Category Archives: Smorgasbord

Walk the Tuk Tuk

tuktuk bayani rd.

Bangkok-bound next week, I have had this string of Pad Thai cravings that deserve restraining. Still, I can never say no to hunger. Add in the word “noodle” and all senses evaporate and reach for the nearest fork.

Which is why we discovered Tuk Tuk, this neighborhood hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant. Al fresco in its garage atmosphere, it sits along Bayani Ave., Taguig, beside the neighborhood carwash. There is something very Ong Bak with the scenario but I will save the Thai references until after our BKK debut.

The thing about Tuk Tuk is that I think it was originally meant to be a spa place, but the owner found inspiration in the grocery, cleaned up the garage space and Sawatdee ka, let’s set up a restaurant!

thai restaurant taguig

Another funny thing is that it reminds me of Moonleaf, with the cork board and post its written by happy diners and frequent patrons. From the post it notes, I learned that the beef curry is the bomb, the servings are huge, and that the red chicken curry is best eaten with rice! We ordered the last item; let us see.

tom yum tuk tuk

For a hot day bordering on some rain, we ordered Tom Yum Soup because we were under the impression it was Tom Yum Noodle Soup. Instead we just got spicy-sour tamarind soup and a couple of shrimps, good for an appetizer but by no means a full meal. It’s something reminiscent of a Knorr commercial, so it reminded me more of red sinigang than a Thai dish.

thai taguig where to eat

The Pad Thai, as described by the server, contains only squid and shrimp, and came in with a calamansi slice and chopped peanuts. Typical of a pad thai dish but let me clarify, ONE shrimp. The serving is good for a mediocre person and I’ve seen larger servings such as that of Sen Lek’s, which is way cheaper. The first bite was enveloped with such sweetness, I wondered if I scooped the sugar side. Nope. It was sweet all throughout. If it was ever meant to be a sweet-sour-salty kind of dish, the cook may have forgotten the other palates or he feels he has the mission to spread sweetness to the world. Or maybe it was the pad thai mix?

tuk tuk red curry chicken

The Red Chicken Curry was well awaited because I wanted to bathe the pad thai with curry sauce—and counter that sugary presence! Unfortunately we can conclude that the chef intended to slaughter the world with sweetness, and the curry was more of sweet coconut curry than Thai-spicy-curry. The chicken bits were all right but the dish was awkwardly served on a plate—than a bowl—so it may have been a long, winding trip from the kitchen. Maybe the green curry would’ve been more curri-fied? We’ll never know.pad thai kit landmark

So much expectations, but then again, it’s just a hole in the wall eatery, a neighborhood joint, for those who forgot to visit the grocery or are too lazy to cook.

If you have a hankering for legit pad thai, you know where else to go… on the side though, the Landmark grocery has this pad thai kit! Have your own pad thai fill and add in your choice ingredients (no more pesky peanuts for me) and never complain about awful noodles ever again!

 

 

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Foodcourt Findings

For those on a budget or just too lazy to think, the #Foodcourt is just a gold mine for variety and cheap food, if you don’t mind the long lines and smoky hair scent. Yes I do like the occasional fresh-from-the-grill flavored shampoo.

I’m talking about the Glorietta Food Court which boasts of places like New Bombay, Pepper Lunch, Dulcelin, Gong ChaCheesecake Melliza, Sen Lek, World Chicken, and that Mongolian place - amongst others. It can get smoky and really crowded, but when you dine during off-peak hours and get to sit admiring the view behind the “G” of Glorietta, overlooking Glorietta 5, it’s actually scenic.

It might seem strange but my first Pepper Lunch experience was in the food court. The line was long and the pictures were stellar, so you know what that means: Let’s eat here! Of course with my dietary concerns, I could only order 10% of the entire selection, but that includes salmon and chicken, so consider it diverse enough. goodcourt glorietta

Pepper Lunch is perhaps targeted to people who like their plates hot with sizzling viand and hefty carbs. Other than that, there was barely flavor except for a dash of pepper, and even for a terrible cook as myself, am left to think that this is something easily replicated at home.

The salmon was all right, but those wee chicken slices have a lot more flavorful opportunities peeking underneath the oily stove.

And I did ask for a cup for my “saucy concoction”. I believe it was garlic + soy sauce = not much help. I leave Pepper Lunch to the hungry college boys.

 

On a separate occasion, when we were the first customers in Glorietta and happened to learn that the Food Court opens at 11 am, we were (un)fortunate to meet the opening of only a few tenants.

Sadly, only Palak Paneer and chicken curry were available in New Bombay, and the scene was not too enticing for someone who wanted cheese naan!

kakaw and veggies

Hence, we ended up where the old people were: El Presidente of Binondo. In short, food court Chinese food, with strong lighting and greasy aftertaste. And senior citizens – believe me – the cards were flying everywhere!

While I adore Binondo food, having speedy service in food court version was not too inspiring. The lemon chicken (no photo) was mango juice sweet, despite its huge serving. If properly heated, I may have eaten a bit more–but nothing can be done with that syrupy overcoat.

The assorted vegetables were all right though I spotted a few brown pechay leaves. Am guessing food court denizens are not receiving their required dose of greens!

dimsum el presidente binondo

Lastly, that beautiful dish of hakaw was undercooked! Being the first customers of the day has its drawback too!

Next time, leave the Binondo food trip in the actual Binondo!

As for New Bombay, open early!!

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Binondo Food Tripping 2

where to eat chinese food

The best food trips are spontaneous and random and can go as impulsive as just craving for downtown ramen – and look where the tide whirls us to – Binondo, Manila!

Good gracious, the powers of hunger and traffic-less Sunday! Well, generally breezy.

binondo eats

I have grown to have a penchant for the Binondo food, having mastered the one rule: Stop asking questions!

At the start, I inquisitively asked about meat content, of vegetarian dishes, about strange exotic names and Chinese translations.

Sometimes, it’s best to stay safe and look for common keywords: chicken/vegetable/seafood and opt for the un-adventurous sounding terms: soup, the easily dissected dumpling and my newfound discovery, misuaProblem solved, sans the angry dispute and broken China.

Binondo Food trip sincerity chinese restaurant

First stop on this second food tripping leg leads us to a famous Sincerity. I don’t know why, but people Sincerity seems to be a top-of-mind foodie destination. If any, Sincerity definitely does not relate to the honesty of the food and could be more of a feng shui thing – or simplicity if you must insist on a trait.

fried chicken binondo

where to eat binondo

Sincerity is best known for its breaded fried chicken, so let’s start with that. Tender juicy and sincerely oily with a bit of sweet, it’s the perfect comfort food! It’s delectable on its own, but do make sure to ask for spare napkin, especially if you like to eat with your fingers.

The catsup remained untouched because aside from not eating catsup, it just seemed irreverent to violate the original taste with bottled sauce.

sincerity binondo

Then came the Oyster Cake which was more of an Oyster omelette with a surprise, which Google, with its multitudinous posts, purports as a famous Taiwanese delicacy.

Having researched why “cake” assumed the title role came the simple fact that potato/tapioca starch is added to the egg mixture for that pudding-like consistency that I got so addicted to, I ate the leftovers for breakfast the next day. A bit of a warning though, do not finish single-handedly unless your stomach can seriously stomach that much shellfish!

manila food trip

I seem to be following a strange order but this was another breakthrough order -which was actually the first to arrive! Duck Misua came with the thinnest, almost gone misua noodles which makes you want to slurp some more. Tastes like the perfect remedy for anyone under the weather or just craving for a bit of duck in soup form. It was gone in less than a minute, so it was hunger in pure sincerity.

Not very photogenic (honestly, it looked blehhh) but it was an awesome accompaniment to the entire Sincerity ensemble.

cafe mezzanine binondo

Next on the list was Cafe Mezzanine which sits atop Eng Bee Tin. Cafe Mezzanine, A Fireman’s Coffee Shop, has this CSR thing going on, since its sales are tied to the Manila firefighters, so eat and beat the fire! Or perhaps, fight hunger and fire – at the same time?! Okay, on to the food.

Since it was a diet-y day, the food ordered are not are grand as Sincerity but just as mouth watering.

binondo manila where to eat

Appetizers were the Super Tofu and Camaron Rebusado. These small items were affordable and came in angular plates. Nothing fancy but enough to keep you full, if you prefer a light meal.

binondo food trip noodles

The Kung Pao Chicken Noodles came as quite a surprise. I was a expecting a wee to medium serving based on the photo, but what came seemed to be an equivalent of 3 to 4 packs of instant noodles worth of egg noodles, topped with cabbage, carrot, peanuts and sweet chicken bits!

I had to pause for a moment – because the dish was all mine! Sweet and silky, it was an enhanced pancit canton with a sweet tinge. It was also enough to keep me full for the rest of the day – and have a free breakfast for the next morning. Sweet! 

manila binondo

And so another successful Binondo Food Trip! If you have the time, do visit the Binondo Church.

It may get stifling hot during mass or crowded days, but during off peak hours, you can marvel at the glorious ceiling, statues and all else God-made. Dessert no longer required.

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Kichi Kichitora (Ramen)!

japanese restaurant glorietta 5

As much as I would relish the chance to whisper, “Winter is coming” the opportunity is close to nil. In this fair tropical hub, I have a better chance at “turning black” than experiencing that Winterfell chill.

Whilst the tempest named Glenda (typhoon) did manage to smash our windows and ceilings to leaky paperweights, this is the closest we could get to that so-called winter. More of Twister with a siding of damp clothing.

Enough with the #Glenda and #GoT talk though.

review japanese food glorietta

Having eaten leftovers for the longest time, I have warranted the right to eat out and dine on something prepared elsewhere. This called for a long awaited TGIF at Glorietta, though of course reality came more like rush hour folks trampling on my vibe, embraced in darkness and devoid of any air-conditioning breeze. Rotating brownout and hungry employees never made a good mix, and I have the non-evaporating sweat to prove it.

Of course Yabu was crossed out the minute I said “7pm reservation” to the manager.

Many others were crossed off the list and I feared that we would end up in Heaven and Eggs, which was not really a Friday destination unless you had a sudden craving for that Baguio Country Club Raisin Bread, which really would not necessitate dining in being the to-go loaf for uncreative passersby.

 kichitora collage

Hence we ended up in Glorietta 5’s remote sectors or “posh looking joints”, or in Kichitora’s case, hard to pronounce and remember, you’re better off saying ramen.

Kichitora is actually beside Mad Mark’s Creamery, which is 2 stores away from Yabu. I can see the nodding heads. Thank God for popular competitor landmarks!

Kichitora is predominantly a ramen place that also serves tonkatsu meals and other combo platters that would make our Japanese nakama sigh in delight. From soup to salad to that sweet karaage, it’s a Japanese haven for proper meals and dim lighting.

 ramen review makati

With several menu pages dedicated to ramen, first timers and slow readers will have to spend time lurking, gawking at the photos, reading out the names (there is a Jajamen, suited for the Jeje and a Paitan for Oy, paisan!) until finally narrowing down the choices to 2 or 3. There is also cold ramen to add in to the confusion so choose wisely.

Being the ever stranger to pork, my choices were narrowed down to ramen selections that had the phrase “pork or chicken”. Given a choice, I was safe, as other bowls purely suggested, imposed and necessitated pork as the topping—and I respect that. The waitress though secretly revealed that all their soup bases are “Chicken stock” so it’s just a matter of choosing which name (and price) you fancy.

Being a simpleton who wants chicken all the way, we settled for Paitan Ramen.

Paitan is rather simple and unappealing to the adventurous ramen seeker, but with menma (bamboo shoots), green onions and chicken slices topping the ensemble, it’s comfort food variety, enough for #Glenda post trauma.

The soup is gravely thick (not that hot though), even non soup lovers will spend considerable time sipping the soup. It’s a meal on its own! No need for embellishments and sauces, since the soup and noodle balance each other out. The noodles are chewy and thick, and upon the first bite, my instant worry was: Oh no, I might get so full and have no space left for dessert! (True, true.) Good thing, some people just have the habit of sharing, and so there was enough appetite spared for Mad Mark’s. 

If you manage to finish a bowl single-handedly and have enough room for ice cream, I salute you. #thegodsmustbeproud

 japanese food makati

Out of curiosity, the Chicken Karaage was likewise ordered. Intended to be an appetizer, it came way later, so it was not enjoyed fully.I like the proper sequencing of food, especially in posh places that look like they can afford the service.

These 4 little crunchers were sweet, oily and had my mortal enemy, chicken skin! You can imagine that only half of the piece was made of the actual meat, which is a letdown for those who are not into chicken skin! Even that slice of lemon did no wonder and we are always better off with the likes of BonChon, I kid you not.

 glorietta makati ramen

The other ramen bowls were not mine and I could not indulge in them, since they were pork based. They made picture perfect photos though, complete with the tamago. Oh that egg is just screaming at me!

What is consistent though amongst the orders is that no single person—no matter how hungry or horizontally challenged—could single-handedly finish a bowl. While we did manage a scoop of Mad Mark’s after dinner, maybe finishing one bowl was too cloying or overbearing and a second dish is needed to get rid of the heavy feeling.

 kichitora ramen scrambled

Perhaps the next time around, share a bowl with a friend and order a neat little siding, chicken or katsu. No cloying feeling—just a perfect, full meal!

Still, with chicken on the menu and that warm cuddly feeling you get from slurping the noodles—it’s a satisfying thought to find a ramen joint, sans the queue, for that quick Friday fix.

My Mad Mark’s ice cream was a treat, so another successful #TGIF and #foodcoma.

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KEEp on Eating: WEE NAM KEE

wee nam kee

For the longest time, I abstained from ordering Hainanese Chicken, having associated it with the “sick person’s food”. With bland memories of pallid chicken – steamed, bleached and taste-free – I feared investing in food that would remind me of the days I missed school.

trinoma hainanese restaurant

Now I wonder where I got the idea that Hainanese Chicken was like that, since it offers quite the opposite: exotically spiced, tender and palatably friendly.

Having Wee Nam Kee, right at the top floor of TriNoma certainly calls for more than a wee bit of excitement. I reckon it’s the only Hainanese place in the locale which makes it a top destination, so to speak. 

Hainanese restaurant quezon city

 

hainanese chicken quezon city

While Hainanese Delights is the more convenient-food court version (though no longer in TriNoma), I was delighted to learn that Wee Nam Kee’s Hainanese Chicken can be ordered in the steamed and roasted variants! That is, if you order the larger size. Don’t that that would be reasonably available for the plated meals.

Hainanese chicken trinoma wee nam kee

Imagine enjoying this chicken in 2 versions, with the smothering of Hainanese sauce-ginger!

It makes this eating experience twice more fun. I never thought that Hainanese Chicken would be curiously sweet, with a subtle hint of hoisin and secret spices that actually make it quite zesty sans the sauce.

Did I mention it was tender without being overbearingly soft?

Seafood Crispy Noodles Wee Nam Kee

While others would love to eat this with the traditional rice, of course I would go for my kind of carbs: Seafood Crispy Noodles!

Seafood crispy noodles are always a staple in these types of restaurants, and Wee Nam Kee is no exception. The generously topped noodles are the usual Chinese seafood fare, but sans the salty surprise. The flavor from the chicken was enough to carry over to the noodles to provide that consistently mild and comforting Hainanese experience.

Wee nam Kee Hainanese Chicken

 

It was comfort food enough, without having to go through the stereotype ramen craving, which can be denting to the pocket, if you know what I mean.

 Wee Nam Kee deserves its own line, albeit beside the competitive Yakimix. Now I know what I want, in case I get sick, and it does not involve soup and asparagus! 

 

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Binondo Food Tripping

Manila food trippingBeen hearing a lot of buzz and drone on food trips, walking tours and whatnot in Binondo, Manila. Like it’s the new tourist hub of Manila, when everyone has had their fill of ramen and tonkatsu – which is kinda funny since Binondo has been there for like, forever.

Ying Ying Restaurant Binondo Manila

 

I can remember visiting Chinatown when I was a kid, and they were not food trips per se. Actually, my lola never really reached the popularity of that term, but she knew the essence of #foodtriptayo circa 80s, when we frequented Ongpin for Crispy noodles, fresh lapu lapu, century egg, and The Shrimp Balls of my childhood grease. Ah yes, and that was the time that awesome Milo Bar was sold in Manila, chunky and large, not like the ones we have today. #bestchildhoodever

Today though, Binondo remains to be the bustling center for legit Chinese delicacies and products from, where else, China. Of course 168 presents Divisoria merchandise in a mall-friendly fashion, not to mention the construction of Lucky Chinatown for those who just want a basic mall, but Old China is still very much in the air, with the kalesas, structures and of course, the food!

While I’m not food tripping addict, I just happened to pass by and eat. No walking tour or immersion whatsoever. Nothing planned, happened to get hungry so eat, pay and get out.

Binondo Food trip jenina gonzales

Ying Ying Restaurant is a multi-level restaurant that looks ho-hum from the outside, a bit crowded upon entry, and just really bustling with moving people and servers. It’s all right though, so long as you’re seated quickly to avoid headbutting beer bottles or chicken feet.

Vegetable dumpling

The menu is filled with so many interesting items, you will swear there must be an imminent visit. Unfortunately Ying Ying did not have Peking Duck (that day), but there were hordes of other dishes to discover and try, like all sorts of dimsum and single-serve appetizers in those staple saucers.

Ying Ying Binondo Review

Hakao Binondo Manila

The Hakao was delightfully fresh, while that Vegetable Roll was definitely a mysterious pocket of hodge-podge veggies. I spied mushrooms and carrots–and since it goes well with the usual calamansi and soy sauce–just great!

Toasted Noodles Ying Ying

where to eat binondo

The toasted noodles with chicken looked strange, outside its soupy form, so we enjoyed it al dente, bordering on the pancit side. The sizzling oysters is perfect for a lunch siding, or just pulutan. It was so flavorful, it may have contributed to the taste of my pancit-like toasted noodles turning it into a seafood fest.

Mix and match, and yes, end with a cup of tea–or make that two!

 

Binondo restaurant review

Tasty Dumplings is so close to the Binondo Church, it makes sense to have a tasty snack there after Mass.

Now that I’ve typed the word “tasty” twice in one sentence, I take it I’m not allowed to use it in the next paragraph or people might think my vocabulary just went down the drain from eating too much dumplings.

chinese food manila philippines

So this restaurant seems to be known for its breaded pork chop / chicken chop because people seem to order it a lot. It’s the batter, probably like those hoisiny Taiwanese batter that when deep fried, leaves off that awesome crunch. That’s it.

And it goes well with rice or noodles, the latter I purposely chose because would you just look at the size of that bowl?!

My chicken leg noodle order (seriously, the part was specified in the menu) was really filling and contrary to how it looks like, was far from gagging salty.

Tasty Dumplings Binondo

We had that kuchai (?) vegetable siding which looks like dilis but in reality tastes like fermented sweetened stems. Might be an acquired taste, but not for now.

If I were to come back, it would be for the dry noodles or more dumplings this time. As you can see, I am a sucker for dry noodles / pancit, or maybe it’s just the heat.

I know that there are so many other joints to discover and conquer in Binondo, so I should probably call this the first leg of the food trip. Chicken leg. Yeah.

Ah yes, there really should be more than that first leg huh. Maybe some duck, soy milk and like real vegetables. #WillStopNow

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Skippy’s Bar and Grill: Ripper Tucker, I Reckon!

the forum bgc australian bar restaurant

If you bludgers want to bog in and get some Ozzie grog and footy, Skippy’s (The Forum, BGC) is the boozer for you.

It’s a spiffy joint for earbashing, billiards and booze. There’s a roo on the wall too—so give it a burl why don’t ya?

Skippy's Bar and Grill Sports Bar

Seriously, Skippy’s Bar and Grill located at the Forum BGC is the dinky-di (real thing) if you are looking for Aussie grub and drinks. It’s the place you go to after work to unwind, grab a pint, watch a game or just get the billiard table humming. It’s at the GF of The Forum, BGC, so if you want to run on the grass or just get some sun, you’re at the right place!

What’s ripper about Skippy’s is that they’ve got nightly bands too on a rotating basis, so if you’re tired of balls and bar fights, you can just chill or sing along (if they let them blokes). The place is practically adorned with Australian relics, road signs and whatnot, it’s like taking a dive Down Under, and that’s even before the grub came.

Skippy's restaurant fort bonifacio band

Skippy’s Bar and Grill specializes in Australian food, which I knew nothing about beforehand. I had imagined skewered roos or beer battered vegemite—or anything with vegemite for that matter—but they’ve got the usual fares, like pizza, salad and meats with some Australian flare—deep fried, heavily battered and big on breakfast!

australian food manila philippines

If you’re big on drinks, Skippy’s menu will also not disappoint. It probably allots a half its menu pages on drinks, cocktails and liquor. Non alcoholic drinkers (like me!) will go crazy too over the choices on fresh fruit shakes and juices.

Personally, that freshly squeezed lemon juice was just so “Good onya” it went well with the deep fried fares.

drinks bar forum bgc

Skippy’s is not just a bar with a billiard table; its TV screens are dedicated to showing sports shows, including the World Cup. Did I say World Cup?

Indeed the bar intends to stay open during the wee hours to show the 2014 World Cup because there are a lot of fans, and heck, a lot of them who are already sick of streaming and eating just popcorn!

aussie food drinks manila taguig

 

But back to the food. As mentioned, Skippy’s has this whole barrage of Aussie food and snacks, it’s not just a footy affair. It’s got breakfast, salad and even rice meals; craving of any sort, including lamb or tapa, is guaranteed to be solved.

Here’s a quick peek on the roster (in no particular order):

breakfast menu fort bonifacio global city

Breakfast platters for the hungry!

Big Breakfast has 2 eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, tomato, mushrooms, hash brown, toasted bread, and butter. Basic Breakfast is, well, a subset of the big one, as it depends on your appetite. Not limited to mornings.

 j.anne gonzales blog review Skippy's

Drinks Galore! Too many to mention but personally, as a boring drinker (aka non alcoholic), the fruit and juice selection is sufficiently well stocked.

The Greens are in. Part vegetarians and dieters have something to rejoice about with the salad selections.

salad bgc forum fort

Skippy’s Salad – Fresh lettuce, veggies with egg, grilled chicken and cheese, served with homemade dressing.

vegetarian fort restaurant bgc

Green Salad – Fresh lettuce mixed with assorted green vegetables and tossed with cheese, ham and egg, served with home made dressing.

lazy black cat food review restaurant

Spicy Chook Fingers – Coated breast chicken fillet fingers. Best served hot and eaten with… your fingers!

j.anne gonzales lazy black cat blog manila

Potato Scallops – Such wondrous deep fried spud creation. Golden crisp and sprinkled with sea salt, it’ll be your number one spud serving!

food where to eat fort bonifacio

Chicken Parmigiana – Tender cheese and crumbed chicken are topped with homemade tomato sauce and grated cheese. This one was a winner since it combined all that cheese and chicken goodness with chunky fries–comfort food variety!

Here’s more to feast your eyes on:

pizza pasta skippy's bgc

Shawarma Pizza

australian food manila philippines review

Aussie Burger

food review the forum fort bonifacio

Shepherd’s Pie – Homemade pie from fresh ground lamb and vegetable, oven baked

appetizer skippy's bar and grill

Dim Sims

Skippys baby back ribs

Baby Back Ribs 

Skippys Sirloin Steak

Sirloin Steak

It’s a lot to bog in, yeah?

Give Skippy’s a burl and while at it poke some balls or chill with the band. It’s a sport bar for real, right in the middle of BGC–with a live band inside and grass outside, so it’s got all the elements of fun and frolic.

If, like me, you insist on having Vegemite Sanger (Sandwich) on the menu, you can make suggestions in their FB page or Instagram account.

I reckon, with Skippy’s own set of sanger, desserts and whatnot, you’d forget about Vegemite entirely. I sure did.

 

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Have Some NomNomNom

nomnomnom blog review lazy black cat

It took me years before I could finally eat at Nomnomnom Happy Food, never mind if I live in the very same Quezon City. Actually, it was THAT long since they moved to their new posh location along Tomas Morato, which is quaint, dainty but still small.

 comfort food vegetarian manila

Of course during predictable circumstances, I would do the impulsively dumb-founding, and in this instance, NOT order salad. Why I did that, I still cannot fathom. But with Nomnomnom’s exquisite and gluttony-inducing menu, a few might understand the behavior.

Going back to gluttony-inducing, I believe the all-white interiors and book pages-cum-wallpaper décor, have created my inept and deprived state. Hence, fried food!

 mozzarella sticks nomnomnom

We had 2 appetizer choices, both of which are fried! Not a sign of happiness; more of stresssssed!

The Mozzarella Sticks were served with 2 kinds of slurpy sauces that seriously make you scoop, slurp and scoop even more! There was a lot of that sour cream and salsa to get us till the next appetizer.

Oh darn I forgot to describe the mozza sticks! They were chunky cheese rolls, made chunkier by the batter. Hmmm-kay would’ve been OKAY! if they had served this right after cooking. In short, the cheese did NOT ooze at all, which is the benchmark for cheesy perfection, in general.

fried ravioli vegetarian appetizer

It must be the NomnomNORM to serve the appetizers with 2 sauces/sidings – which I cannot complain about. The Fried Ravioli (Cheesy Kangkong and Shrooms inside) was just as deep fried as the mozza sticks, and went well with the chopped tomato salsa and yogurt (?) sauce. You can actually mix and match the 4 sauces and still enjoy your mishmash meal.

The ravioli had that musty taste about it, which I blame the shrooms for! Either that or the Kangkong did it. Still, the cheese saved the day; oozing not needed in this scenario.

restaurant vegetarian quezon city

For a change, I ordered Seafood Cartoccio all because I wanted my pasta to be baked and served in foil! I don’t get that a lot at home, except for leftovers. That Seafood Cartoccio came with tomato sauce, shrimp, clam and squid. If I were a clam lover, this dish will disappoint. About half the shells were closed and experience tells me never to pry open these nasty shells.There are no girl-opens-clam-and-gets-the-pearl stories that happen in real life, just a messy plate and tomato splattered dress!

Good thing I like shrimp more – but the shrimps were hmmm-kay too, not so fresh but at least they were easily de-shelled! The pasta was warm and cuddly, the type you eat after a long day at work and intend to eat un-hurriedly. What wonders foil makes!

seafood pasta nomnomnom tomas morato

The Tomato Aligue Pasta was not mine but gleamed its orange hue for the world to see! The pasta though took long to serve. At first we thought that Aligue has become a complex cooking ingredient, but it would seem otherwise, it came in a breeze! Waiter forgot about the order, I think, or perhaps he just hated saying the word Aligue.

What is it even, crab fat?

Still, despite its jaundice appearance, the pasta was more tomato and less crabby and was topped with what looked like Eden cheese. If you’re gung-ho for aligue, don’t expect that crab fat to jump off the plate. If you want a creamy aligue-tomato pasta though, go for it–and make sure the waiter jots it down.

 A-li-guet it?

dessert nomnomnom

To make my stay worthwhile, I needed a a full course, and so it was imperative to order dessert. Since I have been staring at the chiller the entire time, I had made up my mind to order the Turtle Pie. Of course earlier, I thought it was just some Chocolate Mousse type sans the cream but no, Turtle Pie it was!

Great, more “slow” references.

I opted this over the crepe cakes that the girl claimed were the bestsellers. The cakes looked plain and too pale, and the mango-cream combination did not seem to suit my palate after the tomato-on-my-dress episode! The Chocolate Cake looked like a little devil, but the Turtle Pie looked maleficent–so we know who the winner is!

The Turtle Pie was just a chocolate cream over an Oreo crust. Topped with some walnuts and caramel and chocolate sauce, that was it! I was glad to have brought it home (yes, I still had some EQ left) and stored in the fridge for a mega breakfast dessert. It got better and more firm. Would I try it again? Not sure, not with Banapple and others over at Il Terrazzo and it would seem that sweets are not the core products of Nonnomnom.

drinks food nomnomnom

Anyway, Nomnomnom has so many other dishes and creations that I WANT to try. Forget dessert.

I could actually live off on its appetizer listing alone – with all those ravioli offerings! Plus, with pasta and pizza, this definitely necessitates future visits.

Oh dear, I even forgot to mention. They have salad! Uh-oh, who to invite next? :)

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Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)

 

ilocos norte travel laoag

Last in the Ilocos Series comes a smorgasbord of food—by smorgasbord, I mean like a hodge-podge of delicacies, best to name then Unclassified.

To spare you from more chaos, I have refrained from making breakfast posts, since they are not particularly interesting and are eaten out of obligation. And they could bore the city lights out of you.

 johnny moon la preciosa review

Back to the Unclassified, the remaining untackled Laoag restaurants were chosen out of hunger and logistics: Johnny Moon Café and La Preciosa.

 Pagudpud Blue Lagoon

As a finale/bonus/more Unclassified, there is also our Pagudpud Paluto Take Out Lunch Special—a name so long can only describe the choice left for travelers who never plan!

 review johnny moon ilocos

To start off, here’s a bit of trivia we got from the Juan Luna House tour guide:

The restaurant Johnny Moon is not an attempt at creating a cool-sounding joint; it’s an alias for Juan (Johnny) Luna (Moon), who is an Ilocano local.

Juan Luna Self Portrait ilocos

Here’s Johnny!

C-O-O-L. I will admit, even I hadn’t thought of that!

Still awed, we walked to Johnny Moon for dinner.

 Johnny Moon Review Ilocos Norte

Because of a parade (Ilocos Norte-cum-Flores-de-Mayo-cum-local-fiesta), most roads surrounding the Capitol were closed so we had no choice but to walk to Johnny Moon.

We actually had no idea where we were going and asked nearby vendors—who magically brought out a crumpled map of Laoag and directed us spot on. Amazing, these northern folk.

 Johnny Moon Cafe Ilocos Interios

Johnny Moon, as per the tour guide, boasts of the bagnet sandwich and bagnet empanada, which sadly, I met with a pork-er face. If she only knew I was after Juan Luna, she could’ve made up a Spoliarium Sandwich that could’ve gotten us to Johnny Moon sooner.

Having walked to Johnny Moon was a perfect excuse to have double carbs (or triple, including dessert), for dinner! I don’t regret choosing this place for our finale dinner in Laoag; it was Luna-art all over and the food just affordable!

 ilocos pasta

First was the Laureana Pasta Verde which is malunggay pesto with tinapa flakes topped with what seems to be danggit.

Fishy never became this awesome, seriously.

I absolutely love the texture that the crushed danggit provides, while the pesto gives off that comfort food vibe perfect for Juan Luna’s ‘hood. The serving is good for one—but enough to tackle other dishes—wink, wink!

 bagnet empanada

The Ilocos Empanada has 4 variants, if I recall. Two, I can’t really eat but must be bestsellers (longganisa and the winner, bagnet), the plain one and vegetarian. The difference between vegetarian and plain is the egg, and since I love breakfast for dinner, plain it was!

A newbie in the Emapanada-eating society, I had no mighty expectations and just recognized that orange-y crust that can only indicate something interesting inside its crisp, deep fried shell. For P40, I can afford the letdown.

A letdown is certainly was NOT, though. Oil aside, the empanada was delectable and the uncanny ingredients (papaya shavings, bean sprouts and egg) were a melancholy combination. Supposed to go with catsup (no thanks) or the famed Ilocos vinegar (amazing!), I savored it in its bare glory—yummy! This was my first empanada ever and I’d say, I’d be back for more—if Ilocos wasn’t so darn far!

Oh and if you were to ask me to design my own empanada, it would be the plain jane with cheddar cheese. Awesome! I can just imagine the melted cheese erupting after the first bite—purr-fection.

 dessert laoag

Being the finale, dessert cannot be overlooked. While I was already full from the carbo loading, I still went for the Johnny Moon Banana Split with Dragonfruit Ice Cream.

It was a creamy and fruity break from the oil and sodium, and it was a delectable ending for a tiring evening. While I can’t say that I can actually detect the full flavor of the dragonfruit from that wee serving (approximately a scoop), the entire experience was artfully satiating.

La Preciosa Laoag Review

You will notice that organization and order do not exist in my world, since I started with Johnny Moon (last dinner) while I neglected the 2nd dinner, so here goes: La Preciosa.

La Preciosa was chosen for its logistics, and more importantly, because it was recommended online—somewhere with a photo of a huge slice of carrot cake! Sold!

Of course before dessert, dinner had to be served.

 La Preciosa Ilocos Menu

We had more fish for dinner, the fried Bucto (appetizer), Boneless Bangus and Crispy Dinuguan (for the meat eater).

 seafood restaurant ilocos

The Bucto was meant to be a giant version of fried dilis, but I found it absolutely so huge, I think I only managed to eat a handful. Or maybe because the fish head did freak me out and reminded me of well, severed fish heads. I try not be visually un-inspiring, but even the lazy black cat knows when to say “no” to too much fish heads.

 Crispy dinuguan La Preciosa Review

fish ilocos laoag

The Boneless Bangus was my main course and was just so-so. I mean, how else could I possibly describe boneless bangus, huh?!

Don’t remember picking stray bones, so that makes this worthwhile, but the opposite of adventurous.

If any, you should be chucking a book at the monitor for the boredom I may be causing you. I’ll understand.

 la preciosa dessert

Which brings me to the highlight, the Carrot Cake.

The carrot cake can be spotted from a distance because it literally floats in a crown of shredded carrot. The cream cheese frosting holds all those carrot stays into this boulder of beta carotene goodness. Further scrutiny shows that the cake itself is studded with walnut and not much of carrot (seriously, no orange in the batter), but not that it matters—unless you hate raw carrots!

La Preciosa shines in the dessert-pasalubong department, and that carrot cake continues to radiate its orange shreds in my phone archives. Impossible to delete.

La Preciosa has other interesting looking cakes in its menu, just as visually resplendent, but I regret having been born with only one stomach. Maybe in the next life—9 stomachs too?!

 Welcome to Pagudpud Sign

Last but not the least is the longest entry in this post: the Pagudpud Paluto Take Out Lunch Special!

The story behind it:

Blue Lagood/Pagudpud was utterly filled with people; no cottages would take us in and we had to seek shelter in the remotest resort (so remote, its name is negligible). The only recourse for hunger is to go to the main “Paluto” section (near Hannah’s) and take out whichever fish we fancy.

 Blue Lagoon

It was a kilo of Dorado that caught our eye, grilled—with an awful waiting time of 45 minutes! Someone got extra hungry and bought a paluto-longganisa from a nearby vendor, while I had a banana. Boring, as ever.

paluto where to eat pagudpud

The Dorado was decently sliced and grilled, with a siding of tomato and onion—on the house. It tasted fresh and self-sufficient on its own, though a bit of kalamansi-soy sauce on the side did wonders as well.

From my tone (and awe), it may seem that I do not frequent Dampa in Manila—you got it!

Still, eating freshly grilled fish by the sea—in that remote cottage—was just so zen-inspiring and calming. Lunch on the sand, sans the unruly tourists, turned this Pagudpud meal into a stellar picnic.

pagudpud food

So this ends my Ilocos Series. It was a grand adventure, that turned me into a lazy BRONZE cat.

The color will pass, but the memories, always online and in my mental map of things to remember.

 Rocks shadow selfie

There were a lot of wrong turns, lost moments and spacing out while driving (not to mention a Buscopan incident), but all in all, it was a Labour Day Weekend, wonderful and well spent!

Now, back to reality, mates! Till the next holiday!

 

Ilocos Series: 1. The Sights

Ilocos Series: 2. In the Brick of Time

Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)

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Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

 

laoag restaurants review

Enough with this fasting! I have obligingly posted the sights and structures, I may now proceed with the grand-tastic portion of my ILOCOS SERIES: Food!

laoag restaurant

Sorry epicurean seekers. The highlight of my Ilocos food trip was not the empanada.

Instead—drum roll please—the envelope reads: P-I-Z-Z-A!

As biased as it may sound, being the constant proponent of #pizzanight, it was the pizza that gave me the gastronomic bliss, the shivers and the *sigh* moments. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I would like to tackle 2 places where the celebrated local pizzas have graced our dining table: Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant (Laoag) and Herencia (Paoay).  

Laoag restaurant review

Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant was the first destination because it was in my #1-to-eat list, and because it has pizza and pasta, which I can’t bear to live without.

Let me add the word “fusion” so as not to label me a boring blog which shuns gastro-adventure.  

Saramsam Laoag Interior

The fact that an Ilocano restaurant serves pizza is a telltale sign that it’s got some fusion fares worth tasting. And that maybe brick ovens are the kitchen norm up North. Perhaps—I didn’t ask for a tour.

Saramsam moved to Balay da Blas and has a strict reservation-cum-starts-serving-at-7pm-only scheme, so patrons had to wait outside till the clock struck 7:00. Being deviants—tired and lazy deviants to be exact—we asked to be seated inside, as we waited for the clock to strike 6:59.  

That’s when we ordered the Poque-Poque Pizza (LARGE), Saramsam Pasta and Pork Dinakdakan (not mine).

 talong pizza laoag saramsam

The Poque-Poque Pizza, in its 11-inch glory, was a crazy-messy-lovely sight to behold. It’s got mozzarella cheese, deconstructed tortang talong (eggplant), onions and tomatoes, hence the shambolic appearance.

The waitress instructed us to pour chili oil and their diluted bagoong(fish paste) sauce—and what wonders these did! Imagine that I do not eat bagoong, but that watered down condiment just turned the pizza into an exotic surprise! Seriously, they all went together—fish paste salty, creamy cheese and that smoky eggplant.

I finished 75% of the entire plate.  

j.anne gonzales food blog

The Saramsam Pasta was a combination of basic kitchen ingredients like red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, shrimps (a bit small for me), ripe mangoes, and last but not the least, cilantro. That cilantro added to its oomph factor and turned this pasta into a summer pasta fare.

The components fused into a harmoniously sweet and salty affair—that complemented the awesome pizza.

 Saramsam Ylocan Review Restaurant

Lastly, this Dinakdakan was not mine (it’s pork) but looks just picture friendly and tastes (as I was told) just as remarkable. A perfect pulutan to go with beer!  

Herencia Paoay review restaurant

paoay restaurant

  Herencia Café is hard to miss; it’s in front of Paoay Church and posters are abundantly strewn in the nearby streets.

Its claim to fame is serving the “First” Pinakbet Pizza—and I am not quite sure if being first actually translates to yummy, delicious, to-die-for or just hmmm-kay.  

Herencia Menu ilocos norte

A sucker for pizza though—you guessed it—this was a mandatory destination.

Let me be clear though. Despite my vegetarian tendencies, I’ve never been a fan of the pinakbet-bagoong tandem. But, to yield to foodie adventure, we had the pizza combination: ½ Pinakbet and ½ Mushroom (boooring, I know)—for a hefty premium of P70.  

Ilocos Pizza Pinakbet

I chose the Mushroom Pizza because other options were MORE boring like Tuna and Does Queso (2-cheese) Basil. Imagine, 2-cheese! Sadness.

The Pinakbet-Mushroom half-and-half was a splendid cheesy sight, but my bias told me I would like the mushroom more. Correct.

After Saramsam’s Poque-Poque Pizza episode, my pizza expectations went Paoay sky-high, but the Pinakbet Pizza’s toppings were not as copious (compared to the photo). I could count the sitaw (stringbeans) and ampalaya slices, and they could not possibly be a significant source of the day’s recommended veg serving.

It was a bland offering, despite another watered down bagoong condiment on the side. I highly enjoyed the Mushroom Pizza, though with just button mushrooms (and a wee onion slice), this fared badly as a foodie adventure. Just comfort food variety.  

paoay restaurant where to eat

The Pasta Ilocana looked glorious with its cheese and longanisa toppings.  

Please note the olives. Olives in Paoay–cool!

Paoay Herencia Menu

The Tuna Pomodoro Pasta was a creamy-milky affair, but loaded (or redeemed) with chunks of canned tuna. This gets another comfort food award, and went well with the mushroom pizza. If you hate the cloying feeling of too much creaminess, go for the Pasta Ilocana, if you eat meat anyway!

All in all, attempts at the gastro-adventure fares backfired as I found solace in my comfort food staples of tuna and mushroom.

Ah well. It must be the heat.

Still, pizza is pizza and #pizzaisthebest.    

Stay tuned for the last food post of the Ilocos Series, D-E-S-S-E-R-T-S and MORE!

Ilocos Series: 1. The Sights

Ilocos Series: 2. In the Brick of Time

Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)

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