You may have tried Bistro Pamana in Tagaytay, or in Boracay. But you may not have heard there’s one right in Makati near the Greenbelt Complex. Just a couple of blocks away, along Perea Street (#106), is this branch serving all of Bistro Pamana’s best-selling dishes. Think Kare Kare a la Barrio Fiesta, Crispy Pata, etc.
It was a Saturday, and it was a late lunch. I called to reserve, but when we arrived, there was hardly a lunch crowd. Maybe they are busier on weekdays. We were only too happy to “miss the crowd” and settle for a quiet lunch. The menu offers many choices. It was tempting to order their famous Kare Kare — after all, the owners are from the Ongpauco clan that made this local dish its signature item in Barrio Fiesta. Instead, we chose some dishes which are obviously Filipino favourites but served with a twist. Like the Okoy for starters. And the Sinuglaw — a Visayan dish which combines “Sinugba” (grilled) and Kinilaw (cooked in vinegar). The okoy was served crisp and tasty, with a vinegar dip. The sinuglaw consisted of grilled pork (liempo) and kinilaw na salmon. Yum.
We wanted to try their Sinigang Ribs and the Crispy Adobong Pusit. The latter was really crispy, very inky black and served with a dip of mayonnaise and crab roe or “aligue”. We weren’t sure if we’d like the dip but it turned out alright. We could have ordered more but there were only 3 of us and the appetizers were sooo good we were nearly out of room for the main dishes and desserts. But who can pass up on “turon with ube ice cream” and “palitaw”? The palitaw never made it as a photo as we devoured it like we haven’t had our proper lunch. Wellllll....
We knew we were in trouble as we moved to exit out of the bistro. This shelf of boxed goodies were on display, inviting us to take home more sinful food. The Chef-Manager was around to assist and so convincing! There was the Lechon Belly Roll, available in 3 slices, ready to be warmed for a dinner for 2-3. Or how about the Bulalong Corned Beef? Many frozen items to choose from. These food items make ideal takeout dishes for working moms and busy singles. One can even take out several packs and organize a party at home. Judging by how we enjoyed our lunch, the boxed selections must be just as enjoyable.
After a few visits, I dare to make a few observations. China Blue is consistently good. C Lounge still a great place to watch sunset, except that their coffee service was better before. And the Brasserie I’d rather forget.
This time was a dimsum lunch. Fish lip soup here is tops. (I remember the other 2 soups I tried here before were also good) As for the dimsum, the truffle mushroom buns were still as I remember. The Xiao Long Bao, hakao, pork siomai, taro with scallops and the bean curd were delish. But the top marks go to that basket of “imitation green pears and carrots” bearing duck filling (pears) and pork (carrots). Soooo good. I had one of each on top of 1 piece each of the xiao long bao and other dimsum.
The flavours burst in your mouth with each morsel. Dimsum was never more fun. And I thought I had fun with that mushroom-looking truffle bun! For starters, we had our fill of that fish lip soup which stayed hot the whole time because it was served on a bowl warmed by a tea candle underneath. Oh, China Blue always plates their food soooo well. This served me well as I simply love taking my own sweet time when dining. 😍🍵🥢
The next time I’m back, you’d find me ordering this fish lip soup and basket of pears and carrots plus the truffle buns. I also do remember a great sorbet dessert here but we chose to move to C Lounge for our coffee and later, afternoon tea set for sharing. Scones, tea cakes, spring rolls, etc served in this special wooden tray with all sorts of contraptions. The coffee wasn’t served in a similar “contraption” I remember, though. (Check it out : https://jollybelly.weebly.com/blog/not-so-blue-in-china-blue-conrad-hotel )
Anyway, the C Lounge at 4pm isn’t as good as around 5:30pm. The afternoon sun can be blinding so choose where you’d sit. But come sunset, it’s a superb place to be. You may even choose to step outside right where you have an unobstructed view of the Ferris wheel and the bay. Lovely sunset by the Bay!
We had a very, very late lunch last Maundy Thursday here. After visiting a few churches along the Ridge running from Tagaytay through Alfonso, Cavite, we headed back towards the Junction and found Rolando’s near other favorite dining destinations like Balay Dako and Leslie’s. Our very first time to dine here and we were all pleasantly surprised. First off, the restaurant is so easy to spot — right along the ridge! — and the space and high ceiling are both refreshing and relaxing. Unlike other bistros with cramped space and charmless decor, Rolando’s is a visual feast.
The lunch crowd has gone by the time we got there. It was like past 3pm, nearly 4pm even, but the service staff led by its Manager Neil were all so very attentive. The menu is one huge, irresistible temptation though. An invitation to gluttony. Initially, we thought we’d do with a healthy fare like ordering the baby tawilis and seafood platter. Them crabs and shrimps and squid and mussels always win though. One seafood platter. We were also convinced to order an additional baked fish dish upon Neil’s suggestion, which turned out to be soooo good. You think we had way too much? There’s more!
Our lunch turned out to be a feast. The seafood platter and baked fish with bulalo soup would have been enough. But. And more buts. Crispy Pata is as Filipino as one gets and it’s almost criminal not to have it on the table especially when with balikbayans. A standard fare, if you ask me. Thank God we were able to resist ordering Kare Kare, which is an ubiquitous partner to the Crispy Pata. Plus we “needed” to order Pancit because someone in our group is celebrating her birthday. Not just one order of noodles but 2!
We enjoyed the seafood, and likewise the meat. The shellfish was good, the baked fish done to perfection, the crispy pata and bulalo always a hit, the baby tawilis a crunchy and fresh surprise. I do not know how we found the room for all these delectable dishes. To think that we even ordered appetizers of sisig and we even had our buko shakes 😂😂😂
I wasn’t kidding when I wrote that the menu was an invitation to indulge. How can you resist sisig and bulalo? Why dine in Tagaytay if you couldn’t even enjoy your baby tawilis? Why not order an entire seafood platter if you can’t decide which among mussels, squid, crabs, shrimps and fish to feast on? The big plus though is the service and attention we received. The staff was most accommodating, especially Manager Neil. So gracious and efficient, the rest of the staff take their cue from him. How refreshing!
Nearly forgot. We even had shrimps cooked another way. And Pork Binagoongan which was hardly touched. Not because it wasn’t good, but because we FINALLY reached that threshold! Gosh, I honestly thought we’d never get there. By now, you do take my word re gluttony, right? A bottomless pit? Babette’s Feast. And it was Lent. We sinned. Wayyyyy too much.
Lastly, how can you celebrate birthdays without the noodles for long life? And a birthday cake so you can make a wish and blow a candle? For good measure, we had the option to enjoy Tagaytay fruits as well as some Ginataang BiloBilo just so we don’t go home regretting NOT ordering them. Oh, Lord. Forgive us 🙏🏻
Thank you, Rolando’s. We’re rolling over with satisfaction. We’d be back, perhaps before sunset for cocktails before a sumptuous feast. It must be lovely waiting with a drink while watching the sun set from your porch. 🥂🍺🍷
I love lemon in my water and I love olives. This Greek taverna is our newest find in Baguio City. Not sure how long it’s been standing along Outlook Drive, but it was our random find. Actually intended to dine in Chef’s Home but .... the Chef wasn’t home. Lemon and Olives was the first restaurant we passed along the same drive and we were not sorry we stopped to dine here instead.
It looked cool from the street and there was a free parking slot out front and we took it! We planned on a Thai dinner but ended up going Greek. The place looks much better inside with a balcony that looks out to the darkness. I can tell it looks out to the pine trees and the mountains but at night, al fresco dining doesn’t offer any view. And so we chose to dine indoors where the decor and lighting suited our moods better. Besides, it was a cold night at 12 degree Celsius. The staff were friendly and nice, but the Chef/Owner seemed a bit grumpy. I’m guessing here but he looked Greek so we got excited ordering and waiting for our dinner. Never mind that the Greek chef was hmmm...... a tad grouchy.
We had the Poikilia - an assortment of appetizers like my favorite tzaziki, hummus, pita bread, sausages and our best find: saganaki cheese. We ordered more of the panfried Greek cheese sticks and pita bread. Soooo good. So was the grilled octopus! I was quite happy with the saganaki cheese sticks, tzaziki, grilled octopus and the Greek salad, that I refused to move on to the entrée. Oh, the cheese and that mollusk just made my day. Stuck to it, and munched on those tentacles ever so slowly. Not even when my friends’ orders of grilled lamb, souvlaki and gyros was I tempted. Besides, the Greek salad had Baguio’s freshest greens in a bowl with feta and olives. Quite filling, by itself.
The food photos you’d find here were sourced from the Net. We were too excited we forgot to take photos. By the time we remembered, the plates have been wiped clean. But take our word for it. It’s goood. Especially when washed down with wine. Or perhaps, you’d prefer ouzo. I’d likely have that very Greek beverage the next time. Yes, there’d be a next time. And I don’t care if the Chef is still grumpy. I’m coming back!
Not Paella Marinara. Nor Paella Mariscos. It’s another rice dish from Alicante called Arroz A Banda — literally translated to side dish. But no, make it your main dish. And if you’re having one, feast on it in this place called Casa Benigna in Calle Benigno Soto, 9 right in Madrid. Don’t bother with a map, cab it. Rather hard and complicated to locate it, but trust me, this place that doesn’t look much from outside gets really full.
Best to call and perhaps make reservations if you want to be sure you get seated. The Casa staff here are accommodating but the place can get crowded. They make your paella while you’re served their baked bread and seriously good butter and olive oil. The appetizers can be very filling but be sure to leave room for your paella or arroz.
We enjoyed the bread, olive oil, butter, appetizers, and the rice dishes very much here. Couldn’t be better. Such a great food find. They make most everything here except the vino! They even gave us a tour of the kitchen and the private rooms. You should meet the Filipino staff manning the kitchen. Very well-trained by the Spanish owner-chef. And the decor is very interesting, to say the least. Our spot where we had our main meal was right under a “clothesline” of chef’s uniforms. Very pretty.
I really like how they spruced up the place. From outside, it’s just a door. Once let in, you pass a bar and led into the main dining hall with 5-6 tables and farther in, a couple more private function rooms. The restaurant manager Kuya Eduard Gregorio has been doing this for the last 30 years he’s been in Spain and certainly knows his trade. If we didn’t restrain ourselves, we wouldn’t stop partaking of that really, really good butter when he left the entire tub on our table. (Check out 3rd photo on this page) He also made sure we didn’t leave without trying their own desserts and having dessert wine. He even capped the entire dining adventure with steaming cups of manzanilla. When you dine here, it is like feeling invited to someone’s home. Seriously.
Dining in Casa Benigna is a most pleasant adventure here in Madrid. I’d be back dining here in a heartbeat, just like many of the locals who all seem regular patrons here. It could only be because of the food and service here. But next time, I’d like to try one of the private rooms. Cozy 🥂
If you are going to Barcelona’s iconic landmarks like La Rambla and La Boqueria, be sure to drop in at Bar Pinotxo. Hard to miss because it’s up front. As you enter the Mercat, veer to your right. There you’d find a corner bar with orange letters spelling Pinotxo Bar. Grab a stool, or stand behind whoever is sitting on it, ready to claim the stool once vacated.
Their xuxo is a bestseller. Tasted like a good, crusty cross between a doughnut and a croissant, but with custard filling. They put one piece on the plate then expertly halves it with a SCISSOR! Pair that with cafe solo or cortado or con leche, or ask for txocolat caliente. Yum.
Also tried the garbanzos to load up on more carbs 🙄 and mushrooms which they call bolet in Catalan. Not setas! The mushrooms were a bit salty but that’s fine to mix with and flavor my chickpeas. The waiters are very friendly and Pinotxo himself was there manning the bar and chatting up everyone.
There are more offerings from this very informal 14-stool bar like squids, clams, sausages. But we simply can’t eat more. Que aprofiti!
You see them setting up the kiosks early evenings. And many stay open till very late at night. Even in this weather! The place is good to seat only 12 pax max, and the menu hangs outside the tent. Don’t expect to be understood once you’re seated on the bench. Just point away the stuff you like.
Busy. Most kiosks on full seating capacity but one can queue up and wait till the next fellow stands up from the bench. Food is cheap. Drinks are not. But they’d take you seriously as soon as you order a bottle of ¥600 beer. Then, relax and see what others order and point to the same stuff. This “food delivery system” always works. Don’t even bother checking out their tiny kitchen at the back lest you lose your appetite. Just remember to order the “hot stuff” like ODEN. I’m telling ya, it’s too hot no insect can survive it. 😜
What’s oden? It’s a traditional hotpot typically served with mustard as a winter dish. These days, you find oden to buy from konbinis or convenience stores like 7Eleven and Family Mart. When in Fukuoka though, one needs to try it in a yatai! An acquired taste, oden is typically an assortment of tidbits steeped in boiling dashi stock. Too hot you should take care pinching those bits with your chopsticks lest you drop it in the broth to splatter. Other kiosks serve yakiniku and ramen. There were long lines for those. But seriously? I can give this a miss.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, Napa, Lake Tahoe and Vegas, I found myself eating more burgers than I normally would. It started with Shake Shack, that NYC-based burger joint where we had our first meal in Las Vegas one late night. And the rest just followed.
It was easy to find Shake Shack in Vegas. Right along Las Vegas Boulevard. Can’t miss it if you’re standing right in front of MGM’s New York New York Hotel. Hard to resist if you come upon it and find no queue! Typically there is a line, but not this one late night on the Strip. Swell! I like this burger joint if only because their burgers are juicy, right-sized, sans frills. I don’t enjoy it when I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to take in all that burger goodness. The Shake Shack burgers fit just right 🍔
The day I first tried it was in its original roadside site in St. Helena in Napa Valley. Not burger, but I tried its special that day — beef brisket sandwich. So when we found its new branch right at the San Francisco International Airport’s Gate A10, we didn’t give it a miss! Quite honestly, I was way happier with the brisket than with my burger.
Back on the Strip, we tried the Burger Lounge inside Aria Resort and Casino. I enjoyed the avocado-smeared burger bun from this grass fed-beef burger joint except that my attention was diffused because it was located right inside the casino next to the poker room. If you’re tired of burgers or dining with vegetarians, this is a good place for everyone to enjoy because of their many healthy options.
Off the Strip but still in Vegas is an interesting cluster of restaurants and mall called Tivoli Village. We tried the burgers and steak in this steakhouse called Echo and Rig. There are also vegetarian and gluten-free options. This steakhouse got mixed reviews but we were happy with what we ordered. Service was very good but we’re talking about burgers here, right? So, I’d say it’s good but kinda pricey.
Thinking burgers, you’d likely wish to try one from that celebrity chef’s chain. Planet Hollywood on the Strip can take care of your Ramsay burger fix. By this time though, we were growing tired of burgers — grass-fed beef, angus or not — so we tried Gordon Ramsay’s fish and chips. Did we like it? Seriously, this chain is overrated. Not for me. Their lemonade is even too sweet! And their fries, average. My tip is to skip it. Burger King is even way better. And In-and-Out too! Both are all over Vegas. And I found a new favorite: Habit Burger Grill, not for its charburgers but for its tempura beans. A great sub for potato fries! Another random find is this unpretentious place called The Grid Bar and Grill’s burgers. Sinfully delicious with salted fries or onion rings, bacon, egg if you like, smeared with mayo or catsup, plus a minimum adornment of greens between the buns. Not bad finding this burger joint in Northshore on our drive down from Lake Tahoe towards San Francisco. Yum!
Napa has a number of interesting dining options with a very wide price range. There’s also a good curious crowd, and wine bars rule. Especially wine bars offering good, reasonably-priced food. In Bounty Hunter, one need not agonize what to order. Their signature dishes will save the day without burning a hole in your pocket.
Beers on tap, 40 wines and a 30-page beverage list. How can you go wrong? After all, it was voted best wine bar in Napa Valley 5 times. And oh, that beer can-standing chicken looking so proud, arrogant and snobbish shouldn’t be missed. Pair that with a smokin’ platter of apple wood-smoked brisket, pulled pork and bbq’d ribs and you’ve got a meal to feed a family. You may order sandwiches and sides like cole slaw, chips, corn bread and salads to complete your meal.
I was so averse to eating more meat the day we dined here, and ordered a vegetarian sandwich. The grilled portobello, squash, pimiento and eggplant was a hit too. Of course I tried some of that chicken but none of the ribs and brisket. My friends seemed to have enjoyed the platter though. Oh yes, I also had the artisanal craft beer.
Next time you’re in the area, check out Bounty Hunter. It’s right in the heart of Downtown Napa. Happy hours or not, you’d enjoy the “western vibe” here. And don’t forget to snoop at the bbq pit just right outside the bar to see them chickens “standing in line”.
I'm really loving this trend where Chino Roces Avenue Extension (formerly Pasong Tamo Ext.) is fast growing into a row of boutique restaurants run by young, creative chefs as well as good, ol' traditional restaurateurs. From city warehouses and car dealers with fancy showrooms, this long strip is now dotted with promising dining and date places spanning from Karrivin Plaza all the way to that popular Little Tokyo near Makati Cinema Square.
If you're a big fan of chawan mushi, you shouldn't miss it here. I always order this for starter and somehow went by a rough rule that if the chawan mushi is good, the rest listed on the menu should be equally so. I wasn't disappointed. The ikura atop the savory egg custard popped in my mouth, in harmony with the spoonfuls of "taho" goodness that closely followed, as if on cue.
We failed to do justice to the chicken salad with creamy tofu. It was good though we found the tastes too overpowering after a solid chawan mushi with its subtle umami-ness. The other thing is the veggie kakiage looking like a bird's nest was such a scene stealer! We marveled about its presentation and mildly panicked that the freshly-fried bird's nest creation should be devoured asap so as not to miss its crunchiness. You can imagine what happened, of course. Some dishes just can't wait!
By the time we were done with the vegetable and prawn kakiage, our order of pork BBQ waited for our attention. Once more, we nearly ignored the skewered meat because the spicy Karai soba and another soba (shoyu-based) dish were simply right up there in terms of soba quality and the Karai so deliciously spicy. We just kept "going back" to this soba for second and third helpings. If I were to head back here -- and there's no IF but rather WHEN here -- I'd definitely order again the chawan mushi, spicy karai soba and veggie kakiage. Oh, it must be mentioned that the soba set comes with a chawan mushi but we still ordered the premium chawan mushi. The complimentary egg custard that went with the soba set went nearly undisturbed 🙄
Next time, when I'm NOT so hungry or when I'm thinking "snacks", I'd likely order the pork skewers to enjoy with a bowl of rice. Yeah, what's wrong with snacking on rice? 😂 And maybe next time, I'd try their gyoza and sushi. Not to forget --- finish off with green tea ice cream. Sorry, no photos. Devoured soon after the dessert cup landed on the table. Happy eating!
Kazunori is housed right inside the MAZDA Showroom. An interior area can seat as many as 50 pax, a modern looking sushi bar is separated from the rest of the area by wooden posts, and the front area is separated only by glass from the Mazda showroom with a street view.