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23 April 2008

Restaurant Review: Friuli Trattoria

Friuli Trattoria
79-A Maginhawa St., UP Village, Quezon City
Type of Cuisine: Italian
Average cost per person: Php 85 to Php 150 (US$2.13 - US$3.75)
Overall Rating: starstarstarnostarnostar

A couple of our friends have been telling us about this great, relatively cheap Italian place on Maginhawa Street called Friuli. We've all been meaning to try it, even before Manila Foodistas came to be, but never really got around to doing so until now.

Friuli was a bit of disappointment. We got there around 11 in the morning and found out that they were still closed. One of the waitresses informed us that they weren't ready for customers just yet, and asked us to wait for thirty more minutes. We found it a bit odd that they'd be caught unprepared during lunch hours (11am-1pm), but okay'd the waiting. She let us in a few minutes later though, telling us to ignore the other waitress who was hastily mopping up the floor. We wanted to tell her that we were fine with waiting a little longer for them to be a little more prepared, but she had already rushed off to get our menus.

While ordering, our waitress kept running back to the kitchen to ask if the dishes we were requesting were available. To quote Mark, "Don't bother opening if you're not fully prepared, you know." While we appreciate their accommodating us, despite their being caught unprepared, we really would have rathered they got themselves a bit more customer-ready before taking people in.

For an Italian place, one would think that they would have had more variety in their choice of pasta (they had four: carbonara, puttanesca, pesto, and tuna & mushroom). Their pizzas were alright -- nothing special, of the thin crust variety, and, thankfully, not very greasy. The term "ice cream cakes" was quite deceiving. We expected your usual cake topped with ice cream, but they meant cakes made of ice cream, not made with ice cream.

Friuli was, at best, mediocre. If you're looking for good, cheap Italian food, there are better places out there.

Mozzarella Sticks (Php 125, US$3.13)
This was maybe our best order. Your usual deliciously cheesy mozzarella sticks found in pricier bistros at almost half the price. Very cheap, for 6 relatively long mozzarella sticks and an ample amount of tomato sauce. (Photo by Mark.)

Viva Venezia (Php 190, US$4.75)
For their best seller, it wasn't as good as we thought it would be. Looked and smelled fantastic but was a little on the bland side. (Photo by Joey.)

Buono Verdure (Php 170, US$4.25)
If you're particular about what you put into your mouth, this pizza may appeal to you. For a vegan pizza, it was quite pleasantly savoury. If, however, you're not a big fan of eggplant, you may not like this very much. (Photo by Mark.)

Tuna and Mushroom Pasta (Php 100, US$2.50)
The usual tuna and mushroom pasta, in cream sauce and spaghetti noodles. The sauce was a little watery in consistency. Nothing really special about this. Looks and tastes like the sort of pasta you can enjoy in your own school's cafeteria. (Photo by Mark)

Bianco Tartufo (Php 100, US$2.50)
You won't go nuts for this gelato coated with an unusual nutty flavor. The gelato tasted a bit too much like clay, and the nutty coating was a little too overpowering, which may make you leave without even getting to the "surprise" cherry center. (Photo by Joey)

Nero Tartufo (Php 100, US$2.50)
Essentially like the Bianco, only this is made from chocolate and was dusted with cocoa powder to make a faux truffle. (Photo by Mark)

After Eight
(Php 85, US$2.13)
This is Bong's comfort food. Mint gelato sandwiched between two layers of rich chocolate goodness, and infused with chocolate bits -- according to Bong, who absolutely loved this, "Definitely a must try! :)" (Photo by Joey)

Pharaoh's Delight
(Php 90, US$2.25)
The gelato itself was very light and refreshing, while the heaviness of the pistachio gave it a bit more character. Not very sweet, but definitely not lacking in flavour. A nice, light way to end a heavy meal. (Photo by Joey.)

(Php 85, US$2.13)
Their tiramisu was essentially layers of vanilla and chocolate gelato with cocoa powder sprinkled on top, and a very thin layer of liquor-soaked biscuit in the center. If you're looking for the usual goodness and texture of rum-dipped ladyfingers, this may be a little disappointing. Still a good choice for dessert though, and an interesting gelato-spinoff of our favourite Italian dessert. Worth giving a try. (Photo by Joey)


Reviewed by Bong, Harrell, Joey, Kat and Mark.
Photography by Joey and Mark.
See more photos on Mark's multiply and Joey's flickr.

17 April 2008

Restaurant Review: Pino Bar and Resto

Pino Bar and Restaurant
122 Maginhawa St., UP Village, Diliman, QC
Type of Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Average cost per person: Php 250-300
Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarnostar

Part of what we wanted to do through this blog was to showcase the wide range of campus (and around campus) food. From cheap roadside stalls, to famous long standing institutions, to new and fairly undiscovered gems. Pino Bar is one such place that belongs in the third category.

Walking into the restaurant we were greeted by a very interesting wall doodle and simple heavy wooden chairs and tables. When we arrived the place was quite warm. The waiters turned on the airconditioning upon our arrival but it did not help much to cool the place down. The staff, however, was attentive and were knowledgeable of the menu.

We were pleased to see that we were given the option of ordering Pomelo Salad or Pumpkin Soup as a complimentary starter to each entree. Not many people are used to having an appetizer, or see it as unnecessary but these two simple choices reminded us of what appetizers are really supposed to be about, a lead up to the big show.

The prices are a bit steep for your average university student, and the servings relatively small. It is, however, worth trying, especially if you're fond of asian fusions and quirky little restos that are relatively unknown.

Pomelo Salad (comes with main course)
What arrived was a adequate serving of mixed greens with a few large chunks of pomelo and a light vinaigrette. It was very light and refreshing, not at all like the salads that are heavily laden with fatty dressing and condiments. The contrast of the colours was very pleasing to the eyes.

Pumpkin Soup (comes with main course)
We were very impressed by the presentation. Taking into consideration that it is just soup, they managed to make it look very interesting and palatable. The soup itself was smooth, thick and homey, the cream and pinch of cinnamon making the flavour of the soup that much better.

Salmon Belly Rolls (Php 190)
Another dish that was beautifully presented -- A bite into the deep fried sushi roll's crunchy outer layer of nori and wasabi batter yields to a juicy bite of salmon belly. There was just the right balance of the richness of the salmon fat and meat. It was quite good, and since there were 10 pieces, quite a good appetizer for a large group.

Fish Krapao (Php 240)
The mango-cilantro fried rice bed was a good accompaniment to the bokchoy and well done fish. Although the rice was a bit on the dry side, it was fine. Although as a dish itself the flavors don't quite match up to each other and alone seem quite bland, although there was a noticeable spicy dimension to the dish.

Chicken Confit (Php 250)
The chicken fiber was too soft and too short and the dish, overall, was a bit dry. They were, also, rather skimpy with the sauce. The mashed sweet potato had a few stray chunks but was otherwise creamy and helped balance out the savouriness of the chicken. The cherry tomatoes were sweet and juicy.

Lemongrass Chicken (Php 220)
The first thing that stood out was the bright red pickled stalk of lemongrass, which did not at all compliment the dish, and seemed to take the term "fusion" too far. The kangkong tempura garnish was a nice complement, but the mashed sweet potato was not really smooth or creamy enough. The grilled chicken inasal was well cooked, and the Thai-inspired lemongrass sauce made the dish quite enjoyable. The portions, although seemingly small at first, turned out to be just right.

Thai Fish Fillet (Php 230)
Fish was covered in a thin layer of breading and was tender and had a lightly savoury taste. The tom yam sauce had an interesting tang to it and nicely complemented the sweet mashed potatoes. Overall, it was quite good, although nothing to get excited about. The portions were also rather small and may leave you still a bit peckish (nothing an order from their selection of desserts can't cure).

Tofu Cheesecake (Php 120)
Something more could be done with the presentation, but this is a must try for anyone who has never had tofu cheesecake before. (It is, however, by no means the best tofu cheesecake we've had.) Although slightly grainy from the tofu, it earns points for not being overly sweet. We must admit, however, that this is an acquired taste as the tofu aftertaste is quite strong. This is a light and healthy way to end your meal.

Mango Banana Roll
(Php 110)
A bit tough, but otherwise delicious. It seemed like there was a bit of langka thrown in there, but it probably was just the mango. A very good dish to end with, and is a definite must-try.

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Reviewed by Bong, Hannah, Harrell, Joey, Pats and Tiff.
Photography by Joey.
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