My Reviews

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

4.0 Stars
Coffee
5

A week straight of overtime work calls for a nice good cup of hot chocolate to get the day started. Steering away from the usual Signature Hot Chocolate of Starbucks, I chose CBTL for today.

DOUBLE HOT CHOCOLATE with marshmallows [P140 • Regular] 1108811088110881108811088
Rich, flavorful and most importantly, hot. Instead of the usual cocoa, CBTL uses hazelnut for their hot chocolate. I really loved how chocolatey rich it was 128069

TRIPLE DECKER CHEESECAKE [P145 • slice] 110881108811088
Smooth and rich but had an "umay" factor to it. Since it was named "triple" decker, I assumed it had three different flavors. Upon tasting, flavors were quite similar. I think the blueberry cheesecake would have been a better choice.

Service was quick and staff were very friendly and accommodating 128077🏻

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Café Ilang-Ilang

4.0 Stars
Buffet
7

Back when I was still in high school, I don’t think Café Ilang-Ilang was ever popular. I remember the place looking simple with its white walls and ceramic tables. The buffet had a simple round catering set-up right in the middle of the café. But after the renovation, it transformed like it was Cinderella. The place is now equipped with modern designs and fancy carpets. Different cuisines were divided into their designated stations while tables and chairs were set up to maximize the area. Manila Hotel is definitely stepping up their game!
 
Today's stop: C A F E   I L A N G - I L A N G
 
FOOD 11088110881108811088
As any buffet hotel set-up, Café Ilang-Ilang has several stations. Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Korean, Seafood, Rotisserie, Salad and Dessert to name a few.
 
JAPANESE 🇯🇵
The Japanese section is always a good place to start even though their choices are limited. Sushi, Maki, Tempura, Soba, Chahan, Vegetable and Shrimp teppan are all that there is if I’m not mistaken. Nonetheless, it’s of good quality so I wouldn’t skip it.
 
CHINESE 🇨🇳
With Chinese, I always have to start with dimsum. The popular picks such as siomai, hakaw, and chicken feet are always available. They usually have fried rice, sweet and sour pork, beef broccoli and pecking duck. Food is great but not something you would not find in a typical Chinese restaurant.
 
KOREAN 🇰🇷
I am a sucker for anything kimchi and bulgogi. I love how they have the staple ingredients that allows me to whip up my own version of bibimbap. Plus, if you’re into very spicy food, I recommend digging into their fresh kimchi and kimchi jjigae. Fiery! 128293
 
ITALIAN 🇮🇹
Great selections of thin-crust + generous toppings of pizza. Yummy! They might not have the widest selection of cold cuts like spiral has, but I find their cheeses and cured meats good. Have a specific pasta choice in mind? Go ahead and ask the Italian chef!
 
SEAFOOD 127754
Prawns, crabs, mussels and lobsters are some of the seafood offered. Feel free to customize the flavors according to your preference. The typical are garlic butter, sweet and spicy and steamed. I do need to comment that their seafood dishes are quite bland and easily overcooked.
 
ROTISSERIE 128046
A must for meat lovers. Prime ribs, roast beef, lamb chops, baby back ribs? Take your pick.

INDIAN
Not a fan of Indian dishes but I think they have a great selection. Plus it's halal 128077🏻

SALAD 127807
Pre-mixed salads are available in big bowls for people who prefer to just dig in like me. But of course, individual fresh ingredients are also accessible to customize your own.
 
DESSERT 127854
Dessert may come last most of the time but it’s definitely not the least. Café ilang-ilang has a wide range of dessert choices from their gelato to the cakes and macarons and bread pudding and Filipino delicacies. Looove their gelato 128149 It’s light, creamy and flavorful. Another recommendation would be their rich and flavorful cakes and bread pudding. They used to serve mango coconut pudding but discontinued it for some reason. I do hope they bring it back since it’s such a nice light dessert to finish off the meal.

LOCATION 11088110881108811088
Some people find the design of the location of the stations similar to a maze since they are quite far from one another. But truth be told, I don't mind. I actually like walking around between plates so that I don't get full easily.

VALUE FOR MONEY 11088110881108811088
It costs approximately P2,500 per person here. Abang abang sa deal grocer to get up to 30% off! Sulit naman since they offer a wide range of selections 128077🏻

SERVICE 1108811088110881108811088
Service, as usual, was great. Staff and chefs were very accommodating and friendly to their guests. Staff are very attentive to refil any empty glasses and change plates. I remembered we asked for several refils for our tea and they were very kind to do so. They even added a new tea bag voluntarily for us 128077🏻

Overall, it was a great visit, as always.

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Bucky's Counter

3.0 Stars
Café
2

5th stop of the #SrirachaPH food crawl:
B U C K Y ' S C O U N T E R

Smokeyard and Bucky's are right beside one another. Since Bucky's was full, we requested if they could serve the dish simultaneously with smokeyard's. Good thing they agreed.

128681PINK TACOS
Soft shell tacos • chicken • pork • cilantro • chicharon bits • onions • lime

While I was looking at it, I was wondering where the Sriracha was. Apparently, it's incorporated in the taco itself to give it that pinkish color. Truth be told, I couldn't taste even a hint of the Sriracha. Nonetheless, it was a bit spicy because of the onions. Flavor-wise, it's good. My only complaint is that the taco itself was burnt which gave it that slight bitter taste.

Now let's talk about service. It's weird how one of the owners just left the tacos on your table. I think me murmured something about it being called Pink Tacos and that was it. We were like "what just happened?"

Peanut D asked the other owner the reason for his behavior. Truth was, he's naturally like that and he did not mean anything bad. I realized then that we shouldn't be quick in judging people because everyone has his/her own battles. #deep

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Z Hostel Bar & Cafe

4.0 Stars
Café
9

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, Sriracha Philippines partnered up with eight restaurants around the Poblacion area to whip up their sriracha inspired dishes. I was so psyched when I received a food crawl rendezvous invite from Peanut D. Yay!

First stop: Z Hostel Cafe and Bar

128681SRIRACHA CHICKEN WINGS [P285] 1108811088
Chicken was on the dry side due to the way it was cooked. It was steamed first then fried. I was expecting at least a bit of heat since it was coated with hot sauce but surprisingly, it wasn't. Plus it's a bit expensive. P285 for 3 pcs of wings (cut in half to make it 6)? I'll have to pass on this next time.
Spice level: 1/10

Aside from the Sriracha wings, they were also very kind to serve us their best sellers:

128681 ADOBO FLAKES | [P180] 1108811088110881108811088
Yummy!! 128069 Adobo flakes had the right texture and flavors. Even though it had a nice crisp, it was also moist. Best paired with garlic rice and salted egg mixed with diced tomatoes on the side. It's perfect for any meal of the day! Unlike the wings, I think this one is priced just right.
FYI, they have two protein choices. Personally, I would go for the pork.

128681 SIZZLING SISIG [P180] 11088110881108811088
I liked how the egg was mixed perfectly with the sisig. Even though the plate was hot, the egg did not get cooked fully which I think is the perfect consistency. I would have given it five stars if the sisig itself was a bit more crispy. But that's just a personal preference 128522

Since the market of Z hostel is targeted mostly at foreign backpackers, the heat level is kept at a minimum. Also, they serve mostly Filipino dishes since backpackers usually want to try local flavors. Wise choice 128077🏻

Service was great. Upon seated, water was immediately served and food arrived at a reasonable amount on time (10 to 20 minutes). Nes, the F&B Manager, was very accommodating. She even toured us to their rooftop bar after dinner. The view, by the way, was beautiful. I think it's a nice place to chill on a Friday night. Plus, they hire different DJs every weekend and the drinks are fairly priced.

128161On the side: Sriracha fun facts
Did you know that there are 15 varieties of Sriracha in the Philippines alone? They all have the same green cap and transparent bottle packaging but the designs are different.

Huy Fong Foods, Inc's is the original. It's the one with a rooster design in the middle. The founder is a Vietnamese Chinese residing in CA, USA. He was actually one of the hundred refugees during the 70s who migrated to the States. Since there was no hot sauce there and Americans generally can't take too much heat, the Orginal Sriracha was intentionally blended with mild spice plus a hint of sweetness. As Gusty would say, it's the "gateway hotsauce". It's perfect even for those who can't manage too much heat.

Gutsy explained that they even conducted a taste test of the different Sriracha brands and concluded that these actually have different flavors. I mean, who knew? All this time I thought there was only one type of Sriracha 128563

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The Wild Poppy

4.0 Stars
Asian
8

Second stop of our #SirachaPH food crawl:
W I L D P O P P Y

People rate restaurants based on different factors such as ambience, service and food. With that in mind, some customers actually eat with their eyes. Meaning they need both the place and food to look pleasant which Wild Poppy easily passed.

I absolutely loved the interiors (or should I say exteriors?) of the place. It gives off a similar feeling of having a picnic in a garden with wooden tables and plant walls 127807 A perfect place to relax and catch up with people on a Friday night.

As we entered the place, we were immediately greeted by Kaity, Marketing Manager and one of the owners of the place. She was really friendly and accommodating to our needs. She kindly explained the dish to be served and even gave us a few bottle of beers to enjoy 127867

The dish is named | BAO WOW [P175] which is like a opened siopao sandwich with braised pork belly, topped with asian style slaw. The pork is marinated with their sauce infused with Sriracha. It's super tender, juicy and flavorful. The asian slaw was fresh and gave the whole dish a nice crunch since both the bread and belly were soft. I really liked it. It's like eating a very balanced meal. Oh, and don't let its size fool you because this little baby will fill you up.

As for the spice level, I'm giving it a 1 out of 5. It's very manageable even for people who cannot tolerate spicy dishes. However, it does leave a hint of spiciness on your lips afterwards.

Kaity said they'll keep the Bao Wow on their menu for another month! The initial plan was to keep in until supplies last but since it's receiving good feedbacks, they extended it. Yay!

Will I be back? Yes, definitely. Ambiance is perfect and their menu looks promising. Plus, it's quite affordable given the location.

Disclaimer: Our #SrirachaPH food crawl is sponsored by Sriracha Philippines. Thank you Peanut D for the invite! 🤗

#Wildaboutpoppy

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Alamat Filipino Pub & Deli

4.0 Stars
Filipino
3

Third stop of our #SrirachaPH food crawl:
A L A M A T

Alamat is a Filipino Pub along Poblacion that serves craft beer from different parts the Philippines. They also serve some savory dishes to complement their drinks.

The place is quite small. The bar is right beside their entrance with a few tables on the side. The interiors were inspired by Filipino trademarks such as the jeepney. They even indicated the route!

For Alamat's Sriracha inspired dishes, we had:

128681 SRIRACHA SHOTS [P80 shot • P500 bottle]
Tequila based drink infused with sriracha, topped with bell pepper and spicy salt.

When Gutsy first mentioned Sriracha shots, to be honest, I didn't like the sound of it. I do love eating spicy food but drinking it is a whooooole different story.

It was witty how the drink was mixed and stored in a sriracha bottle. As the bartender assembled the drink, my inner self kept arguing if I was going to shot in or not. In the end, the wimpy little me won 128514 I only had a sip to taste.

Verdict: It's unusual since it's not everyday that you get to drink hot sauce. But it's not spicy hot that you'd need to gulp a glass of water right after. However, according to those who did shot it, it does leave a trail of spice on your throat.
My advice --> shot at your own risk 128586

128681 SALTED EGG CHICKEN WINGS WITH SRIRACHA ALIGUE SAUCE | [P200 • 4 pcs]
Sriracha + Salted egg + Aligue. What's not to love? 128149 Definitely on the top of my list for the night. I would come back just for this. It's flavorful, juicy and hot. The flavors were more sweet and salty than spicy. The aligue and sriracha were both evident but it's a struggle to taste the salted egg. Also, when I say hot, I meant that it was freshly delivered from the kitchen.

For others, this may be a bit overwhelming due to the burst of flavors. But I really do love it. However, I think it's best paired with a cup of rice to mellow it down.

According to the owners, Alamat will be serving their Sriracha special dishes up until supplies last. But I hope they keep the salted egg chicken wings with Sriracha aligue sauce as a house special because I think it would be an instant hit.

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The Smokeyard

3.0 Stars
American
3

The inspiration of smokeyard's dishes literally came from the word "smoked". The charcoal used to grill their meat are actually imported to get that really smokey flavor.

You actually have two choices on where to dine - indoors which is the smoking/barbecuing area or outdoors. Our reserved seat was situated outside, which I preferred since the night really had a nice cool breeze.

As one of the partners of Sriracha Philippines for the Chinese New Year event, Smokeyard whipped up a few Sriracha inspired dishes.

🧀 SRIRACHA MAC N' CHEESE | [P140 6oz. • P160 8 oz.] 11088110881108811088
Among the several mac n' cheeses I've tried, Smokeyard's has to be one of the cheesiest versions. One bite and I knew they weren't skimpy with their cheese. Although the sriracha flavor is evident, it wasn't as spicy as I thought it would be. On a scale of 1 to 10, it's probably a level 2 or 3.

128036 SRIRACHA CHICKEN WINGS [P65 • 50g] 1108811088
The chicken wings, on the other hand, were underwhelming. Skin was soft and the meat was on the dry side. Plus, I couldn't taste the sriracha at all. Gutsy, one of the organizers of the Sriracha rendezvous, explained that Smokeyard's wings are not for everyone as these are not the usual "crispy" wings people go for. Its softness is an effect of how it's cooked which is really the intended style of the owner. Guess it's just not for me 128586

Gusty also explained that Smokeyard is more of a self-service type of restaurant. You order by the counter then their staff brings it to your table once it's done. But since Gutsy already pre-ordered for us, we were just asked to wait by our table.

Overall, it was okay. I will come back for the mac n' cheese but I have to pass of the chicken. Plus I think it's quite expensive considering they sell by weight.

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Mien San Noodle House

4.0 Stars
Chinese
3

I can't believe the last time I ate here was more than five years ago. A lot has changed that's for sure. The restaurant was renovated to maximize its space and improve the overall quality of the place. Considering the renovation costs and inflation good for five years, it's no doubt that prices went up by a significant amount. To verify if the food quality improved as well, we ordered our usuals.

SPICY BEEF STEW NOODLE | [P258] 11088110881108811088
Noodles were al dente. It was neither chewy nor stiff. Broth tasted like authentic beef soup - mix of Chinese spices plus a kick of heat from the chili. Beef stew would not be complete without a generous serving of beef of which they nailed as well. The only negative thing I have to say is that it was not served hot. Noodles are best enjoyed hot in my opinion.

SEAFOOD CHAMI [P268] 110881108811088
Mien San's seafood chami used to be a favorite and go to dish of mine but I'd have to disagree now. It's still good but way TOO GREASY. I'd like to think that the chef made a mistake by accidentally pouring a cup of oil while cooking to ease my disappointment 128532

FRIED CABBAGE WITH PORK DUMPLING [P148 • 8 PCS] 11088110881108811088
Don't misinterpret the term "fried" here as deep fried. Their dumplings are pan fried similar to how a gyoza is cooked. It's quite good. A perfect example of moderation - steamed but slightly charred on one side. Dip it in their not so salty soy sauce for additional flavor 128069

Verdict:
I'm not sure if my pallet improved or the food quality dropped but it's definitely not the same. Generally, the dishes served were not hot which is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to Chinese food. But hey, place looks way much better than the last time I visited so thumbs up for that 128077🏻

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Zark's Burgers

4.0 Stars
Burger

I think the last time I ate at Zark's was when I was still in third year college. Time really flies faster as you get older 128517

We were asked to order first before the staff ushered to us to our table. Since I was not starving that night, I went for the minor league. A good burger requires a juicy patty, fresh vegetables, nice crispy bun and a generous serving of cheese which led me to order 127936 THREE POINTER [P140]. It's Zark's burger with three kinds of cheese - mozzarella, cheddar and cheese sauce. Served with lettuce, tomatoes and caramelized onions. Add P35 for french fries and your choice of either lemonade or iced tea.

The juiciness of the burger oozes out as I bite into it. It was seasoned well with salt and pepper. Lettuce and tomato were quite soft due to the heat from the burger. What I didn't like was the bun. It was too big compared to the burger patty. The burger was already gone but I still had 1/4 of the bun 128514 But for the price, I can't really complain.

What I love about Zark's is its wide variety of burger choices and affordable price. A default place to go for burger cravings at a budget 128077🏻

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Han Guk Kwan

3.0 Stars
Korean
3

I was craving for some grilled samgyupsal and bulgogi that I dragged my friend over to the first Korean restaurant I saw. I was so ready to order a serving of samgyupsal all for myself (since my friend wanted the noodle soup a.k.a. Yukejang). To my dismay, a minimum of two orders is required for grilled meat! 128553 Aside from the fact that it's too much for one person to consume, it's expensive as well. In the end, I settled for kimchi jjigae.

KIMCHI JJIGAE [P250] 11088110881108811088
Spicy kimchi stew served with a cup of rice. Broth and kimchi were on point but the pork was too disappointing. Even though it was fatty, the texture was too tough and bland. I was able to forgive easily since I judged the dish based on the broth. It's quite good for the price since other Korean places charges at least P300 for this 128077🏻

FREE SIDE DISHES 110881108811088
They only have three side dishes: kimchi, cold noodles and beansprouts. Although the kimchi in the soup was good, I find the kimchi side dish flavor to be weird. It just tastes off for me. The cold noodles and beansprouts were average, almost nearing the below average mark tho 128517

The overall dining experience was okay. Service wasn't on point but not bad too. I may come back to try the grilled meat if I find someone to go with me 128514

P. S. Grilled beef are buy two get one free! Each serving costs P350-P400 so invite some friends and enjoy a night of affordable grilling session 128077🏻

P. P. S. No service charge!!

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