Sunday, December 8, 2013

Balkan Yugoslavian Home Cooking (Makati)

I have been reading and hearing a lot of raves about Balkan since it opened its first branch. My friend Gladys and I decided to have a quiet dinner one night after a long time of planning to visit. The branch in Perea is our choice for that night since its just a stone throw away from our workplace. 

We both love its homey ambiance. Its rustic feel and comfortable lighting made it so suitable for quiet dinner dates and chit chat with friends. 

I was sure to have the Serbian Burger not knowing what exactly the name of the dish is. We were given the menu and ordered right away. We decided to share on the Goulash, she decided to get some sort of a Burger Steak dish and I got some Burger. 

Goulash (Php 280)
We started with this rich bowl of Goulash. We asked the wait staff to serve it in 2 bowls since we are going to share and surprised to see a huge portion for both of us. The soup is rich and thick with perfectly tender pieces of beef and spiral noodles. I love how rich and flavorful their Goulash is and the fantastic bread that came with it. You will read more raves about the bread later. 

Stuffed Pljeskavica (Php 330) - Ground beef steak stuffed with mozarella, served with rice or fries)
My friend Gladys ordered the Stuffed Pljeskavica with rice. The serving is humungous. I got a bite of it and the meat is juicy and flavorful. The mozarella filling gave the dish added richness. Both Gladys and I wished it was served with some sort of gravy though to add more flavor. I don't know though if Yugoslavians eat this dish with gravy but I am speaking for my Filipino taste buds that's why I said that. :P 

Cevapcici Burger (Php 230) 

Cevapcici is a Serbian Sausage. As a sausage lover, I definitely fell in love with the dish. Its juicy and the meat is packed with flavor. The bread that they used is wonderful. It's soft and chewy but full and packed. I am unsure but I think they call it Pogacha. Whatever that is, I sure liked it to the top. Superb food quality. 

I would go back to Balkan anytime soon. The food is of superior quality, the service is great and its pretty close to my workplace. 

Must try their Goulash and meat dishes. The Burgers I guess are great choices too. I'll give Balkan a 4/5. 

Balkan Yugoslavian Home Cooking 
G/F Maripola Bldg. 
Perea St., Legaspi Village Makati
(02) 8460744

Happy Break at El Union Coffee (San Juan, La Union)

I was out with one of the happiest bunch that fabulous weekend of surfing. After a long haul night drive, we were welcomed in San Juan with a fantastic cup, well, make that jar of coffee!

El Union Coffee Menu, well, part of it. :)
We ordered their Dirty White Coffee and it was delectable! Superb one to get if you're wanting to get that caffeine boost. You can have the Double Shot para mas swabe. :P

Dirty White Coffee - Double Shot (Cactus not included, haha!)
I regretted not ordering the double shot since I stick with their original formula. But both were good. I mean really good stuff. 

Bugelia and Adewbong Menek stories were brought up while we down the coffee with yosi. I asked myself could anything be better than that? Friends, stories, yosi, superb cup of coffee. Yeah! Must do it again. Yes, over and over again...

***Have to thank my friend Liane Ng for taking those fab photos. Thank you! Love yah! :)

El Union Coffee
Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union
FB Page : El Union Coffee

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Crowing Chicken (Clark, Pampanga)

Another hidden gem? Certainly!

I have been missing Korean cuisine for quite some time. Since I moved in Makati, I rarely get to eat authentic Korean dishes like I used to when I was in Eastwood (and working with Korean bosses).

Tucked inside the Korean Village in Clark Pampanga, Crowing Chicken is a small eatery that serves Korean fried chicken (yep, the Bonchon type), and other Korean dishes. We passed by Clark from La Union before heading back to Manila when we thought of dropping by this place to have dinner. 

Crowing Chicken Menu
We really intended to visit this place for dinner before heading back to Manila. Some friends say that they have the best yangnyeom chicken, even better than the ubiquitous Bon-chon Chicken here in Manila. I was never a fan of the latter but I know that I am a big fried chicken fan so I agreed to give it a go. They also told us that only a few people knew about the place and has been said that it is a little secret people from the north are keeping (Sorry for bringing this out in the open, hehe)

My friend Ivan had a list of what to order when we arrived. I gladly obliged to whatever the group wanted since I was too tired that time to chose whatever to order. I trust them anyway since they have been to that place a couple of times before. I heard they ordered noodles and fried chicken, which sounded good to me. I, on the other hand ordered a cold beer. Hehe.

Ramyun with a perfectly poached egg. Delish! 

Noodles came in apparently as the Korean Ramyun. A spicy instant noodles with leeks and a perfectly poached egg. I love love Ramyun indeed and having a piping hot bowl of spicy soup took all the stress from traveling that night.

Fried Chicken with Soy Sauce

The one you see up there is half serving of the Fried Chicken with Soy Sauce. Big pieces of fried chicken drizzled with sweet soy sauce. Nothing extraordinary for me. I found the fried chicken too bland if the sauce isn't touching it. The sauce that was drizzled on top of it seems too little for me as well.

The Star of the Night! Crunchy Chicken!
Since I was not the one who ordered food, I dont really know what exactly this dish is called but when going there, you can probably ask the servers to give you the Crunchy Chicken with the Gojuchang sauce. It is totally divine! I love how the Gojuchang sauce sticks to the crunchy chicken skin but still maintains that crispiness. It looks spicy but it is not that spicy in my opinion. It gets a little too sweet though after eating more than 5 small pieces of it but eating it with rice and the spicy ramyun made the flavor combinations balanced. The ice cold beer served with a chilled glass (yes, I love it when a restaurant knows the importance of chilled glass when serving a lager)  also helped in building up the spicy, sweet flavors of the dishes.

Best of all, we only paid approximately 300 PHP per head. That came with a bowl of Ramyun, servings of fried chicken, which was more than enough for all of us, a cup of rice and a bottle of beer. Beat that!

So, when in Pampanga, or anywhere near the area, visit the Crowing Chicken to get some goody good Korean fried chicken. Thumbs up! I'll give it a 4/5!

Crowing Chicken (Korean Crown Chicken) 
Korea Town
Clark Pampanga

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Robia & Arby's Canteen (La Union)

The visit to this humble food shack along San Fernando - San Juan La Union is definitely the food highlight of our recent La Union trip. I was not really in the mood to document, even write anything about our trip but the food is worth writing about!

Its an unassuming place you'd never expect to provide great stuff. Food that is so simple, so affordable, and oh so freakin' good.

We arrived at around 9:00 pm starving like mad. I assume they serve different local dishes since I saw a big bowl of either Afritada or Caldereta sitting in the 'estante' and a small bowl of Dinuguan that looked like the remainder of what they have served that day. We weren't that interested in those anyway because we went there for their Liempo (Roasted Pork Belly) and Lechon Manok (Roasted Chicken)

My friend has been raving about this mouthwatering perfect combination of  Liempo + Dinuguan sauce. I am intrigued, though it was not difficult for me to believe that fact. I mean, Liempo by itself is a winner but smothering it with a good Dinuguan sauce? That would have been almost heavenly. I wasn't wrong.

Liempo Liempo Liempo!!! (drool)

The Magical Dinuguan Sauce

The Robia and Arby's Canteen experience wouldn't be as fantastic without ordering these. The divinely rich and thick Dinuguan sauce blended perfectly with the succulent Liempo. The entire table can't stop uttering "sarap!" in between bites.

Lechon Manok
They should be equally very proud of their Lechon Manok which still be very good on its own even without the help of the 'sarsa'.

Both the Liempo + Dinuguan sauce and the Lechon Manok are surprisingly toothsome. One must have superb self control to avoid requesting for extra servings of rice.

Skip this not when visiting San Juan La Union or you'll regret it, Trust me, one of the best tasting Liempo and Lechon Manok i've ever tasted. I must come back soon.

Robia and Arby's

Mc Arthur Highway,
San Fernando, La Union

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sweet Ecstasy (Cubao Expo) : Sweet Dream or a Bad Nightmare?

I got to pass by Sweet Ecstasy one weekend when my friends and I decided to drop by Fred's in Cubao Expo for a couple of drinks. I made a mental note to visit the place as soon as I would have free time and did so yesterday. After rummaging the ukay ukays of Cubao, my niece and I decided to drop by this place for merienda. She was ecstatic to have cookies and milk / milkshakes and I am raptly excited to try their burgers.

First Floor
Second Floor

Sweet Ecstasy Menu
We came in at around 4:30 PM and Cubao Expo isn't crowded as expected and went inside the resto with a few customers waiting to be served.  Sweet Ecstasy occupies 2 floors, both floors embellished with quirky, colorful customized Sweet Ecstasy posters which both my niece and I enjoyed looking at.

My niece knew that she wanted a milkshake and cookies since she's not too crazy about burgers. I, on the other hand knew that I should try the savory offerings i.e. burgers and fries. To our dismay, no cookies were available that day. :( My niece decided she wont have anything aside from a milkshake while I decided to get their Cheeseburger and The Ecstasy Fries.

Nutella - Oreo Milkshake (Php 140.00)
We loooooooooove this! Both my niece and I were surprised on how deliciously creamy their Nutella - Oreo Milkshake is. I assumed the rest of their milkshake offerings would not disappoint and so I have decided that I will be back there for milkshake craving fix!

Ecstasy Fries (Php 130.00)
I got my hopes high about this special sauce they're boasting about. They bear this "special sauce" with great sense of pride which made me think, this should not disappoint. But I was wrong! Well, the fries were fabulously crispy but the Ecstasy Sauce was an utter disappointment. Let me explain what I think about their "Ecstasy Sauce" in a bit.

Cheeseburger (Php 170.00)

They're quite right about their burger buns. X means NO GOOD!
The cheeseburger is another letdown. The beef patty is rather dry, the burger buns are of inferior quality, reminding me of the "monay buns" being used by the kuya sorbetero, peddling dirty ice cream during the afternoon. The entire combination of deficient ingredients made even worst by, again, their "Ecstasy Sauce".

Supposedly a good meal combination but the quality is bad, I would never dare to order these again. 

You might be wondering, why too much repulsion on the sauce? Here's what I think. For a place to boast about a certain ingredient or product, making it a highlight, incorporating it to most of their menu offerings, they should at least made sure that that thing will really be something that will "wow" the customers. I think, the Ecstasy Sauce is nothing but a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup and pickle relish. There was simply nothing special about it! Nothing at all! I was expecting it to taste quite unique. Something that would give them certain distinction above other burger joints. But nah dah. Nothing special.

Too proud of their "special" sauce. 

I wish they would also find a better bun for their burgers. The menu only consist of a very few items, and mainly focused on their burgers. I think they should at least make the ingredients of a very good quality. I am a bit unsure if this place is just new but I hope they would find time to develop their offerings. Sayang naman kasi! The place is situated in a fantastic location. I wish they would make it as a place that people would travel long distances just to get awesome burgers. 

Verdict and Recommendations: 

I would give Sweet Ecstasy a 2/5. Their milkshakes are their saving grace but apart from those, the burger and fries were simply mediocre. I think though that the cookies would have been awesome with milk but unfortunately there were none available that day. That's another thing. I hope that they would always make sure that all the menu offerings were available for they have very limited items being offered. Prices should also be in lieu with the quality of their food, otherwise it would appear overpriced which happened in this case. Cheap quality burgers that could probably be priced below 50 bucks not  150 pesos and up because of  its poor quality. 

Will most probably be back for their milkshakes. Good good affordable milkshakes. But never for the burgers. 

Sweet Ecstasy

Cubao Expo
Gen. Romulo Avenue
Quezon City, Philippines
Mobile no: 0916 594 1229
Facebook: Sweet Ecstasy 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Before I turn 30 : You make me Juana!

I don't freakin know if any of you have been in this situation in your lives ever. I'm counting down the days till I turn 30. (yes the new 20, haha) and I have mixed emotions about it. I'm ecstatic at times, scared at times, feeling blah mostly, but concerned on some days.

Now, all I feel is this. I.WANT.TO.GO.TO.THE.BEACH!!!!!!

Sun and surf and salty sea breeze. The scorching hot sun. Cold beers. Sunblock lotion. Tan lines. Oh, abs. Yes, those beautiful bodies... Damn it! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Revisiting the City of Pines - Baguio 2013

2013 has been so far very very good to me.  Juggling work and making my mom and dad happy is not really that difficult. It has been a promise upon starting this year that I will spend more time with ma and pa and will find ways to have short trips with them. I know it’s a little far off since this year started but we finally had our first (definitely not the last) family trip this year. 

I was indeed blessed to have started this good year working for a new company. That alone is so much of a grace and it was definitely followed by so much more things that I have been aspiring for a long time now. God has been so good to me and one way of saying thanks is to return the blessings  He has been giving me by making my mom and dad happy. This trip I hope gave the things that my parents deserve, and that is to relax and enjoy simple pleasures in life.  As a birthday present to my mom (her birthday by the way is July 23), we decided to have a short Baguio vacation.

C Boutique Hotel Baguio

Visiting Baguio after so many years had been fantastic for me and parents. It was pure nostalgia in almost everywhere  we go. We spend a lot of summers in Baguio for short vacations when I was a little girl. Visiting Burnham Park, Mine's view Park, Botanical Gardens, The Mansion and Wright Park has always been delighting as a child. Though we haven't really visited all of those, we still get to revisit some of those memorable place and then some.

Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet 
Mom and dad loves to eat and I totally got ecstatic as soon as I realized that I am the one whose going to prepare the itinerary for this trip. Our focus: FOOD!!!

Chinese Cuisine at Rose Bowl 

Pancit Palabok of Ganza Burnham Park

Mom's Birthday Dinner at Hill Station
Breakfast Pizza at Pizza Volante
For this Baguio Getaway Series, I will be featuring some food spots in the summer capital of the Philippines:

I will also share a quiet little boutique hotel in Baguio:

And my visits to some cool places in the city:

It was indeed a fab time with ma and pa. Plus the fact that the visit to Baguio also gave me the opportunity to see a good old friend and her hubby's art gallery. I will definitely be back there in no time. :)

Enjoy the posts and please feel free to share other awesome places to visit in Baguio. I do know that I have yet to explore the entirety of the place but hey, Baguio is just a few hours away from Manila and now that I have somehow familiarized myself around, I'm betting that my visit to this fantastic place would be frequent. 

Rose Bowl Steakhouse and Restaurant (Baguio City)

It has been a tradition for our family that we should spend one great meal at Rose Bowl during our visits in Baguio. This time around, after so many years of not visiting the city, Papa told me that our Lolo Dad (grandpa) know someone from Rose Bowl, saying that he was the one who would always  attend to us whenever we dine there. But since papa's memory is somehow on the rusty side, failed to recall the name of this mysterious "kumpadre" of Lolo Daddy. I was somehow hoping that I could recall our visits there but my memory back in those times were as forgotten as my failed relationships. Hahaha! Hey I was too young then!

We spent a fantastic lunch at Rose Bowl. One thing puzzled me though. I know that Rose Bowl touts on its authentic Chinese dishes, but how come they call the place a steakhouse? But seriously, I don’t care. I just cant wait to reminded of how excellent their food is!

The old Rose Bowl that I can remember was near Burnham Park. Their new location is at General Luna Road (very near 50's Diner). The new place has huge windows that gave off a fantastic view of Baguio.

They still have their signature lazy susan tables that definitely reminded me of my childhood. (Now I wonder why we don’t consider  having a lazy susan table  at home anymore...) 

 As our Chinese restaurant order staples, we got some Chinese food favorites.

Chicken Feet - Php 95.00

Japanese Siomai - Php 95.00

Rose Bowl Fried Rice - Php 199.50 
Fried Shrimps (Camaron Rebusado) - Php 369.50 
Sweet and Sour Pork  - Php 219.50
Verdict and Recommendations:

I will give Rose Bowl a 4/5. The food and the service is equally delighting! I love how the staff is well trained and how their service is as fast as lightning. I love how the restaurant is spacious, perfect for  big family dining. However, I find the prices a little steep (but hey, I'm a cheappy) though for the quality of food and the service, it's  worth the price.

Don’t miss ordering their Rose Bowl Fried Rice together with their fantastic viands. Most of the dishes that we ordered are worth trying but one must order their famous Sweet and Sour Pork. I heard that the Pata Tim is also a winner though we weren't able try it.

Will definitely be back there soon to try their other offerings.

Rose Bowl Steakhouse and Restaurant
88 Upper Gen. Luna Rd. Ext. Baguio City, 2600
Telephone: +(63 74) 442-4213 or 442-5374

C Boutique Hotel - A Terrific Haven in Baguio

Aside from my mom's birthday, which was the real reason why visiting Baguio crossed my mind, C  Boutique Hotel's rainy day promo of booking one night and get the second night free sealed the deal. I have heard about C Boutique Hotel from a friend in Baguio who recommended it to me and as soon as I checked the photos online, I know that I have to book for a room for us to stay.

Taken from their website
I have made a reservation online about a month before the travel date and everything was a breeze. The online booking system they have is pretty reliable, plus the Manila office ushered me through some booking changes I made prior to our arrival date. (I initially booked for a Studio Suite but decided to change it to a Deluxe Suite with Loft)

C Boutique Hotel is located at a quiet residential area along Gibraltar Road. Most cab drivers are not really aware that this hotel exist since I am guessing that the hotel is fairly new.

*Travel Tip: When taking a cab in Baguio going to this Hotel, make sure you memorize the address for easy navigation. Tell the driver too that this one is near Wright Park. :)

C Boutique Hotel's facade
I failed to print a copy of my booking confirmation, which made my first few minutes in the hotel a little irritating. (well, just a little). The front desk person was asking me to forward the confirmation email for them to print but the problem was the wi-fi connection that time wasn’t really working well. It probably took us a good 15 minutes trying to connect to the internet so I can forward the confirmation to the front desk email. I was getting a little frustrated when they finally said that everything was ok (perhaps they have already found my confirmation mail in their database) and that we can finally go up to our room.
The Hotel Interior

Dining Area

Bonfire Area

The staff handed us some welcome drinks as soon as we occupy our room. Mom and dad were delighted on how spacious our room is. The Deluxe Suite with Loft can accommodate four people and there's just the three of us who will stay there.

Our welcome drinks

I find the rooms spacious and uncomplicated. I love the simplicity of the interiors plus the fact that they hang artworks done by Baguio artists which from what I heard are also for sale. A friend of mine from Gallery ErGo,  a local Baguio artist says that some artworks are made by their friends.

I claimed territory on the loft bed while mom and dad occupied the rest of the beds in the room. The room is equipped with fans instead of A/C which is just fine for it turns a little chilly during the night.

I was a little turned off by my front desk experience but they made it a point to get back on their feet and show us what great service is all about. I could say that I am a pretty demanding customer, calling the front desk for restaurant reservations, calling cabs to pick us up, requesting for this and that, but they happily complied to every single request that I made. Good job! 

Overall, I totally enjoyed my stay in C Boutique Hotel. Service is totally excellent and the place is fantastic, far from the hustle and bustle of  Session Road. I will give it a 4.5/5. Will definitely back in this hotel again next time I go to Baguio City. :)

C Boutique Hotel
No. 5 Arellano cor. Moran,
Barangay Gibraltar, Baguio City 2600
Phone Number: (074)619-0158 / 0908.5021696
E-mail Address: