KIKUFUJI IN LITTLE TOKYO
IZAKAYA Kikufuji is my favorite in Makati's Little Tokyo. The frontage doesn't reveal much about this gem of a Japanese restaurant. The interiors are those typical of Japanese restos. In the center is the bar circling the open kitchen, filled with sushi chefs with busy hands.
Kikufuji serves more than sashimi and sushi. They likewise have rice toppings and bento boxes. Our favorites are the Una Don which is unagi or eel on japanese rice, and the wagyu skewers which are 4 wagyu cubes on a stick. Sinfully good 😜 Ebi lovers may have them as tempura or tempuradon. Both crisp and good.
If you like soupy dishes, try also their hotpot choices. We ordered something like sukiyaki without the noodles and liked it. Tofu so silky and yum. Sorry I can't recall what it's called. Then there's chicken teriyaki don and another favorite, agedashi tofu.
The California Maki with crunchies are a bit on the spicy side but you can always have them the standard, non-spicy way. The Gyudon, just as expected. Who doesn't like gyudon, anyway? When you can't think of anything Japanese to eat, this is the safe choice. This, along with shake-don which is really salmon sashimi on a rice bowl.
Little Tokyo is a cluster of Japanese restos beside Makati Square along Chino Roces St, formerly Pasong Tamo Street. There are many choices off the same street or in the interior part of Little Tokyo. But the family's favorite remains the #1. Kikufuji.
The Little Big Cafe
The Little Big Cafe is little in size but big in quality. If you're looking for honest-to-goodness coffee with baked goodies to pair with, this is THE PLACE.
Last time I was in Madrid, I waited for this cafe to open. I had the good fortune to enjoy a slice of owner Max's carrot cake then, weeks before the shop opened. It was the bomb, and I knew I'd be back for another slice. As luck would have it though, I had to fly back to my home in the Tropics without stepping into this coffee place 😭
And so months passed with only a memory of that single slice of carrot cake. Of course, they have other offerings, each one deserving to pair with my flat white. Sourced some instagram photos here if only to show slices of this coffee-lovers' paradise. (Disclaimer: I don't know the owner Max but her good friend S sent me that delish slice)
It was Halloween when I finally stepped foot here. Friends' children in tow, we enjoyed our coffee while the kids devoured slices of chocolate cake and other baked goodies. No photos taken then (we had kids with us!) but again, these Instagram photos should give you an idea.
The chocolate cake was big on choc goodness without being overwhelmed with sugar overload. I like how a shade of choc bitterness remained. And the cookies and fudge? I wanted to slide some into my pocket!
Lest you start thinking The Little Big Cafe only serves good (make that very good!) coffee, cakes and cookies, here are some IG snapshots of their meals. I know my sobrina based here enjoys their salads very much, but judging by these photos, my eyes are glued on the Eggs Benedict!
Don't waste time. Visit The Little Big Cafe now and savor its yummy offerings!
Dos Mercados En Barrio Chueca
I love going to mercados. Especially when I'm going solo. And Mercado de San Anton, Mercado de San Miguel, Platea Madrid are among my favorites. Of the 3, I am more drawn to Mercado de San Anton for 2 reasons: it is more quiet/less crowded and there is a rooftop terrace (La Cocina de San Anton) should one be inclined to linger, nurse a drink and enjoy the breeze and the view.
Besides, I like the variety of tapas on offer here. One stall sells bacalao on tostada, cooked and plated in all imaginable ways. Another has olives and anchoas sourced from different areas. The same can be said of the many varieties of jamon, quezos and trufa! I just love it here.
And should you grow tired of this mercado or wish for a more crowded place, there's one just a few blocks away. A tad cramped I think, but it looks like it caters to a younger crowd. Mercado de San Ildelfonso is right along Calle Fuencarral, not too far from San Anton in Calle Figueroa off Calle Hortaleza.
The jamon, quezos, olives shouldn't vary much from one mercado to the next. However, the foie gras served with risotto and the pickled bacalao on toast in Mercado de San Anton are FTW tapas I won't mind having each time with my vino or cerveza. So there. You heard me. San Anton it is for moí. Minus the crowd 😄
So, What Did We Eat In Maroc?
We don't have many happy memories associated with Moroccan cuisine. To be fair, it was good the first 3 days. Then the novelty wore off. We couldn't bear to see another tagine, much less taste couscous.
There were choices. Lamb, Beef, Chicken Tagine. No pork in this Muslim state. Couscous. More Couscous. Brochettes. Kefta balls. Beef or lamb stewed in apricots or dates. Mountains of salad. And the very Moroccan Harira Soup.
I do like the Moroccan Mint Tea. As well as the Moroccan Nutella which they call Amlou. This thick, sticky spread reminds me of peanut butter but is actually made from crushed almonds mixed with argan oil, two pricey ingredients. Bought a couple of bottles from a coop by the foot of the Atlas Mountains. I also liked the egg dish served with klii in Riad Andalib. This one reminded me of sunny side up eggs with tapa bits 😄
Moroccan servings are overly generous to the point of wasteful. All the salads served to us were just too much. The tagines were infused with all possible spices and always served hot. The variety was quite limited though. It is hard to reach the end of Week 1 without putting up your arms and crossing them whenever you see tagine and the accompanying couscous.
Vegetarians would dig those overflowing salads and starters. Likewise with the fruits. I am not a big fan of meat dishes so I was like growing a tad insane missing my shellfish and desserts. Luckily there were Italian-Moroccan and French-Moroccan restaurants. In particular, I liked Pepe Nero in Riad al Moussika in Marrakech. When we felt we needed to break the pattern, we sought out Japanese and Italian restos for our sushi and pizza fix. Such was our dining experience in Maroc. 😄
Back in Casa Botin
I've written about Casa Botin twice already. But my last visit was on my birthday where my good friends treated me to a cochinillo y cordero lunch. A tourist trap indeed, but a reservation solves that. After all, this resto can't possibly be here all these years if it weren't serving decent meals. Not the best cochinillo but you can't say it's bad. And yeah, the cordero's actually good. So's the sangria and chipirones en su tinta 😄
The oldest resto in the world per Guiness records. Serves them well. The kitchen is a must-visit if only to take a photo of those suckling pigs lined up in a row. Add to that Hemingway's mentions of this asador in his book "The Sun Also Rises". It is further immortalized with such trivia as Spanish painter Francisco Goya having worked here as either waiter or dishwasher.
And because it's my birthday, I got a slice of my birthday cake! As for bebida, take your pick. There's rioja alta or sangria or cerveza. Buen provecho!
Restaurant du Port de Peche
A taste of Spain in Casablanca? But we've only just arrived in Morocco. Funny but it's a good choice. After all, we have enough time to try (and grow tired of?) Moroccan cuisine in the nearly 2 weeks we're here in this part of North Africa.
The seafood resto is right inside Casablanca's fishport. In fact, soon after you enter the gate. It was lunch time when we got here and soon after we were seated, the lunch crowd descended upon this place. The selection is, as expected, mainly seafood. But we couldn't resist ordering the paellas. After all, Spain is just across the Mediterranean and having just arrived from the Philippines, we were having separation anxieties with our staple rice 😢
The place seems popular with locals and tourists alike, though some reviews indicate it's pricey. We were happy with our first meal here in Morocco, even if it's not exactly Moroccan cuisine. And pricey. Well, the couscous and tagine can wait. For the moment, those oysters, gambas (shrimps) and chipirones (squid) can't 😘
And I thought we didn't have the energy after that long flight from the Tropics! The salads and appetizers may have done the trick though I honestly thought we didn't need to be "prepped" for this scrumptious meal. Freshly harvested from the sea, we indulged in the sea-salted goodness of shellfish and more. Those..... plus our first sip of beer from this place.
It was heavy for a first meal. Coupled with Casablanca beer and the satisfying paellas, we lost all energy for the remainder of the city tour. It was a struggle to check in at our Movenpick hotel in the city center and get moving shortly after to check out the Habous Quarter. All's well though, since the subsequent days saw us driving inland and settling for meat dishes most of the time. It would be a while before those sea creatures would touch our lips...... 😭
En La Barra En JURUCHA
It doesn't look much. And it's easy to miss it. Just a simple signage and a tapas bar within. Cramped. But not as noisy one would expect of crowded bars. Guess everyone's busy munching something?
In Barrio Salamanca's Calle Ayala, you'd find this neighborhood bar that's ideal for quick bites. That day, I meant to go to nearby Mercado de la Paz but was distracted by the many folks lining the bar inside Jurucha.
I observed what most folks were ordering. The tapas on the bar looked freshly-made, offering quite a variety. I sipped my cerveza while checking which tapa to feast on.
I settled on the fish canapes even if the lomo iberico, morcilla and tortilla looked so inviting. I wasn't hungry. Just curious. But not curious enough to go deeper and claim a table inside. After all, the pintxos bar seemed like the better place to be. So full of life.
Maybe I'd head back with a bigger appetite next time. While everyone jostled for space at the bar, I got there effortlessly and didn't order beyond a couple of tapas to go with my caña. And oohh the unphotographed, undocumented 2nd tapa I had was a ham croqueta which I promptly popped into my mouth almost as soon as it was served 😄
In Madrid's Puerta del Sol/Plaza Mayor neighborhood alone, you can find some of its oldest restaurants offering traditional Spanish cuisine. There's Casa Botin -- the world's oldest -- and Casa Alberto, both operating since the 17th - 18th century. Joining their ranks is Lhardy which has been around since 1840.
From Puerta del Sol along Carrera de San Jeronimo, you can't miss Lhardy if only because one can't resist its window display of baked goodness like tocino del cielo, napolitanes, empanadas, ensaimadas, polvoron, marron glacé, etc. The ground floor serves very good coffee too while the upper floor is the fine-dining area.
I never had the chance to try their fine-dining restaurant and sample their cocido madrileño for which it is famous. Found it pricey especially if I'm dining alone. Luckily, at the time I visited their Tienda and ordered a cup of cafe cortado and a croissant, they were offering racion of Spanish staples like Callos Madrileño, Albondigas, and Tortilla. Priced at only 6€ in celebration of Lhardy's 175 years in the business!
Same goodness in a claypot but without the table linens and elegant cutlery in a private dining salon. Yet for all its aristocratic setting and fancy decor, the service was friendly and personal. The man behind the cash register tried to persuade me to take out some of the bakery stuff and I obliged, making him happy while putting my marron glacé in a beautiful Lhardy box. All but one, which I ate heartily in front of him.
Casa Alberto has been around since 1827 and certainly ranks among the oldest, atmospheric tabernas offering traditional Madrileno cuisine. It is claimed that the building where it is housed is likewise the same place where Miguel Cervantes wrote some of his books.
Patrons of Casa Alberto would rave about its vermouth on tap and variety of tapas en la barra. We didn't miss ordering the vermouth plus bottles of red wine, nor the celebrated huevos rotos with salmon and gulas. We likewise ordered a spinach salad and ceviche for starters.
And because we are in search of the best Callos Madrileña, we had that too. Both starters were good, along with the huevos rotos. As for the callos, I've tasted better elsewhere.
The ternera was tender and simply seasoned and fried. Not much to rave about really though I enjoyed the lamb chops more. Too bad they couldn't serve one of their famous dishes-- rabo de toro. Still, they're par to the course I saw s lady at the next table order a pulpo and immediately, I regretted not having the Galician delicacy in front of me.
We had room for dessert, para compartir. A fitting finish to our last dinner in Madrid. The bill went beyond budget, but then again, we truly enjoyed our 4 bottles of wine. No worries. Team Happy is... Happy 😄
LA PULPERIA DE VICTORIA
We came here for the pulpo. Yet we had many other good stuff in mind. Like the razor clams locally called navajas. But pulpo takes the cake. And this galician restaurant in Calle Victoria just a hop and a skip away from Puerta del Sol promises the freshest pulpo or octopus.
The paprika-sprinkled octopus tastes as good as it looks. Best eaten with another favorite dish from Northern Spain : Pimientos de Padron. How we all love this sweet chilis! I have yet to eat a spicy pimiento de padron. Lucky me 😄
Now, if you've come here to really eat and drink, you'd satisfy your cravings even with just these 3: pulpo, pimientos y navajas. Never fails. Trust me. Have a jarra of sangria to drink or some cerveza o sidra. Buen provecho!