Tag Archives: Food Review

Capsule Review: Zarzuela

2 Jul

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Ilongga lady Racquel Sian and her cohorts Owen Gan, Mel Sanchez-Dumlao, and Trina Tiaoqui-Imperial have been in the food business here in Manila for a loooong time. They’re the kind of restaurant group that remain a bit anonymous to most, but have a long standing relationship with everyone who frequents their establishments – usually located in an office building or similar foot traffic heavy environs. I mention her Ilongga roots because like a lot, if not most, true Ilonggos, she likes the good stuff – Pinoy grub that’s tasty, often slightly sweet (a nod to her Sugarland roots), and will have you reaching for hot steaming rice faster than you can say “baboy”. Yep, it’s that kind o’ place.

THE GOOD:

Plain and simply put: their grub is delicious! Everything I’ve had in my two visits here – spaced months apart – was yummy. However, I don’t think this is the kind of place you visit  when you’re on a diet. (But it’s the shiznit for your cheat day! Haha!)

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The ..uhm.. “Fountain Of Youth” in particular – think of it as KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicharon.. gasp! Faint) – is one of those crazy dishes that only a true blue Pinoy pork-o-phile can come up with. It’s exactly as I described it – like chicharon that’s been battered and fried, served with bagoong, mangga and vinegar. It’s killer, for sure, and may even sound a little too out there, but it’s delicious. Have it once every six months.

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Squid stuffed with minced beef and bagoong teeters on the sweet side, and again will have you reaching for the rice in no time. Same goes for crispy binagoongan, that pork staple that’s pure evil yet pure heaven in your mouth.

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Adobo is served two ways (“Sa Pula, Sa Puti”): flaked on one side of the platter, on the other stewed in vinegar and garlic sans the soy sauce (the way I love it, actually!).

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Bangus is made into tasty sardines – it’s braised in olive oil and brandy, and paired with pickles and chilis. Rellenong manok (stuffed chicken) has bits of chorizo and raisins, and is topped with a cheese sauce that oddly enough works for me (though I’m sure some will find this too over the top).

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“Cowboy” sisig is BOTH pork and beef bits, grilled first before combined and seasoned. Chichos is also thinly sliced pork and beef spiced with paprika, pimenton and roasted garlic, like a version of salpicao – they go together like Ernie and Bert. For dessert – a take on Maruya – chunks of plantain and langka (jackfruit) fried and served with ice cream.

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Yes, they do NOT play around here.

All the food tastes great and is filling, and designed to give you the greatest bang for your hard earned money’s worth. They deserve the “super sulit” restaurant award, if one ever existed.

Service is tight and attentive (although admittedly I made my reservations through the owner, so they may have been extra attentive), and the space is pleasant, if a bit hard to find in the new wing of the mall. 

THE BAD:

I have but one complaint – and it’s not really a complaint – but more of a suggestion. I wish they had more vegetables on the menu, and perhaps a few more healthful dishes. I don’t mind the menu items – it’s all good – but they do need something to balance all that richness. Perhaps some house made pickles (an atchara, if you will), and other refreshers. You can only eat so much binagoongan and “fountain of youth” without getting guilty about all that indulgence. You need something to “de-guilt” you.

Lipitor shakes might help too.

THE SWANGIT:

The feeling you get as your system tells you you’ve ingested way too much of that lovin’ pork, rice and bagoong. You’ll need a hug for sure. Pass the hot water. Zzzzzzz..

 

Zarzuela

6/F Shangri-La Plaza Mall, East Wing, EDSA cor Shaw Blvd

Wack Wack, Mandaluyong

Capsule Review: Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen

2 Jul

Welcome to my first ever capsule review! Realizing that I DO NOT have to go so deep into a restaurant and write some voluminous review, I’ve come up with this – thus enabling me to put more content on this little blog (hehehe!). I’ve divided it into three parts: The Good, The Bad, and The Swangit.

I promise to be concise and meaty. Just like me. 😛

Enjoy!

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The Good:

I am in agreement with C that the interiors of this place are easily in the top three of all the new wave of ramen joints. It’s classy looking and modern – very Japanese – and I for one am quite the fan of Japanese aesthetics.

The service was good too – the wait staff were attentive without hovering around you, and the orders came really quickly. You can go in and out of here in an hour or even less.

I ordered some Black Garlic Tonkotsu ramen, essentially their house specialty tonkotsu (pork stock) broth with a lashing of roasted garlic oil. Some people don’t get this, and may even find it “bitter”, but I guess it’s a base to base casis. 🙂 I thought it was interesting – tasty even – and was content with it. An extra order of ajitama (soft boiled egg) was sweetish, custardy and properly made, and was a nice contrast to the broth.

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Our companion ordered a Spicy Tobanjan Tonkotsu – a tonkotsu base with tobanjan paste, which added an appealing zing of spice and even some acidity. If I ever found myself here again, that’s an order I’d consider.

Their gyoza was a bit of a revelation – it was actually dribbling juices as you munched on it (much like a Shanghainese xiao long bao), as I think excellent gyoza should be. Not too garlic heavy, and crispy skinned, it’s a recommended side to your ramen.

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Tori karaage (aka Japanese fried chicken), with a splash of lemon, was relatively grease free, crispy and tender even. I can imagine coming here just for this and some rice. 

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The Bad:

We also had an order of teriyaki chicken wings. In fairness to the waitress, she confessed they were on the smaller side.

When they arrived, I had to snicker – they were a bit beyond small. They looked like fried toothpicks!

I’m guessing they lopped off most of the meat to make some karaage or whatever other uses for chicken the kitchen had – but still. It wasn’t annoying, really.. it was FUNNY!

And to top if all off – it didn’t taste bad either.

Dual purpose food: teriyaki wing appetizers/toothpicks. There’s an idea for you!

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The Swangit:

Well, to be honest the house tonkotsu broth on it’s own was kinda blah. It didn’t have a big punch, considering it was a pork stock that was supposed to be boiled for hours. There was a fishy taste to it (though I do understand that each broth is a different creature, and some do use fish bones or dried shrimp or whatever else to add flavor), which I don’t usually mind, but all in all it just didn’t do it for me (nor for the other two in my table that ordered it.. wrinkly noses and all.) With added seasonings like the roasted garlic oil or the tobanjan paste it amped up, but of course it would be better if the base were already kick ass on its own.

The ugliest thing here, for me, was the noodles. All these new ramen joints are going out of their way to ensure a top notch carb experience – a lot even importing expensive machines just to produce the good stuff. Now I don’t mind if you’re not that hardcore and use packaged noodles or you buy your noodles from elsewhere – as always it’s about managing expectations.

The thing with this place was they bothered to specifically asked you how you wanted your noodles. Immediately I chimed in: “firm please. Al dente.” As did everyone in our table. When the bowls showed up and us hungry peeps started slurping, it was soft and mushy – across the board. I ain’t gonna hate on ‘em for this – maybe it was a mistake.. whatever – but I won’t lie: it’s disappointing, especially since this is supposed to be some Japanese chain who knows their stuff, coming into town at a time when ramen is the hot shit dish of the year. If they continue on like this, they will get left behind. And I would never want that for anyone – it’s a huge undertaking to open a restaurant, much more a specialty restaurant like this.

I would like to root for them to have a steady crowd, but they have stuff going against them. Already I’ve heard many grumblings about their broth and their noodles —- which to me essentially IS ramen. So, powers that be, please please do something – the ball is in your court.

 

SM Aura Premier Branch:

2/F SM Aura Premier , McKinley Parkway

McKinley Hill, Taguig

Shangri La Mall Branch:

5th Level, Shangri-la Plaza Mall
Shaw Blvd. cor. EDSA, Mandaluyong

Phone Number
(+63 2) 477-8333

 

Tortang Talong

The cool stuff I find in the world we live in.

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