My Reviews

Vanderlust Bistro + Patisserie

5.0 Stars
International
10

Recently, I've been exploring more of the restaurants in Tomas Morato / Timog area, since there are plenty of interesting stand-alone restaurants here in this area. In fact, even before the proliferation of restaurants in the Maginhawa / Teachers Village area, Tomas Morato has already had a steady stream of good restaurants, with a wide range of cuisines to choose from.

I spent one Saturday afternoon last December with two of my high school best friends in a restaurant we've never visited before -- Vanderlust. The prices can be a bit steep, but the quality of the food more than makes up for it. Here are the dishes we ordered for our late lunch - early dinner that day:

βœ… SOPA DE TOMAPEPINO (Php 278 - For Sharing) - 1108811088110881108811088
This was recommended by our server, saying its ingredients are unique and it does not taste like your usual tomato soup. And boy, he wasn't lying! Since they used sun ripened tomatoes, the taste is very potent and rich. It is then balanced out by fresh cucumber cubes, making it a refreshing appetizer to have.

βœ… ESPAGUETIS CON ALBΓ“NDIGAS (Php 328) - 11088110881108811088
This pasta dish can either be served in tomato sauce or olive oil, and we chose the latter. We wanted to fully taste the components, and having it with tomato sauce might mask its flavor. The Spanish meatballs were packed with so much flavor, and having it spicy makes it doubly yummy. 128150 Pasta was al dente, and we enjoyed the bountiful toppings.

βœ… IL TRICOLORE (Php 688) - 1108811088110881108811088
This is an almond crusted salmon, served with fresh pesto risotto and cherry tomatoes. I love how thick the cut of salmon was, and the freshness is very much evident with the firmness of the meat. The flavorful pesto risotto paired well with the salmon, too! This dish looks so good and tastes even better. 128525

βœ… BUTCHER'S STEAK WITH BLEU CHEESE AND POTATO GRATIN (Php 648) - 1108811088110881108811088
When it was served, we initially thought the steak might be a bit tough, but the "butcher's cut" was indeed really tender! No wonder the price is quite premium. Though we requested for medium rare doneness, we thought it was already a medium. It still tasted good, though! We enjoyed the bleu cheese butter it was slathered with, and though the potato gratin was unavailable, they exchanged it for potato wedges and it was still a perfect match. 128525

We ended our meal with two desserts for sharing:

βœ… PICK ME UP (Php 215) - 110881108811088
During our visit, this cake has only been launched in Vanderlust three days prior -- so in true millennial FOMO fashion, we decided to give it a try. It was actually just okay. The size of the cake is good for around 2 to 3 people already. It is similar to a cheesecake x tiramisu, but instead of having the flavors mixed together, they had their own layers. 128517 The outside cheese layer tasted too similar to Arla Cheese Spread in gelatin form, so it was slightly milky and on the salty side. On the other hand, the tiramisu cake inside was too soaked for me, as in it tasted like the cake fell into a pot of coffee. The texture wasn't what I was looking for, but tastewise, it wasn't that bad. I think they can still improve this! 128516

βœ… HAZELNUT KISS GERMAN SCHNEBALLE (Php 165) - 1108811088110881108811088
Of course, we didn't want to leave without trying out one of their signature desserts, the schneballe! 10084️ It is a German term for snowball, and is made up of shortcrust pastry. We were so excited to try it because it is a very unique dessert that we have never seen elsewhere. Once the schneballe is served, they will give you a paper bag and a mallet. First, place the schneballe inside the paperbag, and smash to your heart's content! 128513 When you get the desired sizes, you may tear open the paper bag and serve. Hazelnut Kiss tastes like a huge ball of Ferrero Rocher, with a cookie-like crust and a rich, chocolatey center. We loved it, and the experience made it even more special. 128516

In general, the food was really good and unique! 128523 We really enjoyed this visit. Aside from the good food, the ambiance was really nice, perfect for date nights and girl night outs. πŸ€— A special shoutout to our awesome server, Von, for being so eager in explaining and introducing their dishes to us. He was also very attentive, and our glasses were never empty. Delicious food, nice ambiance, and impeccable service... The bill was worth it. 128513128525

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Army Navy

4.0 Stars
American

Back here at this branch, but the service still hasn't improved much. 128532

I remember hating bacon before, because I didn't like having oily, and fat tasting meat. Recently though, I got to try this Bacon Breakfast (Php 190) from Amry Navy, and I think I'm a convert! The cripsy bacon strips were so nice to munch on, along with the runny sunny side up egg and garlic rice. 10084️ My stress was washed away by this meal. 128513 It might (arguably) be the best breakfast meal in Army Navy! 511088 for the food!

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Starbucks Reserve

5.0 Stars
Coffee

Starbucks is a go-to place for a cup of coffee, but lately, they have been launching great tasting food as well! During one of my visits to the Starbucks Reserve branch in S Maison, I got to try their Sausage and Bacon Flatbread (Php 115). It is very flavorful and I love that they didn't scrimp on the ingredients! There are bountiful ingredients in every bite. 10084️ The size is also enough to keep you filled until the next meal. This can be paired with one of my Starbucks' tea favorites, their Iced Shaken Hibiscus Tea with Pomegranate Pearls (Php 130 - Tall). This drink's mild flavor is refreshing, atand I always enjoy the popping bobbas it comes with! This is a refreshing meal that serves as a break from all the holiday feasts we've had during the new year's celebration.

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Banapple Pies & Cheesecakes

3.0 Stars
CafΓ©
2

Banapple is one of those places that serve good pastries and savory dishes in one place. So after one of my dinners with a close friend, we decided to drop by Banapple for a quick dessert. 🀀 SM North Edsa's branch is located at their al fresco area called Sky Garden, and is an area with high foot traffic, so the restaurant is always full.

I got myself a slice of Blueberry Cheesecake, a classic flavor that most cheesecake lovers enjoy. Their version is dense, and I enjoyed the creamy cheesecake layer. I wish they can put in more blueberry toppings next time! What I didn't like was that their graham crust was too thick! It became really hard, too. 128517 On the other hand my friend gave their Key Lime Pie a try, but found it to be too tart for his liking. There was also a noticeable hint of bitterness after each bite. 128553

I think Banapple's specialty still lies on their Banoffee Pie. I kept a mental note to order that instead next time. 128516

Their service in this branch was really slow! We had to wait for almost 30 minutes before the cake slices were served... I think they forgot our orders. 128547 We had to follow up twice before they started slicing the cakes. 128566

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The Frazzled Cook

3.0 Stars
International
5

Last December, I invited my close friends for a Christmas dinner (to unwind from all the stressful days!). We didn't know where to eat since we had different preferences, but we knew we wanted to get away from the busy malls. We decided to look for a restaurant somewhere in Tomas Morato area, and after driving around, we finally settled for The Frazzled Cook.

I had really high hopes for this place, as I have read plenty of good stuff about them. 10024 Upon entering, I easily understood why people enjoyed visiting this restaurant. The decorations were really nice and instagrammable, and it felt really homey, too. After much thought, here's what we got for our dinner:

βœ… GARLIC PARMESAN WINGS (Php 320) - 110881108811088
I appreciated the crispy skin and juicy meat of their wings. However, the garlic and parmesan flavors weren't that evident, so we found the dish to be a bit bland. Only the pieces on top contained some sprinkles of the parmesan cheese. 128542

βœ… FRAZZLED SISIG (Php 225) - 1108811088110881108811088
This was our favorite dish that night! 10084️ The sisig was of the right serving size for us, plus it was super tasty! It also had various textures from the pork innards and the chicharon toppings. We also loved it because it wasn't too dry, despite being served in a sizzling type plate. Definitely worth being named after the restaurant! 128521

βœ… PAELLA NEGRA (Php 375 - good for 3) - 11088110881108811088
H said that this one tastes better than their Seafood Paella (the regular saffron / achuete colored paella), so we opted for this. Even if it's just good for 3, we weren't able to finish it as the rice was too much for us, especially since we also got a pasta dish. 128517 There were plenty of shrimps and squid, plus mussels too. I didn't like the sausage as much though, as I found them to be too soggy and weren't meaty at all. Flavor-wise, I liked how the squid ink added a thicker consistency to the paella as a whole, and there was also a deeper seafood flavor because of it. 128522

βœ… GRILLED SALMON WITH MANGO SALSA (Php 325) - 11088
I looove salmon and this dish from Frazzled Cook made me extremely sad. 128547 Priced at a bit over 300 pesos, it wasn't really that cheap to begin with, but it's salmon, so we were okay with it at first. But when we were served with a plate with three slices of salmon thinner than half an inch, a cup of plain rice, plus some vegetable sticks, I was dismayed. It's the first time I got served with this kind of salmon: thin and overcooked. πŸ™„ The salmon was too tough, and it tasted a bit funny, probably not fresh anymore. Never again to this dish! (We weren't able to finish it)

βœ… CHORIZO PASTA (Php 415 - Family Size) - 110881108811088
I loved how the crumbly chorizo bled its flavor into the pasta. Its meaty taste, plus the cheese topping, definitely perked up our senses. However, the pasta wasn't as al dente as I hoped. 128566 I also found the pasta a bit too expensive for its quality. It wasn't that bad though.

Overall, I can say that I was a bit underwhelmed with their food. I am not sure if it was a bad day for them, or maybe we got the wrong dishes. πŸ€” Nevertheless, we at least enjoyed its chill and IG-worthy ambiance. It was packed that day though, so we didn't really have the peace and quiet we were longing for. 128517 Service was just okay, nothing spectacular.

I guess our visit was fairly okay, but the prices were a bit too expensive for me given the quality of the dishes we ordered.

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Pinkberry

5.0 Stars
Frozen Yogurt
2

Pinkberry remains to be one of my favorite frozen yogurt places, as it was the froyo place that first sparked my interest for this healthier alternative to ice cream. πŸ€— I've alsways appreciated how Pinkberry offers various flavors, and plenty of options for toppings, too!

Last July, I was invited to a |ooloo rendezvoos here, and after the event, we were given a GC each for a FREE small cup of Pinkberry yogurt with toppings, which we can use on our next visit! 10084️ I was fortunate enough to get hold of another GC for the same freebie, which I got from the recognition package given to me when I was promoted as a Community Ambassador here on looloo.

I took Josh with me to enjoy this treat this December (before the GCs expire HEHEHE), and we were both super happy with what we got! Josh had the White Chocolate Raspberry Froyo with Mangoes, Oreo, and Granola as toppings. As for me, I got my Original Froyo with Matcha biscuit rolls, Strawberries, and Sliced Almonds! 128525 Both were really good and filling. I also appreciate how Pinkberry's yogurt is more on the creamy side, and isn't that sour. 128523

Thank you to |ooloo and Pinkberry for this wonderful sweet treat! 10084️10084️10084️

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Chelsea Kitchen

4.0 Stars
CafΓ©
4

Whenever I am in Mega Fashion Hall, I always pass by Chelsea Kitchen, a restaurant situated near the main entrance of the mall. It wasn't until recently that my curiosity got the better of me, and I asked Josh if we can eat here. As always, he agreed. 128513

We came not knowing what to order, so we browsed the menu and chose the items that seemed interesting:

βœ… MUSHROOM "CHICHARON" (Php195) - 11088110881108811088
Since I tried the Kinoko Frites at Le Petit Souffle last year, I've been on the lookout forthe best mushroom chicharon, but I haven't found someyhing that will top it. This one is good, but I found the mushrooms to be too crumbly. The basil peso aioli dip was good, and we liked it better than the spiced vinegar dip, which we found to be too overpowering. The best prt of the chicharon was the stem -- a bit chewy but still crispon the outside. 10084️

βœ… GRILLED BABY CALAMARI (Php 350) - 11088110881108811088
What a flavorful dish this is! 🀀 This one is a healthier alternative to your usual pork barbecue -- with a flavorful garlic parsley butter sizzle that is sure to make the flavors burst in your mouth with each bite. 128513 The tender calamari is sooo good! Yum!

βœ… JONES' TAPA AND FRIED EGG (Php 320) - 1108811088110881108811088
Among the dishes we got, this one was my favorite (even if Josh was the one who ordered this)! 128525 The egg wasn't as runny as we wanted it... But the beef tapa was soooo good! 128523 Unlike the usual tapa, this dish made use of thinly cut beef strips, similar to the ones you'd find in gyudon / sukiyaki. Since the beef strips were really thin, the sauce was able to fully coat and penetrate each strip, making it super flavorful. I loved how they were able toproperly bapance the garlicky taste and the sweetness of the sauce, making it one of the most unique beef tapas I've ever tried. Recommended! 10084️10084️10084️

We had these with a cup of Herb Rice Pilaf (Php 80) for Josh, which we both deemed to oily and buttery for our liking. It was too rich, and may be a bit heavy on the stomach. On the other hand, I had Brown Rice cooked in Vegetable Stock (Php 95). I found it to be okay, but there was nothing different vs the usual brown rice I get at our office canteen, which is just Php 15 per cup. πŸ€” It paired nicely with the Beef Tapa though, as it enhanced the flavor of the dish even more. 128522

The restaurant seemed undermanned even on a Sunday lunch time, and it was a bit difficult to call the attention of their staff. However, they were really courteous, so I still enjoyed our lunch there. The ambiance, on the other hand, was just okay. I feel a bit awkward eating at an open space, when passers-by can actually see what you're having for lunch. 128517

Overall, it's a pretty chill restaurant to eat at, very casual and can be a nice place to catch up with a couple of friends! Contrary to what I thought, it wasn't actually that noisy there, despite being an open air restaurant. 128513

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Tra Vinh

2.0 Stars
Vietnamese
4

In an attempt to try out something different, I invited my mom for dinner at Tra Vinh one Saturday after work. Tra Vinh is a Vietnamese restaurant with a canteen type of ambiance -- very laidback and simple. I've heard some mixed reviews about this, but I still opted to give it a go.

We got there at dinner time, and the restaurant was just about half full. We were led to our seats, and handed the menu. After much browsing, here's what we got:

βœ… FRESH SPRING ROLLS - SHRIMP (Php 180) - 110881108811088
This was just okay. I've had better spring rolls before from a weekend market, and that remains the best and freshest spring rolls I've ever had in my life. Tra Vinh's version hasld small shrimps, and they didn't seem to be that fresh to me either. 128542

βœ… HOT N SPICY CHICKEN WINGS (Php 230) - 11088110881108811088
Juicy and crispy, these chicken wings were actually the best part of our meal that day! 128076 They weren't really spicy as they have advertised, but I appreciated the flavorfulness of the skin upto the meat. I wish they were more spicy than how they actually were.

βœ… BBQ PORK NOODLES (Php 199) - 110881108811088
I loved how the noodles were firm to the bite, and its neutral taste was well enhanced by the special dressing, bbq pork, and vegetables. I just wish there's more pork to go around, as they weren't that generous with the pork toppings. 128542

βœ… CHILI SALTED SQUID (Php 200) - 110881108811088
Again, I didn't really feel the heat from this dish -- they should refrain from naming the dishes "chili" something if it isn't really spicy. 128517 It's more of an Asian calamares to me, which isn't that bad. 128522 I wish there were less breading on it, though.

The food was okay, and it could have merited 3 to 3.511088 from me. However, there were 2 instances (boo-boos on their service) which disappointed me beyond words. First, was that each time a customer requests for a water refill, the server would take your glass, bring it upto the counter to refill, and give it back. Oddly enough, when we asked for a water refill, the server took 1 glass from our table and another from the table beside us to refill. I was watching her do the entire thing, and I was sure my mom's glass was switched with the one from the other table. How inefficient can they get? They could have just brought the pitcher to our table to refill, right?

Second, while we were still just half way through our meal, the same server who switched the glasses came up to us, placed the bill on our table, and said, "Bill Out!". We weren't even asking for it yet! 🀨 I'd understand this if they were already closing up shop, but it was just 8PM that time. Furthermore, I asked another server what time they were closing, and she said 10PM. How rude can their server get??? I took this up with another server who seemed more courteous, and she actually apologized to us even when she's not the one at fault. I appreciated that, but I don't think that unacceptable behavior from thr rude server will warrant another visit. Sorry.

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Mantaro The Original Peruvian Restaurant

5.0 Stars
Peruvian
3

It's usually at the end of the year when old and new friends alike plan to meet up. This last quarter of 2018, I've met with a lot of friends whom I haven't seen for a while now and naturally, we crammed 5 years' worth of stories over dinner. Early this month, I met with I, one of my church friends. We've been meaning to meet for a while now, and we finally had the time to do so! Since he also loves to eat, he told me he'd bring me to a Peruvian restaurant, and being the foodie I am, I obliged. 128516

It was my first time to eat at a Peruvian restaurant, and I honestly didn't know what to expect. Good thing my friend is a regular customer here, so he was the one who recommended the dishes we had that night:

βœ… ARROZ CON MARISCOS (Php 390) - 1108811088110881108811088
This was the first dish to be served, and when it was brought in, our booth was filled with a wonderful aroma! 128525 For those who aren't familiar with Peruvian cuisine, this is actually like a hybrid between paella and risotto. Like paella, it has a lot of toppings, but the rice is a bit more soupy, making it reminiscent of the Italian risotto. Mantaro's version might be the first one I've tried of its kind, but take my word for it: it's sooo good! The rice had a distinct bite, and all the seafood toppings were fresh and sweet. For less than Php 400, it's super sulit already! Each bite is a symphony of various flavors, and it can actually be eaten without any viands anymore. 128521

βœ… LOMO SALTADO (Php 420) - 1108811088110881108811088
Initially, I wasn't that sold on this, because I thought it is just your usual stir fried beef. But all it took was one bite for me to love it! 128523 Since they used beef tenderloin, the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender! 128525 The blend of spices they used was out of this world, and I don't think I can taste anything like it elsewhere -- salty with a hint of sweetness, and a certain kick because of the spices. The fries added a nice touch to an already awesome dish. Serving size was really big too! I loved every bite of it. πŸ€—

βœ… SALMON CON SALSA CAMARONES (Php 450) - 110881108811088110881108811088
I normally prefer my salmon raw, but this Peruvian dish from Mantaro changed my mind. 128513 The slab of salmon was seared in olive oil, then topped with the shrimp sauce. I swear, I was surprised with the layer of flavors it has! Slightly tart from the lemon zest, slightly creamy, slightly peppery... You have to taste it for yourself to understand what I mean.

I swear, after this meal, I wondered why I didn't try this cuisine sooner. Everything tastes soooo good! 128525128523 This restaurant deserves to be noticed by the foodie community, I swear.

The ambiance had a hole in the wall feel, and it felt perfect to me. Indeed, it's a place where you can dine on your own, catch up with a friend, or enjoy a good meal with your family. Service was super good, too! 128521 My friend said the chef is very meticulous with his cooking, and it actually shows in his outputs. His wife is also present when we ate there, and she is also very courteous and hospitable.

I highly recommend this restaurant -- simple yet authentic! I'm coming back to this place for sure. 128525

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Manam

4.0 Stars
Filipino
3

My friend V's baking business was included in the lineup of stalls for a Christmas bazaar at Ayala Farivew Terraces early this month, so Josh and I visited them to show our support. It was our first time visiting this mall, as well as the general area.

In fact, I was suprised that there were a handful of good restaurants in this mall -- including Manam. I've always appreciated Manam for their classic dishes, as well as the dishes they put a twist on. 128525 Josh and I decided to have a quick lunch here, and here's what we got:

βœ… BABY SQUID IN OLIVE OIL & GARLIC (Php 160 - Small) - 1108811088110881108811088
This is one dish I never fail to order whenever I am in Manam. It's a simple dish which you could probably cook at home, but I love how fresh (and small) the squid they use are! They probably did something to make the squid very tender, too. One of my favorite Pinoy appetizers!

βœ… TORTANG TALONG WITH LONGGANISA (Php 200 - Small) - 11088110881108811088
To be honest, I'm not really a big fan of tortang talong. However, Josh wanted it since he liked it the first time he has tried it. And I actually liked it! Unlike most tortang talong, it was actually very tender, and you'll almost forget that you're eating a veggie dish. 128513 The flavor was just right, though I didn't taste much of the longganisa in it. πŸ€”

βœ… INIHAW NA BABOY WITH ALIGUE (Php 255 - Small) - 11088110881108811088
I'm not sure what to expect from this dish, but its surprisingly good! The juicy grilled pork is topped with red cabbage slaw, then slathered with aligue paste -- this concoction tastes really interesting and unique. It is definitely the ultimate comfort Filipino food! 128156 Every Pinoy loves liempo, and this surely amped up the game. 128521

We enjoyed the 3 dishes with their Garlic Rice (Php 100 - Medium). 128525 It was indeed a symphony of various Filipino flavors!

Service and ambiance were both good, and even when it was packed, the service was generally good. 128522 The electricity did fail thricr while we were dining, though... Maybe it's a mall issue?

If you are looking for a place where you can satisfy your cravings for Filipino favorites while discovering new flavors, then I can assure you that Manam is the place to be! 128521

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