Your Happyfoodies trudged to the northern highlands for the days leading up to the new year with an overnight stop in Baguio. By chance, we got billeted in a hotel on a quieter street parallel to the always-busy (read: noisy) Session Road and chanced upon the barely month-old The Coffee Library on the ground floor of the Rex Hall Student Residences along General Luna Street. Needless to say, it was a serendipitous find. Yes, it is eye-catching, with tasteful touches of ethnic crafts, mix of red brick and warm wood, even vintage “padyak” (foot pedal-powered) sewing machines converted into tables, but how was the food, you may ask.
Adding a dash of lively colors in the once Typhoon Yolanda stricken city of Tacloban is Chew Love. I chuck a soft laugh when I heard my tricycle driver say “Ang cute pala dito ah! (This place looks cute ah!)” when he finally found the place. Borne out from the ashes of the devastation of Tacloban, entrepreneur, Coke Young-Go, found opportunity from the rubble. Chew love is a product of pouring in her creative interest from fashion, food and photography. It’s hard not to miss this restaurant with its lovely European/Country inspired theme that’s a sure head turner.
One of life’s hidden blessings is living a short walk away from nice eating places. It doesn’t always have to be fancy, swanky places or franchises of big chains. Personally, we at Happyfoodies are big fans of small establishments, hole-in-the-walls and mom-and-pop operations whose offerings defy their size and relative obscurity. Stumbling upon BonBanhmi along Mayapis in Makati is a good example, a small nondescript shop operated from the house. If it weren’t for the small sign, it’s fairly easy to miss. The giveaway sight is the usual display counter. For an eating area, it has a converted garage furnished with monobloc tables and chairs. But if the place is simple, the food is anything but.
It’s way off the main road and open only for lunch and dinner three days of the week. But the gathering buzz on Bawai’s is proof that good news do travel fast. To paraphrase Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams”, if you cook good food, they will come. And visitors do hie off all the way here to dine. We visited one hot Sunday afternoon as part of a small contingent of Summit Ridge’s Tagaytay weekend getaway.
The location is actually in Silang, Cavite. To get there from the ridge, we head back to the rotonda and make a turn near the Aguinaldo highway and head through a smaller road, passing through hilly terrain planted to pineapple. We take another turn on a smaller road and stopped at a non-descript, two-storey house that looked nothing like a restaurant.
Coming in, we espy a garden at the back where an alfresco dining area beckoned under the shade of trees and a profusion of plants. We were ushered to the upstairs dining area instead, greeted by the pleasant aroma of something delicious simmering. The place feels more like a home than a restaurant, The dining area isn’t much bigger than those found in other ancestral houses, with several tables that can accommodate no more than a dozen diners at any one time. Well, the diners ahead of us seemed to be in a jovial mood — always a good omen in any eating place.
Angeles City may be a chartered city independent of Pampanga since the 60s but it still shares the Kapampangan flair for cooking up delicious fare and perhaps more importantly, a contagious appetite for joyful eating. It’s a tall order to live down its naughty, steamy reputation but the city has another side that can satisfy the other senses. By that we mean the nose and the taste buds. Your Happyfoodies tagged along for a food trip of Angeles City and what we found pleasantly surprised us.
For starters, we found a piece of Vietnam along Jesus Street in the historic district near the Pamintuan Mansion — in Banh Mi Saigon. Who would’ve thought that you can find heavenly Banh Mi sandwiches and spring rolls in between a neighborhood gym and a sari-sari store? Owner Rex Soriano, recently repatriated from the U.S. after nearly a decade of working at Nobu in New York counted on his experience as a chef and the invaluable inputs of his Vietnamese mother-in-law and wife to come up with fare that begs for repeat visits.
The facade looks so much more welcoming with the clear floor-to-ceiling glass covered this time with bamboo slats in lieu of heavy drapes. Stepping inside, the interior is light and airy. The last time Happyfoodies was here was two years ago. A lot can happen in that span, in fact, a few of the restaurants we reviewed has sadly come and gone. Happily, Aquaknox has stayed on, reinventing itself along the way.
Lucky Plaza is said to be dominated by the Filipino crowd, but in a hidden corner of this mall one can find a really good Indonesian restaurant called Resto Surabaya. It has simple interiors with earth colors and a comfortable dining area. The Ayam Penyet (Surabya style Fried Chicken) was tasty at every level from skin to meat, especially with a dip in the chili spice.
Imagine a restaurant with only one item in the menu. Hmmm, we even forgot if there was a menu at all. There is such a place – it’s Cha Ca La Vong and it’s in Hanoi. At a time when most eating establishments adopt “the more, the merrier” approach when it comes to food offerings, this restaurant in the Old Quarters of Hanoi takes simplicity to the other extreme. Who would argue with this formula when it’s over a hundred years old? That this institution is listed among the must-visit places in Vietnam gives us an incentive to try and see what’s the fuss is all about.