Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mandarin Tea Garden's Halo-Halo Lugaw

Rainy season has finally come around. And while I am not excited about it, there are plenty of ways to get consolation from the non-stop rain. For instance, getting this comfort food goodness at Mandarin Tea Garden has made rainy nights feel much better. Lugaw is basically rice porridge that Filipinos have come to associate with homemade cooking. I am guilty of craving for such dishes whenever the temperature drops so I made my way to the nearest Mandarin Tea Garden branch when stuck in the rain one night and ordered the Halo-Halo Lugaw.

This rice porridge is a meal in and of itself because it comes with a variety of toppings, thus the name Halo-Halo. Lugaw, or rice porridge, is a true blue comfort food for Filipinos. It is basically rice cooked in broth for several minutes and seasoned. You can customize the toppings and meat included in this dish according to your preference. But in the case of the Halo-Halo Lugaw, you can get the following toppings: pork asado, siomai, chicken, and bola bola.

Mandarin Tea Garden has branches in Malvar, Duterte St., NCCC Mall, NCCC Centro, Gaisano Mall, and SM City Davao.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Aling Foping's Halo-Halo: My Review

Halo-halo is the ultimate Pinoy dessert. As soon as the weather starts to heat up, there is nothing more that most Filipinos crave for other than halo-halo. I, myself, am enamored by this certain level of fanaticism that Filipinos have developed towards halo-halo, especially since I have never really grown a fondness towards this dessert until recently. The combination of different flavors and textures struck me as odd at first. But when I finally decided to sample it, it wasn't so bad after all.

And in the local dining scene, there is no name more well known and talked about as Aling Foping's. Indeed, Davaoenos have equated the word "halo-halo" to Aling Foping's. I had been to Matina Town Square several times before but I was not convinced to visit their humble stall until recently (it took some convincing from the boyf to make that happen).

The main appeal of Aling Foping's halo-halo is the ability to customize. In most restaurants serving up halo-halo, they have a single recipe for all. But this one is different. You get to choose your own ingredients. You will basically fill up a form wherein you can pick from a wide range of available ingredients and then they'd prepare your halo-halo for you! No need to deal with ingredients you don't like because every bite consists of only the ingredients you picked yourself. Nice concept, huh?

The regular halo-halo is currently priced at P85 while a special halo-halo will set you back at P105. Ingredients that you can choose from include the following: gulaman, kaong, langka, macapuno, nata de coco, pinipig, red mongo, saba, sago, white beans, and a serving each of ube and leche flan. Of these, I am crazy about the pinipig and the ube! I never expected that I would love the ube as much but I did!

Long queue on a Saturday night
In comparison though, I felt that Balinsasayaw's halo-halo is better. That is not meant to take anything away from Aling Foping's halo-halo; after all, most Davaoenos seem to adore it and it's not just all hype. I just felt that it is a little too pricey for only six ingredients. This is just my opinion when these two servings are placed side by side. Balinsasayaw's had a larger serving and more ingredients for only about P85 a serving. But they're both equally good in their own respect.

Aling Foping's is located at Matina Town Square, Davao City.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Golden Brown Offers Home Cooked Goodness

I'm rarely seen dining at Filipino cuisine restaurants, or those offering lutong bahay dishes, because my mantra for dining out is basically to try out food items I don't get to eat at home. Having been blessed to have a mom who isn't only into cooking but is actually good at it, I'd like to believe that I got it covered when it comes to enjoying quality homemade, Filipino dishes. But it does not mean that I don't appreciate when I get to eat out and uncover culinary offerings that are as good as, or even better than, mom's. Golden Brown is definitely a contender in that regard.

It's hard to miss Golden Brown when you pass by Duterte St. because your senses will surely be captivated by the aroma of the roasted chicken and pork liempo. However, this is more than just a take out counter. If you dare to go inside, there is a small restaurant that accommodates more or less 12 tables. The ambiance is unassuming - just a calm and secluded place to dine in. Thankfully, the place is clean and well kept to ensure that you can have an enjoyable and satisfying dining experience. One more thing that I appreciate about Golden Brown is the fact that they do have an extensive selection on the menu - from grilled and roasted items, to vegetables, to seafoods. Even their dessert selection is aplenty!

When dining at Golden Brown, it is a must to try either their liempo or roasted chicken. Hence, we went with the former and you can get a serving good for roughly 2-3 people. What I love about their pork liempo is that it does not scrimp on flavor. Every bite is packed with seasoning! The exterior is also crunchy to the bite so you can get a combination of crunchy and savory. 

Then, we had one of their vegetable dishes - Pinakbet. If you love veggies, you are going to enjoy this dish. Love that they were not too liberal on the shrimp paste. It was just enough so you can get a hint of the flavor but not too much to leave you feeling embarrassed of your breath thereafter. And check out those huge slices of veggies, too!

I had dined here more times than I can remember or make a note of. And the reason behind that is simple - they offer quality food within a reasonable price range. If you dine here, it is best to go with a group because their dishes come in large servings!

Golden Brown is located along Duterte St., beside Bagobo Hotel. 

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Let's Have Sushi Dito!

I have been on a Japanese food trip hiatus for a long time and it's about time I break that dry spell. Earlier this week, I had a chance to return to Sushi Dito and finally able to chronicle my dining experience. I also felt it worthy to feature them because I've heard a lot of positive reviews and I did enjoy my previous visit. And because I am the biggest advocate for Japanese cuisine, I can't be any happier that not only was Sushi Dito still operational, but that they also made a few revamps to the interior design of their restaurant (hint: more comfy chairs!).

The menu at Sushi Dito is quite extensive that you can find nearly all kinds of sushi, sashimi, and ramen dishes imaginable. Hence, I went ahead and ordered two different kinds of sushi to be able to sample more of what's on their menu.

First up is the Miami Roll (P98 for 4 pieces, P190 for 8 pieces). It is made with prawns, avocado, Philadelphia cheese and sesame seeds. I did not expect much from this but it blew me away. Love the combination of flavors: savory from the prawn, a little bit of tangy flavor from the Philadelphia cheese and the drizzled mayo on the plate, and some sweetness coming from the avocado. The sesame seeds also helped to bring forth a delectable aroma to this sushi.

Next up is the Salmon Cucumber. This one is available for P100 for 4 pieces and P185 for 8 pieces. Each roll is filled with Japanese rice, salmon and cucumber. This one comes with very subtle flavors. My only qualm though is that the salmon slices should be made bigger so that the salmon flavor would become more prominent. It is a little too subtle that the cucumber flavor overpowers the salmon. Nonetheless, I would still order this when I get the chance.

We also tried one of their rice bowl meals - Mussels Rice Bowl (P170). This dish, on the other hand, is anything but subtle. It is packed with flavor! The mussels are cooked in oyster sauce, garlic, and butter so you treat both your palate and sense of smell while eating this dish. However, again, I have to note that the serving is tad too small for its serving. I am not a big eater but even I felt like I got the raw end of the deal for the price that I paid on this one.

If you are a fan of Japanese cuisine but is intimidated with the expensive cost of dining in other authentic Japanese restaurants in the city, Sushi Dito is an affordable alternative. And if you love sushi, this is the place to be because they have plenty of options to choose from.

Sushi Dito is located along E. Quirino St., Davao City.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gambas from Zabadani Cafe

Gambas is a world famous dish that traces its origin to Spain and is a personal favorite of mine. Indeed, I have tried gambas from a wide range of restaurants that I have been to because I can't help but order it whenever I see it on the menu. There are a few notable versions of it that I've tried to date such as the one from Salutti and The Bagnetian Kitchen, but the one from Zabadani Cafe might just be my favorite thus far!

The aroma of this dish requires mention because it is very welcoming and appetizing - the first quality that I observed right off the bat when the waiter delivered this order on our table. The spices used on the dish truly makes it inviting even from afar.

However, the aroma is only the tip of the iceberg. The shrimp meat is soft and juicy, which clearly indicates that the shrimps used on this dish were fresh. There is also the right amount of seasoning that is a combination of salty and sweet, but neither taste overpowers the other. I forgot to ask Wadi, the owner, about the spices used on the sauce but I suspect it has crab fat in it, as most other gambas recipes do. And the sprinkling of sliced black olives at the top is the perfect way to serve up this delicious and filling dish!

Want to try out Zabadani Cafe's Gambas? Visit them at The Peak in Gaisano Mall, right beside Kublai Khan.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Barbecue Boss is The Boss!

Davao folks are in love with their barbecue. Indeed, you can find barbecue joints at nearly every corner of the city - from Penong's to BBQ Bob to Barbecue Boss, each of these restaurants have their unique appeal that suits the taste of our local barbecue lovers. I, myself, am guilty of the fact that I do get occasional craving for barbecue-d and grilled items that I have dined at Barbecue Boss more times than I can recount.

The primary reason why Barbecue Boss, like BBQ Bob, is a favorite of mine is because it offers quality grilled items for a reasonable cost. The most popular grilled item on Barbecue Boss' menu is their Pork Barbecue. And admittedly, a personal favorite of mine! Where else in Davao can you get a stick of pork barbecue for only PhP 6? The best thing about their barbecue is that it is made of pure lean meat, meaning no fat that most of us end up not wanting to eat anyway. However, when you order the pork barbecue, you need to get a minimum of 5 pieces. Not a problem! I bet you will enjoy their pork barbecue so much that you'd end up wanting more after consuming all 5 sticks!

Meanwhile, it was a rainy night when we recently dined at Barbecue Boss so I thought I'd go for one of their soup dishes. Sinigang Bangus sounded the perfect choice because I am a huge fan of this dish. Their version of this dish was nothing short of excellent. The tartness of the soup is just right. Plus, I appreciate that there were several slices of bangus to go with this dish along with the vegetables. Not bad for a soup dish priced at only PhP 65!

Lastly, we ordered a single stick of Isol. Don't ask me what this is about. I didn't get to taste it because it's not the most delectable part of a chicken. But E told me that the meat is juicy and well seasoned. You can try it for yourself and a stick will cost you PhP 25.

Barbecue Boss is a good option for those looking for affordable barbecue in Davao. My only qualm is that their service is a bit inconsistent - some of the waiters/waitresses are not too attentive to customer orders. Thankfully, our waiter was extra attentive on our recent visit so we got our orders quickly and stepped off their restaurant feeling happy and satisfied about our meal.

Barbecue Boss has branches in Matina Town Square, Quirino Ave., and Damosa Lanang.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seaside Lunch at Precious Garden of Samal

My idea of a perfect weekend is spending lazy time on the beach either dipping in the turquoise ocean water or just lounging seaside. One weekend, I tagged the boyf along in order to have a last-minute getaway before summer officially ends! We headed to Precious Garden of Samal. This resort initially piqued my interest because of its gorgeous beachline and the fact that it's not too overcrowded (as most other Samal beach resorts are) so I can have a truly relaxing time during my stay. But little did I know that I'd stumble into a foodie haven, too. I've read reviews citing the quality food in this resort but I did not expect much. Of course, you don't really expect to get gourmet quality food at a beach resort, but who would've guessed?

Take a peek into our seaside lunch and some of the treats we enjoyed during our stay at Precious Garden of Samal.

Fish 'N Chips

Fish Fillet

Bowl of Fresh Fruits & Ice Cream

When I saw this on the menu, I readily ordered it because I knew this dessert was perfect for the weather. The bowl of fruits consisted of slices of the following: apples, mangoes, and bananas. It is topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sitting on full cream. Yes, the dessert is as refreshing as it sounds! The best thing about this dessert is that it is clearly made from fresh fruits. When you're enjoying this beachside, can life be any better?

Precious Garden of Samal is located at Sitio Libudan, Brgy. Miranda, Babak, Island Garden City of Samal.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Murray's New Orleans Bourbon Street Ribs Steak & Oysters

Whenever I decide which restaurant to dine into, I do not just look into the food to help me decide. Dining is more than just the food, I'll tell you that. It is an experience in and of its own. Hence, I really appreciate restaurateurs who spend time to come up with a unique concept that is reflected in their dishes and ambiance. This is exactly the reason why I was drawn to Murray's New Orleans.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled onto a blog featuring this restaurant and I was so interested about the ambiance and the food that it piqued my interest enough to head to SM Lanang Premier one day to give them a try. Upon walking in, I readily feel the jolly vibe of this restaurant. Good thing, we came in early to have our dinner so we get to pick the best seat in the house. While I am in awe with the vibrantly colored bar area and the jazz allusions in many of the emblems plastered all over the restaurant, I kept my reservations because I knew the food was going to make or break it.

While waiting for our orders to be served, we were given this huge slice of bread with a dip as complimentary treat. I'm not sure if I'm the only who does this but I enthusiastically dove into the slice of bread. It has a subtle flavor and very, very soft. Before I could even finish the bread, though, our orders had arrived - indeed faster than I had anticipated!

This first dish is called Kansas City Ribs. This is the smaller version of their famous Baby Back Ribs and priced at approximately P395. The waitress told us this serving is good for one person only, but it's HUGE! We ended up sharing it because E was raving about how tender and delicious the meat was. This dish is a half slab of pork baby back ribs barbecued with their house BBQ sauce until tender and served with dirty rice (their own version of Java Rice, which I thought was superbly delicious!) and coleslaw. I loved the coleslaw with this dish. The flavor of the barbecued meat can be overwhelming to your palate after some point, and it helped to cut into that and neutralize the flavor in your mouth.

Another dish that I had the opportunity to sample is their Shrimp Ettouffe. I originally picked Baked Salmon but sadly it wasn't available on our visit (don't you just hate when that happens?). Anyhow, I ended up liking this dish. This is a pasta dish served with sauteed shrimps, ettouffe cream sauce, spinach, and parmesan cheese. This dish is highly aromatic that I could not help but spend a few seconds just savoring its aroma before finally digging in. This photo couldn't do this dish justice. By the way, you can order this for P385.

They do have a wide range of drinks to choose from ranging from alcoholic beverages, to mojitos, to fresh fruit shakes. I, of course, went for the fresh mango fruit juice. A glass will set you back at P105 but totally worth every penny.

Murray's New Orleans is a fantastic addition into the local culinary scene. Davao will be treated to quality Southwestern, Cajun, and international cuisines, among a slew of other restaurants already serving up delicious treats for the local palate. But it's always better when you have more options!

Murray's New Orleans Bourbon Street Ribs, Steaks & Oysters is located at G/F of SM Lanang Premier fronting the Fountain Court.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Chatime Review: Hit By The Milk Tea Bug

When I first shared about ChaTime opening a branch in SM Lanang Premier in my blog a few months back, I wasn't reeling with enthusiasm about trying them out. Don't get me wrong - it's just that I am not crazy about milk tea, though I do enjoy a sip once in a while. I also blogged about how 360 Degree Handshake Milk Tea has made me a convert, but I still don't find myself craving for them more than the next girl. However, ChaTime might just change all that.

One weekend while I was at SM Lanang, I went on over to the ChaTime stall and ordered one of the best-sellers. I admit - there were plenty of choices available to try and I was a bit overwhelmed when I got to the counter that it took me a while to finalize my order. I asked the attendant about what they could recommend and they pointed at this little cardboard with their Top 10 bestsellers. I guess I should start with that, then. After all, there must be a reason why they're bestsellers!

I went with the Chocolate Mousse milk tea selection. It's number two in their Top 10 bestsellers list! When I took my first sip, I was blown away - literally and figuratively! There is a right amount of sweetness in this drink but what I loved most about it is the richness of the choco mousse flavor. It lingers in your palate even after you've had your sip. I swore that I would not order anything with chocolate but I ended up liking my choice that it's bound to become a favorite of mine! Even the boyf who isn't into chocolate totally loved it, as well.

Here is a complete list of their best-sellers, with pic courtesy of Enter Davao:

Have you tried ChaTime?

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