Lugang Café

On the heels of that recent post, we’re going to review another restaurant known to serve Xiao Long Bao. Located at 3F Mega D of SM Megamall, Lugang Café is a Chinese restaurant aiming to serve the best Taiwanese cuisine. This is the first branch that was opened outside China and will probably open more soon.


As I was seated on my table, I noticed the interior decor was very posh and sleek, glass ceilings, chandeliers, and walls making the restaurant look bigger than it does. The servers were quick to serve me water and ask for my order. I ordered Oyster Pancake to start. I was a little surprised by the size of it, I was only able to eat 2 slices. The dipping sauce is a little sweet. I prefer not dipping it in and just eating the pancake as it is so as to still taste the oysters.

And then I had of course Xiao Long Bao, and the broth inside did not disappoint. When I poked a hole on the wanton wrapper, the steaming broth came rushing into the spoon, it was threatening to overflow! I had the soup after letting it cool a little but tasted something funny it in. When I had the dumpling, I thought the aftertaste came from the filling itself. It was edible, I finished all 8 of them, but there’s just something funny in it I can’t put my finger on.

Verdict: 2.5/5
All in all, dining experience wasn’t that bad. They put my leftover oyster pancake in a nice takeaway box, too. But I wished then that I had a fusion of XLB, filling from Din Tai Fung and amount of soup from Lugang Café. Now that will be a nice treat.

Din Tai Fung

I remember the very first time I had Xiao Long Bao, I ate the whole dumpling without consuming the (hot) broth first. So yeah, not reading instructions, and I had no choice but to burn my tongue and throat with the scalding soup inside the dumpling. Couldn’t help but tear up on that one, too. Lesson learned from 8 maybe 9 years ago (sheesh, that suddenly made me feel so old!).

Years after that unfortunate incident, I got to try it again in Vancouver and couldn’t really remember the soup from the dumpling, maybe because of the sheer amount of food me and poeticnook had *ugh* So I tried again with Din Tai Fung this time, located at G/F SM Megamall, with the hopes of liking this dish at all. I ordered their cold appetizer dish, Chicken Scallions, to start. And I really liked it! For a single order, they had two rolls of cold chicken, cut in 4 pieces, and donned with a very generous garnish of chopped scallions. Yum!

Maybe it was the hot soup that made its mark on me, but I really think proper Xiao Long Bao have like at least half of its filling liquid, making the wonton wrapper sag a little at the bottom, trying to contain all the liquid in. So I was a bit disappointed when I poked the dumpling, the soup that oozed from it was not overflowing. It was literally barely there. I mean, look at this sad, sad XLB. I really had to squeeze at it and push it to the side so I can see the little broth it had inside. Sadness. The taste of the filling was good though, such a waste. The broth tasted good too, there just wasn't enough to make it quite a treat.


Verdict: 2/5
Considering they are best known for their XLBs, I was quite disappointed with their dish. The only saving grace for this restaurant was the appetizer I ordered. I loved the Chicken Scallions so much, I didn’t notice I had scallions on my teeth the whole time! I keep wondering if I smiled at all during the walk from the restaurant to the office. Yikes! The servers were friendly and attentive. It gets really busy during peak hours, so stay away during those hours, there’s a long line of chairs in the waiting section.

Peaceful Restaurant

I've wanted to try this resto for a while because it was featured at drives, diners and dives but it required a bus or a train ride to get there so my lazy self scratched it off my list. Last month however my cousin told me that they opened a new branch along Kingsway and since that was in the hood, I went ahead and sampled the goods..

Fieri's order in his show was the beef roll, noodles and dumplings but of course I didn't try them all in one sitting, the menu had many tempting dishes so I had a hard time choosing. I ended up ordering the stir fried hand pulled noodles, general tsao's chicken and the xiao long bao - no I wasn't hungry at that time, I'm just really a bottomless pit haha or I was hungry for something else that couldn't be filled..

Anyway, on to the food.. I'm not much of a noodle person but after tasting and making fresh made pasta at home, I'm impressed when dishes served at restos are made fresh so I like the hand pulled noodle dish.. I want to try making one from scratch too!

I was expecting the general tsao chicken to be crunchy and then coated with sauce but this dish ended up swimming with sauce and that somehow made the chicken a bit soggy.. I'd like to recreate this with my baked chicken wings next time

The xlb always amazes me, I mean soup in a dimsum? first time I tried it I think I burned my tongue and spilled soup all over the place haha this time I was careful not to do the same mistake.. I like the vinegar.. but I prefer a stronger black vinegar.. this dish was ok but I've had better..

I pass by this part of town when I need to pick up a package from Canada post so my second visit was in order when I received another claim stub in my mailbox. This time I ordered the pork and shrimp dumplings because that's one of the specialities, I still haven't worked myself up to order the beef roll, maybe on my third visit.. I also got the honey glazed spareribs because I'm a sucker for spareribs haha

Honey glazed spareribs came in first and I wasn't disappointed but it didn't taste spectacular and at almost 15$ it's double the prices of other restos serving the same dish..

Pork and shrimp dumplings took a while to come and when it finally did I was a bit scratch a lot disappointed, the filling wasn't tasty and the wrapper was too thick.. I pushed myself to finish one piece and had the rest to go.. definitely not a dish to hype about..

Would I go back a third time? Maybe, just to finally try that beef roll and put it to peaceful rest ;)

Overall, it's a place to go to for hand pulled noodles but the other dishes were underwhelming.



Verdict:
N: 3/5

Tenya Tempura Tendon

Before writing this review, let me say this out right to save you the time, Tenya Tempura Tendon what? What’s this restaurant and what did I get there? I literally couldn’t remember a thing. So I had to backtrack my Instagram account (didn’t find anything there, uh-oh) and emails to get some clues. And I found it finally.


Tucked away in the “food avenue” of SM Southmall in Las Piñas city, this restaurant served tempura mainly. My parents love fried food, so in we went. Their menu had a very nice cover about how successful this restaurant was in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Philippines, looked promising. The server took our orders and went away.

My parents had the Classic Tendon (had tiger prawns, green beans, and sweet potato rempura) and All-Star Tendon (which had everything from tiger prawns, squid, salmon, kani, green beans, and mushroom tempura). I tried one item from either plates and was disappointed with the batter, they lacked the crispiness in my opinion. Like it was left standing on the counter for a while.


I ordered the Spicy Salmon Maki and I was excited on what spin they will bring to this dish, knowing that they’re a tempura and not a maki place. Will it have crunch inside when you bite on your maki? Little crunchy balls of wasabi for that extra spicy kick? Excitement died that when the server gave me a dish I didn’t order, apparently he got my order wrong, so yes, I had to wait for another 10mins or so for my food. When the right dish came, well, nothing much to see there. Bits of tempura batter was placed on top of my rather ordinary maki. Uh-huh.


Verdict: 1/5 
The service was terrible and painfully slow. The food wasn’t that great, because what can you really do with a tempura? Nothing aside from delivering a perfectly crispy tempura batter, that is. Sadly, this restaurant didn’t deliver anything worth noting.

Hobing Korean Dessert Café

(Hi there! Grace at your service. I’ll try to not to be too wordy with my reviews (but just might slip from time to time, starting now). Don’t worry, I only go to work during TTh so this won’t get flooded with posts haha oh and of course the occasional weekend bingeing… btw, nice to meet everyone!)

SM Megamall has a new wing! I know what you’re thinking, like it needed another one, but yeah, they put it up anyway. I’ve only been to a few restaurants there and I’ve been asked to write reviews to share with everyone here. Hmm.. Maybe that wasn’t a good introduction at all! Hey, don’t make me visit each and every restaurant there okay?! LOL

The dessert place has a very cozy ambiance *insert K-drama scene here*. Wooden chairs and tables, white walls, curt staff.. the place is small so they set up chairs outside the café. I chose the one with the cushion and the farthest from the counter and other customers so I could enjoy my dessert in peace (but no, not really, I just needed an excuse to take a selfie with my food).

And after 15mins, the monstrous dessert came. It’s so pretty to look at and DEFINITELY Instagram-able.  

Mango Cheese Bingsu

Shaved milk ice lined the bottom of the bowl, layered with mangoes and cheese(cake?) chunks. The shaved ice was reminiscent of the one I tried in Myeongdong from my SK trip last November. I would guess that they laced each layer with milk and cheese sauce, too. It was filled to the brim and the bowl was lined with, you guessed it, more mangoes, to hold everything in place. It was topped with a very generous portion of whipped cream, sprinkled with thinly sliced almonds, and finally drizzled with mango sauce. Overall taste was not too sweet, which I really like. The mangoes appeared to be very ripe, but they had a slight sour taste, which went well with the sweetness of milk. Cheesecake was ok and I like how it turned almost gummy after being chilled over ice. 

I’ve only an hour at most for lunch breaks and my office is at Discovery Suites. It’s a 5-10 minute walk, depending on your pace really, but since the café took its sweet time to prepare my dessert, I had to double up the pace so I get to my office (NOT) on time. And writing this review, almost 3hrs later, I still feel so full.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Good place for dessert, actually, scratch that. Good place for whenever because it’s dessert, you got to have it any time. Just visit it with a friend or two! And please share a regular bowl. Take your time enjoying the dessert. Don’t make the same mistake as I did. J

Osaka Ohsho: House of Gyoza

Aaaaand we have another Japanese restaurant to review: Osaka Ohsho: House of Gyoza. According to online reviews of other foodies not like me (LOL), they serve the best gyoza in town. I recently dined in Ippudo and had a phenomenal time with their ramen (which Ippudo was best known for) and their gyoza as appetizer which could also belong in the high rollers (I believe, was exactly what I said).

Of course I have to order gyoza, but I also wanted to try other items in their menu and the chicken karaage set caught my eye. Gyoza and karaage! So you’d expect it to be so good, because house of gyoza, you’d forget all other restaurants that served you your best gyoza. And at first look, perfectly steamed dumplings with supple wonton wrappers, glistening with oil and you pick it up with your chopsticks and feel it lightly. Its light golden brown underside looks somewhat inviting and promises crunch on top of soft and lightly flavored filling, the sweet soy sauce playing around your mouth, moistening your every bite. But no, sadly I didn’t forget Ippudo’s gyoza. Somehow that was crunichier on the underside and perfectly seasoned filling on the inside. Osaka Ohsho’s filling was forgettable and too badly seasoned, so that’s why I let the remaining gyoza swim in soy sauce.

But oh, for a dish they claim to excel at but not really, they redeemed themselves with their chicken karaage which was served on top of a contrasting green lettuce, sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds, served with a bowl of fried rice. The dipping sauce is teriyaki style but too much on the sweet side. The serving is large enough for one person, but don't take my word for it, I might have just been overwhelmed by the rice.


Verdict: 1.5/5 
All in all, the gyoza was such a let down I don’t ever want to go back here anymore. The karaage is nice but please only go here if you really have nowhere else to go. And don’t believe the sign at the door. Please, don’t fall for it. Just to be sure, it's on the 3F of SM Megamall, Fashion Hall.

Kessaku

Looking for a new place to try around in Alabang, we found this very quiet restaurant tucked in Commercenter, Kessaku. Yes, another Japanese restaurant! Wait, you didn’t get the memo that we’re going to slay all Japanese restaurants here?! Since I recently tried ramen, it’s time to switch things up. And since I’m a fan of kaki and uni, those are exactly the ones I ordered.

But before that, the servers gave me an appetizer, part of their outstanding service mind you, a medley of kani and mayonnaise on top of cucumber slices. Refreshing and enough to open up the palette for more surprisingly delicious dishes from their kitchens.

My first dish came and it was jaw dropping. 7 insanely huge kaki tempura served on shells with streaks of wasabi mayo. The batter was light and the oysters were fresh, I just had the mistake of not asking the server to separately serve the wasabi mayo, and yes, that’s on me. At first bite, it drowned the light sweetness of the oysters, so I knew what to do with the remaining 6. Nevertheless, they were all good.

And then my next and final dish, uni nigiri. Too bad they only had local (but fresh) uni. I had the most unfortunate experience of trying a not-so-fresh uni from a different restaurant, so I had the knowledge to nit pick my uni nigiri before I put everything in my mouth LOL and suffer the same fate. And it’s sweet! Melts in your mouth and very refreshing. So what followed? An empty plate of course! 


Verdict: 3.5/5 
This place deserves another visit or two. The ambience was quiet and intimate. The servers are very well behaved, and keep their distance so you can enjoy your food in peace. I’m sure there are lots of other good stuff they can offer from the menu. So next time, let’s try more!

Ippudo

I’ve come to develop a fascination with Japanese cuisine by watching a lot of animé shows. One thing I’ve noticed there is how they showcase ramen. It doesn’t seem to change, whatever show I’m watching. Served on a simple ramen stand or small restaurant with wooden chairs and tables. Shout one order of ramen and that funny looking old man who’s best known for his ramen does his magic, glistening broth, firm noodles, delightful toppings, and what’s even crazier is how one bowl solves every problem there is in the world (yeah maybe they went a little overboard there, haha). I’m really excited now to find such a place in Japan and just try it for myself! Ugh.

But for now, restaurants like Ippudo in 3F Fashion Hall in Megamall will have to do. I arrived early for lunch as usual to avoid the crowd, and it’s such a nice time to visit, because all the servers are very attentive to your needs. Like there’s always a 3:1 ratio. They were quick to give me my house tea and glass of cold water, just in case I change my mind halfway in enjoying my ramen. And every time an order comes from the kitchen, they shout it out and I jump a little. I wrote that naively in the comments section, and what do you know, my server went to my table and explained how it was the culture in Japan. Of course. See? Attentive.

I ordered the Karaka Special Ramen, with deliciously spicy tonkatsu broth, extra hard noodles, amazing pork belly slices, the epitome of soft boiled egg, sheets of seaweed, and spring onion greens. And I can’t stress enough how I can’t find a single thing to criticize in that bowl (oh wait, I remember saying, this egg doesn’t look soft boiled and it doesn’t have that earthy color after supposedly being soaked in broth - but when I halved it, that egg was to die for, yes I ate everything bad I said about it).

I almost forgot about my appetizer - Ippudo’s Hakata Style Gyoza which also deserves a place in the high rollers. Hailing from Hakata, another region in Southern Japan according to research, they have perfected making their plump gyoza on cast iron, making the bottom part so crispy you’d think they fried it. The filling is very satisfying with its subtle taste.

Verdict: 4/5
So yeah, I finished everything. And going back to that phenomenon I was talking about at the start of this review.. Did it solve all my problems? No, but it sure did make me forget about them for a good while. I still believe the best ramen can be found in Japan, so I’m putting a huge difference in scores when I put 5 on that some unassuming ramen stand.. But while that’s still in the future, can we go back here please?!

New Bombay


There’s this Indian restaurant I pass by everyday going to work in Vancouver. I remember not breathing when I walk in front of it because of the pungent smell coming from their kitchen. And I can just imagine how their stock room looks like. I’d be dead (with my allergic rhinitis) if I come any closer to the door. But I don’t know what happened, maybe it’s the daily dose of Indian spices that I started noticing I soon didn’t mind the smell anymore. I did try some Indian restaurants eventually and found it ok. Still won’t go out like how you smelled going in though. 

So that’s what I think of when I see this restaurant in Podium Mall. But whenever I pass it, I don’t get any strong odors, but they had the decors going for them. All those deep red, brown, and yellow shades just force you to think of Indian food. At my table and reviewing the menu, I ordered the Chicken Shahjani which is boneless chicken sautéed in masala, cooked with onion-tomato gravy, and finally topped with omelette.

The masala mixed with the gravy gave it with a lighter flavor, unlike the usual Indian food that’s like a bomb of spices in your mouth. The omelette topping was so sad looking, that I want to give it back to the chef and just ask them to leave it out of the dish. The overall flavor was a little salty for my taste (and that’s a lot coming from me since we hail from a salt-loving bunch). It becomes bearable when paired with naan. The servers also appear very sleepy and don’t smile a lot, they’re all in a pout! The location is nice, on 5F of the mall, near that gourmet hotdog stand.


Verdict: 1/5 
I’m not a fan of the food, or just the one I ordered. Maybe there are other dishes worth going back for, but not anytime soon, at least for me. Oh and to totally forget about this meal, I bought some (chocolate and calamansi) ice cream to numb my pain. From a different store, of course. And I think this was the saving grace for my meal :)