Friday, January 15, 2010

"Pass Me A Bottle, Mr. Jones..."

There seems to be e renewed appreciation for diner food here in Manila. I say “renewed” since I do remember seeing them around back in the 80’s, and then slowly dwindling in numbers as the food market was slowly infiltrated by huge American food franchises. I remember going to this diner in Makati Ave. (I forget the name) with my Dad when I was still in grade school, and I would always order their version of Fetuccini Alfredo which, curiously, contained chopped scallions and cooked ham. I loved it though, and would always order it with a rootbeer float. I still remember what my Dad would order- Pork Chops, which remains his all-time favorite to this day.

Alongside the growing popularity of tasting menus, the other trend seems to be comfort food. Enter the old-school concept of the All-American Diner. Simple recipes, huge portions and served fast. This time, though, there seems to be a more conscious effort in keeping it authentic (No scallions in their pastas here!), as is the case with M Café and Chelsea Market’s new “brother”, Mr. Jones. Despite a relatively-higher price point, the portions are huge, remaining consistent with how food is served in the US. The décor is straight out of a classic Archie comic book with its bright red booths, formica table tops and chrome trimmings. The servers are spiffily-outfitted in slim, white and red shirts and pants. Overall, the look is well-conceptualized, retro but also very “now”.

My companions and I arrive early for the lunch service and helped ourselves into the booth. Although the place was empty when we arrived, it quickly filled up later on. The clientele was a mix of young executives from the offices surrounding the Greenbelt area as well as some middle-aged shoppers.

Things started out pretty badly. We ordered our drinks from our waiter, who seemed either distracted or dim-witted. Either way, it was quite annoying. We forgive him because he could pass for a D-list model. When we were ready to order our food, we tried desperately to get his attention from the open kitchen but he was deep in conversation with one of the cooks. So, we spotted a lady which we assume is the manager and we order from her. We originally wanted the Tater Tots, but she grumpily informed us that it is not available, like it’s our fault and we should not have asked in the first place. In fact, three out of the five appetizers were not available that day. I am even more annoyed now. So we settle for something else and order the rest of our food. The manager leaves in a huff, and I fantasize about punching her in the face. Obviously, I was not liking her too much.

Despite my now surly mood, I pep myself up with sips from my Classic Chocolate Malt. The thick, chocolate concoction is rich but not too sweet. It made me feel much better.

Our appetizer is the Bagels with Marinated Salmon, Salmon Mousse and Fig Marmalade. I love Salmon, especially raw and smoked preparations, so this one was a hit with me. The only problem was that there was a bit of confusion as to where the marinated salmon was. As we finished off the mousse, we realized that the little bits of salmon were at the bottom of the cup! If you do not go digging into the mousse you would really not know what is underneath. Maybe this detail should be better explained in the menu, or at least pointed out by the wait staff.

Next to arrive was the Truffle Mac and Cheese with Pancetta, Green peas and Mushrooms. Needless to say, this dish smelled really good. The consistency of the sauce was not as thick as I would have wanted it, but it was still rich and cheesy. I like how the salty cubes of pancetta and the fresh peas balance out the cheese sauce.


Then the huge serving of Fish and Chips was placed on the table. Fish and Chips is one dish that I always need to try in restos like this one because, despite its popularity, very seldom do you find one that is done right. This particular one, I am happy to say, was done perfectly- the beer-battered crust was crispy, and stayed that way throughout the meal; the chips (or fries) were also crisp and mildly seasoned. It comes with small aluminum cups of tartar sauce, malt vinegar and ketchup. Definitely, this is one of the better-executed Fish and Chips in Manila.


Another dish we all decided to share was the Superman Burger. It deserved the moniker, I tell you- two thick beef patties in a sesame seed bun, with lettuce, tomatoes, a generous slice of pickle and jalapeno. As you slice into it, you see the juices running out of the patty, proving just how moist it is. This is truly a no frills, classic all-American burger. I think Matt would love this.

Despite sharing all of the dishes, my two companions and I were too stuffed to finish them all. Feeling heavy and bloated, we decide to order hot tea which would hopefully aid us in digesting our meal. We were smitten with the tea pot and cups, which comes looking like a teapot, and then transforms into two pieces, which is a small pot and a cup. Adorable!

Obviously in a punishing mood, we decide to order dessert with our tea. Being part of that M Café/Chelsea Market/MoMo group, we were sure that the cakes would be scrumptious. We order the Cookie Dough Cheesecake, which we collectively loved. I cannot imagine anyone not liking it.

This restaurant, despite the inventory issues and crappy service (which I am desperately hoping will get better), will surely do well in its location. As I always say, I like it when an establishment finds it niche and commits to it completely. The food was thankfully good enough to compensate for what could have been a disastrous and disappointing lunch. Yes, the food was so good that I could forgive the poorly-trained wait staff and that ogre of a manager, but only this time. Dining out, after all, is a total-sensory experience. Everything has to taste good, look good and FEEL good. Otherwise, in my opinion, the customer does not get his/her money’s worth. I will be back, though, and I truly do hope that that manager will be in a better mood.

Mr. Jones
Greenbelt 5
Ayala Center, Makati City
Tel. no. (632)5013682-83

1 comment:

frannywanny said...

i love love love Mr Jones!

i truly enjoyed their beef tapa :)