Friday, July 5, 2013

Va' Pensiero

I have been living very close to Cubao for more than half of my life, but I haven't dined in Va' Pensiero yet, so during this accidental meetup with my food buddy, I finally grabbed the opportunity and suggested to try this place out.

This restaurant isn't really the cleanest and newest place on the block, but it, nonetheless, spelled warm and welcoming.

Their menu has an long list of Italian food, some I know and many others I don't, but we decided to just have some pizza and pasta during this light brunch as we went in really early and were not yet starving.  

Bread with Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil Dip (Complimentary)

The waiter first offered us some really nice, crisp, and freshly-baked bread before our orders. Their house bread was delicious! It's soft on the inside and very crispy on the outside. It was nicely baked, hot, and fresh-from-the-oven.

Pasta Montanara (P 350.00)

We had a really hard time picking which pasta to order because there were a lot of variants on the menu. But since I love eating meat, we settled for their Pasta Montanara. I did not regret ordering this dish as, apart from the fusili being perfectly-cooked, it contained generous portions of italian sausage and pepperoni salami. Its thin and flavorful sauce also does not hurt one bit. 
Tutta Carne (P 425.00)

Many of their expensive pizza offerings looked so enticing on the menu, but we didn't have enough money to shell out during this meal, so we just ordered a regular Tutta Carne pizza. To our surprise, the pizza was huge! It was a full ten-inch pizza.

This pizza was obviously authentic. It's not some generic pizza with a chewy crust and Del Monte tomato paste on it. It's thin, crisp, meaty, and lightly-sauced - just the way I like my pizza. And to top it all, it was cooked in a brick oven.

Of note, they really fire up the brick oven with wood.

Panna Cotta (P 140.00)

Satisfied with the first two dishes, we ended the meal with their Panna Cotta, which, to our dismay, looked very unappetizing with no garnish whatsoever on it. It was not even turned onto a plate and was still in its ceramic mold when served. It didn't look like the photo on the menu.

We weren't as thrilled to try this one out, but when we scooped our first spoonful of the pudding, we were surprised at how dense, creamy, and flavorful this panna cotta was. Indeed, looks can be deceiving! This recipe had a strong vanilla flavor, and I can tell that its cream base wasn't cheap. It's probably one of the better panna cottas I've tried, and it's leap years ahead of the worst and extremely overrated one from Red Garlic.

After the meal, we took the bill, paid for our orders happily, and went out feeling heavy and full. It was a wonderful and satisfactory dining experience, overall. If you're looking for some relatively affordable and authentic Italian food without the frills and gimmicks, this restaurant is a pretty decent option. 

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

Va' Pensiero

(02) 912 8270
Unit 14 Araneta Coliseum, Gen. Araneta
Cubao, Quezon City. M.M.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ukiyo Restaurant

I've read from reviews that Ukiyo Restaurant in Alphaland Southgate is authentic, so I was intrigued to taste the food they serve here. From what I've read, the chef of the restaurant, Masakado Matsumura-san, hails from Nagoya, so this pretty much addresses the question of authenticity. But "how authentic" is the real question.

Ukiyo reminded me of the mid-range to high-end restaurants in the malls around Shinjuku, Tokyo. The layout of the dining area and the design of the exterior were similar to those found in Tokyo's metropolitan district. 

Everything inside looks nice and modern, too. Probably, the only thing missing to complete the Japanese feel of the restaurant are the realistic plastic food displays outside with the price tags.

Now, let's see how authentic the food is.

House Tea (Complimentary)

Before we made our orders, we were each served a cup of Japanese tea, which we loved.Their house tea was pleasant and non-offensive. Thank God it's not the type with boiled Nori as I absolutely hate that variant.

Ukiyo Tebasaki Karaage (P 220.00)

We first tried their Ukiyo Tebasaki Karaage (Nagoya style chicken wings). These wings were very tasty and had a unique and interesting flavor. It's hard to eat this with chopsticks though as the meat isn't really the tenderest thing on earth. But if you're not too conscious about your table manners, I'm sure you'd enjoy just eating them with your fingers. 

Uni Isobe Age (P 250.00)

Their Uni Isobe Age (Sea Urchin Tempura) was also delicious! Sea urchin isn't really a safe dish for everyone though as it's a hate-or-love kind of seafood, but this one's a must try for the more experimental lot. It's crispy inside out and the flavor of the urchin was exquisite.

California Maki (P 240.00)

My friend's not very comfortable eating sushi, so we just ordered some California Maki. The dish was nicely presented, and the rolls were huge. My friend gobbled most of them up before I could even take a decent photo.

Katsudon (P 380.00)

Everything seemed fine with the appetizers and all, and we were already enjoying our meal so much, until the Katsudon arrived.

One basic problem we had with the rice bowls was that we were already nearly full when they were served. We should not have ordered a rice dish at all as we both knew that we wouldn't be able to eat rice after demolishing all the appetizers on the table and wiping out those huge California Maki rolls.

To be fair though, the Katsudon tasted fine, but the meat wasn't tender. The Tonkatsu chops were very hard to eat because they were too chewy. I've tried better and surprisingly cheaper ones from fast food outlets and small restaurants in Tokyo. 

Kitayama Beef Gyudon (P 460.00)

I don't know what's really special about this Beef Gyudon and why it's so expensive, but the quality of this dish was not even close to fast food level in Japan. Yes, the meat was tender and all, but I've tasted better rice bowls like this in Yoshinoya or Sukiya for less than half of this price. This dish was way too overpriced for one that tastes like local beef steak. My recommendation is to avoid this dish, I'm afraid.

We passed on dessert as we were already too full by the time we finished all the appetizers. We weren't even able to finish the rice meals. 

Even though Ukiyo's dining area looked really authentic and most of their dishes were good,  there are just some dishes that are better than others, and some that should not even be in the menu. It would be best to do some research first to avoid bad orders. 

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

Ukiyo Restaurant
(02) 310 3657
6th Floor, Alphaland Southgate Tower
2258 Chino Roces (Pasong Tamo) cor. EDSA, Makati City

Sunday, March 17, 2013

T.G.I. Friday's

I have been comparing my least favorite restaurant, Burgoo, with T.G.I. Friday's for some time now, so I thought I'd make a review of Friday's as well just to be fair and transparent. I've dined in T.G.I. Friday's MOA a couple of times already and in both occasions, I loved their pork chops, so I wanted to try them out again just to confirm whether they're really better than Burgoo's.

T.G.I. Friday's is a really popular food establishment, so I and my food buddy decided to go here at lunchtime on a weekday, so the place wouldn't be so packed.

However, while the place was so private then, I just didn't like the fact that it was so dark inside when we stepped in.

They only had a few lights on, so I requested that we be seated near the window. That was a mistake, I realized, as the waiter sat us in the smoking area where a couple of dine-in  customers were smoking. What a way to ruin my appetite!

Lemonade (P 105.00)

Strawberry Surprise (P 165.00)
Anyway, we ordered some drinks first, and they were okay. They're cool and refreshing, but I just thought that they're a bit overpriced. Next time, I'd probably just have a glass of water.

Friday's Ballpark Nachos (P 375.00)

Up next is the Ballpark Nachos. The "small" size had a pretty sufficient portion. I loved how crispy the nachos were. The salsa was also pretty good. It was, overall, a good value. Unfortunately, because I took some time taking photos of this dish, it got a bit cold and the nachos became quite soggy after a while. Lesson learned: eat the nachos right away and keep the camera in the bag!

Pacific Grilled Pork Chop (P 395)

Friday's Pacific Grilled Pork Chop is my favorite food stuff in T.G.I. Friday's as it's consistently tender and flavorful each time. I also love the corn on the cob and pineapple wedge that come with it so, generally, this one's a must-order whenever I dine in this restaurant. However, the pork chops this time were a bit chewy. The fat layer's still very nice and sinful, but the meat wasn't as tender as I expected. Maybe I was expecting too much from it, but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed.

Bacon Cheeseburger (P 415.00)

The cheeseburger, on the other hand, was pretty good. My friend ordered this one, but I had to taste a portion of it as I was dissatisfied with my chops.I loved how the patty's thick, juicy, and tasty. I also had a couple of fries here and there, and they're hot and delicious. My only comment about this dish is that the bacon strips were not that crisp. It's not really the best burger I have tasted, but it's very satisfactory. 

We didn't have dessert anymore as we had to jump to Starbucks for some coffee after, plus I thought that the experience was not really that satisfactory. I would still put T.G.I. Friday's on top of Burgoo because of its excellent track record, but I guess they need to be consistent with their food. Otherwise, they might end up losing some loyal customers.

Ambiance - 4/5
Food - 3/5
Service - 4/5
Value - 3/5
TOTAL - 3.5/5

T.G.I. Friday's (TGIF)
(02) 556-4456
SM Mall of Asia, North Wing Entertainment Mall
Seaside Drive, Manila Bay Reclamation Area, Pasay

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Thai Bistro

I love Christmas parties! I don't always win the raffles but many of my friends do, and I benefit from their winnings too!

For instance, just a week ago, an old friend of mine, after winning multiple cash prizes from their company Christmas party, invited me to have lunch in this restaurant. And, since it's free, I happily accepted the offer. Nothing beats free food, right?

Anyway, Thai Bistro is located at the garden area of the new Robinsons Magnolia mall. 

It's a pretty decent restaurant and, since it's new, it looks really bright and clean.

Too bad, some parts of the restaurant were closed when we went in, so there isn't much to see aside from some Thai accents, like this wall ornament. 

But, since they have folded napkins (which, to me, creates an upscale, fine dining atmosphere), I really liked the place. Haha! I'm such a social climber, I know. 

Choo Chee Roti (P 195.00)

We had some Buttered Roti for appetizer. Their version came with a nice and yummy curry dip but, to be honest, I didn't like the bread. It's a bit sweet and it had a flaky consistency. 

Kaffir Garlic Rice (P 180.00)

For the main course, we chose a rice dish that's not too overpowering since I opted to order some spicy and heavy dishes. The Kaffir Garlic Rice was the perfect choice, indeed. It's light and simple with just the right hint of kaffir and garlic.

Green Chicken Curry (P 325.00)
The curry was exceptional as well. The flavors were intense and the chicken was tender. The vegetables also looked appetizing but I don't like eating eggplants, so I left those out. 

Sala Daeng (P 268.00)

Experimenting a little with complicated dishes, we had the Sala Daeng next. These lemongrass florets with chicken meat inside might be a bit embarrassing to eat, especially when there are other people around, because it's hard to figure out how to open them up. Thankfully, Chef Cecille (the owner and chef) went to our table and showed us how to slice these open. 

It's a bit difficult to take out the meat inside but it's worth the effort. The chicken stuffing had this very intense lemongrass flavor that's perfectly complemented by the sweet chili sauce it came with. It's scrumptious! Definitely one of my favorites! We literally wiped out this entire dish save the lemongrass florets.

Takhoo Thai (P 180.00)

There aren't much dessert options that piqued our interest so we just tried their Takhoo Thai (warm tapioca pearls topped with creamy coconut custard). I didn't like this dish much, but my friend demolished the entire serving with gusto. It does have a creamy and rich consistency because of the coconut custard and had just the right sweetness, but I guess it's a hate-or-love kind of dessert.  

Overall, I liked this restaurant a lot. I hope their dishes were a bit cheaper though or the serving sizes were bigger, but I could not be too nitpicky. I absolutely loved the service here, the chef's friendly, and the Sala Daeng is worth going back to. 

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

Thai Bistro 
(02) 703 6910 (0917) 838 1696 (0923) 1003530
Ground Level, Unit 187, Robinsons Magnolia Town Center
Aurora Boulevard cor. Hemady St., Quezon City

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