Vietnam may be our Southeast Asian neighbor but our cuisines seem to be poles apart. Pinoy food is typified by very rich flavors, often subscribing to the idea that “if a little is okay, more is better”. On the other hand, Vietnamese food is more about the subtleties of flavors and the prudent use of herbs and spices. This may explain why Vietnamese food is nowhere as popular as say, Chinese or Thai cuisine, over here. Perhaps, the key is to strike a happy balance between subtlety and saturation – the formula that Aquaknox, Manila’s newest Vietnamese Contemporary restaurant, is using to catch the fancy of Pinoy diners. The operative word is: “contemporary” meaning authentic and yet updated. Come with us for a taste of Vietnamese with a fine dining twist.
We venture to Mile Long and Makati Cinema Square every now and then and pass the small road leading to Makati Square. We often see the SERYNA signage flanking the side entrance to the Little Tokyo complex and wonder what’s inside. Not that the place has received little media publicity but we always wanted to sample what’s been written about and what the steady stream of diners (evidenced by the endless flow of cars parked on the strip) has been dropping by for. Last weekend, we got a chance to do just that when a trip to another restaurant didn’t go as planned.
Being named after one of the special wards of Tokyo, Shinjuku Ramen House has some big shoes to fill. But this virtual institution in the restaurant front is more than capable of meeting big expectations and big appetites. I remembered eating at their rather non-descript branch in Makati Avenue years back and know from memory how good the food was.
Their other Makati branch was also rather old and non-descript until it got a major renovation some months back. As part of the Little Tokyo complex, it gets immediate attention from passersby since it is located along the busy thoroughfare of Pasong Tamo, at the much-coveted corner where one turns before heading off to Makati Cinema Square. At certain times of the day, the parking lot is full and the restaurant plays host to a mixed clientele eager to taste their authentic ramen and other Japanese fare.
The food court of a mall is normally NOT the place to look for decent Japanese food. Almost always, the “food court pricing” automatically means that the food outlet would scrimp on ingredients or cut corners, ergo less satisfying Japanese fare. But happily, we found an exception and it was literally right under our noses – Banzai Japanese Kitchen in the food court of Cash & Carry Mall.
I’ve always had a penchant for Thai food ever since I’ve encountered it a long time ago way back when Flavors and Spices, one of the pioneers of Thai cuisine in the country, was around. Then, there was also the more mainstream but nonetheless delicious offerings of Sukhothai. I had this notion that it’s pretty hard not to like Thai food because for all the differences it had with local fare, there are some striking similarities – the use of a shrimp paste, nam pla, for example bears strong resemblance to our bagoong and patis. Some of the flavors are also familiar – the liberal use of lemongrass or tanglad, lime juice, chilis and coconut milk.
It’s not everyday that I hanker for Thai food but I somehow lament the fact that it’s not as commonly available as before. Until I found out that there’s a Thai restaurant along Pasong Tamo that serves great Thai food – Thai Sticks ‘n Steaks. The blurb outside says its cuisine is inspired by Sukhothai. Don’t let the funky name fool you, the food is really very good. So come inside and let’s taste what it has to offer.
Desserts have always been synonymous with the word “sweets” but it doesn’t always have to be that way. A visit to an American country-style bakery cafe named Mom and Tina’s proved us wrong. They have a huge selection of baked goodies that are both truly luscious to the eyes and delectable to the taste.
Mom and Tina’s is a run by the Torres family (named after their Grandmother Mama Belen and her daughter Tina Torres-Santos) for a few years now. The restaurant shows that the very good home-grown food they prepare is hard not to hide for so long. Starting as a small bake shop in Pasig, their place eventually grew to a large bakery cafe in front of SM Hypermart in Ugong. And about 3 months ago they opened a new spot in Legaspi Village along Dela Rosa, Makati where we were finally able to sample what they have to offer.
22 years is a very long time for any restaurant to be around especially now that restaurants sprout one year and close shop the next.
Hunter’s could be commended for longevity alone if it weren’t for the wonderful food it offers. Tucked in a rather non-descript part of Mile Long in Makati, Hunter’s carries on a tradition of exotic fare that harkens back to a time when game animals such as wild boar and deer were still plentiful and un-politically correct to serve.
What’s the secret ingredient for Hunter’s? The good food, for sure. Another is the impossible-to-not-like presence of its affable owner, Mila Fitz, who regales guests with stories that trace the history of the place back when most of Makati was still grassland.
Yakiniku is Japanese for “grilled meat”. Beef, pork and offal (entrails, internal organs) slices are cooked over coal (traditional), gas or electric (modern) grill and served with a soy-sauce-based dip. Yakiniku traces its origins to Korea but is different from Korean fare such as bulgogi as the customers themselves grill the meat.