Monday, December 25, 2017

Kape Chino at Casa Roces

Old world elegance. It's what impressed me at Casa Roces -- an ancestral home belonging to a prominent clan of journalists and artists, that was converted into a restaurant offering Spanish and Filipino cuisine, and an art gallery. 
The full-service, fine dining restaurant, called Kape Chino, is named after the late Manila Times publisher Joaquin "Chino" Roces. The cafe had been my object of interest  for such a long time and finally, after years of yearning to go there, I did last week, 
together with my friends in the office. 
And first-hand experience made me conclude that dining at Casa Roces is a pleasure not just for the stomach but also for the eyes, especially for those who love nostalgia and anything old, like me. The antique furniture, lamps, windows and doors flooded me with memories of my family's own ancestral home in Sampaloc, Manila, which, sadly, had to be torn down to give way to a sturdier, more modern bungalow. 
But anyway, as our group of seven ladies was hungry, we had to first fill up what already was empty -- our tummies! We were careful not to order a lot though, because we were headed for our company Christmas party right across the street: in Malacanang. We were anticipating for a feast but since eating time would still be 
some three hours away, we had to have something first. 
We agreed to order and share:

Paella Valenciana, P565.
I loved this one -- the rice has the perfect paella texture -- not mushy nor dry. There's chicken in it, sliced hard-boiled eggs and vegetables like bell peppers that could make this classic Spanish dish stand on its own as a meal since it's already complete and almost balanced nutrient-wise. The flavors are balanced as well, and pleasant, too. 
I could eat a lot of it, except that I had to control my portion 
lest my blood sugar spiked.

Paella Negra, P545.
Although this would have been more favorable for my diet as there's seafood in it instead of meat, I didn't like it as much as I did the Valenciana because it's quite salty. But apart from that, this was also good. I love squid, which ink gives this paella its beautiful black color. And there's also mussels, shrimp and clams to enjoy with the teeth and lips-staining rice that made our group look like we were going to 
a Halloween party instead of Christmas.

Pollo Iberico, whole, P800.
I loved, too, this slow roasted chicken that was very tender and juicy. It can be ordered whole or half for P520. It comes with a side dish of buttered beans, carrots 
and halved baby potatoes. Delicious!

MalacaƱan Frozen Souffle, P415.
For dessert, we chose this towering lemon custard that we all shared and loved. The sournesss dominates over the sweetness, making this dessert very interesting and one-of-a-kind. The texture can be likened to ice cream's -- soft and velvety, except when you scoop up some of the crushed pistachios. This sour-and-a little-sweet dessert is perfect for cleaning the palate after a meal.

Chocolate Eh, P70.
This is a delightful drink that's a Casa Roces original: hot chocolate with peanut butter! One of us in the group ordered this and I tasted it. I joked that it was like drinking kare-kare with chocolate instead of bagoong! But kidding aside, it was a very tasty and unique drink. The sweetness and slightly bitter taste of chocolate blended seamlessly with the flavor of peanuts and the result is one delicious drink that could double as dessert. I just knew that it would be the perfect pair 
to Casa Roces' ensaymada. Hhmmm? 

Salabat Soda, P110.
This one's another drink that's unique to Kape Chino: lime soda with frozen ginger tea or salabat as ice cubes! Very ingenious, right? 
Delicious, too! 

Brewed coffee, P95.
Great coffee they have here at Kape Chino as well. It's bold enough to give the jolt but not too much to give me an upset stomach. After dessert, this cup of joe gave me the perfect end to a very nice, satisfying lunch. 


In and around Casa Roces

I christened this 'The Proposal Room' because of
its very romantic ambiance and exclusivity.

Casa Roces at 1153 JP Laurel St. corner Aguado Sts., San Miguel, Manila

Kape Chino at Casa Roces, I could say, is one good idea of a venue for celebrating special occasions. The food is extraordinary and very delectable. Although prices are quite steep, the quality of food and elegance of the place are enough reasons for visiting. My friends and I are so wanting to be back and I hope it would be soon!

Jesus: The 'Reason for the Season'!

Merry Christmas, folks! What breakfast did you wake up to? Christmas Day breakfast, to me, is the best in the whole year because there is the special Christmas ham and queso de bola. Of course, there's the family to share it with. Awesome! 
But before we get on with the rest of Christmas Day, going out to reunions or perhaps to the mall or park, having a feast and exchanging gifts, let's not forget that Jesus is the reason for the season! Let us praise Him and thank Him for coming to live on earth and die on the cross to save us from condemnation for our sins. He left His throne in heaven to suffer for our sake without reason except for His great love for us! 
Let us thank God, our good Father, for loving us so much that He willingly sacrificed His only begotten Son in order to save and give us everlasting life. He is worthy of all praise and thanks! Merry Christmas and God bless us all.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A satisfying lunch at Omakase

Last month, I was searching on line for a good place for Japanese food for me and my friends and was amazed to learn that there was indeed a whole lot of Japanese restaurants out there. I hadn't realized till then how much Filipinos have grown to love sushi and tempura, and okonomiyaki, and yakisoba, and so on and so forth. It was hard to choose a restaurant! Good thing there are customers' reviews for 
guidance, I finally was able to arrive at a choice. 
Omakase, it would be for us!
I read that this restaurant at the Il Terrazzo mall in Tomas Morato is a crowd favorite and could get really packed at lunchtime. It was good that we arrived early, 
we were able to choose a nice spot. Soon afterwards, the place was already full! 
These were our orders:

Miso Soup, P60.
Healthy soup that warms up the tummy and whets the appetite.

Omakase Tropical Salad, P180.
Sweet ripe mango, crunchy veggies, kani (crabmeat) and shredded nori (seaweed) drizzled with Japanese mayo. This was the last served among our orders so it became our dessert. 
Well, it's much healthier than cake or ice cream!

Mixed Nigiri, P320.
Nigiri is sashimi with a ball of rice. The sashimi consists of tuna, salmon, shrimp and squid. Delicious and filling!

Ebi Tempura, P345.
The perfect ulam (viand) in any Japanese restaurant: battered and deep-fried shrimp. 

I'm glad the batter is not too thick in here, only it's not as crunchy 
as I would want my tempura to be.
Seafood Teppan, P395.
We loved this! -- pan-fried squid, salmon, tuna, and shrimp, 
served with vegetables and garlic rice. Delicious!
Inside Omakase
Omakase at the second floor of Il Terrazzo along Tomas Morato in Quezon City

It was a very satisfying lunch that my friends and I had. We agreed that Omakase was the best Japanese restaurant we'd been to so far. The food was really good, with subtle flavors that are more pleasant to the taste buds than strong ones. Everything was fresh and natural. 
Also, service is fast and the prices are reasonable. We would definitely 
be back at Omakase. Try it, folks!
Happy eating!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Whitewall Coffee and Food Co. at Eton Centris Walk

Last August, I began to regularly go again to Sidcor Sunday Market after not visiting since last year. It was then that I discovered this now one-year-old (they marked their first year last September) cafe called Whitewall Coffee and Food Co. at Eton Centris Walk, just across the market and near Family Mart. I realized I hadn't been to Sidcor for a year prior to my visit in August because it was my first time 
to see this chic coffee place. 
I was surprised to see that walls at Whitewall were painted in black! The whole place is in black with just patches of white, making the interiors dark and sober. But who's complaining? Certainly not I. Black is my favorite color next to purple
It wasn't only the simple elegance of the place that could strike any newbie to Whitewall, even the food! I've gone there thrice -- once alone and then with different consorts. We all loved the food and drinks. 
What we've had:

Classic Carbonara, P170.
This was really, really good! Except that I don't like a fried egg on top of my carbonara. But the pasta was delicious, with al dente fettuccine and sauce that wasn't 
too creamy to the point of cloying.

Beef Tapa, P130.
This was for lunch on my first visit. The beef tapa was just the way I like it -- not saucy but not dry either, tender and not salty, just rightly seasoned. I was asked how I would like to have my fried egg and I said I wanted it scrambled. So scrambled it was, and fried to perfection -- not 
dry as my helper does at home...sigh.

Pork Tocino, P130.
I hadn't had tocino for quite sometime so I decided "tocilog" to be lunch on another occasion. I loved that the pork was cut up bite-sized and very tender. Some tocino tend to be too saccharine but this wasn't; the flavors -- sweetness and saltiness -- were just right. I had sunny side up egg this time and it was divine, with the orangey yolk (proof of good-quality egg) runny.
Whitewall Signature Clubhouse, P215.
My not-so-little boy loves clubhouse sandwich and I knew he would order it when I tagged him along. He did and was actually happy with it! I ate some of it and loved the thick slices of chicken breast and lots of greens and tomatoes.

Blue Chips with Spinach Artichoke Dip, P155.
This was a nice thing to have with sandwich. The dip was delicious and healthy, 
having spinach and artichoke.

Chocolate Fudge cake, P110.
Moist, chocolatey and not too sweet. Best with black coffee!

Iced Latte, double, P125.
This was pure bliss on a hot mid-day. Caffeine kick that refreshes!

Oreo Chip Cream, P165.
My son, who is an Oreo fan, loved this one. It satisfied his sweet tooth while offering 
a reprieve from the hotness of the day.

Cafe Latte, single, P115.
I love coffee at Whitewall. It's rich, full-bodied and strong, 
even with the added milk.

Cafe Americano, Single, P105.
I had dessert on one occasion (the chocolate fudge cake) and decided to have black coffee to pair it with. Whitewall has good Americano, I didn't need to add milk or cream to it.

                            In and around Whitewall Coffee and Food Co.

Whitewall Coffee and Food Co. at Eton Centris Walk, Edsa corner Quezon Ave. 
in Diliman, Quezon City

What a gem Whitewall Coffee and Food Co. is, I must say, and "hidden" at that. I'm glad to discover it and make it my Sunday go-to place after buying what I need at the market. It's not just a nice spot for food and coffee, it's also cosy and quiet enough for some reading or studying. It's the perfect 
"tambay" or hangout place to bring family and friends. 
Visit Whitewall Coffee and Food Co., folks! 
Happy eating!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A trip down memory lane at Hizon's, Za's Cafe

I love all things old -- houses, music, furniture. As a foodie, I love eating in old restaurants as well -- especially those that have been in business since the pre- 
or post-war days. Oh, I have such admiration for those enduring businesses 
in the food industry, considering the very stiff competition these days.
One of the so-called battle-tested restaurants is Za's Cafe in the heart of Manila. This is the coffee shop owned by the same proprietors of Hizon's Cakes and Pastries -- yup, the one whose No. 1 customer was the country's king of comedy, Dolphy.  The two -- the comedian and the bakeshop -- both started humbly in their own field 
and grew popular together as the years passed. 
Dolphy, I read, was just starting out as an actor when he began patronizing Hizon's in the 1950s, often buying his favorite ensaymada at its initial store on then Calle Raon. Eventually, Hizon's transferred to where it is now on Jorge Bocobo St., Ermita, Manila and Za's Cafe was established adjacent to it to serve not only Hizon's famous baked products but also hot meals. Dolphy, I learned, was a regular there even when he was already ill, to the point that he carried his oxygen tank 
to the restaurant! What loyalty! 
Anyway, it was my first time at Za's Cafe last month, with two of my dear sisters and a brother in law. We were there for late lunch/merienda and opted for something 
a little light as we had breakfast buffet early on. 
We ordered two sets of palabok with pandesal and two dinuguan with puto 
plus ensaymada for dessert.

Palabok with 2 pcs. pandesal, P300. per order
We in our family love palabok so this was a natural choice for us. We loved that all the right flavors from the whole gamut of ingredients were present. And the saltiness was well calibrated. However, it was a bit dry. Maybe, it  would have been better if they put a bit more of the sauce. And I do believe this palabok is overpriced at P300, considering that the serving is not that big and enough for just one person.

Dinuguan with puto, P200.
This, we raved about more than the palabok. It was an impressive dinuguan - very flavorful! It was served with several pieces of puto Calasiao -- those immaculate-white,  bite-sized and sweetish rice cakes from the Pangasinan 
town where it got its name.

Ensaymada, Big, P130.
Hizon's ensaymada is big, fluffy, cheesy and delicious. It's perfect with coffee or hot chocolate -- and great for merienda, I could imagine as I write this, on a cold December afternoon. This ensaymada wouldn't be Dolphy's favorite for nothing!

  Brewed Coffee, P95.
One of my sisters, who was then vacationing from Canada, so loved the coffee at Za's, and was moved to comment that it was even better than their "own" Tim Hortons which they have every work day morning in Canada. I loved this one, too! It's easily one of my best cups ever! It's bold and full-bodied with a very pleasant taste that makes it good even without any sugar and cream added. Halfway into my cup, my sister urged me to try it with some milk. I did and it was also very good! I would definitely go back to Za's Cafe even if only for their brewed coffee.

Inside Za's Cafe

 A picture of Dolphy hanging by the entrance. 

  Inside Hizon's bakeshop

 Hizon's at 1197 Jorge Bocobo corner Arquiza Sts., Ermita, Manila

Aside from the good food and coffee, I took notice of the old-world feel inside Za's Cafe. There are vintage things on use and display and there are pictures of elderly people, most probably the original owners of Hizon's. The present management is already second generation, I learned. One more thing not to be missed by anyone is the framed picture of Dolphy prominently displayed near the entrance, 
making the presence of the late comedy king felt in the place. 
What nostalgic feel this restaurant evokes. I loved it 
and would definitely be coming back.