August 23, 2009
OK, some-body’s got to do it! With the influx of Korean nationals in the country, one would hardly not notice the changing neighborhoods in our different towns and cities. You know for sure that as soon as you see a Korean school in the area, pretty soon you would start to see Korean stores, Churches, Nail Parlors, language schools, travel agencies and definitely, Korean restaurants. In my area, the Ortigas Center in Pasig, one cannot deny that it has turned into— Korean Town. Love it or hate it, there are different point of views. But as we filipinos are friendly, peaceful (most of the time) people, we tend to find a common denominator. And what common denominator is more common than the love for food. But … what do we order!! we can’t read anything of their form of hieroglyphics!!. Asking them would be quite intimidating.. specially if you want them to describe everything in the menu before you order. Besides, how do we know what is good or what is not. Somehow the picture does not look like the fast-food bulgogi we know, but if all of them serve it that way, they have to be the more authentic version. Hmm… what is a cheap way to go about this thing other than to try everything and decide. Well folks, we have it narrowed down for you.
When in Pasig, go towards Escriva Drive (where UAAP is). From the corner of Shaw boulevard, go down towards the University. As soon as you see the first Korean sign, you know that you have hit Korean restaurant row. The building housing Global Culinary has 3 Korean restaurants, and a Korean Grocery. Go inside the aisle and pass the grocery, there will be 2 restaurants inside facing each other. Go to the one on your left. Its called Kimbop something.
This is not the usual Korean barbecue joint. It is more their version of noodle and dumpling house, with rice toppings also. (BTW don’t be afraid to open the door. It looks like an office since no one can tell its a restaurant from the outside.. but just GULP and open the door. Inside, you will be warmed by how it looks, because it certainly looks like a typical dining area of a private house. There are probably like 6 or 7 tables there, and more often than not (in all those times we have been there) you would be the only non Korean. The menu, and everything in the wall spells Korean. If you really don’t know what the hell is going on. look for Jinky, the filipina server, or anyone in the kitchen can explain things for you. We ordered kimbap (which is their a korean sushi with beef, ham and strips of vegetables.) great for a snack, and filling too. The traditional one would cost you around 150 per roll. This is their version of sandwich, to be packed and eaten on the go. Order also any of their noodle dishes. Just point to the one served on the other table, and you can be pretty assured that it is good. You also see the owner rolling and cutting the dough himself before he sends it to the kitchen. NOT TO BE MISSED…. is their Dolshot Bibimpap. Its a stone bowl of Veggies, egg and some meat with rice and bean paste. The trick is to mix it and push the rice into the bowl and sides of the bowl, and wait for the whole mixture to get “tutung”. Perfect!!!! This is at 250 a bowl- full meal.
Also NOT TO BE MISSED are their Dumplings. They are not dumplings but DUMPDUMPLINGS!! They make it themselves. Not any of those frozen versions here. I could just go and order this again and again. Its 180 per order. I know it does not sound cheap, but when you think about the refillable appetizers you get, soup and the food that you order, its good value for a honest meal. The way my family likes it…no fancy pretences.
The other place you might want to visit to have a meal would be this place called 6 days. Take it literally folks, they are open 6 days–sundays excluded. Of all the korean restaurants in the area, I would say this place has the ambiance factor. They serve Korean home-style meals, and the server, (in our case the owner) describes how something is traditionally eaten. We ordered the Spicy tofu soup, which came with a bowl of soup/stew, a big bowl containing strips of vegetables and roasted seaweed, and a cup of rice. The instructions were to ladle the soup into the second boll of veggies, put in the hot rice, and eat the whole thing with this pot of chili bean paste which she served as the condiment. Son was honestly skeptical at first, but he did what she said, it was a whole new experience. The only words coming out of his mouth then was UMMMMM..The chef tried it, and i found the balance of spicy, salty, sweetness that is not overpowering. The taste just melds together very well, with the perfect umaminess brought about by the base broth of the stew being traditionally cooked with tons of beef bones and veggies, skimmed and defatted. The spiciness did not mask the base broth at all. It accentuates it. A big difference from the other Korean restaurants, who serves this kind of dish with a pre-mix of bouillon and just add the kimchi. We also ordered the bulgogi rice, which was ok . It had lots of crunchy vegetables, but not much meat though. Daughter ordered the chapchae. Their version was had lots of vegetables, and meat. We thought it would be ordinary, but it was not so. On closer examination, I saw the use of dried shitake mushroom which made all the difference. I am so sure that they made use of the water from the re-hydrated shitakes to flavor the noodles. Taste wise, I feel that this restaurant really makes an effort to replicate cooking at home using time tested techniques rather than instant mixes. If you cook, you can just tell if any shortcuts were taken. So, for the 3 dishes, it costs us 250 per dish. Its not cheap, but CHEAP FOR THE QUALITY AND STANDARD that was served here.
For this review, I veered away from the standard Korean barbecue place, and delved into the culture and traditions that helped make me understand the Korean national himself. What kind of people they are, what do they like to eat, and what nuances do they have with their food, as we have in ours. I believe that as the foreigners in our country, they too seek their homegrown meal traditions.. pretty much the way our hearts yearn for adobo in New York. I also wanted to a peek into their kitchens to see how they prepare their meals, the ingenious way they used their spices, what perks their appetite, or what they commonly eat and call as home-food. Its funny how we do find a lot of commonalities– our insistence on our own cultures and traditions, being nationalistic, or having strong family ties for instance. Whatever it is, I developed a deeper understanding of the Korean people. My neighborhood suddenly does not look like it had been invaded by aliens…. and Korean telenovelas does not seem to be so bad……hmmmm…
August 21, 2009
One of the greatest food concept in Manila, came in the form of this center. Located inside Manila Ocean Park, (2nd floor) , this place is open to the public from 11 am till 9pm. The proponent, is the, famous food guru, KF Seetoh, a photojournalist, writer and TV show host of the program Makansutra. ( We had the opportunity to see him making his rounds as of this post). What makes him click was his understanding that food need not only revolve around styles, individual tastes, or preferences. He brings the audience, or the reader, another dimension of food. Food that is alive—, filled with history, culture, philosophy, enabling one to enjoy not only the taste, but why the taste is such, the culture behind the food existing and what specific techniques brings about the food’s uniqueness.. Its an interactive sort of storytelling experience between the author, the reader and the subject.
The Makansutra Food Village introduces the customer to a different dining experience. It brings the hawker centers of Singapore, the mamak’s of Malaysia, the street food of India, Thailand and Indonesia, the dimsum centers of China, plus of course the carinderia of the Philippines to one center. Of course, the chefs are already locally trained, though one can see a foreign chef overseeing the stations. This after all is a Singaporean venture into the country.
Now about the food, it may not be first rate restaurant grade, but it sure passes the mark. The Laksa was quite authentic. And at 140 or 150 a bowl, it was truly satisfying. (I had the opportunity to try the singaporean Laksa of the franchise Secret Recipe, and makansutra had the same toppings, admittedly, a tad smaller but all there,–at less than half the price.) I was even able to put in my preference for additional chili, which Secret Recipe was not able to accommodate (fixed paste na daw). The Haianese Chicken Rice was not disappointing at 140 for a set. Of course still a way to go from our favorite hawker chicken house in Singapore, but good enough. The gado-gado was, I will admit, an aquired taste. The Fried carrot cake was ok- not as oily as in Singapore, which may be a plus, and the Char Kway Teow was also good. We also tried the Roti with curry sauce. These dishes you can get for 130-150.
The only disappointment we had was in the sea food section. We opted for the Clams Sambal. (I would have wanted the chilli crabs, but there was not much choices of crabs- besides it being messy to eat.) The clams were priced at 300. I was quite disappointed with the clams being really small, and not meaty. This is the only dish that is expensive. You can get pretty good meaty chile tausi clams at first rate chinese restaurants for 1 kilo of clams. This dish, we did not even finish.
Now , the thing is, its cheap for the the experience and the quality too (90% of it). Whether the restaurant was able to translate the idea behind the concept is another question. Well, the world is filled with good intentions. Perhaps its because of the volume of the crowd- or that the idealogy behind the concept being not translated to the Filipino chefs -who have never set a foot on Singapore or its Asian neighbors, its definitely LOST IN TRANSLATION. Maybe one day, they can improve on their visuals so it not limited to only the dish name , a brief description and the price, but to also include stories about it like Seetoh does in his food guides. Lets give this place a chance. After all, its just been open for a month. Whatever it is, you do get your money’s worth. Its great cheap eats!
By the way, sorry we were not able to get pictures as cameras were not allowed. Maybe we will edit this soon with pictures taken from a discreet camera like the cellphone. Watch out for the edited post!!
August 14, 2009
In a quiet corner in the town of San Juan, lies this gem that just opened a little bit more than a month ago. We chanced upon this place which is right beside the Tofu Store (where by the way one can buy excellent taho). Its unassuming, and quite simple in ambiance–like what one would expect from a classic chinese panciteria back in the olden days when Smart Panciteria and Lido or San Jacinto still dominates the market. No frills at all. What attracted us was of course the chinese chef at the back (you can see through a show window from the restaurant) effortlessly pulling strands and strands of noodles. Its ..art on display- or culinary kung fu. We thought.. . hm..looks genuine–it ought to be good. We decided to get a sampling of each category. Son ordered the soup noodle (with choices of fish, beef, chicken,lamb and dumpling) settling for the fish. He thought that this will be the best indicator for the broth. Daughter ordered the dry noodles (with the same choices as the above) settling for the braised Beef Noodle. We also ordered the Beijing Chow Mien (with choices for lamb or beef) and a sampling of the dumplings, boiled and fried of which it also comes in Pork,Lamb or Shucai (vegies) varieties. We made sure to tell the waiter to ensure that the noodles are al dente cuz as a family we can’t stand soggy noodles.
Our expectations rose seeing the chef preparing the noodles as per order. No leftover noodles on stand by jose, Everything is made when you order. Wow! And we did not have to wait for long. The noodles came and for sure.. it was perfect to the bite! (although we were sure the waiter did not communicate our preference because he would not be understood anyway..)
The broth from the soup noodles was clear and tasty without overpowering it with onions or kintsay (coriander). Son prefers to the fish to be fresher, though , really- there was no fishy taste or anything “malansa” on the soup.. (he is just used to live fish). But the broth, he can guarantee is excellent even if it will be paired with other meats.
The braised Beef Noodles were also excellent. The main star- the noodles were perfect, the beef, soft and really generous without the super tough “litids or veins” you find in other noodle stores, and the sticky sauce , very tasty. The additional touches came in the form of fresh garlic, coriander and spring onions which you just mix up. Perfect to the bite.
Next came the dumplings. Though we loved both, we decided, we preferred the steamed as its not too oily. Son says however, that it will depend on his mood that day. If he just wants the plain taste of the dumplings, he would order the steamed. If he feels like he wants spice that day, he would order it -fried, as this taste great with their homemade chili sauce which is made with a touch of sesame seeds in it. By the way–the dumpling sauce was also a perfect complement to it considering that it was not too sweet or sour. With the chili, (if you prefer), it would be the best dumpling sauce I have tried even in comparison to the japanese variety.
The best part of my story is that the prices ranges from 55-75 (for the dumplings 7 pcs) and 95-130 (for the 15 pcs.) This depends on the variety. The noodles range from 95-150 depending also on the variety. Its VALUE FOR YOUR MONEY!! The noodles, as it is hand pulled, were fuller and denser than the factory made ones. Our bill for the fish noodle, dry braised beef noodle, Beijing Beef chow mien and dumplings was only 460! And we literally had to roll out on our bellies.
Our prognosis..Ambiance is as expected, presentation is typical beijing street food–no frills that is, and can be quite sloppy in a honest homemade sense . The important thing, taste wise , TRY!! TRY!! Recommended!! Pocket wise, haaaaappppyyy!
Address: Unit 4 Citiplace Bldg. Jose Abad Santos st. Little Baguio, San Juan.
Directions. From intersection of Ortigas and Wilson street, go into Wilson. Take a right on the corner right after Gloriamaris dimsum and Alex III. You will pass a temple, scuba world on the left, and this will be the building on the right. Beside the stores Ristras and Tofu Store. Happy hunting!
August 13, 2009
Food Glorious Food!!! Any true blooded filipino embarks on the quest for -the search of the best food available, in the best possible form at the best possible prices. A few would not mind paying for that once in a lifetime unforgettable meal, but no matter how satisfying the meal..the nagging question of whether it was all worth it…always creeps into our thoughts. Lately, we have seen local books published directing us to the best meals available in the country. But at WHAT PRICE!!! One book would claim a “moderately priced meal” for the price of a thousand bucks, and a “cheap meal” being…ta dah! 500 pesos! Ok…let me guess.. in my own plebian mind, that one needs to have a disposable income *(one which one can easily get rid of without blinking an eye.) of about 15 thousand to 30 thousand pesos—-well, even that is considered to be so-so.
So FELLOW FOODIES. The question is.. can we not find a decent place in the whole of manila that can serve pleasurable food for the majority whose pockets are not as endowed as others? If I was Juan de la Cruz or Juanna, where can I treat myself (other than the ubiquitous fast food and carinderia) and still feel like royalty, served quality, fine or even gourmet food.
The second question is..How much is cheap…How much is moderate….and how much would you consider as the high end, but still affordable. (after all, we filipinos can always find someone with a birthday, or any other shallow reason to celebrate.)
So…..ALL FELLOW FOODIES, LET US UNITE!!!!. Let us give an answer to Singapore’s hawker centers, and Malaysian mamak’s . Our national pride is at STAKE!!!!!