Monday, February 24, 2014

What makes Goto Batangas Different?



Who doesn't love to slurp on steaming hot bowl of goto either as breakfast or as an afternoon merienda (snack)? Goto is somewhat similar in appearance to Arroz Caldo or a Chinese congee since both are made of rice porridge, but they have different ingredients, chicken for Arroz Caldo while it is often ox tripe or pork innards for Goto. Goto is usually eaten with tokwa't baboy (a dish made of fried tofu and pork slices in spicy vinegar) on the side, the two makes a perfect meal as their tastes complement each other. A typical street food in the Philippines, one can find a Gotohan (eatery which serves nothing else but Goto) in almost every corner of the street. But have you ever tried Goto Batangas? If you haven't tried it yet, you're probably missing one hell of a great soup here. 


So what exactly makes Goto Batangas special from the ordinary goto that we've come to know? Well, for one, Goto Batangas is made of beef innards and not pork. It is not made of rice porridge, but simply beef broth alone. It has ginger, onions, and annato (atsuete) to add a dash of orange color. It tastes really divine--easily reminds one of the chicken soup your Grandma or mom serves when you're sick. It really is a comfort food for most Batanguenos (term for locals who hail from Batangas). 


Even if you're not a fan of beef innards, you might have a liking for Batangas' take on Pinoy favorite Goto. It is worth giving it a try because although it may not look that enticing given the fact that it has a beef's internal organs as its main ingredient, but it really is perfectly described as "malinamnam because it brings out that natural umami flavor. Best consumed with a dash of Philipine lemon or more popularly known as Calamansi, some red hot chili and soy sauce for dipping, Batangas Goto truly takes soup into a higher level. So if you find yourself in the vicinity of Batangas or Tagaytay area, apart from Lomi, which is another Batangueno favorite, why not try a bowl of Goto Batangas? I guarantee you, it is a soup treat you shouldn't miss! 

Try the cheesy, crispy goodness of Jack ‘n Jill Chiz Crispers


Cheese aficionados have more reasons to rejoice! Our well loved snack, Jack ‘n Jill Chiz Curls, made snacking more fun when its supersized version, Jumbo Chiz Curls, was launched. Now, they’re in for yet another treat as Universal Robina Corporation (URC) introduces a snack that is both cheesy and crispy: the new Jack ‘n Jill Chiz Crispers.

Jack ‘n Jill Chiz Crispers is bursting with cheesy goodness that can  make snack lovers crave for more. Available in 22g and 60g packs, it also has a delightfully crunchy texture, bringing new variety to Jack ‘n Jill’s Chiz line.
 
Whether you’re chilling with your favorite book or gabbing up a storm with your favorite pals, enjoying movie night with the family or going on a fun road trip with your friends, bring a bag or two of Jack ‘n Jill Chiz Crispers for an extra cheesy good time. Get your fill of this yummy treat, now available in leading supermarkets, groceries, and sari-sari stores nationwide. 

Krispy Liyempo ni Mang Juan gives a local dish a twist with Pinoy snack favorite


How about snacking on something with less calories? If you're a liempo lover, you'd certainly love the newest product from Universal Robina Corporation. Jack 'n Jill's Mang Juan presents another must-try Pinoy snack treat with its latest unique offering, Krispy Liempo ni Mang Juan. Inspired by a long-time Pinoy favorite and the dipping sauces that come with it, Krispy Liempo ni Mang Juan comes in two lipsmacking flavors: Toyo, Suka at Sili, from the staple sawsawan found in any Pinoy household; and Sarsa, the sweet-savory local version of gravy.

Conveniently packed in ready-to-eat form, the contemporary snack version bursts with as much flavor as the Pinoy soul food standout. It also has the seal of approval from broadcast personality, musician, author and now official brand endorser Lourd de Veyra.
 
This latest product joins the list of Filipino favorites like chicharon, kropek and chicken skin, given a uniquely innovative Mang Juan twist.
 
For that “packed with sarap ng Pinoy” experience in every bite, reach for Krispy Liyempo ni Mang Juan, now available in leading supermarkets, groceries, and sari-sari stores nationwide.
 


Thursday, February 20, 2014

LJC Group turns 35 years: My Cafe Adriatico Dining Experience


My foreign friends often consider Filipino food as the least exciting and least inviting of all the Asian cuisines. As tourists, they would often complain about how difficult it is to get good local food. I would patiently explain to them that it is because the best Filipino dishes are made from the comforts of our own home, but since it entails a lot of effort in preparation so we usually end up eating out. And although there's a multitude of Filipino restaurants that offer fair and decent food, I had to admit that we only have a handful that I would really take a foreigner to. In this day and age where artificial powders, premade sauces and sautee mixes have replaced the good old aromatics of onions, garlic and tomatoes, the public has slowly forgotten what REAL food should taste like. I reckon this is truly significant as it is our abilty to taste the difference will make us remember what freshly made, cooked-from-the-heart dishes and Filipino food should tastes like. And this is where the LJC group of restaurants comes in. Founded in 1979 by the late restaurateur/journalist Larry J. Cruz, LJC group first changed the concept of themed restaurants when they opened Cafe Adriatico at the Remedios Circle in Malate, Manila. Since then, the LJC group became famous for pioneering the best restaurants in the country, they are the people behind our good old favorite food establishments such as Cafe Adriatico, Cafe Havana, Bistro Remedios, Fely J's Kitchen, Larry's Cafe and Bar, Lorenzo's Way and Abe's.


For the past 35 years and counting, the LJC group of restaurants have been serving us with good comfort food, excellent service and an awesome dining experience. So it isn't really surprising that among the restaurants that we now have, the LJC group of restaurants stands out. It's not a usual thing to have 35 years of experience, right? Not every restaurant newbie or food establishment could claim that. 

My family and I had long been fans of Abe's ever since it has opened its branch at Serendra on Bonifacio Global City. We also love dining at Cafe Havana in Gateway Mall, Cubao, Quezon City. But it was only recently that I was able to come and visit LJC group's famous Cafe Adriatico in Malate. Thanks to the invitation of a fellow foodie, Edel of www.thekitchengoddess.blogspot.com via www.openrice.com. It was my first time to Cafe Adriatico--and I am certain it won't be the last. I'd definitely be back here soon.

For those not familiar with Cafe Adriatico, they offer good, straightforward, hearty Filipino-Spanish-Mediterranean food, made with the finest ingredients. I found their cooking to be really tasty and most importantly balanced. The Chef doesn't shy away from veggies and greens, creating his version and own interpretation of Filipino cuisine that is bright, fresh, textural and exciting to the palate. With a simple menu, they offer a good selection of classic-with-twist Filipino dishes, impressive Mediterranean food and some Spanish influence dishes that will surely satiate even those with discriminating palate. Their appetizers alone are really worth the trip.


The classic Catalan style Gambas al Ajillo was superb! It's a little bit spicy and somewhat garlicky for that extra kick--a perfect way to start off one's meal. They also offer authentic Hummus (Eastern Mediterranean blend of chickpeas, garlic and spices) with Pita Bread which tastes really fantastic. My fellow foodie, Ted Claudio who lived in the Middle East for years even said that Cafe Adriatico's hummus tasted even better than the ones he had while working as an OFW (overseas Filipino worker) there. I really liked their cream of two mushroom soup (made from shiitake and button mushrooms). The soup is clean and flavorful, as well as the mains. That night alone, I felt that we must have practically eaten the entire menu because we left our plates totally clean and ended up with happy tummy. 


My personal favorites include the really tasty Garlic Pork Leg Espanole. As part of the LJC group's celebration of their 35th year, Cafe Adriatico offers a celebratory dish--the Garlic Pork Leg Espanole--Spanish style pork leg with fried whole garlic cloves and potato wedges in olive oil, it tastes even better than the usual crispy pata or bagnet. With or without the delightfully tangy sauce, it is an experience in itself--the crunch, that green sauce made from herbs, parsley pureed, with orange and garlic. This dish goes well on its own and pairing this with the potato wedges alone is better than having rice with it. Or if you're like me, try it with both and taste for yourself which perfectly goes with it. 


The U.S. Tenderloin Steak Solana which I hurriedly photographed so that I can eat--was pan fried and topped with seared onions and shiitake mushrooms. It is served with buttered zucchini slices and mashed potatoes in a mild peppercorn sauce. It is a huge revelation to me because surprisingly, although the onions were not caramelized, it gives the steak more robust flavor and along with the peppercorn sauce will surely bring circus to your mouth as you get to taste the texture, the bursting of pepper and the sweetness of onions all together. The best part is that it goes well with the zucchini slices and mashed potatoes. 

Pescatarians will definitely love and enjoy Cafe Adriatico's take on the Blue Marlin Provencale. Topped with generous tomato sauce with caper--it tastes just right, not bland nor too sour. 




We practically enjoyed everything that was served that night. From the herbed pilaf rice that tasted buttery to the heavenly dessert of Mango Crepes (flambeed fresh mango topped with chocolate syrup). It isn't too sweet but enough to satiate any sweet tooth indeed. Oh, if I hadn't been that full that evening, I could've ordered my all time favorite Chocolate Eh. 


It is rare to find a good Filipino restaurant where you can bring pescatarians and vegetarians together and not have them miss out on the fun and flavor. The clean, contemporary interiors  of Cafe Adriatico with a nice breezy window also make it a great place for happy hour and you'll definitely want to linger on and talk about stories and other stuff you'd want to catch up on. I loved Cafe Adriatico's rustic charm and romantic candlelight table setting--it sets up the mood not just for awesome degustation but also for an intimate conversation.

Price points are pretty affordable too, and, honestly, is worth all the effort in terms of traveling all the way to that heart of Manila. And take my word for it, for someone who lived in Quezon City, I would not mind traveling to Malate to dine at Cafe Adriatico in knowing fully well I'd certainly have a good time. 


Cafe Adriatico offers first rate variety of international cuisine and an array of exciting drinks from around the world. An exceptional menu, stylized interiors with a rustic charm, a solicitous staff---these are just a few of the many reasons why we find Cafe Adriatico to be the best place to simply enjoy life and have a good time. 

Sumptuous and delectable menu. Everyone truly enjoyed the night as Ms. Lorna Cruz Ambas, shared fond stories of LJC founder, owner and her dad, the late Larry J. Cruz. 


Making the evening more special was when the LJC group gave away Larry Can't Cook  books and delectable chocolate cakes. Here's to more years of good food to the LJC Group! Congratulations and More Power!

For inquiries, please call the LJC Marketing Office at 522-0403. Visit their website at www.ljcrestaurants.com.ph
Like them on Facebook at https://facebook.com/LJCRestaurantGroup.

Disclaimer: I am not compensated for this post. Opinions and impressions expressed are entirely my own.
 





Tuesday, February 18, 2014

King Bee Chinese Food Opens a Branch at Fisher Mall in Quezon Avenue


King Bee Chinese Food recently had a soft opening of their latest branch at the newly opened shopping hub in Quezon Avenue called Fisher Mall. King Bee Chinese Food, known for its paragon of excellent food and efficient service, have long been our go-to place for authentic Chinese comfort food. For those who aren't familiar yet with King Bee, it is all about excellent food, large servings, clean surroundings, but surprisingly it won't put a hole in your pocket. Yes, King Bee dishes are really affordable. 


Upon walking inside King Bee, one would surely get a whiff of the aromas of steaming basket of shrimp hakaw and pork siomai or the smell of asado or peking duck wafting in the air. Hungry diners will definitely converge at the King Bee Fisher Mall branch come lunchtime each day-students from nearby schools, residents, office employees out at lunch or after work, foodies who have just discovered the wonders of King Bee--would slurp down their noodles or twist them with their chopsticks. And it's obvious that they had enjoyed their meals at King Bee because you'll see people coming out of the restaurant with smiles on their faces after having satiated their appetite for some Chinese comfort foods. 


King Bee offers authentic Chinese fare, it is a place where you order your food with the wait staff without much fanfare or rather fuss-free, because the dishes are cooked only upon order so you have to wait for a few minutes, and finally the food arrives fresh and hot in bountiful plates.  Once it arrives on your table, you're in for a satisfying Chinese meal. King Bee's becoming a word because of its specialties and best selling dishes. I love King Bee's take on Fried Lapu-lapu with Mango in Thai Sauce (one of their best selling seasonal specialties), their shrimp hakaw, fried crabs in Szechuan sauce, their hotpot, beef brisket, squid in salt and pepper, fuyong and a whole lot more. Oh my, I could go on talking about my favorites because they are that many. 

So if you're looking for a great ambiance, excellent and authentic Chinese food that's truly a good value for money, head off to King Bee Chinese Food branch at Fisher Mall in Quezon Avenue for an exciting meal. 

King Bee Chinese Food Restaurants are located in different areas. Check out the places and visit any of the branches. 

FISHER MALL BRANCH
Unit 9-14 Upper Ground Floor,
Fisher Mall, Quezon Ave. Cor.Roosevelt Ave., Q.C.

MANGGAHAN BRANCH (MAIN)
Newhall Commercial Center, Governor's Drive,
Manggahan, General Trias, Cavite

COMMONWEALTH BRANCH
Commonwealth Ave.
University District, Brgy. Holy Spirit,
Quezon City

CEPZA BACAO Branch
Diversion Road, General Trias, Cavite


STA. ROSA BRANCH
Sta. Rosa Estate, Brgy. Don Jose,
Sta. Rosa City, Laguna

MARCOS HIGHWAY BRANCH









Saturday, February 15, 2014

Max's Brings Premium Seafood Spread to classic Filipino Fish Dishes


Max’s latest 4Sharing Meal is delectably satisfying to the palate and light on the budget.  Diners get to enjoy Max’s Fish Fillet in Black Bean Sauce, a lightly breaded cream dory fillet with red bell pepper strips, spring onions, ginger strips in delectable black bean sauce. For those craving for a sweet seafood twist, they may opt for Max's Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet, breaded fish in bite-size portions simmered in a delicious sweet and sour sauce. Foodies may choose between these two delightful dishes and pair it with one whole, regular, sarap-to-the-bones Fried Chicken. Of course, any Filipino meal will not be complete without steaming cups of white rice and cool glasses of iced tea or any Pepsi soft drink. This amazing offering is perfect for customers dining in groups of 4. Any food aficionado looking for a delicious and value-for-money offering may avail of this mouthwatering feast for only PhP 799. That's PhP221 worth of savings. Max's 4Sharing Meal offering will run from January 6 to February 26, 2014.
 


“With every wave of Max’s 4Sharing meal bundles, we seek to excite and satisfy our customers more and more with the most delicious dishes and affordable deals. Whether they are groups of teenagers hanging out together, young professionals meeting up for lunch, or seasoned Max’s customers craving for their favorite comfort dishes, they get the best of everything – delectable dishes that are signature to Max’s and the most budget-friendly price. As we welcome a very promising year, we want everybody to create new memories and enjoy our freshly- prepared dishes to their heart’s content,” shared Bobby Simborio, Corporate PR and Media Manager for Max’s Group of Companies.
 
Learn more about Max’s 4Sharing Meals by logging on to www.maxschicken.com. Visit www.facebook.com/maxsrestaurant and be the first to know about the most 'sarap-to-the-bones' offerings from the Filipino’s most loved brand.


Ogetsu Hime, The Goddess of Food: A Taste of Fresh, Healthy and Authentic Japanese Cuisine in SM Aura, Taguig City




Discover a dining destination at the heart of the central business district where you can experience what it means to have good taste and experience a delightful degustation as you take your taste buds on an unforgettable journey. One does not need to travel to Japan to experience top notch Japanese dining, for Ogetsu Hime is just an hour drive away, located at the Skypark on SM Aura Premier. The owner realized the growing need for fuss-free and sincere service oriented Japanese establishment with the concept of serving only the freshest, purest and natural taste of foods on its menu. Seeing this potential, Ogetsu Hime was born with the sole mantra of offering the freshest and best ingredients to provide their guests the perfect meal. With indulgence as standard, it is commendable for its ample menu of dishes to try. 

In honoring Ogetsu Hime, the food goddess of Japan, the restaurant was named after her. Ogetsu Hime serves Japanese cuisine with a handful of gastronomic choices from top grade Sukiyaki cuts to sumptuous ala carte menus, pleasing even those with discriminating palates with their selection of dishes worthy of gods and goddesses. Ogetsu Hime is indeed a go-to place for anyone who visits the vicinity of SM Aura Premier in Taguig or the Bonifacio Global City business district.


Japanese cuisine is always a sensual treat for me. The success of a Japanese dish largely depends on the freshness of the ingredients and the subtle but technical approach to cooking. And as I've personally experienced, almost all of the authentic Japanese dishes at Ogetsu Hime reflect the character of the Japanese people--restrained, precise, minimal, dedicated, disciplined and creative. Sometimes cooking with so much preparations masks the real intention of a dish--purity is only achieved when a perfect blend of ingredients makes itself known in every bite. And I'd have to say that at this restaurant, the food exactly tastes as it is and as it should be.

Personally, I love Japanese cuisine for its simplicity and sophistication at the same time. At Ogetsu Hime, one gets to taste the natural flavors of whatever ingredient you're eating, presented in the most appetizing yet artistic way. It is an art that flirts with all our senses, balancing the taste, smell, texture, appearance and natural colors of food, using only the freshest ingredients. So one can expect that they only use freshly-flown ingredients from Japan (specialties like sushi and sashimi are flown twice a week), skillfully presented on plates.  Ogetsu Hime chefs masterfully creates a modern spin to traditional recipes. From authentic specialties to regular favorites, they distinctly bring out the soul of Japanese dishes. And by simply doing so, it gives an amazing treat for diners. For those whose personal taste leans towards the healthy way, Ogetsu Hime has made sure that your dining experience with them will be nothing less than excellent. 


At Ogetsu Hime, they demistify Japanese foods to make it more friendly and less intimidating, without removing the fact that it is considered one of the best cuisines in the world. For one, you can even watch your own food being cooked right before your eyes. Sukiyaki are done via table cooking service as well. I love the aromas of furai, the saut√©ed veggies, the piping hot bowls of sukiyaki, the smoky aromas of teriyaki and teppanyaki, all intermingling into one intoxicating, irresistible aromatic whole. But what I find truly amazing was that despite of the table cooking set up of the said restaurant, one won't smell like onions or beef after having an excellent meal at Ogetsu Hime. 

The restaurant's ambience had that cozy Zen style look and minimalist interiors, but still well lighted. Hence, it invites customers to be comfortable and talk, not just about any experience, but about the most interesting thing at the moment--food! 

Now, let's talk about their food. Ogetsu Hime's from the same people that has introduced Japanese foods to most Filipinos--via Saisaki. But if you think Ogetsu Hime's just another Saisaki, well, you're totally wrong! From the manner of food preparation to cooking from its region of origin and its authenticity, taste, texture, freshness, color, down to the very small detail--Ogetsu Hime does it all. Here's a little trivia which the owner, Mr. Vic Villavicencio shared with us:  It was them who originally started using ripe mangoes in California maki. Originally, avocado's being used. But since it's seasonal here, hence, they've thought of a fruit that 's more feasible. 

I love the clean and subtle flavors of Japanese food at this restaurant. I also adore the artful arrangement of how the food looks. Each plate is like poetry in every sense. Presentation is impeccable. At Ogetsu Hime, I could probably eat Japanese every single day and not get tired of it. 

Ogetsu Hime's sushi rolls are filled and packed with stuffings. The crunchies were really good. I loved their soft shell crab tempura. Light and airy batter and slightly seasoned to emphasize its true and natural flavor. Their spicy tuna rolls reveal not just crunch but also provided flavors that explodes in the mouth. Overall, the different flavors and textures were a great mix. With all those tastes and textures teasing the palate, the sweet-spicy-nutty-savory crunchy taste makes such a perfect appetizer to start off your meal.


Their sashimi and sushi had bright prismatic colors of  red, yellow, green and orange hues served so exquisitely detailed and meticulously done by the sushi chef. It had that fresh and natural sweetness on them too. Wasabi was great, definitely not the powdered ones. Compared to hotels, prices of these awesome goodies will not cost you an arm and a leg. They're all reasonably priced. You'll be getting exactly what you've paid for. 

Teriyaki are done the way they are cooked in Japan, using teppan grill (unlike others that uses gas grill) in exact heat to bring out its natural flavors. They're tender, moist (unlike other teriyaki I've tried that were dry) and juicy, glazed glossily and lightly with their signature teriyaki sauce on the side. Almost melt in your mouth. Perfect even without the sauce. 



My top recommendation would be Ogetsu Hime's Sukiyaki. Thinly sliced beef, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, bean curd and yam noodles in sweetened soya sauce. Try their Matsusaki sukiyaki--the menu says it is "incomparable excellence of black-haired kuroge "Japanese black" from the cattle regions of Matsusaka, Mie, Japan. Hailed as one of the world's best." Depending on your budget, you have other options to try, Ogetsu Prime sukiyaki or US Rib Eye sukiyaki. I was lucky enough to taste all of them, and they're really fantastic! Sukiyaki, regardless of its kind at Ogetsu Hime is exquisite. It is rich and tender, yet subtle. The sweetness of the sauteed onions played well against the buttery beefy goodness of the Sukiyaki. Served alongside other veggies, yam noodles, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, it makes a delectable lunch or dinner. 

We were told that Sukiyaki are best eaten by dipping them on fresh raw eggs. I was hesitant to try it, but I was told it's the way most Japanese do it. But since I was curious with how it tastes like, I've tried it. And I'm so glad I did! Sukiyaki dipped in raw fresh beaten eggs gives it a rather 'creamy' taste and a slimy texture. But it actually adds that somewhat 'sweet-umami' taste on the dish. Oh, and unlike other sukiyakis I've tried, Ogetsu Hime's take on sukiyaki isn't that sweet, but just right. For seafood aficionados, you'll surely love yosenabe--ebi (prawn), shake (Norwegian salmon), Shira (Mahi Mahi), veggies and udon noodles in Dashi Konbu broth. There's gindara, gyoza, hotategai (scallops), even foie gras all bursting with explosive natural flavors, served smartly by Master Teppan Chefs. 

The Japanese Kaki oysters exemplify Ogetsu Hime's aim--to make every meal an interactive dining experience. Each bite is like a party in one's mouth. It reminds me of the sweet and tangy "Angel wings" or more popularly known as "Diwal" which I had tasted in Iloilo City some years back. I can't get enough of these babies, I'd definitely come back to Ogetsu Hime for some more Japanese Kaki oysters.

The twist in most Ogetsu Hime's dishes can be attributed to the ordinary sauce/dressing. One would think that the sauce on the sides were just there to provide a dash of color; who would have thought that dipping a small amount of the sauce could immediately transform a dish? The tuna rolls for example tasted just as good even without the sauce, but roll it once on the side sauce, and voila! It tasted even better. 



Ogetsu Hime's service is also very good because the staff go out of their way to do things for you. Staff are well-trained and very friendly, this is important as customers like to be pampered. One thing about Ogetsu Hime is that they don't give anything of substandard even if the client insists. "We'd rather say "No," than let our customers down by giving them something substandard," says Mr. Villavicencio. Ogetsu Hime sticks to the core: they are more concerned on consistency, standards, service and experience. Every single item on Ogetsu Hime's menu was elevated from the ordinary by the perfect combination of the freshest ingredients and Japanese cooking techniques.

Other restaurants may have the same foods and similar offerings, but at the end of the day, there's just no substitute for good, old-fashioned personalized service. Skypark at SM Aura Premier is now more than just a wonderful place to see the Makati-Taguig skyline but with the emergence of restaurants such as Ogetsu Hime, it has also become an indulging destination for gastronomic adventures as well. 

Go and check out Ogetsu Hime yourself for more tasty surprises. It is one of the best reasons you can have for driving all the way to Taguig. Count my word for it, you'll be glad that you did.

Ogetsu Hime is located at Sky Park, SM Aura Premier, Level 5, 26th Street corner McKinley Parkway, Taguig City



Disclaimer: I am not compensated for this post. Opinions and impressions expressed are my own.