Tag Archives: Pad Thai

BOXPARK MNL: Eating Outside the Box


Welcome to District 1 (QC), BOXPARK MNL! To grace our ghetto district with a food park is a gracious gastronomic sign!

Northern foodies will finally have options other than Cocoy’s Pares, a Veneto and our string of lechon manok stalls.

For 2 consecutive Saturdays we scoured BoxPark MNL along Congressional Ave. for early dinner fares. Unfortunately we missed Cajita churros on both accounts—so 2 points for Mr. Diggins for being the consistent dessert provider.

Points also for the hasty service, Mr. Diggins, so we start off the gastro-journey with you.


Mr. Diggins serves ice cream with waffles, with 4 topping/flavours to choose from. We consistently bought that Black Bay because it seemed like the best choice.

Come on, can’t go wrong with chocolate popcorn and syrup!


I had tried the Great White as a novel choice, and whilst the pretzels did look pretty, my heart still lingers to the Black Bay. With the very filling waffle, cooked on-the-spot, a good deal at P95!

We normally eat at the Thai Food table, since it has a roof (#Nona) and that cozy corner garden ambience. This explains why most of the purchases went to this stall, but don’t get me wrong, they were all worth it—including the wait!


We loved the Pad Thai since it was quite a steal at P100, had shrimps and loads of tofu. The flavour was acceptably Thai (and not too overwhelming), it was filling on its own and only gluttony would dictate buying from the neighbors. The Thai Fried Rice was the rice counterpart, but I really find noodles the more enjoyable carb option.


The lady cooks the food upon order, which can take some time during peak hours. Luckily Mr. Diggins kept us company during those waiting hunger pangs.


The chicken tenders came from 1957 Chicken Stop and had gravy and cheese dip choices. From the looks of the cheese dip, you could guess it was diluted Cheezee whilst the gravy is the normal one. The chicken tenders were, well, tender and fresh, and partially reminiscent of a slight KFC peppery flavour.


Colonel Frank’s serves hotdog sandwiches with a twist, but my brother was not interested in any innovative venture and just wanted to enjoy a plain dog on the brioche. He got what he wanted (no idea how he communicated this plain jane request), but was not too happy with the bread (he was expecting French flair) and the hotdog (had better)—which is probably why Colonel Frank’s is best enjoyed with the mac and cheese on top.


Pie Guys opened a bit late (or we came too early) so the Mashinator (Pulled Pork) came in during dessert time. With spuds and pie forming the crowning glory, it was comfort food variety that was really filling. We had to bring home the other half of the crown.

Last but not the least is the Mexican place with the longest name: Plaza de Taqueria Mexicana Cantina. The “Taqueria” held quite a queue one early Saturday afternoon because it was one of the few stalls open.


The Taqueria, that day, was quite busy: the orders didn’t come at the same time (forgivable), the girl kept on referring to the enchilada as “chalupa” (so we thought it was the wrong order) and they forgot my fish tacos (but pretended not to).

While I have no idea how the back kitchen operates, I could imagine it was topsy-turvy with folks calling everything and each other “Chalupa!” Kaloka.

While the food items certainly looked lip-smacking delectable, they were more mediocre than their beautiful plating.


The nachos were hmmm-kay and the fish tacos held tiny fish chunks and more salsa.  The salsa was spicy great, but the portion was on the pequeno side.


The Quesodilla seemed pretty comfy in its wooden block, but when a slow eater finishes it in a jiffy—you know someone wants to have dessert ASAP!

While I haven’t tried everything in BoxPark MNL (Cajitas huhu), our initial verdict that that we shall come back for Thai Food’s Pad Thai! And if we have room for dessert (wait, we always do!) it’ll be Black Bay by Mr. Diggins.

Goodie, finally a QC foodie destination right along our ghetto Congressional Avenue! Finally a spot on the map!


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High Five: 5F Mega Food Hall

megamall food court

Stumbled upon this not-so-secret niche at the 5F of the Mega Fashion Hall. It’s not quite a hush-hush place, since it’s really spacious, but blame me for feeling lazy to get all the way up to visit the ice skating rink.

Megamall Food Hall

I bet Megamall frequent mallers will roll their eyes at my discovery, but let me roll my eyes in return:

The 5F Mega Food Hall is awesome, quiet and my favorite feature is that—you don’t reek of food afterwards!

That is like food hall Heaven for the likes of me! Of course I don’t expect you to feel the same.

SM Mega Food Hall

With an array of tenants that could please even the pickiest eater, I say, any trip to the 5th floor is worth it and warrants a comeback.

Mega Food Hall Tex Mex Nav

Of course I had my cheat sheet beforehand and knew my first destination: Tex Mex. A sucker for anything Mexican and a lover of all things salsa, a taco lunch was necessary.

Tex Mex Mega Food hall

Mexican food megamall

We had the Chicken Taco Salad and Nachos. The Chicken Taco Salad whose name I couldn’t even remember (but I could swear it has the word “pollo”) was okay. I say “Okay” in a sense that when you look at it, you already know how it tastes like.

That’s exactly how it was, mediocre and the straightforward taco salad.

Mega food hall mexican

The Nachos were multicolored and I requested that the beef be separated—a simple request that took some time to process—but at least they got it right!

Despite the overwhelming mix of primary and secondary colors, the entire dish was bland including that awfully yellow cheese sauce. The only flavor that stood out was that of the olives and good thing, olives are friends.

Mega Food Hall Nav

Nav is a neighboring Thai restaurant that serves turmeric! How can you say “no” to that? But I already had the Tex Mex conditioning so I only spied 2 Nav dishes on the spread.


 Pad Thai and Squid (with steak rice, supposedly). The pad thai looked delectably seasoned and the noodles just chewy enough to make you eat slowly and delightfully. The squid tasted like Bon Chon and the rice was devoid of steak. The egg was a curious deep fried presence but sweetened at some point—so some dabbing was involved. Sorry about that.

However with the price range and assortment that the 5F Mega Food Hall has to offer, well, 1) I will be back, 2) I will return, and 3) I shall bring a friend!

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Bang Bang Bangkok

lazy black cat bangkok

My first time in Bangkok, Thailand and I swore on a sacred noodle that all meals would consist of pad thai. That was the pad thai plan, but of course, after 2 consecutive heavy noodle dishes and spotting McDonald’s and its local menu (which has Ovaltine!), it took me less than 24 hours to stray away from “the pad thai plan”.

Bangkok airport

Which was all right, I reckon.

As a warning though, my Bangkok post will be devoid of sights, markets (floating and dry) and other common scenes and attractions, because our priority was to shop and eat, and sightsee falls at the bottom of the list, even after, “Check out Boot’s drugstore”. Yes, that is normal for us.

Thai will be done

Bangkok Big C


Despite the Php unfairly pitted again THB and USD, the meals in the Big C food court proved to be insanely cheap. For 50THB I got Stir Fried Noodles with Shrimp, and that equates to about Php75. The cheapest pad thai I have spotted in Manila has reached the Php100 level and the proportion of bean sprouts to noodles was “pro-vegetarian”.

Bangkok food court pad thai

Bangkok big c

The Tom Yum with Seafood was another food court feast—and without the word “spicy” appearing anywhere in the menu—was a safe choice! Filling as well, with its glass noodles.


Other food court meals. And why there is French fries, can be attributed to the “pre-loaded card” that needs to be consumed, pronto.





Seeing Ronald McDonald in a prayer pose necessitates more than one visit to McDonald’s Thailand, so I went there thrice. One for the Chicken McWrap, Choco Overload McFlurry and the Ovaltine Float. I could’ve eaten all three in one sitting, though.

chicken mcwrap

The McWrap was the tolerably spicy and chunky and “green”. With the sweet chili sauce, at first bite, all I could scream was sweeeet! But you get the hang of it. I wanted to buy another one for the airport but it rained so bad, I hoped and prayed there would be Mickey D’s in the airport. Nil.

The Mcflurry was typical and hideously sweet, while the Ovaltine Float took me ages to order because I can be so bad at hand gestures and “float” may have a different meaning in Bangkok. After 5 minutes of bickering with the English menu, finally I got it right. Or wait, the cashier did.

Bangkok mcdonald's thailand

KFC Thailand has a similar wrap but disguised as the usual Twister. It was not as satisfying. Good thing they serve egg tarts (plain and choco banana) which is probably the only cool thing about the Colonel’s franchise. Oh and that Shrimp Donut I never got to take a photo of!


Bangkok KFC twister

Bangkok kfc egg tartjpg

Another delightful wrap I encountered was the randomly placed Shawarma stand (Tombik Lavas) in Chatuchak. Unplanned and impulsive, I fell in line, ordered chicken shawarma and ate like a weary shopper—which I was. It was awesomely and flavorfully Persian, and I sat beside the condiments—that garlic sauce was life-saving!Bangkok20140823_121922

Bangkok chatuchak food

lazy black cat travel review

Shabu-shabu came as a “heated” lunch treat, in MK Restaurant, which unfortunately only has the tissue holder photo. Too bad! I sat away from my camera and in front of the balls—pardon my priorities—and now I suffer no memories of that sweltering experience and green noodles! Boo.




Bangkok Arnoma Hotel




Breakfast food in Arnoma Hotel was all right—buffet and certainly not bland. Fried noodles, muesli, homemade yogurt, salad and omelet (with mozza cheese) completed by power breakfast—though the rest found redemption in the beef stew and crispy bacon. Can’t blame them. Sometimes I wonder why the Thai don’t have much fried fish like our local daing or bangus—those would have gone terribly well with my eggs!


Western Cheats

Admittedly, not all meals were Orientally inspired, though not committed on purpose. Occasions when hunger pangs just stripped me of common sense, I had to yield to hunger and buy whatever was on sight.

In Terminal 2 (Manila Airport) alone, I succumbed to the Egg Sandwich of Café France—which was an unwise choice since it’s similar to the staple sandwich I create at home! Still, it was nice to have someone prepare it for me—with layers and lettuce. And in PAL, local ice cream was served, Ube ice cream to be more specific! #Tbt since I can’t remember the last time I ate Ube ice cream – or if I even have!Bangkok20140821_113129

In the Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok), still it was another sandwich escapade, the Chicken Pesto on Panini by Caffe Ritazza. I badly wanted to try The Pizza Company, but I had to buy the entire pie, and with my last remaining Baht, had only about 200THB for dinner. Hence, the Panini (plus pretzels and a banana muffin, not in photo).

Bangkok caffe ritazza

Drinks were abound in Bangkok streets, side streets and anywhere you can possibly get thirsty! I never got the chance to try the milk tea and street iced coffee, since I stocked our fridge with the local version of Yakult (with Stevia)!

Bangkok snacks

Bangkok black canyon coffee

However I could not pass the chance to try Black Canyon Coffee, which has 2 branches in Platinum Mall alone. Too tired and bored, I ordered something with vanilla ice cream on top, something like Matcha Frap with Ice Cream—but that’s not what it’s called. I remember something more glamorous like Matcha Frap Glacier. Glacier! How can I say no to that? Unlike local green tea fraps which pile on the sugar aspect, Black Canyon’s was on the icy side—which favors the sugar-averse like me. Icy and mildly sweet—toped with ice cream—the perfect glacier.

Bangkok baskin robbin

Last on the Western cheats is the inevitable sin, Baskin Robbins. There is something about its pink andbarren store that screams: Come on over weary traveler! Come and splurge I did—with the favorite Jamocha Almond and Strawberry scoops.


Bua wanna know?

Bangkok Bua Restaurant

The only properly documented meal was in Bua Restaurant (Soi Convent, Silom, BKK) which was strategically planned on a Friday night. Bua is located in that “red” part of town, but all I remember were shady cab drivers, nitrogen ice cream and a sports store.

Bangkok Bua Silom Convent

In Bua, we extravagantly celebrated our Thai survival by ordering whatever looked colorful and edible in the menu. It was an elaborate spread, mainly painted with seafood and sauces, with zealous waitresses who refilled my water whenever I waved my hand in need (which came too often).

Whilst I could no longer get into details and actually forgot the exact name of each dish, the pictures ought to suffice.

Bangkok silom What we loved about Bua was its Fried Thai Shrimp Cakes which were adorable soft and filled with shrimp in every bite!

Thailand where to eat

The Laksa with Shrimp would’ve been a runner up, had it not been too freakishly spicy, that I could no longer taste it properly—explaining my constant waving for water!

thailand jenina gonzales

The Pad Thai (with and without the egg nest) were all right, but I believe, more Bangkok adventures would unravel more delectably prepared noodle dishes.

The Fried Fish was really just a normal dish, but was greatly enhanced by that extravagantly concocted sauce that looked more like salad than just a sauce. Together, the fish was elevated to flavorful seafood staple.




Temple Run

Our trip to Bangkok was peppered with some sights, to at least make this post travel-worthy.

bangkok temple to visit

Bangkok at traimit gold buddha

A very brief and sheltered trip to Wat Traimit, Wat Pho, and Wat Benchamabophitr completed the tour—not to mention the random shopping destinations.








The temples were awe-inspiring and expectedly, the weather humid and streaky.








I did learn that my Buddha counterpart maintains the meditative pose, which is the opposite of the rebellious me.



Bangkok20140822_161510\ Bangkok20140822_160927

Bangkok wat traimit

Bangkok reclining buddha at pho

I bought the same statue but gave it away—and kept the standing Buddha with the hand gesture “stop”. Or does it mean peace?


Shop till you drop

Bangkok thailand travel

Chatuchak was accessed by train on both trips, so pardon me for saying that it was certainly an exhausting battle with the haggling, walking and getting lost—which happened 90% of the time.

Bangkok bts

Bangkok chatuchak

What made the solo trip worthwhile though was the shopping haul that ranged from the skull bag, cheap shirts and the beaded frog—oh, and that awesome shawarma! I got into an almost fight with a shake vendor so to keep the peace, ordered water instead.

The Bangkok experience was really an incomparable and unique encounter. There were surprises, communication blunders and near muay thai incidents—all sorted out with pad thai and milo candies at the end of the day.

Should I return to Bangkok, I will certainly ride the elephant and feed it a fish stick, while sitting on the meditative pose. If I succeed in that, then that’s as good as Nirvana for me.


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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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La Petite Camille: Vietnamese Fill

food blog manila philippines

Who’s Camille? Beats me. Might be the French inspiration of the place, after all La Petite Camille (Greenbelt 5) specializes in Vietnamese-French fusion, and not cupcakes as the name might suggest.

 lazy black cat review greenbelt

Sure the place is flooded with yellow and white furniture, a pleasant and proper domicile for those little Camilles, but the food is more of Vietnamese and where the heck is the French?!? Well as far as what we ordered, yep, it’s really Vietnam all over. No forks needed, just chopsticks (or hands) please.

I still question the French part, but with a fill of Vietnamese noodles, I had no time to process gastronomic fusion, nomenclature and whatnot and just had to dig in when the food came—or is it stab in?

 vegetarian food greenbelt makati

It’s funny how the appetizer, the Fresh Spring Rolls, came in last. The French influence is apparently absent in terms of the order of food service because they massively screwed up and served everything in reverse. Merde, eh?

Back to the Fresh Spring Rolls, because they came in last, we were already filled with the main dish noodles, and to spy more rice noodles popping from these carefully wrapped rolls was not too enticing. Still, with the hoisin sauce the rolls were made bearable. But having to shove that large a roll, when I was already full, was quite the challenge! If only they served that first, I’d have something better to write about.

 seafood restaurant makati

The Salt and Pepper Cuttlefish was served somewhere in the middle. I needed a few chunks before finally narrowing down its taste; it’s similar to the shrimp balls we eat in Chinise restaurants. You know that taste, right? Those awesome prawn balls that burst with crunchiness on the outside. That breading plus soft cuttlefish in the inside is La Petite Camille’s version. The sauce—we can do without. Better off with calamansi and soy sauce instead.

 Vitenamese French restaurant manila

The Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Chicken does not look appetizing but is greatly more delectable 10x over its looks. On the blander side—which greatly favors the health conscious—it’s got vegetables, egg and succulent chunks of chicken. A hungry person can finish a serving, which is what my brother did. Goes well with that cuttlefish for thatprawn-y flavor on the side.

 j.anne gonzales blog

Pad Thai with Prawns was the other noodle dish. With the same noodles and toppings (more or less), I had a difficult time differentiating the photo from the previous dish. Then I realized that this has a siding of nuts—which they graciously set aside rather than sprinkle on top!

Having requested a mildly spicy serving was a smart idea because I did not need a water fest so far from home. The Pad Thai is (expectedly) sweeter and more flavorsome than the Stir Fried noodles. While I adore Pad Thai, having the latter as comparison makes me go for the Stir Fried Rice Noodles. Think of it as a toned down version of Char Kway Teow. Not bad huh. Still, the Pad Thai is great and “al dente” and so French-approved.

 jenina gonzales blog food review

4 dishes and 2 diners—so it would be accurate to say that the meal came with a large bill! With no time (or money) for dessert, it was all right. The meal was ultimately filling and I remember the first bites of the noodles were interspersed with Mmmm and “I need to take a photo of this!” 

Still, if the appetizer came at its properly appointed time, I’d have been more satisfied and at ease. Imagine having Hoisin for dessert. Weird.

Or is that how they eat in France? Oui?

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Falling off the Mango Tree

lazy black cat food blog quezon city

First time I ate at Mango Tree, I was up high in Thai bliss I even came up with an equally action packed title, Swinging by the Mango Tree  (@BGC).

That was because I ate for free.

The second time around, the experience was not rocking, rolling, or even swinging; it was not even close to repeating! Yep you guessed it right, I paid for my meal, this time at Mango Tree Bistro Trinoma.

Me, the thrifty semi vegetarian paid quite a price for this meal, so it was far from swinging by the tree and more of digging for spare change. With an economy like this, it’s time I embrace the Third World, live in acceptance and spend in penury.

The cost of my meal could feed a family of 10 in today’s GDP and so forgive my extravagance. As a form of penance I will abstain from milk tea for 10 days, a day for each family member.

And to think all I had was the Pomelo Salad, Pad Thai Jay and Red Chicken Curry.

trinoma salad thai restaurant

The Pomelo Salad has quite the complex presentation, with its pomelo-shrimp headdress, lettuce bed, onions, carrots and a smorgasbord of dressing flavors. Enough to battle with a Sinulog mask, it was very exquisite tasting and a creation of marvel. Even pomelo haters will be awed by this construction. However for the penny pinchers, you are probably better off eating a pomelo drenched in ACV and a wee bit of lettuce—roughly the same banana!

quezon city thai food restaurant

Pad Thai Jay offers the vegetarian pad thai but with the egg net that egg-maniacs can’t say no to. This elaborate 80s ‘do is also probably the reason why the dish costs quite a lot for mere rice noodles—unless inflation has reached only the fish sauce industry at this awful proportion! I understand the pomelo but pad thai? While the noodles were delectable and very enriching, I believe it’s time to finally learn how to cook my own pad thai jay.

jenina gonzales blog food

The chicken in red curry was—how do I say this without sounding so lame—ho-kay.  It was positively mediocre—the chicken chunks were standard, the curry was mildly spicy but could do more with that curry tang. There were vegetables swimming in the same sauce but were the least enticing. While the curry went well with the savvy noodles, they would surely do well with rice—note for the rice eaters, a vast group that dropped me off their subscription list.

While the dishes were extensively and craftily made, those seeking to protect their pockets are probably better off dining elsewhere. If you’re on a date though, well that’s another story. But if flying solo, don’t fall off the mango tree like me.

Learn to cook pad thai at home—or in my case—go one flight up, Banana Leaf!

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Soi What? (Soi, New Glorietta)

j.anne gonzales food blog

Once I get a craving for Pad Thai, there’s no stopping me. Pad thai seems to be my 2013 comfort food which people close to me may find strange since I dislike peanuts, abhor fish sauce and have never been to Thailand—like that matters—but I just felt like adding it.

What’s more alluring than pad thai is pad thai with that crafty egg net. As I tell my peers, who can say no to egg served so artistically? I would welcome that with an open mouth and an empty plate!

soi thai restaurant lazy black cat

Soi Thai Restaurant at the new Glorietta (that’s what they call it, I swear) serves Thai food, which personally I did not care about, since I only went for the egg-netted-pad-thai. Turns out, the Vegetarian Pad Thai is not bedazzled with that lusty egg net! So if you are after the egg like me, go for Chicken Pad Thai, which thank goodness, we had the proactive gluttony to order.

That evening, we were advised that the Pad Thai noodles would go from fettucine flat to rounded slim—about twice the diameter of vermicelli. Like I care.

j.anne gonzales blog manila

When the noodles came though, it seems that I do care. The thin noodles were interesting to masticate but then again, you go looking for that flat chewy presence that makes pad thai, well, pad thai. Plus the serving seemed so miniscule, I could finish a plate and still go for other dishes and 2 kinds of dessert (which I did in retrospect). The sauce was ho-hum in sweetness and the tofu barely there. At least the chicken chunks were on the average size. Of course the egg did not make that big of a difference and only made an ooooh impression for the photo op. After the first bite, I could honestly say that I would not be dreaming of this anorexic noodle dish for the poor, much less crave for Soi more.

thai food glorietta makati

The Seafood Curry though was interestingly something I couldn’t stop eating, until the very last morsel of curdled curry. It was a bizarrely arranged dish that somehow tasted so well. Even the onion tasted so damn good! Imagine that.

chicken new glorietta restaurant

The Pandan Chicken and Grilled Squid did not deviate from their expected taste, so they were both on the safe side. Turns out I am not quite a fan of grilled squid—not sure if it was me or does grilled squid just taste so raw? Must be all the burnt calamari I’ve been eating.

seafood glorietta restaurant

Oh, and half of the pandan chicken was chicken skin so if you’re a skin-hater like me, consider it bit of a rip-off. Rip off the pandan leaf to unveil a rip-off. Nice.

Soi Glorietta was packed that Friday night; I imagine people really love the noodles and rice which seemed to flood the other tables. Since I only came for the pad thai and was met with an anorexic dish that had more nuts than soy, I’d say better luck next time. With noodles that thin—pho hoa skinny—I’m better off going to the gym.

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Cucina Andare: What the Truck!

Coming across Cucina Andare at the Glorietta open area was kismet; closing hours evicted mallrats and drove them to the open field. From afar the vicinity appeared like a lackluster Sunday congregation, but the sweet smoke from barbecued somethings said otherwise.

Cucina Andare has the same vibe as the usual Mercato/Mezza Norte stalls, since not all fares are offered from trucks. While I was scouring for anything Mexican or green, my gastronomic senses failed me, or maybe it was because I just hated looking up to read the menu. With this imaginary neck brace, there was no choice but to seek refuge in the tent of stalls.

No mother trucker for now anyway. Not until I get this laziness fixed.

Sen Lek Lazy Black Cat

At the sight of the pad thai stall, my earlier quests were dispelled. Forget the greens and cheese, the noodles supersede my prior demands—as I am going through the pad thai phase which hopefully will end in the next quarter unless poverty gets the better of me.

To simplify things—yes I like the proprietor’s thinking—there is only one variant (pad thai with chicken and shrimp) and a fixed price (P100). Away with the menus and the do-you-want-chicken-or-shrimp conundrums. Promote efficiency so that the chef need not think much and revert to his mindless musing. Less sweat too.

Sen Lek J.Anne Gonzales

The pad thai is rather hefty in its wee bowl and the toppings are grandly selected: chicken, shrimp, egg, tofy, green onion and bean sprouts. Topped with garlic, peanuts and sugar as a final offertory (I preferred to abstain from the last 2 items) this is one steaming bowl of thai bliss. With all flavors present but not that overpowering, this is quite a catch for a locally prepared pad thai.

Sen Lek J.Anne Gonzales

Having no place to sit we ended up feasting on the grass. Carabao grass, sans the ants and other biological matter. What the truck, this was probably why I’m going for seconds the next time around!

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West Coast Series: The Real Meals

Forget the greens, salsa and vinaigrette which were so last post (West Coast Series: Salads and Sweets), you’d think I’ve gone all Bugs Bunny on you. Truth is, it’s time to cast off the pretension and start focusing on the “real” food—the full courses, carbs and that thing we call a proper meal.

“I’ll pass” is something unheard of in the sight of these almighty meals, while starvation, a word only concocted by activists – an institution that will never accept me for my lack of shouting intensity.

Once in the West Coast, the best thing to do is take a seat, eat and forget all about it. After all, what happens in the West, stays in the West!

Not to be left behind though are the photos (and proof) of those outlandish and sizzling moments that always ended with that blissful burp. The burgers were not mine, but were just as irresistible to shoot!

Bon appetit! Or should I say, more appropriately: DIG IN!

My Mexican Salad Platter, Spice Market Buffet

My Mexican Salad Platter, Spice Market Buffet

My Dainty Dessert Portion, Spice Market Buffet

My Dainty Dessert Portion, Spice Market Buffet

Tuna Salad Sandwich with Pickled Red Onions, International Cafe, Universal Studios

Tuna Salad Sandwich with Pickled Red Onions, International Cafe, Universal Studios

Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato Pizza, Bonnano's, MGM Hotel

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Asian Noo-delights (@Banana Leaf)

While Asians may find it difficult to unite under one deity, hair color or even traffic orientation, at least we collectively share something of greater importance—the passion for noodles. There’s no denying that we would readily renounce our siblings or pierce our tongue, twice, just to gain possession of the last cup noodle in the cupboard. And that’s true love.

 This gluttonous love affair has gotten me as far as nearly posing a fire hazard to our home in my lame attempts to create vegetarian chap chae and tikka masala curry noodles from scratch. Nothing good ever came out of this experience—except for a house still intact, which I tell others as a form of consolation. And this constant longing for pristine noodles—I have painfully learned, must be sourced elsewhere. My dreams of slurping down Shirataki and the succulent udon or catching a whiff of the tangy aroma of seafood hofan—all these are to be fulfilled by travel or local restaurants, in an effort to preserve the sanity of our home and finally allow our neighbors to enjoy a good night’s sleep, sans the fear of dying from suffocation.

Scouring the restaurants in Manila can be quite arduous and disappointing—I have miserably discovered. The metro hosts a multitude of Chinese restaurants that serve the usual fares, which are nothing spectacular and satiating and are nonetheless oil-laden and spell mediocrity with their un-al dente noodles—pancit canton, guisado, birthday noodles, the bedridden misua and liver-spattered lomi. Vegetarians are meant to suffer from this repertoire of meaty mayhem, while those seeking to live long can do so with cholesterol attacks until eternity. Some local restaurants do serve nearly palatable noodle dishes but are nothing boast-worthy.  Previously visited Oody’s dishes out mediocrity in small amounts and falls secondary in my top places for dining pleasure. North Park serves noodles with what I suppose is beef soup base that just makes my inner PETA flare up in angst. Pho Hoa is priced a bit steep, for a bowl that is anything but big and hefty, and Mann Hann has got to be the noisiest place in the planet.

Spying Banana Leaf at the Trinoma 4F seemed like a gift form the collective deities of the Asian heavens. It did not matter that were were about to partake our meal on a leaf with questionable hygiene; my noodle fantasy was about to become a reality, and that’s all my stomach cared about.

Banana Leaf showcases popular dishes from neighboring Asian countries; hence, a menu populated with words like curry, lemograss, laksa, roti, tom, phad and of course, stir-fried. Even the tempting vegetable samosas and chicken satay could not sidetrack my goal. I came for noodles and intended to stick with the plan. Based on the descriptions and a bit of visual analysis (okay, staring at the photos) we ended up ordering the following based on my noodles choices for the day:  Penang Char Kway Teow, Seafood Fried Rice Noodle and Vermicelli with Malay Sauce and Phad Thai – Thai Style.

The Penang Char Kway Teow, literally translated as stir-fried ricecake strips, is better recognized in Penang, Malaysia as a hawker street food. Unlike Filipino street foods that are more functional than palatable, the Char Kway Teow beckons people blocks away with its zesty aroma. Banana Leaf glorifies this street food by adding plump shrimps for that protein-rich, upper class appeal. Flat rice noodles, bean sprouts and egg make up the bulk of the textures—mainly soft and chewy. The soy sauce blend is made more appetizing once heated up, making it slightly sweet, spicy and thick. There is no surfeit of salt or any overpowering seasoning that can imbalance the sense of taste, which makes the dish mellow in flavor yet greatly appealing. The irresistible aroma alone takes me back to the side streets of Penang—quite the exaggeration because I haven’t been to Malaysia—but somehow, the noodles leave a feeling of Malay authenticity, I might as well pretend to have been there.


The Fried Rice Noodle and Vermicelli provides the continental counterpart of the Chinese crispy noodles. The fried vermicelli rests at the bottom of a viscuous sauce made primarily with egg, and I wonder if this to compensate for using non egg noodles in an otherwise, egg noodle-rich dish. The fried vermicelli mimics the egg noodles and imparts the same crisp-alternated-with-chewy bits of noodles. Adding to the drama and texture are the hefty rice noodle squares that double as toppings and go well with the gigantic shrimps, squid and vegetable slices that grace the sauce. It’s a filling seafood catch, and coincidentally tastes just like the sea—complete with intense saltiness that seems to go straight to my kidneys. Seriously, who would’ve thought that this egg-based and pallid sauce would reap all the salt in Asia? Salty, cream-heavy, and not too photogenic as well, I’m thinking of pursuing another vermicelli dish in the future, should the craving re-arise. Blame it on the Penang Char Kway Teow—it got all the credit.

Signature Thai noodle dish Phad Thai – Thai Style (“Fried Thai style”) ought to be a no-brainer for Banana Leaf’s master chef. Rice noodles and egg stir-fried with the popular sweet-sour-salty-and-semi-spicy sauce garnished with peanuts and chives offer that exquisite tang that only the Thai noodles could create. With the Filipinos’ penchant for similarly diverse flavors (fish sauce + sugar) the Pad Thai is an easy crowd pleaser. Unfortunately for the Thais, I thrive on bland food and ban fish sauce in our household so at first glance, I knew that my mortal enemy has been born – but I gave it a chance. One bite told me that it was not the fish sauce to fear, but rather, the overly sweetened sauce that dares to compete with the Filipino super-sweet spaghetti mix that kids love. This kid certainly didn’t love the syrupy concoction and wished for a more mellow sauce to go with the firm noodles that otherwise would’ve been perfect. Filipinos would find delight in this semi sweet noodle dish that veers away from the curry laden and spiced up dishes in the menu. If I want a real Phad Thai though, I’d have to wait every Sunday for our Legaspi  Market picnic.

Appetizers abound, the Vietnamese Vermicelli Spring Roll and Chicken with Sticky Rice were immediate choices for their promising names and well, noodle associations. Both carry the same sweet and sour sauce on the side and were perhaps fried on the same pan – just a hunch. The spring roll was nothing extraordinary and was rendered tasteless without the sauce. The vermicelli at the center did not burst with chewy glutinous goodness (which I was expecting) and were on the dry side, in contrast to the greased up, crisp wrapper. The chicken wings were just as ordinary and like the Fried Rice Noodle and Vermicelli, pretended to be camera-shy. For P128 per serving though, the price range for appetizers is rather friendly on the pocket and allows us to experiment, binge and not cry over unsavory choices. And most of them look fantastic on the photo, I’m certain on our next visit, we’d hit the appetizer jackpot! (Thai Vermicelli Salad, would that be you?)

Leafing through the Banana Leaf menu will shower you with more pictures and noodle offerings, there’s a huge chance you’ll be planning to spend your next birthday there. Noodles though aren’t the only tempting fares on the roster. With soups, vegetables, seafood and even appetizers in abundance, it seems that we’ll be 4F Trinoma denizens for some time, unless some kind Malaysian or Singaporean family decides to adopt me, and I can have all the noodles, even for breakfast –  for the rest of my life. And that’s what I call living the Asian dream!

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