Archive for the ‘Food’
Chef Chris Locher of My Kitchen in Paco, Manila has not only overcome his recent health issue, he’s opened an excellent new restaurant on Jupiter in Makati. Last week Stella organized a dinner for six hard-boiled media practitioners who know that when Stella says, “You have to try this restaurant,” the only acceptable response is, “Sure!” It’s like the part in the first Terminator where the T-800 has laid waste to a club and Kyle Reese tells Sarah Connor, “Come with me if you want to live.” You just go.
The restaurant is called Recess, and Chef Chris describes its menu as “eclectic comfort food”. To us, all food is comfort food, not eating food being a prime source of discomfort.
Chef Chris is probably best known for his invention of the thin pizza that you eat in strips with alfalfa sprouts and arugula rolled up in them—a genius way of making people like us eat our vegetables. He can’t use the name of his creation because it belongs to the restaurant he used to work with. At Recess, this dish is called The Original. This being the Philippines, we prefer D’Original.
The Original comes in a dozen varieties, all named after elements you can see on the ceiling designed as a stylized periodic table. We tried three of the all-day breakfast specials: the CoBe—sauteed corned beef, egg, caramelized onions and potatoes with fresh marjoram; the PoTo—finely-sliced pork tocino, red onions and salted egg; and our favorite, the TiTo—tinapang bangus bits, tomatoes, itlog na pula and fresh red onions.
We were only going to pretend to eat our greens, but it had been a sweltering day and the Recess Salad of mixed greens, grapes, apples, oranges, cherry tomatoes in a grapeseed oil dressing with caramelized almonds was so refreshing.
In fact we even tried another salad: the J50 with romaine hearts in gorgonzola, pears, a 7-minute boiled egg, and bacon. Bacon makes everything better. To think that as we trudged towards Recess on that hot night, we were telling ourselves that it was too hot to eat. We were wrong hahahaha.
At this point we could’ve ended the meal and gone home happy, but there was more. Risotto orbs—crispy fried risotto balls with two cheeses, chorizo and herbs.
A juicy tuna steak with chimichuri sauce.
The very tender Carolina-style barbecued mustard lamb ribs. Good thing there were six of us sharing the dishes, or we might’ve eaten ourselves into a food coma. The portions are good for sharing, and by “sharing” we mean “can feed two people who are not on a diet or some other deprivation plan.”
If we’d been responsible adults, we probably would’ve declined dessert. Luckily, we are not. There was lemon cheesecake,
a decadent chocolate cake that went beyond decadent,
and a light, delectable Pavlova. Next to it you see our glass—we finished most of a bottle of Chardonnay and were useless for the rest of the evening. Useless, but happy.
A meal for two consisting of one mini-size The Original, one salad, one lamb ribs and one dessert comes to about Php550 per person. With a glass of wine, add Php200. For the whole shebang described above, probably Php1,500+ per person.
Recess by Chef Chris is at 50 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati, between Paseo de Roxas and Makati Avenue. Visit their Facebook page. For reservations, call (02) 899 1818.
Will this be the supranational anthem, then?
James and Boboy were having lunch with friends in Binondo, at a noodle place called Lan Zhou La Mien. We took advantage of the comparatively light (but not by much, since everyone stayed in town apparently, and Edsa was being reblocked) long weekend traffic to drive to Chinatown.
Even with Ricky’s navigational skills (can moonlight as a taxi driver) and Noel’s GPS-reading abilities, Binondo is a maze and we stopped to ask for directions.
“Deretso, tapos kaliwa sa unang kanto, kaliwa ulit. Yung pula, siguradong makikita nyo.” Straight ahead, then left, then left. It’s red, you can’t miss it.
We had not gone 5 meters when we realized that every sign in Chinatown is red.
“Easier if he’d said yung hindi pula,” Noel pointed out.
So we asked another guy who was watching cars.
“Deretso lang, yung pula na sikat.”
By this time we were close to a hysterical giggling fit.
“What does Lan Zhou La Mien mean?” Ricky asked.
“Yung pula na sikat,” Noel translated.
Luckily we were spotted by James.
La Mien is deservedly famous for its hand-pulled noodles, which have the best texture of any noodles we’ve tried lately. Along with the Beef La Mien and the excellent steamed kuchay dumplings, the waiter brought a pair of scissors in a bowl of hot water. These scissors are not for warding off diners hovering by your table urging you to leave (It’s a small place). They are for cutting the noodles, which are very long. We stabbed at our bowls a few times, and were ready to eat.
The Beef La Mien is wonderful: delicately-flavored yet filling. We could only finish half the bowl before throwing down our chopsticks in surrender. Ricky recommends eating the la mien as quickly as possible because the noodles absorb the broth and expand.
Subtle Chinese, and only Php120.
Of course no trip to Binondo is complete without a visit to the Temple of Hopia, Salazar, winner of our Hopia Challenge.
Lan Zhou La Mien is on 818 Benavidez Street in Binondo, Manila.
A searing Saturday afternoon with traffic gridlocked as portions of the highway underwent repairs was probably not the ideal time for making the trip from Makati to Cubao for an early dinner at Bellini’s. You could say that it was a decision rooted in silliness. But if we behaved rationally at all times, life would not be as much fun. Less stressful, perhaps, but not nearly as much fun.
We take a proprietary interest in Bellini’s, having been among its original patrons. As Mr. Bellini reminded us, Today was the first paper to write about the restaurant (You can read the review, framed on his wall). We have seen it grow from a bare room with plastic tables and chairs into a cozy destination restaurant frequented by celebrities (Some of them have their names on the chairs).
And we can compute the rise of the cost of the living by the prices on the menu. In 2001 we had our birthday dinner there with 12 people, and the bill came to Php2500—just 33 percent more than what dinner for two cost last Saturday. In the case of Bellini’s we are happy to pay, because we can see where the money goes.
The quality of the food has been consistently high: pastas, pizzas, entrees, and the best orange cake in the city. If the large selection boggles you, go for the appetizer buffet and ask them to prepare the spaghetti aglio olio with seafood, which is not on the menu. It’s so rich and flavorful, your taste buds will thank you.
And the service has improved since its clunky beginnings. Mr. Bellini pointed out that the staff are all regular employees, not temps, and they know the menu in detail. We believe him because the waiters have been there long enough to pick up the rudiments of Italian so they can speak Tagliano (Tagalog-Italiano).
The wine selection is quite impressive—in the inner room are bottles of vintage barolo and chianti.
Some years ago we saw a Tagalog movie set in Bellini’s and were slightly offended that “our” place had gone public. Still, that exposure has probably been thousands of times more useful to the business than our infrequent patronage (It’s so faaaar). Mr. Bellini says one of their regular diners is the President of the Philippines, and P-Noy’s favorite dishes are spaghetti bolognese, Parma ham and arugula pizza, and scallopine marsala.
Historical sidebar: Mr. Bellini met his wife Luisa at Malacanang Palace in 1986, when she was working for P-Noy’s mother, President Cory Aquino, and he was covering the Edsa Revolution for his paper in Italy. (Roberto Bellini was a photojournalist, though he is sometimes confused with Roberto Benigni the Italian comedian.) “In 20 minutes I knew I wanted to marry her!” he declared. “So I asked her and she called me sira-ulo.”
She agreed eventually, and in 1999 Bellini returned to the Philippines for good. He looked for a spot in which to set up an Italian restaurant, and found the space at Marikina Shoe Expo on Aurora Boulevard in Cubao. The rent was Php100 a day. “One room became two rooms and then three…have you seen the new rooms?” he demanded.
Of course we were familiar with the inner dining area featuring The Mural of the Two Colosseums, Rome and Araneta. One of the charms of Bellini’s restaurant is its distinctive interior decor. Between the indescribable interior design and the effusive proprietor, the place positively radiates character.
Behold the Fontana di Trevi, with Anita Ekberg splashing about. (Where’s the kitten on her head?) There’s a branch of Bellini’s in Marikina, with an upstairs room that can accommodate 100 diners.
Whenever we go to Bellini’s we have to steel ourselves for Mr. Bellini’s expressive manner, but last Saturday he was reflective. “I opened this restaurant 15 years ago last March 4,” he said. “Matanda na ako, I am 74.”
“You don’t look a day older than 64,” we told him.
“I will put your name on a chair,” he announced.
When you go to Bellini’s, could you confirm if said name plate exists?
On Saturday Cookie was up at 0600 for the Island-Hopping Tour of Honda Bay. “You drive to the wharf and get on a boat. Then you go to an island and hang around the beach, swim and snorkel. Then you get back on the boat and visit another island. Then another island.”
“Sounds fascinating. Buh-bye,” we said, and went back to sleep. We were too lazy to go to the restaurant for breakfast or even to dial room service. A few hours later we got up and had an instant coffee. We had bought sachets at a sari-sari store because the hotel does not have complimentary coffee or tea in the rooms. (Or provide extra towels even if we need them for our hair because between us and sister we have enough to make wigs for a barangay of bald people. (They charge Php50 for an extra towel.) Or have a mini-bar so we can store snacks. Or have a tub or wifi at usable speeds. Otherwise it was fine.)
Then we went back to bed and spent the next few hours drifting in and out of sleep and channel-surfing on cable. We decided that we’re not missing anything by having no cable at home. Each station has maybe three programs on repeat the entire day. How much Walking Dead and American Idol can a person stand?
At 1500 it occurred to us that we had not seen any local handwoven fabrics (Binuatan doesn’t make textiles) so we texted our fabric guru Rene in Makati to ask for recommendations. He gave us the address and number of Rurungan sa Tubod Foundation, which operates a weaving center in Puerto Princesa.
Cookie returned a half-hour later and reported that she’d gone snorkeling. “But you do not swim,” we pointed out. Apparently the tour operator had a guy who could take non-swimmers snorkeling: you hung onto him and he went into the water, dragging three or four passengers. Like a human bathysphere.
“The tour was fun!” our sister recounted as we had a room service sandwich for lunch. “The beaches are unspoiled, and the sand is different on every island. You would have hated it.” We told her about the weaving center and she asked if they were open Sundays.
They weren’t. And they were closing at 5pm. We asked them not to close till we got there, then we shot out of the room and jumped into the nearest tricycle. The driver did not know where Rurungan Compound was, but he knew the way to Abanico Road. Thirty minutes later we were on a concrete road in a densely wooded area with few houses. It was like going into the woods, and if we’d been in Manila it would’ve been scary. Fortunately we were in Palawan, so this was normal. Twenty minutes later we saw a lady emerging from a compound and asked her for directions. She pointed to the next gate. We had reached our destination.
According to Laida Lim’s essay in HABI, the guide to Philippine handwoven textiles, a “rurungan” is a group of women living and working in proximity and pooling their resources. The 15-year-old Rurungan sa Tubod Foundation (RTF) creates jobs for women on the island by training them to weave tepiña.
Tepiña is pineapple cloth woven from raw silk and fiber from the Spanish Red pineapple. The weavers learn the textile production process from growing the pineapples to stripping the leaves and knotting the fibers.
We bought several of these pretty wallets and small clutches to give away (and then decided to keep them haha). Prices at the Palawan store range from Php90 to 160. Dammit we should’ve bought more. The large bags cost about Php800. We found baskets with fabric straps that make excellent tote/book bags—we’ll post the photos later.
They also have dresses, blouses, neckties, toys. If you’re in Palawan and wish to visit Rurungan Sa Tubod, call +639178514081 and ask for Beth or Janet. In Manila, you can arrange a private product viewing at their showroom by calling +639175532728.
We’re glad we got out of bed.
Our main event for Saturday was dinner at KaLui, the most famous restaurant in Puerto Princesa, listed among the top restaurants in Asia by the Miele Guide. A reservation is required. As is taking your shoes off at the entrance, so your feet can enjoy the beautiful wooden floors.
Every table was taken. The place is charming—even the washrooms are tourist attractions. There’s a small art gallery and a gift shop selling jams and preserves, bags and wallets…from Rurungan. Same prices, but the weaving center has more merchandise.
For dessert there were slices of fruit, which was just as well because we didn’t have space left for sweets.
A day well spent, despite extreme indolence.