Sunday, December 29, 2013

Revolving restaurant in Eastwood

I had the opportunity to have dinner with fellow study team members at the revolving restaurant atop the MDC 100 building in Eastwood City. I didn't know that there was a restaurant there until only this early December when I asked where we would be having our usual dinner out after our team meeting cum workshop. The 100 Revolving Restaurant is located at the 33rd Floor of the MDC 100 Building right at the entrance to the Eastwood City development in Quezon City and along C-5. From what I observed, parking is not difficult and security will guide you to the elevators leading to the 33F. The other floors of the building are offices, mainly occupied by a Business Process Outsourcing firm.

A view of Ortigas Center
Consomme with mushrooms and onions - the only food I was able to take a photo of because of prudence.
Busy kitchen
Traffic along Circumferential Road 5 - as far as the eye could see.
Googling the restaurant on the internet, it turns out that it is by Chef Jessie Sincioco of Le Souffle fame. I didn't know this despite seeing the Chef Jessie name on the menu. I could have talked about this to our colleagues/teammates over dinner to impress them but apparently that didn't matter as they thoroughly enjoyed the food, especially our Japanese friends who ordered steak. In my case, I loved my grilled prawns and consomme, though I now think I should have gone for the sea bass, which was supposed to be my first choice. There is always a next time!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Celebrating at Swiss Vieux Chalet

We celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary one Sunday after our wedding date. This year it fell on a Friday (to the day of our wedding over a decade ago) and due to our commitments that day and the next (I was principal sponsor at a wedding while the wife attended to errands.), we decided to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We haven't been to Vieux Chalet for some time and missed eating there. However, I didn't have their contact number so it was good that they did have a website and the information was there. It was nice to hear the familiar voice of Rico, their maitre d', who easily remembered us and took our reservations. We already knew we would have a good lunch after our visit to the site of our future home somewhere in Antipolo.
It always feels like home when we're at Vieux Chalet
Luckily for us, we were early and we had the place to ourselves
The place is perfect for get-togethers with friends and families, and, of course, dates with a special someone
There's a lot of stuff in the restaurant, part of the collection of the Hassig Family who owns the Swiss-themed restaurant.
Artwork blending with the Christmas decors in the restaurant
Iced lemongrass tea - most of the ingredients of their food and drinks are derived from their farm in Antipolo
Italian Farmer's Soup
Cream of mushroom soup
Fettuccine Alfredo
Ricotta Spinach Ravioli in Al Panna Sauce with Truffle Oil
Five Cheese Grilled Pizza - that's their homemade hot sauce that's really quite hot
A surprise dessert of Swiss Chocolate Cake with homemade ice cream

Vieux Chalet also has a bed & breakfast for those intending to stay in Antipolo to explore not just the restaurant but other attractions in this city. Contact and other information are in their website.

Our special thanks to Rico for the great service!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

National Museum of the Philippines - National Art Gallery, Part 1

I have been procrastinating on writing about the National Museum. We were there last August when we decided to explore the museum and its galleries after attending the wedding of a niece the day before. I was principal sponsor in the wedding that was held in the afternoon and had a dinner reception afterwards. We decided to stay at our favorite hotel in the area, Sofitel, also to celebrate a new chapter in our lives as we had broken ground for our future home.

It's been a long while since we've been to one of the National Museum's buildings. In my case, the last time was in 2001, when my wife (then my girlfriend) and I went to the Museum of the Filipino People, which features the more contemporary Philippine artists as well as exhibits on culture around the country. That museum is housed in the former Department of Finance Building near the Rizal Park (Luneta). Our recent trip was at the National Museum building itself, which used to house the Senate of the Philippines, and which now hosts the National Art Gallery. The National Gallery has many exhibits featuring Filipino masters such as Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, Fabian dela Rosa, and Guillermo Tolentino, among others. Following are a few photos for this series on the National Art Gallery including three of the most prominent works in the collection.

Front of the National Museum Building along Padre Burgos Avenue in Manila
The halls that used to host the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines. These halls bore witness to many illustrious as well as controversial if not notorious figures in Philippine history and politics.
"The Assassination of Governor Bustamante" by Felix Resureccion Hidalgo.
The gigantic "Spoliarium" by Juan Luna is an awesome sight to behold.
"The Parisian Life" by Juan Luna features, in the background, Jose Rizal, Ariston Bautista, and Luna himself.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Blessed Christmas!

To our family to yours, may the true spirit of Christmas reign in our hearts and may everyone be blessed with peace and healing! A Blessed an Joyful Christmas to all!

Details on our Christmas tree at home


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ginza Bairin at the U.P. Town Center

The U.P. Town Center currently hosts several restaurants, cafes, a convenience store and a clothes shop. I and friends have tried three restaurants as well as made purchases at the convenience store and a popular donut shop. So far, I would dare say that worth coming back to is one Japanese themed restaurant that specializes in katsu. Ginza Bairin is a restaurant that originated in Tokyo and was established in 1927 in the high end Ginza District of Japan's capital metro. The restaurant's interior at the U.P. Town Center is well designed with good lighting and an atmosphere that's both cozy and relaxed - perfect for a hearty meal. There are bar seats facing the kitchen that's great for those who want to watch the chef and staff prepare the meals.

Interior of the restaurant
A different take on the presentation of gyoza - one order is 5 pieces
Menu and chopsticks
Seats with a view of the kitchen
Condiments include salsa for the salad, salt, chili, and katsu sauce
Pestle and bowl for grinding sesame seeds.
The restaurant's first branch is in the posh Ginza District of Tokyo
Kurobuta katsu set - definitely delicious as well are their rosu and hire katsu
The University of the Philippines (UP) Town Center is located at the old site of the UP Integrated School along the northbound side of Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Simple pleasures in Bangkok

My recent trip to Bangkok afforded me some opportunities to take some photos of street vendors and the various foods they sell. Many of these like barbecues and fruits are quite similar to the street food being sold here in the Philippines. However, I noticed some stalls selling full meals as well as popular Thai food like Tom Yum and their version of spring rolls. The street food are very popular among the Thai and many tourists may be found also enjoying the food. It is said that one cannot claim to have been to Bangkok and not sampled and enjoyed their street food.

Various barbecues sold by vendors along Silom near the National Stadium Station of the BTS Skytrain. Street food is very popular in Thailand and is quite safe. Many are pretty much similar to street food being sold in other countries in Southeast Asia. There are also fruits and drinks for sale at these stalls or stands and you can have a full meal out of the variety being sold here.
Mangoes and sticky rice are among my favorites and is popular throughout Southeast Asia. I enjoyed versions of this combination when we lived in Singapore and when once we traveled to Malaysia. Of course, suman (sticky rice) and mangga (mango) are a favorite merienda (snack) or panghimagas (dessert) in the Philippines. In fact, in the city where I live, celebrated every summer is the Sumaka Festival. Sumaka stands for suman, mangga, and kasoy (cashew), for which the city is well known for, and which visitors often get as pasalubong (souvenir or present from a trip) when they go home.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Chocolate review: Fujiya Look Chocolat

I became curious when I saw the Fujiya chocolates at a store in Motomachi in Yokohama, Japan. Fujiya is a popular bakery chain in Japan where we bought cakes and bread. The cakes I bought there were usually for bringing to a friend's home (dessert after dinner or lunch) and I recall I bought quite a number considering I was frequently invited for lunch or dinner during the weekends. The chain even had a mascot, Peko-chan, who's a little girl with ponytails.

Fujiya Look Chocolat contains six pieces each of milk chocolate with bitter, mild and white chocolate fillings.
The chocolates are on a plastic tray wrapped in foil inside the box.
Wrapper indicating the three types of chocolate
Details about the chocolates are found in the back. Unfortunately, I purchased this in Japan so there is no translation in English. However, there are values indicated that are obviously information on the nutritional value of the chocolates.
I didn't expect too much of the chocolates as they were the inexpensive type (80 yen per box) and were packaged more as simple sweets for after meals or perhaps to get over a craving for chocolates. And that's very much how I could describe their taste - just okay. It's not the type of chocolates you would try to buy a lot of and probably keep in storage for a while mindful, of course, of the expiration date.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

J.Co donuts

I have wondered about the long queues at J.Co stores in the malls. I was told by friends that their donuts are really good. And so when J.Co opened a branch near our office, I decided to get a box we could share during merienda at the office. I didn't get the exact names of each of the doughnut variants though I did remember a couple that were called Al Capone, and reputedly the best selling doughnut from J.Co.

A box of 12 donuts is priced at 350 PhP but you can get 2 boxes for 550 PhP.
Al Capone
I forget what this one is called but it is a delight because of the nuts
What attracts a lot of people to buy J.Co is the variety with some doughnut concoctions being quite daring in the combination of ingredients.

The verdict is that their donuts are really good. Personally though, I prefer the classic glazed donuts of Krispy Kreme over J.Co's version. Of course, I would always prefer the freshly made regular sugar raised or sprinkled donuts like the one we used to buy in the old Rustan's in Cubao or Unimart in Greenhills. These were guilty pleasures from my childhood.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ootoya: Katsu in Bangkok

While re-exploring the Siam Center area, I decided to have my early dinner at the Discovery Center, which is just across the intersection from MBK. I was already a bit tired from walking around so I decided to check out the restaurants at the Discovery. I ended up eating at a Japanese restaurant at the upper level of the mall where also located is the Madame Tussauds wax museum in Bangkok. I didn't go in the museum as it was not my type of museum (I prefer the science museums and art galleries.). Anyhow, the restaurant's name is Ootoya, and the branch is supposed to be a part of a chain of restaurants you'll also find in other countries including, of course, Japan.

A pestle to go with the bowl of sesame seeds
Rosu katsu set includes miso soup, rice, lettuce and shredded cabbage
Why eat in a Japanese restaurant when in Bangkok? Well, for one, I already had my full of Thai food and didn't want anything spicy before I flew back to Manila. Another reason to eat Japanese food in Thailand is the fact that there are many good Japanese restaurants in Bangkok. This is in part due to the many Japanese visitors who go to Thailand that basically increased the demand for Japanese food. Of course, I have been to Thailand many times in the past so it's not like I haven't tried Thai food. In fact, I even ate at Thai restaurants while traveling in the US one time, preferring Asian food to burgers and steaks. So for those visiting Thailand for the first time or maybe the second, I strongly recommend their trying Thai street food and food courts (they have these in the malls) rather than go to some fancy restaurant. Eat where many Thai eat and don't risk it at a possible tourist trap.

Friday, December 6, 2013

RIP Nelson Mandela

We were just watching the last part of Invictus last night. We caught the last few minutes of the movie shown on TV and wondered why it was replayed when the station had just featured the film last Sunday. Still, we decided we would watch the last part from when South Africa was on the verge of winning the Rugby World Cup. What followed immediately after the win were various scenes showing how that country celebrated and how their people embraced each other despite their long history of conflict. South Africa had been implementing apartheid that had resulted in a segregation and animosity among the minority white and majority black citizens of the country. The film showed the influence and inspiration provided by their leader, a former political prisoner and activist, Nelson Mandela.

I, too, learned about Mandela when we were in Grade School. Part of our social studies education had been topics regarding events and situations in other countries. There we learned about what was state sponsored discrimination in the form of apartheid. It was as if they were living in a time when slavery and discrimination was the norm rather than an aberration in humanity. Mandela changed that, struggling to teach his nation, to teach the world that apartheid must end. And it did, and over time we saw a nation rise and, more importantly, forgive while not forgetting to bring justice to past crimes. 

Mandela continues to inspire people and countries and a lot of quotes have been attributed to him (just look at Facebook now!) that also provides us with snippets of wisdom from a man who has been through a lot. Such is the impact of one man who refused to be overwhelmed by a system that promoted persecution and abuse, and that resulted to millions suffering. The struggle continues for South Africa to this day as well as for people in many other countries including ours. Hopefully, we can continue to learn from Mandela's example and emerge victorious from the problems we brought upon ourselves. Hopefully, we too will step up to do more and beyond expectations rather than just be something like fence-sitters or spectators in nation-building.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Late night snacks

I have this bad habit of eating snacks late in the evening and after dinner. Of course, these are mostly junk food that I eat while watching TV or a movie on DVD. I also like to munch while working late on some paper or report that I'm writing, usually to meet a deadline the following day. My favorite snacks would be barbecue or cheese flavored junk. As I have lived in Japan and Singapore for some time, I discovered some pretty good snack food there and miss these from time to time. Fortunately, I can satisfy that "longing" for these snacks through my travels.

Meiji chocolate milk is something I've enjoyed whenever I'm in Japan. Quite honestly, I think it tastes better than similar products currently available in the Philippines. Is it a sign of a deterioration in product quality for our local products or just my preference? Anyhow, I don't classify this as junk but more as something to help me sleep well at night.
Another Meiji product that I've mentioned in one of the old posts is this cheese flavored corn snack - Karu or Karl. Outside Japan, I can only find this snack in regular supermarkets in Bangkok. In other cities, you'll find this only at Japanese themed stores. Of course, it helps that the MBK mall has a Tokyu store so Japanese snacks are available there.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chocolate review: Villars Noir 72%

I picked up a bar of Villars Noir 72% dark chocolate while browsing the shelves in the chocolates section of a supermarket some months ago. I don't exactly remember if we had tasted this chocolate before (it's likely we had, given our penchant for checking out what's available at the supermarkets where we usually do our groceries). I do remember it was on sale as the chocolate was about to expire in a month's time so I picked a couple of bars that we can easily consume before the expiration date. It turned out to be good dark chocolate. Just bitter enough considering it was 72% and should not be at the same sweetness as, say, Meiji Black. We didn't notice anything funny in the taste that indicated the chocolate was nearing its expiration date. Other chocolates' labels state a "Best Before" rather than "Expiration" so there's still some significant shelf life to these products.

Villars Noir 72% dark chocolate
More detailed information on the chocolate including the expiration date


Monday, December 2, 2013

Indian food in Bangkok

I anticipated Thai food being served for our lunches and the Welcome Dinner for the conference I attended in Bangkok. So when our group decided to have a very late lunch or very early dinner at the nearby MBK, I opted for Indian food instead, and got myself Tandoori chicken and saffron rice to satisfy my late afternoon hunger. I didn't plan to go out for dinner anymore, deciding in advance to have a light supper, have a good night's rest and in the morning eat a hearty breakfast before proceeding to the conference venue.

Tandoori chicken and saffron rice with different sauces provided for the chicken


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Buto't Balat

The last time I was in Iloilo was when I delivered a keynote lecture for a symposium organized by the Metro Iloilo - Guimaras Economic Development Council (MIGEDC). That was almost 3 years ago when I was still Director of our research and extension center at UP Diliman. When we went out for dinner, my staff led us to a new restaurant near the still unfinished Plazuela de Iloilo. We had a nice dinner there and I remembered the restaurant when we recently were walking around Plazuela and trying to decide where to have our dinner. Only a few minutes walk from the Plazuela, we easily got a seat on that weekday evening.

Entrance - I didn't notice the child seated near the walkway to the restaurant when I took the photo
I found the lamps at the restaurant amusing and likely interesting to the wife
Located near the waterways, there was surprisingly no mosquitoes or other insects. The restaurant management did a good job on this and is surely a plus for their customers.
I think this photo pretty much captures the ambiance of the place. It's great for dates and for barkada nights out. It can also be a good place for clandestine meetings like those talking business over dinner.
We ordered mostly grilled food including the very delightful managat (mangrove jack). We also had soup from the head of the managat mixed with vegetables.
Buto't Balat is located beside the Plazuela Iloilo and a short walk from the Diversion Road. It can get quite crowded during weekends but on weekdays, especially early dinner, its not difficult to get a good table.