Monday, December 29, 2008

Benjarong Thai Restaurant, Dusit Hotel

We had our last "despedida" dinner for my sister in law in Benjarong Thai Restaurant in Hotel Dusit. It was my first time to eat there. I have not tried a lot of Thai Restaurants but I found this one to be ok and could have been better for a place being in a 5 star Hotel.

For appetizers, we ordered Spring rolls and Crispy Catfish Salad. To accompany that I ordered the traditional Beer from Thailand: SINGHA Beer. The appetizers were correct (nothing really very special about them) and the Beer tasted like a slightly stronger version of San Mig Light.

For the main course, we ordered a variety of dishes: Shrimp, Pad Thai, Lapu Lapu with Tamarind sauce, Bagoong Rice, Chicken Curry and Duck Curry. What stood out among all the dishes was the Duck Curry (surprisingly good although not 'hot' enough for me) and the Lapu Lapu with Tamarind sauce. The Duck Curry was not as hot as I would have wanted it to be but very tasty. The Fish was ok, although a bit over cooked but the sauce was something new for me and I liked it.

Above is a photo of how they present/serve the white rice. Wrapped with a banana leaf. For Dessert, we had the Sticky Rice with Mango, Pandan cakes and Melon with Coconut milk with Sago. The Pandan cakes were quite good together with the Sticky Rice.

Over all the food and service was correct, although I was expecting more from this restaurant since it is located in a 5 star Hotel (Dusit).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wine Lunch at Je Suis Gourmand

When N told me he was planning a lunch in Gourmand I knew it was going to be good. After several messages back and forth regarding what wines he/we would bring, we set the lunch for Monday December 22. It was Chef Marcs rest day but he still came to prepare for us a special menu to match the wine we were bringing...Where else will you get this kind of service?? for he 4 of us, we brought 6 bottles of wine.

For starters, we had Fin de Claire Oysters Cooked 3 Ways. This dish was paired with my bottle of 2006 Domaine Raimbault-Pineau Pouilly-Fumé. I had fist tried this white in R's birthday dinner and bought a few bottles to stock up at home. The oysters were imported from France and my favorite was the top right which had smoked Salmon. It was really a perfect way to start a meal specially with the Pouilly Fumé. A perfect match and as N said, Cant get any better than that..

Next was the Pan-Fried Foie Gras w/Foie Gras Gâteau and Scallops. The meal would not have been a meal if it did not have sinful Foie Gras. R brought a half bottle of 2002 Château Rieussec Sauternes. A perfect wine for this dish. It cut right through the richness of the Foie Gras. Although a bit too sweet for me, still a great wine to have with this dish. The Gateau was a made with Foie, seemed very light but as pointed out by Chef Marc, its quite heavy as it had lots of cream, butter and Foie of course..

For the main course, we had Roasted Venison Rack with Bacon-Laced French Beans, Braised Endive in Truffle Oil Sauce. The venison was very tender, although it had too much sauce, still a great dish. The Bacon gave the dish the contrast it needed. This dish was paired by N with 2 reds: 1989 Château Lagrange -from St-Julien and a 2000 Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. Both wines were superb. The Burgundy, as pointed out by S, was a good match with the Venison but didn't drink well alone.

The 1989 Château Lagrange, a third Growth Bordeaux from St. Julien was a very mature wine. It went very well with the Venison but we enjoyed it mostly on its own after the meal.

For Dessert, we had a special Chestnut Souffle paired by N with a 1988 Domaine Hugel et Fils Gewürztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles. For me this was the best paring of the lunch. I would really never pair wines with Dessert before but this pairing was just fantastic. The Chestnut Souffle perfectly done, not too sweet, went perfectly well with this wine. I think this is the reason N enjoyed this lunch so much...and for me this was the highlight of the lunch...

Thank you N for organizing this lunch and thank you Chef Marc for taking time in preparing this special menu for us. I hope we can repeat this lunch and do this more regularly, say once a month :) ....

Antonios Cuisine Reigns Supreme...

I returned to Antonios just one week after having dinner there and I have to say: it is really one of the best restaurants in the Philippines and one of my favorite places to go. I'm lucky that it is in Tagaytay, if it were in Manila I'd be going at least 2-3 times a month and that would really hurt my wallet..

We decided to do lunch instead of dinner so we could take the kids. A party of 20, we arrived around 12:15. They had prepared 2 long tables for us, one for adults and one for the kids. I had pre arranged this before and requested the breakfast menu for the kids.

In our table, we were 7 and proceeded to order our appetizers. Since I had just been there, I decided to order different/new appetizers that I haven't tried before (except the Steak Tartare, which is a standard when I go there). We had: Tempura Scallops with Mango Orange sauce and Lumpfish Caviar, Steak Tartare and Portobello Mushroom with balsamic Garlic.

The Tempura Scallops were served with a creamy and refreshing Mango Orange sauce and little caviar, which gave this dish a salty kick at the end. A very refreshing and light dish. As for the Steak Tartare, what can I say that I haven said before? For me it is still the best Tartare in Manila (still need to try others and I will rate them once I've tried them). My only challenge now is to just find creative ways of taking pictures of this dish :)... The Portobello Mushrooms were huge and lightly coated with a balsamic glaze. It had Parmesan cheese which gave this dish good contrast.

With the Salad I ordered the scallops tasting. 3 pcs of Scallop cooked in different ways: Seared, with sesame seeds and wrapped with crispy prosciutto. My favorite was the one wrapped with the Prosciutto. The salty crispy ham was perfect with the soft scallop.

Since I am a man of habit, I could not resist and had to order the Duck Leg Confit (On Garlic Grartin & Pigeon Peas w/ Grand Marnier Beurre Blanc). We also had the Grilled Angus Prime Ribeye Steak and Herb Roasted rack of Lamb w/Cardamom Beurre Blanc.

The Duck, served with Potatoes gratin and Pigeon Peas was perfect. Just the right crispiness outside while still tender on the inside. Just how all duck leg confits should be. The steak, served on a hot plate with oil and garlic was excellent, although I found it a bit too oily, still very tasty and cooked perfectly (medium rare). I was not able to try the Lamb although M told me it was very good. It came with a Curry Rissotto.

For Dessert I had my usual Felchlin Maracaibo Spicy Chocolate Ice Cream. Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with a kick of Chili at the end. Again a perfect way to end a meal.

Til my next visit to Antonios....can't wait to go back there again soon.....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Presidents Tea House, Binondo

This post is kinda late since I was here some 3 weeks ago but here goes...

I normally make it a point to go to Binondo with a group of friends at least once a month (R, V, B and myself). While I was in search for the Chinese ham and already was in Quiapo for the EXCELENTE ham, we decided to walk to Binondo despite the rain and tons of people shopping, etc...

We decided to have lunch in Presidents Tea House. I think there are 2 President restaurants and the one we went to was the smaller one. On my last trip there we ate at Wai Ying, which I was told is the same owner as President. On our way to the restaurant, we did our mandatory stop at the SHANGAI FRIED SIOPAO in Ongpin corner Bahama st. A tiny shop that sells siopao in a different way, deep fried !!

We got to the restaurant and immediately ordered our food. While waiting, we had our Fried Siopao. Its a very simple siopao slightly deep fried (not very crispy but just right) inside is asado meat I think but not as sweet as the regular ones.

We had a variety of Dimsum..very simple yet very tasty...Siomai, Hakaw and Chicken Feet...

For main we had Minced Pigeon, Noodles and Roast Duck. First time I try the Minced Pigeon, it was very tasty and crunchy. Wrapped with lettuce and a sweet sauce it was simply delicious. The Duck was a simple roast duck and the noodles were bihon, slightly crunchy and a bit dry which is the way I like it.

I love going to Binondo and make it a point to go at least once a month for lunch to try new restaurants. I'm hoping to go back some time mid january. I'll keep you posted :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Antonios Tagaytay, still the best....

We had our yearly Christmas dinner with our group of friends (it's the second year we do it in Antonios) and it was great. We left Alabang around 5PM and we all rode the Digiprint Bus. We had thought of riding the bus that way we can relax on our way up to Tagaytay. Also we decided to have cocktails. For starters, we opened 2 bottles of Homenaje Rosado (rose wine from the Navarra region of Spain). This wine is a no brainer..very crisp and easy to drink. Went very well with our Manchego cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano with balsamic glaze.

We arrived at Antonios at around 7:15. Perfect timing for a dinner that I thoroughly enjoyed. As we arrived we were seated. We had another bottle of Homenaje Rosado. We had also brought 2 bottles of Ondarre Reserva Magnum (form Rioja) which I had them open to let them breathe a bit.

Antonios is a place that never disappoints me. I've eaten there probably 6-7 times and I've never had a bad experience. I normally order the same food always and quality is always consistent and service is excellent.

Anyway lets move on to the food...for starters we ordered Steak Tartare(Certified U.S. Beef Tenderloin), Escargot Bourguignon and Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad and Onion Marmalade.
Three excellent dishes (actually we had 2 orders of the tartare). The Steak Tartare was perefect as always. For me, this is probably the best Steak Tartare I've tried in the Philippines. I would do anything to have the recipe ... The Bone marrow, as you can see, cut in half then roasted with parsley and Olive oil. This is a very rich dish but extremely tasty. I think you can only have one bite of this...more is just too much for the body. Escargot was also excellent although I prefer the escargot it Je Suis Gourmand. Never the less the dish was great.

For the Salad that comes with the Entree, I chose the Foie Gras Potato Truffle Tempura add on. Excellent as usual, it was crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside. And if you thought this was the pan seared Foie in the middle and Truffle die for...

For the main course, I usually always order Duck Leg Confit (I'm a creature of habit) but this time, a I looked at the extensive menu, the first item I saw was the Kurobota Pork Belly (With Pineapple Horseradish compote and Gratin Potato), and that what I ordered. The Pork Belly (size was quite Small but its very rich and fatty so a small piece is enough) was deep fried. It was so tender that I could have cut it with a spoon. The combination with the Compote and Potato was perfect (the sweetness of the Pineapple gave it a good contrast). But I think that the dish lacked a bit of sauce or a glaze to it since it was quite dry. Still a great dish and very much enjoyable.

For dessert, I had my usual Chocolate Chili Ice Cream. Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with a nice surprise at the end....the kick of "sili". I love this dessert..the combination of dark Chocolate and Spicy Chili is just insane..

I've always said this and will continue to say it..Antonios for me is the best place in Town...Great food, great ambiance and good service...What more can I ask for? No wonder MIELE guide voted Antonios Top 10 Restaurants in Asia....

PS I apologize for the low quality of the pictures. I was using my camera but it was just too dark. I would have cranked up the ISO settings but the shots would have come out too grainy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lolo Dads, Manila

My family from the U.S. arrived so we decided to take Mom out and decided on Lolo Dads. I had called to make a reservation for 10. Obsessed that I am with Steak Tartare, I thought I'd try my luck and ask the Chef if he could make a special order for me. I called again and asked for the cellphone of the Chef(since the person I was talking to didnt know what Tartare was) and I texted him my request. Didn't get a reply so re-sent the message 2-3 more times. Still no reply. I decided to call again and asked if this was possible. The manager of the Makati Branch told me that it wouldn't because the Chef said he was going to be in the Makati branch that night. I perfectly understand this and I myself will not eat Tartare (since its raw meat) if not made by the chef. Only disappointing thing is that he never bothered to reply to my messages...oh well....

Anyway we got to the Restaurant and immediately ordered our appetizers and main dishes. We had ordered the appetizer sampler plus oysters. I had the waiter check if they had stock and after checking with the kitchen he said ok. Our appetizers arrived and when we were almost done eating them, the waiter tells us that there are no more oysters because there was another group that had it reserved..?? I really didn't like this but what could I do? We just ordered another sampler set. Anyway enough of this and lets move on to the food...

-Seared Duck Foie gras and Goose liver Terrine
Cranberry compote, Highland greens and Black vinegar reduction
-Romaine Caesar salad
Whole Anchovies, crispy Pancetta and Six minute boiled Egg
-Mesclun salad with Salmon Gravlax
Feta cheese, Kalamata olives and Warm Gralic-Bacon Vinaigrette
-Soft shell crab Parmigiana
Mixed salad leaves and Horseradish aioli
-Lightly sear Ahi Tuna and smoked Prawns
Grilled Watermelon and Artichoke salad
-Double Espresso soup
Individual presentation of creamed Tomatoes and Mushrooms with Fleuron
-Seafood Pot-au-feu
Boiling seafood broth flavoured with Saffron, Baby Lobster and steamed fish dumpling

Ive tried this appetizers the last 2-3 times I've eaten there...and nothing really stood out. The only thing interesting for me was the seared ahi Tuna with watermelon. The Foie I think was over done (it was dark and quite dry).

For main course, I had the Confit of Duck leg (Chestnut muffin and Lavander Jus’) and R had the Grilled filled of Halibut and Baby Lobster tail (Garlic fried Potatoes and sauteed vegetables)

Presentation of the dishes were quite poor for me. Taste wise, I liked the Duck but was not so happy with the Lavander jus...I think it was too bland and the Halibut was cooked just right. At this point I was regretting having ordered the duck and was telling myself that I should have ordered the Lamb, which looked much more appetizing than my Duck....

For Dessert we had a sampler of Desserts which I did not try. I really wasn't in the mood for dessert since I was quite full from the main course....While waiting for the coffee I was able to take this shot of how the people in the Kitchen prepare the food...

Over all it was an -OK- dinner. The company was great and we enjoyed and laughed a lot. Oh... another good thing is that they do not charge corkage, So I brought a Marques de Caceres Magnum and a Homenaje Rosado to start the night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sala Bistro, Greenbelt

Had a quick light lunch the other day in Sala Bistro. It was my first time there and was excited to try the food. The location of the restaurant is great and the interiors simple but elegant. Before we ordered they served us a basket of fresh bread with butter.

For starters, I had a Grilled Squid, Crispy Chorizo, Roast Tomato and Cannelini Bean Salad. At first I thought that the combination wouldn't go well but the chorizo did it. Great combination of textures and subtle taste. Pity that the grilled squid was over cooked therefore very rubbery...

For main course I had an open sandwich: Roast Beef Sandwich with leaves, tomato, Cucumber, Mustard and Horseradish sour cream on Sourdough bread. whew that was long...

Great combination. I loved the Horseradish sour cream. The cucumber was thinly sliced and the sourdough bread was a good partner to this dish. I would have wanted more slices of Roast Beef, but portions were quite generous already.

Nice place to have a quick and light lunch. Now I want to try the SALA fine dining soon...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

La Tienda - Revisited

Dinner last week was at La Tienda. I wanted Noel to try the Paella that Chef Javi makes which is the way I like it. E also joined us for the dinner. As soon as we arrived, we opened the wines we brought for the dinner to let them breathe.

Appetizers were immediately served. For starters, Chef Javi served us his version of steak Tartare (since he knows I really like this). Good way to start a meal...For our main appetizers, I asked him to prepare Pulpo a la Gallega, Escalivada and Boquerones. The Escalivada was served first which we drank with the Rose wine that Noel brought (La Bandol). This is my favorite Rose wine, very crisp and refreshing. Goes well with anything. The escalivada is a mixture of grilled eggplant and peppers, with a little Olive oil.

Then we were served the Pulpo a La Gallega and Boquuerones. Pulpo is Octopus served a la Gallega (the Galician way) with olive oil and lots of Pimenton (paprika) served in a wooden plate. The Boquerones are fillet fish that are soaked overnight in Vinegar, then served with Olive oil, garlic, tomato and onions. Both appetizers were delicious and paired with a 2006 Laxas Albarino white Wine. Albarino is a type of white wine grape only grown in Galicia. Very refreshing, clean and crisp white wine that goes perfectly with grilled seafood. I specially enjoyed the Boquerones with this wine.


Pulpo a la Gallega

For our main course, we ordered Paella de Verduras with Basmati rice (Vegetable Paella with Basmati rice), Besugo a la vizcaina and Chuleton.

The Paella in my opinion was perfect. Just the right cooking time. I normally just like the rice in the paella and don't eat the rest of the topping, so this one is perfect for me. Also the Basmati rice gives this dish a great fragrance. Such simple dish but so tasteful.

The Besugo a la Vizcaina is baked with olive oil, lots of garlic and Parsley. Another simple dish yet with lots of taste. The fish is very fresh and a perfect companion to the Paella de verduras.

The Chuleton (steak) was the meat dish of our dinner. cooked outside and rare inside. This dish paired very well with the bottle of 2005 Torres Salmos Priorato that I brought. Priorato is a region in Catalunya where the have been mkingpowerful deep red wines for more than 8 centuries. The 2005 Salmos is composed of Garnacha, Syrah, Carinena, and Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 9 months in new French oak. This full bodied wine was the perfect paring for the Chuleton we had. The other red wine we drank was the Beronia Grand Reserva 1996, which is almost 90% Tempranillo. Very smooth taste not as powerful as the Priorato, but equally as good.

To end the night, we had coffee since we had no more room for dessert. I definitely enjoyed this dinner and hope that the rest did.