Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ride N' Roll Diner

We recently tried Ride N' Roll Diner over at Xavierville Avenue in Quezon City. Having opened around late November, it presents itself as a diner/music lounge/art gallery, with cheap beer. We went on a day without any band or exhibit, so the ambience was more like a casual eatery than an artsy place. Service was friendly and efficient, although at the time there were more waiters than customers. But they were very professional, which is a plus. The menu ranges from staples such as sandwiches and fries to more surprising fare (given the setting) such as baked oysters. Here's what we got:

Calamares (P165)-- The usual battered and fried squid rings, served with a mayo-based sauce. Not bad, but not spectacular either. The squid was cooked inconsistently, some were soft but others were quite rubbery. The batter remained crunchy enough, albeit a bit oily.

Pork Sisig (P145)-- Worst. Sisig. Ever. It was more onion salad than pork sisig-- it had more onion in terms of volume and probably in weight, too. And if you think the onion extenders would result in a larger serving size then you're wrong-- despite being spread so thinly the dish could barely cover half the sizzling plate's surface area. As for the pork bits, they were all greasy and fatty without any of the flavour that would make them edible. I've had much better sisig straight from the freezer. Sisig is usually a very forgiving dish; it's very difficult to mess it up to the point of being inedible. This dish managed to achieve that feat with flying colours. Congratulations.

Garlic rice (P25/cup)-- This was actually pretty good. The rice was well-infused with the flavour of garlic, and the crunchy garlic bits were a good garnish.

Maybe it does showcase good art and music from time to time. It does look like a good place to hang out and have a few beers or coffee. The service is good; beer is relatively cheap (P38/bottle). But from what we've had, steer clear of the food. My Dear has sworn off the place forever; I'm willing to give it a second chance.

Here are the scores:

Quality = 2.0
Size = 3.5
Taste = 3.0
Ambience = 6.0
Service = 6.0
Value = P63.33
Price = P125.00
Sulit Rating = 0.51 < 1

Being in the neighbourhood, I would like to have more good places to eat in the vicinity so I wouldn't have to drive to Katipunan or Kalayaan for a good meal. So far this place has been very disappointing; I hope my second visit, which will have very low expectations, will be a better experience.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

the Bourdain in the Philippines

Yes, that's right, the Bourdain is (or was) in the Philippines.  According to the Bourdain's blog, he arrived around two weeks ago (his latest post as of this writing).  Marketman, whose food blog is practically an institution, played host to the Bourdain in Cebu-- read what happened here.  Seeing that he has at least four posts about "the event", Marketman is understandably starstruck.  Heck, I'm vicariously starstruck.

Oh well, I'll just have to wait for when they show it on cable.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Terry Selection (2)

I first blogged about Terry Selection it more than a year ago when I first tried the restaurant (read it here), but after several visits I think it's worth another review.  

After several weeks of craving for Spanish food, particularly for some paella and any rustic potaje, my Dear and I had dinner at Terry Selection (see their partial menu here).  Being tucked deep in the basement of Podium actually works for Terry as it feels more like a private and quiet nook instead of your usual noisy and frenetic mall restaurant.  The interior has a more modern feel, which is unusual for Spanish restaurants which tend to go for traditional (or even medieval) decor.  Service is efficient and professional with a bit of stoic.  However, this branch does not have its own restroom and the nearest one is a bit of a walk away.

Here's what we ordered during our last visit:

Lentejas Castellanas (P250)-- a pottage (i.e., potaje) of lentils, chorizos, jamon Serrano, and hardboiled egg served with garlic rice in an oven-hot cazuela.  It's a very classic and rustic Spanish dish, something you'd expect to be served in a farmhouse restaurant.  The lentils take on the strong taste of the sausages, which goes well with the bland rice.  I actually did not expect it to come with rice as it wasn't indicated in its picture on the menu, but it was ok.

Super Paella Parellada (P540, for two)-- the classic Spanish saffron rice dish garnished with pork, seafood, chorizos, pimenton, mushrooms, and peas.  Technically, though, this isn't paella because it isn't cooked in a paellera; rather, this version is cooked in a sizeable cazuela.  But despite that technicality, this version of paella is quite sumptuous and is indeed good enough for two fairly sized appetites.  The rice was amply infused with the flavours of the saffron and chorizo, neither bland nor overpoweringly salty.  Overall a good paella and more than adequate to hit my craving.  However, I have to say that my all-time favourite paella is still Mingoy's Paella Española, which I've loved since grade school so there might be a little nostalgia in this statement.  

In our last visit we managed to keep the bill below P1,000, so it is possible to have a satisfying meal below P500 per person.  However, for a complete meal with soup and drinks I'll have to put the price at P650 per person at the minimum.  Here are the scores:

Quality = 9.0
Size = 6.0
Taste = 8.5
Ambience = 7.5
Service = 7.5
Value = P873.55
Price = P650.00
Sulit Rating = 1.34 > 1

As a final note, I repeat what I wrote about Terry Selection more than one year ago:
Bottomline, Terry Selection offers great food, but it ain't cheap. Surely, there are lots of very good and less expensive places out there, but if you love Spanish food and Spanish cured meats this place is worth a visit.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

3 Greenhills Restaurants, 1 Post

It's been a while since I last did a restaurant review.  The last one I did was in August; for a resto in the Philippines it was in May.  As a sign of changing lifestyles I find myself cooking more and eating out less, trying to go from the theoretical to the applied.  But my Dear and I still do eat out at least once a week, usually near her office.  Here are brief reviews of three restaurants we've visited recently (in alphabetical order).  As usual, an explanation of the scores can be seen here.

Annabel Lee
Promenade II, Greenhills Shopping Center
San Juan City, Metro Manila

Half Italian restaurant half foodcourt concessionaire mutant.  Pretty decent actually, and was one of Tatler's top restaurants for 2007.  Service is good and professional.  I had the Roast Beef Sandwich (P190) and my Dear had the Puttanesca Pasta (P160)-- the entrees had good flavour and they were of fine quality, but the serving sizes were, like the waitresses' skirts, on the small size.  I also bought a soft baguette (P75) to take home-- not bad but not spectacular either, which can also be said for the restaurant.  I don't think any winged seraphs of heaven will covet this Annabel Lee.

Quality = 6.5
Size = 4.0
Taste = 7.0
Ambience = 4.0
Service = 6.0
Value = P267.21
Price = P250.00
Sulit Rating = 1.07 > 1

Choi Garden
Annapolis Street, Greenhills
San Juan City, Metro Manila

This Chinese restaurant is so popular Barack Obama will want to be seen with it.  It is so packed with customers you have to call in a reservation if you don't want to wait 45 minutes to get a table.  They have a fairly sized parking area, but there are just too much cars that have to be parked.  The place itself is big and the service is decent, but the sheer number of people can dampen the overall dining experience.  But it's all about the food.  Our regular (i.e., cheaper side of the menu) orders include siomai topped with sharksfin or siolong pao (dumplings filled with meat and soup) for appetisers, sauteed greens with garlic, and a main course of steamed fish with garlic or spicy spare ribs.  The fare can get easily grander than this, with various kinds of fresh seafood (groupers, lobsters, crabs, etc.) and a selection of Chinese charcuterie collectively called roasting.  Our favourite dessert is mango pudding, which is basically mango tapioca submerged in evaporated milk.  Good food at a reasonable price-- the definition of sulit.

Quality = 7.0
Size = 7.0
Taste = 7.5
Ambience = 6.0
Service = 6.0
Value = P559.38
Price = P250.00
Sulit Rating = 2.24 > 1

Good Burger
Connecticut Carpark, Greenhills Shopping Center
San Juan City, Metro Manila

A vegetarian burger place, for those who like hamburgers but don't like the meat.  Vegemeat doesn't usually inspire confidence in me but this was worth a try, if only to see how not bad vegemeat can be.  The pleace itself is pretty clean but small and not so comfortable; better have your burgers delivered.  The burgers, which are flame-grilled, come in three sizes: good (1 regular patty), better (1 bigger patty), and best (2 regular patties).  My Dear got the Margherita Burger (good, P90) and I got the Persian Burger (best, P95).  The Margherita has tomatoes and basil while the Persian has aioli and bell peppers (they were supposed to be roasted but I guess they didn't bother anymore).  We also had a side of Regular Wedge Fries (P30)-- I think we got eight pieces.  Overall, not so bad considering the price and that it's vegemeat.  It's a pretty decent alternative if you really don't like meat.

Quality = 5.0
Size = 5.0
Taste = 5.5
Ambience = 2.5
Service = 3.5
Value = P113.12
Price = P100.00
Sulit Rating = 1.13 > 1

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

La Cuisine Française in a can


More than elaborate sauces, expensive wines, and Michelin stars, the heart of French cuisine is really the common man's fare: the staple baguette, the hearty cassoulet, the cheap and easy ratatouille.  And of course there's choucroute, which I just tried from a can.

Choucroute is basically sauerkraut from France's Alsace region, which borders Germany.  The name itself is a francicised version of the German dish, from German Sauerkraut to Alsacian Sürkrüt to French choucroute.  Choucroute garnie is choucroute garnished with sausages and ham, and choucroute royale is choucroute made with premium charcuterie and wine.

I first heard of choucroute from Anthony Bourdain, so when I saw a can of it at Rustan's Fresh I just had to buy it.  The big can of choucroute, good for at least two servings, costs around P250.  Made by Belle France CIBON, it is marketed as authentic Alsacian choucroute royale made with Riesling wine.  The charcuterie is composed of two pieces each of smoked pork belly chunks and three kinds of sausages (Montbeliard, Frankfurter, and something that tastes like a mild chorizo).

I did not have particularly high hopes for choucroute coming from a can, so I was pleasantly
 surprised that this one actually tasted good.  The choucroute itself was mildly sour and matched well with the meats; however, it had a greasy aftertaste, surely because of the lard.  I ate it with slices of soft baguette from Annabel Lee (P75 for a big loaf).

At around P125 a serving it is quite expensive for a meal from a can, but it's quite reasonable for the closest thing to authentic French cuisine you can buy from a supermarket.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

guisado de chorizos, patatas y berenjenas

A stew of chorizos, potatoes, and eggplants.  I think it sounds better in Spanish.

Ingredients:

2 large links smoked Spanish chorizos (about 250 g)
150 g potatoes
4 medium eggplants
1 garlic, crushed
1 lemon
olive oil
dried chili peppers, crushed
coarsely ground black pepper
paprika

1.  Slice the chorizos about 1 cm thick, cube the potatoes, and cut the eggplants into thick strips.  I recommend using fresh chorizos instead of dried chorizos.  Sprinkle some black pepper and paprika on the potatoes and eggplants.  Heat up some olive oil in a wok.

2.  When the oil is hot enough, fry the chili peppers and black pepper until you start to smell them.  Throw in the garlic and saute until they start to soften.

3.  Cook the chorizos until they're light brown and the oil turns red.  

4.  Throw in the potatoes and stir-fry until they've started to brown but are not yet cooked.  Pour in a cup of water and bring to a simmer.  Add more pepper or paprika as desired.

5.  When around a third or half of the water has evaporated throw in the eggplants and continue cooking until most of the water has reduced and the potatoes and eggplants are cooked, leaving you with a thick oil-based sauce.

6.  Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and continue cooking for about three minutes.  Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro.

Serve with steamed rice.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

i can has paneer


Paneer is one of the oldest of cheeses and has been made since milk started turning sour. Born in Persia (پنير) and raised in South Asia (पनीर) and Turkey (peynir), paneer is often made daily in households and is a common ingredient in the cuisines of Iran, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.  Credit to BBC and fxcuisine as my source sites.

Ingredients:

1 litre full cream milk
1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice (15-30 mL)

1. Gently warm the milk. When it starts boiling add the lemon juice and stir well with a wooden spoon. Don't use a metal spoon because this will react with the lemon juice and influence the taste. The milk will start to curdle.

2. Continue stirring and after five to seven minutes the curds* will have totally separated from the whey*. Those curds will be your cheese.

3. Line a large bowl with muslin, cheesecloth, or any clean cotton cloth (I used an old white shirt) and pour the curds and whey.  The whey will filter out and leave the curds in the cloth.  Allow it to drain for around 30 minutes.

4.  When it's cold enough to handle, squeeze out more of the whey by wringing it through the cloth.  The more whey you squeeze out the dryer and harder your paneer will be.

5.  Place your yet unformed paneer between two plates, press it with a weight, and leave for a few hours.  This will squeeze out yet more whey and form the paneer, filling in the air holes.  As is obvious in the picture, I skipped this step thus my very crumbly paneer.

My one litre of milk produced a fist-sized amount of paneer (I guess around 150g to 200g) and about 900mL of whey.  As it wasn't fermented, the paneer was expectedly bland but it still had that hint of milky/cheesy flavour which will only get stronger with age.  The whey was essentially cheese-flavoured water which I still keep in my ref pending some idea on how to use it.  I ate around half of the paneer on its own and the other half I used in an omelette with Vienna sausages.  
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* Milk is basically an emulsion of butterfat and water held together by proteins (primarily casein, alpha-lactalbumin, and beta-lactoglobulin).  When milk is acted upon by heat and acid (in this case the lemon juice), some proteins curdle with the butterfat to form the curds (which, when formed, become cheese) while some proteins stay dissolved in the water to form the whey (the yellowish liquid in the picture).  This process is called acid coagulation, as opposed to the more frequently used method of coagulating milk using rennet (enzymes extracted from mammalian stomachs).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My P1,000 Morning Food Trip

It started benignly enough. I woke up earlier than usual to bring my Dear to her office in Greenhills, a mere 25 minutes away including mild traffic. On my way home I decided to look for Pasteleria Mallorca which I knew was somewhere along Sct. Fuentebella in Quezon City-- also 25 minutes from my house but in the opposite direction.

Pasteleria Mallorca's products are actually available in supermarkets-- I've tried (and like) their lenguas de gato, palillos de Madrid, and galletas San Nicolas-- but I've always wanted to visit their shop not only to buy their pastries but also to try their old-school ensaimadas, which are supposed to be the best in town.

So there I was, driving down the length of Sct. Fuentebella looking for a pastry shop, thinking it should stand out in what's mainly a residential street. No luck. After seeing the same houses four times I decided to call it quits and go home. So as not to let my detour be a total waste, I thought I might as well pass by Estrel's on the corner of Sct. Tobias and Sct. Limbaga.

Estrel's, established in 1946, is actually famous for its caramel cake which is I should say really superb-- it's one of those cakes in which everything is actually good: cake, filling, icing, flowers, etc. But since I wasn't in the mood for cake I decided to buy a box of food for the gods, at P360 for 20 pieces. They're very delicious and you can tell they only use premium ingredients, but I find it quite pricey since I'm already happy with those generic versions you can buy in any supermarket. But if you want food for the gods that is worthy of, well, God, then do buy a box from Estrel's. As for me, next time I'll stick to the caramel cake.

Heading back home, I impulsively parked at Santi's Delicatessen along Timog Avenue, unable resist rummaging though a well-stocked grocery. They did have a good selection of cheeses, canned goods, meats, sausages, etc., but I could find 90% of them (or equivalent substitutes) in other supermarkets at a marginally cheaper price. I was also looking for some Russian sturgeon caviar which I can't find anywhere in this country, and neither did I find it there. I ended up buying two links of pork cervelat, two links of veal bratwurst, and three links of Italian garlic pork sausage for a total of P295.40. This amount is actually enough for at least six meals so at around P50 per meal it's a pretty good deal.

While on the Santi's checkout line I met Mrs. Tess Morato-Lazatin, a daughter of Tomas Morato (yes, the street's namesake). She mentioned that, as a hobby, she makes morcillas and chorizos and cooks made-to-order paella (10 people minimum), using recipes from her home in Spain. Obviously she didn't have any products on hand so I got her contact info and I'll surely order some chorizos when my current stock runs out, maybe even some paella if I feel like splurging. I mentioned I was in the area looking for Pasteleria Mallorca, and lo and behold, she knew where it is-- 18 Sct. Fuentebella.

So back I drove to Sct. Fuentebella, looking for No. 18 which I'm sure I've seen before. And yes, I've seen it before-- that green-gated house that looks like the other houses beside it with nary a clue that it makes Spanish pastries on site. Well they do have a sign on the gate, if a plastic-covered piece of paper with words you'll only be able to read if you step off your car and walk up to it counts as a sign.

And there I was, at the first cause of my detour, the home-based factory of the Pasteleria Mallorca line of pastries as well as the Mega Mexicana line of tacos and dips (never knew they were made by the same company). First order of business was the ensaimada-- they had none. They make them only during the afternoon, freshly baked at around 2:30pm. Sigh. I guess I'll have to order some in advance then. But since I also went there for the pastries, particularly the lenguas de gato, it wasn't a total let-down. Besides, they also had some frozen sans rival and tarta Madrid, but they were too much for me at the time. I ended up buying a jar of lenguas de gato (P210), a jar of palillos de Madrid (P135), and a pack of argellanas (P60).

So that's P1,060.40 worth of various food stuffs bought on a whim. And it wasn't even lunchtime.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ay, Pottage!

Remember that ginisang munggo dish our moms made, usually during Lenten Fridays? That green, beany, savoury, soupy dish that's the perfect side for plain rice and fried anything? What do you call it in English? Soup? Stew? Porridge? dr.sbdink and I were discussing this recently and, well, we were stumped.

After some research, I can confidently say the answer is pottage, which is basically a vegetable soup or stew and is the root of the word porridge. The granddaddy of this word is the Latin porrum which means leek-- a common ingredient in soups and stews. From there it became the Old French potage meaning soup and then the current English pottage. Pottage and porridge were originally interchangeable terms, both basically meaning boiled vegetables or cereals. In the 17th century, however, the terms started to have the distinct meanings we have today, with pottage keeping its original association with vegetable soups and porridge referring to cereals (primarily oatmeal but also encompassing rice, corn, barley, etc.) boiled in water or milk.

Pottage is actually mentioned in the Bible, in Genesis XXV 27-34 where Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil pottage and some bread. The Hebrew says וּנְזִיד עֲדָשִׁים (naziyd 'adash), which literally means boiled lentils, and is translated as pottage of lentils in the King James Version. Esau eventually regrets the trade with Jacob and this becomes the nucleus of their (and their descendants') endless conflict. Jacob, after wrestling with a mysterious man, later thought to be God himself, eventually became known as Israel (literally he who wrestled with God). Thus, Jacob's lentil pottage set the stage for the Arab-Israeli troubles we see today. But I digress.

Therefore, since our munggo dish is thickened by legumes rather than cereals, the precise English term would be mung bean pottage. Hopefully our mung bean pottage won't start any wars.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Delicious Russian Dish

The recipe is for Russian-style plov (плов) made with chicken, onions, and carrots. Plov, also known as pilaf, is a rice dish of Persian origin which reached Russia and Eastern Europe through Central Asia.

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken breast
1.5 cups rice
1 tbs tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock...

Better yet, just watch the dish's recipe:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Deep Fried Everything and Azeri Cuisine


For my birthday my Dear gave me a deep fryer. I usually avoid deep-frying stuff to show some concern for my health, but I do like fried foods like everyone else so this was a welcome gift. I'd feel too guilty to buy myself a deep fryer, even if it would make a good addition to my galley gear. It requires at least 750mL of oil to start cooking-- not exactly frugal, but it does go a long way.


So two weeks ago I finally used the deep fryer, frying everything I can put my hands on. I began with a lunch of deep fried sausages and eggplant. For dinner, I fried potato wedges, Vienna sausages, and some canned salmon. The following day, I fried some Thai-style chicken wrapped in pandan leaves bought from SM. After which I had to reluctantly throw away the oil-- I don't usually consume 750mL of canola oil for just three meals.


This week I tried my hand at making saciçi, that afritada-like Azeri chicken dish I had in Baku. I departed from the original recipe though-- I used olive oil and butter instead of pure butter, I added a lot of garlic, and I cooked it with orange juice and slices. Also, I used bigger cuts of chicken and vegetables in my saciçi so I had to use more water while cooking; thus, the ensuing dish had a lot more sauce. It's quite greasy due to the copius amount of oil and butter, but the orange cuts through it a little bit. It was quite close to the saciçi I had in Baku, though I wish I used less water so the chicken and vegetables could've fried more. Next time I'll use smaller cuts of chicken.

Finally, just saw a video on Azeri cuisine:



Now I'm officially looking for a good Azeri (i.e., Turkish) restaurant in Manila.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Not Quite Chicken Adobo

I tried this dish, a variation on the chicken adobo, two days ago. The idea to use this method actually came from a Cretan chicken dish, but since I did not have red wine I used Filipino vinegar instead.

Ingredients:

chicken thighs
whole garlic cloves, crushed
vinegar (coconut or cane)
laurel leaves
black peppercorns
salt
cooking oil

1. Lightly season the chicken with some salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Set aside.

2. In a pan or wok, heat the oil and quickly fry the laurel leaves and peppercorns until you smell their aroma, then saute the garlic until lightly brown.

3. Add chicken and fry just until they start to brown but are not yet cooked through.

4. Pour in enough vinegar to submerge (or mostly submerge) the chicken and bring to a boil. If you don't have enough vinegar you may add some water, but this will lessen the flavour.

5. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking, turning from time to time, until all the vinegar has evaporated and you're again left with chicken frying in oil.

6. Continue frying until the chicken attains your desired level of brownness.

Serve with steamed rice. As my Dear said, "Tastes like chicken adobo, but not quite."

The Cretan dish was mostly the same, but replace vinegar with red wine and include cinnamon bark in (2) and kalamata olives in (4).

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bangus Belly ala bangusbelly

Well, it's bound to happen given this blog's url (for those on Multiply, I'm writing this on http://bangusbelly.blogspot.com).

Ingredients:

bangus bellies
lemon juice
coarsely ground black pepper
garlic, minced
onion, minced
dried herbs mix (e.g., Italian Seasoning, Herbes de Provence)
olive oil

1. Marinate bangus bellies in lemon juice (you can also use lime or calamansi juice). Sprinkle with ground black pepper and dried herbs. Let it sit for an hour or more.

2. Stuff bellies with minced garlic and onion and fold over. You may stick in some toothpicks so the folded bellies will keep their shape and the minced garlic and onion will stay inside while cooking.

3. Drizzle with a little olive oil and broil or pan fry until golden brown.

Serve with steamed rice and sauteed leafy vegetables (I ate it with my old spinach recipe, sans the olives and Worcestershire sauce).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Food Blog for Hungry Bachelors

Just joined a new blog: Food Blog for Hungry Bachelors. It's a collaborative food blog by and for single-person households-- an oft-neglected demographic in our country. I've never met any of my co-posters personally, though you might recognise some of them. Despite the name, as always, bachelorettes are more than welcome to drop by. :)

I'll be writing there from time to time, mostly about recipes and reviews. I'll probably keep the cuisines, food news, and trivia here since they might be off-topic over there. Just posted my first contribution, which is a rewrite of my second post in this blog.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thit Heo Kho (Vietnamese Braised Caramelised Pork)


This is a recipe of that "Vietnamese adobo" dish I alluded to in a previous post. If I understand correctly, thit heo means pork and kho means broth, so thit heo kho translates to pork braised in broth. Like most folk dishes, this dish has so many versions as there are people who cook them, so this is a combination of the various versions I've seen (e.g., see recipes 1, 2, 3). This dish has complex flavours, combining the sweet caramel and coconut juice with the salty fish sauce and spicy black pepper.

Ingredients:
1/2 kilo cubed pork, preferrably with some fat and skin
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce diluted with 1/4 cup water*
4 cloves garlic, chooped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups coconut juice
coarsely ground black pepper

1. Heat up a thick-walled wok or casserole over medium heat. Caramelise the sugar with about a tablespoon of water until it is dark brown and lightly syrupy.

2. Add the fish sauce and water mixture to the caramel, stirring well. Bring to a simmer.

3. Add the onion, garlic, pepper, and pork. This will cool down the wok considerably, so continue simmering until the temperature is back up, occasionally stirring for even cooking.

4. Pour in the coconut juice and stir well. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for around an hour until the broth reduces to a sauce, braising the pork in the salty caramel sauce and coconut juice. Stir from time to time.

Some recipes suggest adding hardboiled eggs or tofu during the last few minutes of cooking, the bland eggs or tofu absorbing the sweet-salty sauce of the stew. Garnish with chive flowers or scallion greens. Serve with steamed rice.

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* One of my source recipes calls for 1/2 cup of Vietnamese fish sauce, or nuoc mam. However, for this recipe I used Filipino patis, which is much stronger and saltier than the subtly flavoured nuoc mam, so I diluted it with water. You may change the proportions of patis to water according to your taste. Better yet, use nuoc mam if you have some at home.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Iced Green Tea (no hot water, or ice, needed)


This is the easiest way to enjoy iced green tea. No need to heat up water (thus conserving energy), and no need for ice to cool it down. Just pure, unadulterated, cold green tea.

Ingredients:
3 green tea bags
1.5 litres water, room temperature

1. Put water in a pitcher. Choose a pitcher with a good cover, lest your tea will be infused with the smells of today's leftovers.

2. Swish tea bags in the water for around 15 seconds until the tea leaves are completely soaked and the tea bags sink.

3. Put pitcher in the ref and leave it for a few hours, allowing the tea to steep slowly while chilling the water. The longer you allow the tea to steep the better it will taste (I left mine overnight).

The green tea is ready to drink as soon as it chills down. You may wish to add honey or lemon according to your taste, but I prefer the taste of unadulterated green tea. You may also add ice to the already cold green tea, but this will dilute its flavour.

I was quite sceptical about the results when I stumbled upon this method of steeping tea, thinking it can't match green tea brewed with hot water. I thought it will either be too light (due to low temperature) or too bitter (due to protracted steeping time). I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it the next day-- it tasted just like green tea perfectly brewed in hot water, but cold. Much better (and healthier) than the sugary bottled iced green/white teas we get in the supermarkets.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sweet Cat's Tongue for Merienda

I bought myself a container of lengua de gato-- those small, crumbly, buttery cookies that are a favourite of mine-- and it got me wondering what the name literally means. Well, for those who wondered the same, here's my small list of Spanish-named Filipino snacks and desserts and their literal meaning. Some are straightforward, others quite imaginative. Do tell me what I missed.

barquillos = rolled wafers
brazo de mercedes = arm of favours/gifts (so it has nothing to do with someone named Mercedes?)
canonigo = a priest serving in a cathedral
crema de fruta = cream of fruit
empanada = pie or stuffed pastry (from empanar, to wrap with bread or dough)
ensaimada = sweet bun (from the Catalan saim, or pork lard, which was traditionally used to make the bun)
galletas = hardtacks or hard biscuits (from the galleon; hardtacks are also known as ship's biscuits in English)
leche flan = milk custard
lengua de gato = cat's tongue
maiz con hielo = corn with ice
maja blanca = white belle (but maja can also come from from majar, or to mash)
maja maiz = corn belle
mamon = small baby (noun); suckling (adjective, as in suckling baby)
merengue = meringue (supposedly named after the Swiss town of Meiringen)
pan de regla = menstruation bread (regla's association with menstruation comes from regla menstrual, or menstrual rule/period)
pastillas = pills
pastillas de leche = milk pills
rosquillos = ringlet cookies (from rosca, meaning ring-shaped roll)
torta = round cake or loaf (the Spanish word for omelette is tortilla)
turrones = nougats

References:
Castillo, Carlos and Otto F. Bond. 1948. Spanish-English English-Spanish Dictionary. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago
Duran, Carlos Francisco. 1942. English-Spanish Spanish-English Dictionary. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Company
Free Translation Online
Online Etymology Dictionary
Wikipedia

Friday, May 30, 2008

Vietnamese Food Trip

My Dear and I had a Vietnamese food trip yesterday, eating at Pho Hoa in SM Manila for lunch and Zao/Dzao Vietnemese Cafe in Eastwood City for dinner. Click here for the review. Here are their scores:

PHO HOA
Quality = 7.0
Size = 6.0
Taste = 8.0
Ambience = 5.0
Service = 6.0
Value = P466.63
Price = P250.00
Sulit Rating = 1.87 > 1

ZAO/DZAO VIETNAMESE CAFE
Quality = 7.0
Size = 6.5
Taste = 8.0
Ambience = 7.0
Service = 7.0
Value = P682.65
Price = P400.00
Sulit Rating = 1.71 > 1

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lamb Chops Marinade

Bought a load of lamb chops from Rustan's Fresh two weeks ago, one of those buy-one-take-one lamb deals they have. My first marinade was a disaster-- too salty. My second attempt at a marinade, which is my idea of an English-style lamb marinade, turned out pretty well.

Ingredients:

mustard
olive oil
Worcestershire sauce
coarsely ground black pepper
dried herbs (must include rosemary)

1. Mix ingredients thoroughly. Proportions really depend on your taste, but since olive oil is the base of this marinade it should constitute at least a plurality of the volume. Acidity, which is essential in a marinade, comes mainly from the mustard, with a little help from the Worcestershire sauce. For herbs I used Italian Seasoning, but Herbes de Provence or other herb mixes will also work so long as they include rosemary.

2. Massage the marinade into the lamb and let it marinate for at least an hour.

3. Grill/Pan fry/Broil lamb chops until your desired level of doneness.

Serve with mint jelly and a side of greens.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ababu Persian Kitchen

See my review here.

The scores:

Quality = 5.0
Size = 5.5
Taste = 5.5
Ambience = 2.0
Service = 4.0
Value = P113.55
Price = P100.00
Sulit Rating = 1.14 > 1

Bottomline, despite being hit-or-miss in its dishes, Ababu gives fair value for the little money you'll shell out. Good place for that 2am craving, and for me a convenient place to grab a meal.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Restaurant Uno


Hmmm, now that I'm about to write it, it sounds corny to make a play on Restaurant Uno and Mayo Uno, but I thought I could make some nice pun because that's where we ate today and they both have uno and... . On to the review.

Restaurant Uno, at the corner of Tomas Morato and Sct. Fuentebella in Quezon City, is a quaint and quiet restaurant right across the big Amici and the loud Ratskys. Mainly known for its breads and desserts, it uses food quality to compete with its neighbours' size and flamboyance and remain on the radar screen.

It was actually our second time at Uno, but the first time was all about desserts and coffee. This time we had a proper lunch. Here's what we got:

Sliced sourdough and butter (Free)-- This is the house appetiser, and I have to say the bread was very good-- great taste and texture. Not quite San Francisco sourdough, but so far the best sourdough this side of the Pacific.

Roti canai with onions and Gruyere cheese (P145)-- I'm not usually a fan of fusion but this French-Malaysian combination actually worked, with roti taking the place of a crepe. Pretty obvious substitution, if you think about it, but this is the first place I've seen it. And the serving size wasn't bad either.

Pasta with shrimp, spinach, olives, and feta cheese (P220)-- This was my main course. The ingredients' flavours melded well on this one-- the fresh spinach balancing the strong flavours of the olives and cheese, all playing in a backdrop of shrimp and butter. Serving size was also ok; nowhere near Italliani's or Don Henrico's size, but good enough.

Pasta Alfredo (P195)-- This is pasta Alfredo for purists-- only cream, butter, and a little parmesan cheese on spaghetti, nothing else. Order this dish if you really, really, really like the taste of cream and butter. If you find cream and butter ok but are not so much into them, then this dish is not for you. My Dear and I belong to the latter group so we weren't very happy with this dish; we needed loads of parmesan cheese and pepper to make it more palatable. This dish is only for lactophiles; everyone else beware.

Fallen Chocolate Cake (P55)-- My Dear's dessert, which she described as "heavenly". Unlike my Dear, I'm not such a big fan of chocolate cake, but I say this is pretty good. Basically a chewy and fudgy brownie crossed with a cake. But I still prefer my chocolate as confections.

Lemon Tart (P45)-- This is ok as lemon tarts go-- zesty lemon tart on a sturdy crust. Not the best lemon tart I've had, but pretty good for the price.

Both times we dined at Uno it was daytime, so everything was peaceful and parking was a breeze. Evenings, especially on weekends, might not be so tranquil, with the commotion of its large neighbours spilling onto the streets and the narrow Sct. Fuentebella being on gridlock. So note that my rating for Ambience is only for lunch or merienda. Now for the scores:

Quality = 7.5
Size = 6.0
Taste = 7.0
Ambience = 7.0
Service = 6.0
Value = P559.38
Price = P350.00
Sulit Rating = 1.60 > 1


Monday, April 14, 2008

Ziggurat Cuisine Restaurant

As far as I know, Ziggurat Cuisine Restaurant is the only place in Metro Manila that serves African cuisine. While it also serves Indian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern food, which we can find in various other restos, it is African food that lured my me to Ziggurat.

First, a few notes about the location. The restaurant is located on the corner of Euphrates and Tigris streets in Makati, which I'm sure figured in the owner's calculus before he opened the restaurant. It is not exactly the easiest place to find, especially if you're not used to Makati's latest permutation of one-way streets. I actually got flagged down by Makati's finest on my way there; luckily I got off with a friendly reminder. I can also see parking being hell during peak hours-- my Dear and I went there on a Sunday, which was a pretty slow day for the restaurant, and there was only one parking slot available.

The decor is predominantly Turkish/Middle Eastern-- think carpets, gold thread, and hookahs-- which can either be tacky or exotic depending on your taste. Although there are a few high chairs and tables, most of the seating is on the floor with lots of throw pillows and carpets to keep you comfortable. Indoor lighting is quite dim, which might be nice for the after-work evening crowd.

Now on to the food:

Moussaka (P150) with Arabian Khobiz (P10/piece)-- The moussaka was very good and flavourful, equal in flavour to the one from Arya Persian Restaurant but not in presentation. I had the impression that they make a big batch early in the day then just reheat portions as people order. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as food like moussaka actually get better when you reheat them (stronger flavours). Khobiz, the classic Arabian flatbread, is basically pita bread. The bread with the moussaka can easily serve as an good-sized appetiser for two or a hearty snack for one.

Algerian Grilled Vegetable Cousous (P250)-- While Ziggurat has around 20 rice dishes, we opted for the Maghribi staple, couscous. It was a very good decision, as the couscous with vegetables was a meal in itself. I've had couscous only a few times before, and I have to say this was among the better tasting ones. The grilled vegetables, which they chopped and mixed into the dish, added a sweet and savoury taste to the bland couscous. As you can see in the picture, they made no effort towards presentation, which to some people might matter, but to me was more than made up for by the taste.

Ethiopian Chicken We't (P375)-- If you watched NBC during the mid 90s, you might remember this filler segment they called World in a Stew. One of the dishes they featured was a chicken stew from Ethiopia. This is that dish. Chicken we't (or doro we't) is a stew of chicken cooked in butter and berbere spices, served on injera bread with hard-boiled eggs and cottage cheese. Ziggurat's version of this dish was mildly spicy and a bit pungent-- I liked it but it wasn't exactly every day fare for my Filipino taste buds. The bland eggs and cheese were a good complement to the we't, cutting through the strong flavour of the berbere spices and butter. The injera bread, where it was dry, was also a good complement to the dish; however, the butter-based sauce soaked most of it that it was no longer nice to eat. Next time I order this dish I'll ask them to serve the bread on the side.

Moroccan Mint Tea (P75) and Ziggurat Iced Tea (P60)-- Nothing really spectacular here, just mint tea in a pot and iced tea. Next time I'll try their lassi, an Indian yogurt-based drink.

Dessert Trio A (P250)-- A trio of (from the top) shir berenj (Persian rice pudding), kulfi (Indian frozen milk dessert) and mihallabiya (Egyptian milk pudding). The shir berenj was a milky rice pudding with a hint of rose water, similar in texture to a thick rice guinataan. The kulfi was basically hard ice cream, like a very sweet rum-raisin ice cream. The mihallabiya, which for me topped the trio, had the texture of soft bilo-bilo made from sticky rice but flavoured with yogurt and rose water.

Ziggurat, which has been around for a few years, was a very good discovery for me. It impressively offers a very diverse and ambitious menu of dishes, and does a decent job of them. While I wouldn't say that it serves the best dish X or the perfect dish Y, I think it does a pretty good version of those dishes. Very much worth the trip (and a return trip) if you're getting tired of the usual East/Southeast Asian, Italian, or American fare we often find in the city. Although we spent around P650/person during our visit, one can have a hearty meal in Ziggurat for around P450; their shawarmas even go for less than P200 if I remember correctly. Now for the scores (in case you missed it, see the explanation here):

Quality = 7.5
Size = 7.0
Taste = 8.0
Ambience = 6.0
Service = 7.0
Value = P677.64
Price = P450
Sulit Rating = 1.51 > 1

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chazuke (茶漬け)

Found this recipe while surfing the Net. Chazuke, which literally means "submerged in tea", is a simple dish of rice submerged in, well, tea and topped with savoury ingredients like nori, roasted sesame seeds, and katsuobushi flakes. It has been around for around 500 years, and, for a traditional Japanese dish, is insanely easy to prepare.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups leftover rice
furikake (Japanese rice seasoning)*
Japanese green tea, piping hot (enough to submerge the rice)
1/2 tsp wasabi (optional)

1. Put rice in a deep bowl.
2. Top with furikake (and wasabi, if so desired).
3. Pour green tea.

That's it. After pouring the tea, cover the bowl and wait five minutes before serving to allow the rice to absorb the flavours of the furikake and tea. This may be eaten on its own, or served with grilled chicken or salmon teriyaki (the sweet teriyaki will complement the salty and mildly bitter chazuke). You may also top it with tsukemono (Japanese pickles).

* If you don't have ready-made furikake lying around, you can easily make your own. It's basically a mixture of roasted sesame seeds, chopped nori (dried seaweeds), sugar, salt, and katsuobushi flakes (more commonly known as bonito flakes outside Japan). If katsuobushi is hard to come by, you can try replacing it with some mild tuyo flakes, although the flavour will not really be the same. Or you can just drop the katsuobushi and make it a vegetarian dish.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eastern European Easter Entree

I stayed home this Easter. Being too lazy to go out and too cheap to order in, I decided to make myself an Eastern European dish (at least my idea of it). This was what I came up with (sans the veggies, which I ran out of), which is basically kasha cooked with Polish kielbasa. Apologies for the above alliteration (and this one as well).

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups kasha (I used medium granulation)
2 eggs
2 cups water or broth
1 large kielbasa link (I used wiejska), sliced
1 onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots and celery
ground spices (I suggest caraway and paprika for that Eastern European flavour)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter

1. In a large saucepan (I actually used a wok), saute the kielbasa until its natural juices ooze out. Add the onion, carrots and celery; turn down heat so they just sweat instead of saute (add oil if needed). When veggies are cooked through, add water and bring to a boil.

2. While doing (1), beat eggs in a bowl, add kasha and mix, coating the kasha granules with a thin, barely discernible layer of egg. Microwave the kasha-egg mixture for two minutes on high, then use a fork to separate the granules. This step is needed to ensure that the kasha granules won't stick together when they're cooked. This also adds protein to the kasha, since buckwheat is gluten-free.

3. After doing (2), add kasha to (1), which should be boiling by now, and simmer until all the water has been absorbed and the kasha is cooked (it should have the texture of coarse couscous or fine brown rice). This should take no more than 10 minutes if you're using medium granulation. Add salt, pepper, and spices to taste.

Top with butter and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro. Makes around four cups. This is a meal on its own, but you may also eat it with roast chicken or rissoles.

If kasha is hard to come by, you can replace it with whole wheat couscous or brown rice; just skip (2) and instead lightly brown in oil before adding to the water. You may also replace the kielbasa with Hungarian sausage. King Sue used to sell a version of Polish kabanosy (they spelled it "cabanossi", if I remember correctly), but I can't find them now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Of Corned Beef, Fasting, Salmon, and Chorizos

This week marks two major food events-- St. Patrick's Day and Holy Week-- both being Christian holidays and unintentional food days.

St. Patrick's Day is known for copious pints of Guinness and corned beef with cabbage. While the pints are truly St. Paddy's Day "fare", this article says that corned beef with cabbage is more of a stereotype. Speaking of corned beef, there is no corn (i.e., maize) in corned beef. The term "corned" refers to the old method of dry-curing beef with grains-- or corns-- of salt. Nowadays, corned beef is cured in salt water (process called brining), but the name has stuck.

Of course, this week is also Holy Week, so there will be no corned beef in Catholic homes on Friday. So when should Catholics really fast and abstain? According to the Code of Canon Law (Can. 1248-1253), "abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday", while abstinence is to be observed on "all Fridays". Note, however, that the bishops' conference (in our case, the CBCP) has final authority to determine what fasting and abstinence entail (Can. 1253). From what I remember of catechism, Catholics (at least Filipino Catholics) may substitute fasting or abstinence for some other act of piety or charity. In my experience, though, fasting is the first penitence to be substituted for piety as abstinence becomes an excuse to enjoy an all-seafood feast.

Speaking of seafood, I am the happy owner of eight 16-ounce fillets of smoked Alaskan sockeye salmon. I have four preferred ways of eating them: as is, in an omelette, with pasta, and sauteed with potatoes. The fillets are smoked and packed by Kasilof Fish Co.; their website-- ILoveSalmon.com-- perfectly describes me. Aside from the eight smoked fillets, I have six cans of salmon chunks and seven fillets of frozen salmon. Salmon ranks up there with bangus and fatty sardines as my all-time favourite fishes. One guess what I'll be abstaining into this coming Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Come Easter I'll be all fished out and will be raring to go back to meat. I currently have a pack of Campofrio jamon serrano and a can of La Noreñense Asturian chorizos in my pantry, and I'm looking for the perfect time (and recipe) to open them. As I said in a previous post, I think Spanish cured meats are the best of their kind out there. The Italians come close with their salami, pepperoni, and prosciutto, but chorizos, salchichon, and jamon still have a slight edge. I heard somewhere that the Spaniards concocted their great pork dishes and cured meats after the Reconquista, celebrating their freedom to eat pork after kicking out the Moors. Well, that's at least one unambiguously good thing that happened as a result of all those wars.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Arya Persian Restaurant

See my review on my multiply site here. Also a brief review by my Dear here.

For a quick summary, here are the scores (read about the rating scale here):
Quality = 8.0
Size = 7.0
Taste = 8.0
Ambience = 8.0
Service = 8.0
Value = P936.78
Price = P700
Sulit Rating = 1.34 > 1

Bottomline, Arya is not exactly cheap eats, but its quality and authenticity make it well worth the cost.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How sulit is sulit: A quantitative approach

Sulit, or value for money, is a concept we often use when reviewing restaurants. Basically, it is the difference between the value of a meal (i.e., how satisfied we are with the experience) and the price we actually paid for it. By definition, sulit is a subjective measure since we are comparing something subjective (value) with something objective (price). In this post, I will present my subjective quantitative measurement of value, which I will then use for subsequent reviews.

First, let us identify my five criteria for measuring restaurants:

Quality (Q)-- refers to the quality, freshness, and authenticity of the ingredients used in the dish. Presentation, cleanliness, and temperature of the dish are also considered in this scale.

Taste (T)-- refers to the overall taste and texture of the food.

Quantity (W)-- refers to the serving size of the dish.

Service (S)-- refers to the attentiveness, friendliness, and efficiency of all crew who have contact with customers. Their attention to detail and management of complaints (if any) are also considered.

Ambience (A)-- refers to the overall quality of the restaurant's physical space. Considered here are ambience (of course), cleanliness, facilities, and even parking availability.

All scales are rated from 1 (very bad) to 10 (perfect) with 5 as barely acceptable. For criteria Q, T, and W, if more than one dish was sampled (which is often the case), the rating will reflect the average rating for the dishes. Value (V), which is our main interest, is expressed in peso terms and is a function of the five criteria with the form
V = (QTWSA)^(2/3).

The result of V(.) is my subjective valuation of the meal in current pesos, so it represents the maximum I am willing to pay per person for a meal in the restaurant given their scores in Q, T, W, S, and A. Thus, for a perfect restaurant that scores 10 in all criteria, I am willing to pay P2,154.43 per person for a meal. On the other hand, a restaurant that scores 5 in all criteria (just enough not to piss me off and still walk away with a smile) is worth P213.75 per person at most.

Sulit (S), then, is defined as S = V/P where P is the actual price per person for a meal. If S is greater than one, the restaurant is considered sulit; less than one it is not sulit; equal to one it is neutral.

WARNING: Technical Content (apologies to Mythbusters)

Any student of Economics will recognise the form of V(.) as a Cobb-Douglas utility function (homogeneous of degree 10/3). In this case, however, I am taking liberties with the definition of utility and I'm attaching a peso value to the utility measure (i.e., one unit if utility is equivalent to one peso). To illustrate, consider the following graph in Q-W space (forget about T, S, and A for now since I can't draw in five dimensions):


The 45-degree line from the origin represents increasing price and value given in pesos. Now consider the blue curve: each point in the curve represents different values for Q and W that yield the same V; the curve crosses the 45-degree line at only one point so the peso value is unique. Thus, restaurant A, with its low quality but big serving size, can have the same value as restaurant B, which has high quality but a small serving size. Restaurant C, however, being on a lower curve, has a lower value than restaurants A and B.

Suppose now that restaurants A, B, and C charge a per-person price of D pesos. A and B would then be considered as sulit restaurants while C would not.

To illustrate, consider some restaurant K which I rate as follows: Q = 7, W = 6, T = 4, S = 7, A = 7. Thus, we get V = P407.70. However, you can expect to spend around P500/person for a meal and a drink in restaurant K. It therefore registers S = 0.82 < 1, so it is not sulit.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Angel's Kitchen

After getting all psyched up by the positive blog posts about the restaurant, my Dear and I finally tried Angel's Kitchen over at Connecticut Avenue in Greenhills, San Juan. The place was exactly what the posts said it would be-- very cozy and homey, with lots of warm yellow to enliven the place. The restaurant has ample parking (well, good for at least eight cars), and a very clean rest room-- very important yet often overlooked aspects. The service was also very friendly and efficient. And now the food:

Toast with liver pate (free)-- Well, the name says it all. This is the standard house appetiser, and it isn't bad, with plus points for uniqueness (at least this side of Asia). I found the liver pate quite good-- good texture with a mild flavour-- but I'm not much into liver (or any other innards for that matter) so I didn't get much of it.

Garlicky Caesar Salad (P258)-- Honestly, not worth the price. There is usualy a tradeoff between size and ingredient quality that would justify any price; neither aspect in this salad justified its price. The serving size was small and the ingredients not exactly gourmet. The dressing was pretty good, but it was closer to a garlicky ranch than garlicky Caesar. For just P40 more, I could get a much bigger and much better solo Roka Salata at Cyma, and with recognisable parmesan cheese at that.

Sardine Pomodoro Pasta (P268)-- This was what my Dear ordered for her main course. It was pretty good, just the right amount of spice from the Spanish sardines and sour from the tomatoes. The serving size was also decent and well worth the price. However, it doesn't come with bread, which surprised me. And since it's pasta, I'm pretty confident I can make it at home if I buy some of those gourmet sardines they sell in the restaurant.

Honey Garlic Spare Ribs (P308)-- This is what I got, upon the advice of the server who said it was a popular dish. I like fried spare ribs, I like garlic, I like honey, but this dish just didn't work for me. It totally did not work for me. Now, I've had quite a few honey-something savoury dishes, like honey-mustard bangus or honey-apple chicken barbecue, and and in all those cases you'll barely see the honey and just have a hint of its sweetness when you taste the dish, the honey enhancing the flavours rather than overwhelming them. For this dish, think of the garlic fried spare ribs that you might find in Chinese restaurants. Now smother it with loads of sweet raw honey. Really, that's what it was. No kidding.

Banana Cream Pie (P118)-- This was the reason we went to this restaurant, the raison d'etre for this restaurant, we were told by the blogosphere. It was good. Very good, actually. But not spectacular. Maybe we just got all hyped up by the write-ups that we set a pretty high bar, but I can't say it's the best banana cream pie I ever had. And I'm just talking about banana cream pies in this country.

Lemon Tart (P98)-- Now this was the spectacular dish of the evening. So far the best lemon tart I've tasted, and I'm very much into lemony/citrusy desserts (the balance of sweet and tart is just perfect). The flavour of the tart is very balanced and the crust is rightly bland so it doesn't interfere with the flavours, plus there's a very thin layer of crunchy caramelised sugar* on top to enhance the texture. If anything, I'll come back to this restaurant for this and this alone (as soon as I forget what I got for my main course).

Caffee Lungo (P88)-- Full-bodied brewed coffee. No more, no less.

Usually I have a bottomline to summarise my review, but I guess I'll stop here.

---

* "Caramelised sugar" is a redundancy because, technically, only sugars can get caramelised. Caramelisation involves the oxidation-- i.e., browning-- of sugars, be it sucrose from table sugar or fructose from fruits and vegetables. Meats, on the other hand, cannot be caramelised since its browning is not due to the oxidation of sugars but due to the reaction of amino acids and sugars (i.e., the Maillard reaction). However, caramel-- that sometimes rock-solid sometimes gooey sweet stuff-- can be made either by caramelisation or by a Maillard reaction depending on the ingredients. O.o

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sushi Nights and Steak Dinners


Whenever I go to the Bay Area, I make a list of restos to visit and dishes to taste-- Masu for sushi rolls, Joy Luck for dimsum, Red Robin for burgers, La Petite Camille for banh cuon, etc. The list often changes and is subject to whim, but there are always a few constants-- dishes I have to taste each and every Pacific crossing because, well, they're just too damn good. Two of those constants (see title) are courtesy of my brother-in-law, Chef Richard.

Sushi Night is all about California-style rolls and nigiris, which are Richard's specialties. The actual composition of the rolls depends on whatever was just bought at the supermarket, usually Suruki Supermarket in downtown San Mateo. Mainstays are unagi (roasted eel), maguro (tuna), toro (fatty tuna), and shake (salmon), usually combined in some combination with avocados, nori (seaweed sheets) and sushi-meshi (vinegared rice) to make the sushi rolls. Those red dots you see in the picture are drops of sriracha, a Thai chili sauce, which can also be used to make spicy tuna.

Another meal I always look forward to is my Steak Dinner. Now, I usually avoid beef and other red meat, but I drop my beef abstinence for special dishes, and this is one of them. Unlike most American steaks, this steak needs no sauce to make the meat taste better. There's really nothing better than perfectly-cooked marbly beef just off the griddle/pan/oven and onto your plate. I like my steaks medium rare, a little pink in the centre and very juicy. Richard says he doesn't make good steaks-- nonsense, since his steaks are some of the best I've had, and I'm not saying this just to be nice. Much better than the steak I had at Outback, really. On the picture you'll see my steak topped with herbed butter, on a bed of peppered brown rice and steamed vegetables (hey, we need something healthy to counter the steak).

Other great dishes I've had the pleasure of savouring include roasted vegetable antipasti, stuffed mushrooms, chicken breast in veloute sauce, beef stew, clam chowder, eggplant parmigiana, the list goes on-- all of them superb hits. There have been a few misses from time to time, of course, but Richard would be the first to call them misses. He sometimes dabbles in the catering business, so far limiting himself to small parties (20 people or less) in the Bay Area. I'd add his contact information right about now for would-be clients, but so far my Sis (Richard's wife) hasn't emailed me the contact info they'd like posted here. ;) When/If she does read this post, you'll see the info in the comments section below. Do contact them if you happen to be in the Bay Area and are thinking of having a small party.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Found Grechnevaya Kasha


A few months ago, I wrote a post about looking for grechnevaya kasha, or roasted buckwheat porridge. Well, I found some during my trip to the Bay Area-- in Safeway Supermarket, in the international food section underneath the Israeli flag beside the matzo. They were only selling one brand of kasha-- Wolff's. Their website is pretty modest, but has loads of information including recipes and tips for cooking.

I got the meduim granulation, which is midway between fine and coarse. This granulation is usually steamed and eaten like rice or bulgur (that yellow circle on the box says "instead of rice"), which is exactly what I plan to do with the kasha. A 13-ounce box (369 g) costs $3.85 (around P150), if I remember correctly-- much more expensive than brown rice which costs P50/kilo-- and I got two boxes. Well, I think it's worth it for a little taste of Russia and Central Asia.

To say that the Russians like kasha is an understatement (or so I hear). They have a saying: щи да каша-- пища наша. It literally translates as, "Shchi (cabbage soup) and kasha-- our food." Now, that may not sound like much, but in Russian it is pronounced as, "Shchi da kasha-- pishcha nasha," which rhymes well. If you're looking for some profound meaning behind this saying, well, there's none. It's just a rhyme about their staple food, something kids can easily memorise and in the process form a national identity.

A Filipino equivalent could be something like, "Adobo't kanin-- ating pagkain." Other suggestions?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Manila, log off

Arrived in Manila three days ago. I started this habit of "logging off" my travelogue upon my return when I went to Central Asia last April, mainly because I was actually blogging while I was on travel. On this trip, however, I logged a measly five posts (two not about travel) in the three weeks I was in SFO. But I'll still log off, even if the bulk of my entries for my SFO trip will be written after I've logged off. Oh well.

Like my work, I have a backlog of stuff to blog about, mostly about food (which is why I'm logging off here and not in the other blog). Stuff include Red Robin, my brother-in-law's steak dinner, Noche Buena, Chinese-style fried flounder, and 25-year-old port wine. Maybe I'll get to writing about them next week, when my boss is gone (hehehe).

Anyway, for now here's a few stuff I found over at BBC:

Wine and snottiness

Playing with food