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31 May 2008

Restaurant Review | Vieux Chalet

Vieux Chalet
Taktak Road, Antipolo* (+63 2 697 0396)
Type of Cuisine: Swiss
Average cost per person: Php 250 - Php 300 (US$6.25 - US$7.50)
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarnostar

Having trooped to Antipolo to work on our feature for Table For Three, Please, we decided to go ahead and hit two birds with one stone and make our way to Vieux Chalet, a wonderful Swiss restaurant tucked away in Taktak Road. And tucked away, it was! We almost got lost on the way there, but the search for this jewel of a place is part of the experience, as Miss Hassig would tell us later, grinning. Once you get there, though, famished and more than a little relieved that you weren't lost, after all, you'll find that the Vieux Chalet dining experience is definitely worth the trip.

Vieux Chalet is perfectly situated so that you have an unobstructed view of the city. The restaurant itself is a house with a very restful and homey feel to it.The service was very good, even if there was only one waiter attending to everyone when we had gone (there were only three occupied tables). And, like the place itself, there is a very homey feel to the food. The prices are rather steep, but we account this to the fact that they use only the best and freshest ingredients.

Vieux Chalet is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, or even for a long, leisurely meal. The surroundings are tranquil and beautiful, almost leaving you without a sense of time, and the food is of the sort you imagine coming home to at the end of a long, hard day.

RostiRösti (S: Php 125, US$3.13, M: Php 185, US$4.50, L: Php225, US$5.63) Swiss-style potatoes; this tasted a whole lot like hash browns. It wasn't anything exceptional, in other words. If you're fond of hash browns or potatoes, you might enjoy this. If you're looking for something a bit more interesting as a side dish, however, we suggest you try something else.

Italian SoupItalian Soup (Medium: Php 265, US$6.63)
This wasn't listed in the menu, but our waiter recommended it. The soup was creamy without being too heavy. You can tell that the bread topping the soup was homemade. This was, all in all, wonderful. It was very homey and comforting perfect for a cool rainy day.

Osso BucoOsso Buco (Medium: Php 585, US$14.63, Large: Php625, US$15.63)
The meat itself was very tender, easily falling off the bone. The taste of tomato was very distinct. It was good, but Bong says the one from Cyma is better.

Mango Flambe (Php 125, US$3.13)
The mango flambe is supposed to be served with butterscotch ice cream but we had it changed to their homemade parfait au chocolat. The ice cream was wonderful: very thick and creamy, with a hint of rum.

MF @ Vieux Chalet

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* How to find it: Make your way through Ortigas Extension (you'll pass Ever Gotesco Ortigas, Junction, Brookside Hills, Valley Golf, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, etc) until you reach the fork at the end of the stretch. Head left (the path to the right ought to take you to SM Taytay) and follow the road until you reach Villa Christina. Drive through the narrow, slopey road. You'll be seeing signs pointing you to Vieux Chalet. Follow them and you'll get there without any trouble :)

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

27 May 2008

Jetsetting Foodistas | Beijing: When in Beijing, Eat As The Beijingers Do

HannahHannah's Beijing Adventure
Jetsetting Foodistas: When in Beijing, Eat As the Beijingers Do
Part 3 of 3

Living in Manila, a place that until recently did not have many dining options, I grew up basically going to the same places all the time. Because of this, I only knew one Chinese restaurant growing up, and apart from home, I had only one view of what Chinese cuisine was supposed to taste like, because I had nothing else to compare it to.

It is not surprising to find out that Chinese food in Manila has somewhat morphed into a cuisine that pleases the tastebuds of most Filipinos. This gives us somewhat interesting variations of traditional Hokkien dishes, as many of the Chinese in the Philippines migrated there from the south of China. Because of this, I can never get sick of having too much Chinese food while in China. With this I'd like to mention some of my favorite Chinese restaurants.

DumplingsThe first establishment I would like to mention, some may argue that it is of Taiwanese descent, but I noted that the original founders were in fact from Shanxi province in China, which coincidentally is the home of the world's best black vinegar. The place I'm talking about is Din Tai Fung which is probably the world's most famous dumpling house, serving their famous Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) in 9 countries and 41 branches. If you're wondering how good a dumpling could possibly get, look no further. I have to admit, at the beginning I was slightly hesitant, and wondered whether this was just any ordinary dumpling shop that managed to make itself modern. I have to admit I was wrong, ordering the Steamed Crab Meat and Pork Dumplings, Steamed Mini Pork Dumplings with Soup, and Fried Rice I have to admit that I will never be able to fully enjoy Xiao Long Bao in any other restaurant.

I must note that the Xiao Long Bao came with 18 individual folds on top, which not only hints at the high skill level of the chef, but also at the standards that this place sets for their dumplings. Biting through the dumpling skin releases a generous amount of broth that may seem impossible for such a tiny little dumpling. For those who are confused at how the soup gets into the dumpling in the first place, the soup is made by boiling cartilage rich portions of either pigs or chickens. So when the broth cools down, it forms something resembling a big mound of gelatin, which in turn is mixed with the meat, and when heated, becomes the soup that characterizes this dumpling.

Unable to get a photo of the crab meat dumplings, when the Steamed Mini Pork Dumplings came along, I asked my friend if she would mind taking a picture (by this time my camera had already been stolen) and she was afraid that the management wouldn't allow it. Before she could even on the camera, the manager swooped down on us, and we were afraid he was going to give us the cordial version of "NO PICTURES ALLOWED". To our surprise he artfully arranged the dumpling basket and gave us tips on how to photograph it. Our meal was capped off by the Fried Rice, which acted as a filler. Again, how good could fried rice get right? You'd be surprised. I have to admit, this place demands a high premium for their dumplings, but for the sake of being able to say you've tried the best Xiao Long Bao in the world once or twice, it's well worth the visit.

QuanJuDe FrontagePeking Duck is probably one of the first things that come to mind when one things of Chinese cuisine. After all, who doesn't remember passing by a Chinese restaurant without seeing one or two ducks hanging beside the window? My hosts while I was in Beijing brought me to supposedly the best Peking Duck restaurant in Beijing. Being around for more than 130 years, Quan Ju De prides itself in their Chefperfected roasting technique that results in not only a skin that is crispy and lean, but also duck meat that is soft and flavorful.

In the Philippines, Peking Duck is served two ways, only the skin being eaten traditionally and the meat itself prepared another way. In Quan Ju De, the entire duck, or whatever they can possibly get from it, is Duckeaten traditionally, which is wrapping it in a flour pancake with hoisin sauce. On a separate plate is the head and a very juicy portion of neck skin, about the size of your thumb, which is supposedly the best part of the duck. This piece goes to me. Not expecting much I decide to eat it without the wrapper, and chomp happily. It is flavorful, fatty, and best eaten by itself.
In the restaurant, the entire duck is used, from the gizzard to the tongue, no part of this animal is wasted here. This can make for some unusual but admittedly tasty concoctions, but those who are easily offended, you can never go wrong with the Roast Duck. Whether at QuanJuDe or not, trying Peking Duck unadulterated, in the city it was born in should be very high on your list of things to do when you visit this city.

South Silk RoadOverlooking the Hou Hai is South Silk Road, a branch of the famous South Silk Road in Soho New Town, described the New York Times as "the Beijing Art World equivalent of the Ivy in Los Angeles". Known to be completely jampacked during nights, we decided to go for lunch, when the Hou Hai area was relatively quiet and the only other diners there with as was a local Chinese couple. AppetizerThe steel and green theme was very modern, We were given an appetizer of Pink Radish Salad and Pork Spare Ribs, which were served cold and were just alright. Our server took quite long to come with our water, and only after a few more calls did they finally bring us our glasses. The Barbecue Perch with Vanilla comes in five large skewers, slightly spicy and held together with pandan leaves. AppetizerThe sauce is a bit strange (a sour tomato concoction) so I opt not to have it, but the perch is well cooked and you get a tiny taste of Vanilla somewhere there, only sadly it is not much. The Yunnan Style Spicy Fish is very good, and reminds me very much of the Lamb barbecue (Chuar) that is sometimes sold on the streets. This is easily the best dish of the bunch. Lastly are the Apple Cookies, which are sweet apple pancakes Fishflavored with cinnamon. This was a nice ending to a very good meal, which is maybe the next best thing besides going right to Yunnan province, where this cuisine was invented.
Apple Cookies, which are sweet apple pancakes flavored with cinnamon.Fish

I'd like to just say that while these were my personal favorites, there is still practically an entire city of food choices that I haven't had the time to try. Among some that i did not have the time to mention is eating Jian Bing to the background of the Mutianyu Great Wall, having some of the best spinach cake in a food court at Ya Show (crazy bargaining place), and finding that Salad Flavored Pretz is only 24 pesos there. It is of course, every foodie's dream to come across that one little secret spot of heaven completely by accident. While I must admit I haven't found that yet in Beijing, I hope that these three posts so far serves as a loose guide to what to eat when you don't want to take the chance on "that shady little restaurant". But food poisoning aside, there is no harm in trying! What I've learned from all of this is to just follow the locals, they know what's good.

25 May 2008

Manila Foodistas at Table For Three, Please

The Foodistas were asked to write a feature on Filipino Street Food for Table For Three, Please.
An often overlooked aspect of the Filipino gastronomical experience is that of our street food. From your typical isaw & barbeque, to your fishball & squidball, and to the bibingka and puto bungbong that is reminiscent of cool December mornings and misa de gallo.
Read the rest of the article here.
We really enjoyed going out and working on this feature ♥ Thank you so much for having us!

24 May 2008

Restaurant Review | Tokyo Bubble Tea

Tokyo Bubble Tea
Basement, Bldg A, SM Megamall (near the Food Court)
Special Note: Reviews, rating, etc only for Tokyo Bubble Tea's beverage offerings.
Type of Cuisine: Japanese
Average cost per person: Php 85 (US$2.13)
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarnostar

The foodista with the most specific of cravings is probably Joey, and this time, on one of our days out, she had yet another rather particular craving. Dragging us to our feet after lunch at Rai Rai Ken, she took us to Tokyo Bubble Tea.

The first thing that strikes you is the look of the place: bright, happy colours leaping out at you and the big wall mural(?) that says "I want my bubbles!!!" It's a very inviting place. The service was great, with the waitresses being very helpful, friendly and accommodating. And, although we can't speak for their non-beverage offerings just yet, we can definitely say that their milk teas, shakes, etc are all extremely satisfying.

Honourable mention goes to their tapioca pearls or, as they refer to it, their bubbles. They are, by far, the best tapioca pearls we've all ever had. They're chewy, soft and fantastic. They rather make you wish that you had a bowlful of them and you'd be perfectly content just munching on them alone. When ordering your drink, we highly recommend that you get your beverage of choice with an add-on of either extra pearls (Php 10, US$0.25), or pudding (Php 15, US$0.38).

Tokyo Bubble Tea is now the go-to place for the foodistas' bubble tea/sweet, cold beverage fix :)

Royal Milk TeaRoyal Milk Tea (Medium: Php 70, US$1.75, Large: Php 80, US$2)
This is Joey's favourite (non-water, non-green tea) beverage and the reason for her wanting to go to Tokyo Bubble Tea. It's not very sweet, like milk tea ought not to be. The drink, coupled with the pleasant taste and sensation derived from the tapioca pearls (or "bubbles"), is refreshing and wonderful. (Photo by Joey)

Kiwi Green TeaKiwi Green Tea (Medium: Php 58, US$1.45, Large: Php 68, US$1.70)
This is said to be one of their best sellers. The kiwi doesn't overpower the green tea and, definitely, the way to enjoy this drink would be with extra bubbles. (Photo by Joey.)

Coconut Milk Tea (Medium: Php 75, US$1.88, Large: Php 85, US$2.13)
The drink had the smooth taste and texture of coconut. The experience was enhanced by the add-on silky sweet pudding. (Photo by Joey.)

Almond Milk Tea (Medium: Php 75, US$1.88, Large: Php 85, US$2.13)
The almond milk tea was infused with almond essence which seemed to overpower the milk tea taste, and seemed to make it more like an almond drink than a milk tea drink. It was just as creamy and smooth, though. It also had little almond bits, which made the drink more interesting. Anyway, It was not so bad and was quite palatable, but those looking for a truly -milk tea- experience should not get this one. However, for those feeling adventurous and wanting a twist in their milk tea experience (a really really big twist), the almond milk tea is a something to try. (Photo by Joey)

Strawberry Milk Tea (Medium: Php 85, US$2.13, Large: Php 95, US$2.38)
It has bits of actual strawberry in it, which made it that much better. It was strawberry + milk tea without one taste overpowering the other. (Photo by Mark)

Taro Milk Tea
(Medium: Php 75, US$1.88, Large: Php 85, US$2.13)
For Taro lovers, this sweet milk tea is a must-try. The extra pudding, which only cost an additional 15 pesos, made the drink better and more satisfying. (Photo by Mark)

Mocha Milkshake (Medium: Php 135, US$3.38, Large: Php 145, US$3.63)
This was pretty much exactly how it sounds like. You ask for a mocha milkshake, you get a mocha milkshake – A milkshake that tastes like mocha. Nothing more, nothing less. It did taste quite nice though, so this is definitely something that you should consider getting if you want something besides milk tea. (Unfortunately, no photo of this beverage was taken.)

MF @ Tokyo Bubble Tea

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Reviewed by Bong, Hannah, Harrell, Joey, Mark, and Pats.
Special thanks to Cy for review of the almond milk tea.
Photography by Joey and Mark.
See more photos on Mark's multiply and Joey's flickr.
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