My Reviews

Tsuta

4.0 Stars
Ramen or Noodle
10

Christmas is fast approaching and its cool night breeze never fails to make me crave for a hot bowl of soup or ramen. And I sure am glad that Tsuta was our last stop for our FOODEE Crawl.

Hello again, Tsuta.

Tsuta has been one of the most talked about ramen joints since it opened last December. It was hard not to be curious about this place given it is the first ever ramen shop to earn a prestigious Michelin star.

Its light broth made with natural ingredients have received both praise and disappointment from the market. I loved it though as I'm not a fan of strong flavors. But for those who do, Tsuta developed Sang La Tan Tan Soba which is a rich blend of different flavors influenced by our very own local dishes.

For this visit, we sampled Tsuta's newest creation, Teriyaki Chicken Soba (PHP390). Available in regular and spicy, I went with regular and added tamago for that creamier slurp.

While waiting for our bowls, we munched on some beautifully seasoned Edamame (PHP90). We were also served with plates of Gyoza (PHP220) and Karaage (PHP220).

I skipped the Japanese dumpling and tried Karaage instead. And it was light, crisp and would delight any fried chicken lover. I also loved it drizzled with calamansi juice for that nice zest and contrast.

Soon, our Teriyaki Chicken Soba bowls were served.

Its broth is still lighter compared to its competitors but I found it richer than the signature Shoyu.

The sweet and savory chicken teriyaki made the dish a lot more savory. Its dashi (broth) was cooked for 5 hours for that beautiful bold flavor and the Shoyu tare makes it distinctly Tsuta. The sweet corn, button mushroom and baby leaves gave it more complex texture and lovely sweet and earthy flavors.

We capped our meal with Matcha Bavaro (PHP90), a green tea pudding topped with whipped cream and azuki beans. Its delicate flavor made it the perfect dish to end our meal and FOODEE Crawl.

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Sunnies Cafe

4.0 Stars
Café
9

Sunnies Café has been known to be one of the best places for Instagram-worthy snapshots. But more than those pastel colored pictures, its bang for the buck dishes will tickle you pink. And same is true for its new dishes.

Hello, Sunnies Café.

I still remember the first time I visited Sunnies Café. It was during its opening day and the famous gals behind the successful brand Sunnies were there too for a shoot. Fast forward to two years later, Sunnies Café still remains as one of the favorite spots of millennials (and surprisingly titas of Manila as well).

To keep its patrons hooked, Sunnies Café launched new mouthwatering dishes namely Garlic Cream Soup (PHP150), Garlic Beef Ribs (PHP375), Spicy Gambas (PHP295), Classic Churros with dark chocolate dip (PHP125 | +PHP50 for caramel or white choco matcha dip) and Blueberry Cheesecake Shake (PHP215). And we got to try all these during the FOODEE Crawl of looloo.

First served were glass after glass of Blueberry Milkshake. It was a nice blend of blueberry and cheesecake ice cream which could double as dessert given its sweet taste. (It was too sweet to serve as drink for me.)

Next served were bowls of Garlic Cream Soup. Each mouthful was creamy and rich in flavor. The garlic taste was evident but not overwhelming making it a great choice as starter. I also loved those slightly charred shrimps for texture. There's also a crisp Gruyere toast served on the side. Note though that a bowl might be too heavy for one. I think it would be best to share it with someone if you plan to order a few more dishes.

I was a bit worried that the Spicy Gambas might be too hot for me but I was glad that it was just mildly spiced. The fresh shrimps gave the dish a subtle sweet taste which went well with the garlic and butter sauce mixed with paprika, white wine, green chili and homemade pickles. This flavorful dish could serve as starter too or as a viand with rice.

My favorite dish from the bunch was the bowl of Garlic Beef Ribs. Though priced at PHP375, you get your money's worth with how succulent the US Angus Beef rib fingers are. Sauteed in garlic, each bite was packed with flavor.

Think of salpicao smothered in garlic. And pairing it with brown rice and finishing it with french beans makes it feel like I was eating something healthier. It's definitely one dish I'd go back for.

The classic churros of Sunnies Café are dusted in white and cinnamon sugar hence not making me too excited for the dips. I usually go for cinnamon covered churros whenever I chance upon a churro stand. But the dips were already there so I gave it a try and... yep. Too sweet.

If I were to rate the dips though, my favorite would still be dark chocolate followed by salted caramel and matcha last. I love matcha but this one mixed with white chocolate was just not for me.

Sunnies Café has been consistently my favorite place for soup and I sure am glad that they added Garlic Cream Soup. And that Garlic Beef Ribs will definitely make me go back for more.

P.S. I love that Sunnies Café embraces the idea of being more eco-friendly by offering metal straws for its milkshakes. (I just wasn't able to take a photo of it but the straws look so pretty!) I hope more restaurants do the same.

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Bench Cafe

4.0 Stars
Café
7

Bench is one amazing brand. From a humble retail store, it has expanded to more than just selling clothes. Now seen as a lifestyle brand, it now has spin off brands like Bench Fix and one of its more recent ventures, Bench Café. Its festive and flavorful dishes were instant hit to the BGC market that even those not within the area brave the traffic just to have a taste of the famous Tinapa Cones, Sisig and to die for Halo-Halo. And its newest dishes charmed us as easy as counting 1-2-3.

Hello again, Bench Café.

Bench Café recently revamped its menu and added some stellar new favorites in its menu. Now offering more a la carte dishes perfect for sharing, Bench Café becomes a family destination.

In this FOODEE Crawl with looloo, we got to sample Chef Carlo Miguel's Sinigang na Beef Tadyang sa Santol (PHP370), Dancing Fish in Escabeche (PHP350), Chicken Pork Adobo (PHP249), Crispy Pata (PHP620), Pinakbet Rice (PHP59, solo | PHP139, for sharing) and Banana Cue with Tsoknut Sauce (PHP55).

It was my first time to eat sinigang with santol as the main souring agent. And it was delicious! It had that enticing aroma where one whiff would make you drool. Each slurp of the soup was packed with that delectable tangy taste. The tender beef tadyang was also something else. It was so soft that I didn't have to exert much effort to cut it into smaller pieces. Needless to say, this dish made me sleepless as my taste buds kept wanting more.

Fish lovers would enjoy this picturesque crispy butterfly tilapia which is available in three sauces. We had ours with escabeche.

The sweet and sour sauce was spot on and complemented the fresh and crispy fish. One order is great for at least 4 persons and even 6 if you are ordering other dishes to go with this.

The classic Chicken and Pork Adobo was further enhanced by Chef Carlo by topping it with generous amount of garlic. This local favorite is best eaten with rice as the garlic flavor might be too overwhelming for some.

And if you're visiting Bench Cafe with the family, make sure that you order Crispy Pata.

Prepared for over 6 hours to ensure the perfect combination of crispy skin and succulent meat, expect nothing short of jaw-dropping goodness. I was pretty impressed with the crispiness of the skin. There was not one bit that was hard to chew. Though the meat from the edges tend to be a bit too dry for my liking, the meat in the middle was juicy. So go for the middle part!

And to balance all the sinfulness of the meats we devoured, this plate of Pinakbet rice was perfect! Topped with pumpkin chunks, string beans and onion, it was like having another viand on the table.

To cap our (first) meal, we all feasted on banana cue with Tsoknut.

Who would have thought that this street food favorite would go so well with the childhood classic snack? Though I still prefer to enjoy my banana cue as is, dipping it in the sweet peanuty sauce was good too.

I can't wait to go back for more Sinigang sa Santol!

Thank you Roegan T and Jessica for the invite. 128153

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Manna & Golde

4.0 Stars
Café
6

The crazy influx of new restaurants could be overwhelming for most of us. We'd often find it difficult to decide on which restaurant to try. And with most establishments heavily focusing on online marketing, those with more humble budgets are left to be discovered offline. One restaurant/café I've recently found was Manna & Golde.

Hello, Manna & Golde.

Located along Kamuning Road, this café is rather away from the bustling streets packed with restaurants. However, one thing I loved right away here is that it has parking for guests.

Beautifully designed space greeted me as soon as I opened the door and the frustrated interior designer in me was screaming with delight. Pastel colors with black and white floor tiles for contrast; this place is very chic! I just could not picture an all male group dining here.

Manna and Golde treated us to a coffee demo using Breville coffee machine. In case you're wondering, Manna & Golde is an official reseller of this premium coffee maker brand.

Top barista Dave Dource showed us how to use one of the Breville coffee machines where we had the pleasure to try espresso, Cafe Latte (PHP155), Cappuccino (PHP140) and Cafe Mocha (PHP165) using Manna & Golde's special blend.

What was supposed to be a 15 minute demonstration became an hour long of sheer admiration to how easy it is to prepare one's own coffee.

But we'll leave latte art to the experts.

We then sampled some of Manna & Golde's newest dishes for lunch--Roast Garlic Soup with Poached Egg (PHP120), Chicken Noodle Soup (PHP135), Cheesy Chicken Parmigiana (PHP235), Classic Carbonara (PHP230) and Fully Loaded Sandwich (PHP205).

The breaded chicken on top of the red sauce based pasta was pretty tasty and added a lovely crunch to the dish. However, we all found the sauce a bit too weak in flavor.

Same goes for Carbonara which had a chunky sauce instead of creamy. Plus points though for the generous serving of bacon bits. And the toasted bread on the side of both pasta dishes were really tasty!

The Fully Loaded Sandwich is your breakfast in a bun. Stuffed with shredded chicken, smoked bacon, scrambled egg, greens and mayo, a bite of this would definitely wake you up. It is one filling dish perfect to start your day.

But my favorites would be the two bowls of soup served to us.

Manna & Golde's Chicken Noodle Soup is your typical hearty soup that one would love to slurp on a gloomy day. Each spoonful was flavorful and made me want more. It would have been better though if they added more noodles and cut it short so that it won't be dangling on the spoon as it makes each mouthful messy.

I'm a bit biased with Roast Garlic Soup as I love anything garlicky. This one had the strongest flavor amongst all the dishes served to us and it was an instant hit. The bread bits was a nice touch too as to balance the bold flavor of garlic.

We capped our meal with a slice of New York Cheesecake topped with Candied Lemon (PHP160) which was great too. It had a lovely texture, dense and had that nice tart to it. The crust was also crunchy and the candied lemon added a lovely citrus flavor perfect to end one's meal.

As for my favorite drink during the visit, it's a tie between Cafe Latte and Mocha.

Manna & Golde has this great coffee promo where you get to enjoy 30% off your cup of joe whenever it's raining! Now that's one enticing deal!

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Coco Mama

5.0 Stars
Ice Cream
4

I always feast on cold treats whenever I'm basking under the sun. With ice cream and fruit shakes as my staples when at the beach, I've received a handful of recommendations to try Coco Mama in Boracay. However, I never saw its store after being there for 4 days. And I wouldn't have thought that I'd be trying it for the first time in... Manila.

Hello, Coco Mama!

This popular ice cream joint from Boracay is known for its coconut ice cream. It being vegan, non-dairy, lactose-free, gluten-free and having low glycemic index makes this an in demand dessert to most foreign visitors who are more particular with food.

I have to admit, finding out all those properties didn't sound too tasty to me. But lo and behold, it was actually really good!

Imagine the classic ice buko stick but creamier. That's pretty much what Coco Mama offers. Each spoonful is light and refreshing. I now understand why it became a hit in Boracay.

Do try Coconut Ice Cream with Mango (PHP110) for that nice blend of fruity flavors. It also has a bit of sticky rice and coconut shavings for texture.

I can't wait to have another serving or two soon!

Thank you Roegan T and Hole in the Wall for the invite!

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SpiceBird

4.0 Stars
International
3

The shutdown of Boracay has made summer a bit darker for most. As the favorite summer destination closed down last April, it was goodbye not just to Laboracay and all those fun festivities but also farewell (at least for half a year) to some of our favorite food establishments in the island. Thankfully, Nowie and Odette Potenciano figured out a way to bring its mouthwatering dishes to Manila.

Hello Best of Boracay!

Crowd favorites Spicebird, Fat Rice, Poketo and Coco Mama found its way to Manila last June and have been delighting Manila foodies' taste buds since then. Its pop up stalls are located at Hole in the Wall and will be in town until August 15, 2018.

I have been trying to schedule a visit for quite some time now but traffic never cooperated with me. But I finally manage to get to Century City Mall early last Tuesday.

Spicebird was the first stall to greet me and I couldn't help reminisce about my first time in Spicebird. I remember its generous serving size and oh so succulent pork belly and pulpo.

Though not all of Spicebird's dishes are available here in Manila, its smacktacular pork belly and chicken are ready to tickle your taste buds. I also noticed that they serve chicken skin! I have to go back for that!

For this visit, we sampled Piri-Piri Chicken Board (PHP320, 1/4 | PHP545, 1/2 chicken) and Piri-Piri Pork Belly Board (PHP390).

Piri-Piri Pork Belly wasn't new to me but its piri-piri chicken was. But just like its pork belly, one bite of the succulent chicken was enough to turn anyone into a fan.

Each bite was bursting with spices that you don't even need the sauces to complement your meats. But do try Spicebird's homemade sauces though for that extra flavor and heat. It's also great with chips! And if you're not into spices, you'd enjoy its garlic sauce.

Pork Belly was insanely huge making it bang for the buck! The slabs we go had the right fat and meat ratio and each forkful had that nice meaty texture that won't make you feel like you're digesting cholesterol.

Both boards are served with spice rice, vegetable chips, honey vinaigrette salad and milky roll making it great for sharing!

Thank you for the invite Roegan T and Hole in the Wall!

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Poketo

4.0 Stars
Asian
2

Say "Let's have Japanese food for lunch/dinner" and you would have my complete attention. And that was pretty much how Poketo caught my eye when I visited Street Market Boracay. It would be hard to not take notice of Poketo with the aroma of its grilled skewers. And it was a no brainer for me to brave Manila traffic when I found out that Poketo's in Manila.

Hello, Poketo.

Poketo is another concept from Street Market Boracay and is known for its scrumptious grilled yakitori. I've tried its wagyu yakitori last year and though quite expensive for an island meal, it was worth it.

This time, we tried its Yakitori Bowl (PHP320) which comes with three yakitori sticks of your choice with furikake rice, onsen egg, tempura flakes, nori and pickles.

I tried chicken breast and pork belly which were both beautifully marinated. I loved how tender both meats were that getting it off the stick was effortless. A harmony of savory and sweet flavors, it was well balanced by the furikake rice which had a slight seafood taste. The onsen egg gave each bite a smooth and silky texture while the tempura flakes gave it crunch. It was a bowl of complex textures that work great together.

But if you wish to just order yakitori a la carte, it is available at PHP75 per stick.

I'd go back for more of its pork belly! I'd probably skip the Yakitori Bowl so that I get to have more space for other dishes.

Thank you Roegan T and Hole in the Wall for the invite!

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Fat Rice

4.0 Stars
Asian
3

I still remember how challenging it was to find Street Market Boracay last year. As the newest (and only) food park in the island back in March 2017, hardly anyone knew Street Market Boracay, Station X or even Hue Hotel. But I was determined to try it out as the people behind the food park are the power couple Nowie and Odette Potenciano. I managed to find Street Market Boracay after almost an hour of asking around and it was worth it! The place was beautiful and filled with interesting tenants. One of the stalls that caught my eye was Fat Rice and I feasted on its divine wings.

Hello, Fat Rice.

Fat Rice has been one of my favorites during my last Boracay visit. R and I were actually considering to head to summer destination a few months back to relax and indulge in good food but it was put on hold when the island was forced to close. Thankfully, my favorites found its way to Manila serving its bestselling dishes for a limited time at Hole in the Wall.

Borrowing the stall of Liberation Shawarma, Fat Rice offers mouthwatering Asian dishes from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. And for this visit, we had Beef Rendang (PHP390) and Cereal Salt and Pepper (PHP390).

I was a bit hesitant to try beef rendang knowing that it's usually served spicy. But it was surprisingly not spicy at all. I'm not sure if they made it mild to cater to everyone but I didn't get a hint of heat at all. Or perhaps it as because I only took a small chunk and that the spice was not spread out. Nonetheless, it was a lovely sweet yet savory dish.

The beef was very tender and flavorful. It is definitely a meal you need rice to enjoy with.

I didn't expect to fall head over heels in love with Cereal Salt and Pepper as I don't like dry dishes that will make my throat itch.

Despite being generously covered in cereal, the pork spare ribs remained juicy. The cereal bits also did not mask the delicious five-spice the meat's seasoned with. It might be a bit too salty for some but it's something you can easily solve with an extra spoonful of rice.

I would definitely make sure to drop by Hole in the Wall again to have another serving of these two amazing dishes.

Thank you Roegan T and Hole in the Wall for the invite!

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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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