Thursday, September 29, 2011

Empanada Nation

I’m now back to restaurant blogging after a long hiatus. Since I’ve been dining in a lot of fancy restaurants recently, I think I’ve spent a huge portion of my savings without me knowing. Hence, for this gastronomic adventure, I called up my usual food buddy and asked her to suggest some cheap restaurants around the city. 

Empanada Nation popped into her mind right away and, without any hesitation, I readily decided to give it a go (I really am a sucker for good food for a cheap cost). Anyway, for this food trip, we had to take the taxi as the shop just relocated recently to Sgt. Esguerra, which is a rather inaccessible place from where I live. 
It was a silly experience, really. Clad in what I would consider as my most luxuriant outfit and taking a cab to get here, I looked pretty awkward, if not totally out of place, in this restaurant. This place had this carinderia-like feel inside. The floor looked sticky, the place is not airconditioned and, since there were only a few of us visiting the place that day, the ceiling fans weren’t even working!
Orange and blue isn’t really the most flattering color combination for a restaurant but I guess the owners of the store had a different vision.
After taking some photos, I went in and looked for a menu (I’m such a social climber) and, of course, there wasn’t any. I only saw these posted illustration boards inside with the menu written on them in colored chalk.
Overall, i think this is not a very inviting place for people who’d like to dine out. It was very uncomfortable to stay here and we literally had to shoo away some flies inside the establishment. Nevertheless, no place is unfit for a hungry stomach, so we still went in and ordered.
Obviously, Empanada is their specialty here and the problem is I don’t actually eat Empanada. I just hate the flavor of the pastry and the filling. It’s icky to me. The challenge therefore for Ate (who prepared our Empanadas) is to convert me to an Empanada lover after this experience.
Peering through the foggy glass wall (as it was raining that day), we were able to observe how Ate prepared our Empanadas. Above, you can see her pound the ingredients needed for my Double Special Empanada.
This is the Empanada dough which was very orange. 
Ate now flattens the dough with an improvised rolling pin.
She then cooks the veggies. It doesn’t look appetizing to me.
Here, Ate places the filling on top of the dough.
On to the frying pan!
Finally, it’s all done and ready to serve!
Double Special Empanada (P 70.00)
Now, for the real challenge, I had to consume this entire serving of Empanada, which was really huge (probably the biggest one I’ve seen in my life). It has two servings of Longaniza and an egg.
I sliced the Empanada in half for photography purposes and I guess it looked yummy. I tried munching on this and, surprisingly, it tasted good. The pastry of the Empanada was thin and crispy. The filling was very good as well. the flavor of the Vigan Longaniza was actually the most distinctive one I can taste here. Thank God, I didn’t get to taste the veggies much as they looked pretty unappetizing. I never thought I’d ever appreciate Empanada, but this changed me.
Special Empanada (P 55.00)
My friend only had the Special Empanada. it just comes with one Longaniza and an egg but it has more vegetables on it. I’m glad I didn’t have this one as I thought that the veggies inside the wrap are not really delicious. I hope there’s a version with no veggies at all!
Crispy Bagis (P 80.00)
I think this one’s comprised of pork intestine seasoned with some salt and was deep fried to make it very crispy. This is not really good for people who are not drinking. It tasted okay with the vinegar and all but it was a bit too salty for my sweet palate. I think this will go well with beer.
The service was really bad. Apart from you ordering everything, the staff was simply unfriendly and unaccommodating. The waiters didn’t even greet us when we came inside and we had to find our own seats as they did not lead us to a table. 
When our order was served to us, they provided no table napkins. And there was only one table with a napkin holder from the dozens of tables in the restaurant. I guess good service comes with a price and, for the cost of the food, I think I shouldn’t be expecting anything from the personnel.
The food here is not at all expensive. The Empanada alone is filling. It’s already like a complete meal. I wouldn’t say that the price of the food is dirt cheap but it was very affordable. I'd still want to come back here some other time, just for the Empanada, but, if ever I do, I'd probably have my order wrapped and taken out.
Ambiance - 2/5
Food - 3/5
Service - 2/5
Value - 5/5
TOTAL - 3/5
Empanada Nation
09209215385, 09178938665, 09235564567
26 Sgt. Esguerra St., Brgy. South Triangle
Quezon City, M.M.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eat Well! Delicious Kitchen

I accompanied a friend of mine in buying this special soap from Lush MOA, and we ended up feeling hungry after all the travelling, searching, and walking around the mall. We decided to have dinner in a fast food chain but, unfortunately, all of them were full.

We searched high and low for an establishment with at least enough space for us two and, after almost half an hour of walking, we chanced upon Eat Well! Delicious Kitchen, which only had two tables occupied. I knew that this friend of mine isn't really the type who enjoys eating in upscale places, but I was extremely hungry, so I pledged to pay for the meal just to fill my already grumbling tummy fast. With that proposition, it didn't take long for us to step in the restaurant and make our order.

I wonder why this restaurant is not getting much attention from people. How could they not notice this establishment when it looks very pretty? I usually review the interiors of the restaurants I write about in my blog, but this time, I had to really emphasize how attractive the exterior design of this restaurant is.

And who wouldn't be drawn inside the restaurant with a food display like this? This reminded me of the Siu Mei establishments in Hong Kong.

Anyway, as soon as we were seated, I did all the ordering. I was on a tight budget, so I picked budget-friendly meals.

Special Cold Platter (P 325.00)

My first order was their "special" cold platter, which is a "must-order" whenever I dine in a Chinese restaurant while I'm short on cash (as it's a really cheap way of enjoying many variants of food). I didn't really know what's so special about this dish, but I noticed that everything on the platter was relatively Cantonese, except the Hainanese Chicken. I guess this makes this "special" as most cold cut platters either include roast duck or soy chicken

The personal favorite of my friend was the Hainanese Chicken, which went so well with their special Chinese sauce. Mine was the Lechon Macau, which was also very good and is probably a worthy contender for the best Lechon Macau title. Unfortunately, the Char Siu was not up to my standards. It was a bit bland and had this overpowering sesame oil flavor. The jellyfish and century egg were both okay, too.

Yang Chow Fried Rice (P 205)

My friend isn't Chinese and isn't really a fan of Chinese food, so I just ordered their Yang Chow Fried Rice to be safe. It was such a small serving of rice, but I can't say I was disappointed though as there were lots of shrimp bits on the rice, which my friend gobbled up with gusto (I am allergic to shrimps). If I haven't tasted Summer Palace's Yang Zhou Fried Rice, I would say that this is probably among the best.

Sweet and Sour Pork (P 260.00)

The serving size of the food was not really that big and we wanted some more dishes, so we went ahead and ordered their Sweet and Sour Pork, which was a common order among the only two groups of diners in the restaurant. The presentation of this Sweet and Sour Pork version wasn't the most stunning I've seen, but I was surprised at how sumptuous this dish is.

There is certainly a reason for ordering this dish in Eat Well. This version was very crispy, and the sauce tasted strangely similar to Summer Palace's. It's a cheaper version, I would say, of the best Sweet and Sour Pork in town from Summer Palace. It was lip-smacking good, and it definitely tasted more than its price.

I was really, really happy with our meal in Eat Well! Delicious Kitchen. Apart from the absolutely delicious food, I spent no more than P 800.00 for this meal. There was also no service charge, and the prices were tax-inclusive. This was probably one of the best accident meals I've ever had, and I would surely be back for more. Maybe, I'd try their other branches next time. 

Ambiance - 4/5
Food - 5/5
Service - 4/5
Value - 5/5
TOTAL - 4.5/5  

Eat Well! Delicious Kitchen

(02) 822 5837
G/F North Wing, Pacific Drive, SM Mall of Asia
Manila Bay Reclamation Area, Pasay, Metro Manila

Friday, September 23, 2011

DVF Farms Pastillas de Leche

Pastillas de Leche is one of my favorite Filipino sweets. I've grown up eating these creamy milk candies and, as some of our relatives live in Bulacan, I've gotten to know the consistency and flavor of the authentic versions of this delicacy. The original recipe of Pastillas only calls for the combination of reduced fresh carabao's milk and sugar. However, sad to say, many of the Pastillas de Leche that are sold in the market  today are not authentic anymore. They usually combine condensed milk to the fresh milk to hasten the process of cooking the Pastillas or add powdered milk into the mixture to set the candy. More than that, they usually add preservatives as this delicacy does not really have a long shelf-life.
I've tried so many versions of Pastillas and, in my opinion, nothing could still beat the ones that are sold in San Miguel, Bulacan - the home of the original Pastillas. However, I live in Manila and it's pretty hard to travel to the countryside just to get a taste of this extraordinary candy. Hence, my search for the best Pastillas in town started. 
I actually tried three of the best versions I know that are available in our local supermarkets: Ric-Mar's, Sitsirya's, and DVF's, and surprisingly, among the three, DVF's tasted the best. It was really a shocking revelation as the other two versions of Pastillas are made in Bulacan, whilst this one is from Nueva Ecija.
Hence, puzzled, I asked myself one simple question.What makes DVF's the best among the rest? Let's try to find that out.

Pastillas de Leche, Two Dozens (P 105.00)
The first thing that I looked into is the packaging. The traditional Pastillas that I've known all my life is usually placed in a plain gray box, and though this one's not really in a gray box, at least it's still boxed. Now, the problem with some Pastillas boxes is they have a distinct papery odor that seems to seep into the Pastillas, changing its flavor.
The difference with DVF's, however, is, although it was also packed in a box,  the candies inside are wrapped in plastic to prevent them from getting that papery flavor from the box. Indeed, packaging is very important as it can mess up the taste of the morsels inside.
Aside from this, Pastillas de Leche is traditionally rolled in a sheet of white paper with Japanese paper overlapping the sheet, then tucked into the sides to seal the edges. This one follows the same packaging. 
However, one interesting thing is, inside, the pieces of Pastillas are still carefully wrapped in plastic before the paper layer. I believe this really helps in retaining the flavor of the candies and preventing them from hardening due to moisture leakage. Whoever thought of packing it like this is brilliant!
But, of course, the true measure of the Pastillas is in its appearance, taste, and consistency. As you can see above, the color of this morsel is slightly darker than how it should be, but the flavor was really nice and light. This one's a true and authentic Pastillas, not because of how it looks, but because of its silky-smooth consistency and its soft and velvety texture, combined with a sweetness that's not cloying, and that unique carabao's milk flavor that's so subtly different from cow's milk. It's a luxurious version of Pastillas! Other versions can be a tad too hard, chewy, or even gummy, but this one has that melt-in-the-mouth consistency I always look for in a Pastillas. Never mind the color. I can eat an entire pack of this in one sitting. It's rich and creamy flavor is what makes this a really good deal for a price that's even cheaper than the commercial ones from Red Ribbon.

DVF Farms Kiosk
2nd Level SM North EDSA
(Beside Cinemas 5 and 8)
North Avenue cor. EDSA, Quezon City

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dali Restaurante y Bar de Tapas

Dali Restaurante y Bar de Tapas is a newly-established Spanish restaurant, which primarily serves tapas. By the way, to those who are still unfamiliar with tapas (like me when we went here), these are Spanish snacks served either hot or cold.

When we arrived at the place, the first thing I noticed was the fountain. I haven’t been to a restaurant with a fountain before so I thought that this was really cool and was definitely a refreshing change from glass walls and doors.
They also have an al fresco dining area, which doesn’t look as airy and vibrant as it is in the morning during the night. I guess this part of the restaurant has a lot of potential and would really look good during the day.
Of note, this place was named after a certain Spanish artist named Salvador Dali and I guess, because of that, the owners of the store decided to give the place an artsy feel by hanging a lot of paintings everywhere.
Apart from being well-decorated, the place was also very clean and everything looked new. However, I didn’t like the floor as it was just concreted in some parts. I would’ve been happier if the floors were tiled or carpeted.
Nonetheless, some parts of the restaurant are really worth noting.  For instance, The dining area has these huge hanging lamps with several candle-shaped bulbs inside, which give the place a Spanish feel.
The lighting, albeit dark, was very classy and warm too. And to our delight, some of the tables looked like barrels.
I believe that the place really had a certain theme. Everything looked Spanish-inspired and even the LCD television is framed as if it’s a painting.
The restroom area looked really unique too with these framed ceramic sculpture of two people dressed in traditional Spanish costumes. 
As this is also a bar, there is a wide selection of wines to choose from. However, I didn’t want to try any as I don’t really drink. I did hear though that their Sangres here are good.
In my opinion, the food here was very satisfactory and filling and all the dishes looked very appetizing. I can say that the establishment really pays close attention to the flavor and appeal of the food. 
French Bread (Complimentary)
At first, they served slices of French bread for free as an appetizer. It also came with a dip, which reminded me of Italianni’s restaurant.
The only difference is that the bread here is tastier and crispier than Italianni’s soggy and bland basket of bread. The salsa-like dip was also very good. I actually wanted another helping of it!
Queso Fresca (P 80.00)
Our first tapas for the day is the Queso Fresca, which is composed of Spanish farmer’s cheese with some basil and paprika, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
I’m not a fan of cheese but this was really good. It’s weird but every bite of this cheese made me feel so light and happy, I really had to smile. I think I now understand the meaning of “comfort food” after I tasted this.
Croquettas de Pollo (P 85.00)
We also ordered some Croquettas. To those who do not know what this food is, Croquettas is a small fried roll with a certain filling. There are many versions of this in Dali’s menu but we chose the chicken version.
This dish came with a dip, which was creamy and delicious and it looked so good with the lemon slice on it. I just felt though that there’s this peculiar fishy taste in the croquettas. I felt like eating tuna and not chicken croquettas.
Callos (P 295.00)
For the main course, we ordered some Callos. This dish is also popular here in the Philippines so, when I saw it on the menu, I ordered it right away. I was so glad I selected this because I thought that, among all the dishes we tried here, this was the best I’ve tasted. I almost ate all of it! It tasted like the tomato-based dishes my grandma used to cook for us when we were small. 
Lengua de Terez (P 300.00)
The second main entree we had was the Lengua de Terez. According to the menu, this is comprised of ox tongue (Lengua), which is braised in sherry sauce with mushrooms and olives. It also came with green beans and some mashed potatoes.
Honestly, the presentation of this dish was the most appealing aspect of this food but the taste, to me, was so-so. It was good at first because it tasted different but eventually, I started to taste more of the sherry flavor, which was really overwhelming. And it doesn’t come with rice! Of course, I’d understand that because I’m in a Spanish restaurant but I feel as if no meal is complete without rice. 
Plain Rice (P 40.00)
Hence, being an obligate ricevore and unable to order their specialty rice dishes (as they’re mainly composed of shrimps and I have seafood allergy), I had to order a cup of plain rice. As expected, this tasted like regular rice. There was nothing special here apart from the green herbs on top. This one looked plain (Duh, that’s why it’s plain rice!).
Garlic Rice (P 50.00)
The garlic rice was a different story though. This rice dish had more toasted garlic than Shang-ri La Hotel’s and it was very delicious too. What’s also noticeable is that it wasn’t very oily, which was actually good. I felt satisfied with this one but I still am sad that I wasn’t able try out the Paella.
Churros con Chocolate (P 135.00)
Finally, for dessert, we tried the Churros con Chocolate. This one’s divine. Just look at the plating! It was also served hot but because I had to take a lot of pictures of it, it got cold before we were able to eat everything! 
This one’s just a regular Churro (Spanish doughnut) which comes with a chocolate dip. It was so delicious, especially if dipped in the chocolate, but I advise that you consume this right away as it is not as good when cold.
The service here was fast and the waiters were so efficient. They served us water even if we’re not asking for it, they provided an extra seat for my friend’s bag, they seated us away from those who were drinking during the night, and they took photos of me and my friend when we asked them. 
It was a delightful experience and I hope it’s not just because  there were only very few customers when we ate here.
The food here is not really very cheap. The tapas are quite affordable but the serving size is small as they’re meant to be eaten as snacks only. However, the service was very good and the Callos was fantastic so I guess there still is some value for money here.
Ambiance - 4/5
Food - 4/5
Service - 5/5
Value - 3/5
TOTAL - 4/5

Dali Restaurante y Bar de Tapas
(02) 928 0971
40 E. Lopez Drive Cor. Sgt. Esguerra
Quezon City

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