My Reviews

La Maripili

3.0 Stars
Café
2

Churro has been one of my go-to afternoon snacks ever since my mom spoiled me to trips to the classic Dulcinea. I've been an avid fan of this deep-fried treat dipped in thick hot chocolate and I couldn't help myself from ordering it every time I see it on the menu or at the amusement park.

Hello, La Maripili.

La Maripili is no stranger to southern folks. After all, this is where its all started. It has been talked about and hyped that it made me want to brave the traffic just for a serving of churros. But my schedule was uncooperative and I ended up just drooling over the photos. Thankfully, it opened another branch at Ayala Malls the 30th.

I've heard several mixed reviews recently about La Maripili which further delayed my visit. But when P invited us to try it out and lured us with free churros, how can one say no?

The place looks very pretty and perfect for catch up sessions over some savory and sweet snacks.

Since we were full from dinner, we opted to have Large Churros (PHP270) paired with Hot Chocolate (PHP110), Salted Caramel (PHP110) and Suizo (PHP160) dips.

I liked that the churros were fried to perfection. Golden brown, crisp and not oily at all. However, the dips were not as good as I hoped.

Salted Caramel was too sweet for my liking and for some reason, I don't find it great with churros.

The hot chocolate dip was decent though not as good as the ones I've had from other churro places.

And the Suizo which we thought was special was mediocre as well. It was like having a hot chocolate drink topped with whipped cream.

I was told that its savory dishes are better than its churros. However, it makes me hesitate to try it given that it fronts its churros as its bestseller and it failed to impress me.

Service though was great. The servers were attentive and very polite.

Will I go back? Maybe but definitely not anytime soon.

Thanks, Peanut D for the treat!

P.S. Photos are not uploading right so won’t upload it anymore. 128557 It’ll be up in my blog soon.

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Genki Sushi

4.0 Stars
Japanese
10

A concept born in 1968, Genki Sushi has grown from a Japanese sushi bar into an international brand. It opened its first store in Manila 3 years ago and it has been expanding ever since. Its success can be attributed to its extensive menu of pocket-friendly sushi and maki and interesting way of having it served. And Genki Sushi beefed up its offerings even more by addingi bentos and rice toppings.

Hello, Genki Sushi.

It has been a long while since my last visit at this quirky sushi bar. I still recall how much fun I had ordering my favorites and the giddiness I felt whenever my "race car" or "train" arrives with my orders. This time around, I didn't focus much on the novelty of how the food's delivered and focused more on the dishes. And for this visit, I got to try some of Genki Sushi's newest dishes.

Rice is a staple in every Filipino meal. And great news for those who can't stand rice-free meals as Genki Sushi added bento boxes and new rice toppings to its menu.

Bento boxes are perfect for guests who want to save time on choosing which ones to get from its long list of dishes. And Genki Sushi launched three bento boxes to choose from -- Shrimp Tempura Supreme Bento (PHP650), Chicken Katsudon Bento (PHP480) and Chicken Black Pepper Bento (PHP480).

Though I find the bento boxes to be a bit pricey, these come with either sashimi or gunkans, salmon skin or edamame and a bowl of miso soup making it quite bang for the buck. In fact, you can split the Shrimp Tempura Supreme Bento with a friend!

I wasn't able to try all the bento boxes as it was spread out to different tables. Our table got Shrimp Tempura Supreme which got a handful of praises for its perfect ratio of batter and shrimp. Unlike other tempura under the same price range, Genki Sushi's version is not crazily battered and it uses reasonably sized shrimps. Taste-wise, it was your usual classic tempura. Plus points though for not being oily. It also comes with half order of salmon and tuna sashimi, California Maki and a quarter serving of salmon skin. It's definitely one filling bento meal fitting for those who are extra hungry.

Among the four new rice bowls served, I got to try Tuna and Tofu Rice Bowl (PHP380). I noticed that it had ample tuna and tofu cubes and it also had some asparagus which gave the dish more bite or crunch. Though good, I'd rather spend my money on more sashimi as I could get cooked tuna at a better price and serving size elsewhere.

Or perhaps I'll give Genki Sushi's Perfect Pairings a try. Available in Black Pepper Chicken Don (PHP310) and Chicken Oyakodon (PHP290), these come with an option of Fried Salmon Skin or Salmon Miso Soup as side dish. And the salmon miso soup's serving size is huge!

There were several new dishes presented to us that night such as Salmon Croquettes (PHP150) which was a tad dry for my liking. It also didn't seem to go well with the other dishes I was enjoying that night. Perhaps this would be better as a snack? Then again, this is just a personal preference.

The Spicy Double Salmon (PHP160) was pretty good. Topped with a thin slice of salmon and stuffed with more salmon goodness, this would be something salmon lovers would enjoy. It seemed to have been slightly torched based on the color. It was hard for me to tell though as I ate my share after some time which made the maki cold, if ever it was indeed torched.

I wasn't expecting to like Genki Sushi's Garlic Butter Wings (PHP290) but I did! It was pretty good. Each bite was flavorful and had a bit of crunch. Though quite pricey for its serving size, I wouldn't mind having this again on my next visit.

And speaking of garlic butter, Genki Sushi's Garlic Butter Corn (PHP150) is good too. But for its price, I'd rather make my own at home as it's a simple and uncomplicated dish.

Other new dishes served that I wasn't able to try were Shrimp Garlic Butter (PHP140), Salmon Taberu Layu (PHP130), Tuna Tataki (PHP120), Tuna Salad Gunkan (PHP110) and Salmon Black Pepper Chicken Don (PHP220) which falls under rice bowls.

Aside from the new dishes, we also feasted on our favorites. Our table ordered Salmon Belly Sashimi (PHP250), Salmon Sashimi (PHP250), Tuna Sashimi (PHP250) Northern Tail Sashimi (PHP250) and Yellow Tail Sashimi (PHP250).

Among the sashimi plates we've had, our favorite was Yellow Tail with its snappy and firm texture that was so addictive!

Salmon Belly came close second!

For dessert, we had Mille Crepe (PHP180), Strawberry Mille Crepe (PHP200), Matcha Double Fromage (PHP180) and Chocolate Mousse Cake (PHP180).

I'm not a fan of crepe cakes and sadly, the ones from Genki Sushi did not convert me into a fan. I found it bland and too clean tasting to give me that sweet ending I look forward to with desserts.

The Matcha Double Fromage cake was not bad at all. With an attractive price tag of PHP180, this is something I'd definitely get whenever I'm craving for a green tea dessert. The green tea taste was pronounced yet was beautifully balanced by its cheesecake-like base.

But the best dessert award goes to Chocolate Mousse! It was a decadent piece of chocolate heaven. Each bite was smooth and I loved that despite being chocolatey, it was not overwhelming.

And if you're a fan of Meiji desserts, do try Strawberry Gunkan (PHP220)! This adorable dessert which was made to look like a gunkan is made of chocolate mascarpone, strawberry rice crispies and wrapped in a thin slice of black bread (or crepe). It tasted like the cone/diamond like strawberry and chocolate treat from Meiji, sans the crunch.

Thank you Genki Sushi and |ooloo for the lovely dinner. I discovered new favorites and I'll definitely be back for more.

And thanks again Genki Sushi for waiting for us to finish. We’re so sorry for not realizing the time. We were just having too much fun catching up over good food.

Visit www.whatmaryloves.com for the complete set of photos.

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Mimi & Bros.

4.0 Stars
American
9

I simply cannot resist comfort food. And now with how things are going in Manila, I need daily supply of good food. Thankfully, a new restaurant just opened and it offers dishes that would definitely make get by a bad day.

Hello, Mimi & Bros!

This charming restaurant situated at the corner of Crossroads, one of the pioneer food hubs in Bonifacio Global City, is now ready to tickle your taste buds with glee!

Currently on soft opening, Mimi and Bros offers familiar dishes like buffalo wings, tacos, fried chicken, burgers and ribs, all interpreted in a refreshing and delectable way.

I got to try a handful of dishes from its menu during its media event last Wednesday.

For starters, we tried Breakfast Nachos (PHP355) which was topped with scrambled eggs, chorizo and corn! The chunky and flavorful toppings complemented by the thin and crisp chips is a great way to start a meal.

Mimi's Fried Chicken (PHP255, quarter with one side | PHP425, half with two sides | PHP685, whole with three sides) is nothing short of delicious! The beautifully battered chicken was crispy in every bite and was seasoned well that you don't even need to put gravy on it!

I actually forgot about the gravy after one bite as it was already good as is. But, I liked it even more with Cilantro Mayo. It gave my crunchy meal that slight tangy flavor that I love.

Another must try here at Mimi & Bros are the pork ribs! There are three kinds of pork ribs to choose from -- Classic BBQ Pork Ribs (PHP695, half slab with two sides | PHP1195, full slab with three sides), Smokey Bacon Pork Ribs (PHP775, half slab with two sides | PHP1345, full slab with three sides) and Rootbeer BBQ Pork Ribs (PHP695, half slab with two sides | PHP1195 full slab with three sides).

Each one was tender and packed with sweet barbeque flavor.

But if I were to choose just one, I'd definitely go with Smokey Bacon! The bacon strips gave a slight salty taste which added contrast in flavor.

For sauces, I highly recommend that you go crazy. I tried half of the sauces and loved each one with Cilantro Mayo as my favorite!

If you're not into pork but want something heavy, I suggest that you try its 6-Hour BBQ Beef Shortribs (PHP685 with three sides and three sauces). This may not be as flavorful as the Pork BBQ Ribs but it has that divine pure beefy taste that would leave you wanting more. Pair it with one of the many sauces for that extra flavor.

I was very excited to try the sinful Chicharon Crusted Pork Chops (PHP425) as I love crunchy dishes. But the chicharon crust left me underwhelmed. It was a bit too chewy which I raised to Chef Ed. He told me that it must have been overcooked as it such should have not been the case. I liked the contrast between the salty pork and sweetened apple slices. I'll still give this another try though and I hope that I'll be wowed next time.

I also got to take a bite of Bro's Burger (PHP285) and Bro's Rib Sandwich (PHP245) which were both great! Bro's Burger, described as 70% Beef and 30% Bacon, sounds like my kind of burger and it was amazing! The chunky patty was oozing with flavor and I didn't even need to put on condiments!

Bro's Rib Sandwich was lovely too with its slight sweet taste. But I'd go with Bro's Burger anytime. (Note: These are just samples and not the actual size of the burgers.)

And if you're thirsty, try one of Mimi & Bro's cocktails! With its drinks designed by ABV, it would be hard to pick a favorite!

Though quite pricey at PHP250-350 per glass, you'll surely get your money's worth.

I'll definitely be back soon!

Note: Half of Mimi & Bros turn into an al fresco space after 5 p.m. as inspired by walk up bars in L.A.

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Ramen Nagi

4.0 Stars
Ramen or Noodle
4

I love ramen but most of my friends know that Ramen Nagi is not in my top 5 list. I didn’t exactly had a smooth start with the never-empty-ramen-shop’s Black King, hailed as the emperor of rich taste. It overwhelmed my taste buds which prefer delicate flavors. Hence, I avoided Ramen Nagi for years and only began to warm up again when I tasted its limited flavors, Veggie King and Cheesy Tomato King. But it was this store’s latest creation that convinced me why Ramen Nagi is definitely not just hype.

Hello, Ramen Nagi.

Fast food has always been our staple meal whenever we’re at the airport. With only 30 minutes to spare, we stick with the two redheads. But last Saturday, we tried something different and went with Ramen Nagi.

Known for its fast service, we all ordered ramen. While my companions went with the classic Original and Green Butao King, I decided to go for Crab King (PHP490), Ramen Nagi’s limited flavor of the month.

This bowl of firm ramen noodles swimming in creamy kani and tonkotsu broth topped with whole deep fried soft-shell crab was delicious! Unlike its other limited Kings, this one had the perfect umami level that would make you finish your bowl without finding it cloying. Each slurp of the broth brought out the beautiful blend of land and sea. And the best part was that I didn’t find the soup oily at all!

I enjoyed every mouthful of this wonderful bowl that I hesitated to share some with R. I wanted to savor each bite as this was the first and last time I would get to have this as it was only available for only two weeks.

I took my last spoonful with mixed emotions. Dramatic as it may sound but it’s true. I felt happy for having tasted this mouthwatering masterpiece and rather devastated for not finding and trying this out sooner so that I could have more of it.

Hmm, perhaps I should make a petition to have this in the regular menu? Anyone willing to support me on this?

#looloosummergiveaway2018

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Vatos Urban Tacos

5.0 Stars
Mexican
10

With the crazy number of restaurants opening here and there, you must be bestowed with supernatural powers if you could keep up and visit all. First impression could make or break a restaurant and I often mentally give it a "deadline" on until when it'll stay open. But there are a handful of restaurants that impressed me and made me look at my calendar on when I could visit again. And one of the restaurants that tickled my taste buds with glee is Vatos.

Hello, Vatos.

I've never heard of Vatos before until last weekend. Apparently, this restaurant and bar opened back in February and is a franchise that started in Singapore and Korea by three Korean-American founders who want to share their love for food.

Located along 5th Avenue, fronting Fort Strip, Vatos exudes a fancy and intimidating vibe with its dim lights and high ceiling. But one would be surprised with its menu of reasonably priced dishes and beverages.

The first thing I noticed upon entering is the quirky lights shaped as top hats giving the place a bit of Kingsman feel. Then when I looked down, it became a bit more industrial with the pipe accent on the tables with the inverted faucet as bag hooks.

While waiting for the rest to arrive, we were served with complimentary basket of Fresh Chip and Salsa which comes with fresh corn tortillas, tomatillo salsa verde and roasted onion chipotle salsa. If one serving is too little for you, you can order another for PHP95.

I first thought that it was rather plain, ordinary and not exactly appetizing. But after taking my first bite, I simply could not stop. It was addicting! It was like I was charmed really bad by the dips, especially salsa verde which had a delectable refreshing taste! The roasted onion chipotle salsa was good too though it might be a bit too salty for those with low tolerance to salty dishes.

Vatos Cowboy Queso (PHP390) was served right after everyone arrived and again, it looked plain and nothing special. But that was my absolute favorite that night. You simply should not hastily judge a book (or dish) just from its appearance as it could make your jaw drop with what it has to offer. The molten queso dip served on a sizzling bowl is a marvelous blend of pepper jack, cheddar cheeses, black beans, pico de gallo and cilantro lime crema giving it a complex and deep flavor. Each mouthful was cheesy and chunky thanks to the black beans and pico de gallo. I could go on and on admiring this fantastic dish but there are a few more to share.

Next served was a basket of Kimchi Carnitas Fries (PHP390) which I thought to be the same as the one I've tried before in another restaurant. But again, I was proven wrong. This one had more spunk! Topped with braised pulled pork carnitas, kimchi, melted cheese, sour cream, cilantro, onions and a bit of Vatos hot sauce, this snack is not your ordinary fries. Despite having several ingredients fighting for your taste bud's attention, each one was well-defined yet blended harmoniously resulting in a smacktacular piece. And what I loved most about this was that the fries remained crisp despite the heavy toppings! R wanted to know how Vatos makes its fries but it seems to be a top secret and will remain a mystery for us.

We then feasted on three kinds of Vatos Urban Tacos namely Spicy Chicken (PHP280, 2 tacos | PHP380, 3 tacos), Korean Pork Belly (PHP320, 2 tacos | PHP450, 3 tacos) and Chili Lime Shrimp (PHP280, 2 tacos | PHP380, 3 tacos). We were told that it is best to eat these with your hands. But the tacos had generous filling that would make me eat like a kindergarten student if I eat it with my hands. Everything will be all over me! So I opted to stay proper and used my fork.

I found Spicy Chicken to be... well, very spicy. That is when eaten as a whole; because of the Vatos Hot Sauce. Surprisingly, the spicy marinated chicken wasn't that spicy and this could be a let down for those with very high tolerance for heat. But you can have it adjusted to be milder or spicier! Just request in advance. They can even have the hot sauce served on the side if you have near zero tolerance like I do.

Korean Pork Belly had a more familiar taste as it was just like eating samgyupsal! Served with ssamjang aioli and onions, it had that slight spicy, salty and tangy taste that I love.

Chili Lime Shrimp was like munching on mini tempura with that mouthwatering cilantro and lime taste. I'm a big fan of lime and cilantro combination so this was an instant hit for me. It was lighter too so this would be a great option for those who would drop by Vatos for after dinner session.

Second to the last dish served was Honey Tequila Chicken Wings (PHP420) which I hastily judged again as tried-that-nothing-new. But this was amazing! Though I was slightly intimidated by the deep-fried-masa-battered jalapeños and thought that this was one of those seriously spicy wings, it was quite mild and very addicting! Its sweet and spicy honey tequila glaze was flavorful enough that I didn't even bother to dip it in the blue cheese dipping sauce it was served with.

As we continue to savor every dish in front of us, we tried some of Vatos' signature drinks such as Vatos' Ritas Sexy Sanchez and Grow a Pear (PHP480 each) and Makgeolitas in Mango, Passion Fruit and Classic flavors (PHP350 per glass).

The Makgeolitas, blend of tequila and Korean rice wine makgeolli, were refreshing! My favorite among the three flavors served was classic or lime. Curious how to differentiate one from the other? It's all in the number of straws. One straw means Mango, two straws is Passion Fruit and three straws stand for Classic.

I had to practice intense self control over Vatos' Ritas as Sexy Sanchez was seriously good! It had that lovely berry taste that I found hard to resist. It was one sweet drink that kept seducing me to have more. And it didn't help that the huge glass was in front of me during dinner.

I then decided to move to the other side of the table, not just to avoid Sexy Sanchez but to indulge in more Vatos Cowboy Queso. Screw self control. I cannot keep myself away from this chunky dip! I ate so much with gusto that the friendly gals behind Vatos knew my favorite right away.

And to cap our meal, we munched on some Nutella Nachos (PHP225). Though this was nothing special as it's just crispy tortilla triangles dashed with cinnamon and sugar and topped with (almost) everyone's favorite Nutella and vanilla ice cream, I liked how Vatos made its dessert aligned and consistent with its offerings.

Overall, two thumbs up Vatos. I will definitely be back for more!

Thank you, Vatos and |ooloo for the invite! Fun night as always! 10084

Note: Drop by on Tuesday for Taco Tuesdays! Vatos gives free taco for every order (comes in 2 or 3 pieces) of their Urban Tacos! 🌮🌮🌮

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Versus Barcade

4.0 Stars
Bar
10

Tired of the normal night out with friends where all you do is drink, chat and maybe dance (when someone gets overboard in alcohol)? What if I tell you that there's a new bar in town that could make your mundane night a little bit funner? Hint: Barcade.

Hello, Versus Barcade.

Tucked inside the quiet side of Uptown Parade lies this spacious bar that mixes drinks with a different kind of fun. Stepping inside is like travelling through time as the place is a marriage between modern and the 70s or 80s with its nostalgic arcade games.

We were too excited to even bother look at the drinks list and went straight to the game room which has enough games to entertain a group of about 20. There were two pinball machines, Street Fighter themed machine, and even Mario Kart.

There's also this air hockey-like game where the goal of the players is to keep their pucks in the 1, 2 or 3 pointer grids to earn points. I tried it several times and after what seemed forever, I managed to score 1 point.

The best part here is that you can play all these fun games for free during its soft opening. Versus Barcade is still working on the best way to manage its game room but I'm sure that if ever they do charge per play, it will be worth it!

After trying some of the games, we headed back to the main dining area and tried some of the drinks and bar chows.

We had Mr. Pacman (PHP1,250) and Mrs. Pacman (PHP1,200) for sharing and we each ordered other drinks to try. I went with Bedtime Stories (PHP380) simply because I saw the word "cacao".

For bar chows, we tried Kwek-Kwek, Chibul (Chicharon Bulaklak) and Chikin (Chicken Skin). I didn't see the individual prices of these dishes but it is available as part of a set of 2 appetizers/bar chows and one main dish for PHP600. I don't think it's priced badly as you'd definitely get your money's worth if you pair your quick bites with the likes of Gambas or Beef Salpicao.

All of the bar chows were very straightforward and prepared without any frills. But one thing I liked about all three was that each one was done right.

Chibul and Chikin were crispy and enjoyable to eat. I had to stop myself from grabbing another serving of both to give others a chance to try it too. But seriously, I can't wait to get my hands on more!

Kwek-Kwek was paired with this brownish sauce which I first thought was for squid balls. Though good, I still prefer it with vinegar.

We also had a hefty serving of nachos.

Mr. Pacman is a mixture of Casadores Reposado tequila, Orgeat Syrup, Vanilla Syrup, Fresh Orange Juice, Lemon Juice and Chocolate Bitters. Though unpopular with our group because of its slight bitter taste, it was light enough to be enjoyed even by those with low alcohol tolerance.

Mrs. Pacman, on the other hand, reminded me of punch. The Beefeater London Dry Gin, Spicy Mango Syrup, Aperol, Lime Juice and Orleans Bitters mix works better for me as I had three glasses of this drink! It was a bit sweeter than Mr. Pacman and tasted lighter too in terms of alcohol.

My Bedtime Stories was one of the last drinks served and it was a lot darker than I imagined. The drink was bitter because of Johnnie Walker Gold but it was complemented by Frangelico, milk, gingerbread syrup egg yolk (as emulsifier) and cocoa powder to garnish. Sadly, even with cocoa, it was something I wouldn't order again. Maybe I'll just go with a non-alcoholic version of it which Pat D had.

And speaking of non-alcoholic, you can request for mocktails at Versus Barcade too! You could either choose the ingredients yourself or have them surprise you with their concoction. Price starts at PHP300 and could go as high as PHP800 depending on the ingredients. Peanut D liked her “The Peanut” drink. 128514

Versus Barcade also has a second floor perfect for those who want a bit of privacy. There is one arcade game there for entertainment too!

And if you happen to be a smoker, this place also has its own smoking area which is located at the back of the game room, near Mario Karts.

We went on a Monday and the place was pretty much ours till around 9 p.m. We were told that the crowd could get crazy on weekends where this barcade would be like a standing room event place. So for titos and titas of Manila, I highly suggest that you go on a week night and try to come early. They close at 2 a.m. on weekdays and 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Overall, it was a fun visit and I will surely be back to play all the other games.

Thanks |ooloo and Megaworld for the invite!

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Oye Tapas & Grill

3.0 Stars
Spanish
10

Is it just me or there is a crazy number of restaurants opening here and there? I used to be able to keep up with the new store openings within my area but I couldn't keep up anymore with the rate it's going. But I prioritize those I've been itching to try and one of the new restaurants I spotted a few weeks back is this tapas place in Uptown Bonifacio.

Hello, ¡OYE! Tapas & Grill!

Located at the very corner of Uptown Bonifacio along 9th Avenue, it would be very hard to miss Oye's bright signage.

But inside would be a different story as the place is dimly lit giving Oye a more chill and warm vibe. And speaking of warm, the place was literally warm due to the lack of air conditioners. To date, they rely on the mall's centralized A/C but it is definitely not enough. I heard though that they plan to add their own soon.

I got so confused with the interiors of Oye. The mural of bull and lion on the wall as well as its animal themed chairs do not seem to coincide with what I think Oye wants to be known. But let's put that aside for now and focus on its main offering--food.

Our host, Oye, chose the dishes for us to sample. And while waiting, we ordered drinks to go with our dinner and Mojito (PHP380) was the popular choice.

Just like how J described it, Oye's mojito was refreshing and really good as it had the perfect combination of alcohol, lime juice, soda water and mint. I can't help notice though its rather small serving size. For PHP380, I was expecting the glass to be bigger. Overall, though good, I wouldn't order this drink for its price. (I would get two fruit shakes instead.)

To start our meal, we were given a complimentary bowl of bread and pesto dip. And everyone liked it! The bread had a lovely texture and held the oily dip well.

I first tried Truffled Egg, Potato and Ham (PHP275) which was quite similar to the liquid omelette of Rambla. This one though had more texture to it as it had crisp bits of shredded potato and ham. I couldn't get a good taste of truffle though.

Patatas Bravas (PHP245), a common dish served in tapas bars, was your usual fried potatoes. Though the potatoes are usually boiled in salt water before being fried, I couldn't distinguish it from normal fries. Quite steep too for its serving size.

I indulged in Chorizo Stuffed Baby Squid (PHP375) next and found it divine! I loved the beautiful blend of flavors from land and sea. The baby squid had a snappy texture too making it enjoyable.

We all noticed that the three grilled skewers served to us had some parts that were noticeably too charred but we figured that this must be how Oye cooks it.

The Grilled Chicken Majada (PHP365) smothered with the mixture of herbs and olive oil had a lovely flavor. However, the chicken chunks became too dry due to being overly grilled.

Grilled Pork Belly in Black Pepper Sauce (PHP365) was slightly dry too for my liking. I also noticed that the black pepper taste was rather weak.

I was excited to try Grilled Prawns and Squid with Chorizo and Vegetables (PHP495) as I love seafood. And this one was the most texture and flavor among the skewers served that night.

Not a lot of Spanish restaurants serve Fideua. This seafood dish that originated from the coast of Valencia is very similar to paella. But unlike paella which uses rice, fideua uses noodles. Thankfully, Oye offers Fideua de Mariscos (PHP290, 5 inch pan | PHP705, 12 inch pan). Oye's version had very strong seafood flavor (most likely because of clams) which could be too overwhelming for some. It is best to drizzle some lemon juice to create a nice contrast of flavor.

My favorite that night was False Risotto with Shrimps and Salmon (PHP290). It had that delectable tangy taste and despite being topped with seafood, it was not as fishy.

To cap our meal, we had a bite of Leche con Galleras (PHP280), Spain's milky version of parfait. The combination of milk and biscuit was really good and something I could finish with ease. I'd definitely order this again.

Oye is still in its soft opening and there are still some areas that need improvement. Aside from the overly grilled skewers and lack of A/C, the experience would have been a lot better if the servers were more accommodating. They hardly smile and carelessly pour water in our glasses causing some accidental splashes on us. I'd let a few months pass before I visit again. By then, I hope that food and service will be a lot better.

Thank you, |ooloo and Megaworld for the invite!

It was fun eating with you guys, Peanut D Clarissa P AlwaysHungryPh P EJ B Pat D Julie Brie K Dens and Ninz! 10084

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PizzaExpress

4.0 Stars
Pizza
9

There's a new pizzeria in town and it is bound to tickle your taste buds with glee. Yes, Tasteless Food Group is at it again with spoiling us by bringing the famous UK brand PizzaExpress to Manila.

Hello, PizzaExpress.

I was so curious about PizzaExpress when I saw its board up in Uptown Bonifacio. I have never heard of the brand before but the giddiness from other foodies was so infectious that I got excited myself without knowing what to expect. And after a few months of looking forward to that first bite, I finally got to indulge in some of PizzaExpress' popular dishes.

For this visit, I sampled its Baked Dough Balls (PHP195), Mozzarella Tomato Salad (PHP275), Leggera Superfood (PHP390), Margherita Pizza (PHP350), Liguria Pizza (PHP430), Lava Pizza and Big Bad Brownie (PHP260).

While waiting for my order, I did a bit of research on PizzaExpress and found out that this brand started way back in 1965. Founded by Peter Boizot, he had a simple idea in mind and that was to bring a taste of Italy back in UK. He fell in love with the flavors Italy that he wanted to bring it back home for everyone else to enjoy. And it turned out to be a successful venture as PizzaExpress now has over 470 branches in UK alone. It also has presence across Europe, China, India, Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and now the Philippines.

First served were the starters.

The Baked Dough Balls were basically like your pizza dough rolled into these bite-sized balls served with garlic butter, pesto Genovese and pesto Rosso. All the dips were enjoyable with garlic butter as my favorite.

But skip this if you plan to eat a lot of pizzas. It is a great snack to munch on though if you are too hungry to wait for 10 to 15 minutes for your pizza.

Mozzarella Tomato Salad is a great dish to try when you're slowly learning how to eat healthier. This bowl of cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella drizzled with pesto Genovese and topped with basil was nothing short of scrumptious. The slight saltiness of the pesto Genovese was a beautiful accent to the sweet cherry tomatoes and light mozzarella.

And if you want to go hardcore with your new year's resolution, go with Leggara Superfood. This hefty plate packed with roasted pumpkins, green beans, baby spinach, lentils, avocado, beetroot, mixed leaves and pine nuts tossed in balsamic syrup. Though I wouldn't recommend this to those who dislike "healthy tasting food", I enjoyed this dish as well. There were just some mouthfuls that I found bitter so I made sure that the succeeding bites had beetroot in it.

I decided to skip pasta during this visit as I wanted to try more of PizzaExpress' pizzas. And I think I made the right move.

I started off with the classic Margherita which is topped with mozzarella and tomato. The straightforward no-frills pizza made me smile from ear to ear as it brought me back to the days when I scrape all the pizza toppings (and just eat my crust with tomato sauce and leftover cheese). Though it may not be the best margherita I've tried but this is the type of pizza I would love to munch on to cheer me up after a tiring day.

Lava Pizza was not part of the sneak preview menu but was highly recommended by S. And how can I say no when asked to try this pizza described as "topped with fresh burrata"? I simply can't say no to that!

The fresh plate of Lava Pizza was served right after and it was stunning-- generous serving of burrata on top of warm pizza with cherry tomatoes and olives. Though it took me some time before I was able to dig in, the burrata stayed in its lovely soft texture and oozes out every time I take a slice. Make sure to eat it with olives for that sharp contrast in flavor. I noticed though that this one has to be eaten with fork and knife as it tends to be too soft to be held.

Liguria was great too! This seafood packed pizza has prawns, mussels, squid, clams, capers and olives. It is also topped with garlic, parsley, lemon, béchamel sauce and breadcrumbs. I drizzled my slice with lemon juice for extra zest and it was love at first bite. I could be a bit biased though as I love anything garlicky, tangy and seafood. Yes, it was a marriage of a lot of things I love.

To cap my meal, I had Big Bad Brownie.

At first, I thought that it was priced pretty steep for a small serving of vanilla gelato topped with chocolate brownie chunks, crushed Italian biscotti, vanilla wafer, pistachio and drizzled with caramel sauce. But... it was worth it. Each spoonful was blissful and despite being full from eating three pizzas, I managed to finish it. The brownie chunks were decadent and went well with the smooth vanilla gelato. I also liked how the biscotti, wafer and pistachio added crunch to this sweet treat. I can't wait to have more!

Overall, it was a lovely experience. I would definitely be back for more of the pizzas I've tried and Big Bad Brownie. PizzaExpress, you are surely doing a great job in creating a world made happier by pizza.

Note:

If you plan to dine here, the best photo spot is the table outside the facade of the store. However, it is right below the A/C which will make your food cold. I also do not recommend you to eat there as I had problems shooing flies (a prevailing problem in Uptown Bonifacio due to construction happening around the area). I didn't experience that problem though when inside the store.

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Bake Cheese Tart

5.0 Stars
Bakery
5

Bake is finally in Manila! After over a year of waiting, the world's best cheese tart is now open in Podium.

Hello, Bake Cheese Tart.

I haven't heard of Bake till I visited Japan last year. The long queue in front of its store near the subway caught my attention and made me curious. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to convince R to line up with me that time. But the enticing aroma of freshly baked tarts left a strong impression that I made sure to grab some when I visited Seoul, Korea and Taichung, Taiwan.

Bake opened its first store in 2014 and has delighted cheese lovers ever since.

I was in love with Bake's cheese filling that uses well-curated cheeses from Hokkaido (deemed to be the cheese capital of Japan) and France. The blend of cream cheese with its natural tartness, heavenly creaminess and balanced by a hint of salt made it an instant hit to my palate. And the double bake tart that gave the treat an extra (to die for) crunch.

One thing I loved about Bake is its consistent delivery of superb cheese tarts. And I think it all boils down with how Bake works... by keeping it simple. Bake only sells one product in one size and flavor.

Though others might find splurging PHP95 for a cheese tart (or PHP540 for a box of 6) a bit too much; this treat is definitely worth every cent. One bite of this would convince you that getting a box of Bake cheese tarts is a smart decision. (Note: Bake Philippines offers its cheese tarts far more affordable compared to stores in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan.)

Bake is opening its second branch in Rockwell, Makati around 3rd or 4th week of January. No news yet on other locations but I am hoping that they'll open one nearer home.

Again, welcome to Manila, Bake!

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Tsuta

4.0 Stars
Ramen or Noodle
9

Tsuta has been one of the most anticipated brands this 2017 by food enthusiasts, or more specifically by ramen aficionados. I fall under both categories and I can't help but salivate whenever I read reviews on Tsuta's signature and Michelin-starred ramen. Just picturing its rich broth with truffle oil makes me uneasy. I just have to try it as soon as it lands here in Manila. And finally, I did.

Konnichiwa, Tsuta!

Tsuta Ramen is no stranger to those who frequent Tokyo. As the first ramen shop worldwide to be awarded the prestigious Michelin Star, Tsuta has become a destination for good ramen.

It all started at a small shop in the quiet neighborhood of Sugamo, Tokyo. Chef Onishi Yuki decided to craft his own recipes and interpret ramen differently. With his years of training under his father's ramen shop, Chef Yuki was able to create the perfect ramen bowl that harmoniously blends traditional and modern. By using premium ingredients such as shoyu from the shoyu brewery in Wakayama, Haccho Miso from Tokushima Prefecture and noodles made of curated wheats, each mouthful ooze with rich character which is undeniably Japanese. But what makes it interesting is that Chef Yuki adds something other ramen shops didn't... truffle oil.

As a big fan of truffle, I made sure to find time to drop by its first ever Manila store in Bonifacio High Street Central.

A tear dropped as I saw its board up gone.

Welcomed by its beautifully lit store with wooden and tile accents, I entered like a giddy little girl to a toy store.

I didn't think twice and decided to try the award-winning Shoyu Soba (PHP390 | PHP440, with ajitama | PHP570, with 4 slices of char siu | PHP620, with ajitama and 4 slices of char siu).

Sadly, my fist visit had some hiccups and I didn't get to try the Shoyu Soba I was drooling for. I did get to try Ro-Su Meshi (PHP170), Aburi Niku (PHP130) and Shio Soba (PHP390 | PHP440, with ajitama | PHP570, with 4 slices of char siu | PHP620, with ajitama and 4 slices of char siu)) though.

The Ro-Su Meshi was delightful. I noticed that the chefs only cut the slab of meat upon order. I guess it is to ensure the freshness of the meat.

The thin slices of roasted pork somehow reminded me of ham, in a good way. It was a festive burst of flavors every time I get a mouthful of the well-seasoned pork and fragrant buttered rice. It would have been more enjoyable though if there was more butter on the rice. (Butter monster here.) Those who have low tolerance for salty dishes might have to eat more rice to enjoy this.

The Aburi Niku was like the local favorite lechon kawali but more succulent. I'd recommend this guests who want something familiar and to picky eaters, especially kids.

Just like Ro-Su, this is best enjoyed with rice.

Before heading out for a meeting, I had a taste of a friend's Shio Soba.

As expected, the broth was light. The blend of the different broths--whole chicken, asari clams and various important Japanese fish with sea salt from Okinawa and rock salt from Magnolia gave this bowl a very delicate taste. The truffle oil was a beautiful accent giving it an interesting flavor. However, I found it too light for my liking and I'm more used and prefer shoyu.

I went back to Tsuta the following day to satisfy my curiosity and to have a taste of the ramen that won a Michelin star.

The queue was quite long when I got there. Service too was slower compared to other ramen shops but it could be also because of Tsuta's different prepping methods such as freshly slicing the char siu.

After 15 minutes or so, my fragrant bowl of noodles was served. The mouthwatering aroma of truffle was the first thing I noticed and after quick snapshots, I began to indulge in the famous soba.

I first had a sip of the broth and it was light yet more flavorful than shio. The shoyu made from soy beans matured for 2 years and made into soy sauce in Wakayama gave the broth more depth. The serving of truffle might seem little but its flavor was evident in every slurp and it was enough not to overpower the broth.

The noodles were thinner than your usual soba which makes it great as it has more room to absorb the soup without being soggy. I also loved its firm texture. The bamboo shoots also gave it that extra crunch.

The thin slice of char siu was also good. But it was overshadowed by the beautiful and tasty flavored egg. It was cooked to perfection! When sliced, the golden yolk oozes out and made each spoonful even more delectable.

I'll most likely get another serving of noodles next time as I was left with half bowl of soup when I finished my soba. I found the broth, though lighter than the usual, a bit too salty for my liking to be enjoyed alone. (But it is fine when eaten with soba as the latter balances the flavors.)

My friend P had Miso Soba (PHP410 | PHP450, with ajitama | PHP580, with 4 slices of char siu | PHP670, with ajitama and 4 slices of char siu)and I had a spoonful of hers. And indeed, it was the richest of the three. The slight spice from hot sauce will surely delight those who like a bit of heat in their food. This soba may not have truffle oil but it has porcini mushroom oil which blended lovely with miso.

Though Tsuta just opened two weeks ago, it has been getting mixed reviews. Several are questioning if their taste buds are just not meant to appreciate Michelin star ramen or if Tsuta is just "not ramen enough" to be enjoyed. A lot also pointed out lack of flavor.

Indeed, Tsuta is unlike the ones we've been used to. For one, Tsuta's broth is not tonkotsu-based but a combination of whole chicken, assorted Japanese fish and asari clams. Its broth also does not use MSG hence not being as flavorful as its competitors.

Perhaps it is not meant to please those who are looking for very rich and bold flavors. But if you want to try something new and a healthier option, give Tsuta a shot.

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