Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quick bite: Golden Fried Siomai Chao Fan

It's the latest treat from Chowking.

The fried siomai have the same taste as the steamed ones. These crunchy golden bites have the same well-seasoned meaty flavor.

Even better-tasting is the fried rice! Each grain's taste is punctuated and satisfying. Delicious!

An order costs Php 87.

Try it and judge for yourself.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quick slice and sip at Momma Brown

We were craving dessert and coffee one afternoon and decided to finally drop by Momma Brown.

We ordered some of their bestsellers: a cup of Café Mocha, a Red Velvet cupcake, and a Peanut Butter cookie.

The Café Mocha (Php 105) had the right thickness and richness, making the drink hearty and comforting. The sweetness was just right, just like the mixture of the flavors of the coffee and chocolate. A little more bitterness would've made it even better.

Next, the Red Velvet Cupcake (Php 75). The cupcake itself was a little dry and tasted a little stale. But the cream cheese frosting was delicious! Good balance of saltiness, sweetness, and a little acidity from the cream cheese. Yummy!

Last on our plate, a Peanut Butter Cookie (Php 25). The cookie wasn't too hard to bite into; it crumbled well. It had authentic peanut butter flavor. It wasn't saccharine and had hints of saltiness from the chopped peanuts.

Aside from the food we ordered, we also like the place. The decor was cute and homey. We just found the café a tad too big and spaciou; we preferred a more intimate and cozier place.

Based on our first visit and experience, we will definitely come back.

Momma Brown is along Marcos Highway, Marikina City side.

First bite at Concho's

Place: Open and spacious. The chairs are a little cheap looking, but the tables are sturdy and modern.

Food: Nothing extraordinary. The food doesn't taste bad, but it's not great and unforgettable.

First on our table is the Concho's Sisig Super Meal (Php 170): a small serving of the sisig, the restaurant's specialty, with fried egg, rice, vinegar, a glass of iced tea and a cup of their dessert of the day (It's Mango Sago on the day of our visit).

The sisig's flavor is monotonous. All we can taste are onions. No meaty flavor, no deep, slightly bitter flavor one can sense from good sisig. The slightly fruity acidity of the vinegar is not even enough to add dimension to the dish. Also, the sisig is a little too wet.

Next, the Dynamite (Php 130): finger chilies stuffed with beef and cheese, fried inside rice paper, served with a honey-mustard dip. This one is delicious. The flavor is balanced, nothing is too salty or overpowering. The dip is good, although a cheesy dip would be better, or aioli. 

For dessert, we have the Mango Sago (Php 60 if ordered separately): tiny tapioca balls with ripe mango chunks, all swimming in a sweet, creamy, milk sauce. This one is delicious, a little addicting actually. It's not sugary sweet. The vibrant mango flavor is highlighted. Yummy!

Price: Considering taste, food quality, and serving size, we find the food here a little overpriced. Also, we weren't issued an official receipt. Naughty, naughty...

Service: Waiters are attentive. We just wish they'd smile more.

Concho's (House of Sisig Goodness) is along the famous Lilac St., Marikina City.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Quick bite: Cream-O Brownie Crunch

Brownie crackers with chocolate chips.

There are no problems when it comes to texture; each piece has the right level of crisp, making it easier to bite.

Taste wise, well, it's OK. It's sweet, with a hint of bitterness. We wish it were the other way around.

Try it and judge for yourself.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Quick sip: Nescafé 3-in-1 Espresso Roast

Instant coffee from Thailand.

The taste is balanced. The sweetness is just right, and there's a delicious depth from the bitter coffee. Yummy!

Monday, January 19, 2015

First bite at Isla Cafe

Place: Small space. Warm and authentic native decor. Spacious dining tables. Comfortable chairs. Slightly messy kitchen.

Food: Sumptuous and satisfying.

The place claims to be the house of Manila's pansit, puto, and pares. So we want to verify this.

First on our plate is the Pansit Lucban (Php 180): sautéed noodles with vegetables, fried pork belly, bits of longganisa Lucban, and fried garlic bits. It is served with vinegar and a piece of puto. Delicious! No overpowering flavors, just a good mix of meaty and salty tastes. The vinegar adds a layer of depth and the complementary acidity.

Then, a Puto Box-of-6 (Php 127). There are lots of flavors to choose from: original, ube, chocolate, pandan, etc. The puto is not too sweet and it has the right stickiness and texture. The flavors are authentic. We like the pandan and the ube.

Then, the Beef Pares (Php 225): tender cubes of beef brisket swimming in a dark, sweet sauce, served with ginger-flavored fried rice and a bowl of soup. The pares itself is tasty and hearty. It has the right marriage of sweetness, saltiness, and anise flavor. The fried rice is interesting to the palate because it tastes like arroz caldo, with pronounced chicken and ginger components. The soup is good enough; it just lack more meat flavor expected of good nilaga.

Next, Lechon Macau (Php 285): deep fried pork belly over the ginger-flavored fried rice, served with liver sauce and atchara. The pork pieces are fried well; the skin is crispy and the meat is still juicy. They do not however taste like lechon macau. Authentic lechon macau has a taste reminiscent of chorizo. The pork of this dish is ordinary lechon kawali.

Lastly, Pinakbet at Bagnet (Php 185): mixed vegetables steamed with shrimp paste, served with lechon kawali (not bagnet!), over bagoong rice. Rice is good, bursting with bagoong flavor. The vegetables are just a bit overcooked, but flavorful. The pork pieces lack the sour flavor to be bagnet.

Price: Considering serving size, taste, and quality, food here is reasonably priced.

Service: Needs improvement. Waiting time for food went beyond the acceptable 15 minutes. Our bill took an unnecessarily long time to be settled (cashier was happily chatting with a co-worker).

Isla Cafe is on the topmost floor of Robinsons Magnolia.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

First bite at Santouka Hokkaido Ramen

Place: Spacious, bright, and noisy. The couch is comfortable and the dining table wide.

Food: Generally delicious.

First item we ordered is a bowl of a bestseller, the Kara-Miso Ramen (Php 365, Regular bowl): thick, curly, yellow noodles, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, leeks, and thick slices of char siu, all swimming in a "spicy soybean paste" soup. It's delicious. The flavor of the soup is not overpowering. It gets saltier though as it gets colder. The noodles are firm. The vegetable components are crisp and fresh. The char siu is tender and moist, but a little salty.

Next on our table, the Aburi Char Siu-Pao (Php 130): tender char siu slices, sliced vegetables (cabbage and cucumber), mayonnaise, and teriyaki sauce, all nestling inside a soft, fresh, steamed bun. It has a nice mix of textures. The taste though is flat. We can only sense saltiness. The dish could better if it had a hint of sweetness, just to make the flavor punctuated.

To be able to try more food items, we choose The Small Ramen and Char Siu Rice Bowl Set (Php 450). This set includes a small bowl of Shoyu Ramen, a bowl of Char Siu cubes over rice, a small serving of salad, pickled vegetables, a cup of hot tea, and a small green tea cupcake. The Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce-based) is delicious! The broth is tasty and hearty. The rice bowl is OK. The rice is of high-quality, but again, the char siu is salty. The salad is good enough; the vegetables are crisp and fresh. The sesame-flavored dressing is yummy. The green tea is bland. Lastly, the green tea (matcha) cupcake is moist and teeming with authentic tea flavor.

Prices: Considering serving size, taste, and quality, food here is reasonably priced.

Service: Our waiters were alert and attentive. They could be warmer and friendlier though.

Santouka Hokkaido Ramen is on the 4th floor of TriNoMa, al fresco.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Quick bite: Chocolate & Hazelnut Parfait

A new treat by Starbucks.

A dessert with layers of hazelnut cream, chocolate cake, chocolate wafer, topped with chopped nuts and grains.

Good combination of textures. The hazelnut however is too sweet. And there's no other ingredient that can temper this saccharine layer. A bit of a letdown, really.

Try it and judge for yourself.

Quick slice: Chocolate Banana Cake

A new sweet treat from Starbucks.

The banana cake itself is moist and flavorful. The banana flavor seems authentic. The chocolate is good enough, semi-sweet. But together, the cake and the chocolate don't mix well. Their combined flavors result into a weird, bubblegum tasting dessert.

A slice costs Php 120. Quite pricey for an ordinary-tasting cake.

Try it and judge for yourself.

Quick sip: Chestnut Praline Latte

Another new caffeine concoction from Starbucks.

It tastes like ice cream. It has the right amount of sweetness and depth. We like the hint of burnt sugar. We can barely sense the individual components, but together, they make a yummy drink.

Try it and judge for yourself.

Quick bite: Glazed Chickenjoy

It's the latest fried chicken treat from Jollibee.

As expected, the Chickenjoy itself is good: juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside. The sauce is not bad either. It has a good mixture of sweet and tangy flavors, with a hint of a livery taste. It is however too runny to be called glaze. It's not thick enough to cling to the chicken without sacrificing the crispiness of the fried fowl.

A Solo order costs Php 85.

Try it and judge for yourself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Quick bite: Dark Chocolate Truffle

It's by Trader Joe's.

It's a dark chocolate bar with a semisweet chocolate center. The chocolate is smooth and delicious, with the right balance of bitterness and sweetness.

The package though misleads people into expecting hints of coconut and jasmine flavors. You look at the list of ingredients and one can read no jasmine and no coconut. Naughty, naughty...

Despite the lie, the deliciousness of this chocolate, we cannot deny.

Try it and judge for yourself.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Quick sip: Raspberry Truffle Mocha

It's a new drink from Starbucks.

The raspberry component is too strong. We can barely taste the coffee, much less the truffle. The drink's flavor therefore is rather flat. More bitterness will make this drink more interesting.

A Short order costs Php 140.

Try it and judge for yourself.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Quick bite: Cashew and Pili Milk Chocolate Bonbons

Milk chocolate sweets teeming with chopped cashew and pili nuts. They're by Theo and Philo Artisan Chocolates. 

We like the texture of these treats. The chocolate is silky smooth, and the bits of nuts are fun to nibble. We just find it a tad too sweet though. And the chocolate itself has nothing extraordinary about it, tastewise. It doesn't taste bad, but there's nothing special, luxurious, unforgettable, and "artisan" about it.

Try them and judge for yourself.

First bite at Sweet Ecstasy

Place: The whole place is small, but the dining area is quite spacious. The hues of orange and brown, along with the mixture of wood, metal, and plastic, all contribute to the comfortable feel. The tables are a bit wobbly though. And the teeny tiny comfort room needs some cleaning and fixing.

Food: The food tastes good, but the flavors are not unfamiliar or special.

First on our table is a serving of Ecstasy Fries (Php 130): french fries topped with a slice of cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and thousand island dressing. The fries are golden, amply crispy, and well seasoned. The caramelized onions are sweet and delicious, adding good contrast to the saltiness of the cheese. Speaking of the cheese, the dish would better if the cheese used were melted. It is quite difficult to mix the solid slice of cheese with the dressing and onions.

Also, given the price, we hope that the fries come with a more special kind of cheese and sauce, rather than store-bought cheddar and thousand island dressing.

Next, the Cheese Burger (Php 170). It's your good ol cheeseburger: beef patty, lettuce, melted cheese, and bun. The ingredients are fresh. The patty is meaty and flavorful. Its flavor though is not awesome (as the place claims); we can think of other places that serve burgers with the same, even much better, taste. Our patty also is a little dry.

Then, some Sriracha-Lime Wings (Php 200): fried chicken wings coated with a concoction of the famed hot sauce and lime. Delicious! The wings are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The heat is enough to excite the palate but not too hot to burn the tongue. The lime is a good touch. The flavor is punctuated, making each bite satisfying.

Lastly, our drink: Salted Caramel w/ Fudge Brownie milkshake (Php 160). It has the right thickness and creaminess. It is a tad too sweet. And we can barely sense the salted caramel component; the fudge brownie taste is too pronounced.

Price: Considering taste, serving size, and food quality, food here is just a little overpriced (by Php 10 or 20).

Service: Although we didn't mind, the wait for our food lasted beyond 15 minutes. The staff was friendly and nice. But no one issued us a receipt. Naughty, naughty...

Sweet Ecstasy is along Jupiter St., Makati City.   

Saturday, January 3, 2015

First bite at Wangfu

Place: Nice modern furnishing. Sturdy spacious dining tables. Comfortable chairs. Messy counters and kitchen.

Food: Generally O-K. Food doesn't taste bad, but it's not great either. Some of us think that the dishes are bland. Some though think that that is a good thing because it gives the customers the chance to adjust the flavor.

We ordered some of their recommended dishes (those with the thumbs up icon).

First on our table was the Hakaw (Php 118): four pieces of packed dimsum pieces. Delicious! The filling was fresh and juicy. The wrapper though easily broke.

Next was the Beef Crispy Fried Noodles (Php 288): crispy noodles smothered with a thick, dark sauce, dappled with beef slices, carrots, and mushrooms, and served with bok choy. The ingredients were of high quality. The beef slices were tender. But the taste of the dish was not punctuated; there was something missing, flavor-wise. All we could sense was saltiness.

Then we ordered a set meal, The Salted Egg Fried Chicken meal (Php 188). The main dish came with a bowl of soup, unlimited serving of rice, and a small serving of tofu topped with pork floss. The Salted Egg Fried Chicken was tasty. One could really sense the salted egg flavor. The chicken though was just a little dry. And the dish, when it was presented, didn't look appetizing. The soup had hints of ginger, but its flavor was also not punctuated. The tofu dish was good, primarily because the pork floss was delicious and had a balanced taste.

For our drink, we had a the Thai Iced Tea (Php 78). This one was a tad too sweet. We wished it had more tea than condensed milk.

Price: Considering serving size, food quality, and taste, we find the food here reasonably priced. The bill comes with a 10% service charge.

Service: Needs improvement. Our waiters were not knowledgeable. They even got our orders wrong. But they were friendly and warm.

Wangfu is at the U.P. Town Center.