Restaurant dishes that make me crave, yearn and yen for the day they grace my palate once more...
The first time I tasted a similar dish was in Shi Lin. I got the regular one with peanut sauce instead of the spicy variant, and immediately regretted my decision on first bite. Needless to say, I didn't finish it because of its nutty pasty taste -- think peanut butter on noodles. I vowed to get the spicy one next time, which I did, hoping somehow that the spice would add a savory profile to the dish; only, it burned my mouth and numbed my taste buds for the rest of the meal. Tsk tsk, 'tis such a far cry from Crystal Jade's Noodle with Dried Shrimp and Peanut in Spicy Sauce (P288). The taste was impeccable; the kick just perfect. Each sip and sup arouses every inch of your palate, as you take one spoonful after another in earnest.
Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao
Spot: Unit 117-121 Virra Mall, Greenhills Shopping Center, Greenhills, San Juan
Contact No.: 570.6910
After almost getting lost, trying to find Chef Ian Padilla's brainchild amidst narrow staircases and hallways, we finally settled on a table by the window and waited for our dishes from the Tasting Menu. It wasn't however from that, that I found my memorable comestible. We picked out the Sous Vide Beef Salpicao (P840) from the regular menu to add to our fare, which proved to be a good last-minute decision. Rich and robust, the beef jus elevated this ubiquitous viand from some simple garlicky staple to an inexplicably saporous morsel. Poking a fork's tine through the sous vide egg meanwhile revealed a sensual golden glimmer that gingerly trickled down the mountain of beef, in all unbridled glory.
Spot: 2nd/F Bleu Sapphire Bldg. 30th St. cor. 2nd Ave. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Contact Nos.: 478.4119 or 0917.803.5423
It was love at first taste. The Filet Mignon (P1,480) of Highlands Prime Steakhouse was incredibly tender, I had a hard time believing it belonged to the family of steaks. The thick hunk of ambrosial meat was wrapped with bacon for that added oomph, albeit something I could do without since it became too heavy for my appetite. The first time I dined here was a few years ago, when they were still under a different management and offered a buffet with unlimited steaks. Back then, these slabs of meat were already melt-in-your-mouth tender, so it was a pleasant surprise that they still managed to maintain that quality of cooking.
Highlands Prime Steakhouse
Spot: 2nd/F North Wing Entertainment Mall, SM Mall of Asia, Seaside Blvd., Pasay City
Contact No.: 556.0768
Slice's Roast Beef Open-Faced Sandwich (P420) was comforting and pleasurable. The sight of succulent Angus roast beef drenched in gravy was enough to whet my appetite, with equally drenched mushrooms slowly sliding down its slope. Beneath is a dollop of mashed potatoes perched on top of a slice of their bread. As if it weren't luscious enough, the accompanying side salad of greens and assortment of fruits sprinkled with grated parmesan was just as delightful.
Spot: G/F Southeast Block, Bonifacio High Street Central, 7th Ave. cor. 29th St. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Contact No.: 553.7783
Such a pretty sight was the Crisp Prawn Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (P275). A slight crunch echoes and a dairy dressing follows suit, leaving a trail of sweetness before ending with a hint of acidulousness. There were diced tomatoes and cucumbers, along with the greens; nonetheless, it was the crisp prawns slightly slathered with that tangy condiment that left me hankering for more.
Spot: G/F FSS Bldg. 2 Scout Tuason cor. Scout Castor Sts. Quezon City
Contact Nos.: 921.4913 or 0916.550.4373
The Osso Buco Milanese (P395) was a pretty plate to begin with, as with all of Chef Menoy Gimenez' other profferings. Admittedly, I haven't tried this same dish from other restaurants; hence, there really isn't much to compare it with. Nevertheless, I'm basing this on my palate's satisfaction and it did pass with flying colors. Chunks of beef shank lay submerged in a rich, hearty stew, a bone peeking underneath a splatter of gremolata and asparagus spears. The saffron-infused risotto complemented it beautifully, adding a layer of complexity to the dish.
Tito Chef Restaurant and All Things Culinary
Spot: 2 President's Ave. cor. Adelfa St. BF Homes, Paranaque City
Contact No.: 842.5577
Never would I imagine having a soup be part of my memorable dishes, but Chef Laudico's Adobo Mushroom Puree (P198 / P108) is just too good not to be included in the list. The adobo mushroom sauté with garlic cream foam just oozed with savory goodness that it took all my willpower not to lick the bowl clean. It was hearty, earthy, and downright delectable. I wanted to snatch my mom's, but it, too, was wiped clean before I could. That good!
Bistro Filipino by Chef Laudico
Spot: Net 2 Bldg. 28th St. cor. 3rd Ave. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Contact No.: 856.0634
While we started with a nice bowl of soup and some greens, and ended with some splendid panna cotta dessert, the Pinot Noir Braised Grade 6 KitaYama Boneless Wagyu Short Ribs (P1,250 for a 4-course meal) proved to be stellar in taste as it was enticing to look at. Fork-tender, dreamy beef heightened with such rich flavor lay atop some delicious Parsley Potato puree. Albeit it must serve to curb the boldness of taste, a creamy forkful of potato just enhances each corresponding exquisite, sigh-inducing bite. Mine was a clean plate in the aftermath, and as I looked up, so was the plate across mine.
Spot: 138 H.V. Dela Costa St. Salcedo Village, Makati City
Contact No.: 403.9484
I need not mention Shi Lin again, but it is there that I first tasted a xiao long bao. All else after failed to overthrow it from its top rank on my dim sum list -- not Lugang Cafe's nor even Crystal Jade's. Until my recent trip to Hong Kong. I've heard about how Shi Lin's menu is so similar to that of Din Tai Fung's, and indeed it was. So eerily familiar in fact that I'm not sure if it was intentionally copied or if they have an existing franchise agreement of sort. Anyway, the Xiao Long Bao (HK$50 or P270) was unsurprisingly superb. If I hadn't known better, it could pass off as Shi Lin's, in fact. I think the only difference was brought about by the ambiance and the overall dining experience. Somehow, a day's worth of walking around the bustling streets of Hong Kong made these familiar victuals all the more scrumptious; an oasis in a desert of hunger and exhaustion if you will.
Din Tai Fung
Spot: Shop 3-9 G/F 68 Yee Wo St., Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Contact No.: +852.3160.8998
During the same aformentioned Hong Kong trip, we stayed at the Kimberley Hotel while at the city center, and located in that hotel was the eponymous Chinese Restaurant. Obviously, I wasn't gonna pass up the chance to try their famous Roasted Suckling Pig Stuffed with Fresh Chinese Yam and Savory Sticky Rice (HK$1,288 or P6,955), my emaciated wallet be damned. A caveat: you have to pay a deposit of HK$500 a day before. This little piggy is good for about 10 people and with our party of five, there were more than enough to go around. After presenting to us the whole pig and chopping it into several pieces, the crispness of skin was apparent in the porcine's cross section. A veneer of unscathed fat lay just beneath the skin, and where the meat and bones once were, an abundance of mucilaginous rice now sat. I can't get enough of the crisp skin, and the sapid rice went well with it. It was heavy on the tummy, yet definitely gratifying. Granted, maybe a lot of local pigs stuffed with rice could give this one a run for its money; anyhow, I have yet to taste one, so for now, this will remain in my memorable list.
Kimberley Chinese Restaurant
Spot: Mezzanine Floor, The Kimberley Hotel, 28 Kimberley Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Contact No.: +852.2369.8212 or +852.2723.3888
Watch out for my posts on these dishes and the restaurant and meal that came with each one. Here's to more food adventures this 2013! Cheers!