Monday, December 31, 2012

The Good Stuff: Best Finds Going Into 2013

Better late than never, so they say, and these delectables are definitely some of the noteworthy dishes I have tried this year.  So good, in fact, that I could not allow the year to end without sharing them with all of you.

Hai Chix & Steaks’ US Angus Porterhouse

Think Mamou- even Peter Luger- but a fraction of the price you’ll pay for the same cut of meat in fancier steakhouses.  Prepared by Enderun-trained chefs, Hai Chix’s porterhouse is best cooked medium to medium rare, allowing the soft, flavorful meat to take center stage with minimal seasoning.  This is obviously borne from an understanding of and respect for good ingredients, a by-product of the chefs’ travels and training in Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and the US.

The streamlined décor of the establishment evokes the same quiet confidence as the food coming out of the kitchen.  At P2,400.00 (inclusive of side dishes), this porterhouse is arguably the best you could possibly have in its price-range, if not better than others contained in much plusher surroundings.    

Hai Chix & Steaks
Ortigas Home Depot
Julia Vargas Ave., Pasig City
Tel. no. (632) 6617695

Rodillas Yema Cake

Yes, the local candy made from egg yolk and condensed milk- usually served as a calamansi-sized ball or formed into tiny pyramids- is being produced and served in the small provincial town of Tayabas, Quezon in cake form.  Technically, my mom was the one who discovered this- at a wake, of all places- and swears that no dessert has captured her attention for quite a while now like this one.  With this testimonial coming from the woman who squashed my obsession with everything chocolate at a young age, I knew it was definitely worth a try.

The cakes come in two sizes: half (8” x 6”) and whole (8” x 12”), reasonably priced at just P120 and P240, respectively.  One bite was all it took  to know what all the fuss was about- the yema was impressively gooey yet smooth, sweet yet ethereal with a hint of citrus and slightly-salty cheese; In contrast, the chiffon cake was decidedly light-footed in both density and flavor, allowing the luxurious egg-y yema to get top-billing (although, not necessarily all the attention).  A beautifully- balanced dessert with two simple components that is sure to satisfy, if not win you over completely.

Rodillas Restaurant
39-D Quezon Ave.
Tayabas, Quezon

La Cocina de Maria’s Fideua
This lovely Spanish lady from Alabang seems to enjoy stuffing me with food- not that I am complaining.  She is definitely one of my favorite home cooks in Metro Manila, and not only because of her penchant for spoiling me with free food.  Her passion for and knowledge of Spanish cuisine spills over into her dishes- you will know after your first bite that you are getting the real deal. 

The latest from her arsenal of great dishes that I got to try is her Fideua- a Valencian noodle dish typically topped with crustaceans and white fish.  Like paella, the noodles absorb the flavors of paprika and saffron (and Maria Pedrosa uses only the best kind) and these spices also season the shrimps and fish that are cooked with it.  The light vermicelli-like noodles make it all too easy to eat so much of this dish, made even more addicting by Mrs. Pedrosa’s light mayonnaise aioli.  It is a beautiful and elegant party dish which will surely impress. 

La Cocina de Maria
Tel. no. (632) 807 8808/8421367

Ramen Yushoken’s Miso Ramen

Barely a month into their soft opening and this ramen spot in Alabang is already topping everyone’s must-try lists.  Ramen Yushoken is a product of one of the owners’ obsession with bringing the same top-quality ramen experience he got from eating at the best ones in Japan.  After getting some of his equally food-obsessed friends on board, they embarked on years of research, negotiating, and training until they got everything perfect.  Every Yushoken fan has his/her favorite, but the Miso Ramen is truly the stuff of legend.

It is about finding the perfect balance between the pork bone broth and the mixture of seven kinds of miso.  As I write this, I know that the owners and cooks are still in the process of determining the proper blend of savory broth and rich, almost milky, miso- juxtaposed with their fresh, homemade noodles.  But, regardless of what the owners are trying to achieve, what they truly have going for them is the rich tradition of ramen cookery evident in every bowl.  And, even during this soft opening stage, you taste the profound richness of the broth which can only possibly be through technique perfected over centuries. 

Ramen Yushoken
Madrigal Ave.
Alabang, Muntinlupa
Tel. no. (632) 808 7424

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Champetre's Seared Foie Gras with Risotto Carbonara

I just had to write about it.

The concept is almost an abomination- something the chef must have conjured during a contemplative acid trip (Note: No, he does not take recreational drugs.  Not to my knowledge, at least).  I knew that there were a few changes to Marc Aubry’s menu in Champetre- his bustling French bistro in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig- but this was not something I would have expected from the self-proclaimed traditionalist.
Although Matt was craving for the classics (foie gras terrine and steak tartare), I pointed at the starter that poignantly stood out amongst the salads and escargot- Seared Foie Gras with Risotto Carbonara.  It was “too much”, my mind said.  But the overindulgent hedonist that gives orders to my brain says otherwise. 
True enough, it really was too much- too much perfectly-seared foie gras the size of my fists; too much rich, creamy risotto with its smoky crisps of slab bacon; too much feathery slivers of parmesan that melted instantaneously on my tongue.

Too much, too good, too brilliant.

Champetre Boutique & Restaurant
G/F Net One Center Bldg.
26th St. cor. 3rd Ave.
Fort Global City, Taguig
Tel. no. (632) 815 8801-2

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Food Trip USA: My Top 5 Restaurants at The Wynn Las Vegas

Its a sure win at the Wynn and Encore restaurants

Oh, Las Vegas- the town of excess and debauchery.  A weekend in Vegas is more than enough to leave you mentally, physically and financially spent.  So, when we found out that we were spending two whole weeks in Sin City to celebrate a dear uncle’s birthday, even PartyMatt found himself scratching his head, saying, “What the f_ck are we going to do there for two weeks?!”

But, we did find plenty to do, and amidst the blur of clubs,tequila shots, and lap dances, we found plenty of good things to eat.  Our group was billeted at The Wynn, which in my opinion, is the best hotel on the strip, along with its “twin”, Encore.  Owner Steve Wynn‘s impeccable taste is evident in everything you lay your eyes on- from the natural light streaming into the casino floor, to the pricey bed linens in the tastefully-decorated rooms, to the best clubs and entertainment in Vegas. 

However, this attention to detail was best expressed in bothThe Wynn’s and Encore’s restaurants.  I can tell that his restos were conceptualized from the ground up by the bestguys and girls in the industry, and no expense was spared.  The food was so good that we felt there was really no need to leave the hotel and explore.

From more than a dozen restaurants in these two hotels combined, here are my favorites.

The dining room at Sinatra


On the last evening of our two week sojourn, Matt and I decided to have a cozy dinner date here and we discovered that we did save the best for last.  This beautiful restaurant was the perfect homage to the blue-eyed Las Vegas icon for which it was named after, and the food- classic Italian, of course- was made to impress.  


Dinner service was flawless, but the winning dish was, without a doubt, the Agnolotti in a light cream asparagus sauce- so delicate but with the perfect balance of flavors.  Overall, one of our most memorable dining experiences.

Diver Scallops on top of polenta at La Cave

La cave

Tucked in one of The Wynn’s corridors is this little (by LasVegas standards, at least) wine bar that serves a limited but very tasty menu-a mishmash of great seafood, flatbreads and tapas.  Its cavern-like atmosphere is perfect for a sexy rendezvous, but also great as a laidback venue for dinner and drinks.  I have seen more expansive wine lists elsewhere, although they do have some gems. Plus, there are some good beers on tap, as well as craft beers- such as the Quebecois legend La Fin du Monde by Unibroue.

We adored the flatbreads- topped with either chorizo or truffled mushrooms- but what really grabbed my attention was the Seared Diver Scallops and Polenta, which had me coming back a second and third time. 

The view from the al fresco dining area at The Country Club

The Country Club

The Wynn boasts of the only 18-hole golf course in a casino hotel- in Las Vegas, at least.  And to get to the course, you pass through a gorgeous, wood-paneled dining room that evokes the feel of a members-only golf club. The fine dining resto offers prime cuts of steak, as well as upscale versions of American classics, like Sweet Corn chowder and Angus burgers. 

We loved hanging out at the bar, where we got to watch the Euro Cup games and drowned our sorrows in cold beer, wine and Filet Mignon.  

Eggs Benedict


Breakfast at the Tower Suites is served in this intimate dining room with a view of the pool. Good coffee fills your cup without having to ask, and the breakfast/brunch fare is generous but not overwhelming.  I have decided to cast aside fears of a heart attack and just indulged on theirEggs Benedict until I got sick of it.  (Note:True enough, I haven’t had Eggs Benedict since then.)  

Thai Green Curry


This restaurant is the first that greets you when you arrive at Encore from the covered corridor which connects it to The Wynn.  It is actually my favorite Asian restaurant in the hotel for its diversity as well as value for money.  If the food does not impress you, I’m pretty sure the 20-foot crystal dragon hung across the back wall will. 

When the craving for Asian flavors strike, they have a bevy of braised noodles or soups to choose from. Their Thai Green Curry also hit the spot, and it was oh so comforting with a steaming bowl of rice.

Wynn LasVegas and Encore Hotel
3131 LasVegas Blvd.
South LasVegas, NV
Tel. no.(702) 770 7000

Friday, September 14, 2012

Quick Bites: Halal Chicken Over Rice

As a foodie walking around the streets of New York, I noticed a big change since the first few times I visited the city.  Sidewalks that were once dominated by the ubiquitous hotdog stand now shares it with what used to be considered exotic fare- Halal food. 
Halal foods are described as “foods allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines”.  What initially comes to my mind is a highly restricted diet wherein flavors are compromised in the name of religion and health.  However, I soon discover that following certain guidelines does not in any way result in bland and boring food- something New Yorkers have obviously discovered these past few years.
I have heard about Chicken Over Rice from my young relatives who, on numerous occasions, have stumbled out of a New York City bar or club and were lured by the scent of chicken or lamb cooked over a hot griddle.  

We were told that the best halal cart can be found at 53rd St. and 6th Ave., but unfortunately we never found ourselves in that area.  However, we did find a cart in front of Mt. Sinai Hospital and, like most that were within a 20-foot radius of the spot, we were lassoed in by the aromas of exotic spices and meat.
The choices are very simple: chicken, lamb or falafel accompanied by either rice or flat bread (or both).  I initially tried the popular Chicken Over Rice, but later on I have discovered that a combo of lamb and chicken is a tastier option.  The allure seems to lie on the pungent mixture of spices- from the flavorful rice, to the marinated meats, to the spicy kick of the red sauce and garlic yogurt.  It is a full-on attack on the senses, and at $6 a plate, an amazing deal in a notoriously expensive town.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Food Trip USA: New York/ New Jersey

Guilty- I have been absent from blogging for quite some time now.  No excuses.  But, looky here!  A new entry!

I have just returned from a long vacation in the US and, needless to say, Matt and I took full advantage of what the Bastion of Capitalism has to offer.  From organic (and not-so-organic) supermarkets to street food to comfort food, we swept through the country with guts (and pant flaps) wide open. 

Most of our trip was spent in the East Coast, where some of my family is based.   New York and New Jersey is probably the most culturally diverse states in the US and, naturally, so is the food.

Here are a few of our favorite stops.

Whole Foods Market

A trip to the US is not complete without several visits to this organic super store.  The uninitiated usually get visuals of hippies in hemp tunics selling quinoa cupcakes, but that's not what this place is about. 

The produce section is an explosion of color- native and imported fruits, the best green vegetables and herbs from local farmers, all naturally-grown and only the highest grade there is.  The seafood, meat and poultry section boast of the same top-quality stuff.  I heard somebody say recently that there is no such thing as organic beef.  Well, there is- I saw it with my own two eyes:  Organic, grain-fed, dry-aged, prime-grade porterhouse.  I wish I took a picture. 


Matt and I have two favorite sections: the smoked fish and cheese sections.  Vacuum-sealed to maintain optimal freshness, they carry smoked and cured salmon from anywhere in between Alaska and Norway.  They also carry some signature brands, such as Charlie Trotter’s cured salmon.  I was particularly fond of the citrus-y variety.

The cheese section just blew our minds.  I’m pretty sure it’s not the widest of selections, but it was definitely more than what I am used too.  It pretty much covers all the major cheese-producing countries, as well as a number of local artisanal products from upstate.  For this alone Matt and I were willing to make the ten-minute drive to the supermarket every day.

We frequented the branch along River Road, Edgewater, NJ, but there are hundreds all over the US.

Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese (S’mac)

Speaking of cheese- a whole restaurant dedicated to mac and cheese is, in my humble opinion, beyond brilliant.  It could only be a product of divine intervention.  The East Village eatery s'mac offers a sizeable variety of cheese combinations and add-ons that would please every palate.  So far I have only tried two kinds, and of the two, there was one that I fell head-over-heels for- The Alpine.  Perfectly-cooked macaroni coated in luxe Swiss Gruyere cheese, mixed with salty cubes of slab bacon- how could I not? 

And if this was not self-indulgent enough, you can order their mac n cheese “to go” and ready to be reheated any time you are in need of a good coddling. 

345 East 12thSt. between 1st & 2nd Aves., NY, NY
Tel. no.(212) 358 7912

Zum Schneider

Another East Village haunt that we loved was this small yet popular German biergarten.  We arrived early and scored a good table, but show up after six and for sure you will have to stand by the bar.  The beer selection is obviously German, with quite a few on tap. The food is, expectedly, all things meaty and cheesy- we enjoyed theboiled veal bratwurst with pretzel, as well as the baked camembert.  It’s a great place to escape the cold, have a beer, and catch up with friends. 

This is a favorite spot for football fans during the Euroand World Cups, so if you find yourself in the area, do check it out.  It should be fun, if you don’t mind being shoulder-to shoulder with rowdy European types. 

107 Ave. Cat East 7th St. NY, NY
Tel. no.(212) 5981098


If I ever become a gazillionaire and could choose any chef in the world to cook for me at home, every single day, it would be Marc Murphy.  His cooking style and food philosophy is akin to mine- French and Italian dishes cooked bistro-style are so up my alley.  Don’t let the trendy surroundings of both his Tribeca and AOL Time-Warner restos fool you- his food is good.

I was able to enjoy his lunch menu a couple of times- once alone, and the second time with companions. It was quite an experience for me to sit at their bar and order myself a meal- I felt so grown-up and chic. 

A deceivingly light yet cholesterol-laden starter is theFrisee aux Lardons- delicate greens tossed in red wine vinaigrette, generously-topped with thick cubes of bacon and poached egg. With that I had a small portion of their Pasta of the day- Linguine con vongole.   

Meat lovers should try their steaks, simply-seasoned and lovingly grilled right behind the bar.  This includes a side salad and fresh-cut fries- and at $30 for the hanger steak-probably one of the best deals in Manhattan. 

The icing on top of the proverbial cake must be the winelist- over 300 bottles to choose from in their thick, leather-bound inventory.  There are no wines by the glass, only half bottles: you can definitely find one you'll like from the 100 varieties they have on stock. 
3/F TimeWarner Center
10 ColumbusCircle, NY, NY
Tel. no.(212) 823 6123

Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen


This bakery/restaurant is every bit modern-American-cool- from the distressed wooden furniture to the low lighting to the young urbanite staff.  When I went to the bathroom, I discovered the basement bakery where they churn out their delicious breads, as well as a small cellar/dining area.

Aside from the breads, people come here for one other thing-Fried Chicken.  Mildly-spiced and deep-fried until crisp, with a side of mashed potatoes and collared greens- it is southern cooking at its finest. 

Not in the mood for fried chicken?  I spied an interesting cheese list (to go with their bread, of course) as well as a New York strip with shallot butter and fries.  For drinks, go down the street and check out the neighborhood watering holes- $16 for a shot of DonJulio is a buzz kill.    

35 DowningSt. NY, NY
Tel. no.(212) 337 0404

Friday, June 1, 2012

Your Neighborhood Italian Deli

Judging by the success of both Italian fine dining restaurants and fast food chains alike, millions of Filipinos have readily opened their arms to Italian cuisine over the years. Pasty, sweet spaghetti has been replaced with al dente pasta in all its incarnations, flavored with traditional sauces made in different styles.  Risotto has become a common side dish even in some non-Italian menus, and it is not surprising to see thinly-sliced prosciutto being served with cocktails at dinner parties.

So when the craving for Italian food strikes, it’s good to have a cozy nook in the city where you can tuck in for your pizza or pasta fix.  Esprimere is just that kind of place- a small neighborhood joint that serves Italian comfort food that is familiar to its Filipino clientele, without compromising authenticity and quality.  Their menu is limited to the classics- such as pizza and pasta- with some specials for both lunch and dinner.  A glass case at the counter displays a modest selection of deli meats and cheeses- all reasonably-priced and perfect with any of their Italian wines on display. 

They have improved on the interiors since their soft opening (a cousin is a friend of the owner)- the warm lighting complimenting the tasteful light wood of the walls and furniture, evoking the feel of a modern and casual European eatery.   They also have beautifully framed photos of Italian scenes, filling the wall next to their signature mural of the Tower of Pisa.  The mood is welcoming and unpretentious, and it encourages you to hang out and enjoy a long meal if you please- which is the Italian way.

The vibe seems to have worked its magic on me as I ordered 100 grams of their Salami Calabrese from the deli, with a glass of Italian red wine.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the lasagna on my first visit, so when I took Matt with me the next time around we just had to have it.  Esprimere’s lasagna works because it is simple, classic and done right.  The béchamel is smooth and rich, the meat sauce mildly-flavored with oregano and other traditional herbs.  And, most importantly, they topped it with good cheese which made a world of difference.  If I had one issue, it was that the portion left me wanting.  Perhaps they could offer their lasagna in two sizes- their regular one and a larger one for appetites like mine and Matt’s.  Really, I wouldn’t mind paying extra.

Their pizzas are also done in the simple and classic style- no outlandish toppings here.  We opted for the four-cheese version, and it was a delight with its balanced flavors and thin, crisp crust.  Since I still had several slices of salami all to myself, I topped a couple of pizza slices with the slightly-piquant meat. 

Esprimere is the perfect pit stop for those days when you want some good Italian comfort food.  The food is reasonably-priced, and so is the wine- great for those days when I’m channeling Sophia Loren but want to stay in my flip-flops.

Esprimere Italian Deli
G/F Pearl Plaza
Pearl Drive, Ortigas Center
Pasig City
Tel. no. (632) 544 5963

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kebabs You'll Love

I like to think that I am the foodie in my marriage, although Matt has introduced me to a few culinary gems.  One of them is kebabs. Persian or Turkish, these delectable grilled meats- seasoned with exotic spices and classically-accessorized with tomatoes and onions- have become one of our regular cravings.  Quezon City and Pasay have Mister Kabab, while Malate has Shawarma Snack Center.  But, unfortunately, Makati is short of a good, reasonably-priced, neighborhood kebab joint.
That was until we discovered Combos Bread Company: Bakery & Café.  I caught a glimpse of their Iskender Kebab on Instagram which was posted by a friend and fellow Makati resident.  I showed Matt the photo and I knew that it would not be a hard sell.  Soon enough we were at the cozy restaurant, checking out their concise food menu.

The eatery is a house which was converted into a restaurant, bedecked in pricey-looking rattan chairs and clumsy knickknacks.  The owner- a tall, lanky Turkish man with an easy, sincere smile- is sometimes found chilling out front if he’s not in the kitchen preparing dishes.  Apparently, he is an experience baker, hence the name of his establishment.  Knowing this, it was a sin for us to not have ordered his baguettes.
These baguettes were sliced and doused with a flavorsome tomato sauce under the Iskender Kebab- thinly sliced lamb with a huge dollop of homemade yogurt.  An ideal dish for sharing, this was served to us relatively mild so we asked for their hot sauce.  Problem solved.

Matt and I shared the Beef Kebab which was served in their signature baguette- and it was pure goodness.  The seasoned (and oh so juicy) ground beef are grilled on skewers, then served in a crispy baguette with tomatoes, onions and a slathering of garlic yogurt.  This is, by far, “the best kebab in Manila” according to Matt.  Not like his beloved doener from Germany (thanks to their Turkish immigrants, of course), but he is smitten with Combos kebabs, nonetheless.

I tried their Beef Shawarma, which was also served in their delicious bread.  The garlic yogurt is not as strong as the ones I am used to, but what I noticed is that with every bite comes a fresh layer of flavor, which I think showed technique and finesse.  You don’t get that in kebab joints too often.
There are still so many interesting dishes to try, like a Chicken Kebab Pasta (!) and their Baklava, which was out of stock.  Just a tiny warning: service is quite slow when they are packed, so if you don’t have the patience, come at an odd time.  But I assure you, like all good things, it will be worth the wait.

Combos Bread Company: Bakery & Café
Kalayaan Ave. corner Matilde St. (beside Grilla)
Brgy. Poblacion, Makati City
Tel. no. (632) 553 5571

Friday, May 11, 2012

Quick Bites: Chinky's Batchoy

My notes on my Bacolod food trip have been long delayed. But now that my cravings for delicious Negrense dishes keep pawing at me like a restless puppy, I suddenly have the sense of urgency to write about it. It’s like therapy I suppose. Whether it will help me get over these yearnings or actually worsen them, we’ll find out soon enough.

 The object of my desire as of late is Batchoy (originally from La Paz, Ilo-ilo)- that steaming bowl of noodles in chicken broth, topped with pork organs, cracklings, scallions and- for the “special” version- a raw egg. The aroma and dense richness of the broth is a full-on attack on the senses, making this one of my favorite soup dishes of all time. Therefore, when I went on my first trip to Bacolod a month ago with Matt and our host Marky V., I knew I just had to try their batchoy, thinking that its proximity to La Paz definitely gives their versions an edge over the Manila variety.

 Yes, I did try 21’s batchoy. Unfortunately, no, I did not particularly like it. It could have been an off day for them, wherein their kitchen churned out a product that was both lacking in taste and presentation. But, instead of wallowing in disappointment, I just shrugged my shoulders and trudged on to the next exciting meal.

 Fast forward to the day of our departure, wherein we found ourselves in a fast food joint called Chinky’s. My husband- the little pervert that he sometimes is- thought it would be a clever play on words to say that he has “eaten at Chinky’s”. Since we had time to spare before lunch, Marky and I decided to indulge his juvenile request and stopped at the fast food joint at the ground floor of a low-rise building. The menu board offered little variety, so we zeroed in on my favorite bowl of noodles.

 When our food came, we were pleasantly surprised by the presentation- firm noodles soaked in glistening hot soup, topped with big chunks of chicharon and a fresh-looking egg with a beautiful, bright-orange yolk. The flavors were spot-on, just how I imagine good batchoy would be. We polish off our bowls in no time, happy, yet stunned by our discovery.

 Don’t be fooled by the fast food set-up and odd menu- Chinky’s has really good batchoy.

Po Hang Bldg. 
Gonzaga cor. Gatuslao Sts. 
Bacolod City 
Tel. no. (034) 7080620

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Good Deal on a Great Piece of Meat

Ask anyone who knows me, and “bargain hunter” will most definitely NOT fall under a long list of glowing descriptions. Not because I have money coming out of my nose- no, not at all. Thing is, I do have the general qualities that make a bad shopper- I am famously impatient, as well as dreadfully impulsive. When I walk into a mall, I quickly pick up the things I need- along with a few pieces I don’t- and proceed to reward myself with some food. I barely have the fortitude to whittle down my choices from 10, to 5, and then to 1 (something Matt does, to my irritation)- much more find sales and promotions in Manila’s hundreds of mushrooming malls.

But, once in a while, a good deal falls squarely on my lap without my looking. As I do my daily Facebook routine, I discover I’m Angus’ Prime Rib Dinner on Säntis Delicatessen’s page. Check this out: a thick slice of Prime Rib (prepared to your liking) with salad, baked potato and a glass of Argentine red wine. For Php980.00 net. Immediate reaction: Holy sh_t! My thought after a few minutes of cynical pondering: Too good to be true.

So, the only way to find out for sure is to try it out. Matt and I arrive at the polished but cozy restaurant- with its modern take on the classic western steakhouse (inclusive of female servers in cowgirl garb)- and were immediately seated on our reserved table for two. Tables were quickly filled up as dinner service progressed, and we discover through Gail (Chesa Bianca’s manager, who was also overseeing I’m Angus’ operations which is currently without an OIC) this promo has been on-going since the resto opened three years ago. It was so successful that they decided to keep doing it twice a week- every Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The salads came almost immediately- along with our glasses of Misterio Cabernet Sauvignon- to get our dinner started. There was a choice between Caesar salad and mixed greens with orange vinaigrette- I opted for the latter. It was simple and refreshing- not overtly tart or sweet.

After a quick rest, we were served our orders of prime rib. The first thing we noticed was the size- they obviously did not scrimp on the beef. Worried about getting a miniscule serving in accordance with the price, I asked the receptionist when I called to reserve how big the servings of beef were. “250 grams”, she replied without hesitation. But, what we were served that night was definitely more than that, Matt observed. He wanted to confirm it with the waitress, and I immediately stop him with my most piercing glare. “Why would you want to do that?” I hissed. Their portions are perfectly fine, thank you very much.

Their baked potatoes were a treat, and I had them pile on the sour cream, bacon and chives on mine. We requested for all our favorite condiments along with their peppercorn sauce which, in my opinion, is the best one out there. Most peppercorn sauces I have tried are basically brown sauce with some whole peppercorn in it. I’m Angus’ version is heavily infused with that spiced, earthy flavor of good black pepper, and it was the first time that I truly enjoyed pouring sauce on my steak since I was a gravy-crazy child. Another note-worthy condiment is their freshly-grated horseradish. They could have easily served a bottled-variety from Säntis, but opting for the fresh, crisp version was a nice touch.

I would highly recommend this promo to the hardiest of carnivores out there. The quality of the meat is exceptional, although if I must nitpick, the problem I have always had with this steakhouse is their consistency in terms of doneness. My supposedly medium-rare steak was more medium, even medium well on some parts. Good thing the meat was still juicy and tender that I could not complain. Next time, I suppose a better option would be to have a rare piece of meat seared quickly over the grill to the desired doneness. But, other than that, I would surely make several more visits, as long as supplies (and my health) will allow.

I’m Angus Steakhouse
Yakal St. San Antonio Village
Makati City
Tel. no. (632) 892 6206

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dimsum- All Day, Everyday

My cravings are usually broadcasted all over the internet. I don’t really know why I do that. Seeking moral support from enablers? Or is it an attempt at taking the world down with me on my undertaking to make my giant ass even bigger? I don’t know. But I do know how I feel all warm and fuzzy inside when like-minded individuals reach out through cyber-space with the ubiquitous “yum!” or with a useful dining suggestion.

Recently, I got the latter from Mao- a friend from my Goethe Institut days, when I was desperately trying to learn German (and failed)- who suggested I check out Suzhou after I posted a photo of xiao long bao (a delicious parcel in the form of a Chinese dumpling, its thin wrapper filled with flavorful broth) on Facebook. I do remember eating at the branch in Mandaluyong, but with my working arrangements now, the original Malate branch was a more appealing option. Besides, 92% of the time, the original branch of a restaurant served far more superior food than the newer ones. (Note: That is just a figure I came up with on my own. I like giving out fake percentages because it makes me feel smart and important.)

One weekday lunch, Matt, Mark V. and I went to check out Suzhou. Hungry (as our threesome usually is), we ordered a plethora of dimsum, soup, a beef dish and rice. Most of the dumplings were just so-so, but there were some standout dishes we will be happy to come back for.

Like the Spicy Sour Soup (or hot and sour, as it is commonly known). There was a good, clean balance of tangy, savory and spice, plus good texture with the mushrooms and tofu.

The server recommended the Steamed Beef with Chili Garlic, and honestly I did not know what to expect. Good thing we ordered it, though, because it was tender and expertly-seasoned. The marbling of tendon is gelatinous and adds richness to what could have easily been a very dry dish if it wasn’t done right.

I have had better Xiao Long Bao (locally, it’s still Lugang Cafe’s version for me), but Suzhou’s was quite good. The wrapper was thicker than what I would have preferred, and the broth a tad sweet, but it was warm and flavorful and satisfying.

I saw a photo of the Mustard Vegetable Fried Rice on a blog (sorry, I forget which one) and I knew I just had to try it. Again, really good idea- the rice was packed with flavor from the aromatic vegatables, and the small pieces of pork did not hurt, either. I loved it- one of the better fried rice dishes I have had in that price range.

Mao told me that maybe I should Google the place first before I go, but it really was not so bad. It seems to be a mom-and-pop operation, with the cook (and probably owner) casually lounging around and sipping tea when we walked in, and then quickly tucked into the kitchen to prepare our orders, then sinking into his chair once again to continue animatedly chatting with his mother (I assume). Far from the sparkly Chinese restos most go to for family celebrations, but a good place for a quick meal at a very reasonable price. We over-ordered and ended up paying P1300 for the three of us- not bad at all.

Suzhou Dimsum
A.Mabini St.
Malate, Manila
Tel. no. (632) 302 4347