Lunchtime at Sam Won Korean Barbecue

Sunday, December 13, 2009

That one long strip of Aguirre Avenue at BF Homes in Paranaque is one of the reasons why this little duckie does not want to leave the South area. Along that strip are quaint restaurants of every cuisine and creativity. You know, you're driving or walking there and then this little house-revamped-into-a-restaurant just beckons at you and you think, "Hey, lemme try this!" and so you go.

My family has been there before, and it's my first time to try this having been free this Sunday. It's quite easy to miss out these restaurants and so I took a picture of the exterior too. To get here, just take Aguirre and drive out. If you're coming from El Grande side, it would be on the left. If you're coming from President's Avenue, It's on your right.
That wooden door makes you think it used to be a house with the sign smacked right on the roof. Going in, you see this set-up.

I'll tell you what the exhausts are for later. The place had Korean clientele, implying that we're about to get authentic Korean cuisine and nothing commercialized or "substituted". Our table was set, down to the chopsticks. Korean chopsticks are different from the chopsticks we use in hotels or restos. These were thinner, heavier, and made of stainless steel. If you're not used to their chopsticks, the ol' wooden chopsticks are also available. Now after we ordered, we were greeted by a round of appetizers (which are included by the way if you order there). By appetizers I don't mean like little bread sticks or chips, I'm talking these:

Variety of appetizers including the famous kimchi. OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD on the kimchi. Something you have to try. Okay, the round of appetizers are not bottomless, but since we wanted more of the kimchi, we ordered a second round of the kimchi (first round is free, of course, provided you order food). It wasn't too spicy and I was even eating it alone. Aside from these, we were also given cabbage slaw each.
Now okay, so what are the exhausts for? It's for the Korean barbecue. right in front of you is this device that looks like something out of a hot pot restaurant. You order your choice of Korean barbecue (beef, chicken, or pork belly). They bring it out to you, marinated but raw first because the meat would be cooked in front of you, not in oily fat but in live coals. Live coals are placed there on the grillery and an attendant grills the meat for you and even puts the meat on your plate.

The exhaust is for the smoke to go out and not on you so you get to enjoy your meal sans smoke blowing on your face or melting makeup. Oh, and they change the grilling plate if there's too much stuff sticking on the plate already and keep the coals live and fiery hot. I actually found out the right way of eating Korean barbecue. You dip it in the salt dipping sauce, put it on a piece of lettuce, then add slices of garlic and the paste and eat up. But for me, I figured the best way I enjoyed my meat was alone or with Jap Chae.

The Jap Chae is also a must-try and a steal at Php150.00 (AND THAT's a LOT! That's just my tiny plate right there where I got some Jap Chae and a slice of beef barbecue). The sticky rice is at 70 bucks per bowl, but I suggest just ordering the Jap Chae as the carb chaser.

The meal was capped off with complimentary dessert. I told you this resto knows how to pamper their clientele. Again, just like the appetizer, this is just one round.

Price ranges are about 200-500 for an order, and one order is already good for sharing. Expect to spend approximately Php500 per head if you wanna be super full. Happy Sunday!

Oh, and do try the Kimchi.

Night Out With Blogger Friends at Vin 55 Restaurant

Thursday, December 10, 2009

After our shoot, Mike and I packed our gears and drove out to Manila, Manila meaning Manila, heart of NCR, old Manila, where roads are still one-way but it's hella scary to walk as you whip out your phone. We first passed by The Hub to say hello to our friend Ivan before heading out to Kalaw since Mike would be having another food photography session. We also invited a few of our blogger friends to taste the food he'll be shooting. So basically, it was a very relaxed and fun night for all of us.

The venue was Vin 55 Restaurant, a little restaurant located at T.M. Kalaw Avenue. To go there, from Roxas Blvd, you take a left to T.M. Kalaw going towards Manila Ocean Park. When you see Little Lamb Hot Pot, the resto is located right beside it. If you have razor-sharp eyesight like I do, you'd spot a wooden door with Vin 55 carved at the wooden sign beside it. Parking is relatively easy. Mike was able to find a parking right in front and the staff immediately came to our aid to help with his equipment.

Being the O.C. girl that I am, I sent SMS messages to Arpee and Marcelle on detailed instructions how to get there. With the holiday traffic at Makati, Chef Jonas said that Buendia would be a better route than EDSA, which I told Arpee to take as soon as he got off work.

To start off, we were given their bestselling appetizers, which as soon as they were shot, were served to us.
This came first: Crispy Adobo Belly. Marcelle and I were given a sneak peek inside the kitchen on how it was prepared: the adobo is already pre-cooked, then they slice it for you, after which they deep fry it. The dipping sauce is actually the sauce of the adobo that they simmered and cooked for a very intense flavor. The adobo was soft and melt-in-the-mouth and it went well with the sauce. By the time Arpee and Annie came, Marcelle, Mike, and I had already wolfed it down, but they were able to grab seconds. This dish was the dish Arpee immediately loved.

I swear, this is one MUST-TRY! This is a great pulutan that would go for after-dinner drinks. Or what the heck, have this is an appetizer if you don't drink.

I'm a seafood lover so what I did when this dish was served to us was squeeze the lemon wedges, mix, and fight for the shrimp and squid. Seafood Aglio Olio looked mighty appetizing plus it tastes fresh. The shrimp had the right texture I want, and look, no need to peel . Just spear with a fork and enjoy.

Crostini baked fresh from scratch everyday served with fried mozzarella. Mozarella here was fried in a very hot nonstick pan and served with marinara sauce. Best served really hot while the cheese is still soft. But when it's cooled down, just use a fork and eat the mozarella on its own. Among the dishes served for the main dish, this was an interesting favorite: Grilled Tenderloin Steak with Vanilla Butter. Yes, you read that right. Vanilla Butter. Alone, the butter tastes like warm vanilla ice cream and it adds a sweetness to the meat. And omigod the meat's cooked medium, so it's soft when sliced so I didn't have to wrestle with the knife and fork. Wine was also served, and the menu would suggest what perfect wine or drink goes with each dish. By the way, servings are quite huge so this dish is good for 2-3 people. If you want good ol' hotdog and mustard, a sosyal take would be Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Caper Sauce. I like the tartness of mustard and capers and the pasta and grilled vegetables served with this was just divine.

When the pasta was served to us (we were given 4 pastas: Pasta Aglio Olio and Shrimps, Pasta Puttanesca, Pasta Pesto, and Carbonara), we didn't know which one to start off first, as they all looked delicious. We loved everything served to us, but one interesting highlight was carbonara.

I was at first hesitant to try carbonara, since I'm very sensitive to creamy dishes, and since I've eaten a lot (and drunk a lot too, hahahah), I thought I could let this pass. But here's the thing, this carbonara - wait for it - had no cream. AT ALL! Imagine my surprise. Isn't cream one basic ingredient of carbonara? Turns out this carbonara was cooked the traditional way consisting of bacon, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, and egg. See? No cream!

But when I tasted it, it tasted like the creamy carbonara. This has got to be the best-ever carbonara pasta I have tasted in all my years of existence!

Other must-tries are the thin-crust pizzas, which are good for one. The seafood pizza totally did not scrimp out on fresh seafood toppings and became a favorite.

Oh, I also mentioned that this is also a bar. Since I'm more of a cocktail girl, I was recommended to try The Perfect Mojito, which was perfect for me. When I tried it, guess what? I was able to finish it in 10 minutes flat. the mojito was smooth, sweet, and just the way I like it. I like cocktails that do not taste that much like alcohol. By the way, their beers are served below zero, so a bottle of beer was brought to the table, with frosts and all. It was my first time to try below zero beer. I'm not a beer drinker (I'm more of a wine and cocktail girl, wine being my main vice) but I actually enjoyed a below-zero beer served straight from the bottle. Cocktails are a must-try, and I highly recommend the mojito. Yes really, I do.

Ambiance of the restaurant is actually very relaxed. I was able to have a decent conversation with these guys way past 10 p.m. without us shouting. Going out to the sea breeze helps too, and it's a restaurant I would recommend to friends who want fine dining in the heart of Manila. Prices are very affordable, around 200-350 per meal. The steak costs like Php 247.00 and you could split it with a friend.

After chatting and catching up, it was time to call it a night as the guys still had work the following day. It sure was a great night - good food and good company.

(Photo Credits: Michael Yu of Mantra Photography. Food shot on location at Vin 55 Restautant)

Fun, Chika, and Healthy Yogurt with My Friends at Red Mango

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I was feeling quite pissed one Saturday since another client flaked out on me (gawd, don't you just hate it when that happens?). Anyway, so taking solace in food, I remembered that two of my dearest friends Bugsy and Jho were meeting up in Greenbelt, so I made habol to meet them. From pigging out in two platefuls of green chicken curry, I dashed off to Greenbelt after their movie. Anyway, guess where we had dessert? Red Mango.

It was really great catching up since I rarely see these people as Bugsy's been busy with school. And why Red Mango well.... this is why:

Jho happens to be the endorser of the place so full support! Actually, I happen to already love frozen yogurt before the craze started. For one thing, I'm lactose intolerant, but I need the calcium and probiotics and I want something healthy than something that would put more inches in my thighs. EEEK!

Anyhow, here's Bugsy and Jho before I came. I was dashing there in get-the-hell-out-of-my-way speed as it was a Saturday night.

I guess they were bored. Hahaha but once I was there it was nonstop chika, bashing, and catching up. Although they were done with their yogurt, I wolfed down my green tea yogurt with mochi, dark chocolate chips, and blueberries.

I know I've been getting skinnier now, my food blog being less active lately since I food trip less due to work and duties. I actually prefer the green tea variety of yogurt as it's less tart than the plain one. I chose sweet toppings so they compensate the little tart it has. Honey is another healthy option that I recommend but I already had chocolate here so better there.

A picture too with the endorser. Can't you tell that my friends and I love pictures even at our pigging-out moments?

I actually like the branch here at Greenbelt since its location makes it less crowded on weekdays. I'm usually my "hanging out" mode in the mall on weekdays as I don't like a heavy crowd. It's kinda out of the way though, and guess what? It's near Chimara, so there's more urge to eat healthy. Hehehehe.

After I ate, Jho had to go since she had a dinner to go to. We bade her goodbye then Bugsy and I did a lot of catching up (I haven't seen him since our bridal shoot) and I ate a sackful of fries before we had to part.

I guess I was no longer pissed that day, seeing my friends even for only a short time.

Lookie Lookie OOOOOH!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Guess who's drunk too many peppermint mochas and zen teas!

Just got it at Starbucks Alabang Town Center after rummaging the Cuenca bazaar. :) Me loving it? Sure do. I just have to fill in my current red one before I start using this fuzzy little baby here.

An Afternoon of Food and Art At Ricco Renzo Caffe and Galleries

When I'm shooting with Mike, food is not a luxury but a necessity. We never run out of food, whatever peg the shoot may be. I guess that when Mike dragged me to his food shoot a while ago, I could not say no. As per our conversation yesterday:

Mike: I'll see you tomorrow.
Bambi: Okay, me say yes to food.
Mike: No late.
Bambi: Sure sure.
I woke up to his SMS telling me to be there at 9:30 a.m., which was practically in 2 hours. I begged and promised to be there before lunchtime since I needed to finish some errands. So it was a hop, kick, sommersault, backflip to the place. I'm familiar with the gallery, having been there before at an event, so it was easy to find it. I'm always in the Jupiter-Reposo area since Mike lives near there. Plus, I like the location. Not too busy yet easily reachable and far away from the traffic of CBD.

Yep, I got there with this guy busy at work:

Yep, that's real food he's shooting. To prove it, I was about to lunge to it at the scent of parmesan cheese had he not whacked my head for me to come to my senses. He introduced me to the chef, Jonas Ng, who gave me an overview of the cafe. Plus chatted up with him a bit with our food preferences.

The resto is actually a quaint cafe with a very relaxed atmosphere. the interiors were very homey and not intimidating. Oh, and free WiFi too, for those with the Internet glued at the hip.

Being an artist drew me to the paintings (the ones displayed are acrylics on canvas). It was mentioned too that the place is also an art gallery, where different artists feature their works. There's also a second floor, which we were toured and this featured works of various artists. We were able to catch an art class going on and I was able to chat with two of the students as they went on with their works. Okay, art and food? Bambi is starting to like this place now.

And so on to the food. I was recommended the appetizer, the Buffalo Chicken Fillet (Php 190.00). This is their bestseller, and they use chicken thigh fillet so you don't get the mess with the wings, bones, and sauce. Spicy? Yes. Good? DEFINITELY!

Mike and I took a toss with two dishes. He chose the Fifteen-Spice Chicken Fillet (Php280.00):

So yes, that's fifteen spices rubbed onto thigh fillet (fillet meaning no bones. YAY!) with pasta pomodoro and succotash. I did get a slice of this, skin and all and it practically melted in my mouth. This was really good, not too spicy but I sure like the kick. Plus okay, that's chicken, pasta, tomatoes, and a side salad. Pretty healthy too. The serving is good enough for two, since it's quite big, but for large appetites like the both of us, one is enough. Suprisingly, I was able to finish my dish (everyone got surprised that this tiny girl eats like a worker)
Tuna Steak (Php 320.00) is one huge slab of grilled premium tuna loin steak. When Mike was shooting it, I thought it was meat or chicken until he said it was fish. It was served with caper sauce that had a bit tart and cream base and spaghetti aglio olio (olive oil + garlic) and wilted greens. There were also two slices of lemon on the side that I squeezed onto the steak. The tuna was flaky, melt-in-the-mouth, and didn't smell or leave any fishy-like flavor.
Another important point I found out was that, this restaurant has very high standards with its meals, keeping them constant all the time. Plus, the staff are aware of any food allergies (they ask the customer first). Once they find out if someone has a food allergy, they take the necessary precautions, such as assigning someone for that person, and that staff washes his or her hands and works in an isolated area in the kitchen to prevent food contamination.

Is this a place where I'll dine again? I'll definitely have this place in mind next time. Parking is relatively easy in this place, and I like the quietness of the atmosphere. Food good? Yes. Also affordable.
Ricco Renzo Caffe and Galleries is found at the G/F LRI Design Plaza 210 Nicanor Garcia St., (formerly Reposo) Bel Air II Makati City Philippines.
(Photo Credits: Food photos by Michael Yu of Mantra Photography)