Whenever we meatatarians dine out, our token vegetable dish is either laing, adobong kangkong or gising-gising. Gising-gising is a dish of green beans, peppers, and ground pork in coconut milk—as the name says, it should be spicy enough to wake you up. We like the gising-gising at Recipes, at Bistro Remedios and Lorenzo’s Way. And at Via Mare, although these days we get the feeling Via Mare isn’t even trying anymore.
The other night we ordered gising-gising at Smoking Hot, a newish restaurant in Greenbelt 3. The chopped-up beans and peppers looked alike, so with each mouthful our friends felt like their tongues were being flayed. (We have the Bikolano gene so anghang has little effect on us.)
This reminded us of a fish stew we ate in Shanghai (the photo above). It was as if they had a serious peppercorn surplus and wanted to use as much as they could. The stew was delicious, and it made our pores weep in the dead of winter.
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Another restaurant chain in serious need of sprucing up is Dulcinea. We still like their churros and hot chocolate, but the pastries in the vitrine look like they’ve committed suicide. We’ve had eclairs, meringues and negritos (their politically-incorrect name for the chocolate beehive) with the consistency of fossils. Obviously they were several days old; if you dropped them on your feet they’d leave bruises.
Some weeks ago we ordered the lentejas and it tasted like someone had dropped a whole salt shaker in it.
The restaurants were renovated some years ago, but the interiors are dispiriting. It’s become the sort of place you go to when you feel like crap and don’t want anyone to see you. Dulcinea, we liked you. Wake up.
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Why do the newer restaurants have such terrible acoustics? You’re sitting two feet away from each other but you have to yell to make yourself heard. Meanwhile you can hear conversations from across the room among people you don’t know. Glass frontage plus hard, smooth surfaces and no insulation equals auditory chaos.
Last week we had dinner at Grace Park in One Rockwell, Makati. We thought it was a Korean restaurant; turns out it’s Margarita Fores’s new project (named after Grace Park, Caloocan). The menu is Cafe Bolang Sosyal (i.e. mahal), and the look is “Stuff unearthed from lola’s bodega”. We approve of unmatched tableware.
We ordered squash ribbon pasta with goat cheese, the fish of the day (apahap), and beef belly. Everything was delicious, but we had hoped for a greater variety in the menu. Okay, the place has just opened. Grace Park was packed on Tuesday night; there was a bit of a wait, but our very efficient waiter gave us updates on the estimated time of arrival of each dish. Afterwards we were served a slice of key lime pie, on the house.
The problem was the acoustics. It was like sitting inside a blender. It was so noisy, Raul was singing Bobby Darin’s version of Don’t Rain On My Parade at Raul volume, and we could barely hear him. Finally we moved to a table outside, where it was quieter. Another ten minutes inside and we would’ve had headaches.
Rating: Recommended, but bring ear plugs.