G’day, Steak Pie!


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STEAK AND BACON PIE. Ragout of braised beef and double-smoked bacon in puff pastry.

STEAK AND MUSHROOM PIE. Ragout of braised beef and garlicky mushrooms in puff pastry.

It’s always a really g’day when I pop in at Bondi & Bourke for its modern Australian fare. I especially enjoy Chef Wade Watson’s vogued-up version of the classic Australian culinary icon — the meat pie.

The meat pie, as you may expect of course, was brought in by British settlers. And, originally, the Aussie version of the meat pie contained just mutton and gravy. Later on, the filling evolved into mostly diced or minced meat with gravy, sometimes with other ingredients added on such as sweet onions or earthy mushrooms, all inside a flaky pastry. Sometimes it’s topped up with homemade tomato sauce (zestier and tangier than the commercial ketchup). What makes it different is that the traditional Australian meat pie is compact in size as to be easily eaten on the go. Ozzies love munching on it while watching footy. That’s Australian rugby to you.

At Bondi & Bourke, their pies contain minced and braised prime steak. juicy and tender, in richly seasoned gravy. There is a choice of four kinds of steak pies — Classic (with caramelized onions), Steak and Bacon (with double-smoked bacon), Steak and Mushrooms (with garlic mushrooms), and Steak and Cheese (with gooey mozzarella), accompanied by your choice of either fries or salad. I have no favorite — I love them all!

There are, of course, other delicious dishes which showcase Chef Wade’s take on modern Australian cuisine. And I wish he’d bring back that one special that was simply superb — the sausage platter served on top of colcannon mash (that’s potatoes and kale or cabbage), accompanied by 3 kinds of mustard!


The restaurant is on the street level of Cattleya Condominium Building on Salcedo Street in Legaspi Village. Always best to reserve a table — just call 8331812. They also have a branch at Burgos Circle in BGC.

Tripping on Tsukiji


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EVER SINCE I watched “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“, the amazing documentary about the illustrious sushi master Chef Ono Jirō, I was determined to go to Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Market.

I had the laughable idea of getting up at 2:00 effing-AM to watch the 5:25 AM seri or live tuna auction at the Tsukiji Market. It is, after all, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world! I even booked our B&B just a couple of blocks from the market so that we didn’t have to walk far or take the train to get there! And I did wake up at two. I opened my window and was promptly blasted by autumn’s face-numbing, bone-chilling cold. I thought about lining up from 3:30 AM onwards just to be one of the lucky first batch of 60 people who will be allowed to watch the action. I looked at my cozy and warm blanket… and went back to bed.

I did make it for breakfast, though, at the Jou-gai — the off-market area in the periphery of the main fish market that is open to the public. The place was jumping! The activity, the crowd, the immense variety of fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, packaged and dried food items, chef’s knives and kitchen utensils, a myriad of sushi restaurants and “barbecue-hans”, tuna, tuna, and more tuna!. Imagine enjoying the freshest, most premium toro (that’s the fatty part of the tuna, found in the belly portion of the fish). This cut can cost at least P400 a slice in Manila! A whole bowl here of prime tuna slices would cost under P1,000! And the servings of tastes-like-butter uni (sea urchin) and salmon sashimi are simply too generous for words! I felt I was transported like Alice into an amazing seafood wonderland. The place, the people, the food, the whole experience… it was all so exhilarating … and even a little overwhelming, in a good way. I loved every fascinating second, every delicious nook and cranny of Tsukiji Market.

Let the photos speak for just how much I thoroughly enjoyed the place.

And here is the scene in the docufilm that showed the inner workings of Tsukiji Market — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKmHQJFIw6s

I am incredibly thankful that I got to experience and savor Tokyo’s most extraordinary seafood market, before its scheduled relocation to Toyosu, almost two and 1/2 kilometers away, supposedly by November 2016. Go now!

May Pusong Mamon


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Serendipity is coming upon specially good food in unlikely, off-the-beaten-track places. Like in San Juan City, especially in Little Baguio. One such delightful spot is Segovia’s Cakes and Recipes.

Way back then (noong panahon pa ni Mahoma, as my Lola would say), hilly Little Baguio was comparatively cooler and breezier than Manila and considered the go-to summer retreat of prominent Manileños. Lovely summer homes with spacious grounds filled with trees were built here. Today, Little Baguio plays host to many delightful eateries, cafes, and restaurants located along its winding streets. Such as Segovia’s Cakes and Recipes, which is on 7 M.A. Reyes St., just off J. Abad Santos St. It is the ancestral home of the Segovias and the daughter, Carmen, put up a bakery-café right where the garage used to be. Behind that, she has her Cake Studio.

After we had had our wonderful lunch of roasted duck rice at the Choi Hung Roasts, we went further up J. A. Santos and turned right on M. A. Reyes Street, barely half a kilometer away. There we came upon a typical charming home where delicious food can be enjoyed. By the gate, you’ll see their poster. Feel free to go right in. There are small tables both inside the cafe and outside on a simple patio where one can enjoy the Segovia specialities in a relaxing, homey atmosphere. We chose to sit inside and order the special mamon to go with the strong, fresh-brewed coffee. The mamon was special indeed — soft and fluffy, with the perfect balance of sweet/buttery and salty/cheesy! A pillow of heaven is what I call it!

While waiting for our orders, we enjoyed looking at the colorful clippings from the Archie Comics comics of our childhood, which served as under-glass decorations on each table and observed one customer after another coming and going with their orders of boxes of goodies. Carmen makes the mamon herself every single day. To ensure the taste and quality are maintained to her exacting standards. And she bakes only 300 pieces a day! So pag ubos, ubos. Sorry na lang kayo! But there are other items offered, both sweet and savory. From cakes and cupcakes to sandwiches and pasta dishes. And I heard her custard cake — which Carmen calls her “pangit na cake” — is to die for! A return is a must for me so I can try the other goodies and write more about it.

But do come by and check it out for yourself: 7 M.A. Reyes St., Little Baguio, San Juan. You may call for orders or even for catering at 725-2849 or 727-4616.

Lord love a duck!


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There is this small, indistinct, simple and unpretentious eatery that belies the delectable treasures within, inconspicuously located just along J. Abad Santos St. in Little Baguio in San Juan City. It is called Choi Hung Roasts, which specializes in roasted duck.

There are, as yet, no such places in Alabang where I am, but the call of the duck was so enticing that it got me and my friends to brave the traffic all the way to San Juan in search of this hole-in-the-wall spot. As of this writing, the place is newly opened, still on a dry-run, and cannot be found on Google Search. But the food is incredibly good and extremely reasonable that I know it won’t be long before lovers of Cantonese-style duck and roasted meats will be raving and writing about it.

Choi Hung Roasts is owned by the group renowned for the popular Tuen Mun Roasts on Banawe St (QC) and Eat Fresh Famous Hong Kong Street Food which is also on J. Abad Santos St. in San Juan. In fact, the Tuen Mun menu and prices are almost the same as Choi Hung’s.

Parking is difficult, to say the least, but the traffic and parking ordeal are well worth the Roasted Duck Rice. The place is tiny (as any hole-in-the-wall eatery usually is), with space for just about 4 or 5 tables. The interiors are sparse and almost bare. But the moment you open the door, that distinctly rich Cantonese aroma of spices and roastings fill you nostrils and get you drooling. The duck is perfectly roasted, very flavorful and succulent, and placed atop a hearty serving of rice along with the duck’s savory juices, at under P200 a serving!

I would say, the duck is all that it’s quacked up to be!




Top 10 Food-Faves — Part 1


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I’VE noticed that in these recent years, the Philippine food scene has been energetically transforming itself into such an exciting and richly diverse smorgasbord of cuisines and food styles! Not just in Metro Manila, but even out in the provinces. Nowadays one could pick and sample a myriad of culinary choices, from the basic and beloved Filipino dishes to popular regional dishes as well as international fare from Japanese-Peruvian fusion to Yugoslavian homecooked meals.

So I decided to list down 10 dishes which absolutely amused my bouche in 2015. It was tough to choose, but I narrowed it down to 10 dishes that I enjoyed so much, I would love to have them again and again. And here are the first 5 (not necessarily in the order of taste preference):

Suman Espesyal Combi by Aling Aging from AGING’S FOOD DELIGHTS.  No, it is not pronounced as age-ing but as a-GING, accent on the second syllable. Suman (glutinous rice cake cooked in sweetened coconut milk) may seem so run-of-the-mill Pinoy but this one is really special. The way the suman is cooked here is perfect. The texture is evenly soft and moist — no need for added sugar — sticky without being gluey or gummy. Much like the sticky rice cakes of Thailand. And the level of sweetness is just right. But what makes it brilliant is the filling of well-made halayang ube AND leche flan! Each roll of filled suman is wrapped in banana leaves, to keep it fresh. They have no dine-in restaurant. Just a take-out shop, which is located on 17 Pasig Blvd. in Bagong Ilog — from the northbound side of C5, turn right towards Julia Vargas Bridge and it  should be around there. I understand the suman products get sold out very quickly, so it is advised that one orders at least 2 days before. The landline number is  671-0172 or you may text at 0929-8410424.

While we are on the subject of Pinoy kakanin, there is another specialty that I often crave — Tibok-tibok from Susie’s Cuisine in Pampanga. This is the traditional Kapampangan rice pudding at its best. Made with real carabao’s milk and glutinous rice flour, tibok-tibok derives its name from the way the mixture bubbles up on the surface as if there’s a heart pulsating beneath — as in tumitibok-tibok — which indicates that the pudding is done. It is served with latik or toasted shredded coconut. To most, it is just like maja blanca, except that this is made with carabao’s milk, which gives the pudding a naturally salty flavor and a smooth and silky texture that’s heaven in the mouth.

I suppose you could say this is Pampanga’s version of al fresco dining? The restaurants are all designed to create an outdoorsy ambience, with bamboo-themed furnishings, in an effort to make the diner feel like he’s dining in a farm. That is what Apag Marangle essentially means. A table out in the farm all laid out with good food. And one favorite example of that is Apag Marangle’s Nasing Marangle, which literally means “farm rice”. But it’s rice fried in pork fat drippings (you read right — pork fat!!!) and topped with pinakbet cooked in bagoong alamang, then further topped with chunks of crispy lechon kawali. It sounds so simple but the dish has layers of flavors and textures that make it one of my favorites. The original Apag Marangle is all the way in Bacolor, Pampanga along the Olongapo-Gapan Road but, thankfully, they now have a branch in the heart of Makati at the Park Square.

From Central Luzon, our food trip now takes us to the Visayas for a taste of Negrense cuisine. One dish my tummy remembers with great fondness is Sarsa Kitchen+Bar’s Sizzling Kansi. Kansi is Bacolod’s variation of Batangas’s Bulalo, but with a tangy twist from batwan. Batwan is a distinctly Ilonggo fruit, round and green, that is used as a souring agent for broths and stews, like sinigang, much the same way kamias or sampaloc is used. Sinigang na bulalo? Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But let me tell you — it’s the bomb! Sarsa takes this beloved dish even further. Their Sizzling Kansi is served on a cast-iron platter, fresh and sizzling-hot from the oven.  A  slice of bone filled with rich marrow rests on a bed of tender chunks of beef shank and the whole thing is generously covered with batwan-based gravy. It’s an oddly brilliant balance of umami and sourness, with the batwan gravy cutting the unctuousness of the marrow. Sarsa can be found at The Forum in BGC and on Rada Street in Makati.

Now we move on to modern East-meets-West cuisine, starting with my next fave — Torched Salmon Donburi at Your Local, which prides itself in its superb approach to global fusion cuisine with Asia at its base. This dish is one of its best-sellers, judging by the long queue of orders the chefs have to prepare every day, every meal time. Thick slices of Norwegian salmon, seared with a torch outside but still moist and tender inside. They are laid on a bed of wild black rice mixed with shiitake mushrooms and topped with mentaiko aioli and topped with tobiko (flying fish roe), then dusted with powdered seaweed and chopped scallions. One bowl is a deliciously complete and filling meal in itself. Your Local is located at the ground floor of the Universal LMS Building on Esteban Street in Legaspi Village, Makati. As yet, they do not accept reservations and it’s almost always full. ALMOST always. So you’ll just have to take your chances on getting a table or be willing to wait until one frees up. Whichever you choose to do, know that it will be worth it.

(Part 2 to be continued…)

Pepi Cubano


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When Jon Favreau’s delightful foodie/road-trip film Chef came out, it got everyone curious about Cuban sandwiches. The marvelous photography of the food preps, edited to the beat of catchy Latin music, more than helped whet the appetite for what is really a simple Cuban sandwich. It seemed to me just your basic ham and cheese sandwich prepared much more meticulously than the ordinary ham and cheese sandwich we are used to. The Cuban sandwich (also called “sandwich mixto”) was developed as early as the 19th century and was hearty enough to satisfy the appetites of Cuban workers in Miami. Traditionally and essentially, it consists of ham, lean roast pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and lots of butter and yellow mustard, served between the cheeks of Cuban bread. Then the whole thing is compressed and toasted to a delicious crisp on a plancha.

And people rave about it! Hmm. curious. So when a Cuban sandwich shop opened on Gallardo Street, just off to the side from Dela Rosa Street in Legaspi Village in Makati, it was my chance to see what the foodie-fuss was all about.

Pepi Cubano. It is owned by Susan Dalmacion who would sell her Cuban sandwiches at the Saturday Salcedo Market even way back in 2006. Yes, even way before the movie made Cuban sandwiches a thing to jones for here in Manila. She opened this small, no-frills shop where the sandwiches are made fresh and hot. And the signature Pepi Cubano sandwich did not disappoint. I especially liked the bread. I am no expert and I am not sure if this is real Cuban bread, which is customarily made with lard or shortening, but I particularly like how finely crisp it’s toasted. You bite, you hear a delicate crunch, and your teeth sink into the moist and delicious sandwich fillings inside. Wonderful!

There are other sandwiches and offerings on the menu which I intend to try very soon. I am curious to try the Tito Choripan or the Pan de Lechon. My friend loves their Pan de Guyaba — a guava jelly and cheese sandwich, which I used to love when I was a kid. Pepi Cubano can be found on the ground floor of Tropical Palms Condominium on Gallardo St. in Legaspi Village, Makati. Or You may call 880-0389 or 0907-535-7574 for pick-up or delivery.


Fiesta de los Quesos Españoles



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The full moon of this sultry June was stunning as it rose from the horizon, glowing bright with an orange rind, just like a ball of cheese, and coyly hiding every now and then behind clouds. It made for a perfect evening for the Cheese Club’s celebration of the fine cheeses of Spain. There were choices of select cavas, elegant wines, and superb sangrías, and tasty tapas to complement the fiesta de los quesos.

Raiding the restaurants on Rada


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Not too long ago, when I found myself on Rada Street in Makati’s Legaspi Village at mealtime, there wasn’t really anywhere proper to go to except for Swagat. A small and cozy eatery, almost next to the Union Church. Decent home-cooked Indian food at a decent price. The restaurant belongs to Sanjay and Komal Khanchandani — their story is they visited the Philippines as tourists, fell in love with the country, and set up a new life here. Swagat has been around since 2003. It has been a while since I’ve last been and I can’t find the photos I took, so I think I’ll go back soon. It’s open from Monday to Sunday, from 11:00 am – 11:00 pm.

Lately, though, very interesting restaurants have been popping up on Rada St.

Mondo Juice + Sip. It’s not just a juice and milk tea bar, it’s actually a modern cantina as well, serving hearty sandwiches, healthy salads, great breakfast and pasta dishes, too, A smart and modern cafe with huge windows that look out onto the street where you can watch the world go by… or cars get stuck in traffic. This was where the Trilogy Boutique and Chef Fern Aracama’s Canteen used to be. Mondo J+S is one of my go-to places when I want something light and healthy yet satisfying for lunch.

Rural Kitchen of Liliw, Laguna. Kinda hard to spot because its location is almost inconspicuously tucked just off to the side of the Planters Bank and a 7-11 store at the HRC Center Building. But when you find it, you’ll be really glad because it’s worth squeezing into this tiny, narrow but charming restaurant. Rural Kitchen’s Chef Justin Sarabia pays homage to his grandmother, gleaning from her recipes of traditional Laguna comfort food and putting his youthful, modern take on each dish. He uses ingredients sourced locally in Laguna itself. It’s Laguna cuisine at its best.

And nearby there’s Sarsa Kitchen + Bar. It specializes in contemporary Negrense cuisine interpreted by Chef Jayps Anglo. To those who do not know, Negrense means indigenous to the Visayan island of Negros (Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental). The sizzling kansi is to die for (figuratively speaking, I hope). It’s namets!

And more great eating spots should be coming up soon on Rada Street. One that I am looking forward to is my favorite Wildflour Cafe + Bakery which will be opening at the newly built Frabelle Business Center. Very very soon, I hope!