Miyazaki

When I think of bafun uni, I usually relate that to the best place on Earth, Vancouver. Yep. This is where I first had the taste of this very delectable, succulent seafood treat. And once you taste it, there’s no going back. Suddenly, the local version just doesn’t come at par with them. Imagine my delight when I found it here, in Manila! Just a stone throw’s away from my house! Miyazaki is a new restaurant in Molito Complex in Alabang. If you’re coming from the main road adjacent to Ayala Corporate Center, it’s easy to miss it because it’s on the left side of an uphill entrance to the vicinity. I had to walk back to get here under the scorching sun. I came in at exactly 11am and had to practically knock on their glass doors and beg them to let me in LOL. Little did I know, it will all be worth it. 


Servers came to my table offering me the menu, a glass of water, and just hovering here and there, a few steps away to give me my much needed space. I looked at their menus, they gave me two, 1st is with illustrations (maybe for someone who’s not Japanese cuisine fluent, so they know what they’re getting haha) but it was a little incomplete compared to the 2nd one, where it’s just a plain textbook from start to end. That second menu was packed with their long list of dishes, I know it’s a bad sign, because you might think they don’t have a specialty, but really! Let go of all your inhibitions. I hailed a server and ordered. Even for the price, I was expecting they will serve local uni, so I asked my server to confirm and not raise my hopes up at the same time, but she gave me an indignant and resounding “No, ma’am, we serve bafun uni!” I had to repeat it, those last two words, like a poor mimic, I’m pretty sure I garbled them too, but she nodded again “Yes, ma’am, bafun uni.” That’s great! I told her.


And now the wait, looking around the resto, there were wooden chairs and tables, and wooden decors hanging on the wall and ceiling. I’m thinking they’re channeling a small, cozy Japanese resto and I’m so glad I dined here. My Tempura Uni came first. These were rolls of bafun uni (for days) wrapped by a single sheet of nori, dipped in their tempura batter, and then deep fried. The exterior was quite crunchy and the uni inside was untouched and glorious! Still sweet and delicate and ugh. Any uni lover would love this. When it comes to tempura, this is the bomb.

And for my main dish, ta da! Salmon Uni Don. Its name is so great, I have to type it again like this: Salmon. Uni. Don. The salmon sashimi could easily and completely wrap your finger, no, two fingers! And you could tie it together with a knot! Evenly and uniformly sliced, they were arranged in a fan like manner on my bowl on top of that magnificent Japanese rice, which stood out on its own really, being properly cooked and seasoned. And of course, that bowl was generously filled with my personal favorite, bafun uni. And oh! I feel like I’m back in Vancouver (but nah)! This bowl was adorned with gari, wasabi, nori strips, and a green leaf. Ain’t she pretty?

I was really quite full from the meal even though I didn’t finish the rice, I know, please don’t kill me, but I just have to try their Matcha Ice Cream with Beans. When I asked the server for it, she said it was available and immediately went to get me some. And mysteriously it came to me, that sweet little pot holding the green, ice cream goodness, with dry ice making it more interesting as it comes nearer and nearer.. and well you just have to take a video of it first! Something to go up on Instagram LOL

Verdict: 4.25/5
I’d gamble that this resto is probably the highest rating I'll give to a Japanese restaurant here in Manila, scratch that, the whole Philippines! I need to check all my reviews for that, because as long as Japanese restos are concerned, this has set the bar really high. It’s a little pricey but you must pay up for something so valuable, yes? Overall taste was great and I’d guarantee you’d enjoy it here. I simply can’t stop thinking of it! Seriously. Please take me with you! Or come on, I'll take you!

Gringo

Entering this restaurant that offers Mexican/Latin American cuisine, I was greeted by the staff with “Olâ! Welcome to Gringo!” Which was pronounced by the staff as “green go”, it's a bit too slang, right? So when I heard it, I chuckled. Wooden chairs, wooden tables, wooden table napkin holders, felt like I’m in some Mexican al fresco dining restaurant. But since I’m wearing a girly office attire, I seated myself on a couch haha! The staff was fast in giving me the menu and providing me a glass of water. I already knew what I wanted so I called their attention again.


I ordered a Quarter Southern Spice Chicken after asking how it's cooked. Server said it’s baked and grilled which was fantastic. I requested for thigh part because thigh part. 🙃 I had 2 side dishes that came with it, I chose Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Mushroom. After a few minutes, my chicken arrived, I tasted my sides, but noticed they gave me wings instead! Called their attention and they were quick to make it right.

I got to say the chicken was tender, moist, and really packed with flavor. There were 2 sauces that accompanied it, spicy and lemon herb. They weren’t as overpowering as I thought they would be, and the chicken was still be great even without them. The roasted eggplant was superb and very filling. It’s creamy and seasoned well. The garlic mushroom on the other hand was a little plain for me.

Verdict: 3.5/5
Would have given a 4 if they got my order right the first time, no biggie. A sign of good chicken would be the following: great rub, flavorful meat, and my favorite, fall off the bone. And I found that with Gringo. Visit them at 3F Atrium Wing of SM Megamall soon!

Bistro Sakana

An underrated Yaletown gem.

Sushi places in Vancouver is a dime a dozen, I seriously ate more sushi in Van city than in Japan. So in a city of raw fish on rice, it's hard to find one that stands out, enter Bistro Sakana. I discovered this restaurant during Dine out Vancouver, a winter gimmick that encourages people to take out their jackets and brave the cold and snow to try out prix fixe menu offered by restaurants so that the industry won't die out during this season. 

Their dine out feast was definitely worth getting hypothermia for but unfortunately it's a one time seasonal fare that you won't be able to order on their regular menu so I didn't bother to come back after that. One summer evening however, while waiting for the Minami dinner reservation and after sampling the much hyped liquid nitrogen ice cream from Mister, I passed by Bistro to see if there's anything new in their menu, and guess what, they have a daily changing special menu for fish straight from Japan, the bafun uni stood out which I never really tried outside of Sushi Bar Maumi and Masayoshi so it was a welcome sight to know that there's another place where this can be had, Toshi was supposedly offering it too but it wasn't available when I went there, and that's another overhyped restaurant altogether but that's another story.

So on to Bistro and its limited special menu, I ordered the uni, wagyu, salmon and tuna trio, and a few others, all of them were definitely exceptional that the Minami dinner had to be cancelled. The sake flight was also an interesting way to get acquainted with different types of gradually more potent poison, one after the other. 


A few days later, hankering for another uni fix, Bistro failed to deliver, apparently it's not everyday that they have this dish and to prevent further disappointment it's best to call for availability before heading there, so I got their calling card to be sure. This third visit was not as satisfying as the first two but then again maybe because I've already had my fill of dinner at Minami so I wasn't really hankering for anything else but uni. I ordered ikura and a few others from their regular menu and tried the wagyu again but somehow their wagyu was not as good as the previous one, there were a few chewy parts.. I also tried aburi which paled in comparison to Miku. 


I usually want to make a few visits before giving my final rating and I think I've already decided that Bistro will definitely be one of my go to places if I want some special sushi from Japan, I'll just remember to call them first and check for availability before heading there. 


Verdict: 4/5

Captain's Boil

The test of a good restaurant is if it is consistent in pushing out good dishes and if it improves in the stuff they need to work on based on customer reviews or well just based on their experience. I've been to Captain's Boil five times in the past 8 months (yes that's why I can't fit in my jeans anymore haha) three times at their Kingsway branch, once at their Richmond location, and once at their Yonge branch during my Toronto visit last month. I've ordered different items from their menu on each occasion and I think the only ones I haven't tried yet are the clams (because I'm afraid they'll be chewy) and the chicken slices (because hey why go to a seafood boil if you're going to get chicken!! haha).

This review is a summary of all those dishes I tried.


Sauces:

Captain's Boil - probably the best choice to have a balanced taste of spicy buttery and garlic goodness
Cajun - hotter than the Captain's Boil
Lemon Pepper - a bit bland for my taste, might be good for those who don't want to overpower the seafood taste or those afraid of chili
Garlic Sauce - I tried this on the shrimp but I missed the spice, this should be the choice for the faint of heart.

If you like eating with your hands wrapped in plastic gloves and devouring seafood swimming in sauce served inside plastic bags then this is definitely the place for you. The first time I tried this kind of dining was in California at Kickin' Crab and Craw Daddy and Boiling Crab, what can I say, I'm not a fan of getting food inside plastic bag but it works if you don't mind getting messy, which is probably what's gonna happen anyway when you're eating seafood and cracking shells here and there.. is it worth another visit? Sure! Especially if you don't want to have that mess in the comforts of your dining room, otherwise I say just go buy fresh seafood from the market then cook them at home.

Verdict: 3.5/5

​Japadog

a Japanese street food take on the usual hotdog.

I'm not really much of a hotdog sandwich fan, I mean I like hotdogs on a stick but the bun is a killer for me, I'm not a bread person so I usually discard this part, it does serve as a nice holder for your hotdogs when sticks aren't available so I guess it has some uses.

Japadog started out as a food cart a few years back and I remember the infamous lineups at Burrard just to try these kurobota pork goodness. My favourite is the terimayo (with teriyaki, mayo and seaweed toppings) and the oroshi (with grated radish and soy sauce). I also tried the okonomi (with bonito flakes) but it was a bit too plain for me.


So far I've visited two sit down branches, one at Robson and the other one at McArthur Glenn outlets, I liked the latter one better because it's more airy and spacious. You can also sample all their hotdogs on a platter, without the bun, which I should like theoretically but somehow it's nothing special without all those toppings.


All in all, a Vancouver visit is never complete without trying out this hotdog, it's an east meets west concoction that defines the culture of this city. It's almost like a signature dish like the Chicago dogs although not quite yet.


Verdict: 3/5

GyudonYa

A Yoshinoya alternative  

I've always been a fan of Yoshinoya from when I first tried it in Manila, to when it became a comfort food when I was working in Tokyo, and then nostalgic pit stops in California, so imagine my disappointment when I found out there's no Yoshinoya branch in Vancouver. 

Good thing I discovered GyudonYa, it fits the bill and offers a lot more..
Stewed tender beef bacon slices with white onion on a bed of rice and topped with pickled ginger, that's how I remember a good bowl of gyudon should be. As a sister company of Chosun Korean BBQ, this restaurant offers a few more fare other than beef bowls, it also has karubi, chirasi, kimchi, gyoza and a few nigiri. I've visited this place thrice and always came out satisfied. Although the place is small, the service is fast and the food tastes better than what other restaurants would give you for the same $. 

If you're tired of the usual Japadog which is just two stores away from GyudonYa, then I suggest you give this gem a visit.


Verdict: 4/5

The Holy Crab

Louisiana inspired seafood boil


I've been waiting for the opening of this restaurant since winter last year, mostly because I wanted to try the lobster roll! We visited this place a couple of times and as much as I like their lobster rolls, there's a few other dishes that's worth trying, like the fried frog legs! which, not surprisingly, DOES NOT taste like chicken at all.

Just like Captain's Boil, this seafood restaurant servers their food inside plastic bags, and you will have to use those plastic gloves unless you want to dirty your hands.. am still not a fan of that but hey that's their style.

Ordering here means picking a seafood - lobster, crawfish crab, crab legs, shrimp, clams, mussels, then choosing the sauce: cajun or garlic pepper, and finally choosing the spiciness level - mild, medium, spicy or holy moly, guess what I picked! There's a variety of sides and snacks and I usually pick the calamari and the soft shell crab if I'm not feeling too adventurous.


Although I enjoyed the fare here, and the fact that they don't split the lobster in half, which makes it more instagrammable, I find that the sauce is somewhat lacking. I would definitely prefer the seafood to be swimming in sauce rather than just coated at the top.


However, despite its misses, the staff at their Robson branch is far more attentive that the ones at Captain's boil. I would probably come back just to try the crab roll next time and a few other sides.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Linguini FIni

Linguini Fini is an Italian restaurant hailing from New York (what, not Italy?) that boasts of homemade pasta (and I’m a sucker for fresh pasta). But for now, I have to pass because we’re trying out this new diet of no carbs and sugar, so far it has worked, 5lbs less in more or less a week after I started. Haha on to the review.

I ordered Eggplant Parm which is a medley of breaded eggplant slices, tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil. So it’s like lasagna really, pasta being replaced by eggplant haha! They had to check the kitchens if that’s available and I was like O_O. (And because of that we developed this new rule that if our first and second choices are not available, we will walk out) Good thing it was.

First look, it’s quite rich and appetizing. The chopped basil was a nice contrast on the melted mozzarella (and is that some grated bits too?) and the crispy looking batter of the eggplant. Cutting through the plate however, almost all the tomato sauce has been absorbed by the eggplant slices and because it looked fried to me, oil has already seeped in the eggplant making it soggy. So imagine that being baked.

Verdict: 1/5
I know this isn’t a pasta dish, but if those eggplant slices were prepared properly (salted and rested), baked nstead of being fried, it would have made a difference. Oh and they gave me a disappointing bread, not focaccia (what happened to Italian?)! Maybe next trip here, we should try their fresh pasta so we can properly rate this resto.

Tacofino

who doesn't love fish tacos?

Tacofino is another one of those accidental finds that we discovered while waiting for dinner reservation for yet another restaurant. This time we were planning on trying Pidgin at Carrall Street and on the way there we saw this Gastown gem.

It was happy hour so the menu was priced reasonably and an appie of nachos and fish tacos sounded like a good plan. The surprise order here was the chicken wings which turned out quite well that before I tasted Phnom Penh, I've already given the best chicken wing crown to this joint. A few days later we went back here just to make sure it's not a fluke and tried the steak tacos and chicken tacos plus the quesadilla, I'd still go for the crunchy fish tacos next time and maybe try the dinner menu too but the place is always packed and it's a miracle to not stand in line on both occassions I visited.

There are several branches scattered around the city the only ones I've tried are the Gastown and victoria locations. I like that they have slightly different highlights for each store but the one in Victoria was a hit and miss. Their fish tacos were a bit soggy and not as crisp as the ones in Gastown, but my second visit there was better, they also had some seaweed toppings and an of course, you can't be a millenial Vancouverite without an extra dollop of avocado, which of course costs extra.

I'd like to try the Yaletown and Tofino stores next time and see what fish taco goodness is waiting for me.

Verdict: 3.5/5