The first time I was here, I was too full from a La Cepa dinner to do a serious Pintxo bar crawl. I knew better this time. I started with Bar Zeruko. And almost got stuck here. The '2 pintxos and a drink' rule can't, won't apply. Not content with what's on display at the bar, we ordered from the kitchen. Must be the txakoli. So white and clear and young and Basque!
The fruits from the sea were great starters. La Hoguera literally translates to "bonfire" and La Hoguera de Bacalao is a special Pintxo here where your smoked cod is served "smoking" until it's ready to rest on a toast smothered with some herbal cream and a vial of warm, liquid salad dressing. Such effort in presentation! And how about this bowl of baby eels and creamed uni with a dash of perejil sauce? Yum.
I chose another bacalao dish -- this cod being one of my personal favorites. It looked interesting on display at the bar, bottled with a green pepper and some cheese at the top. Plated, it looked kinda ordinary, methinks. But it was full of flavor and I had to stop myself from having seconds.
The chistorra came wrapped and was served with a mildly spicy tomato sauce. The mushroom pintxos were good but not what I'd order next time. I was likewise intrigued with the soft boiled egg encased in a gelatinous meat stock and served on a bed of Migas or bread crumbs flavored with chorizo. Every dish is so creatively done. How delightful!
My niece and I shared these pintxos and decided we should start moving. Txakoli on hand, we cheered we had a good start. Bar Zeruko rocks!
There are many dining options in Pamplona's Plaza Del Castillo and the streets and alleys around it. We found this one.
The pig's cheeks and white asparagus salad were superb. I'm a sucker for white asparagus and will have them whenever they're in season. The pig's cheeks dish was cooked a la estofado but not quite. Served with steaming rice!
If you're here, you have the choice of a sit-down meal or a bar set-up where you can enjoy your Rioja and some pintxos. Both are very good. I was intrigued by many tapa or Pintxo varieties but only tried one. No room for more. 😭
But what I had, I liked! The Iberico con quezo with honeyed walnuts was sooo good. Somehow, I regretted not sitting at the bar. I could have tried some others I haven't had the chance to figure out.
We only stayed 2 nights here. Both nights we dined in this place. No regrets. The variety may be limited but with only 2 people running the restaurant, I'm amazed how they manage to keep customers happy with prompt service and food quality.
My sister is a meat person while I prefer vegetables and fish. The Entrecôte, served with salad and potatoes made my sister happy. Another time she had chicken roasted in its juice which was equally good. I liked the chicken too, savory and very tender.
But we both agree the soup is the best. I was happy with their generous portion in a big bowl, filled to the brim with potatoes, carrots and leafy veggies. The beef and vegetable broth was served piping hot, perfect with the bread.
Btw, Hurrup Eta Klik translates to SUCK ON. How about that, eh? 🤣🤐😳
Can't resist putting in a few words on our charming hotel in Saint Jean Pied de Port. It wasn't my first choice, but have absolutely no regrets booking 2 nights here where pilgrims start their Camino Frances.
Hotel Itzalpea is right outside the walled area, just a few steps from the gate leading to Rue de France. You can view it from the slits if you're walking on the ramparts of the muralla.
The interiors are very simple. After all, it only has 3 floors. We were lucky to have the room with a view of the street and the walls. Not noisy like other hotel rooms on the street side. Breakfasts can be had for €9 a set , which was quite enormous! No hot meals but ham, marmalade, jams, yogurt, bread basket, pie, pots of coffee, tea or chocolate.
The rooms go for about €70 a night, twin. Good-sized, clean and well-appointed. It wasn't pilgrim season yet when we arrived, so expect a crowd by the front where they set up tables under the sun.
I'd book this hotel again when I head back. Very charming.
I know. It's NOT the best. It's a tourist trap. But it will do for first timers. (We set the bar higher as we go along, ei?) Many tourists are in the littered ground floor where the tapas bar is. Then there's the line for those who want a sit-down meal on the 2nd floor.
The callos madrileño must be a top must-eat along with the Jamon y quezos. Most certainly you don't get the best callos served here. Nor the pulpo de gallego, which really disappointed. After Galicia & Pais Vasco, one gets a bit more discerning with his octopus dish. I regretted having ordered pulpo here.
Usually, the pecaditos here are crunchier and the fried boquerones are crispier. Not today though. Not sure if the kitchen's too busy with so many diners or quality has suffered. Both would have been perfect with our order of Sangria.
Well, there would be many other dining places to try. No rush. As they say, build up the excitement!
All in a week. A tale of 2 Thai restos. Both good. One kind of pricier, but still highly recommended despite the small portions.
You can never go wrong with People's Palace in Greenbelt 3. Always up to the job for a Thai fix. The Pomelo Salad tasted so clean, uncomplicated and refreshing. Great starter along with prawns wrapped in crispy noodles (off the menu). Naturally, I had to have my Green Chicken Curry in a bowl. Shared it but I must have consumed half the bowl. Son-in-law's Eggs (wth!) was surprisingly delish. The crispy lapu lapu fillets and pork with peppercorn are all winners. The 5 of us tried to do justice with our food choices, capped with the very Thai Thako (tapioca pudding with coconut cream) and sticky rice with Mango. On full bellies, we burped our satisfaction over the food and lemon grass drinks.
If you care to have your Thai fix elsewhere and cheaper, try Thai Original BBQ at BGC. The catfish salad goes perfectly with their BBQ. These two plus the eggplant with basil dish complete a great Thai meal. Oh, if there's room, go for the Thai halo halo. Share it too! The sticky rice in the halo halo really fills you up so save that for last. Bon apetit!
NIKKEI? That refers to a Japanese who has migrated and permanently settled elsewhere and imbibed the culture of the host country without losing his Japanese character entirely. A fusion, in a manner of speaking. In the culinary world, the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian dishes such as what are served in this restaurant in Rada Street in Legazpi Village just a block or so away from the Greenbelt complex.
There were recommendations not to miss the Parmesan Scallops. We heeded such advice and had them for appetizers. It was almost sacrilegious to have these beautiful, fresh scallops swimming in butter. But topped with slightly torched Parmesan cheese, it's simply irresistible. We enjoyed these as we sipped our Nikkei Mojito to refresh and clean our palates from all that buttery-ness.
From Buttery to Fatty. That's the Buta No Kakuni I had with Chahan. All that pork belly, ponzu, katsuboshi and leeks goodness in a bowl. My 2 friends both went for a healthier lunch of saba shioyaki. This mackerel and gohan meal is perfect if you're still feeling guilty over the holiday indulgence. But not so for one other member of our party who recklessly asked for his beefy Lomo Saltado lunch.
We didn't have a chance to try their ceviches but we've heard those are good too. The portions are modest so those with big appetites may need more appetizers or side dishes. In our case, we were good with what we've ordered, thinking we'd try the other interesting, creative, trendy dishes on the menu. Besides, we needed room for their homemade ice cream of ginger, sesame and wasabi. 👍
Seriously? Those chicken tenders and chicken skin dipped in truffle ketchup wasn't bad at all. Doubtful over the truffle but still, a steal for P165. Especially when each bite and dip are followed by a spoonful of "dirty rice". There are times when you don't want to see a litany of food options and can only manage between choosing if you want your chicken spicy or regular. So when told I'd be treated to a P165 lunch here by this generous grandkid of mine, I readily agreed without much expectation. I'm not paying. It's cheap. And not much options. Ergo, no serious thinking before feeding.
The Birdhouse is on the 4th floor Food Hall of Up Town Mall in BGC. One of the newest to spring up in this mall-crazy corner of the capital. Lots of food stalls here, plus a few more on the 2nd and 3rd levels. Pretty neat. Lotsa space. Hipster vibe. Upon entering the mall, we felt transported somewhere in Australia or America.
I would love to go back and check out the other stalls here. And yes, try the other flavors of those yummy thin-layered crepes in Papermoon. Good ambience. When I think of P165 meals, I'm thinking crowded food courts, noisy, not neat at all, and mediocre meals. In Birdhouse, no way I'm judging based on the standards applied on P1,000 or even P500 meals. Listen up guys, the bird costs only P165!
I'm Angus Steakhouse is right next to Santi's Deli along Yakal Street in Makati. Traffic can be bad in this area at certain hours so I suggest you choose your timing well. It being the start of year, my 2 friends and I set out for a lunch date here. We were in a celebratory mood, and decided we should honor this good bottle of Insignia 2011 with a good lunch.
White linens and good wine. It's a good way to start the year. We chose 2 appetizers: the broiled scallops wrapped in bacon and Chilean blue mussels. Both were so good we wanted to repeat our orders even before deciding on our main course. And we actually did! Can't resist another plate of the Japanese scallops so perfectly seared and paired with tomato chutney. It was so good it was a chore not to ask for a 3rd plate. After all, each order only had 4 bite-size pieces!
As for the main course, we decided against a steak lunch. Having indulged in those hot appetizers, and having dipped way too much bread on their sauces, we knew we can't do justice to a steak dish. Instead, we ordered off menu and asked for Tagliatelle al Funghi. Two orders for the 3 of us. We didn't even finish these 2 orders of pasta. Not because it wasn't good but because we were way satiated with our appetizers and wine. Err, the bread too. But a good meal demands a good finish. So we had desserts!
The I'm Angus dessert sampler was perfect for us. The mascarpone passionfruit cheesecake, the blueberry cheesecake, and the chocolate mousse were good for tastings only. My 2 friends weren't keen on these finishers, so I felt obliged to indulge 😂 So there. It was an afternoon well-spent. We didn't waste any food. And we didn't waste even a drop from that bottle of Cabernet. All put to good use. Cheers!
Finally, I booked my complimentary room at the all-suites 6 star Maxim's using my Indulge card. Been trying to use this room voucher but realized the Indulge card privileges involved circuitous procedures before one gets to enjoy her privileges. I almost gave up, till I realized that I'd end up a big loser for paying a sum for this card that won't let me indulge!
Earlier, I tried booking a room directly with Maxim's but was advised to make my bookings via Indulge. Don't ask me why. So I called Indulge but lost my patience as the phone calls went either unanswered or took forever to merit attention. Then they asked for a date and said they'd arrange with Maxim's reservations. I got a text message 2 days after, advising me that no rooms are available. The next time I made reservations, I asked for a non-smoking room and was told they can only book the reservation but can't guarantee if it's non-smoking until the very day of check-in. What kind of service is that?
On the day we checked in, they gave us a smoking room. Having gone all the way to RW, we took what was available. Can't complain about the room size but I wouldn't call the room a suite. The decor was dull. No, it was tasteless. The bathroom was huge but dark. Perhaps so to hide trays and tissue boxes which are broken and simply repaired and held together with tape! And they call this hotel 6 stars? Mind you, and this may seem trivial to some, but those times I called to make reservations and to confirm, I must have talked to at least 5 people. None of them could speak fluent English. I resisted speaking in Pilipino just to test how they'd deal with foreign guests but seriously, no one spoke good English. Not only that ..... when asked why they can't reserve a non-smoking room ahead of the booked dates, I didn't get a plausible explanation.
I am sorry that I have to rant about Indulge Card and Maxim's Hotel but I'd like to save you the expense. Def no value. The free breakfast was awful. Worst buffet spread I've seen. We came at 9am and found crumbs of bacon, fried rice, emptied chafing dishes. You also need to ask them to fry sausages rather than having some ready. And be sure to go back to pick them up! Be patient with your coffee. We were midway through our breakfast before they served mine. No water unless you ask, and that involves some waiting too. No juices from the buffet spread. The fruits look pale too. How can they even think of charging P800 per person for this mediocrity?
The only thing I enjoyed here is the pool area. But still, far from the service we get from Manila Pen for one,where a lifeguard is very visible (I couldn't find any in Maxim's), a refreshing drink is offered as soon as you take one of the beach chairs, and the spa and shower rooms are spanking clean, bright and cheery. Oh well. Never again. Indulge Card is a joke. And Maxim's Hotel is a 6 star fluke.