Sunday, May 30, 2010

Enchante

Enchante is the newest and long overdue restaurant of Chef Jessie Sinsioco. I'm so glad that she decided to set up in Ortigas, where I live. I think that Ortigas has no good restaurant, until Enchante and Cafe 1771 arrived.

Enchante was recommended to me by a friend, and I didn't think it would be this busy on a Sunday. Well, it was Mother's Day that day, so probably, they had more guests than usual. I like the bright interiors. Enchante is located in the Joy-Nostalg Center, where Oakwood is. It's not part of Oakwood, and you enter the ADB side of the building to get to the restaurant.

Now let's go down to the food. This was the Smoked Salmon, Grilled Prawn and Sauteed Mushroom Salad (P495). There were two pieces of perfectly grilled prawns that had an unforgettable smoky flavor. I didn't care much for the Smoked Salmon though, but everything blended well in the creamy balsamic dressing.

There was a Special Menu for moms, and it was my Dad who ordered the set (great value at P1,500 for a five course menu). It started off with a Watercress, Arugula and Tomato Salad. Nothing special though. That was followed by this cold soup, the Gazpacho Andaluz with Prawn Tail.

It was then followed by this Seared Jumbo Scallop, which was so tender and soft. It's probably one of the best scallops I've tasted.

The Scallop was then followed by a palate cleanser, this Raspberry Sorbet. It was very refreshing indeed.

After tasting all of my dad's pre main courses, my order arrived - the Poelled Duck with Orange Sauce (P850). I don't know what poelled means, but it tasted like it was braised or something. The duck was flavorless, and unexpected in that sense. I didn't like the orange sauce as well, which was a bit thick for this dish.

My dad had a Grilled Ostrich Steak topped with Panfried Goose Liver. It also came with a wild rice vegetable risotto. This dish was the best for me. The risotto was both crisp and soft, and the ostrich wasn't tough at all. I mentioned that ostrich meat is quite tough, so I was happy that it was tender. And yes, the goose liver just made it sinfully tasty.

My mom wanted fish, and she ordered a safe Panfried Dory in Grenobloisse sauce (P495). Now I don't know what the sauce contains, but it wasn't as flavorful as well.

Now, the worst dish was this: Roast Herb Lemon-Garlic Chicken Au Jus (P750). I was expecting something different. It didn't taste roasted, nor garlicky. The lemon was there, and the chicken was swimming in the sauce. I know French cooking relies on sauces, but this was overdoing it. It just wasn't what we wanted.

Nevertheless, we were excited for dessert. The special menu had a trio of desserts, the Chocolate Macadamia Slice, Iced Vanilla Souffle with Coco-Natura, and a Mini Apple Tarte. Surprisingly, the Chocolate Macadamia Slice was the least delicious. We all loved the Vanilla Souffle and the Apple Tart.

I also ordered the Crepe Suzette, which came out like a souffle. It wasn't what I expected it to be again, as the mango cream "filling" was too liquid. And the crepe was too thin, that it didn't seem like crepe anymore. It was also too sweet.

In the end, we still had a satisfying meal, but was a little disappointed. I still rank Je Suis de Gourmand as my number one French bistro in town. Enchante created a spark in the boring Ortigas food scene, and I hope that more restaurants will open in the area. I still regard Chef Jessie as one of the most talented chefs in the country, so I recommend you try Enchante, and share your comments as well.

I Love HK

If there was one place I would like to move to, it would be Hong Kong. I simply love this mega city. It's filled with so many things to do, so many things to see, so many food to eat, so many people to meet.

I've been to Hong Kong twice in the last month. The first time I went was to buy my new Mac.Book Pro. HK has the cheapest Macs in Asia, that if I buy a ticket, it would still be cheaper than buying from here. That is if you spend just a day there. Which was what I did.

For those familiar with HK, you will instantly know that this scene is definitely Mongkok, one of the busiest shopping districts of the city. I spotted this cool ice cream truck on a corner.

Mongkok is filled with people shopping and creating a scene. There are promotions and performers left and right, some of which are very interesting, like the one below:

The guy stood there, and had anyone paint on his clothes. See the big Cebu writing? I guess a Cebuano was excited to paint this guy.

I love Hong Kong also because it's a city where every corner has a new discovery. There are just so many things and places, that you cannot consume them in a lifetime. I just went back recently, and discovered more new places, new restaurants and new shops.

Hong Kong will have its great sale next month, so book your tickets now. I'll try to post some entries on the most popular tourist places in HK, like Disneyland, the Ocean Park, Ngong Ping 360, the Peak, Stanley and LKF.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back in Biri Town: Northern Samar Series

After the out of this world experience, we silently and hungrily headed back into the town of Biri. We visited this resort, owned by a German. I wasn't able to get the contact details of the resort, but it is past the municipal hall from the port. You can't miss it since it's only one road and it's a walking distance from the pier. You can just ask the locals for directions.


The Biri Resort is probably the best place to stay in the island. There are around 5 resort hotels in Biri town, and there are also homestays as well. They don't get guests, except for adventurous travelers from different countries who fall in love with the place and stay for a month.


And who shouldn't? Biri is a very laid back town, quite busy but has a cool and relaxed island vibe. There are a few eateries, a simple market, practically no night life and yet, I feel that the island is very alive.


I found the people to be very accommodating as well. They were quite shy at first, but once you get to talk to them, they have a whole lot of stories to tell about their island.


So life here is pretty slow. We had a very late lunch, then found this roadside halo-halo joint which was perfect for a hot day. We then went back to our boat at 4PM at the pier.


We passed by the Statue of the Risen Jesus again, which looked grander with the spotlight of an early sunset. The water was calm and shimmering golden.


And so, after a memorable day of adventure, we ended up back in the port of Lavezares again, where the stench of fish greeted us. We boarded the pick up and agreed that Biri was one of the most unforgettable places we have been to. I couldn't agree less. I highly recommend this trip to every adventurer. This is a must-visit in the Philippines.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Magnificent Rock Formations of Biri: Northern Samar Series

There are a few places in the Philippines that have made me nod in disbelief. Last year, Magpopongco in Siargao and Tambobong in Pangasinan were successful in doing that. This year, the rock formations in Biri in Northern Samar made me do more than that.

Who wouldn't be enchanted upon this sight? Rock islands around 200 meters away from the main shoreline, separated by small mangrove plants arranged in almost perfect straight lines.

The majestic rocks of Biri are a wonder of nature. There are 6 in total, covering an area of almost a kilometer across. We were only able to visit the one at the end of the line. You could easily walk to the island if the tide is low, but when it's high, the water reaches up to the chest level, making it very difficult to get through.

Even the surroundings were breathtaking. The sand at the shoreline of Biri Island was not fine, but was glistening at the heat of the noon sun.

We passed through coral reefs revealing itself in the low tide, so we were were careful in our steps. We also hopped on scattered rocks as we neared the rock island.

The island looked what they described it to be. Extra terrestrial. The towering rock walls made me feel I was on the moon, or on another planet.

It was also easy to climb to the summit because of these moon-like steps paved. I couldn't contain my excitement, that I had to drop my bag, leave it at the bottom and rushed to the top.

There were chambers on the edges of the rock, that would make for a perfect lounge area overlooking the great Pacific. This place really looked like it was carved by aliens, not by nature.

I moved up to the summit, and I was greeted by the most awe-inspiring view of the sea in my life. Imagine powerful waves crashing into majestic rocks that seemed to protect the fragile mangrove plants near the shore.

No words can describe my feeling at the summit. I was still nodding my head in disbelief. I've never stopped. Every corner, every view made left me breathless.

We headed down after taking endless shots of the view, to cool off in this natural pool formed by a crater. The splash of water coming from the Pacific created intermittent waterfalls. I was still in disbelief.

I was happy that the locals had not abused these magnificent rock formations. There were very few vandals on the walls of the rocks, and little trash as well. We weren't alone when we visited. I think there were two other groups who were having their lunch there. We only stayed for around 2 hours exploring, since we arrived 11AM, and we were getting hungry already. So, at 1PM, we had to bid farewell to an experience we will definitely repeat.

The Biri rock formations should be included in the Wonders of Nature list. This is something that we Filipinos can be proud of. A unique, almost extra terrestrial landscape that is found here in the Philippines. I invite all backpackers in the world to visit Biri and make it known. It's just too beautiful to keep secret.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Road to Adventure: Northern Samar Series

When I found out that I was going to Catarman in Northern Samar for an event, I knew I had to visit one place. We landed in Catarman, and after getting over with the Grill Fest in the town's park, we drove straight to the port town of Allen.

Allen is the gateway of Samar, having a regular ferry from mainland Luzon through Sorsogon. The journey to Sorsogon takes only 45 minutes via ferry, so it's around 2.5 hours to Legaspi City in Albay.

We stayed in Kinabranan Resort, owned by our hosts. You won't miss Kinabranan along the highway of Allen, as you will see this huge Montery Meatshop sign.

The resort is 15 years old, and is listed in Lonely Planet. It had recently renovated its rooms, making it cleaner, but still very basic. After all, it's more of an inn, than a resort. So don't expect luxuries here.

Nevertheless, we spent a comfortable night here, and the next day, we rose early to drive to the town of Lavezares, which is actually the town before Allen coming from Catarman. You can take a tricycle from Allen to Lavezares if you're commuting.

From the port of Lavezares behind its public market, we hopped on a passenger boat that will take us to our ultimate destination. The scenery was uplifting as we crashed lightly on the moderate waves. There was an interesting landmark of the Risen Jesus on what seemed to be a ship.

After around 40 minutes of passing through seemingly deserted islands, we ended up in a port filled with bystanders. I didn't expect that our destination would have a port like this. I thought the destination would be isolated, located on a small island facing the vast Pacific.

I was wrong. The destination was located on a town, a real municipality, that had a sizeable population. I'll be sharing more on the town in another entry.

It was 11AM and the sun was high and hot. We were a big group of 16, and we had to hire 8 motorbikes to take us to our destination (the cost was P50 per bike, and you don't have to negotiate since their rates are written on a billboard).

I couldn't contain my excitement, since this place is something that I have always wanted to go to. Although a part of me was worried, since I never expected the place to have a town like this. Populated town = abuse of nature.

After passing through narrow dust roads, rice fields, and patches of nipa huts, we reached the other side of the island. A shoreline revealed itself dramatically and made my jaw drop. All my worries were washed away in an instant. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.


Friends, welcome to Biri.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

CNN touts Marinduque as next tourist hotspot in Asia

As soon as I received the email from Tripadvisor, I got another link to CNN, which touts the island of Marinduque as one of the next tourist hotspots in Asia. Of course, this is attributed to the beautiful Bellarocca Resort. The article also enumerates the plans for the island to grow tourism. We do hope Marinduque revives itself in the near future.



Read the article here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Boracay: Top Beach Destination in Asia

Finally, a much deserved promotion on the Philippines. Tripadvisor, one of the most informative and reliable travel blogs in the world has come out with the 2010 Travelers' Choice Awards with 3 destinations in the Philippines landing in this coveted list.



Boracay has landed on the top spot for beach and sun destinations in Asia, beating the Maldives and all the other islands of Thailand. It is also no. 9 for beach and sun destinations in the world and no. 9 again for Relaxation and Spa in Asia. Interestingly, I found out that I have no entry on Boracay in this blog. Weird. Though I haven't been back to the island since 2008. This is the longest time that I haven't been back. I hope to revisit this June, and finally, have a comprehensive series on this tropical paradise.


Then, the two wonders of Palawan, El Nido and Coron, land on 5th and 6th spot respectively for Outdoor and Adventure destinations in Asia. El Nido also landed no. 8 in beach and sun destinations in Asia. Palawan is already getting a lot of recognition lately, and it's about time. El Nido is less crowded and more pristine than the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand.


We really have a lot to brag about, considering that Caramoan, which has the same limestone landscape as El Nido or Coron, is not yet known worldwide. Here's a picture of Caramoan in Camarines Sur in Bicol:


Check out the entire list here

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