Friday, October 12, 2012

Summer Palace

Summer Palace is one of those restaurants I've been dreaming to eat at but have not yet gone to because of my seemingly endless budget constraint. But since it was my sister's birthday and my older brother's paying, I finally got the chance to try this place out.

This restaurant is undeniably upscale. The place exuded a very intimidating atmosphere, and most of the people who are dining here look rich and, well, intimidating. Talk about feeling so out of place. 

Outside, you can see a hallway complete with flood lights and etched glass walls. 

And, inside, the place looked very clean and posh. 

There's also plenty to see...

... including this dining area here.

Overall, I'd say that this is probably one of the prettiest dining areas I've been to, and it's spacious too. But the place can sometimes be full, so I suggest making a reservation before going here. 

Anyway, after we were led to our table by their very efficient and friendly waiters, we were handed their menu, which contained an extensive list of Chinese dishes. I did give some recommendations on what to have, but my brother did all the ordering. As usual, just like in any Chinese restaurant, we started with the free peanuts before we made our orders.

Garlic and Chili Peanuts (Complimentary)

These, of course, tasted like Happy Peanuts.

The waiters served the dim sum next, which were, by the way, so lovely to look at. These dumplings were absolutely gorgeous! 

Steamed Pork Siomai with Shrimps (P 189.00)

The first dim sum we my siblings sampled is the Pork Siomai with Shrimps. I wasn't able to taste these tempting dumplings as I am allergic to shrimps. But the shrimps looked so plump and tasty, I almost ate one. Good thing I was able to prevent myself from doing so (although I had to withstand the unbearable pangs of jealousy I felt from looking at my siblings devour these tiny portions of happiness). 

Steamed Scallop Dumplings (P 178.50)

I did bring antihistamines though. However, I was reserving my dose of Claritin for the Scallop Dumplings, which, as I presumed, also had shrimps in it. There were only three pieces served so we only had one each, which I think was not enough because these were so delicious. Every bite of the chewy scallop made my heart skip a beat. It was love at first bite!

Steamed Siolong Pao (P 157.50)

But we saved the best for last - the Siolong Pao. This is by far the soupiest, tastiest, and most delicate Siolong Pao (Xiao Long Bao) I have ever tasted to date. The wrapper of these meticulously folded dumplings was so thin it literally melts in the mouth. And the soup inside is just pure delight. It's indescribable.  Plus, at P 157.50, it's definitely a steal!

"Yang Zhou" Fried Rice (P 370.00)

After wiping out all the dumplings on our table, we had the main course next. My brother ordered a small bowl of "Yang Zhou" Fried Rice albeit my insistence to pick something else interesting and "very Chinese" from the menu. I didn't really like this rice dish, but I had to compromise as, apart from the fact that my brother's paying, his aversion to "very Chinese" food is non-negotiable.

Surprisingly, this was not a bad choice after all. Although I think this is still inferior to Fookien Fried Rice, this is far superior to the fast food versions of "Yang Chow" Fried Rice. It is also worth noting that the serving size is huge.The small size is enough to feed four hungry people.

Sweet and Sour Pork (P 535.00)

The Sweet and Sour Pork was next. The dish was very pretty to look. However, I was expecting this to be ordinary as I have never been impressed with Sweet and Sour Pork before, but boy I was wrong! This is the crispiest and tastiest Sweet and Sour Pork I have ever tried. It's crunchy from the inside out. Everything in this dish is perfect - the breading, the meat, the sauce, heck even the garnish is to die for! It's unbelievable! This has instantly become another one of my favorites (maybe even on top of the Siolong Pao). 

Deep-fried Pork Spareribs in Spicy Salt (P 380.00)

We also tried the Deep-fried Pork Spareribs in Spicy Salt. It was not spectacular, really. It was good, but not something to rave about. Maybe I expected more out of it because the Sweet and Sour Pork was scrumptious, but this one's just okay. We weren't able to finish this anymore as we were so full already, and there's just too much food on the table. The serving sizes are really that big.

After tasting everything we've ordered, my brother didn't want to have dessert anymore, so we left the place and took away all the leftovers. However, one thing is for sure. We enjoyed our meal here and, though a return visit would not be an option anytime soon (because of the prices), we'd surely be back. The dishes here are fantastic and the service is stellar. Also, considering the serving sizes, the dishes aren't that expensive. This is a place that's worth visiting. Give it a try, and you won't regret it.

Ambiance - 5/5
Food - 5/5
Service - 5/5
Value - 4/5
TOTAL - 4.75/5  

Summer Palace, EDSA Shangri-La Hotel

(02) 633 8888
G/F EDSA Shangri-la Hotel, 1 Garden Way
Wack Wack, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shin Dang Dong Korean Restaurant

I'm not really a fan of Korean food, but my foodie friend insisted that we visit a Korean restaurant and try out something Korean for a change. She was excited. In fact, due to her excitement, she had already listed down all the possible Korean restaurants to go to. She was, of course, looking for one with a name that starts with an "S" and it was pretty difficult. Sorabol was our first choice, but since we can't locate it, we resorted to Shin Dang Dong instead.

It wasn't a bad choice at all, actually. The place is a bit small, but it has a very happy ambiance. At last, I've seen a place that's really happy unlike all the other supposedly happy places, which do not turn out to be happy. 

The restaurant looks like a huge collage of photos. There are plenty of pictures posted side-by-side on almost every part of the store's interior walls. These photos are, interestingly, of their customers. Talk about them having a souvenir instead of their diners. Haha! And, yes, the waiters also took a photo of me and my friend, so I would not be so surprised to see our photograph posted there as well in the next couple of weeks. =)

Teokbokki (P 590.00)
For this meal, we only tried the Teokbokki, which came with a pitcher of Iced Tea, some Kimchi, and a bowl of their house soup. It was a really interesting dish, freshly prepared in front of us by the waiter. I did some research and I found out that this dish is a popular snack in Korea.
There were actually a lot of stuff in the Teokbokki. Apart from the noodles, there were also some veggies and Korean dumplings.

There's also some cheese in there. 

It's like a mix of everything.
Anyway, this dish is really HOT! I mean, really spicy and hot! There's an option to make it less spicy but even if this was already the "light hot" version (the least spicy one), it's still too spicy. Coupled with it being freshly-cooked and piping hot, this was a little hard to eat. Good thing there's iced tea to douse our burning tongues with or else we would have breathed fire right after our very first spoonful!
Nonetheless, albeit being hot, it was okay. I really loved the rice cakes and fish cakes in the soup. They're so yummy. The serving was also big. It can easily be shared by at least four people. The only down side is that it can get cloying eventually when you've eaten too much. 

Kimchi (Free)
The free Kimchi was okay, but I wouldn't say that it's the best I've tried. 

Free Soup
But the soup was not edible. It had a really weird taste. 
Overall, the meal we had here was very happy. The waiters were also friendly. It wasn't the best restaurant we've eaten at, but at least we had an enjoyable and filling meal here. The food was almost impossible for the two of us to consume. Next time, we're going to have to take with us some back-up. =)

Ambiance - 3/5
Food - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Value - 5/5
TOTAL - 4/5  

Shin Dang Dong Korean Restaurant

(02) 728 0506
A. Venue Mall, Makati Avenue
Poblacion, Makati City, Metro Manila

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Red Garlic

I had my colonoscopy a few days ago and it was a terrifying and rather embarrassing experience. The doctor had me down two huge bottles of this ill-tasting oral preparation that's supposed to purge my entire gut of everything that's in there - good or bad. And it was a totally miserable and enervating experience. Thankfully, my doctor found nothing major and I am happy that I can continue eating what I want to eat.

Anyway, before the procedure, I feared that I have a condition that would put diet restrictions on me, so before I had those probes stuck up my gut, I made sure to have my supposedly "Last Supper" somewhere. I decided to just go to a place close to our house as I was feeling a bit weak and, well, sick this day, and thought that Red Garlic's probably the best place to visit.

Red Garlic has this very cool and relaxed ambiance, and it's pretty nice to know that you can just linger here a bit and read some while drinking a cup of coffee or having a hearty meal. However, I was so disappointed with the service here as the waiters literally ignored me when I walked inside the restaurant.

I had to raise my hand a couple of times, wave at the waiters who were happily chatting with each other, and shout at one before being noticed. That was just outrageous! I felt discriminated. I almost left the place because there was literally no service. But I stayed since I was hungry and I was sick (I didn't want to travel much).

I was handed their menu and I immediately ordered in straight English to make the waiter realize that I am educated and I can pay for my meal. However, I was so annoyed at the fact that the waiter didn't even list down what I said as if he is gifted with some sort of eidetic memory. Alas! Because of his idiocy, he forgot everything I said and had me repeat my order, which was extremely irritating! 

Anyway, let's not dwell too much on their poor service and head on to the food.

Napa Valley Salad (P 299.00)

I started the meal with this interesting salad they call Napa Valley salad. The menu says that it is composed of assembled layers of fresh watermelon, ripe mangoes, chicken breast, and fresh baby romaine served with their Peppermill Signature Dressing. There's also a lot of cheese on top of this salad, but the menu does not say anything about that. 

Surprisingly, I found this salad very pleasant and refreshing. My meal started right because of this dish. It's different but in a wonderfully good way.The serving size's also big and is good for sharing. 

Bologna (Beef Lasagna) (P 385.00)

Next off is the Bologna, which is just a typical baked lasagna dish. Indeed, it was so typical that I got bored eating it. It's also a bit weird because it looked greenish and the pasta was soggy. I am not sure if there's too much sugar on this dish, but I felt like this one had a sweet-and-spicy Filipino edge or something. This does not even touch Mom & Tina's heavenly Chicken Spinach Lasagna, though I have to admit that I loved the idea of putting nachos on the side in place of garlic bread. 

Tomahawk Grilled Pork Loin Chop (P 535.00)

The menu says that their Tomahawk Grilled Pork Loin Chop is highly recommended so I ordered it straight away. This one's a thick slab of pork glazed with their special Mango Chipotle sauce. It looks really nice but tastes really bad. I had to check if it was really Grilled Pork Loin or Tocino I'm eating. It was too sweet! I was expecting more from the 30-minute cooking time, but it was just, well, blah! It was also too tough. Slicing this loin without a chopping board is almost an impossibility! This is even worse than Burgoo's pork chops! I didn't bother finishing this meal and went ahead with the dessert immediately. Yep, that's 500 bucks down the drain. 

New York Cheesecake (P 180.00)

For dessert, I had a slice of cheesecake. This one's nice and dense, but clearly an ordinary cheesecake. It's also too hard to consume, being too sweet and heavy. But it's baked so that exempts it from being a disastrous dessert.

Panna Cotta with Fresh Fruits (P 135.00)

To finish off the meal, I tried their Panna Cotta with Fresh Fruits. It was so pretty to stare at but, to be honest, it was so bland and tasteless. I think I can make a denser, creamier, and better Panna Cotta than this one. Their recipe's got too much gelatin, and this felt like eating Jelly Ace with fruits. I hate to say this but this is even worse than Tokyo Tokyo's Mango Panna Cotta.

So, that ends my last supper and hopefully my very last meal in this restaurant. This is completely banned from my book. Their bad service coupled with their generic if not excessively sweet food is just not worth coming back to.

Ambiance - 4/5
Food - 2/5
Service - 1/5
Value - 1/5
TOTAL - 2/5

Red Garlic Bistro, Blue Ridge
(02) 682 1860
218 Katipunan Ave, Blueridge A
Quezon City

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Queens at Bollywood

Another good thing about my job is that I get to interact with different people of diverse cultures and nationalities. In fact, I do have some Indian students and, out of curiosity, I've asked a few of them about the best Indian restaurants they know. Queens at Bollywood was one of the common answers I've gotten from them, so I went and tried this place out since it's more accessible and, well, a bit cheaper compared with their prime recommendation, Kashmir.

I went to Queens at Bollywood with a friend on a rather hot afternoon, and I was glad to see no other people in the restaurant. 

We had the place to ourselves so that gave us plenty of opportunities to take photos everywhere.

The interior, although small, is very nice. They have a lot of Indian ornaments around the store and I was pretty happy that the place exuded that exquisitely vibrant Indian vibe. They even loop Indian MTVs on a wide television screen to complete the Indian dining experience.

Another interesting thing is that they have an extensive menu that is Bollywood-inspired. The problem is: I don't have the slightest clue about any of those Indian dishes, let alone the Bollywood stars featured on their menu. Hence, we ended up not knowing what to order here, so we had to ask the very friendly waiter, Michelle, what' she'd recommend. Thankfully, she gave us excellent recommendations.

Papadum (Complimentary)

Before Michelle served our orders, we helped ourselves to this wonderfully crispy, and not to mention complimentary, Papadum with some totally addicting dips!

The dips were just so delicious. I can't get enough of them! I think the one on the left is the mint and coriander chutney, the middle dip is the sweet tamarind sauce, and the other one is the totally washed out yogurt dip (sorry for the bad photo). My favorite's the yogurt dip as it neutralizes the spicy flavor of the Papadum.

Cheese Naan (P 145.00)

Our first order came right after, the Cheese Naan. It was a flat bread that's really soft and delicious with a creamy cheese filling that's absolutely heavenly. This is one of the non-spicy dishes we had for the day and I absolutely loved it. 

Chicken Tandoori (1/2 P 350, 1/4 P 220)

Up next is the Chicken Tandoori. We only had a quarter serving as we were afraid that it might to be too spicy. However, to our surprise, it was not. Yes, it was one hot and spicy dish, but it was also very flavorful and pleasant. The spiciness is tolerable.The meat of the chicken was also super tender and every part of the meat was filled with so much flavor. We demolished this entire plate in less than 10 minutes, and we're not yet starving at that!

Rogan Josh (P 350.00)

We had the Rogan Josh next. According to the menu, this one's a Kashmiri specialty composed mainly of mutton cooked in traditional Kashmir masala, some saffron, and yogurt. 

Hands down, this one's definitely my favorite among all the dishes we've devoured tasted because, apart from the meat being so tender and flavorful, it was unlike anything I've tasted anywhere. The dish just had the right blend of spices and it brought out the flavor of the meat without being overpowering.

Now, for dessert, we had some Kulfi.

Pistachio Kulfi (P 95.00) 
I went with what Michelle recommended, which is the Pistachio Kulfi. It was not really extraordinary but it was a bit more delicious than the mango-flavored one. The ice cream wasn't also that creamy and it had a slightly grainy texture, but it looked charming nonetheless (being diced and all) and I think it's, to some extent, a good way to end an uber spicy meal.

Mango Kulfi (P 95.00)

The Mango Kulfi, on the other hand, was just plain sweet. I would rather eat Selecta's Premium Mango Ice Cream in place of this one. 

Paan (Complimentary)

And, to wrap up the meal, Michelle offered us some Paan, which is some sort of local mouthwash, to wash down our palates a bit. Of course, we don't want our breaths to smell like we've eaten an entire basket of onions, so we tried it out. It had a weird flavor and it's somehow close to the traditional Filipino mouthwash, Nganga, but this one can be swallowed. Notwithstanding the taste, it was surprisingly refreshing. It felt like we've just brushed our teeth.

Overall, we enjoyed our experience here and though we would still want to try out Kashmir before giving this place a return visit, this is one of those few places I could consider as a favorite, at least in my book. The service was just stellar, the food is great, and the Indian-inspired interior is a definitely a plus.

Ambiance - 4/5
Food - 5/5
Service - 5/5
Value - 5/5
TOTAL - 4.75/5  

Queens at Bollywood

(02) 757 3536
3/F Greenbelt 3, Esperanza St., Ayala Center
Makati City, Metro Manila

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Persian Square

Persian Square's another one of my favorite restaurants, not necessarily because of the good food served here, but because of its breath-taking interior design. 

From its high-arched portals, to its decorated columns and raised terraces, its architecture is truly a majestic wonder, exuding a sense of nobility and traditional style.

It looks like a mosque from the outside. But wait 'til you get inside.

Without a doubt, the interior's appearance could pass for a first-class restaurant. The tables look very sturdy and expensive and the seats are all custom-made. Everything in the restaurant looks posh and  luxuriously Persian. 

There's even an indoor fountain inside...

...and a mural with a map of Iran (Persia).

Plus, they have free Wi-Fi access inside the restaurant for those who would like to linger a bit and, perhaps, read or study. The place is also very private.

Of course, with an ambiance like this, the food also does not come cheap. I and my friend found it very hard to pick which ones to have on the menu as everything's really pricey. We're on a tight budget during this meal since we've had lunch and afternoon tea somewhere else before we went here for dinner, so we didn't have enough cash anymore to splurge on their very expensive kebabs. 

Barbari Bread (P 20.00)

After much deliberation, we started the meal with a ridiculously cheap piece of flat bread, which they call Barbari (this one's the cheapest food item on the menu so we made sure to order this). It was still hot when served and we've noticed that, unlike other ordinary flat breads, it's toasted. I wouldn't really say that it's the best flat bread I've tasted but, for the price, I think this one's pretty satisfactory. This can be slightly difficult to eat though as it's a bit hard, but it's okay for me.

Koobideh Kabab (P 125.00)

As we were budget-constrained, we also thought of ordering their cheapest kabab, the Koobideh. The menu says that this is a skewer of juicy strips of charbroiled seasoned ground beef mixed with onion and Persian spices. I wasn't too sure about the juicy part, but I thought that it tasted okay (although  I felt like eating meatballs while munching on this). It was a little bland but the sauce that came with it was spicy enough, giving this dish more flavor and making it, overall, interesting. It's not too bad for the price.

Red Sauce for the Koobideh Kabab. It's spicy!

Bakhtiari Kabab (P 345.00)

But, of course, we also wanted to try those kebabs from the upper price range, so we picked this well-garnished and colorful dish, called Bakhtiari Kabab. The menu describes this as a skewer of charbroiled slices of chicken fillet and beef tenderloin marinated in lime juice and onion. I thought that it was actually good. The chicken fillets were tender and the meat was juicier and more flavorful than the Koobideh. The mayo-like sauce (which I think is probably yogurt sauce) actually gave this dish a Shawarma-like feel, but I still loved it anyway. This was easily the best dish of the night.

Mayo-like Sauce of the Bakhtiari Kabab. It tasted like the garlic yogurt sauce on Shawarma wraps.

Watermelon Shake (P 95.00)

To douse our flaming and almost burnt palates, we had a glass of this refreshing watermelon shake. It was sweet and really fruity. It's the perfect drink for an extremely spicy meal, and it looked cool with the slice of watermelon on the glass (which, of course, we ate as well). 

Our meal here wasn't really what I would consider exquisite, but it was at least satisfying. The service here was great, everyone's attentive, and the ambiance is worth coming back to. Surely, this place would always be remembered. I just hope that I have more money to spend the next time I pay this restaurant a visit so I can try out their rice dishes (Chelo) and other kebabs.

Ambiance - 5/5
Food - 3/5
Service - 5/5
Value - 4/5
TOTAL - 4.25/5  

Persian Square

(02) 470 77 00
101 Julia Vargas Avenue

Ortigas Center, Pasig City, M.M.

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