Rock the Kasbah


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What a wonderful surprise to find the only spot in Boracay that serves Moroccan cuisine! The Kasbah.

And delicious Moroccan cuisine at that! Surprising because the owners are not Moroccan at all. The Kasbah is owned by Chef Felipe de la Cruz from Bacolod, together with his British wife. A graduate of the International Culinary School in Los Angeles, Chef Felipe and his wife set up the restaurant at Station 1 — a charming and colorful bohemian spot that looked as if a genie would pop out to welcome you in.

The dishes are delicious, especially the tagines, and the flavors taste authentic, rich with aromatic spices and balanced flavors. We tried 3 different tagines — Seafood Saffron Tagine, classic Lamb Tagine (cooked with prunes and honey and drizzled with almond slivers), and Berber Lamb Tagine (full-flavored and zesty, cooked with oranges and prunes). They were all superb! A tagine is a traditional way of slow-cooking meats in a stew in a special cone-shaped earthenware dish of the same name. The long, slow cooking makes the meat so delectable and tender and the flavors of the stew are all the more enhanced with fruits, olives, preserved lemons, and distinctive spices, which usually include saffron, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and Ras El Hanout, which is a mixture of various spices ground together.

In fact, everything we ordered was superb! The refreshing Watermelon and Feta Salad was just the perfect starter to a lunch on a hot day by the sea. The mezze plates were excellent. And everything else that followed was a flavorful feast in the mouth. If you ever go to Boracay, you definitely have to rock the Kasbah… because the Kasbah rocks!

The Kasbah is at Station 1 in Boracay Island, beside Discovery Shores resort. But Chef Felipe has also opened a branch called Kasbah the Fort at the BGC — more modern-Moorish than Moroccan-homey and bohemian — at 7th Avenue corner Katipunan Circle. With a live band in the evenings. For reservations, call 553-4499.

Savoring Sogamiga


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Sogamiga means “House with Special Beef”, or so I read somewhere. It is the first of two Korean restaurants set up in Alabang, a long long time ago, at the height of the Korean migrants’ influx into the country. Darkly lit, both outside and inside, tucked in a corner just beside the perimeter fence of what is now the Molito Complex, almost as if its spot was deliberately chosen to be inconspicuous. Like a mysterious, shadowy figure in whodunnits. Or was that merely my imagination, fuelled by unsubstantiated whisperings? You see, rumor had it that it was owned by a Korean gangster boss and this was either a meeting place for his cohorts and other unsavory characters or a venue for money-laundering. Hmm. Just a rumor, mind you! It’s possibly some tale concocted by the waitresses serving us, claiming the staff were made to live in strictly guarded dorms. Or it was merely a fascinating but exaggerated story circulating among the residents. Whatever and whichever, the place had back then a mystique about it and that merely added flavor to the excellent wagyu rib-eye barbecue! What was definitely clear-as-day real was its delicious, authentic Korean food!

Today, Sogamiga stands prominent and brightly lit, both outside and inside. In fact, now, it seems almost undistinguished, ordinary, and… well, legit, so to speak. Still at that corner beside the perimeter wall. The menu has expanded from just the grilled meats to page after page of an extensive selection of classic Korean dishes. From Gun Mandu — similar to deep-fried Japanese gyoza but as large as a full empanada — to the traditional Bibimbap (rice toppings cooked in a hot stone pot) to Japchae (stir-fried sweet potato pancit). They still have, of course, the wagyu rib-eye barbecue for which they are known for.

For me, the prices are a bit high versus your typical Korean restaurant, but at least the food is authentic and delicious. Just ask the loyal Korean patrons who frequent the place. The restaurant is quite large and I have never seen it full to capacity but, just to be sure, you may call 8073008 to reserve a table or room. Sogamiga is at the back of where BMW Autozentrum is in the Molito Complex in Alabang.

The Merlion — where Singaporean cuisine roars


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Everyone is familiar with the merlion, that iconic representation of Singapore. It is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish, designed to be the logo for the Singapore Tourism Board back in the early 60s. Nothing mythical or imaginary, though, about the authenticity of the food at the Merlion’s Cuisine. It’s a Singaporean cuisine restaurant at the EVIA Mall on Daang-Hari Road in Las Piñas. Its full name seems to be Merlion’s Cuisine A Truly Singapore Restaurant. Whew, that’s a mouthful! But its spicy and delicious mouthfuls of great Singaporean dishes do not disappoint.

It was the unexpected sight of perfectly roasted ducks and chickens hanging from their window while walking beneath a faux sky in a pseudo-Venetian plaza which drew us in. We walked in to a clean and modern space — basic and nothing fancy yet tasteful, which I think reflects the owner’s food philosophy.

While waiting for our main dishes, we had Roti Prata for starters, dipped in their rich and spicy Beef Curry. Hoo, hot and tasty! Our appetites were definitely honed for more. Everything we ordered was delicious and tasted authentic, much like in the great hawker food tradition of Singapore. Especially the Laksa — they serve Chicken Laksa on weekdays and Shrimp Laksa on weekends only. It had just the right kick of spiciness and the curry-coconut soup was superb! The prices were most reasonable and the service was excellent, too. The chef/owner himself is Singaporean but that’s all I know about him. Whoever he is, I’m glad he opened this restaurant here. We are definitely coming back for more.

Merlion’s Cuisine is on the Ground Floor of Evia Lifestyle Center — a Villar-owned mall along Daang-Hari Road in Las Piñas. To reserve a table, call +63917.6289877 or +63917.7113743.



The Attack of the Salted Egg Potato Chips!!!


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You can’t have just one, so says the ad slogan for a brand of potato chips. No, you absolutely cannot have just one of these! From the moment you open the container and inhale that wonderful ducky, briny aroma, you just have to attack them. Salted egg potato chips! It’s the latest craze that has everyone binge-snacking on today.

Salted duck eggs have been a desirable ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisines, especially in the Philippines. We’ve used itlog na maalat or itlog na pulá on salads, bibingka, puto, etc. But they say the idea of potato chips coated with salted egg started in Singapore. Perhaps so. And now it has arrived at our shores and this deliciously deadly snack has begun to conquer the tastebuds of Filipinos. I have tried 3 brands (to date) of salted egg potato chips. Just to compare (wink, wink).

Made by local food entrepreneurs, these are hand-cut real potatoes coated in melted butter and the yolk of salted duck eggs, then fried to a crisp. Mix in fried, crunchy curry leaves and, for a little kick, some bird’s eye chili (labuyò). The result is rich, salty-sweet-umami taste in a crunchy vehicle that gets you absolutely addicted.

These were the brands I tried — Blue Kitchen, Andy’s Good Eats, and Saporito Gourmet. Each one distinct in their execution of the basic recipe, each one outstanding in its own way. The salted egg coating is generous and strong in all. Blue Kitchen branches are located at the Power Plant Mall, Shangri-La Plaza, Robinsons Magnolia, and NAIA Terminal 3.

Blue Kitchen‘s is a little more straightforward in its flavors. It’s called “Addicting Salted Egg Potato Chips” and that’s no understatement. A pack, which I personally found pretty small but handy enough to bring in as a movie snack, costs around PhP250. Yes, double the price of imported potato chip brands but definitely worth it still.

Andy’s Salted Egg Potato Chips is like a flavor bomb exploding in your mouth with every chip. Each chip is evenly and bountifully coated with the butter-salted egg mixture, giving it that strong and sharp creamy-salty flavor, and yet the chips stay crisp and crunchy. The chili kick can be assertive but not too much — with the addition of sugar, there is a slight sweetness that rounds out the spiciness and gives great balance to the total flavor. I loved this the best for its luxuriously crunchy-silky salted-eggness. The chips are so flavorful that they are almost decadent in their yumminess. However, I can’t eat a lot in one sitting. I chill the jar before attacking the chips again and that’s just pure heaven.

The chips come in a well-sealed 150-gram tub, at PhP 250 each. These are created by Andy Huang who used to be Chief Financial Officer for PAL and now runs a home-based food business called Andy’s Good Eats. He is actually known more for his gourmet dishes such as Hainanese Chicken, Wagyu Oyster Blade Roast, Momofuku-style Pork Buns. And now, his Salted Egg Potato Chips are available at a food stall beside the entrance to Fitness First in the RCBC Plaza. To order this and any of his dishes, you can call 897-1676, 0917-5251272, and 0917-8158631. Get more details at his Facebook page.

Saporito Gourmet Salted Egg Potato Crisps taste as delicious as Andy’s but lighter and, for me, just a little bit saltier. Instead of fried curry leaves, though, Saporito uses basil leaves. Not that that makes a difference in the taste — The crisps are full-flavored without being cloying. Saporito Gourmet says as well that only fresh organic salted eggs are used for their crisps. A jar (no indicated net weight) costs PhP350. Saporito’s food products are available for orders through 0995-6542337. They can be found in Alabang, Marikina, Binondo, Parañaque, and Quezon City, as well as in provincial urban centers in Ilocos, Cebu, Bacolod, and Davao. Saporito also ships/mails orders. Find out more on their Facebook page.

There are probably half a dozen more brands of salted egg potato chips out there. And like a good food soldier that I am, for your sake, I will attempt to attack as many of them as I can and write about them here. For now, I will do my crunches… salted egg potato chip crunches, that is.

Taste your way around Asia


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If you’ve been to Singapore, you may have heard of Makansutra — that outdoor dining area in what is called Glutton’s Bay by the Esplanade Mall of the Marina, overlooking part of the F1 “racetrack” on Raffles Avenue. It was put together and put up by Singapore’s “Guru of Grub”, K.F. Seetoh, and named after his Singapore hawker food guide book of the same name. You may have heard of him? He had a TV food show on TLC called “The Food Surprise” where he’d raid and ambush restaurants all over Asia, including the Philippines, to find the best food that these offer. At the Makansutra hawker food center, you’ll find stalls which feature both classic and new street food by select purveyors. Even Gerry’s Grill is there! But you don’t have to fly to Singapore to give it a try.

Makansutra is now in the Philippines! This famed hawker center was set up in partnership with a group of young Filipino investors, foremost of whom are our own local gurus of grub, the inimitable and affable JJ Yulo (Pinoy Eats World, Supermanly Eats) and Chef Him Uy de Baron (East Cafe in Rustan’s Makati, Nomama). It opened just this September at the 2nd floor of SM Megamall’s Building A, with about a dozen food stalls and a beverage/snack station, all in a large space that can seat as many as 500 people.

There are at least over 60 dishes to choose from. (Which is the reason why I must go back — My tummy could handle only 5 dishes at a time, haha.) Simply too many delicious hawker/street food dishes from all over Asia to sample — from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Hong Kong and China, Thailand, and the Philippines. One visit is simply not enough. Ah Tee’s famous Oyster Omelet, Geylang’s Chicken Claypot Rice, Hong Kong Street Old Chun Kee’s delicious Salted Egg Pork, Donald & Lily’s Crispy Tofu and their Mee Siam with Prawns. And, of course, there has to be the classic Singaporean Chicken Rice, Chili Crabs, Braised Duck, Satay, Bak Kut Teh, Laksa… and so on. And I like that none of the dishes have been “Filipinized” or tweaked to suit Filipino tastes. From what I gather, they are true to their culinary roots and are as authentic as can be. All pretty reasonably priced, too!

What I know for sure? This is just the first leg of my food trip. I’m going back to Makansutra for another “tour”!


p.s. Thank you to RJ Celdran for sharing his Salted Egg Pork and Shiok photos.


I have a bone to pick…


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“God’s butter”. That’s what Anthony Bourdain called it. And I agree. Rich and velvety, smooth in a gooey way, and packed with that wonderful umami taste. Bone marrow. Yum!

Chef Jay Gamboa's Roasted Bone Marrow with Mole Asado

Chef Jay Gamboa’s Roasted Bone Marrow with Mole Asado at Cirkulo

People often are aghast whenever I order bone marrow. “It’s sinful!” Or “That’s so bad for you!” True, it does contain a whole lot of fat. In fact, about 96% of it is fat yet it yields a lot of benefits as well. I had read that “a serving of beef bone marrow contains 6.79 grams of unsaturated fat, which is 10 percent of your daily requirement on a 2,000-calorie diet. It contains zero grams of trans or saturated fats. Unsaturated fats may help in reducing overall cholesterol levels. However, you should limit your total fat consumption to between 20 percent and 35 percent of your daily calorie intake,” according to one site, (You can read more about it here: Bone marrow also provides a lot of collagen, that protein-abundant substance that helps the body rebuild itself. That is the reason why I make bone broth, with lots of marrow, for my own aging dogs.

Aside from the usual Bulalo (classic Filipino Beef Stew with Marrow), you can enjoy bone marrow roasted. Like the way Chef Jay Gamboa does it at his restaurant Cirkulo (at the Milky Way Building on Pasay Road). He serves the perfectly roasted marrow-rich bones on a bed of rock salt, accompanied by a small bowl of Beef Molé Asado (so good that I wonder if it contains chocolate to give it that rich taste?). Simply spread that unctuous goodness on toast and top with a bit of Molé … and swoon!

Roasted Bone Marrow, made famous in Gaita Fores's Pepato

Roasted Bone Marrow at Grace Park in Rockwell by Chef Gaita Fores

Chef Gaita Fores also does a brilliant take at Roasted Bone Marrow. She first served it at her Pepato restaurant but now this incredible dish can be enjoyed at Grace Park (on the ground floor of One Rockwell on Hidalgo Drive in Rockwell, Makati). Simply spread that “butter” onto the bruschetta and squirt a bit of lemon to balance off the richness of the marrow. Absolute heaven!

It’s not hard to make roasted bone marrow at home, actually. First and foremost, of course, is to choose the proper part of the cow’s leg and get a whole bone. The femur (or biyas, in Filipino) is ideal as it is long, straight, and thick. Ask your butcher to cut the bone lengthwise for easier scooping of that heavenly marrow, although having the bone cut crosswise is okay, too. Just before cooking, season the marrow with a bit of salt and pepper just to draw out the juices. Then place the bones on a baking dish or foil and roast in your oven, the cut side up, for 20 minutes at 425°F (or about 218°C). When the marrow starts to bubble up at the sides, it’s all ready. Sprinkle with some sea salt and enjoy. It’s that easy!


Shinomiya — a shokudo at Westgate


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There are dozens of great Japanese restaurants to choose from in the southern suburbs — from BF Homes to Alabang to Sta. Rosa. One newcomer I came upon is Shinomiya — a small, Mom-and-Pop-like restaurant unobtrusively tucked away just behind UCC at the Alabang Westgate’s main plaza. It’s what the Japanese would perhaps call a taishu shokudo. So do not expect gourmet dining — this is your typical neighborhood eatery, casual and unpretentious, where one can enjoy simple, hearty meals at friendly prices.

I would have preferred their sashimi to come in thicker cuts, though. But they do grilled fresh fish beautifully. Their ramen dishes are pretty good — although I prefer my tempura crisp rather than soaking in the broth — and the servings are quite generous. If you like it spicy, order the Tantanmen. Its spiciness levels range from zero to 5 — 5 being the equivalent of hell-fire, I suppose. The “inferno” comes from a combination of chili oil, Japanese chili powder (shichimi), and fresh chilis chopped up and sprinkled on top. Tantanmen, after all, was originally a Szechuan noodle dish which the Japanese have adopted as their own. And Shinomiya‘s version is not for the faint of heart.

Eponymously named for its proprietors — a Filipina and her Japanese husband — the kitchen is run by two Japanese chefs. And the customers are usually all Japanese — which for me is a good sign of the food’s authenticity and acceptability.

And — so sorry neh but… — I get a good giggle from some of their signs… Yup, there oughta be a “law”, heehee.


In case you are wondering what a “Japanese Winner” is… it is simply Japanese-style sausage or wiener! Haven’t tried it yet so I am not sure if it’s made of pork or octopus.Shinomiya-Winner



Daniele’s Casa Mia — A “Secret” Gem on Sucat


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Carbs and cheese — nobody combines those two ingredients better than the Italians! In the few times I got to go to Cubao Ex (where the old Marikina Shoe Expo used to be), I made it a point to eat at Bellini’s — for great authentic, hearty, and rustic Italian food. To this day, I don’t know why but I cannot forget the complimentary breadsticks I munch on while deciding which delicious pasta dish to eat. It was a delicious precursor to the flavorful food to come. But what with the impossible commuting situation these days — whether by car or by MRT — it’s been more than a couple of years since I’ve been.

When old man Bellini’s son Daniele settled in south of the metro 6 or 7 years ago, he brought along his passion for cooking as well as the skills and recipes he learned from his father to open his own Italian restaurant — Daniele’s Casa Mia. The restaurant is as folksy, friendly, and very vivace as Bellini’s in Cubao and the food is just as crazy-good. A little bit hard to find, though. Daniele’s is very discreetly located, almost hidden, along the westbound Sucat Road (now known as Dr. A. Santos Avenue). It is in a small apartment building, beside a shop that makes lapidas (or tombstones — perhaps as if to imply that the food is to die for?), between Manila Memorial Park and the entrance to BF’s President’s Avenue. Let me warn you, parking is tough — you’ll have to cajole the shops nearby if you can park in their front if you go during work hours. But let me also tell you — if you love honest-to-goodness Italian food, in a warm and homey setting, then the dining experience here will definitely be worth it.

The pizzas are fresh-made and baked in a real wood-burning brick oven. The pastas are made fresh as well. And they are pretty generous with the truffles … or truffle oil. If you have a special request … an Italian dish you’ve been craving, maybe something you tasted in your last trip to Tuscany… don’t be shy to say so. Chef Daniele and his crew will be more than willing to make it for you.

Prices are very reasonable. And they carry some pretty good wines to choose from, too.

You may call 826-5163 or 501-0998 for reservations. The restaurant is open everyday, EXCEPT Mondays, from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. Check their facebook for more details.
Just click on this link — Daniele’s Casa Mia Italian Restaurant

Uniquely Un Cuenca


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Who does not love lechon? But just imagine this — Spain’s cochinillo asado meets Philippine lechon kawali, then put them together and kick it up a notch. That’s Chef Ariel Manuel‘s famous Pugon Lechon, only at Un Cuenca in Molito at Ayala Alabang. Pork belly perfectly roasted in a pugon or charcoal-fired oven, with the skin super crisp and crackling and the meat beautifully juicy, tender, and succulent. Served with a flavor-heightening liver and mustard sauce (or orange jam, if you prefer) and a side of atchara to cut the porky richness. It’s simply a gastronomic orgasm!

But the lechon love fest does not stop there. Chef Ariel’s brilliant inventiveness transforms his other dishes, too. There’s Lechon Carbonara pasta, with the diced-up lechon replacing the usual bacon, to give it that distinct salty, smoky taste. And the Pugon Lechon Sisig or the Tokwa’t Lechon or the Lechon Garlic Arroz — all are a definite must-try! And, of course, when there is Lechon, there has to be its classic sequent — the Lechon Paksiw.

Nevertheless, Un Cuenca is not just all about pork. It’s really all about great food created playfully and geniusly by Chef Ariel who has had years of experience overseeing the kitchens of Lolo Dad’s and was inspired by his travels through Spain. Like who would think up of Lamb Kalderetta with Dried Mangoes? Or Duck Adobo topped with a perfectly fried duck egg. Or Deep-fried Chicken Wings Adobo with… can you believe it?… Chocolate Sauce! Oh my!

Most people like to call this a Spanish restaurant, but not Chef Ariel. Consider its fabulous fare as the creatively conscious coupling of favorite delicious Filipino dishes with the exciting flavors of Spain. Un Cuenca is unique.

Un Cuenca is at the Molito Commercial Complex (facing the garden) in Ayala Alabang. Call 8154811 for reservations.

p.s. And make sure to order the Sangría! It’s served after brandy has been flambéed and poured into the carafe. Trust me, it’s the best!