the flavor of the chicken still. The wings were fried just right soa s to leave the skin crunchy and crispy and yet still have the chicken well cooked.

According to the owners, their specialty and mostly ordered dish would be the Fried Chicken. So I really had my expectations set on high when the dish came. Happy to say that it did not disappoint. It had a garlicky flavor with a hint of tangy sweetness. Again, there was something so familiar with the dish and yet I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly I was tasting. It felt familiar, cozy, and something cooked from home.

They also have a variety of pastas. The worry I always have when carbonara pasta is served would be, 1. If the noodles are cooked right (because no one likes soggy noodles) and 2. if the sauce was balanced out well. There is a tendency either to use too much milk or too much cream where the consistency of the sauce is a total mess. You see the viscosity of the sauce needs to be just right so that it would cling on the pasta so that you can consume them together. Otherwise might as well just serve one as soup and the other a garnish. Again I was surprised that it was actually done quite right. This little place continues to surprise and continues to leave a good taste in my mouth. (pun intended)

One of the last dishes I was able to try was their sisig. Digressing from the usual raw egg, they top their sisig with scrambled egg instead. The sisig itself was creamy and crunchy which I quite enjoyed. This is definitely something to pick at during buckets of beer.

The place and ambiance was fit for the place. It was dark when it needed to be and the music and visual entertainment made sure for a fun night of drinking. If I were still in college, this would be a place my friends and I would frequent. Clean, safe, and well enjoyable. It served good food, and had an unassuming vibe, just like the street it is located at, Maginhawa. It is definitely a relief to chill out at this resto.