Friday, August 28, 2015

Kazoku Japanese Restaurant, Maginhawa Street

A great find along Maginhawa Street in Katipunan is a recently opened Japanese restaurant. Kazoku is at the Second Floor on a new building beside Vida Doria near the intersection with Mahusay Street (across from Nuezca Cafe). The interior is impressive for a restaurant that's obviously in the mix in the very competitive Maginhawa scene. But more importantly, they food is good! 

We ordered salmon sashimi and scallop sashimi and what came out were good quality sashimi that were practically 'melt in your mouth'. I ordered zaru soba for myself and my colleagues tried their tempura soba. These also tasted good and authentic as far as we could recall many of our past Japanese meals.

Bar and sushi chef
Bar extension with a nice view of the kitchen
Tables waiting for the lunch crowd
Another look at the bar, this time without the chef but with the TV showing anime
Condiments on each table with a doll for that additional Japanese element
The interiors present a clean, well lighted place for diners. The sliding door to the left leads to a room that can be used for private functions such as meetings.
My favorite zaru soba
What's left of our chicken and yasai
Salmon sashimi
Scallop sashimi

The service is okay as their staff are attentive and helpful with the menu. The prices are also reasonable so it doesn't hurt the pockets. We will definitely be back here to try out their other dishes. They have quite an extensive menu so that means we will be coming back many more times to sample these.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Transport in times of rains and insensitive statements

How important is a good public transport system? Part of the definition of a good public transport system is that it should be an all-weather system. This means that even if there is inclement weather, the system would still be functioning and able to ferry people between their homes, workplaces, schools and other destinations. Of course, the exception here would be the times when there are extreme weather conditions like typhoons passing through cities. The rains today and past other days reminds us how difficult it is to commute even when you have your own vehicle. Those who opt to use their own cars now encounter severe traffic congestion with increasing frequencies while those with only public transport as their choice usually have difficulty getting a ride home.

It is not just unfortunate but rather depressing that Metro Manila and other major Philippine cities have no efficient public transport systems. The current modes of transport are road-based and dominated by paratransit including jeepneys, multicabs and tricycles. The state of disrepair of the PNR and MRT3, the much-delayed extensions of LRT1 and LRT2, and the much-delayed construction of MRT7 and BRT lines all contribute to the hellish commutes people experience everyday. Combine these with what experts regard as deficient station plaza designs that have led to inefficient transfers between the trains and road-based transport. It is no wonder that a person on  bicycle can beat a commuter on a trip between Trinoma in Quezon City and a university in Manila considering the state of MRT3 and the poor transfer conditions between MRT3 and LRT1. This won't likely be the case in Singapore or Tokyo where the proper hierarchies of transport are well established and with the necessary facilities to support their people-friendly systems.

What's more depressing, frustrating and disappointing (if its possible to feel all three simultaneously) is how transport officials, including and especially the top official of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), apparently see our transport woes as "not fatal". Is it really "not fatal"? Increases in the incidence of respiratory diseases due to the increased emissions are attributable to mobile sources (vehicles) and the long hours of road traffic congestion. The increase in the number of fatal road crashes as reported by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is also attributable to a significant increase in traffic volumes. One comment on social media was right on the dot on emergency cases ending up dying due to the ambulances being unable to make it to the hospitals in time for their passengers' treatments.

And so, there were renewed calls for transport officials to get out of their chauffeured cars and take regular public transport between their homes and offices. The dares include riding the MRT3 during the peak periods and actually experiencing the queues and the crowded platforms and trains. It is no wonder that the image of the Dutch ambassador riding his bicycle to his office has been a popular share in social media because a lot of people feel that leaders should be examples themselves on how each one of us can pitch in to solve transport and traffic problems. Attempts by some government officials (including the top official of the transport department) to ride the MRT3, for example, are met with much criticism because they are given special treatment - they skip the lines and have bodyguards escorting them and clearing the way and space for them to ride comfortably. Clearly, this is not what the common commuter experiences everyday when he or she would have to use something short of MMA skills to get a ride.

Are we helpless against such insensitivity of our officials, many of whom are politicians and professionals associated with oligarchs? Not totally. And next year's elections offer the commuting public a chance to express what they think about transport in this country and in their cities and municipalities by making transport and traffic urgent issues that need to be addressed and prioritized. Will you vote for candidates who had a hand in the continuing deterioration of transport in the Philippines and who consistently dismiss transport and traffic issues as secondary and just a by-product of non-inclusive economic growth? I surely won't and will be very critical of candidates' platforms and proposed programs should they win and become the leaders of this land. A big part of those programs should be how to address transport and traffic issues especially the deficiencies in infrastructure. Addressing these pressing issues on transport and traffic will go a long way in improving the quality of life of Filipinos and ensure a sustainable and inclusive growth for the country.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chocolate review: Heidi Dark with Pistachio

Another Heidi bar I got from that supermarket at Clark Freeport is their dark chocolate with pistachio. I only tried the chocolate with the wife who asked one time after dinner about what's for dessert. I remembered we had this chocolate bar from the last trip to Clark and asked her to open one so we could together "evaluate" it.

The bar turned out to be a pleasant surprise with the pistachio nuts blending really well with the dark chocolate that's claimed to be 50% minimum cocoa. It tasted differently from the Lindt bar with pistachios that we also like (it was a favorite for me that I could get from a store specializing on imported foods during my time in Japan as a student) in that the Lindt bar was milk chocolate. The chocolate was smooth with just enough bitter in it and the pistachio was chewable with just enough crunch in it so it tastes really fresh.

Heidi dark with pistachio claims 50% cocoa content
Information on nutrition and ingredients are at the back of the package
Priced at 78 PHP per 80g bar, it is the same price as the other Heidi bars I've written about in this blog. It is good value for money for a very good chocolate. We haven't been buying the Meiji Black bars lately as I've bought quite a few Heidi bars to satisfy our not too occasional cravings for dark chocolate.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A new Bag of Beans in Tagaytay

We had a most sudden and urgent trip to Tagaytay almost a month ago. As we had a 2PM appointment and arrived at the city around 12noon, we decided to have lunch somewhere. We thought about eating at the Bag of Beans near the rotonda but saw that the parking was already full so we passed on it and decided to check out other restaurants only to encounter congestion along the section across the new Ayala mall (Serin) in Tagaytay. We decided to head back to what I thought was another Bag of Beans that I spotted a few hundred meters from the one near the rotonda. We were able to find it quickly and descended unto a driveway to the hidden gem of a restaurant quite different only in terms of ambiance to the other two Bag of Beans that we have been to.

The newest among the three Bag of Beans that we know of is located along the ridge-side of the highway. It is apparently an old house that was acquired by the people behind the popular coffee shop and turned into a nice restaurant. From the looks of the interiors, this was a nice house and has a good view of Taal Lake and the Volcano Island.

Outdoor tables at Bag of Beans
Indoor tables and interiors of what looks like an old house converted into a restaurant
What used to be a bar now serves as a divider between the dining areas and the kitchen
Another photo of the interiors showing the spiral staircase leading to the 2nd level, which I think is level with the highway outside.

T-bone steak with buttered vegetables and rice
A very generous serving of chicken cordon bleu with buttered veggies and mashed potatoes
The food was good (as we expected) and the service was also good with their staff very attentive and friendly to customers. We will definitely be back to eat at one of these Bag of Beans branches whenever we are in Tagaytay. The latest one seems to be coming up with a Bed & Breakfast soon based on the reply to my question to one of their staff. Until the next time...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chocolate review: Heidi Dark Intense 75%

Another Heidi bar I picked up at a popular supermarket inside Clark Freeport is their Intense 75% cocoa bar. I shared the bar with some colleagues after one lunch at the office and they enjoyed what they thought was smooth taste for a high percentage cocoa dark chocolate bar. They were expecting a really bitter chocolate and were surprised to find this to be on the sweeter side. I also didn't expect it to be as good as other dark chocolates with this % of cocoa.

Heidi Dark Intense chocolate claims to have a minimum of 75% cocoa
Information on the bar is at the back including the maker and the ingredients
It is also priced at 78PHP (about 1.68 USD) per 80g bar like the other Heidi bars I have featured. It is a bit more expensive than the Goplana bars I recently featured here (which are 50PHP per 90g bar) but I think the Heidi bars are better tasting (therefore of better quality chocolates) so that is perhaps the best justification for the price difference.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Chocolate review: Goplana Gorzka with Dried Fruits and Peanuts

I had featured recently a dark chocolate from Poland that I bought at a popular supermarket inside Clark Freeport. The chocolate was good and smooth at 60% cocoa. The only difference with the first Goplana bar I wrote about is that this one had dried fruits and peanuts integrated with the chocolate. The dried fruit was not candied so it was chewy and a delightful mix with the dark chocolate which had a hint of bitterness to it.

This dark chocolate bar with dried fruits and peanuts is a delight to eat with chewable dried fruit and nuts infused with the chocolate.
Detailed information on nutrition and ingredients are at the back. Note, too, the translation of dark chocolate with dried fruit and peanuts in Polish (Czekolada gorzka z bakaliami).

A bar is priced at 50.00PHP (about 1.08 USD) at the Puregold supermarket inside Clark Freeport. That's a good price for a 90g dark chocolate bar in the Philippine market.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Tenya in the Philippines

One of my favourite places to eat at in Tokyo whenever I was there is a chain specialising on tempura. The first time I ate at Tenya was back in 1996 when I first went to Tokyo and we ate at the branch under the elevated JR Sobu Line in Akihabara, the famous electric town in Tokyo. The set-up was much like bar. There was a counter where you could get a seat and make a quick order. We ate quite frequently there (almost every weekend) as Akihabara was one of our haunts. Later, we would try out their other branch nearby as the one beneath the railways was always crowded. I introduced the Clairvoyant to Tenya when she first visited Tokyo in 2008. That time, Tenya already had a branch with a restaurant layout this time so we were able to get a table for our small group.

A close friend who introduced me to Tenya many years ago was also the one who told me that Tenya was finally in the Philippines. He saw a Tenya at the SM Megamall but was not able to eat there. Some weeks after, the Clairvoyant told me over dinner that they ate at a Tenya at Bonifacio Global City near their office there. From what she related, it seems that that branch was not able to capture the taste (and surely the ambiance) of the Tenya's we ate at in Tokyo. I finally got to try eating at Tenya but at SM Megamall in Ortigas.

Tenya Menu

Tendon set with miso shiru (miso soup) - we also ordered chicken karaage
The tendon was good though I am tempted to say that, of course, the one in the Tenya's in Tokyo was definitely better. I don't recall eating karaage at any of the Tenya's in Tokyo so I would say that the one I ate here was okay though not as good as the one we had at Ippudo. Prices are okay, too, even considering that similar restaurants from Japan (Yoshinoya, Pepper Lunch and all those ramen restaurants that have set up shop in the Philippines) are actually a bit more expensive considering the exchange rates. I will definitely eat here again and yes, it will be tendon again whenever I have a craving and Tenya is nearby.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ippudo, SM Megamall

We were finally able to eat at Ippudo at SM Megamall. Every time we passed by the restaurant, it was full and there was a line outside. And so we decided to go there for an early lunch before our movie date. That turned out to be a good decision as we easily got a table and got to enjoy good ramen. A bonus were our orders of gyoza and karaage (essentially fried chicken), which we thought were also really good.

Shiromaru special
Shiromaru chashu
Karaage - their version of this 'fried chicken' is my current favorite among those I have tasted among the current crop of Japanese restaurants
Gyoza - the Clairvoyant said she preferred Ippudo's gyoza than that of another Japanese restaurant at Megamall specializing in gyoza
We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Ippudo. We will definitely be back for future meals. The prices are just about within the range of its contemporaries. Of course, it is a bit expensive than your usual meals at the Teriyaki Boys and Tokyo Tokyos but the food (i.e., ramen, gyoza and karaage) are two thumbs up on our list of the same we've eaten at other Japanese themed restaurants here.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Alessandra Olivia

I would have wanted to write more frequently but then something really special happened last week. Our daughter Ally arrived last July 31 and our lives have suddenly become quite hectic. Ally is our first child and we couldn't give enough of ourselves (including our time) to her. Of course, I will be writing about her from time to time and perhaps celebrating some milestones here in my blog. One cannot truly say he/she is prepared to have a child until that child comes to their lives!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Chili's Fairview Terraces

We had our regular lunch out after church at the Fairview Terraces mall. We have been going to this mall instead of SM Fairview for quite some time now as they offer different restaurants from the usual at SM. Also, the parking is covered so we could come back to our vehicle in any weather and don't end up in a literally hot car. That Sunday in July though was my father-in-law's birthday and we decided to go to a restaurant he'd surely enjoy (he had not tried it yet). Chili's is a good place to go for light to heavy meals. We have gone to some of their branches in the past but it had been a while since we had a meal there. Here are a few photos of what we had for lunch as we celebrated my father-in-law's birthday.

Boneless buffalo chicken salad
Large serving of steak
Grilled salmon with vegetables
Grilled pork chops with a generous serving of vegetables on the side
Molten chocolate cake
We had a great meal at Chili's and would certainly be back again. The service at their branch at Fairview Terraces was really good with the staff were attentive. This was considering that there were many others celebrating their birthdays at the restaurant that lunchtime we were there. Kudos to the staff for the good food and service!