The Fireplace (Hyatt Regency Hotel & Casino Manila, 1588 Pedro Gil cor. M.H. Del Pilar, Manila)

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Date visited: November 2013

What we ate:

Wagyu Tasting Plate with complimentary Potato Gratin (~PhP3,200 promo), Creme Brulee (~PhP500), Chocolate soup (~PhP500) and Guava Iced Tea (~PhP300)

 

Taste = 5/5

–          Our experience in this place was so good that we had to visit it twice in two months. The tasting plate consisted of three 10-oz steaks namely, Australian Wagyu Beef Tajima, American Wagyu Snake River Farms and Kitayama Philippine Wagyu Beef striploin 6+. All of the steaks tasted good but they had some differences. The American Wagyu had the best taste of them all. It was the most tender of them all as well. The beef taste was smooth and it was really “butter knife beef”. The Philippine Wagyu tasted good as well and it was tender. The beef tasted like our regular beef flavour here but the difference was in the tenderness of the meat and truly reflected the “6+”.  The Australian Wagyu had a smooth burger-beefy flavour and was almost as tender as the American Wagyu. The Potato Gratin was very creamy, filling and was really baked very well. We were scraping the bottom of the casserole because it was really good. The Creme Brulee had a very crispy crust almost glass-like and the custardy interior was good but it was a little too sweet even for us. The Chocolate Soup was so good. The soup part was extremely hot but the ice cream on top was so cold. The contrasting temperatures and the bittery taste of the hot chocolate soup versus the sweet cold vanilla ice cream made it very good. They also had complimentary walnut bread with Beurre D’ Isigny butter and the butter was just so good. However, one of the reasons that we came back to this restaurant was the Guava Iced Tea. It was the best iced tea that we’ve ever tasted. The taste of the guava was just perfectly blended with the iced tea and the pineapple slice was a welcome bonus.

 

Service = 4.5/5

–          Since the restaurant is in a hotel, we received excellent service although they could have been friendlier.

 

Ambience = 5/5

–          The area had a sophisticated atmosphere but was not too intimidating. There was a large Beech oven on display that displayed how they were grilling their meats which showed their confidence in what they were doing.

 

Value for money = 4.5/5

–          The prices were very expensive but the quality of the steaks, good service, nice ambience and of course, the Guava Iced Tea made the high cost worth it.

Click here for their website.

Tim Ho Wan (HK and PH)

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Tim Ho Wan (G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Hong Kong, China (Sham Shui Po))

Date visited: November 2013

What we ate:

Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (~HK$20), Steamed Rice with Chicken Feet and Spareribs (~$HK20), Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumpling (~HK$25), Glutinous Rice Dumpling (~HK$25), Tonic Medlar and Petal Cake (~HK$10) (~PhP600 total)

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Tim Ho Wan (G/F, SM Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall)

Date visited: May 2014

What we ate:

Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (~PhP150), Steamed Egg Cake (~PhP90), Pork Dumpling with Shrimp (~PhP150), Glutinous Rice with Lotus Leaf (~PhP200), Mango Pomelo Sago (~PhP 80), Spinach Dumpling with Shrimp (~PhP120), Vermicelli Roll with Pig’s Liver (~PhP150)

 

Taste = 5/5 (HK & PH)

–          This post will be a little different from the others since we will be comparing the HK and PH branches of Tim Ho Wan, the world’s “cheapest” Michelin-starred restaurant. With every branching out of a restaurant, there is always the possibility of a change in the taste of the food because you can only import so much and eventually, local ingredients would have to be used, hence, a possible change in the taste. Thankfully, the Baked Buns (what they are known for) were just as delicious in the PH as they were in HK. The PH verison was just a little sweeter than the HK version but both have that salty, sweet, savory, umami, rich flavour from the bun to the pork filling. The bun has a slight crunch when you bite into it but the rest of the fluffy pastry crumbles in your mouth giving you a salty-sweet combination. The pork filling is just so yummy to describe but the taste is savory-sweet Chinese-style BBQ flavour and the pork is very delicate. This is the only dish that we agree should not be taken home/taken out. Instead, it should be eaten on the spot and is absolutely the best dimsum we’ve ever had.

 

The Vermicelli roll with Pig’s Liver needs special mention. We were expecting it to be really livery (and off-putting) but it was surprisingly not that livery because of the coriander and the steaming process, which made it very delectable.

 

The Glutinous rice dish tasted exactly the same for both the PH and HK versions. It was very filling too and had a lot of Chinese flavours in it.

 

The Spinach dumplings were very good. They put the perfect amount of spinach and shrimp in them that the result was amazingly good. The shrimps were soft and had that little sweetness that complimented the leafy and almost bitter taste of the spinach. Add in soy sauce and you have yourself the best seafood and veggie dumplings.

 

The Mango Pomelo Sago was yummy was well, the combination sounded odd to us but the result was good. The soup was mango-based and it had pomelo, mango and small sago (pearl/bubble) bits which turned out to be great together.

 

The rest of the dimsum were good though they weren’t really much different from those coming from the other Chinese restaurants in its class. One of the differences that we noticed was that the condiments were not readily available in the HK branch whereas in the PH branch, soysauce was on every table.

 

Service = 3/5 (HK) 4.5/5 (PH)

–          This was where we saw the major difference between the HK and PH branches. In the HK branch, the servers were more senior and were quite unfriendly but we think it’s because people are just expected to eat then leave there. Be warned: the wait on the queue in HK took us almost 2 hours. In the PH branch, the servers were younger and had that hospitable demeanour but they still moved as quickly as their HK counterparts. However, there is also a queue and from the looks of things, it’s just getting longer as the months pass. The good news is that the line moves much faster in the PH branch than in the HK branch.

 

Ambience = 3/5 (HK) 4.5/5 (PH)

–          This was also where the difference between the branches was evident. The PH branch is mall-based so the furnishings, air-conditioning and floor spacing were way better than the HK branch. Both have cramped dining areas but the atmosphere in the HK branch felt very confined.

 

Value for money = 5/5 (HK & PH)

–          The prices in HK are lower than the PH branch by 20-50+% depending on the dish. But considering the taste, quality, ambience and service of both branches, their prices are really a bargain.

 

We could only find their Singapore website (click here).

Pinac Heirloom Capampangan Cuisine (2nd Level, U.P. Town Center, Katipunan Ave., Diliman, Quezon City)

PhotoGrid_1400334952010Date visited: November 2013

What we ordered:

Ensaladang Pako with Fried Itik Floss (fiddle fern with salted egg, green mangoes, cucumber and tomatoes served with Pinac vinaigrette and topped with deep fried quail floss) (~PhP130), Manibalang na Manga at Hito Ensalada (salad of green mangoes with cucumber, eggplant, red onions and tomatoes, served with fermented shrimp paste and catfish) (~PhP130), Sinigang na Ulo ng Salmon sa Miso (salmon’s head miso sour soup) (~PhP220) and Smoked Tadyang with Yellow Mango Chutney (fall-off-the-bone smoked beef ribs with yellow mango and native corn salsa) (~PhP650)

 

Taste = 4.5/5

–          We were looking for a place to eat in the (then relatively new) U.P. Town Center and we chose to eat at a Filipino-themed restaurant. Good thing we did. Everything was yummy. This must be because the dishes of restaurant hail from Pampanga, where, people have the reputation of being excellent cooks. The Sinigang was definitely yummy and sour to our liking. We believe that the best fish meat is in the vicinity of their heads and the fish parts that were in the soup were definitely good, flaky and flavourful. The ribs were a bit on the tough side but they had much flavour and the chutney was the perfect accompaniment to the dish. The salad had a little too much flavor going on but overall, it was interesting. The fiddle fern was good. The combination of flavors was excellent: sour, sweet, salty, savory and fresh (because of the cucumber).

 

Service = 5/5

–          Even though they were literally full of diners and we were seated near the edge of the restaurant, we still received excellent service and we never felt that we were being neglected.

 

Ambience = 5/5

–          The place had a modern feel with a very clean brown-beige-white motif. There were a lot of interesting pictures on the walls which could easily be conversation starters for those on dates. The place was brightly lit and felt like a very good place to eat and chat with family and friends.

 

Value for money = 4.5/5

–          The service we received and quality of the food were superior in its class. However, their serving sizes could use a little improvement. Having said this, this restaurant can still easily become our favourite in U.P. Town Center.

Sorry, we weren’t able to find any page or website for this restaurant.

Outback Steakhouse (35 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave, Acropolis, Libis, Quezon City)

PhotoGrid_1398964954557[1]Date visited: November 2013

What we ordered:

Crispy Calamari (~PhP350) and Outback Special (~PhP1000) with complimentary bread

 

Taste = 4.5/5

–          This Aussie-style restaurant has been on our dining plans for a long time already and at the time, we were in the area and hungry. The Crispy Calamari (deep-fried batter-coated squid) was served really quickly. It was still piping hot when we took a bite and it was delicious. The better part of the dish was the salsa. It had tomato chunks, onions, a little chilli and Lyn’s favourite, cilantro. It was one of the best salsa we’ve tasted and it was so good we asked for another bowlful. Lyn didn’t like the tentacles but it was ok for me. The steak looked almost too good to be true. It jiggled a little when we poked it with a fork and it was as tender as it looked. It had the right amount of chewiness almost like a chunk of chewy fondant. The taste was good but for me, it was a bit low on saltiness. I would have preferred a unique sauce for the steak since the A1 steak sauce they had overpowered the taste of their good steak.

 

Service = 4/5

–          They provided ample service and the servers were attentive enough though they weren’t the smiling types, we think.

 

Ambience = 4.5/5

–          The dining area was divided into sections, there was a non-smoking area, a smoking area and a bar, which made it really pleasant for non-smokers and families. The place had neat-looking wooden furnishings, knickknacks all over and Aussie-inspired decor. The floor spacing was also nice and made manoeuvring easy despite the number of tables.

 

Value for money = 4/5

–          The dishes were on the expensive side but the good taste of the food and the quality of the meat made everything worth the price. They could try to improve on the serving size and service to make the whole experience better.

Click here for their website.

Banana Leaf (G/F Greenhills Promenade, Greenhills, San Juan)

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Date visited: October 2013

What we ordered:

Crispy Spring Roll Thai Style (~PhP140), Hainanese Chicken (~PhP300) and Thai Style Fried Rice with Shrimp Paste (~PhP200)

 

Taste = 4.5/5

–          We have eaten at different branches of this restaurant and the taste seems to be consistent among them, which is a bit hard to accomplish since different cooks tend to approach dishes differently.  We ordered our favourites. The Hainanese Chicken tasted so delicate and really went well with the accompanying dark soy sauce, ginger and chilli sauce. It tasted as if the chicken was boiled for a long period and made the meat really succulent. They probably have a “master stock” because the chicken was very flavourful. The ginger gave the chicken that refreshing taste and the dark soy sauce gave the dish sweetness and saltiness while the chilli gave it that special spicy kick. The frIed rice was a version of Bagoong (shrimp paste) rice. It was on the sweeter side and was less salty with a kick of chilli. It was a very good compliment to the delicate taste of the Hainanese Chicken. Lyn likes Thai style spring rolls with bean thread noodles (Asian vermicelli), shrimp meat, cilantro and fresh veggies inside and this restaurant has a fried version of it, which was good. The accompanying sweet, sour and spicy sauce was really a very good compliment to the crunchy noodle-filled spring rolls. Their special pandan iced tea was really something else. If you know the taste and smell of pandan leaves then just imagine it served as a very cold and refreshing sweet drink. The taste is almost like an aromatic cold honey drink. The serving sizes of the dishes were good for 3 persons so we really were just barely able to finish the rice and chicken. We took home more than half of the spring rolls as take out/take away.

 

Service = 4/5

–          The service was good though there were times that the servers were not too attentive. But overall, it was better than most restaurants.

 

Ambience = 4/5

–          The restaurant serves good Thai, Malaysian, Indian, Indonesian, Singaporean and Vietnamese dishes and while they serve that many cuisines, the interiors of the restaurant looked and felt plain. There was clearly a green motif to the restaurant with different shades of it and the chairs had a “rattan” style. Also, the dishes were served in plates but the diners would eat on banana leaves, which is actually something very Filipino.

 

Value for money = 4.5/5

–          The quality, taste and serving sizes of the dishes here are really above average compared to the other restaurants in its class. Their successful presence in all of the three major Philippine islands is proof of this and we hope they continue to improve.

Click here for their website.

Gaucho Cocina y Vinos Argentinos (3rd Floor Al Fresco, The Park at Robinsons Magnolia)

Date visited: September 2013

What we ordered:

Fuguazetta (Spinach and Italian Prosciutto Argentinean thin crust Pizza) and Falda a la Cruz (Slow Roasted US Beef Shortplate)

 

Taste = 4.5/5

–          The Fuguazetta was a very nice appetizer. It was thin crust pizza made with chickpea flour and provolone. We chose prosciutto and spinach as toppings and the result was a good pizza. The spinach was on the sweet and chewy side while the provolone cheese was a fresh taste from the usual mozzarella. The taste of the prosciutto was not really detectable probably because they only placed one strip per slice but it was still a good pizza. The serving of the US Beef was outrageous. We weren’t able to finish half of the deliciously-seasoned beef. The beef was so tender and had a delicious dry rub on it. Plus, the fat gave the beef slices a lot of juiciness. The dish came with Chimichurri sauce which tasted like parsley with avocado which went really well with the meat. The organic pickles included: shallots, which were sweet; chopped eggplants which were sour; and zucchinis, which were mildly sweet and sour. All of the sides went surprisingly well with the beef.

 

Service = 4.5/5

–          When we got there, it was really late in the night and all of the staff’s attention was on us. We had great service at first but when some of the employees went home already, the remaining servers were focused on housekeeping duties. But we still received good service overall.

 

Ambience = 5/5

–          There was a fine dining atmosphere from the outside to the dining area. The look and feel of the dining area was refined even if there was a roasting/fire pit near the middle of the floor.  The atmosphere was romantic but relaxing but I’m sure it would have been a lot different if we came during their Milonga (tango) nights.

 

Value for money = 4.5/5

–          If we knew how big the serving was for the Beef Shortplate dish, we wouldn’t have ordered an appetizer. Ordering that dish alone would have been more than enough for us since it was served with unlimited garlic rice. The only thing that put us off a little was that while our Fuguazetta was almost as expensive as the main dish, they were worlds apart in terms of serving size.

Click here for their Facebook page.

Ramon Lee’s Panciteria (540 Ronquillo St., Sta. Cruz, Manila)

Date visited: August 2013

What we ordered:

Lumpiang Shanghai, Canton Special, Fried Chicken and Fried Rice

 

Taste = 4.5/5

–          When we came to this restaurant, we thought that the specialty was only pancit. However, there were more images of their fried chicken than pancit so we thought we should give it a try. Good thing we did. The chicken itself was a bit bland but when we combined it with the brown sauce, the taste was very good. I think the chicken had a little flavouring to it and the sauce just made the flavours burst out. Very tender and juicy chicken combined with an old school sweet and sour brown sauce, perfect! When they served the pancit, it was on the saucy side and tasted salty. Since we couldn’t finish any of the dishes because the servings were large, we had leftovers. When I tasted the pancit the next day, it was the best pancit I’ve tasted. It became dry but very flavourful and the saltiness was gone. I don’t know what happened but it was just the way I like my pancit. It was even perfect with rice. The Lumpia tasted old school as well which was a refreshing change from the more floury variants we taste today. Lyn liked the fried rice very much because it was as old school as you can get. Bits of almost burnt rice, pale look, minimal ingredients but the taste reminded us of home cooking.

 

Service = 5/5

–          When we visited the restaurant, it was around 30 min to closing time and we were the only ones there so all their attention was on us. Nevertheless, I think their service was really fast as we got all of our orders in about 5 to 10 min after ordering.

 

Ambience = 3.5/5

–          The restaurant has been around a long time (4th oldest restaurant in Manila est 1929) and it showed on everything. Good thing everything was clean, even the restroom.

 

Value for money = 4.5/5

–          Their prices weren’t really the most affordable ones but I really liked their pancit, the leftover taste (next day taste) that is. Overall, the taste of the food and speed of service were easily above other similar restaurants that actually charge more.

Click here for their Facebook page.