Author: karmelilove

My Chow Down Rundown

My Chow Down Rundown

It’s been a while since my last blog post, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating!  There have been a number of great food experiences in the past 3 months that I thought it best to quickly share them in one post.  So, here goes:

The brisket at Mighty Quinn’s.  I had the privilege of getting invited to a private tasting event a few days before its official opening.  It was a great experience to meet the man behind New York’s award-winning slow cooked barbecue, Hugh Mangum.  One thing else that had a lasting impression on me was the brisket.  Tender, moist, savory, with just the right amount of fat.  Need I say more?

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Rib Eye at Maria Luisa’s Garden Room.  This place is one of my favorites and I’ve written about their Scandinavian platter and cassoulet in the past.  But I’ve discovered their rib eye only recently…and they do it very well!

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Degustation at the Champagne Room. This place’s old-world ambiance and decadence is perfect for special occasions.  A must try is their degustation menu – with champagne of course!

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The Arroz Negro at Tomatito.  I knew this place was a must-try even before I stepped into its doors.  How could a restaurant from the same team behind Las Flores and Rambla not be great?  The very playful ambiance added to the experience.

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The Porterhouse at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.  This was probably the biggest piece of meat I have ever had the chance to devour.  It was also a glorious, juicy, tasty, piece of monster meat!

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Yakiniuku at Urameshi-Ya.  I have been to Little Tokyo so many times but it was only recently that I discovered Urameshi-Ya.  Aside from really good yakiniku, I could not get over how good their rice was!  It was quite pricy for a bowl of rice (P120) but it was worth it!

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Mutton Rajwari Kofta at the Royal Indian Curry House.  This was the chef’s secret recipe – worth a try!

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Beef cubes with Garlic at Mandarin Sky Seafood & Shabu-shabu.  This dish made going out of my way to Banawe well worth the trip!

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I will end this jumbled post with this quote from Julia Child: “People who love to eat are always the best people.”

 

If Burgers are your Thing

If Burgers are your Thing

I’ve posted two articles about my recent Hong Kong trip, mostly to share its culinary highlights.  This will be my 3rd post of another culinary find.

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Before you conjure up images of haute Asian fusion cuisine, let me warn you that this is just about the plain old burger.  But if burgers are your thing and you happen to be in Hong Kong, then this place might be worth a visit.

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One thing I liked about Beef & Liberty was its location.  For the duration of my business trip, I was based in the very crowded Central business district so the departure to this gentrified area of old Wan Chai was refreshing.  Beef & Liberty was smack in the middle of this quirky and (do I dare say?) “hipster” neighborhood scattered with eclectic shops, trendy residential buildings, and unique bars and restaurants.

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This burger joint, which happens to be on the Michelin Guide, is known for its use of beef from grass-fed cattle raised by small farmers in Tasmania – supposedly in an area with the cleanest air in the world.  Now, I am very far from being a burger or beef connoisseur so these things have no bearing for me.  All I really care about is having a big fat juicy and tasty burger.

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Big, fat, and juicy – yes!  Plus points for juicy goodness dripping down my fingers.

Tasty – I’m a bit on the border on this because while I definitely taste the savory meat, I prefer mine on the salty side.  But that was quickly solved with a dash of salt.

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So is it really the best burger in HK as many food writers suggest?  I suppose until Shake Shack arrives they have the crown.

Beef & Liberty is located at 23 Wing Fung St, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  As soon as December kicks in, I feel the urge to crank up my old school Ray Conniff Christmas album – which immediately takes me back to the early 80’s.  That was the time when my sisters and I would labor on our letters for Santa so our dad could “drop them off” at the post office.

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That was also the time when my dad hid our Christmas stocking up on the roof to make us believe Santa actually left it there in the rush to leave before we arrived home from midnight mass.  That was also the time we would run around the house with our mom chasing us while singing “Oh Tannenbaum”!

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Those were glorious years and I don’t tire of remembering them.  In those simple moments, we were truly blessed.

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On this season when we think of family the most, it’s hard to imagine how those without family make it through.  I often get too caught up with my own life and my own family that I forget to share the spirit of Christmas to those who need it the most – those who go through life without the love of family.

I felt deeply honored to have had an opportunity to share early Christmas with the lovely people of “Bahay at Yaman ni San Martin de Porres”, a residential compound in Bustos, Bulacan, committed to help street children, abandoned children, or victims of domestic abuse and child labor.  In their simple but beautiful home, built through generous donations, these children are able to feel the semblance of family with their caretakers and other children who endure the same plight.

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Seeing the children’s happy faces – as they sing and dance to popular tunes, play the parlor games we prepared, and enjoy the simple meal of fried chicken and pansit – takes me back to my childhood when all you need to be happy are some good tunes, silly games, and the people you love.

They say those who have so little often give the most.  Their joy was a great gift – and I have been blessed to experience it.

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If You Wanna Go Fancy in Hong Kong

If You Wanna Go Fancy in Hong Kong

When it comes to food, I usually gravitate towards the hole-in-the-walls and places people’s grandparents and great grandparents might have enjoyed.  That’s how influential Anthony Bourdain is in my life!

But the fashion-loving girl in me also craves the fancy-shmancy, posh, and even pretentious places that’s sometimes all about the ambiance than the food.  What can I say?  I am shallow in many ways.

So you can imagine how it’s extremely satisfying for me to find a place that combines these 2 elements in one restaurant.  I found it in Hong Kong’s Mott32.

I must admit, I first learned about this restaurant through a fashion editor who I admire greatly and who just happens to love food.  She also has a knack of finding restaurants that are very “editorial”, which I see all the time on her Instagram posts.  I was hooked on Mott32 the moment I saw her photo of the oriental/vintage/industrial décor.  It was so me!!!

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The décor, up close and personal, was more beautiful than the photos.  I fell in love with the silk embroidered walls which were reminiscent of old Chinese brocade.

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There was also a section of the restaurant whose walls were lined with old calligraphy brushes.  The effect was amazing!

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There was so much to take in!  Even the staircase leading down to the restaurant entrance was gorgeous.  There was that feeling of 1930’s Shanghai or Great Gatsby created by the lights, chains, and mirrored panels.  I was happy with the visual overload.

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Now on to the food…

I can say with confidence that the food in Mott32 is an equal match to its visual extravaganza.  The flavors and textures of the deceivingly simple dishes were truly notches higher than the usual Chinese fare.  Below were my favorites:

Signature Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Iberico Pork Bun.  The bun is very similar in texture as that of the famous Tim Ho Wan but it was the filling that got me.  Although I appreciated Tim Ho Wan’s buns, their meat filling was too sweet for my taste.  This, however, was on the salty side which I highly prefer.

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Crab & Caviar, Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings.  This takes Xiaolongbao to a whole new level with the very tender and flavorful pork and soup and the decadence of the caviar

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BBQ Prime Iberico.  Sweet, tender, and oh so decadent.  It was actually difficult to finish even though we did not order a lot.

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Pan Fried Turnip Cake, Dried Scallops and Shrimp, Dong Guan Sausage.  Glad we ordered this because the bite in these cakes helped to balance the richness of our other orders.

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I loved this place so much that the only downside was the cost.  The food here, even the dimsum, was notably more expensive.  I would imagine that some people would not feel that this is worth the splurge.  But overall, I was satisfied with the experience.

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Mott32 is located at the basement of the historical Standard Chartered Bank Building, Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong.

One Lucky Goose

One Lucky Goose

On a recent business trip to Hong Kong, I was lucky to have stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant in the middle of the pulsating central business district.

 

I just came straight from the airport, ready to freshen up, when I found out my hotel room would take about an hour to get ready.  Faced with the unexpected idle time, I decided to explore the area right outside my hotel, which was actually the (in)famous party streeet Lan Kwai Fong.  So there I was, walking along the side streets and merrily observing the work crowd who seemed to be rushing through their lunch hour, when I spotted a long line in front of what looked like a very unassuming establishment with roasted meat on display.  I had no plans so I shrugged and thought I’d join in on the fun.  What have I got to lose?

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It was fate.

The stars aligned perfectly on that particularly warm lunch hour.  I would come face to face with the most delicious roasted duck I have ever tasted in my life!  Well, not exactly duck…but its close cousin the goose.

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The storefront was in Chinese characters so I learned while checking my GPS and waiting patiently in line that I was at Yat Lok Goose Restaurant – made famous for gaining a Michelin star.  I was still a bit wary though.  Places with long lines have a way of building expectation and disappointing me in the end…but not this one.

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The cramped space, unfriendly staff, and steep prices (HKD 165 for the goose thigh/leg) all made up for it.  The meat had the perfect combination of crispy skin, melt-in-your-mouth fat, and juicy and very flavorful meat all the way to the bone.  All it really needed was a hot bowl of rice and I was in heaven.

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I loved it so much that I went back for the same thing before heading to the airport.  I even brought a friend along!

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Yat Lok Restaurant is at G/F, 28 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong

 

Hey Handsome

Hey Handsome

I first spotted Hey Handsome roughly two months ago when my friends and I attempted to enter the restaurant, not knowing that the place was not yet open for business.  From the outside, the place looked very interesting with its cozy, industrial chic vibe.

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Upon a little research, I found out that the team behind Hey Handsome was the same team behind one of my favorite dining destinations, Your Local.  I knew I had to go back and try this place soon.  I wasn’t able to go back as soon as I had hoped though.  The place was always packed!  I tried to make a reservation a few times too, but was never successful.

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Two months later, I finally got lucky with my reservation!  Whew!  Once seated, we carefully selected our combination of small plates and mains.  We appreciated that the server patiently described the menu, which he carried around on a blackboard.  We appreciated that he clearly knew the food well and even offered his opinion on his personal favorites.

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My group loved Peranakan food (Malay, Singaporean, Indonesian), but there were still non negotiables for some (thus, no lamb tonight).  Still I think our selection was pretty good.

We went for the following:

Minced Duck – Tasty and very cleverly presented.  But be prepared for the heat!  The charred cabbage also added extra oomph to the dish.

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Beetroot Paneer – I don’t think you can go wrong with paneer.  I always get my palak paneer fix in my neighborhood Indian restaurant.  But their version was fancier with quinoa.  I loved it but I would go for my traditional paneer over this anytime.

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Seabass with Nasi Lemak – This was supposed to be a stand-out dish.  I liked it but was happier with our other choices.

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Soft Tofu – This was the bomb!  The century egg sauce made a whole lot of difference.

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BBQ Beef shortribs – I wasn’t expecting a lot.  This seemed like the safest choice.  But it was actually my favorite among the mains.

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The drinks were quite interesting.  Our group tried the Magic Milk (or fancy lassi) and Donkey Punch (really refreshing mix of lemongrass and ginger).

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Overall, it was a good experience.  The food was good; the ambiance better.  But for Peranakan cuisine, I much prefer the way it’s served in traditional restaurants or hawker stalls.

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We are 1 Year Old!!!

As I was posting my last blog entry, I went through our main page and realized that Sarisaristories.wordpress.com is officially a year old!  How fast time flies!

I celebrate not only our blog – a pet project by my Viber group of friends from university – but the endurance of our friendship as well.  I celebrate the advances in technology which has, as abstract as it may seem, really touched my life and made an impact on my relationships.

Who would have thought that the creation of our Viber group would give me an outlet to reconnect with my old friends and share our life’s daily struggles and victories like we never left school?  What’s better this time around though, is that these people have grown to become strong career women, super-moms and dads, smart entrepreneurs, talented writers and artists, and basically much better versions of our 18/19 year old selves.  I can count on these intelligent folk to have something interesting to say about things as mundane as household help or as exciting as Philippine politics!  We don’t think alike but that’s what makes us more interesting!

I consider myself extremely lucky to still have these people in my life.  I am reminded of a TED Talk by Robert Waldinger who is a Director of the longest study on happiness out of Harvard University.  One of the key takeaways of that study is that the people who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community, are happier, physically healthier, and live longer.  He concluded that the good life is built with good relationships.

Sharing with you some of moments of our last get-together…Cheers to the Good Life!

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Palawan: Paradise Found

Palawan: Paradise Found

 

I am not proud to say this… but I am a foreigner in my own country.  I am even a foreigner in my own hometown of Cebu.  Most tourists know it better than me!  I am always dreaming of seeing other countries that I sometimes overlook the many beautiful natural wonders this country has to offer.

I mean, I have never denied that the Philippines is beautiful.  But being out there and experiencing it firsthand is something I can definitely do much more of.

But hey, it’s never too late to make changes right?

And so I went on my maiden trip to one of my country’s most loved, most talked-about, and most praised beautiful islands: Palawan.  And what a wonder it truly is!

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Our trip was a toss between 2 popular areas in Palawan: El Nido or Coron.  Both locations are equally beautiful but my sisters and I finally settled on Coron – mainly because we discovered Club Paradise, a resort that offered a huge expanse of rose-gold beachfront and clear turquoise waters only steps away from our cabana.  Now that was hard to beat!

The amenities of Club Paradise leave much to be desired.  It was obvious that the resort was old and in need of renovation (which was actually ongoing when we went there).

But who cares about amenities when you have the perfect beach??? No one!!! Not me!!! The place was perfect!!!  We were really in paradise!!!

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I will let my pictures do all the talking…

The gorgeous beachfront.  The best place to watch time go by.

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The unbelievably crystal clear turquoise waters

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The gorgeous sunset.  Namaste to that!

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For the times we wanted to be active, there was a great hiking trail with gorgeous views of the entire island of Club Paradise.

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Not in photos but definitely a big deal were the snorkeling sites only a few meters away from the beachfront.  It was a surreal experience to be surrounded by a school of silver fish – not once but 4 times in less than 2 hours!

It is true…paradise is real!

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Namaste!

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Escape to Caliraya

Escape to Caliraya

The gloomy weather these past few days has gotten me thinking about sunny vacations past.  How I wish I could have one more warm weekend to soak up the rays and blast those reggae tunes.

The good thing about living in Manila though, despite the current gloominess, is the accessible quick getaway spots.  If one gets lucky with a fine weather weekend, there are many places to fully take advantage of it.

One of such places I have discovered only recently is Caliraya Lake.  I have heard about Caliraya Lake a long time ago but I have not really made an effort to see it.  I’ve always harbored this misconception that the lake was where you would go if you weren’t close to the beach.  Living in the Philippines, a country blessed with a diversity of beaches, going to a lake was never an option for me.

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The lake can never beat the beach for me… but it is beautiful on its own nevertheless.  My June weekend in Eco-Saddle Resort in Caliraya Lake is testament to that.

Eco-Saddle is such a quaint resort nestled in a beautiful spot by the lake.

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The location had enough trees for shade and great views wherever one chooses to sit or lie down.

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What makes the place extra special is their floating cabin (which you can book for P5,000 a night for 4 people), complete with the usual amenities of a normal resort cabin plus more!

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The floating cabin comes with a full bath and kitchen.  So while you are floating away somewhere in the middle of the lake, you won’t worry about food or going to the toilet.

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Getting to Caliraya is easy enough.  We just Wazed it and got there in a little over 2 hours.  Not bad!  And there were interesting stops along the way too!  Case in point, this Filipino restaurant housed in a 100+ year old ancestral home.

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I will let the pictures speak for the lake and the trip.  So when the sun peaks out its golden head this weekend, all you need to say is “Let’s go!”

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La Cabrera and Sweetbreads!!!

La Cabrera and Sweetbreads!!!

I always knew I would have steak for my sister’s birthday.  She loves it the way I love lechon.  So a week prior to her birthday lunch, we made our shortlist of steak places to go.  There were the obvious choices and the tried-and-tested.  But we finally both agreed to try our luck in La Cabrera, which we have not tried yet despite its having opened its doors in Manila since last year.

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I liked the ambience.  For a fairly new place, it felt quite lived-in and comfortable.  It looked exactly like an old steak place that your family would have visited for several generations.

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The service leaves more to be desired.  For the food prices, I was expecting the servers to be a bit more knowledgeable about the menu and drinks – which they weren’t.  We learned from a food blogger that we could have the fatty part of the steak re-cooked to get that lovely crunchy fatty taste that I love.  However, when we made the request, we were told flat-out that it could not be done.  It was only when we insisted that he checked with the kitchen and confirmed that it could be done.

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Our order of steak came with a generous serving of different side dishes.  There was really no need to order anything else!  The first batch was a mix of cold side dishes including chimichurri, tomatoes with alfalfa, olive puree, and more.

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The second batch of side dishes included corn and cheese puree, barbecued corn, caramelized garlic, and more.

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I was extremely happy with the steak.  We picked the Bire de Chorizo which is a striploin steak. I take it medium rare all the time – and they cooked it just the way I like it.

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But the piece de resistance for me, surprisingly, was this beautiful thing called sweetbreads!  This was the first time I tried the delectable piece of organ meat (was told this was lamb or veal pancreas) and I was in heaven!!!  It was just like tasting foie gras for the first time.  So soft, so rich, so flavourful, ooooohhhh, I could not believe it!!!

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La Cabrera will be forever memorable for me for introducing me to sweetbreads!

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LA CABRERA Grillado and Bar

Ground Floor, 6750 Ayala Avenue, Makati, Philippines