Friday, October 31, 2014

RIP Juan Flavier

The Philippines lost a great man yesterday. Some will say "humabol pa sa Todos Los Santos" but then I'm sure that he didn't mean it considering he struggled with health issues the past few years of his very productive life. Our generation will remember Dr Juan Flavier for his slogan when he was Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) - "Just DOH it!" - an obvious allusion to a shoe company's popular slogan that was embraced and embodied by its athlete endorsers who included probably the best person to ever play basketball. Well, Flavier was probably the best DOH Secretary we had and his programs then, some if not many of which have been continued today, were very effective and captured the imagination of the country so much so that his popularity boosted him to become Senator of the Republic of the Philippines for a long time.

I didn't get to know him personally but the Clairvoyant did. That was when she was still working in Congress as a staff of a Congressman who later on would become a Senator himself (he is currently one). She had a few stories about the Doctor who became Secretary and later on Senator. He was a modest and simple person; the author of "Doctor to the Barrios" who inspired many young MD's to serve their fellowmen in the countryside. It is a big challenge to be a doctor in the rural areas in the Philippines and from what I gather, this also involves sacrifices and foregoing the high salaries that tend to go with lucrative practices in the city or abroad.

It was no wonder he was a popular senator and helped create laws that benefitted a lot of people. I have been told that he was supposed to have been among those considered as "presidentiable" back in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, his policies on reproductive health were ahead of his time and had irritated if not offended the Catholic Church at the time. Their criticism of the progressive Flavier was enough allegedly to convince then Pres. Fidel V. Ramos to consider supporting another politician who ran for country's highest post in 1998. Flavier instead ran for a Senate post. Would Flavier have defeated another popular actor-politician who won but was eventually toppled in 2001? That is a "what if" in our history and if he did, who can say what changes could have happened in our political and social landscape? Perhaps he was one of those whom we can claim as a good president we never had?

Rest in peace Dr Juan Flavier. You have done your part in building this nation and in helping Filipinos live better, healthier lives. We thank you for that and you will live on for your humble contributions in public service.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Artsy Cafe, Maginhawa Street

We decided to check out the other end of Maginhawa Street after discovering a newly opened Japanese restaurant in the area near Holy Family School. We had mostly explored the en leading to Bgy. Botocan andthe Camp Karingal area and we had not been to the other part leading to Philcoa in a while. Previously we had dined in that area near Holy Family as we frequented Grill Queen, Salt of the Earth and other restaurants/eateries that used to be in the area. What's still there right in the mid-sections of Maginhawa are Friuli, Adobo Connection, Crazy Katsu and others that survived and and are now thriving in the Maginhawa food scene.

Artsy Cafe features a bar but with no seats so you can't eat there. You do, however, get the artsy feel from the decors including the colorful vintage style lamps.
The chandeliers and drawings are also consistent with the restaurant's theme.
Tables have what looks like wheat grass for functional ornaments. I say functional because they can always get a pot and put the grass in the blender for a quick, healthy drink to serve customers.
I ordered grilled fish fillet and was not disappointed with my food. The fish came with a salad consisting of arugula, tomatoes and mangoes.
I ordered their chocolate cake to see if it was the real deal mentioned by our office staff who had eaten here before. It wasn't the best chocolate nor was it among the best I've tasted but it was good - it was moist enough and not too sweet.
We were already hungry when our other orders arrived so I wasn't able to get photos of their katsudon and barbecue chicken. My colleague said the chicken was okay but the katsudon was so-so and they didn't have the togarashi spices that could have been the difference for this Japanese dish. I have heard from our office staff about their eating here previously and they had good meals so we'll probably be back to try out the other items in their menu.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Badjao Seafront Restaurant

Back in Puerto Princesa after almost 5 years, I was quite excited to explore the city again despite us being on official business with a Visiting Professor from Tokyo. This circumstance did not limit us from enjoying what Puerto Princesa had to offer in terms of food. Our guest loves sea food and we do, too, so it was not so difficult to decide on where to eat. Our hotel was about 15 minutes to the city center where the popular dining spots were and the hotel manager recommended that we instead go to  Badjao Seafront restaurant that was just about 8 minutes from the hotel. Being already hungry after an afternoon's meeting and our delayed flight that only afforded us a quick lunch before our appointment, we took his recommendation and did not regret doing so.

Entrance to the restaurant
The interiors
The lamps
Salt and pepper squid and tuna sashimi
Kinilaw na tuna
I wasn't able to get good photos of our other orders that night. I think we were very hungry to take more photos and already engaged in interesting talk. Our meals at the restaurant though were very good and we went back to our hotel full and satisfied with out meal. It also helped that unlike other restaurants that tend to be noisy, we had nice background music care of a musician on the piano playing relaxing music for diners. There were also other sights around the restaurant located along the coast and these were fishermen doing their thing including some on foot and wading the shallow (it was low tide) waters around the restaurant to catch fish or crustaceans hiding in the mangroves. 

Despite the location of the restaurant (it requires some travel from the Puerto Princesa city center) there were lots of customers. These were mostly foreign tourists and everyone seemed to have enjoyed their meals based on how they ate and some of their reactions as they were served and ate their food. I think Badjao Seafront restaurant is a good option for those looking to have a good lunch or dinner in a clean, well-lighted place where you can talk without having to raise your voice to compete with loud music or noise. The food is really good with fresh ingredients and their service is also good - all plus points for this restaurant by the bay.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tokyo Tonteki at U.P. Town Center

One of our mentors from Japan was visiting the university. And so we made it a point to go to Japanese restaurants once in a while so our visitor would be able to enjoy what we thought was good Japanese food but at prices relatively lower than their counterparts in Japan. Katsu sets, for example, like the ones by Pinza Bairin or Yabu can be quite expensive in Japan compared to here. Going to the U.P. Town Center, we asked our visitor to choose among the Japanese restaurants there and he said he wanted to try Tokyo Tonteki. I took only a few photos in deference to our guest who might not be big on taking photos of food we ordered and were about to eat for lunch.

We originally ordered their Tonburg steak set but were informed that it was not available so we ended up with their Tonteki set and Ebi fry set. The ebi fry was good but the tonteki or pork steak tasted a bit strange for those of us who ordered it. We were no strangers to Japanese food having lived in Japan for many years and being able to enjoy their food wherever we went in that country; and so we thought perhaps this was a different take on the pork steak we have tasted elsewhere before.

The writings on the walls tell a story about the food - its preparation and the ingredients

There's no denying their specialty is pork in this restaurant

The tonteki set came with unlimited rice, miso soup and shredded cabbage

The food was okay but my colleagues were a bit disappointed that it was not as they expected. Our visitor was the one who ordered ebi fry and we didn't share orders so he could not comment on the pork steak. Quite frankly, I share in the opinions of my friends as I also ordered a tonteki set and I felt there was something not quite right with the taste of the food. We found the tonteki to be quite bland. Perhaps the pork was not seasoned (hindi tinimplahan?). Or maybe it was the sauce? We all ordered our sets with their tonteki sauce so perhaps we should have tried their onion-based one. One of us casually mentioned to our waitress that perhaps the restaurant should have other options for sauces. But then that probably is the chef's or cook's call and prerogative. Are we looking forward to going to the restaurant again? Maybe but perhaps not so soon...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chocolate review: Valrhona Noir Caraibe

The batch of bars I bought at the airport last February included several Valrhonas like Caraibe. I featured this in a previous post but am writing about it again and posting the photos of a different bar of Caraibe. This is a 70g bar that I found at the airport duty free shop in Manila and not the 100g bar I bought before in Changi. It contains 66% cacao and, according to the label, is supposed to have a "balanced and velvety taste." So far, we have found Valrhona chocolates to be the real deal and a big deal in terms of quality. The taste speaks for itself.

Caraibe's 66% cacao is smooth and true to its billing as balanced and velvety
Again, more information on the chocolate at the back
This bar cost 7.10 USD or about 308.60 PHP at the present exchange rate. That's pretty expensive for a 70g bar (about 4.41 PHP per gram). However, I think this bar like other Valrhona bars I've written about previously is worth its price. I just consumed a bar over the past 3 days. It took me that long as I wanted to enjoy the chocolate and eating a bar of chocolate this good in one seating is just not right.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Takeiya, Maginhawa Street

A new find along Maginhawa Street in UP Village is Takeiya. It is found at the corner of Maginhawa and Mahusay Streets near the Holy Family School. They have a very crowded menu of popular Japanese food like sushi, sashimi, katsu, and ramen. There's donburi, bento sets as well as a la carte items. Despite on a soft opening, their staff are very attentive and the kitchen is fast with the orders as evidenced from all tables getting their food not long after they made their orders.

The menu features a lot of all-time favourite Japanese dishes. At the back are sushi and sashimi items, dessert and drinks. 
We though at first that it was just another colorful design for  the ceiling until we spotted Mt. Fuji in the background.

Popular items include sushi, ramen, gyoza and katsu.

Sushi bar

Tuna and salmon sashimi

Beef teriyaki

I wasn't able to take photos of the other food we ordered as we were already hungry and started eating  once the food arrived at our table. The food is okay. Nothing spectacular but maybe because its still their soft opening? But we will surely be back. We'll probably try their ramen as they have several on their menu. I read their claim about their tonkotsu ramen being authentic and that the broth is prepared 15 hours before serving. The only consideration though will be the parking. There are limited parking spaces at the building where Takeiya is located and on-street parking can be quite a challenge especially when there is school (Takeiya is practically beside Holy Family School.). 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

100 Revolving Restaurant

I've been wanting to post something about the 100 Revolving Restaurant in Eastwood in Quezon City. The restaurant is a popular lunch or dinner venue for corporate types, families as well as couples. The latter include those on a date where the one probably takes his/her partner out for an impressive meal. And impressive is really a word to describe the food and not just the views you can get from the revolving restaurant. I'll let a few photos speak for the restaurant. These are not professional photos, taken only with my trusty BlackBerry.

Prawns thermidor with mashed potatoes

Grilled Chilean sea bass

Dramatic sunset viewed from the restaurant

Onion soup

The bar
A view of Circumferential Road 5 with Mt. Makiling in the background to the left

A view of the Sierra Madre mountains - Pasig and Marikina are in the foreground while San Mateo and Montalban are further on in the background

Smoke from a fire somewhere in Quezon City - those buildings nearby are high rise condominiums in Eastwood City

C-5 traffic congestion at night
It's no surprise that the food is really good at 100 Revolving Restaurant because the chef is the renowned Chef Jessie Sincioco of Le Souffle fame. I was a bit surprised though the first time I ate there when we had guests over from Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand for a meeting of our research group. I wasn't able to recognize some items on the menu that were signature dishes of Chef Jessie's. 

And so I made sure that I would be back a next time. The timing was actually great and it was a spontaneous thing I brought up with the Clairvoyant whom I picked up early from her office. It was not difficult to convince her to have an early dinner considering we were there at around 5PM - perfect for catching the sunset and getting our main courses just before one full revolution of the restaurant. We'll be back again soon. Medyo ma-traffic lang in that area, which is usually the deterrent for people who might want to enjoy a splendid meal at the restaurant.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Porch by Cafe Verde

Looking for a place to eat after not being to go to our usual places for lunch (no more parking spaces!), we decided to check out a nearby restaurant that we spotted as we passed by Anonas Extension one time. The restaurant is The Porch by Cafe Verde. We were not familiar with Cafe Verde but we were definitely curious about The Porch as it is located in a building that was formerly a house along a predominantly residential area in Sikatuna Village. Their system has people ordering straight from the counter with the menu directly beside or above the counter. After paying for your orders, you can get back to you table and the meals will be served by their staff. Items on the menu are basically American Diner stuff plus some rice meals for those who prefer these over sandwiches.

Menu showing one of their specialties - Brian's Ribs

Desserts, drinks and burgers

Condiments on each table include ketchup, worcestershire sauce and hot sauce

Bacon, mushroom and cheese burger

Chicken-fried chicken

A close-up of their very juicy burger
The verdict based on what we ate is that the food is good and worth the money you paying for them. The servings are quite generous for the diner type items (e.g, hamburgers) and just right for the rice meals. I only learned recently that there is a Cafe Verde at the U.P. Town Center. We don't frequent the area despite it being near our office so I am not really familiar with what restaurants have opened there. Traffic seems bad for the short stretch of Katipunan that we have to traverse to go to U.P. Town Center every time we go there and, of course, there is the average cost of meals at restaurants there that is basically a deterrent for most of us who are on a budget. We will probably be eating again at The Porch but not necessarily in the near future considering the other choices along Maginhawa Street or in Teachers Village.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Via Antonella - another jewel along Maginhawa

Another discovery along Maginhawa St. is Via Antonella, which shares a building with Wicked Kitchen, Katsu Cafe and The Breakfast Table. It is a clean, well-lighted place at the corner of the ground floor of the building in Sikatuna Village and has intrigued us since we started having our lunch outs in the area. Following are a few photos taken from a few of our lunches at the restaurant.

The menu states the address and contact info of the restaurant.
It has a bar for those who intend to have drinks rather than just eat.
Curiosities include their lamps that reminded me of the Soviet Sputnik satellites that were the first man-made objects sent into space.
A view of Maginhawa from inside the restaurant
Another photo of the tables showing the specials for the day, the napkin holder and decorative accent.
A closer look at the wines on the cleverly designed holders on the wall
Staff working on customers' orders - their staff are attentive and helpful to diners
Chili tuyo pasta
Beef salpicao
Iced tea and warm kalamansi juice
Tuna belly adobo
Chicken barbecue
Dessert - I don't remember this to be in the menu but this sinful delight tells a lot about how good eating at the restaurant is
We have become regulars at Via Antonella. It is a cozy place to have lunch at and the food is good so it is a no-brainer in as far as lunches go. The prices of items on the menu are also reasonable even on a government worker's salary or perhaps a student's allowance. We have not found it crowded during lunch time so it is easy to get a table. It helps that their staff are attentive and have good manners when dealing with customers.