Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lunch at Tokyo Cafe

Craving for Japanese food after moving into our temporary home at a condominium complex in Quezon City, we decided to go out and eat at a Japanese restaurant in nearby SM North EDSA. It was a few minutes before the lunch hour and we decided to go to Tokyo Cafe at the 2nd floor of The Block while there were still few people eating at there. The place is usually full during lunch time and we preferred to have a relaxed meal without the crowds around us.

Beef Kalbi set
Tempura set
Iced tea and menu
The restaurant features the typical realistic food displays at their window for people to see. These are a good way to attract people as prospective diners see what the items on the menu look like. So far, the restaurant has been consistent with their servings quite matching the displays (walang daya), and so customers are assured of a good, satisfying meal. Still, we miss our usual Japanese food in Singapore where we have more choices of restaurants offering still more choices of our favorites. We definitely need to re-explore Metro Manila for authentic Japanese food that's okay with the budget.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gelatissimo: ice cream heaven at Trinoma

Looking for a place where we could have coffee or dessert in Trinoma after having a dinner meeting, my friends and I spotted this gelato (that's Italian for ice cream) place not far from where we had our dinner. We were quite curious about the many flavors of ice cream on display and decided we can all enjoy a scoop or two with or without coffee (some passed on the coffee). It helped that there were few people inside so we could get ourselves a table. There were seven of us so we had to join two tables in order for us to be together and continue with the kwentuhan we already had started during dinner. 

We ended up talking a lot about how good the ice cream and coffee was at Gelatissimo. We will surely come back here, if not with friends with our families but not to talk business but to just enjoy good ice cream or coffee.

Terrific selection including sugar-free flavors
One can have a taste test first before ordering, and it is difficult to make a final selection (especially if one's picking only a single flavor!)
I ended up having two scoops - one of macadamia and another of mocha
Our friend Sheilah coming back to our table after ordering her coffee
I think this was their version of machiatto?
The coffee came with a couple of biscotti on the side
I really should write more on ice cream or gelato in this blog. I already missed writing about Sebastian's but that will surely come soon once we find a branch somewhere nearby. The one in SM City North EDSA was already closed but I found another at the Podium in Ortigas. Oh well, 'til the next time!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Singapore Redux: Dimsum Delight

Din Tai Fung is another restaurant that we will surely miss. It has been one of our staples while living in Singapore the last year and a half with its signature Xiao Long Bao quickly becoming a comfort food for us. While there are many of Chinese restaurants in SG, it is Din Tai Fung that has provided us with a consistently high quality meal every time we ate there. The following photos were taken the Saturday evening prior to our return to our home country.

Cool lemongrass drink - we are still quite curious about how they make the ice that seem not to melt through the entire time we were having our dinner.
Relaxed early dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant at the NEX mall
Satisfied with my drink
Xiao long bao in the making...
The Clairvoyant and I are always asking when Din Tai Fung will finally have a branch in Manila. Perhaps one food & beverage group will get the franchise for the Philippines? Well, until then we will always look forward to eating there again on our next trip to Singapore.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Singapore Redux: Missing our Italian-Thai Restaurant at the Clubhouse

We enjoy eating out while we were in Singapore and quite the treat is dining at the neighborhood restaurant at the Chuan Park clubhouse. The Italian-Thai Restaurant at the clubhouse presents us with a very nice selection in their menu that has quite an interesting array of Italian and Asian (not just Thai!) favorites that's just right for our taste buds and definitely according to our typical budget. Aside from the pastas and pizzas, and the curry and basil dishes we enjoy, there are also fried rice, salads, sandwiches and desserts to choose from. It was a bonus for us to discover during our first days in Chuan Park last year that there were Filipinos among the staff and so it became easy for us to order whether we ate at the restaurant near the pool or ordered to eat at our home away from home.

Diners had a choice of eating inside (air-conditioned) or al fresco and by the poolside.
A snapshot of the clubhouse building with a vending machine for softdrinks. The Italian-Thai restaurant's main door is to the left while the stairs lead to an indoor court where residents could play badminton. The corridor by the fireboxes lead to squash courts and the barbecue area.
We usually order our favorite coconut water in the coconut. The drink is very refreshing and goes very well with Asian food and, surprisingly, Italian as well. I still remember the taste like and remarked to the Clairvoyant that it was different (actually better) than our own in the Philippines because the coconut trees from where they got these were younger. Many if not most trees in the Philippines are old and there's already a need to plant and grow coconuts to replace the old ones.
Chicken or fish fillet in basil sauce together with long grain rice
We definitely miss our dinners at the Italian Thai Restaurant at Chuan Park. We'll probably pass by again when in Singapore if only to chat with the staff, but of course to again enjoy their food. The restaurant is actually open to people not residing at the the residential enclave. In fact, they even deliver food in the area to people residing in the neighboring condominiums and houses. Unfortunately, they can't deliver long-distance to Manila. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Singapore Redux: The Shoppes at MBS

The Marina Bay Sands is among the most popular places to visit in Singapore. It is usually associated with the surfboard-topped building that houses a 5-star hotel and luxurious restaurants featuring celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck. People are probably familiar with photos of the infinity pool at the top of the building that has a breathtaking view of the city state. In the area is also the Art Science Museum that I featured in previous post but which I hope to write about again. Of course, there is also the casino for those wanting to try their lucks.

The following photos are of the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. The Clairvoyant helped in filling in the words for the captions of the photos.

(Window) Shopping mecca
Extremely popular Gong Cha milk tea. The Clairvoyant swears by their iced coffee with jelly.
MBS, an architectural showcase
Some gates feature luxury shops where people take souvenir photos of their visit the MBS
MBS is an example of building in a grand manner
A view of a newer cluster of buildings in the financial district across the bay from MBS
Shops galore at the MBS - includes high-end shops and boutiques mixed with the typical brands shops you'll find in most malls like Adidas, Nike, Top Shop, Nine West, etc.
The very spacious building can get crowded but not as much as the other malls in Singapore so its good for people who just want to walk around.
Elevators and escalators allow for senior citizens and those with disabilities to move about
An endless stream of dimsum-starved customers at Din Tai Fung - many are probably tourists who haven't really gone around the city state. Din Tai Fung has many other branches that are less crowded than this one though it's strongly suggested to have early meals prior to the typical lunch and dinner hours.
Another shot of the impressive roof structure of The Shoppes at MBS
Catch Broadway shows and other productions...
...but dinner at Mozza before the show is a must!
There's also an ice skating rink at the ground floor with more restaurants, a food court and smaller shops (mostly food) around the rink area.
A view along the man-made canal leading to the SMRT Circle Line Station
Sampans ply the indoor "canal" - novelty for the mall weary


Monday, August 20, 2012

Singapore Redux: Dinner at Chinatown

After exploring Chinatown, we had dinner at Rasapura, a small but popular restaurant in the area but away from the busier, more crowded streets of the district. The first floor was already full despite us being there quite early (around 6:30PM) so we were ushered to the 2nd floor where it didn't take much time for the area to be filled with diners. We enjoyed their mixed vegetables and fried rice (unfortunately not shown in the photos), and feasted on the pork ribs, which was highly recommended as indicated in their menu.

Pork ribs
Sauteed mushrooms and petsay in oyster sauce
Of course, there are many other restaurants to explore in Chinatown and elsewhere in Singapore including those offering authentic Peranakan cuisine. Those will have to be tried later when we go back to Singapore.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Singapore Redux: Chinatown

We met up with our friend Tonet at Singapore's Chinatown. Along the way, we bumped into, Art, a former student of mine UP Diliman who is now working as an engineer in the city-state. Art decided to join us to meet up with Tonet and have dinner later on. He was familiar with the area having worked there in one of their projects. I was happy to hear from him that he was involved in transport infrastructure projects, particularly the SMRT line that is currently under construction. 

Following are a few photos we took during our stroll around Chinatown. The place was very interesting because of the shops and I was very impressed not just by the cleanliness but also by the well-preserved buildings. It also helped that many were colorful and allowed for one to imagine being taken back to the past when the area must have looked practically the same as the present time.

View of Pagoda Street when one emerges from the SMRT station
View of Pagoda Street towards the SMRT station
Restaurants and shops line up the side streets. Note, too, the red lanterns that add to the ambiance of the district.
The shops include those selling souvenirs and collectibles
There are many clothes shops featuring RTWs, children's clothes and even traditional clothing like cheongsams and fabrics
Parked vehicles line up along Temple Street where motor vehicles are allowed. Note in the other photos that the main parts of the area are pedestrianized.
Another view of Temple Street with a sign indicating loading/unloading regulations
We took photos of the facades of the buildings
The facades reminded me of similar architecture in the Little India district
There are also similarities to the colorful buildings of Jonker Walk in Melaka
It would be interesting and certainly nice if Philippine cities would have programs where the old city centers are preserved. Iloilo supposedly had one a decade ago but last time I checked that went nowhere.
More colorful buildings in Singapore's Chinatown, all taken with my trusty BlackBerry Bold
I was a bit surprised to see this marker for Japanese Street, which was part of Chinatown. The marker provides visitors with information about the area, particularly its history.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reliving younger days - Tears for Fears in Manila - 2

The Clairvoyant and I had a blast one Friday night, a celebration of sort after she came back home after a more than 1.5-year stint in Singapore. I had bought tickets to one of our favorite bands from our high school and university days that we associated with the New Wave music that was quite popular with our generation. It was quite nostalgic for us and we always joke about how this must be the feeling of our parents and grandparents for music and artists of their time.

Tears for Fears is one of the most popular bands of the 80's churning hit after hit with favorites like Mad World, Pale Shelter and Change from their very successful The Hurting album. They followed this up with an even more immensely successful Songs From the Big Chair that featured Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Mother's Talk and Head Over Heels. They broke up in the early 90's due to some differences between Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. Orzabal retained Tears for Fears while Smith embarked on a solo career. Orzabal released a couple of albums that had some marginal success (compared to their 80's albums) while Smith's stint was largely forgettable. They got back together in the middle of the last decade and returned to touring. Well, it took them some time before they came to the Philippines for the first time last year. And they themselves were probably so happy to see how they are still immensely popular in this part of the world. That concert last year probably convinced them (and their producers) to return this year and even add a playdate due to the sold out initial dates in Manila and Cebu.

Tears for Fears' finale was Head Over Heels but even before they exited the stage, the fully-packed coliseum was already cheering them on to do an encore. They did respond to the shouting by returning to the stage to sing a couple more songs. The first one was the haunting Woman in Chains that everybody also seemed to know the lyrics of, resulting in a continuation of what has become one big karaoke session since the opening act of Per Sorensen of Fra Lippo Lippi fame. They capped the night with their smash hit Shout, which was #1 in the US, UK and other countries - a perfect ending to a night of fun that brought us back to what people may refer to as the good old days when we were young and care free.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reliving younger days - Tears for Fears in Manila - 1

We had a great time recently, going to a concert where played two great acts of our generation - Fra Lippo Lippi and Tears for Fears. The former was represented by its lead vocalist, singer-songwriter Per Sorensen while the latter by no less than the duo of Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, who are Tears for Fears. The concert turned out to be  a 3-hour karaoke session with the fully-packed Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City singing along with the artists as they performed the songs that were familiar to most if not all the audience.

Following is a video I took and uploaded to YouTube of the opening act for Tears for Fears. I wasn't able to record the entire performance of their first song but I guess it will be clear from the video how popular Tears for Fears still is in the Philippines.

The first time they were in Manila was only last year and they mentioned they were asking themselves the question of why they didn't perform here in the 1980's or even the early 1990's when their popularity in Britain, the US and elsewhere was peaking. Well, they are still quite popular in the Philippines and Roland Orzabal even related a story in between songs that when somebody asked him whatever they were doing these days, he replied that the man should go to YouTube and type in "Tears for Fears in Manila" to see how they're doing these days. That elicited cheers from the audience. In fact, they have three concert dates in the Philippines with 2 in Manila last August 10 (which the Clairvoyant and I attended) and 11 (an additional date due to the sell-out Friday, that many of our friends went to and was also a sell-out). They are now playing in Cebu to another sell-out crowd. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lunch at Mustapha

We were going around the Little India district in Singapore when we decided to go inside the huge Mustapha Center store in the area. We had a difficult time deciding on where to eat as we were unfamiliar with the restaurants and were quite conscious of the likelihood that we'll end up in a tourist trap being unfamiliar with the intricacies of Indian food and particularly their names. And so we ended up following a sign on one of Mustapha's doors pointing to a restaurant at the top level of the newer part of the store.

Where's our food?
I think its coming na...
Chicken tikka and saffron rice
Butter and garlic nan and tandoori chicken
Kebabs and Curries is a wonderful discovery for us and will surely satisfy the gastronomic needs of people not wanting to experiment or explore (read: try their luck) among the restos in the area.
Eating at the top of Mustapha was a decision we were only too happy to have made as we enjoyed great food a la carte, ordering our favorites. We will try their buffet next time as we saw that it was also quite popular with their customers.