Thursday, October 30, 2008

Focaccia

I was in the A. Venue Mall for the past three days because of an event in the Events Hall adjacent to it. So I didn't waste time meeting in the hotel, where we stayed and instead, went to the restaurants that I hadn't been too. First up is Focaccia.

When I heard that Focaccia "copied" my favorite C Italian Panizza, I was immediately attracted to the restaurant that became my first stop. So when I entered, I immediately asked for their panizzas, which they called Pizza Rolls, which is good, because it explained to the mass market how it's to be eaten.


For those who don't know how to eat the panizza, you basically roll the thin crust pizza after putting toppings of arugula and alfalfa sprouts. Then, you dip it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Eat it in one bite and then roll another one. My colleagues tasted it the first time and they had fun rolling.


Now for the critique. Of course, I expected C Italian to be better, and that was what I got. I got the Pancetta (parma ham and sundried tomatoes) and Gorgonzola. What's great about Focaccia's version is that there are smaller sizes (which is actually a serving big for two). Thus, you can order a variety, that's why I ordered two variants. The crust was not as flavorful as the one in C Italian and the toppings were dry, especially for the Gorgonzola. That tasted bland enough for me to question whether it was gorgonzola used. I couldn't smell the cheese as well, so I was having more doubts. Overall, I still enjoyed the mix of arugula and alfalfa sprouts on a thin pizza crust, but it was far away from the quality that C offered.


We also tried the Italian Porkchop, which was spiced up well. The meat was not too tender but manageable. The pasta that came with it was a simple olive oil and garlic one.


My other colleague tried the Beef Steak Medallions Sorrent, which was again an olive oil and garlic pasta with chunks of beef tenderloin. I tired the dish, and it was just ok. At least the beef was tender. The pasta was seasoned better as well in this dish.


It was a quick meeting so no desserts. I had to rush back to the event hall. So, in 30 minutes, we came and left. I really can't say I was satisfied because of the circumstances. I would definitely come back and taste some more.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Stock Market

The word is out, it's the newest kid on the block. When someone tipped me about this bright new restaurant on High Street, I simply couldn't resist. The next thing I knew, I ended up in this much talked about resto after a week of opening. The name, appropriate for the times, the Stock Market.



As you can see above, the place is indeed charming. I love the brightness, the white and green scheme. It was a refreshing place. Owned by Del Monte and managed by the group who operates TOSH, I was again excited to try good food. We came in late, almost 10PM for dinner. The menu was short and items were quite pricey. To start, we ordered this flatbread pizza with arugula and smoked salmon. It was surprised that it came out tiny, just good for one. the crust was thin, but not that crispy. The smoked salmon was good though, and who could go wrong with the nutty flavor of the arugula.


The first entree was the Smothered Pork Chops with Mashed Sweet Potatoes. I was drawn to this dish because of two words, smothered and sweet potatoes. Look at the picture and tell me what's wrong. Yes, no sweet potatoes. And I wonder why they called it smothered, when it wasn't. The "sweet potatoes" were on the side. You could taste the pineapple factor in the dish.


The next dish was the Cobbler Pie of Seared Steak, Mushrooms and Braised Vegetables. It was a deconstructed English beef pot pie, reminiscent of the pies from Bag of Beans. The beef was tender making it the best dish so far. I enjoyed the pastry as well, and the braised vegetables.


Finally, we ordered a pasta dish that we had them whip up. There were only 4 or 5 pasta dishes, and we wanted something with olive oil, tomatoes, capers and more olives. Yes, much like arrabiata. They had one made which was nice of them to accommodate.


Stock Market also had pineapple ice tea, which surprisingly, didn't have a distinct pineapple flavor but just a hint. The dessert that we tried was the Cornmeal Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel Sauce. It was the choice of my friend, and I wanted something else. But since the desserts were expensive, we settled for just one. I didn't want bread pudding though. Fortunately it turned out to the the best dish of them all. This bread pudding was moist, was topped with vanilla ice cream. The caramel sauce was perfectly bittersweet.


The Stock Market is definitely a welcome addition to the rather boring selection in Boni High Street. I still think New Orleans serves the best dishes. Currently, the Stock Market are offering a 20% discount as a soft opening promo. I was happy to have a huge discount. A girl approached us asking about our experience and was soliciting for comments. I don't know if she was an owner or partner, but we told her our verdict anyway. Again, another OK restaurant. I praised the ambience and the dessert. The menu could improve and given their pineapple proposition, could be even more distinct. Maybe after their grand opening, things will get better. I would definitely go back again.

Artina Gallery Cafe

A. Venue is definitely the next food spot to conquer. It's just a shame that whenever I go there, the place seems desperate for customers. The restaurants, all new, fight for diners as they enter the Makati Avenue mall. There are a few places I would prioritize to try after seeing their menus. Artina Gallery Cafe is one of them.


I knew I had to visit the place. It was an art gallery slash restaurant. Again, the good marketing strategy of making it more than just a restaurant. They even named it so close to art but the gallery concept uplifted the ambience, even though the place was small and not that high end. It was a good place to have a meal with friends, not really a date place. So, after a meeting, we decided to finally try this out for lunch. It had the most customers in A. Venue at that time. Here were the orders:

Let's start with pasta. This is the Linguini with Seafood in Spanish Saffron and Cream Sauce (P290). The linguini was aldente to begin with. There were fish chunks, shrimps, and mussels I think. The saffron and cream sauce was a bit on the salty side, but the mixture was ok (meaning, not that spectacular, and not bad). I don't know if I would react more to this dish since it didn't create any impact (good or bad) on me.


Now for the entrees. When I'm in a new restaurant, I make it a point to talk to a well-versed waiter knowledgeable of the items on the menu. It's because I ask this simple question, "What's the best you have to offer?" Sometimes, I just tell them to give me what they think would delight me most. Here, they answered the Grilled Salmon Fillet with Citrin Risotto, Pesto Glaze and Grilled Vegetables (P360). I was at first hesitant because the name was so pretentious. I think they were really trying to name the dish as appetizing as it sounded. But since I wanted fish, I gave in. A few notes on this. One, the fish was a bit overcooked, which made it dry. Salmon is a hard fish to cook I think, and you really have to have the freshest catch to bring out excellent flavor. Second, the pesto glaze was almost ignorable. Third, the citrin risotto was cooked well, and the lemony flavor blended well with the fish. Of course.



And so, I was disappointed because I expected so much. Moving on, I then tried the other dishes of my colleagues. One was the Grilled Chicken Breast in Rosemary and Garlic Essence with Mashed Potatoes (P315). They really name their dishes well. It came out like any other grilled chicken of course, spiced up by garlic and rosemary. It was again dry and too flavorful. Too much salt or something? The good thing about this dish are the mashed potatoes. Creamy and smooth.



The last entree was the Crisp Chicken Steak with Mushroom Gravy and Rice Pilaf (P315). Again, with a good name, it came out like how it was described. I liked this dish though, since it was comfort food.


I would recommend them to have a nice dessert menu, as the items were uninteresting. They were offering Mary Grace Ensaymadas which was weird. I wonder if Tita Grace had a stake in this. I love Mary Grace, but they should have offered their own desserts. So, the verdict is that Artina wasn't as I expected it to be. But it's alright since I knew I really had high expectations. Artina is a must try when in A. Venue. It is a good place to unwind after a long tiring office day. And bring friends, it's that kind of place.

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