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 d├ęcor 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