Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Steak?

September 16, 2008
Gulliver's Of San Francisco
Makati Avenue, Makati City

First off, I would like to apologize for the pictures that I got. It was really dark inside Gulliver's so I had no choice but to expose the food subject with blinding flash photography. I hope my little Photoshop skills minimized the obviousness of my amateur photography. I think it is really time to invest in a good lens and flash. Anyway, back to the business at hand:

The appetizer. Smoked Salmon. One of the best appetizers I've ever tasted. One of two things I am reminded of when I think about eating at Gulliver's, the first is the roasted prime rib... This is the second one. The Smoked Salmon had really authentic flavor. I feel that it was homemade since it was different from the normal packed smoked salmon I've tasted. The salmon was really tasty and was not masked by extreme smokiness. Good thing the smoky flavor was not too overpowering. Imagine biting into a smoked salmon as its smokiness clouds your palette and at the same time biting into a piece of caper. The sweetness/smokiness of the salmon combines with the saltiness of the caper and it's just magic. I just love it! So much for salad, this is the appetizer to rule them all!

The soup. French Onion Soup. One of my favorite soups of all time. I love how the flavor of the caramelized onions blend with the rich, hearty beef broth. To top it all, literally, is a piece of bread with real mozzarella cheese over it. Caramelized onions, beef broth, and mozzarella cheese... what more can you ask for? Gulliver's version of the French Onion Soup is not really different from the norm. They didn't really do anything special about it or changed any of the ingredients. This is a good thing since good onion soup recipes have remain unchanged through time. This is why I love this soup so much. It's authenticity. I've always thought that comfort food should never be changed.

The steak. Specifically the Roasted Prime Rib. A must-try at Gulliver's. This is the main reason why I always eat here. Sometimes I would try other main courses but I would eventually end up with this dish. A heaving plate of stake (the Gulliver's cut) with sidings of Yorkshire pudding, creamed corn, spinach, and baked potato. As you can see, the steak I had was cooked medium rare. The way I like it. The steak cut was nicely marbled and very tender. The flavor was just right and the usual sweet-metallic taste was there. The fact that I didn't finish the meal was surprising even for me. I guess I was really full with the bread, appetizer, and soup that I forgot to leave much space for the steak. Nonetheless, I would not let food go to waste so I asked for a doggy bag and took it home. The next day, I had steak for breakfast. A perfect way to end a day and to start a day... with steak! :)

I've tried Gulliver's a couple of times already and I really love it each time I go there. As you know by now, I'm a meat eater and I love steaks. Gulliver's offer steak dinners and is a great place for a romantic dinner for two. It is also a lovely place to treat the family for that job promotion you got. The prices are NOT that expensive and really worth it. The food is always great, the ambiance intimate, and one of the best steak joints this side of the metro.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dive Pier Uno: Clean-Up 2008

September 13-14, 2008
Pier Uno Dive Resort
Anilao, Batangas

Event was sponsored by Dive Monsters and was the second clean-up dive I've attended. We had so much fun hanging out with friends old and new. The best thing about it was doing what we love and at the same time giving back to the sea we love so much...

Until the next dive! :)

Other underwater photos of mine can be found here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Going Korean

August 25, 2008
Song Do
El Pueblo, Pasig City

Once again, I was craving some Korean food when I decided to go back to Song Do. I was scared of eating crappy Korean food again since the So Woo incident so I went with a place I've tried before. The first time at Song Do was indeed a good experience. I was with family and we were filled to the brim with food. I really enjoyed the hospitality of the owners who were really hands-on with the place. Service was really good at this place ever since the first time I ate here and until now.

I've had my share of Korean restaurants and their cuisine. In fact I've devised 5 simple rules in the critique of a Korean restaurant (I think I wrote about this already but I'll just reiterate it for you new readers):

1. See to it that there are a lot of Koreans eating at the place. The more Koreans, the better the food is. CHECK! Song Do has a lot of Koreans dining also. Usually groups of businessmen are gathered for a good hearty dinner after their meetings. Mostly I see different families eating at Song Do also.

2. There are a lot of appetizers served. I mean a lot! Doesn't matter if it isn't really that good, as long as you have lots of choices. My favorite is kimchi anyway so as long as there is kimchi, I'm good! Song Do has a lot of appetizers but it seems that they have lessened it since the last time I ate there. Maybe cost cutting, I don't know but I hope they bring back some more of the appetizers. Some of the good ones have gone and replaced by unrecognizable appetizers. First time I didn't get to finish the appetizer while eating Korean.

3. Kimchi. A factor completely on its own. Unbeknownst to us, each kimchi dish actually has its own unique taste. It varies from each city AND province in Korea. Not all kimchi tastes the same and based on experience each has its own unique flavor. Some are hotter, some are sweeter, etc. I love kimchi though so I don't really care how it tastes. As long the restaurant gives me a lot, they are 1/3 away towards a good review! :)

4. The food. Basic dishes like Japchae and Korean Beef Stew should be ordered to actually taste the authenticity of the place. These are the also the two of my favorite Korean dishes. I love the gelatinous texture of the Japchae noodles and the flavor infused on the noodles. On the other hand, I love the flavor of the Beef Stew. The intensity of the stew and how flavors blend with each other. I just love the contrast between saltiness and sweetness, and the mystery of how it meets as one on your pallete. Song Do has very good Japchae. The noodles were perfectly cooked. It was not soggy and maintained its gelatinous form. It didn't turn into mush or stick with each other as the dish cooled down. The taste was very much flavorful and it had more meat in it. Would have wished for more variety in meats but I guess squid meat will do. What stuck me most with this dish though is the serving size. It was served with good size that we almost didn't finish the dish. Quantity plus quality always equates to success. Success though comes with a price: Inconsistency. The Korean Beef Stew for example was nice but not that great. It was not the usual beef stew I taste in other Korean restaurants. I mean it was flavorful and all but I guess you can say it was too intense. A bit too intense that the it skewed away from the norm. I think the best way to describe Song Do's Korean Beef Stew was that it was good but... I've tasted better.

5. Affordable. Koreans love a good bargain. Korean food should never be overpriced or overrated. I think Song Do is a perfect blend of good food and affordable prices. I wouldn't think twice in coming back to Song Do for a third serving of this authentic restaurant.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bawai From Home

August 25, 2008
Bawai's
Tagaytay City

Bawai's has always been my favorite restaurant that serves Vietnamese cuisine. The atmosphere is very homey and gentle. But what strikes me the most at Bawai's is that the people behind it are the nicest! From the servers to the owners, everytime we go there to eat, we are literally welcomed with open arms. We are treated to the best home-cooked Vietnamese cuisine and best service you can ever imagine. We are treated like family.

Another Tagaytay roadtrip brought us back to Bawai's and as usual, we had the best meal we could ever have in Tagaytay. Here are a couple of dishes we ordered/sampled:

Goi Cuon - Vietnamese Fresh Lumpia - A staple appetizer order whenever I dine at Bawai's (or any Vietnamese inspired restaurants). This is my favorite of ALL the Vietnamese dishes. A perfect barometer for a very good restaurant. Bawai's version is really good mainly because they use authentic ingredients. I love the wrapper which was REAL Vietnamese rice paper. The peanut sauce also complemented the fresh lumpia very well. This is a must-order at Bawai's

Bung Tom - Sautéed Shirmps on Dry Rice Noodles - The shrimps were really flavorful and the combination of the noodles and vegetables was amazing. I would prefer bigger shrimps though but I think the taste of this dish overcame the small portion of the sautéed shrimps. The addition of Vietnamese fish sauce was also a "cherry on top" of this awesome dish.

Pho Bo - Beef Noodle Soup - The last time I tried this, I didn't quite like it since it was a little bland for my taste. Coming back to Bawai's, I decided to try it out again. This time, it was different. The broth seemed more flavorful. It had a clean yet powerful taste. It was as if with every spoonful of the warm soup, my throat soothens. I guess I was wrong the first time or maybe it was due to the fact that my palette wasn't quite ready the last time I tasted this dish. I stand corrected, Bawai's Pho Bo is amazing.

My sister who also ate at Bawai's a couple of weeks back told me about this new dish that they had... I'm sorry but I didn't get the name of this dish but it was some sort of steamed fish accompanied by a salad. The steamed fish was nice. The flavor was really robust and strong. A bit on the salty side compared to the other dishes offered at Bawai's. I liked the fish but it was a bit overcooked. The fish meat was a little tough. I was happy though that the flavor of this dish was a good contrast against the subtle tastes in Bawai's other dishes and that they are expanding their menu. Now, the salad on the other hand was a different story. It was absolutely wonderful. Our server told us that the salad would take a long time to make and I wondered what salad would have an extremely long preparation?!? I was a bit skeptical... until I tasted it. The salad was a medley of different flavors in your mouth. It was like a well choreographed group of dancers, a beautiful symphony in my mouth. And as you can see in the picture, a beautiful plate of colors... As beautiful and as colorful as it looked, that was how beautiful and colorful it tasted. I'd personally add this to my staple order of the Fresh Spring Rolls.

For dessert, I had another staple order of mine in Bawai's: the Ca Pe Sua Nong or Vietnamese Coffee with Milk. One of the best tasting coffee I've ever tasted. Vietnamese coffee is one of the best coffee in the world. Bawai's version is very good and very strong. It smelled really nice and when you mix it with the condensed milk under the cup, it's heaven. Others preferred the iced coffee version but I opted for the hot coffee since it was raining a bit AND I wanted to taste the unadulterated flavor of the coffee itself. The coffee was also served drip like how the Vietnamese do it. Very authentic.

The Bawai's family gave us some free desserts of Banana with Coconut Milk and Tapioca/Corn with Coconut Milk. It was very lovely of them and it was very much appreciated by the gang when we devoured it all. Thank you to the Bawai family for being very accomodating and lovely to us. Thank you for making it my home away from home. We will surely come back to dine when we go to Tagaytay unless of course, the Casino takes all our money first - I'm kidding! :)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Kanin Club

August 23, 2008
Paseo De Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa, Laguna

My editor wanted to try out this restaurant found in the heart of Santa Rosa, Laguna for quite some time now. On our way to Tagaytay for the long weekend and armed with growling stomachs, we decided to give it a little visit. Kanin Club is a restaurant that serves our favorite Filipino food but with little twists here and there. A modern approach on meals but still maintaining the classics as a backbone to their signature dishes.

Kesong Puti Salad. A refreshing dish of kesong puti, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro topped with vinegar dressing. I'm really not a big fan of cilantro as a salad component but this one was an exception. All the salad components blended perfectly. Each time you'd get a spoonful of the salad, all the flavors mixed together in perfect harmony. The saltiness/creaminess of the cheese. The tang of the vinegar and tomatoes. And the strong tastes of the cilantro and the onions. It was as if these completely different ingredients were destined to be in one dish together. Definitely one of my favorites and this is indeed a big thing considering I don't like cilantro in anything else but salsa.

Beef Sinigang. A tangy native soup with tender beef and local vegetables. This soup dish reminded me much of Sentro's version of the sinigang, the Corned Beef Sinigang. It was probably one of the best I've ever tasted but Kanin Club's version can give it a run for its money. The meat in the soup served to us was very tender. You conclude this (crude as it may) only when there are less strings of beef stuck in the middle of your teeth. The soup in itself was very tangy, just the way I like it. It lacked a bit of spiciness in my opinion but nontheless very flavorful and very good.

Aligue Rice. A very big serving of rice mixed with crab fat which is locally known as aligue. The dish was just ok. I think they used a very small amount of crab fat that is why it had just little flavor. The rice tasted like normal rice and was not as rich as it was supposed to be. Aligue makes the rice much more creamy, flavorful, and rich. I didn't get to taste all that in this dish. The rice was kinda dry and bland. We should have ordered the plain rice instead. BUT at least it had a very big serving for the price, so it was all good.

Sinanlay na Tilapia. Tilapia simmered in coconut milk. One of my favorites in Filipino cuisine is anything with gata or coconut milk. From vegetables to fish, I love it all. Kanin Club's version is an addition to the best guinataan's I've ever tasted. The fish was fresh and didn't taste at all fishy. It was cooked perfectly and was still very much flaky and moist inside. The ultimate experience though has nothing to do with the fish but with pouring all the sauce with all its flavor over the rice and devouring it. The sauce was very good! I love coconut milk dishes!

Crispy Dinuguan. Blood stew of pork cracklings and deep fried pork belly. The best dish in Kanin Club and is one of their bestsellers. Each table that we would pass would have an order or two of the Crispy Dinuguan. This is a person-with-highblood's worst enemy. Very very rich in fat and cholesterol. Even the blood stew was reduced to just a coating for the pork pieces instead of a stew. The pieces of meat were ALL crispy. Even our friend who has never eaten and despised dinuguan, loved it. I think that speaks for itself.

Kanin Club is a very nice diversion from the usual norm of Filipino cuisine and I love the fact that they didn't change classic cuisines but made it their own. Price may be a bit steep but trust me when I say that Kanin Club is worth every peso.
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