Sunday, November 30, 2008

In search of the best Ham...

I've always loved Ham (Jamon Serrano, Prosciutto, Farmers ham, Turkey Ham etc...) but this year I am more interested in Chinese Ham. My knowledge on Chinese ham is very very limited. I'm ashamed to say that I only know Majestic Ham.... I love Majestic Ham but I'm sure that there are many other chinese hams out there that are good or even better, so this year I'm dead set on finding out which ones, or at least trying them all out...

After doing some research, I have only been able to shortlist 3 popular Chinese Hams: EXCELLENTE, MAJESTIC and ADELINAS. Today, while doing my Christmas shopping in Alabang Town Center, I noticed a kiosk selling Adelinas ham. So I bought a 800 gram piece for ham de boned. Price was about 560 pesos (not bad at all for 800 grams of ham which was mostly meat and hardly any fat).

I sliced the ham in half and put the other half in the freezer. The other half I sliced in thin slices. As I tried the first slice, it reminded me of Majestic Ham, Although Adelinas is not as salty as majestic. It also comes with a very sweet sauce/syrup which I did not try because I don't like my ham to be very sweet.

As far as the texture, it as a bit dry (since the 'ball' of Ham hardly had any fat) but quite tasty. This would go very well with ensaymada or pan de sal for breakfast. I'm wondering though if this could be served also like 'pica pica' like the way Jamon Serrano is served?? And what wine would go well with this??

I'll be going on an excursion to Quiapo next week to buy EXCELLENTE Ham and compare it to Adelinas. I'll keep you posted once I have already tried it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Restaurant Ciçou, Makati

I finally get to try Ciçou (pronounced see-sue). I initially wanted to wait a bit more since they had just opened Nov 15 and normally restaurants need like a break in period but I heard some good reviews so I decided to go.

I was given a cell number to make a reservation. It turned out I was messaging Anna Soenen, the wife of the Chef and owner of the restaurant - Cyrille Soenen. While I was messaging Anna for the reservation I asked if they could accommodate a special request: Steak Tartare. After consulting with the Chef, she replied that it would be no problem to make a special order of Steak Tartare. I was quite impressed and happy about this. Not many restaurants would do this.
For starters, we ordered a total of 4 appetizers plus the additional "special" order of Steak Tartare. We ordered the ff:

Marinated in Fresh Herbs, Goat Cheese on Warm Farmer’s Bread, Tapenade and Fresh Herbs
On a Crispy Puff Pastry, Eggplant Caviar, Mozzarella and Parmesan Shavings
Tuna Belly
Seasoned Confit on Romaine Salad, Crispy Vegetables
Foie Gras
Duck Liver Sautéed with Confit Pomelos

I tried a small portions of the appetizers but was fixated by the Steak Tartare. Although I have to highlight the sardines were very fresh and went perfectly well with the goat cheese. As for the Steak Tartare - it was excellent. Just the right amount of spice. Ive noticed some recipes tend to use a lot of anchovies/capers / Tabasco etc.. and this tends to overpower the taste of the meat. Chef Cyrilles was just right. No need to add any more extra ingredients. I do intend to come back and try it again since it was very well prepared.

For the main course, I had the Pork (Kurobota US)Slow Braised Caramelized Belly, Duo of Apples and Potatoes and Ria had the Lamb (Australia)Roasted Filet Coated with Herbs and Braised Shoulder, Oriental Style in Ravioli.

The Pork Belly was excellent. Very tender and was probably 'cooked' for many hours to reach that oh so tender state. The apple was gave it a good contrast. Its only the 2nd time I taste Pork Kurobota and in both instances I enjoyed it. The Lamb of Ria was also exceptionally good. It had a 'crust' of herbs which gave the dish depth and the oriental style ravioli is what gave it good contrast. Presentation of the plates were ok - my pork was presented very simple but really there is not really much you can do to present this dish better.

For Dessert, I had the cheese prepared by the Chef. The cheese was like a slice of cake. Two layers of Brie I think and in the middle, a layer of strong mix of cheese with blue cheese. Another dessert worth mentioning was the Mango (Caramelized, Fresh and Sherbet, Passion and Basil Sauce).

For the wine, I brought a bottle of 2003 Tourelles de Longueville, which we drank with the appetizers. For the Pork Kurobota dish, I paired it with a 2006 Petalos from Bierzo (The Bierzo Denominación de Origen (DO) is in the northeast of the province of Leon (Castilla y Leon in Spain). Not a big wine but intense and soft tannins. I think it went perfectly well with the my pork and the Lamb.

Over all I was happy with the food/service and do plan to return there again. Only 2 comments ...its quite hard to park (but they offer a valet service for 100 pesos) and I think their corkage charge is quite excessive(1,000 per bottle). But I do recommend this restaurant. Chef Cyrille and Anna are very attentive to the customers and service is good and fast and their prices are very reasonable.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Best Kept Restaurant Secrets Awards Winners

And the winners are:

1. Best Italian Restaurant - L'Opera
2. Best French Restaurant - Je Suis Gourmand
3. Best Spanish Restaurant - Terry's Selection
4. Best Continental Cuisine - Lolo Dad's
5. Best Steakhouse - Elbert's Steak Room
6. Best Japanese Restaurant - Sugi
7. Best Filipino Restaurant - Abe
8. Best Thai Restaurant - People's Palace
9. Best Chinese Restaurant - Zong (fort)
10. Best Central European Restaurant - Old Swiss Inn
11. Best Specialty Restaurant - Hossein's Persian Kebab (Makati)
12. Best Bistro - Sala Bistro
13. Best Enoteca - Barcino Gourmet
14. Best Fusion Cuisine - M Cafe
15. Best Newcomer - Aubergine
16. Best Restaurant/Bar - NU-VO
17. Best Wine List - CAV
18. Best Hotel Restaurant: International Buffet - Spirals (Sofitel)
19. Best Hotel Restaurant: Fine Dining - Tivoli (Mandarin Oriental) and Prince Albert (Intercontinental)
20. Best Hotel Restaurant: Specialty - Benjarong (Dusit)
21. Best Chef - Chef Ariel Manuel (Lolo Dad's)
22. Lifetime Achievement Award - Larry Cruz

My comments:

Antonios (top 10 restaurants in Asia) is not even here??
Zong best Chinese?? What the....???

I wonder what criteria they used to judge his. And who were the judges??

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Manila’s Best Kept Restaurant Secrets

I received an email from a friend with the nominees to Manila’s Best Kept Restaurant Secrets awards. Voting has been on going and I think they will announce the winners tomorrow. I will highlight my personal choices - and lets see how many I get correct. I will repost here once I have the list of winners. i wonder what criteria they use for the votings??

1. Best Italian Restaurant: For me - Amoroma - very quaint authentic Italian restaurant

a) L'Opera
b) Café Caruso
c) Bellini's
d) Amoroma
e) L'Incontro

2. Best French Restaurant - Definitely Je Suis Gourmand - no doubt.

a) Le Soufflé (Fort)
b) Je Suis Gourmand
c) La Cabane
d) La Regalade
e) Cuillère
f) Other: Cicou

3. Best Spanish Restaurant - Personally I like La Tienda but I have a feeling it will be Terrys that will bag this one.

a) Alba Restaurante Español
b) La Tienda
c) Terry's Selection
d) Amalia's
e) Casa Armas
f) Other: Chef Ed's 21 Restaurant

4. Best Continental Cuisine - Antonios by far. Followed by Lolo Dads

a) Chateau 1771
b) Sala
c) Aubergine
d) Lolo Dad's
e) Katre
f) Lemuria
g) Antonio's

5. Best Steakhouse - I think Elberts will bag this one. Still havent gone there and hope to go there very soon. A close number 2 would be Mamou

a) Fire Lake Grill
b) Mamou
c) Elbert's Steak Room
d) Myron's Place
e) Duo
f) Other: House of Wagyu

6. Best Japanese Restaurant - My personal favorite fron this list is Sugi.

a) Sushi Tsumura
b) Tsukiji
c) Kai
d) Sugi (Greenbelt)
e) Seryna

7. Best Filipino Restaurant - My choice would be Laudico for his innovative style.

a) Café Juanita
b) Harbor View
c) Abé
d) Laudico Bistro Filipino
e) La Cocina de Tita Moning
f) Other: Adarna

8. Best Thai Restaurant - Peoples Palace will take thos one in my opinion.

a) Silk
b) Azuthai
c) People's Palace
d) Kingdom

9. Best Chinese Restaurant - maybe hai Shin Lou or Choi garden.

a) Zong (Fort)
b) Hai Shin Lou
c) Gloria Maris (Greenhills)
d) The Good Earth (Fort)
e) Cantonese Kitchen
f) Other: Choi Garden

10. Best Central European Restaurant - Actually I really wouldnt know but if I had to guess it would probably be Old Swiss Inn.

a) Schwartzwalder
b) Old Swiss Inn (Makati)
c) Bianca's
d) Mickey's Deli (Makati)
e) Vieux Chalet
f) Other: Chateau Hestia

11. Best Specialty Restaurant - Im biased but I think Korean garden is the best in this list. Best Korean in Manila.

a) Hossein's Persian Kebab (Makati)
b) Ziggurat
c) Manos Greek Taverna
d) Korean Garden
e) Zapata's Mexican Restaurant
f) Other: Bawai Vietnamese Kitchen

12. Best Bistro - Apartment 1B for this category.

a) Apartment 1B
b) Sala Bistro
c) Palato Fino
d) Chelsea
e) Di' Mark's (QC)
f) Other: Culliere

13. Best Enoteca - for me Terrys for its large selection of wines and deli.

a) Galileo Enoteca (Mandaluyong)
b) La Vigne
c) Barcino Gourmet
d) Terry's Selection (Pasong Tamo Ext.)
e) Cav
f) Purple Feet (Wine Depot Makati)

14. Best Fusion Cuisine - havent tried any of these but I f I had to guess it would probably be INYO

a) M Café
b) InYo
c) Portico 1771

15. Best Newcomer - CAV. Aside from the large wine selection, food is surprisingly good.

a) Aubergine
b) Purple Feet
c) Cav
d) La Regalade
e) Other: Lolo Dad's Brassiree

16. Best Restaurant/Bar - Handle bar - fun and always packed.

a) NU-VO
b) Piedra
c) Handle Bar
d) Cuisine
e) Brava

17. Best Wine List - from this list I would say CAV has the best wine list.
a) Sala
b) Restaurant 101
c) Cav
d) Balducci
e) Lemuria
f) Other: Ralph's Wine Museum

18. Best Hotel Restaurant: International Buffet - for me Circles is still number one - even if Spirals has more variety - I think Circles has better quality.

a) Spirals (Sofitel)
b) Paseo Uno (Mandarin Oriental)
c) M2M (Renaissance New World)
d) Circles (Makati Shangri-La)
e) Nielsen's (Manila Peninsula)
f) Café-on-the-ridge (Taal Vista)

19. Best Hotel Restaurant: Fine Dining - its a close call between Prince Albert and Tivoli - I personally think Prince Albert - a classic.

a) The Fireplace (Hyatt Hotel & Casino)
b) Prince Albert (Intercontinental)
c) Verbena (Discovery Country Suites)
d) Le Bellevue (Manila Diamond)
e) Red (Makati Shangri-La)
f) Tivoli (Mandarin Oriental)

20. Best Hotel Restaurant: Specialty - Spices in my favorite from this list.

a) Paparazzi (Edsa Shangri-La)
b) Li Li (Hyatt Hotel & Casino)
c) Spices (Manila Peninsula)
d) Benjarong (Dusit)
e) Inagiku (Makati Shangri-La)

21. Best Chef - no doubt - Marc Aubry. Always very attentive and will do anything to satisfy his customers. Number 2 would be Tony Boy Escalante.

a) Colin McKay (Sala)
b) Marivic Diaz-Lim (Apartment 1B)
c) Sau Del Rosario (Kingdom)
d) Ariel Manuel (Lolo Dad's)
e) David Pardo de Ayala (Discovery)
f) Marc Aubrey (Je Suis Gourmand)
g) Other: Chef Tony Boy Escalante

22. Lifetime Achievement Award - landlside here for Larry Cruz. a legend in the industry.

a) Larry Cruz (posthumous)
b) Margarita Fores
c) Gene Gonzalez
d) Anastacio de Alba

Birthday Dinner

Last Sunday, we were invited to a Birthday dinner of our friend Rene. The dinner was held in his mother in laws house. Tita B is known to cook very well and he specialty is Chinese and french food. I have had the chance to try several times her cooking and it was always superb. For this dinner she was going to prepare a french menu - so I knew this was going to be excellent.

For starters, they served us Dom Perignon perfectly chilled. With the champagne we had Parmigiano Reggiano (aged 3 years) which was hand carried from Parma. What a perfect way to start a dinner. As the other guests arrived and we finished the 2 bottles of Dom Perignon, we proceeded to the dinning room.

As usual, the dinning room was perfectly decorated. All the plates and silverware carefully prepared and ready. For the appetizers, we had 2007 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé, from Bandol in Provençe. One of the best rose wines I've tried and considered by many as one of the best in the world. With that they served us the Popcorn crusted Foie Gras with butter cake and burnt orange sauce. Perfectly seared Foie on top of a slice of butter cake and the orange sauce - heavenly.

Immediately after, we had the Foie Gras cappuccino with Pan fried Cod fish. The contrast of the Foie cappuccino went very well with the cod which is salty. I continued this with the Rose wine and a white Cotes du Rhone that was also served.

After a short break, next dish was a twice baked souffle and Grilled Tiger prawns with Salsa Verde. The prawns were grilled just right and the salsa verde had hints of basil. The souffle I think had several types of cheese. Both dishes excellent. I continued to drink the Rose and the White Cotes du Rhone.

For the main course, we had Three Cheese Ravioli, with sage brown butter and glazed beets. I normally do not like beets but the combination with the cheese and sage brown butter made me like this dish very much. With this the red wines for the dinner were served: Les case. This wine was decanted 3 hours before serving. This is the "big brother" of Clos Du Marquis which I have tried several times. This one much more full bodied and worth the 3 hour wait.

The last Main Course: Melt in your mouth Kurobota Pork Belly, Truffle Balsamic, Marmalade and Mushroom sauce. With a name like this, how can you not like this dish?? Noel suggested we pair this dish with a 2003 Alion from Ribera del Duero. Alion is a vineyard owned by the same people as the well known Vega Sicilia. We had initially thought of pairing this with old Bordeaux but Noel suggested we pair this fresh yet earth red. The wine was perfect for this dish. Obviously Noel and I had seconds. The Pork was really - melt in your mouth - and the contrast between the marmalade/truffle balsamic with the mushroom sauce was perfect.

For dessert, Souffle Glace - like a frozen souffle. Sweet and with a little cocoa powder. Perfect way to end a fantastic meal. I do hope we get invited again to dinner like this - this are once in a lifetime menus that cannot be tried anywhere else. I'd say better than some so called french restaurants that I've tried in the Philippines.

To end the night, we had a little Absynthe. A drink with a long and controversial history, enjoyed its greatest popularity in late 19th century Paris, when Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemmingway and Oscar Wilde were among its most ardent fans. It was an inseparable part of artistic life during that period of time. It is said to have inspired fine literature and great paintings. We had it with a little water (1 part Absynthe to 3 parts water). Noel mentioned that if you take too much, you may have weird dreams, so we were quite careful drinking. We enjoyed that last drink and headed home after.

Definitely I night I enjoyed and hope to repeat again soon. Happy Birthday Rene.
And thank you Tita B for preparing this delightful dinner...Bravo.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

La Regalade, Makati

Finally had a chance to eat here, since I have been hearing so much about it. The general opinion is that its a hit or miss place - so obviously had to verify this myself. Also, the fact that they have steak Tartare as a regular dish on the menu really attracted me. Another interesting fact: The Chef is Alain Raye, 2 star Michelin Chef of La Regalade in Vancouver.

The menu was not an extensive one but they have a blackboard by the kitchen that shows their specials of the day. The waiter, who was very attentive, recommended the Tuna Tartare for starters and a sort of filo pastry with apple and blue cheese. While waiting, they served us bread with a cheese flavored butter.

The Blue cheese dish was nothing great, in fact I could hardly taste the cheese. On the other hand the tuna Tartare was pretty good. It had a strong spicy bite to it which was very well compensated by the mango, which was a bit sweet.

For the main dish, I obviously had the steak tartare. The presentation was nothing great - just a plain dish with a patty of raw beef in the middle. It came with fries and salad. Taste wise - the dish was ok...but for my taste the beef was not minced/ground properly. It had a lot of fat - which I didn't expect as normally there is hardly any fat in a good steak tartare. Over all it was ok but noting really to rave about. I do like thou the fact that its in their menu as a regular dish (its quite hard to find tartare on the menus of most restaurants since many do not like it) and will probably eat there again to give this dish a second chance.

While we were having our espresso, the owner of the restaurant came to our table and introduced himself. He recommended we try the 7 hour marinated lamb dish with wine reduction, so thats definitely something I will have to try soon. Ambiance and service was great but I have to give the food a second chance.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wai Ying restaurant, Binondo

I was in Hidalgo last week with some friends because one of them had to buy a Canon G9 digital Camera (for those who dont know Hidalgo is the best/cheapest place to buy, although it can be frustrating some times. You have to deal with all the people, dirty streets etc but it has its charm.

After purchasing the camera we decided to walk to Binondo from there to have some chinese dimsum. We texted a friend of ours who grew up there and asked him what place he can recommend (aside from te obvious places to go there) so he told us to go to this place called Wai Ying. I insisted in passing by this place where they sell fried siopao - I tried it once during another visit and just had to have it again. We stopped by and had one each while walking to the restaurant. When we got there the place was full so they brought us to the 2nd floor - thats a was a good sign.

We ordered mostly dimsum, namely siomai, hakaw, siopau, chicken feet, Pork ribs, Wan ton curry, and several other things I cant rememebr anymore. Needless to say the food was great, very fresh and tasty. The dimsum was close to most of the dimsum Ive had in Hong Kong, specially the Hakaw.

The best part of the place? the price. We were 5 people and we couldnt even finish all the food we ordered. Our total bill: 1,100.00 pesos I really enjoy eating in this type of restaurants in the Binondo area and cant wait to get back there again. If you are interested, its located in Benavidez st.

Some Pictures courtesy of the master food Photographer Ricky Ladia - I also took some but I dont know anymore which ones....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Antonios voted 10th best restaurant in Asia's top 20 restaurants

Congratulations to Chef Tony Escalante of Antonios Tagaytay. His restaurant was voted and ranked 10th in Asia’s top 20 restaurants. Below is the list:

1. Iggy’s (Singapore)
2. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Hong Kong)
3. Les Amis (Singapore)
4. Gunther’s (Singapore)
5. Mozaic (Bali, Indonesia)
6. Robuchon a Galera (Macau)
7. Garibaldi (Singapore)
8. Yung Kee (Hong Kong)
9. Hutong (Hong Kong)
10. Antonio’s Fine Dining (Cavite, Philippines)
11. Caprice (Hong Kong)
12. Zuma (Hong Kong)
13. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Tokyo, Japan)
14. Bukhara (New Delhi, India)
15. Grissini (Hong Kong)
16. Nobu (Hong Kong)
17. M on the Bund (Shanghai, China)
18. Fook Lam Moon (Hong Kong)
19. Zanotti Il Ristorante Italiano (Bangkok, Thailand)
20. Kyubey (Tokyo, Japan)

Antonios definitely deserves this and in my personal list, it is definitely at the very top. I've eaten in Antonios many times but only have one entry about it, which you can read here. Its always an enjoyable meal, ambiance is perfect, food is great and the Tagaytay weather always cool and very condusive for having dinner al fresco. The Chef is also very friendly and always tries to come out to check on the tables and ask the diners if they are enjoying their meal.

Bravo Antonios and hope to eat there again in very soon...I bettter make a reservation already.