Bocadillos

Bocadillos is a kiosk in Chef’s Avenue in Festival Mall that offers Mexican fusion food. We all know this cuisine can leave you running to the washroom to wash your hands after eating but it seems Bocadillos found a solution for that. Instead of serving their yummy fillings and sauces in tortillas, they wrap it in a sandwich like fashion which makes it easier and tidier to consume.

There’s quite a selection of Mexican treats from quesadilla, to burritos, to tacos, to nachos, and as an addition, wings and pasta! Yes, pasta. Leave it to Filipinos to infuse anything with a little bit of everything haha but I didn’t order any of that since we always have that for Mexican. Come their best seller, chimichanga. It’s a deep fried burrito that’s quite a popular Tex-Mex with a wide range of ingredients.

I ordered the Chicken Chimichanga but was told it wasn’t available so I got the Beef Chimichanga instead. It had beef, corn kernels, green and red bell peppers, and cheese with Mexican red sauce all wrapped in a tortilla deep fried to perfection. And the most amazing part? Just costs 90Php. Yep, a gastronomic treat that will fit anyone’s budget. And it tastes amazing! The crunch was delightful and the filling generous. I had the Cucumber Lemonade to accompany it and it’s just sublime!

Verdict: 3/5
For a kiosk, it has great potential. If given the proper publicity, it might gain traction in the long run and be something than just a kiosk. We ordered take away from them as well, but weren’t able to consume it right away and that’s a shame, really. So for next time, order something else and consume it right away!

Mati's Meat and Bread

Mati’s Meat and Bread is one of the first few restaurants that rose on the River Side, part of Festival Mall’s more scenic view overlooking a small river with live fish and turtles and an amphitheater. It’s a delight to come to this part of the mall because I always find it less crowded.

When I came in, they have this chalkboard menu from floor to ceiling. It’s a nice addition to their homey, family-style restaurant décor. The walls were red and accentuated with green paintings. Brick stone pillars littered the corners giving way to floor to ceiling glass walls that helps a lot with the lighting. There’s a second floor but I wasn’t able to check that out because I immediately sat on a table by the window for the best view.

Today was steak day so I ordered the Classic Ribeye Steak, medium temperature. It was supposed to be served with mashed potatoes (which I asked to be held off) and peas and carrots, with gravy on the side. It was a little underwhelming to look at because the cut of the meat was terrible, it was almost paper thin. But when I cut through the meat, it was tender and tasted nice. There weren’t tough parts, just soft and tender all the way through. But still.. I wouldn’t call that a steak.

Verdict: 1.5/5
The restaurant is nice, if you’d like some peace and quiet come here early for brunch, just order something else from the menu.

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

Red Fish Blue Fish

arguably the best fish and chips in the island
Sitting on wooden stools by the harbour and watching kayaks and seagulls while devouring your crispy fish and chips is a quintessential Victoria scene that is similar to drinking ice cold beer on a patio on a hot summer day, if you're a beer drinker that is.

As with all other places, the lineup here is quite terrible when you go during peak hours but a few minutes of standing under the sun will be rewarded with exceptional fare. well I guess when you're sunburnt and hungry I guess everything starts sounding exceptional haha but so far, I've never been disappointed with any of my orders.


My favourite is the salmon fish and chips and fried oysters, both come with crispy fries and some dip, you can also opt to have a salad instead but whoever heard of fish and salad? I know, right? you're eating deep fried food anyway so why not go all the way and try all their deep fried goodness in one meal. Another recent discovery is the tuna tacones which is basically like fish tacos but their tuna is lightly seared medium rare on a bed of greens and topped with a wedge of lime, a refreshing alternative if you don't want to clog your arteries. There are other grilled items on the menu and a chowder too but I haven't had time to give them a try because I keep getting derailed when I'm about to order, so maybe next time?


Verdict: 4/5 (a visit to Victoria is never complete without passing by this fish and chips stand)

Feria

Last pitstop for ReiMart’s special day (looks like a week to me now), is Feria. A restaurant in Radisson Blu hotel serving international cuisine (more on Asian and Mediterranean) to their patrons, they have a promo during Tuesdays, for 800Php/head. Perfect for celebrations like this one! We were joined by Gladys, Kuya Nik, and Teresa.

We immediately went to the sushi section and were greeted with sashimi slices and maki rolls. I had a plateful of sashimi for the first round. I had lots of salmon sashimi, some tuna sashimi, and an unidentified maki. The salmon sashimi had some hard parts when I ate them, not bones, maybe just a little frozen than it should be. None of that melt in your mouth goodness, times like this I miss being in Vancouver.

For my second plate, I took a more diverse route, getting paella, lechon slices, pork menudo (ikr?), pizza, and made my own Mexican chicken shawarma. I should cut down on carbs, I know, but it’s a buffet! Haha

Third plate, I’m pretty much getting ready for dessert, I got some elusive xiao long bao’s (yay!) and some more of that chicken shawarma hehe. Paired it with a very refershing basil infused cucumber lemonade! Waaa I should have taken more of this drink, if I only knew!

I think I got the prettiest dessert plate, and I mean just look at that beauty! 2 scoops of chocolate ice cream topped with rice crisps and chocolate drizzle, meringue, macarons, and chocolate coated marshmallows! Whaaaaat??

Verdict: 2/5
When I go to buffets, I usually just concentrate on one section, but here, I found myself circling about. Looking for other stuff to try, there’s not a lot of choices, maybe they toned it down for the promo, but they do have a nice desserts section. Bottomline, I’ve had better.

Sushi Bar Maumi

Jiro wannabe

Ever since I watched Jiro dreams of sushi, I've always wanted to try that authentic and intimate sushi experience. Short of flying to Tokyo and spending thousands of yen, Maumi is just that place in Vancouver. 
This sushi bar is a small place with 10 seats and you can't just walk in, you need to reserve well in advance. They have 3 seatings depending on the day, 6pm, 730pm and 9pm, and each guest should order the 10 or 12 sushi set which will be made and served fresh at the same time. 

The restaurant has evolved since the first time I visited it last year. There used to be an option to order appetizers and then some nigiri after the meal plus it used to be 45$ but now it's 75$ and no more applies.. they don't accept phone reservations anymore too, just credit card reservation through their website, times are changing and hypes are hyping haha they also suffered from last minute cancellations so they decided to be more strict. 
It used to be worth it back when the 12 piece course was just 60$ but now at 75$, I would rather go to Bistro Sakana and order from the special menu. Then again, Maumi is asking you to pay top bucks for a unique sushi bar take on fish coming straight from Japan so it's definitely worth a try, I just don't think I'll be going back there after my last 3 visits.. 


Verdict: 3.5/5 (it was 4/5 before price increase)

Phnom Penh

aka the restaurant that fried chicken wings built?

I'm not really a fried chicken wing connoisseur nor do I like fried food in general but when I heard about this place, I felt like I had to give it a visit. 

Phnom Penh sits right at the heart of Vancouver's Chinatown district. When coming from Waterfront skytrain station, you can either take a bus that passes through some dodgy spots in town or take skytrain to Main Street and walk a few blocks. The best time to visit is during off peak hours like after lunch time or just before the dinner crowd otherwise you'll have to resign yourself to waiting in line, which is probably a sign of either bad seat management or really good food.. 
I visited this place twice and both times I ordered beef luclac with egg and the chicken wings, on my second visit I also tried the fried shrimp balls in sugarcane stick which was a rather forgettable dish and not really worth ordering again, and the fresh shrimp rolls which was also not a standout.

So how's the chicken wings? Well it was crispy on the outside and quite tender inside that you don't have to wrestle with it to pull the meat from the bones, it came with a few fried chilli peppers as well as a lemon juice and pepper dip which I didn't really use that much because the wings were good on its own. Is it the best chicken wings in town? Before this I thought Tacofino had the best wings but I never usually order wings anyway so I can't say for sure.. Phnom Penh does deliver though and is just not hype  in that category, the other dishes I ordered were not something to write home about though. The beef luclac with fried rice and egg was just ok, it's comparable to beef tapsilog, a Filipino breakfast dish that's so ubiquitous where I came from.

Overall, I would definitely give this place another visit just for the chicken wings alone and I'd probably try the pho dishes too next time when the rainy season is back. 

Verdict: 3/5

Kayu

Still on our special day bingeing, ReiMart and I met with Sandy at Kayu for another round of dessert (yes we had dessert back at ICAAC but so what?!). The restaurant is located inside a subdivision so it’s tucked away from the usual hustle and bustle of the metro.

Seated on a booth while waiting for our party, the a/c was directed at us or maybe it’s just because I was so full from the previous meal not an hour ago. We looked at the menu, found nothing light we could try consuming, so I asked for the desserts menu. We asked the server which is the bestsellers and we ordered those.


I got the Sizzling Caramel Bar and it did not disappoint with the sizzling part. The waiter had to call our attention before he poured the caramel onto the sizzling plate. We watched it with awe as it produced that crackling sound and the caramel hugged the ice cream, bananas, and the pudding. It’s a dessert channelling the sisig plate that we all so love. After that, dissecting the dish, I found it a little underwhelming. Because that’s that, pudding with ice cream on top and banana slices around the plate. But among the 3 (yes, 3) dishes we had, this was the first to go. Am I just too technical about this dish? LOL


Drei got the Chocolate Fix for his dessert. It’s got chocolate n-ways! Crunch, crémeux, gelée, and the non-chocolate stuff in there, vanilla ice cream and milk crumbs. Well, if you ask me, this is more complicated than my dish. It's also better looking! But I don’t know, maybe you get more than a fix with the amount of chocolate there, and I can’t believe I’m saying that because I am such a sweet tooth, but Drei had to finish his plate alone haha!

Sandy got a Nutella Cheesecake, the only best seller left that’s not on our table. So this is the hazelnut galore dish, from Nutella truffle, candied hazelnuts, and hazelnut flavored granola crumbs, the works! We also had a hard time finishing this one because of the sweetness level haha!

Oh, Sandy and I got the Strawberry Lemongrass mocktail because I’m the designated driver! And well, I haven’t been exactly putting down crates and barrels of liquor haha so yeah mocktail it is!

Verdict: 2/5
Just went here for desserts, I heard they have this tapas menu you can order and a few tables around a fire pit. Would have been nice to dine there, when you’re cold, but it wasn’t available when we arrived.

International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu (ICAAC)

Since my last visit to Cebu, ReiMart enrolled at this culinary school, International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu, aka ICAAC. And once in a while, when he’s not assigned as dishwasher (yeah, because apparently they take rotations on every station so they get to experience everything) or in any other stations, he get to dine in the restaurant! And as part of our bingeing for his special day, we had a meal in the restaurant to try the dishes prepared by his fellow classmates.

For appetizers, I had the Seafood Chowder and it was the bomb (saying that may trigger a funny memory for poeticnook haha)! I had chunks of every bit of seafood in there and it was such a joy to eat. The soup was thick and very flavorful. ReiMart got the (stacked) Onion Rings as tall as a 12in ruler. Perfectly crispy and light with a nice dipping sauce. And yep, you guessed it, we finished both plates haha!

Our entrees came and the serving size is huge! I really think they put 2 servings in my Blackened Seafood Pasta. The fresh pasta was was blackened with squid ink and it’s sitting on a seafood broth (yes, broth! I was a little surprised when ReiMart told me about it before my plate came) with clams and shrimp. I thought the pasta was al dente but unfortunately needed more flavor. With a broth, I’m not sure how to do that, haha! I finished all the seafood in it but had to leave behind some pasta (I know, the Pasta Gods are frowning down at me!). ReiMart had the Lamb Chop Risotto and if I felt my dish was huge, his plate was so enormous I had to take another second look and even uttered a “good luck” to him. Surprisingly, he managed to eat all of it!

Initially we thought of ordering 2 desserts, but by the time we reached it, we were so full, we had to share a Blueberry Cheesecake instead haha! The cheesecake was so so and light, but what I really loved here was the lemon and blueberry gelées on top. The lemon coulee particularly had a nice sharp taste to it which cuts through the richness of the dessert. We both thought that the nuts on the plate were a little out of place.


Verdict: 2.5/5 (don’t kill me, ReiMart!)
Maybe there’s more to like with the other dishes I haven’t tried. I heard they have an Unli-Steak Night that won’t hurt the wallet. Culinary students from this school should be proud for running the kitchen that night without getting yelled at. I would have liked to see ReiMart in there, I’ll definitely send one dish back, just to throw him off. Haha! Maybe next time.

Poké Guy

So, what's your favourite Poké?

This Hawaiian marinated raw fish dish on a bed of rice with tons of add ons has been invading Van City by storm. 

Like most poké places, this shop takes you to an assembly line of ingredients where you first choose if you like the little guy or the big guy, I always go for the big guy only because you get unlimited toppings unlike others where you only get to choose 4 or 5. After choosing the size, your next decision would be the base - brown rice, white rice or salad, and then you get 2-3 proteins, the selection changes every day but I usually get the ahi, sockeye, albacore or shrimp depending on availability, the toppings consist of corn, tomato, onion, cucumber, cilantro, bean sprouts, an avocado slice for an extra dollar then a variety of sauces - ponzu, aoili, sriracha mayo, wasabi mayo, and finally the crunchies: fried onion, nori, pork rind, I'm sure I'm missing a lot more but you kinda get a sensory overload when you see the trays, it's almost like a Poké Subway.
I've tried a couple of Poké places in the past months but this tops them all for me, mostly because of the variety and quality of ingredients. The fact that the business owner has Hawaiian roots also gives some authenticity to the fare they deliver. Word of warning though, this isn't the place to go if you want a quick lunch stop, they open at around 11 and I lined up for almost an hour just to get my food! the next few visits I smartened up and went during off peak hours, they close at 5 or as soon as ingredients are sold out though so there really isn't a lot of window, well except for summer where they extend up to 7pm..

And if someone asks me what my fave poké is, well..


Verdict: 4/5

St Marc Café

I remember saying here before that I like having dessert any time of the day, because it’s dessert! So while being trapped by the number coding scheme in place in Metro Manila (it was a Thursday then and my car plate ends with 8), we had to look for a resto where we could have a quick bite, just to burn the 2hr window from 6-8pm. So St Marc Café was the winner among 3 finalists.

Looking at their display, I can’t imagine someone passing by without giving it a second look. I mean, look at it! The desserts are screaming for you! For your name! And if you just pass by, man, you’ve got no love. You’re dead in the bones. Haha!

So. Among the selection, I chose the Choco Berry Celebration sundae. It had rice crispies at the bottom, which I found weird, because it eventually turned soggy because of the sundae. It’s topped with strawberry slices, sliced almonds, a chocolate wafer sticks, and a panna cotta. Finally, it’s drizzled with chocolate sauce. It’s not too sweet, too!

Verdict: 3.5/5
For 250Php per pop I’d gladly come back next week! Try this resto when you’re in the area. It’s at the ground floor of Fashion Hall in SM Megamall.

Ooma

If there’s one thing interesting with restaurants nowadays, it’s how they elevate a classic dish to something more relatable but yet still affordable. Not your average Japanese restaurant, Ooma dances on the doors of being nostalgic and adventurous.

Oysters are normally deep fried or eaten raw. Then comes Oyster Aburi Maki, an aburi topping for a maki, is just plain genius. Not only it is a mouthful, but when consumed in the right way, it gives exploding layers of flavor and texture in your mouth. The creaminess of that torched Japanese mayo hugging chopped oysters passing on its smoky flovor is a nice contrast to its subtle and sweet flavor. The rice, you’d expect to downplay the taste does no such thing when drizzled with teriyaki sauce and the crisp cucumber and sweet kani inside is your hold to the traditional maki.


Another favorite is the Soft Shell Crab Katsu. I’m used to have this plated as is, dumped on a plate right at the middle. Ooma’s take on this, however, is somehow like a barbequed soft shell crab. The crabs were split to two, made to look like it’s standing up the plate. Drizzled with sriracha mayo that’s not overpowering the crab at all.

Verdict: 3.5/5
I read in Ooma’s menu that the name of the restaurant was a play for the Japanese word “umai” which means “good.” You should pay them a visit one of these days at 3F Fashion Hall SM Megamall.