Monday, September 30, 2013

Mandarin Tea Garden's Ma Chang and Fried Seafood Rolls

Finding new items to try at restaurants you frequent is always an exciting prospect. It almost feels like discovering a new foodie spot altogether. Hence, E and I make it a point to explore new items or old items that we haven't tried before on the menu whenever dining out. Such is the case with Mandarin Tea Garden when we dined recently.

Ma Chang is a recipe that traces its roots to China. However, this dish might appeal to Filipinos because this is a rice-base delicacy, which quickly reminded me of Pastil. The distinctive difference with Pastil, though, is that the rice is sticky and chunky in texture. There is also a subtle salty flavor coming from the rice itself, as well as the chunks of pork, tofu, mushroom, and garlic. It is a rich flavor in a small package, indeed.

Meanwhile, this Fried Seafood Roll is another pleasantly surprising dish. On my previous trips, I've sampled the Steamed Seafood Roll version but decided to give the fried version a try. The roll of seafoods consisting of crab sticks, fish, and shrimps are coated with a light batter that is deep fried to make the exterior turn brown and crunchy. It also comes with its own garlic mayo dip.

If you are looking for something new to try at Mandarin Tea Garden or up for an Asian Fusion cuisine experiment, you need to take note of these two dishes.

Have you tried these dishes at Mandarin Tea Garden? Check this link to find a branch near you.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Beef Shawarma from Zabadani Cafe

Shawarma might not be that all too alien for most of us, Davaoenos. It's primarily because there are several of these food stalls offering shawarma and shawarma rice dishes that give us the opportunity to sample what is probably the most popular dish to come out of the Middle Eastern cuisine. Thus, I was pleased to sample this dish at Zabadani Cafe on my most recent trip there. And like most of the other dishes I've tried at this popular resto, I became a big fan.

Beef Shawarma from Zabadani Cafe is a pita roll of breast fillet or beef slices laid with fresh cucumber, tomatoes, white onion and lettuce. The meat is then drizzled with generous amount of garlic and shawarma sauces. The sagheer (or small) serving costs PhP 95, kabeer (large) serving costs PhP 180.

The combination of flavor from the beef slices (savory and salty), tomatoes (slightly tangy), and cucumber (neutralizer) helps to achieve balance in flavor. Hence, it is neither too overwhelming nor too spicy.

If you are looking to get a good appetizer to start off your meal, the Beef Shawarma is highly recommended. But if you don't feel like going for a rice meal, it is also a good choice - just don't forget to go for the larger serving.


Visit Zabadani Cafe at The Peak Gaisano Mall (beside Kublai Khan), JP Laurel Avenue, Davao City. 
Contact #: (082) 301-6065
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dinner at Max's Abreeza

"The house that fried chicken built" - That is the tagline for Max's brand. This has always intrigued me because it is rare for most restaurants to come up with such a huge promise and nail it. Some meet expectations, while others under-deliver. But if you've survived several decades in the business, I guess it only indicates one thing. 

Max's Fried Chicken is a restaurant chain that was first introduced in the Philippines in 1945, post World War II. The restaurant was named after Maximo Gimenez, a teacher who set up a cafe wherein he served chicken and steak. Eventually, the menu expanded to offer mainly Filipino style dishes and it was only a matter of time until Max's burst into the scene and became one of the most popular restaurants during that time. Max's started to open up franchising opportunities in 1998.

With over 127 branches in the Philippines, Max's in Abreeza is one of the most recent restaurants to be added into the brand's growing list. My recent dinner at Max's isn't my first time, but it is for a long time. I can remember during the 90's that there was a Max's branch in SM City Davao but it closed and then returned to Davao in Abreeza when the mall opened last year. Hence, this is another opportunity for the famous fried chicken restaurant to appeal to this generation's discerning taste for fried chicken, especially given that there are a wide array of options for restaurants specializing in this particular dish (in a wide range of prices, too). 

We started off our meal with this Cream of Mushroom Soup. This is one of my favorite soups of all time, including seafood chowder. Max's version is rich and creamy. If only the waiter could remember to serve it with its own dedicated spoon, this meal would have started off on a better note.

Basic Meal

The Basic Meal set is a yet satisfying combination of the famous Max's fried chicken (quarter size), steamed rice, and a caramel bar. This meal set also comes with free drinks. I opted for their Iced Tea. This fried chicken is arguably one of the best I've tasted - crispy on the outside, yet juicy and savory on the inside.

Chicken Barbecue Meal

If you have a bigger appetite, the Chicken Barbecue Meal is a good option at Max's. This meal set consists of two pieces of chicken (leg and thigh portions) that are flame grilled to get that tangy barbecue flavor. Max's chicken barbecue is notable, though, because it is soft on the inside despite having that char-grilled effect on the surface. This, too, comes with its own free drink.

Have you tried Max's in Abreeza? How did you enjoy it?

Max's is located at second floor of Abreeza Ayala Mall.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Aling Foping's Chili Con Carne

Aling Foping's. When you hear the name, what do you recall? Halo-halo. True, Aling Foping's halo-halo is famous nationwide that people have come to associate it with their famed frozen treat. In fact, tourists from various parts of the country often drop by Aling Foping's to get a taste of the halo-halo that everyone's buzzing about. But did you know that Aling Foping's is also famous for another treat? It's their Chili Con Carne.

Chili Con Carne is a Mexican dish that literally translates to "chili with meat". Judging by the name, you can expect this dish to be slightly spicy since it is a stew made from chili peppers. It also contains ground beef, beans, and tomatoes as ingredients for that tomato-based stew. The dish is seasoned with various spices including garlic, onions, and cumin so you get a spicy kick to every spoonful.

Aling Foping's Chili Con Carne did not disappoint. It was everything it was hyped to be. There was a hint of spice but was not too overpowering that even those who aren't into spicy dishes can still enjoy it. At the same time, the mixture of beef and beans made every spoonful a parade of flavor and texture. My only qualm about Aling Foping's Chili Con Carne is that it might be a tad too expensive for its serving size. Each mini bowl serving will set you back at PhP 105.

Have you tried Aling Foping's Chili con Carne?

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

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

De Bonte Koe Restaurant: Taste of European Cuisine

Have you ever walked into a restaurant, tasted their food, and felt like you just stumbled into a gem? I've had several of these experiences but nothing quite like when I dined at De Bonte Koe for the first time. To be quite honest though, I had been eyeing this restaurant for a very long time but was unable to convince myself to dine. But now that I have tried this restaurant, I can boldly claim that it is going to end up in my Top 10 restaurants in Davao list, if I decide to come up with one soon.

The ambiance at De Bonte Koe is romantic, warm, and intimate. There are lots of figurines, wall paintings, and other quirky details that complete the overall vibe of this restaurant. When we settled into a table, the waitress also lit up one of the candles waiting on the table. Talk about a romantic dinner!

One of the things I like about fine dining restaurants are the complimentary treats they offer. In fact, E & I had been secretly assessing a restaurant's quality based on their complimentary. After all, this is a customer's first chance to taste the food they have on offer. This one is not exceptional but still good. I still think that Bon Appetit Le Bistro, Picobello, and Ronaldo's has some of the best complimentary treats from what I've tried so far!

Norwegian Salmon Steak (PhP 395) - This dish consist of a slow roasted salmon over an open flame to keep it tender. Love the fact that the fish isn't overly seasoned - just enough to complement the natural rich flavor of the salmon meat. This dish is served with veggies, mashed potato, and two choices of dip (garlic mayo and pesto). Just when I thought I've tasted the best salmon in my life, I think this one beats them all!

Chili Con Carne (PhP 265) - This is a spicy stew out of the oven that contains chili peppers, lean ground beef, tomatoes and red beans. This Mexican treat is also served with a choice of rice or French bread.

Fried Vanilla Ice Cream (PhP 140 for Special) - This dessert is made of a breaded (cookie crumbs) scoop of ice cream that is quickly deep-fried creating a warm, crispy shell around the still-cold ice cream. The dessert is then topped with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup. When we saw this dessert on the menu, we knew we had to try it! First time to sample fried ice cream and this one is super delicious! Must try!

World class quality meal, top rate service and reasonable prices. All of these factors combine to make De Bonte Koe a dining gem in the city's culinary landscape. The owner is also very accommodating and hands-on with the service. In fact, he treated E to a shot of vodka before starting our meal. Quality food might make you appreciate a restaurant but it is the warm and friendly service that makes you want to come back! And I can guarantee that that won't be the last time we'd be dining at De Bonte Koe.

De Bonte Koe is located at Casa de Habana Compound, Rizal St., Davao City.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fish Filfil from Zabadani Cafe

Since my mom had one of her kidneys extracted, her doctors advised her to stay away from a red meat diet and stick to fish instead. Hence, it has been a challenge in the household to come up with different ways to prepare fish to ensure that my mom sticks with her doctor's diet recommendation yet still be able to enjoy her food. A new dish I've tried at Zabadani Cafe just gave me another great idea for preparing my fish that I can do at home. Fish Filfil is a savory dish that also makes for a great comfort food.

Fish Filfil is made with ground Spanish mackerel and seasoned with salt, lemon, fresh parsley, and Zabadani falafel mixture combining various herbs and spices. The ground, seasoned mackerel is then formed into balls and deep-fried until golden brown in color. Voila! You have a simple yet sophisticated dish that will quickly become anyone's favorite!

Don't tell me that doesn't look appetizing. Fish Filfil is available in two serving sizes: P 145 for sagheer or small, P 280 for kabeer or large serving.

Visit Zabadani Cafe at G/F of Gaisano Mall The Peak, JP Laurel Avenue, Davao City.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Picobello Italian Ristorante: Long Overdue Return

It's been years since our last visit to Picobello. You can credit that to the fact that there's a new restaurant shooting up in Davao almost every month that there are more to the city's culinary landscape to explore. But we cannot deny the fact that we still crave Picobello's authentic Italian, wood fired oven pizzas from time to time. There is some level of comfort and satisfaction that you can expect when dining at Picobello that is why it's not a surprise that business remains steadfast despite the array of new dining options.

The complimentary at Picobello is still one of my favorites. You are served with a basket of focaccia bread and a saucer filled with mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Simplicity at its best. But you can get nothing better than this to whet up your taste buds!

To get a peek into our Italian rendezvous, check out our orders below:

Ravioli (P 205)

I've always been a big fan of Ravioli and aside from Swiss Deli's, this one is one of the best I've tried to date. This dish is made of pasta stuffed with ricotta in tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. This dish also nourishes your sense of smell as it does your taste buds!

Con Salsiccie (P 315)

When in Picobello, you can't afford to skip the pizza. We opted for one that is packed with all of the famous Italian pizza toppings - mozarella, tomato sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, and salami! Every bite is no doubt a taste of Italian heaven!

Despite all these years, Picobello Italian Ristorante remains a top favorite for me & E. The authentic Italian offerings and quality of food makes it the go-to option for those who would like to experience authentic Italian cuisine in Davao. And yet, their warm service and attention to detail is quite unparalleled too. As a bonus, we got a wonderful view of the city as we were dining!

Picobello is located at 5th floor of Gaisano South CitiMall, Ilustre St., Davao City.

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