Tag Archives: Sushi

Tonchaya Drift: Bringing Osaka to the Fort Strip

fort strip restaurant

The ramen rage has been overly hyped, steering folks clear of the real Japanese goods and driving them to carb showdown. Truth is, the best Jap deals come in other jazzy forms – raw, for the adventurous and perky—and bringing the hype in from Osaka and not the big T—tokyo. Catch my drift?

blog review tonchaya

Tonchaya isn’t just that ramen place, it’s a whole Japanese kitchen and bar concept, so you can expect sushi chef and cocktails, and that snobby Tempura crunch we can never seem to copy at home. It’s also intriguingly artsy yet shambolically homey, every nook is filled with paintings, bottles and Japanese food symbols, you’ll find a comfort zone of your own. Even the sign on the kitchen entrance shows a white cat, so there’s something to claw about.

japanese restaurant review

Daily combos or promos are available which are lavishly posted on the walls, like buy-one-take-one tonkatsu Thursdays or maki days.

fort bonifacio japanese restaurant

With the sashimi chiller on display, it is given that maki, sushi and sashimi are abundantly offered and occupy heaps of meals in the menu. I could live on sashimi buffet and rave about it, and miss out on ramen—not the other way around! So good to actually see the fresh catch waiting to be ordered.

tonchaya_jenina_gonzales_maki

Presented first were the usual Japanese appetizer staples. With that much rice on the first course, the white flag of satiation was close to being raised.

The maki was made of sticky rice, so there was not much crumbling going on. Some were a bit on the spicy side too so manage the wasabi on your dipping sauce—or enjoy them piping spicy!

tonchaya_tuna_maki

Here we have the Crunchy Crab Maki (the long rolls), Crunchy Salmon Maki and Crunchy Tuna Maki (looks like the former but has that dotted by a tuna speck).

maki bgc

And then I got confused with all the crunch going on, since I swear I thought it was called Spicy Tuna Maki! I guess I just made that up. Completing the package though, it was spicy, crunchy, a bit sticky and ultimately soy-worthy.

j.anne gonzales food blog

The Chirashidon 8 Kinds showcases various sashimi atop white rice, including Salmon, Tuna, Tamago, Ika, Mackerel, Kani, Ebi and Uni. With roughly two of each, you get the luxury of variety and whilst I never chanced upon the bestselling tamago, the mackerel and uni were mine to fill.

authentic japanese food philippines

 

tonchaya_beef_teppanyaki

The Okonomiyaki looked like a vast pie of curly cabbage generosity. Cabbage, seafood, pork and sauces contributed to this abstract pie art, and bagged the title of crowd favorite. Beef Teppanyaki was another sizzling plate to watch out for, with veggies on the side to minimize the guilt.

tonchaya_tempura_lazyblackcat

The Ebi Tempura was what you would expect—crisp and long—as a positive gastronomic virtue, nothing else. To describe the length on this one—the damn prawn couldn’t fit on the saucer, damn average saucer! Literally had tempura crumbs on my chin after every bite, and boy were those bites aplenty!

tonchaya_chicken_teriyaki

tonchaya_fried_rice_seafood

Rice meals were just as abound in the menu, as heftily exemplified by the Chicken teriyaki and Seafood Gomuko Chahan, the latter being  a leviathan bowl of fried rice—the toppings can suffice as viands. Guaranteed burp—but then again, where’s the fun in just eating rice?

ramen fort bonifacio

Which is why for this hungry cat, a meal is never complete without noodles! Seafood Ramen was just the fix for a rainy evening. With the proper spice level and thick soup, the noodles were pleasantly chewy so each bite was packed with a zing. The seafood was also in abundance, so this should suffice as a meal on its own. Good for sharing, or for a hungry solo, why go for the boring ramen when you could have seafood on a sea of red? Oishi!

bgc restaurant review

With all those pescatorian slurps and bites, there was no room left for dessert. Sadly. Maybe next time.

There’s nothing like a cozy Japanese bar, the type where Naruto could just sit and slurp his noodles without a care in the world. Well Tonchaya’s a bit close to that—with just better paintings and seats.

For those planning to visit this place soon, Itadakimasu! Or better yet, call me. Lol. =P

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All You Can 101

Robinson's magnolia

For this selfish urge to finally set foot in Robinson’s Magnolia, I wantonly booked a table at Buffet 101—not the other way around which is quite contrary to my hungry nature.

Buffet 101 quezon city

Since I was beginning to lag behind the social sphere of geographical knowledge, this necessitated a visit to that much talked about mall. It was time to finally get a view of the high ceiling, the al fresco lounge and the once retro Magnolia ice cream parlor. And of course, finally dine at Buffet 101.

buffet 101 j.anne gonzales blog

They say Buffet 101 could be a doppelganger for Vikings, with its massive spread of internationally based cuisine. But let me quip that it fares more as a lesser sibling that focuses on select continents, with nothing exotic such as caviar, Indian or Mediterranean delights. Instead, Buffet 101’s prime selections hail from the Asian district, with Chinese cuisine topping the must-eat list while Japanese having the second most popular aisle.

Buffet 101 Balsamic-Olive Salad with Kani on the side

Balsamic-Olive Salad with Kani on the side

The salad bar boasts of about 5 or 6 dressings (the common kind so I refuse to spend time here) that did not warrant a second take. A keen eye brought into sight a balsamic vinegar bottle at the side—and with its partner olive oil—finally a decent salad came into a reality. No cheese platters or parmesan to liven up my plate, so it was on to the sushi-sashimi boat.

Nori all you can!

Nori all you can!

The sashimi was all right, the lemon a bit on the hard size. Excited with the soba noodles I packed my bowl with nori strips and soup, which sadly, was a tad too sweet for my diabetic sense of taste.

east meets more west

east meets more west

 

Nihao mantao!

Nihao mantao!

While Chinatown was supposed to be the hotspot for dimsum, fried rice, crabs and Hainanese chicken, I let the boys take over this town. The fried noodles looked awesome, but the taste inspired no awe. The usual vegetables were of the standard variety and the sweet and sour pork boasted of more fat than meat (unless that’s how it is for carnivores).

Next destination: China!

Next destination: China!

In Crustaceans we Trust

In Crustaceans we Trust

The crabs and butter-oat shrimps were a splendid tag team, I broke my rule of not eating with my fingers. Of course a cracker was available but still, getting down, orange and dirty was the only way to claw into those crabs. They have a bathroom and liquid soap, in case you’re wondering about hygiene and grease.

Itadakimasu!

Itadakimasu!

I barely visited the Japanese and Filipino cuisine, but I did see local favorites bangus and crispy pata. The tempura was okay but I enjoyed the chicken teppanyaki, which I scooped by accident. Soft and sweet, it fares much better than the usual Saisaki flavor.

Got Steak? Yes they do!

Got Steak? Yes they do!

A platter of steak found itself on our table—the necessary sustenance for the carnivores. Without it we cannot go home!

 Don't mind if I pass up the Pasta

Don’t mind if I pass up the Pasta

The American – Italian section was a junk food fest with fries, onion rings and other fried wonders. The American fish fillet was 10x saltier than its Thai counterpart—yes, I had to compare—and so the point goes to the Asian catch! Here, I found my serving of vegetables with the mozzarella topped broccoli and cauliflower—not the healthiest portion but all that yellow was just alluring.

The stuffed tomatoes were oddly addictive, while the herb cream pasta could be described as “not a penne more.”

Eating the American Dream

Eating the American Dream

make pizza, not war

make pizza, not war

The pizzas had their own corner—Italian (meat) and Thai Seafood. I must have gorged on 6 slices of that seafood pizza. Mediocre on a very thick crust (read: carbs) it wasn’t the flavor that got me hooked, logistically speaking, sitting beside the pizza made proximity the pretext for this sudden gluttony.

Where Kids and ADD-ults Come to Play

Where Kids and ADD-ults Come to Play

The dessert zone was rather diverse with a crepe station, ice cream corner, frozen yogurt, chiller for cakes, candies, fruits and more little pastries and cakes.

beats the tooth fairy anytime

beats the tooth fairy anytime

Not bad, for a crepe-y dish

Not bad, for a crepe-y dish

Many may skip the cheesecakes, mini cakes, mousse and pastries sacredly kept in the chiller—detached from the public and require the waitress’ sanitation procedures before proper serving. By the supreme authority of the chiller lady, permission is required before proper serving.  These cakes must be made of gold; on the contrary, the cookies are exposed, so dig away.

Unfortunately the chocolate chip cookie I dug was a hunky chunk that was neither inspiring nor chewy so I don’t suppose anyone will be stealing from that cookie jar.

Buffet 101 Not all good things come is small packages

The cheesecakes were fancy sounding but were more of cakes than an actual cheesecake, with sponge cake making up a faux graham crust.

The candy corner was a hub for children with ADHD and with impatient hands abound, picking on gummy candies and that gummy egg, we wonder when candy cholera will strike next.

 Raising the brown flag for the Anti-dentist Crusade

Raising the brown flag for the Anti-dentist Crusade

The brownie was moist at the very least which made that chocolate lava cake pale in comparison in terms of sweet succulence. I spotted “revel bar” amongst the labels but just found what seemed to be a pale looking slice of cake—no oats, no revelry at all.

 

Strategically placed above sea level, the yogurt machine was like divine intervention to ward off those crazy hyper children. They already have the candies and chocolate fountain as their ADD playground, so they ought to leave the frozen yogurt to the ADD-ults. The frozen yogurt was fine—on the light side—which made me rejoice for foregoing the crepe and ice cream.

Fruits are not really worth reviewing but credits to Buffet 101 for serving grapes. My dad must have gotten giddy after enjoying loads of this fruit, he thought he was Zeus in his past life. Unfortunately, the cheese went AWOL. Now where did I leave my lightning bolt?

 Swirly bliss

Swirly bliss

Buffet 101 More fruits for the gods Buffet 101 fruits

Drinks are unlimited as well, and since I’m more of a water girl there isn’t much to say. Juice. Soda. Iced tea. Beer. Shakes. I tried the espresso machine since being the daughter of Zeus, this mechanism does not exist in our household. I expected bitter, but this was bland. Still, cool. I mean, hot!

Buffet 101 is perhaps a jack-of-all trades in the world of buffet and you can probably see where I’m going—the master of none. Save for the espresso machine—which wasn’t even a dish—there was nothing too memorable or much of a sterling catch that would make me dream about it in the days to come. It’s just okay, all right, the average joe.

However I give it points for trying to outdo Vikings. In this attempt, it surely beat Sambokojin and Dad’s. So you’re almost there, just bring out the curry and cheese!

 BUffet 101 rob magnolia

 

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Starving at Sambokojin

Sambo Kojin (Eastwood), the smokeless grill, provides quite an appeal to those who want to grill their own meal, eat, eat some more, and leave the place smelling all fresh and dainty. Even those who have the aversion to cooking will find an interest at this proposition, this lazy cat included.

Why, my menu even included grilling the salmon, searing the tuna sashimi and bathing them with teriyaki sauce – sweet seafood fantasy!

All those plans flew out of the window when, upon being seated, the waiter dropped this chunk of butter on the grill.  Closer scrutiny revealed that it was not butter but something more horrid, as if butter was not bad enough: beef fat! Being part vegetarian and a firm believer that Japanese cooking favored less animalistic elements, this new information astounded me to the point where it can’t be helped.

Sayonara, grill!

I had to forego the grilling element and enjoy my sashimi raw. It was time to hang out at the cooked food station and deem the raw foods nothing but the beefy offshoot of that sinful grill.

This abstinence rather paid off, having enjoyed the cooked bounties of the seafood offerings. Tuna teppanyaki and the seafood with creamy egg sauce topped my list, while the fried salmon was a bit of a disappointment.

I spied tofu steak as well and had the audacity to pick out the tofu from the meaty mayhem. No one ought to complain since I got the part that people never really like. Poor tofu.

The chap chae glistened and beckoned my plate, but beef strips heralded themselves and I had to move elsewhere.

Other fishy viands were scattered around the place, breaded, steamed – you name it – but since they yielded the similar flavor, best to stay loyal to my tuna teppanyaki.

Wondering about the tempura? Well it’s got its own fried battered station with kani, ebi and the whole lot of vegetables. As always it was hailed the most populous spot in the buffet, which is why I had to steer clear of it for fear of getting my new open toed sandals sprinkled with tempura sauce. That, and I enjoyed my kani raw.

Sushi and maki rolls are also provided for in abundance, alongside the volume of human traffic concentrated in that dangerous region. Once again, I steered clear of the “rice” path and concentrated the tongs on the protein bearers, the the sashimi.

The dessert station was nothing exorbitant or ravishing – the usual fares you’d expect from Saisaki. There’s the ubiquitous ice cream and the line that stretches to the kitchen, the mini pastries with skyrocketing icing and fruits in season. No cheesecake, mousse or anything with green tea. In short, no dessert for me – but I had to make do with the fruit cup, as necessitated by my “complete meal” mantra.

This beef bias may be dissuading and most likely, discouraging for most, since 99% of the people I know wouldn’t care about beef fat, butter or whatever animal they are ingesting. If you are part of the 99% then good for you, grill to your heart’s content and savor your “moo-tiful” meal.

As for the minority, the cooked foods are quite a bountiful lot and yes, if you are as lazy as me, no need to don that invisible chef’s hat!

No more cooking – now that’s a catch!

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Conquest of the Vikings Buffet

 

If you are under the impression that when one is at Vikings Luxury Buffet (SM Mall of Asia), a barbaric appetite is necessitated—to be consistent with the overall restaurant theme—then go ahead. Liberate your Nordic roots and partake on the feast of the sea.

If you are not of Nordic origin though, which I’m guessing might be the case, then I suggest savoring the Celtic-inspired décor and interiors, and dining with the level of standards that you are most comfortable with. I do not care if you eat your hands or dump shellfish on your plate so high, you could cause scallop extinction—do as you wish—so long as you don’t vehemently stare at my salad.

That salad, my masterpiece, has elicited a number of stares that I can only expect from pickpockets and crooks, which I don’t suppose make up the patrons of Vikings.

Which brings me to the unspoken rule of the buffet: No sharing; no staring. I’m pretty sure everyone would agree to this.

After all, the buffet line, being the powerhouse of gastronomic fabrication and independent design, is best left alone to fuel our creative juices. The result may not be the most pleasing composition, but effort rewards the diner who is aesthetically blessed and intensely starved.

Having said that—you probably know what’s coming—I showcase my Vikings Weeknight Dinner, platters abound and forks in perpetual motion.

 I warn you in advance not to expect barbecues piled high or a makeshift cheesesteak sandwich (which is easily feasible given the abundance of the raw materials present) since 1) I’m part vegetarian, and 2) I had a sandwich less than 2 hours before Vikings, hence a partial lack of appetite that is no one’s fault.  Other than that, I managed to preserve what seems to be my monstrous appetite.

Meet my Griller All Aboard the Sushi Boat

This is my Athena appetizer sampler: cheese, almonds and olives.  You can also refer to it as your pet rabbit’s supper, but I prefer the reference to Athena who is the Goddess of Wisdom, and would likely be tempted by this gorgeous, mental platter.

Athena's Appetizer Sampler

Back to the salad. It has always been my dream to create my own Greek salad, but with a fridge devoid of food, this was far from becoming a kitchen reality. With salad and toppings spread luxuriously in Vikings, in an area barely visited by the hungry, I found my spot and finally embarked on my lifelong dream. 

Salad Bar, all mine!

Salad Bar, all mine!

Salad a la Lazy Black Cat II

Salad a la Lazy Black Cat II

Salad a la Lazy Black Cat

Salad a la Lazy Black Cat

I present to you Salad a la Lazy Black Cat: Greek Salad for the ravaged and hungry topped with broccoli, anchovies, boiled egg white, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes and olives. Drizzled with balsamic vinegar with a scoop of pesto. Perfect for the forlorn, sinful and stubborn vegetarians.

Here are other servings that I deemed crucial to my existence:  Ares Goes Pescatorian and Mediterranean Mash-up.Ares Goes Pescatorian II

Ares Goes Pescatorian

Vikings Buffet

Mediterranean Mash-up

I will never get tired of Hummus, as I believe that I will never have the opportunity to make this on my own. Ever. Unless I move to Greece, which is a long shot.

Feast on Fish

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Ares, being the God of War ought to bring “spice” to this dish as I inadvertently splashed chili and wasabi on all sauces. This inadvertent catastrophe was rather well taken by my taste buds and so Ares Goes Pescatorian was born. If I could live on one shrimp dish, it would be Hakaw. These steamed shrimp dumplings carry that soft, chewy comfort food goodness that can bask in the glory of chili.

Side trip to China

Side trip to China

Fresh Catch

Fresh Catch

While other buffets bombard us with sashimi and sushi, this one met the challenge with matching boats and formation. I enjoyed my minimal serving as the tuna and kani sashimi I got seem to be on the plump and fresh side. While I spied an assortment of innovatively named sushi—squid ink rice a part of the roster—I had to shy away from this array to make space for the highlight of my meal. You got that right: Dessert!

Don't ever ditch Dessert.

Don’t ever ditch Dessert.

Sweets on Repeat

Sweets on Repeat

Lastly, Sweets on Repeat holds my dearest and darkest dessert. “Repeat” because I ate those I enjoyed twice (like that moist and decadent chocolate square topped with a cherry). The mango pudding was a second favorite, but apparently someone liked it too and hoarded the hidden bowls for the rest of the evening, leaving me with pandan tapioca, which was repelling enough with its mint green hue. Fruits are likewise abound, from the common watermelon and oranges to mangoes and that illustrious dragonfruit.

Drink Up

Drink Up

Everyone deserves a second chance.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

Dragonfruit Cup

Dragonfruit Cup

Cookie jars are scattered in the dessert area too, but make no mistake of being the thief who sole the crinkles from the cookie jar. Not only will you be committing a crime, you’ll be sentencing your tooth to early retirement as well. You’ll thank me for this warning.

Missing in action were the feta cheese (for my salad) and fish curry which I gloriously splattered on my plate during an earlier (lunch) visit. However with the abundance of shellfish and seafood, which would please not only the fisherfolk, the Vikings Dinner All-You-Can-Eat is one masterpiece of a buffet that Poseidon would not mind leaving the sea for.

Food items I sadly missed but intend to sample and savor for future visits: Crabs, Grilled Tuna Belly, Scallops, Frozen Yogurt and Pizza. Yes, they have a Vikings Pizza but as grievous as it may sound (for me), it has bacon.

Here are stolen shots from my neighbors’ plates, which I managed to take while I distracted them with the old “Hey, is that tempura flying on your head?” trick. Strangely effective.

Sake!

Sake!

Squid and Chips

Squid and Chips

Not for the PETA hearted Lamb in the house

Not for the PETA hearted Lamb in the house

Perfect Combination Broccoli Soup and Sago't Gulaman

Perfect Combination Broccoli Soup and Sago’t Gulaman

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