Le Bistro Vert

Restaurants with sustainable food menus aren’t exactly the next big thing, but they are slowly making a name for themselves. The first establishment I encountered that dabbles in slow food was Tourne. It was an interesting experience to say the least, even if they scored less than stellar marks from Fi and I.

Le Bistro Vert, with celebrity chef Sau del Rosario at the helm, is another resto that espouses the merits of organic and locally sourced ingredients. I’ve got a soft spot for sustainable cuisine, and  I’ve yet to try any of chef Sau’s restaurants so I’d be hitting two birds with one stone here once I saw that Deal Grocer was offering a voucher.

Mushroom Raviolo – P295

While I myself am not that much a fan of ravioli, Fi is absolutely smitten with it. Le Bistro Vert’s version was stuffed with a mix of  mushrooms, while the pasta itself was topped with cheese and swam in a creamy sauce. It was tasty and the flavors blended well. The earthiness of the mushrooms, the texture of the pasta, and the tanginess of the cheese all worked hand-in-hand in making you savor the moment and cherishing each bite.

Manila Clam Chowder – P195

One look at the dish and you know it’s not your regular, run-off-the-mill clam chowder. The guys over at Le Bistro Vert took steps to make sure that one spoonful will give a hint of the familiar, but at the same time, take you on an untraveled gustatory road. However, after finishing the whole bowl, there was something missing: the clams. Not one made an appearance. I’m not sure if it was an accident on their part or completely intentional. It boggles the mind.

Garlic Caramel Baked Wings – P250

What I really liked about the wings was that it was something against the grain. Nowadays, you can expect to order wings that are either the buffalo kind, or the Korean double-fried variety. What you get instead from Le Bistro Vert are juicy, free range chicken wings that pack a powerful garlic punch with a subtle sweet taste. Whether you’ll be enjoying it as an appetizer or as an entree, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Fish Belly, Buro Mustasa – P250

All it took was one whiff and I knew that the buro was ready. Its infamous stench quickly permeated every nook and cranny of the whole room, and imprinted itself on every piece of clothing within a whole city block. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but you get my drift. Moving on to actually tasting it, it wasn’t bad, but a little bit too salty for my taste. Yes, I know that it is supposed to be salty and eaten together with the vegetables, but I am just not a fan. Fi liked it though, but she did mention about how the dish was overpoweringly sour, with the tomatoes and all. Maybe something to counteract all the acid would be good?

Palawan Cashew & Herb Crusted Fillet of Fish – P375

What I had on the other hand, was one of their best-sellers. The dish featured a sole fillet blanketed with herbs, and laid on a bed of sweet potatoes. On the side, was a swath of edamame puree. What I like about this is how off-kilter it is. The ingredients used, all the way down to the presentation, is an exercise in eccentricity and creativity.

Toblerone Sans Rival

Much to Fi’s delight, Le Bistro Vert had a massive selection of different kinds of Sans Rival. We actually wanted to try at lest two flavors, but we were already full and close to bursting. So much for a romantic evening. Anyway, we settled on a slice of the Toblerone sans rival. While it doesn’t look like there aren’t many layers going on, rest assured that you’ll feel each layer’s wafery crunch as you slowly slice off a piece. Taste wise though, Fi notes that while it was good, it doesn’t actually taste like sans rival. I just nodded my head in agreement as I finished off the plate.

In conclusion, one of the best things Le Bistro Vert has going for them is that their thrust for sustainability doesn’t hinder them from delivering the goods. While we may have preconceived notions that the food may not be as good because they are organic or locally sourced, Le Bistro Vert tramples all over this misconception and gives you food that you would want to eat, period.

Le Bistro Vert
Streetside, Fraser Place, Streetside Fraser Place Tower
Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City
+632 403-1841

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Jozu Kin

Since we’re on the topic of Japanese fusion cuisine, the last one we were able to try was Jozu Kin in Greenhills. It’s  conveniently located in one of our regular haunts, Ronac Art Center. We’ve put off trying it out because we were forewarned by a friend that prices tend are a bit on the high side, so whenever we’re in the area, we stick with our tried-and-true fave, Charlies (which incidentally, I’ve yet to review). A Metrodeal voucher however, appeared on the horizon, so it’s finally time to pay them a visit!

Dynamite Roll – P228

I had a hankering for spicy tuna so I ordered the rolls and one temaki. I know it’s overkill but sometimes you just have those cravings. Anyway, the spice in the rolls were just right. The amount of heat was just enough for the amount of rice in each piece. Wasn’t too much, or too little – it was just right.

Spicy Tuna and Salmon Skin Temaki with Shrimp Roe – P123

I didn’t enjoy the temaki as much as the rolls. It’s not that it isn’t good, but because personally, I want each bite to be balanced taste-wise. I don’t want to take one bite, ooh-and-aah at all the flavors, then take a second one and taste nothing but rice.

Or maybe because I was just cheap and bought one piece and wasn’t able to appreciate all its nuances. Oh well, moving on.

Sake – P240

The salmon sashimi was good. It had a nice color and looked as fresh as it can be. I liked the plating as well. It was a nice touch in making what is seemingly ordinary into something playfully enticing.

Tartufo Hotate – P590

My initial reaction in seeing the scallops was of shock. This was it? Two pieces? I understand that jumbo scallops aren’t cheap, but for an entree, the servings were way too small. At the very least it should have been three – both for aesthetics (three’s a magic number, right?), and for the sake of the customer.

I have to admit though, that it was really good. The sear was spot-on, it was as juicy as you’d expect, and possessed the trademark sweetness you’d expect from a scallop.

Ox Tongue Teppanyaki – P385

The lengua was a nice way to stray off the beaten path. For most of us, our association with the taste of ox tongue automatically translates to gravy. Admit it. Sure you know the telltale texture, but most of the tongue we’ve tasted in local parties and functions are swimming in brown, artery-clogging sludge. Yummy sludge, but sludge nonetheless.

Jozu Kin’s take on ox tongue is  a welcome break from the ordinary. It was juicy, tender, and struck all the right notes. And all things considered, the price is decent, which is a huge plus.

Mango Peach Gelee with Mango Ice Cream – P145

This particular dessert dish we ordered was ordinary and quite frankly, uninspired. You have gelatin on the right, then a scoop of ice cream on the left. Mix to taste. That’s it.

Overall, the whole Jozu Kin experience was good. They are expensive, but the food is good. Since I am a cash-strapped twenty-something, I don’t think I’ll be returning soon. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but if you’re craving genuine Japanese food, I’d recommend sticking with Little Tokyo and Pasay Road. If you want a touch of fusion and the wallet for it, I’d heartily recommend Jozu Kin.

Jozu Kin
Lot 11 & 12 Ronac Bldg.,
Ortigas Ave., North Greenhills

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Robot Restaurant Lounge

Love him or hate him, when Tim Yap embarks on a new venture, people tend to take notice. His most recent outing, Robot Restaurant Lounge, is ambitious, ostentatious, and quite frankly, commendable.

The  interiors are nothing like you’ve seen before. Thousands of lightbulbs dot the ceiling, see-through glass floors make sure each step is made with caution, and the sleek silver furniture all work hand-in-hand in giving you a dining experience like no other.

I’m not really a clubber so I only have one question in mind – is the food any good? My voucher from Pakyaw is for a five-course meal worth P1888. That’s pretty expensive and bordering on fine-dining territory already. Let’s see if they’re worth it and up to snuff.

Spicy Tuna roll - Fresh Maguro in balsamic mayo, Layo oil and crispy Tunuki

Spicy tuna rolls are fast becoming a staple at our table in Japanese restos so being served this for starters was a good omen for the night. The size was perfect. It’s not ridiculously huge that you’d need a car jack to keep your mouth open just to eat it. The spice was just right, and it blended well with the tanginess of the balsamic mayo. It’s something that you’d want to order for yourself. Remember to give your friends cold, dead stares if the expect you to share.

Squid Robotayaki - Grilled bite-sized squid in skewers

Everything that the previous course was, this wasn’t. It was pretty anti-climactic. The skewered squid looks pretty sad jutting on top of an equally sad halved onion. If you give the whole presentation the benefit of the doubt and just eat it, you’ll still be disappointed. It had no taste and the sauce can only help so much. At this point, eating the onion is starting to look like a good idea.

Tiger Prawn Tempura Popcorn - Truffled prawn popcorns, red bell pepper sauce

For the third course, Robot redeems themselves.  The popcorn shrimp lives up to its promise of being addictingly good. The breading is minimal, and just enough to add that delectable, irresistible crunch to each bite.

Grilled Chicken Terriyaki - Wasabi potato mash, crispy egg, Yasai Itame and baslamic terriyaki sauce

While I have no qualms about the taste of the grilled chicken (even if it was rather ordinary), it was disheartening to see in the menu that it only costs half as much as the braised shortribs. It’s a small nitpick but it would have been better if they picked the price points for the entrees a wee bit closer.

Braised Shortribs - Mushroom risotto, young corn, asparagus, roasted bell pepper

Upon being served, the shortribs looked imposing. It sat on a bed of mushroom risotto blanketed with roasted vegetables and something ornamental that I couldn’t place. Once I cleared away the clutter, the entree shone. The shortribs were really soft and packed tons of flavor. The risotto underneath was rich and creamy. I’d gladly recommend this to anyone trying them out.

Mango Yuzu Cheesecake - Yuzu accent, mangoes, green tea sesame meringue

It seems that the whole Robot experience is all about highs and lows. When somebody says they’ll serve you cheesecake, you’d half-expect to see at the very least, a slice. What was served was barely enough for two bites. If they were going to go this route, it would have been better to serve dessert shooters, or something along those lines.

In all honesty, as unfair as it may sound, I don’t think I would have ever given Robot the time of day if it weren’t for the coupon that I was able to buy from Pakyaw. At least now, I can say that I’ve tried them out and be able to give an objective opinion. While I am doubtful that I’ll be coming back (nothing against them, just not my scene) anytime soon, I won’t hesitate to recommend them to friends and colleagues who like bright lights and shiny things.

Robot
912 Somerset Building,
Makati Ave. corner Sto. Tomas St.,
Makati City
(+632) 812-8800

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Offbeat Cafe

The very moment I saw the coupon for Offbeat Cafe, with their infamous Krispy Kreme burger, I knew that I needed to buy it.  was pretty convinced from the get-go that I wouldn’t like it. I actually consider the calorie-laden meal as an abomination against man but I felt compelled to give it a try. Kind of like a train wreck where for the life of you, you can’t look away.

To start things off, we ordered the breaded bacon strips. Sorry but the exact name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a good idea at first, because you know, it’s bacon. There was no need to expect for anything more than that but clearly, that wasn’t the case.

What was put on our table was a bland, oily mess.  It lacked the salty punch that bacon has or should have. What you taste in turn is just flavorless, breaded fat. To make matters worse, the dip wasn’t even half-full.

And yes, that’s the best photo I could take out of it.

Next up is their Kebab Burger. It also seemed like a good idea and frankly, it looks good on a plate. Sadly, one bite is all it takes for you to know that the meat was just microwaved. The yogurt sauce was good, but lacking. Almost all of it was concentrated in the center of the bagel. Overall, something that I wouldn’t recommend.

Moving on to the star of the show, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. I was really expecting not to like it, to be disgusted even. Let’s face it, the whole idea behind it is gimmicky and ridiculous. But even if I refuse to admit it, it works.

The sweet of the donut mixes well with saltiness of the burger, bacon, and cheese, while the fried egg just chills out in between. While the whole ensemble is not that big, I recommend sharing it because there’s only so much of it you could take on one sitting.

Return trip in order? Maybe on a dare or as a denouement to a drunken evening, but only for the Offbeat Krispy Kreme burger. It’s not exactly something that you’d crave for on a random day. You’re going to need a lot of coaxing before you go into the first bite. As wild and ludicrous the Krispy Kreme burger might sound, who knows, you just might like it.

Offbeat Cafe
7274 Malugay Street Makati City,
Makati, Philippines

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Photo Op – Rue Bourbon from Deal Grocer

Hey guys! Sorry for the lack of updates. Have been busy with the work front lately, but rest assured that I’ve been voraciously consuming and scouring good deals left and right. On a related note, I’ve had the privilege to be commissioned to do another shoot for DealGrocer. This time, for their Rue Bourbon offer in Makati. I wasn’t able to try out the food unfortunately, but it looks good! The deal is already live, and as of this writing, there’s more than a week left for you to buy. Let me know how it fares.

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Ramen Bar Eastwood

Ramen Bar over in Eastwood (and in The Fort) has been making waves as the upstart in the bustling Ramen business in the Metro. Opinion is divided though. Some swear that it is better than Ukkokei, the crown prince of noodles, while some hate Ramen Bar with a passion. I myself am a neophyte in the whole ramen scene, so this coupon I got from Lucky 7 was a good way to broaden my horizons.

Currently, Ramen Bar has two outlets: one in McKinley Hill in the Fort, and one in Eastwood. Their interiors resemble a curious mix between a dimsum container and a sauna. Everything is pretty straightforward. Their menu is the place mat itself and it details their selection of noodles and some appetizers like their Kakuni Buns which were sadly, out of stock. Next time, then.

Yakiniku Beef - P195

You can’t help but smile as with each bite, oil dribbles down your chin. With food, this is normally something that we loathe happening. But in this case, it’s different. There’s a feeling of glee eating each small strip of beef that’s akin to eating your favorite comfort food – it feels right.

Super Chasyu Ramen - P380

The eggs are amazing. I can’t stress that enough. The tamago is one of Ramen Bar’s points of pride, it being marinated for no less than 48 hours. No description comes to mind in giving justice to them other than ‘sinfully decadent’. I implore you to throw your diet out of the window, forget about the cholesterol and just lose yourself into culinary ecstasy.

The chasyu or sliced pork is no slouch either. The meat literally melts in your mouth. I know that’s a statement that’s thrown around way too often, but I’m serious. It really does melt in your mouth.

R.B.S. #1 - P380

This and the Super Chasyu share the same stock, which is pork bone soup boiled for over twenty hours, giving the bowls its deep, meaty flavor. What differentiates R.B.S. #1 from the former is the toppings, which it is chock full of. It has braised pork belly, fish sticks, fried seaweed, spring onions, and more of that oh-so-sinful eggs. Both bowls are really good and highly recommended. It all boils down to which one you’d fancy more – just chasyu and eggs or a more varied combination of toppings. If forced to pick though, I’d go with the Super Chasyu Ramen.

Tempura Ice Cream - P120

So much for ending on a high note. It appears that all the oil that delighted us with the Yakiniki Beef was replaced with the greasiest kind of grease known to man. For fried ice-cream, the inherent creaminess and sweetness usually counteracts the oiliness of the fried outer shell but not so in this case. With each bite you can feel the oil ooze out before you even get to the ice cream.

As I mentioned, I’m new to the whole ramen scene. Prior to eating at Ramen Bar (and subsequently, Ukkokei), my noodle cravings were satisfied by the microwavable kind, so this whole experience is akin to stepping through a whole new world.

The question that often gets asked is which is better? The upstart Ramen Bar or the tried and true Ukkokei? While both of them are definitely at the top of their game, I feel that like Super Chasyu and R.B.S #1, it all boils down to preference. I like both Ramen Bar and Ukkokei but for the money that you’re shelling out, I feel that the latter gives more value. They might not necessarily be the best, but Ramen Bar comes pretty darn close.

Ramen Bar
Unit 1880-4A, 1880 Building
G/F Eastwood Mall
Bagumbayan, Quezon City
570-9457

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Pivo Restobar

I first encountered Pivo Restobar a few years ago when they were still called Chief’s. Back then, craft beer was something you rarely encountered. Almost all bars and restaurants you would go to only offers local beers. Consider yourself lucky if they have Super Dry or Cervesa Negra. As such, Chief’s/Pivo became the Beer’s Paradise for us North-men.

Pivo prides itself in offering over a hundred unique beers, from the mainstream like Heineken, to the beyond the usual, more expensive ones. If you’re allergic to paying more than P30 for a beer, I’d steer clear of Pivo and head a couple of doors down to the dampa instead. But I’d recommend broadening your horizons and trying out a bottle or two. It’s not everyday you get to drink something with a disclaimer that says ‘You’re not worthy’.

As far as the food front goes though, they offer regular bar chow or in this case, pub fare. The oft recommended pulutan would be their modest selection of gourmet sausages, which come with french fries. There’s really nothing special about this. It tastes exactly what you’d expect it to taste. Go for this if you want something safe.

For the cost, I wouldn’t recommend the pizzas. It’s nothing special, yet again, but the price is a wee bit high for it.

For the coupon part of this review however, we have Pivo’s Wagyu Western burger for half the price courtesy of Groupon PH. I really wasn’t expecting much of it, since let’s face it, most of it is not very good. Ever since the mad scramble for restaurants to cash in on the fad and offer anything Wagyu, from dubious looking steaks, tiny strips,  burgers, to even ramen toppings, our little marbled friend has lost its flair. How does this one fare?

Aesthetically, the burger had an imposing visage. You can see the fresh vegetables peeking out on top of and under the patty while small strips of bacon playfully straddle it. The perfectly melted cheese embraces the burger, enveloping it with its gooey texture. Biting into it, the burger itself was moist and juicy. All in all, as a burger, it was really good. However, as a wagyu burger, the distinct wagyu flavor was almost absent. But hey, since I had low expectations from the get go, I enjoyed every bite till the last thoroughly.

So is Pivo worth the trip? For the beer, definitely. For the food, they are not bad but it is over-costed for me. My recommendation? Stick with the sausages and you’ll be right as rain.

Pivo Restobar
Ortigas Home Depot
Ortigas Center, Ortigas Home Depot Complex
Julia Vargas Ave. near cor. Meralco Ave., Ortigas Center, Brgy. Ugong
Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines

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Spiral Buffet at Sofitel

Spiral at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza is considered as one of the best eat-all-you-can establishments in the country. In fact, it has a cult status as the smorgasbord Mecca, the go-to place for culinary cravings that won’t fit on just one plate. Other buffets, with the exception of Paseo Uno in Mandarin, just pale in comparison with either restaurant’s diverse selection of international cuisine.

It should go without saying though, that dining at Spiral isn’t cheap. Far from it. The buffet will set you back at least P2,500, including taxes and the service charge. So when CashCashPinoy offered a 50% discount on it, I quickly jumped on it, lest the opportunity pass me by. It’s not everyday that you get to eat at something as revered and loved as Spiral for but a mere fraction of the price.

Upon arriving and being seated, you’d notice how wide and airy the dining area is. There are seats with a nice view of the pool outside, and Manila Bay further along the horizon. There are seats that are tucked away from the hustle and bustle as well, if you wish to bask in solitude, or just cherish the privacy it affords you.

Spiral’s claim to fame is its massive selection of food offered and they certainly did not disappoint in this front. Even if I consider myself as a glutton, I don’t think I’d be able to try out everything they have on a single day. On a related note, the way the different food stations were spaced out was a nice touch. It isn’t crammed into one space where people fight to the death over the last piece of tempura. Although it would seem that the Thai station gets the short end of the stick because of this, as it’s situated way out in the boondocks. A pity, since the pomelo shrimp salad is to die for.

Another detail that I loved about my visit was that they were serving Curacha or spanner crab instead of regular ones. This was the first time I was able to eat this particular kind of crustacean, and I can confidently say that at least half of the people inside Spiral were curacha virgins as well. You have the option to eat it as is, together with a few slices of lemons, or to have it cooked in the kitchen. It was a nice and welcome surprise for me. Though for some people, Fi included, the curacha has no appeal because it looks like a giant, hairy tick. Oh well. You can’t please everyone.

Where there’s fresh crab, shrimps, mussels, and oysters are sure to follow. One letdown for me however, is the lack of lobsters. I distinctly remember Spiral having some the last time I was there. The only logical conclusion I can draw is that they pulled them out while the CashCashPinoy promotion is in progress.

The gustatory delights didn’t stop there as Spiral still have a lot to offer. Of course you have your buffet mainstays such as sushi, sashimi, paella, prime rib, and dimsum. There was a peking duck station as well, though the line was long, so I wasn’t able to come back for seconds. Something common I saw as well was the emphasis on offering different kinds of sauces. At the grilling station, for example, the lamb chops came paired with a mint sauce, which as we all know, is one of the best combinations out there. It’s the little things.

One of the things you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Spiral is the foie gras station. Make no mistake about it, there won’t be any neon signs screaming that it’s right there ripe for the picking. There won’t be any samples on display to clue you in. Rather, you’ll just be greeted with a nondescript sign and a ceramic duck. I myself was unsure if they were serving any or not, so I stalked the station as stealthily as I could. Amidst the furniture foliage I closely observed. After a few minutes, a woman approached and lingered at the station. I became wide-eyed as I saw the cook slip her little slivers of the decadent prize. This was clandestine as clandestine can get.

Fi and I talked strategy. We decided that she would go first and ask for the sinfully delectable nuggets of duck liver. She played it modestly and asked for just four pieces. We waited for a couple of minutes, and finally it was ready. There were no burgers, no ravioli, no salads – just pure, unadulterated, bite-sized pieces of bliss. Once you have it on your plate, you can elect to add apples, pineapple compote, onion marmalade, and Himalayan salt to further enhance the flavor.

It was my turn to get another plate. Once I got to the station, I ordered four more pieces. While waiting for it to cook, a lady stands beside me and nonchalantly says she wants ten. So much for playing it coy.

While waiting for the foie gras, I noticed that there was a risotto station as well. I was bordering on full already but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity as it looked really good. I watched the cook prepare my request as she was simultaneously bombarded with orders of foie gras. So while she was cooking my risotto, she was preparing dozens of foie gras to sear as well. Once she finished, she hastily gave the plate to me. The risotto was supposed to have a prawn on top of it, but I let it slide since she was stressed out and swamped. It tasted really good, but I’m sure it could have been better if she was focused on it.

There were plenty of fruits, cakes, and pastries for dessert but I decided to get ice cream teppanyaki instead, which is basically ice cream mashed with a plethora of other ingredients like Cold Stone or Cold Rock. You can choose from pecans, walnuts, peanuts, cookies, marshmallows, et cetera. It’s really nothing special other than admiring the spectacle that is the presentation.

All in all, the dining experience was great. The foie gras alone is well worth the money we paid, and paying the original price is no problem as long as you know you’re getting your Peso’s worth. We’ll probably go back once the promo period for CashCashPinoy passes though. Maybe the elusive lobsters will be back by then.

Sofitel Philippine Plaza
Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel Manila, Sofitel Philippine Plaza
Roxas Boulevard, CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines

Phone Number: (63 2) 551-5555, (63 2) 832-6988

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Ying Ying Teahouse

As funny as it may sound, I discovered Ying Ying Teahouse by happenstance. I was lost in Escolta looking for a place to park, when I spied in the corner of my eye, stacks upon stacks of dimsum containers. But more than that, upon closer inspection, the place was packed. In the sweltering afternoon heat of Manila, people were actually queuing up to eat in what was apparently the fabled Ying Ying Teahouse.

Knowing how packed the place could get, we made our way to Ying Ying in the afternoon for an early dinner. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of people still, but we were able to get seated quickly. The interiors were what you’d expect a restaurant in Chinatown to be. Nothing fancy and thankfully, nothing too garish either. Anyway, we made our orders and waited for them eagerly.

Xialongbao

I was eating together with two self-styled xialongbao connoisseurs so they had high expectations. I watched them carefully pick one up with their chopsticks, gently placing it on the soup spoon. Delicately, they took a bite, taking care as to not spill any of the precious contents it held within. Too bad the soup was nonexistent, which baffled us to no end.

Taro Puff

I’m not exactly a fan of taro puff so I’m not in the best position to comment on it. Honestly, I’m unsure of what it is supposed to taste like. What I’m sure of though is that Ying Ying’s take on it is dripping with oil, so it really didn’t help in making me appreciate it more.

Garlic Asparagus

If you’re a fan of garlic and have no qualms with your breath scaring off small animals over a ten-feet radius, this one’s for you. As you can see, the asparagus is generously blanketed with chopped garlic. It was sauteed perfectly and made the flavors pop out even more. This was a blast to eat.

Sizzling Stuffed Beancurd

I’m a sucker for tofu but I really don’t want to kid myself with pipe dreams of being healthy, so I like it more stuffed with meat. This is usually a winner in my book but Ying Ying’s lacked flavor. Considering that it was already drenched in sauce, it still tasted bland.

One of our motivations in going to Ying Ying, aside from the underground hype it had going for it, was that we were craving peking duck so bad at the time. Might as well kill two birds with one stone, right?

The duck skin was delicious. Not trying to be smarmy but the chances of mucking this up is slim to none anyway. It was savory and aromatic as peking duck should be. The contrast of flavors between the crispy duck skin, the onion leeks and the sweet sauce tickle your palate with each bite-sized morsel.

The minced duck meat on the other hand, lacked flavor, which sadly, seemed to be the common theme for the day. You’ll need to lather each serving with the sauce, or else you won’t taste anything but the lettuce you wrapped it in.

For “Chinatown’s new President’s”, our experience with Ying Ying was a tad disappointing. I’m not sure if our visit was a fluke or not but unless I get lost in Escolta again, I’ll stick with the old President’s and Wai Ying.

Ying Ying Tea House, Sta. Cruz
233-235 Dasmarinas St. Cor. Yuchengo St. Binondo
Manila, Metro Manila
Philippines
(02) 710-3856

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Uncle Cheffy’s

While walking around Ortigas, I chanced upon a huge sign saying that Uncle Cheffy’s was officially open, and literally everything on the menu was 50 percent off for the first week. That’s an invitation that I simply can’t ignore. I quickly scrambled to assemble a crack team of tasters to take advantage of the discount.

Uncle Cheffy Favorites (medium) - P200

Uncle Cheffy’s main draw is their brick-oven panizzas, which was popularized locally by Yellow Cab’s Dear Darla pizza and C’ Italian Dining‘s fine-dining-esque version over in Pampanga. It’s basically a rectangular chewy thin-crust pizza cut into little strips so that you can get a slice, put arugula (lettuce in Uncle Cheffy’s case), salsa, and alfalfa sprouts, and roll it into a bite-sized piece.

Seafood Lovers (medium) - P220

Does Uncle Cheffy’s panizzas stack up to the competition? For Yellow Cab’s Dear Darla, maybe; for C’s, probably not. My problem with them, aside from the general lack of toppings, is the cut. It sounds so trivial, but the slices are set up diagonally so all the edges are basically useless as far as rolling it up is concerned.

The taste itself is okay. If it’s your first time to do the whole panizza roll-up thing, Uncle Cheffy’s is good a place as any to start.

Grilled Oysters (12 pcs) - P295

The oysters were, for a lack of a better term, strange. It’s not that they weren’t fresh or anything but, rather, the green mangoes not complementing the oysters well and basically wreaking havoc on your taste buds. I think they overdid the green mangoes since that’s all you can taste. It was a wee-bit overkill for me. It was a welcome departure from your run-off-the-mill raw and baked oysters though.

Memphis Barbecue U.S. Beef Rib Finger - P595

The ribs weren’t meat-falling-off-the-bone good, but it wasn’t bad. The servings were plenty enough to go for everyone, and it was seasoned well. With that said, this was supposed to come with a salad. All we got were a couple of lettuce leaves. At least they weren’t wilted.

Baked Salmon in Filo Pastry - P695

On paper it looked good. Three pieces of salmon fillet grilled to perfection topped with whimsical salsa made out of fruits and cilantro and finished off with a drizzle of sour cream. Sounds tasty, right? But sadly, reality bites.

The salmon had little to no taste at all. No torrent of flavors came gushing out no matter how long I waited with every bite. All I was able to taste was the saccharine salsa made out of diced mangoes and apples.

I mentioned that there were three fillets, right? We only finished one. As far as I’m concerned, that’s saying a lot. Le sigh.

Garlic Studded Pork Belly Lechon - P95 per 100g

What’s funny here is that we really wanted to try this. It looked so delectable on the menu. But the first time around, they didn’t want to serve it to us because it wasn’t crunchy anymore and were told we wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. Disappointing, but we liked the gesture that they were honest and didn’t want to serve us crap.

Two days later though, we were back and inquired if it was available. It was, so we were really excited. The name alone conjures images of us basking in its garlic radiance and paying homage to the swine gods by feasting on their oh-so-delicious bellies. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

The meat was dry beyond belief. It was as if it was the same one they didn’t want to serve us two days back. I’d actually be surprised if it wasn’t. It was that dry. I’d have to admit the skin was tasty and crunchy though. The pork belly was supposed to come with salsa, liver sauce, and radish relish as well. We only got the first two.

Panacotta with Ube Vichysoisse - P120

What I like about Uncle Cheffy’s are their desserts. They offer a relatively wide selection, and they are priced modestly as well. I started off with the panna cotta with ube or purple yams. The presentation was nice even though the ube vichysoisse looked a lot more in the photos. With that aside, it was actually good.

Italian Leche Flan - P130

Now this was a winner in our book. The serving of the leche flan itself was generous, with a little bit of whipped cream, sliced mangoes, and a red cherry on the side. It was soft yet firm, and most important of all, not diabetes-inducingly sweet.

Chocolate Parfait - P125

I liked the chocolate parfait. In fact, it was really good. The pandan crepe, with its subdued flavor, subtly reigned in the sweetness of the chocolate. The crepe didn’t mask the servings as well–there was no lack of filling here. If you’re still hungry after eating the main course, this one’s for you.

Cheffy Cheesecake - P150

This looked deadly from the get-go. Chocolate cheesecakes are notoriously mind-numbingly sweet, but thankfully, this was an exception. The tangy-ness of the cream cheese blended magnificently with the soothing tastes associated with chocolate. This basically is the definition of what a guilty pleasure is.

There’s one thing that really irks me though. The photos they use in their menu are way off from what they serve in reality. I can understand if it’s just like a Big Mac or a Whopper–big on posters, flattened in reality. For Uncle Cheffy’s, it’s like you ordered a completely different entree. Just look at the Pork Belly and the Ribs. That is, of course, not cool.

With that said, I’m only going back for the pizzas and the desserts–unless they have another 50-percent-off promo. At which point I might be keen on trying the other entrees. But for now, I’ll stick with what works.

Uncle Cheffy’s Ortigas
2nd floor Wynsum Plaza, Ruby Road, Ortigas Center
Tel. no. 696-6957

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