Monday, February 16, 2009

Angel's Kitchen

I now have a new favorite. It's located along Connecticut St in Greenhills, just after Belomed. The name of the place is Angel's Kitchen. Though not a newcomer (it's been here since last year), I was only able to visit the place when we planned a get together dinner with friends. We were supposed to go to Chilis, but when I passed by Angel's, I immediately stopped in front of it, and asked if there were still seats. Fortunately, a group was leaving, so I texted everyone about the change in venue.


The restaurant was packed, well, it was not that big anyway. It reminded me of Conti's. Of course, it had a home feel, making it perfect for families and friends (of our age). I was excited to see the menu. We ordered I think every signature dish, except for the lamb ribs. So, let's take them one at a time. The first dish here is the Mandarin Chicken. To me, this was the worst of all, but don't me wrong. It was average. I started with the worst among what we ordered for a climactic effect.


The dish below is the Crispy and Steamed Fish, a breaded fillet that is steamed first then lightly battered and fried to give it a crispy crust. It was drenched in a mirin kind of sauce giving it a Japanese taste. It was okay, very light and refreshing. I thought that it didn't achieve much in the crispiness though.


Their Longanisa Pasta was a surprise. It tasted more like a great bolognese rather than a native dish. The longanisa tasted great, and the even if it was called a bolognese, I would still enjoy it. It was just seasoned so well, to give it a balanced flavor.


Then came the Grilled Tocino with Tinapa Rice. Now, this was such a comforting dish. It just takes you back to Lola's cooking. The tocino had a great smokey taste (from the grilling), which I thought was very unique. This made me love tocino even more. The tinapa rice complemented the sweetness of the tocino. Everyone just digged in till the dish vaporized.


Then, supposedly, the star of the menu, the Lechon Kawali with Pinakbet Rice and Chocolate Bagoong. We ordered this first, as it sounded very interesting. It did not disappoint. I crave for lechon kawali, and this satisfied me a lot. The pinakbet rice was excellent, with all the flavors of vegetables blending in harmony. The chocolate bagoong added that twist, though, I thought it was more of a gimmick to the dish, rather than something that enhanced it.


We ordered dessert, and we got three kinds. They had a lot of choices for cakes, so it was difficult to decide. The Choco Lava Cake was recommended to us, so we got it without hesitation. It had a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, which I thought was wise, as a lava cake is really best eaten with cream. You get more of the ice cream, since the cake was already strong in flavor. Yum.


Being a fan of banana cream pies, I had to order their version. Some enjoyed it, but I still like the one from Starbucks more.


And as you can see in the picture, there was this last dessert, the Oreo Cheesecake, one of the greatest discoveries this year. Initially, I was hesitant in getting it, since it was just oreo cheesecake. But everyone wanted it, so we went ahead in ordering. I was digging in the banana cream pie, when all of my friends became quiet. I noticed they were devouring the oreo cheesecake in a brief silence. Then came the exultation. They drove my fork to the cake and I had a taste. And wow. I was blown away. It was more of whipped cream sandwich between an oreo crust. It was heaven. And heaven can be bought, so we ordered another one again (something we never do). It was that good.


All in all, I was ecstatic with the experience. It was great having this meal with friends, in a cozy environment with superb food. I highly recommend Angel's Kitchen to everyone.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Kota Kinabalu

Perhaps, Kota Kinabalu or KK as the locals call their home, is one of the last popular destinations I haven't been to in SEA. So, our company decided on going to KK for our annual excursion, thanks in large part to the low fares of Cebu Pacific. KK is located in the island of Borneo (the third largest island in the world), directly south of the Philippines, just below the beautiful islands of Tawi-Tawi and the southern tip of Palawan. KK is the capital of the Malaysian state, Sabah, which promotes itself as an adventure destination. Sabah is much like any province in the Philippines, with beaches, mountains, rivers and a whole lot of wildlife. It is also the home to the supposed tallest peak in South East Asia, Mount Kinabalu. This journey takes us into the mountainous area and the islands nearby Kota Kinabalu. We wished we could visit Sipadan and Sandakan, but we had limited time to explore.


So, we start off with the capital itself, Kota Kinabalu. The city center is small enough to be explored by foot in just one morning. The city seems like any provincial capital in Malaysia, still clean and organized, with its share of shopping squares, bustling markets and kampungs (residential neighborhoods). We stayed in a 3-bedroom suite at the Marina Court Condo. I think it is best to stay in the city center, and as near to the Waterfont and the market as much as possible, as this is where the action is centered. But don't think a lot of action goes on. KK is a laid back place with the sea as a backdrop.


There is one nice shopping center in the city center called Warisan Square, where you can find a lot of your everyday brands. There's a Starbucks, Big Apple Donuts (copycat of J-CO) and Yogurberry (one of the best froyos from Korea).



In front of the Warisan Square is the Waterfront, where restaurants and bars make up the nightlife in KK. Alcohol is expensive in Malaysia, so make sure you come prepared (a beer can costs RM10 average, which is P135).



There is also the Filipino market, called as such because of the number of migrant Pinoys selling there. Also called the Handicraft market, it's similar to Aldevinco in Davao. They sell the typical pasalubong stuff. The market is just across Le Meridian, just one block away from Warisan.



As you go further back the coastline, you will find Kampung Air, which has a lot of backpacker inn and eateries. If you want Malaysian food, then go here.

We also visited the wet market that is set-up in the afternoon. We came at sunset, and we were in a frenzy shooting everything we saw. The market was so colorful, and full of life. It was one of my best market experiences.



Further in the developmental areas of KK, and around 7km from the city center passing through the coastal road and mangrove areas, you will find 1Borneo, which is the largest hypermall in Eastern Malaysia. They have 4 hotels here, Mercure, Novotel, Courtyard and the budget Tune Hotel. A Giant Supermarket resides here, and of course, several branded stores. There's really nothing much to do here. The mall is enroute to Mount Kinabalu.

Nearer the airport, one can find Tanjung Aru Beach, which is a long and wide stretch of mud like sand where one can witness a gorgeous sunset. The water is not that clean, but relatively ok for a city beach. Thus, it is best to have a picnic here or have a late afternoon jog.



From Tangjung Aru, you could view the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, a marine reserve that is just 10 to 15 minutes by speedboat from KK's piers. I'll have a separate entry for these islands, so stay tuned.


So to those who plan to go to KK for a weekend, I can say that's it's a good plan. Most of the Filipino tourists go to KK for the beach and the change of scene. Being near the Philippines (2 hours flight), it's really an alternative to HK. But don't expect a lot. KK is more of a laid back place, nothing like KL or any big city. It's even less busy than Cebu and Davao. Think Bacolod. That's KK.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hacienda

Filipino restaurants are truly becoming a trend nowadays. And it's a good thing, because, I always thought we lacked good Filipino restaurants. We always think of Kamayan, or Barrio Fiesta, or Cabalen. Now, we have a lot to choose from, ranging from those roadside grilleries to fine dining options. A new restaurant hopes to crack the same ground. This is Hacienda, located at the ground floor of the Transcomm Bldg, beside Tiendesittas in Pasig.


What made me very interested is the fact that they call the place a Filipino deli/coffeeshop/restaurant. All slashes. Being a deli, it serves local delicacies. Being a cafe, it serves charcoal roasted mountain coffee. Being a restaurant, it serves your usual Filipino fare ala carinderia style.


We were there for dinner and surprisingly, there wasn't any customers when we arrived. 2 groups came in a few minutes later though. The food is presented ala carinderia, meaning, they are already laid out on the counter, and you just have to choose what you want. There are some dishes that are not displayed, and are cooked on the spot, like their Lechon Kawali. We tried the Adobong Eel (pictured above). One piece cost P50, which I thought was ok. The eel was boneless, making it easier for me to eat.

We also tried the Sinigang na Baboy, just to set standards. I liked it because I miss home cooked meals, especially Sinigang and Tinola. Although I thought that the soup wasn't sour enough.


The Lengua in Tomato and Olive Sauce was also a good choice. The olives gave the meat more flavor. 


But if there's one dish you should try, it's this one, the Lamb Caldereta. I know lamb is not the usual Filipino, but their caldereta sauce was almost authentic, the way my lola used to make. And to my surprise, the lamb's flavor was bursting with every bite. If I were in Iron Chef, and lamb was the main ingredient, this would be a winning dish. This may probably be the best lamb dish I have ever tasted. I ordered one again, because everyone loved it. We had to get seconds.

So, was Hacienda worth it? Well, it's a bit expensive, compared to the several options in Tiendesittas. But I would recommend it for its charm. It really feels like you're in a restaurant in the province. It's great for a Sunday lunch with family.

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