Can a Cheap Steak Be Good?

SO CUTE! This was my first reaction upon entering Cow King. Don’t you agree? Look at the neatly- painted walls, adorable wooden table and chairs and charming cow decorations in every corner.

Yes, even the tissue holder goes with the theme!

My J and I had dinner here before going to the bus terminal on a usual Friday. My J’s cousin, M, used to own the restaurant. M is now a minor ‘shareholder’ after he sold it a few years ago.

We ordered a solo Taco Salad (P65) while waiting for the main dish. The serving is good for two persons. The ingredients are usual but what makes the salad special and really delicious is the honey dressing. I am accustomed to the common salad dressings- Vinaigrette, Italian, Ranch, Caesar, French and Thousand Island. Honey dressing is completely new to me. I am in love with it! It’s as good and refreshing as a homemade dressing and it goes really well with the greens. I also love the sweet-tangy combination of onions and honey.

My J ordered Porterhouse Steak (P265). This one is actually good for sharing (read: thick cut) but since we wanted to indulge because it’s a weekend, my J had it all to himself. I just took a small slice to taste if it was good and yes, the meat is tender and savory. Don’t expect premium quality steaks similar to those served in hotels and high-end restaurants. But if you want to quickly satisfy your steak cravings, this is a great choice.

I had Salpicao (P100). It is sautéed with lots of garlic and the marinated beef cuts are firm and juicy.

We plan to come back here for two reasons: (1) Price is very reasonable (I say cheap) and (2) the flavor-packed food comes in generous portions. What more can you ask for?

*** Cow King
23D Sct Ybardolaza Street,
Quezon City (in front of Sacred Heart Church)
(02) 416.25.55


Mixed Ingredients: Food, History and Literature

I have been overly excited to dine at Pia y Damaso ever since I saw it in Greenbelt 5 last year.  From outside the restaurant you can take a glimpse of the Spanish-Filipino-themed interiors which exude a quiet and soothing ambiance. The Filipino food with a twist (as they call it) and the items on the menu named after the characters of Noli Me Tangere  and El Filibusterismo aroused my curiosity. I finally got the chance to drop by two weeks ago and I dragged my J along even he was a bit reluctant. 

A few shots of the menu and the interiors.

Elegant chandeliers and inviting sofa chairs adorn the small restaurant. The dim lights create a warm and relaxing atmosphere. However, the tables are too close to each other; you can actually hear the conversation at the next table. 

For our appetizer we had Ham and Chicken Croquettes (P160)- eight crisp breaded nuggets of ham, chicken, mushroom and cream. The filling is generous but not appetizing at all. I cannot distinguish the taste of the ham or the chicken or the mushroom. All I can taste is the fried breading.

My J ordered Chicken Pastel (P290)- baked chicken breast, chorizo,  bacon, potatoes, carrots and peas with a flaky crisco crust. I grew up knowing that chicken pastel is cooked in a thick sauce made from cream or milk. That’s how my Mama and Inang (my grandmother) do it. Perhaps that’s the reason why I was disappointed that Pia y Damaso’s version is the watery kind, similar to chicken stew. My J didn’t like it too.

I got Creamy Tinapa, Asparagus and Fish Fillet pasta (P300)- sautéed fish  fillet, smoked fish flakes, baby asparagus, tinapa cream- with onions, leeks, milk and cream. I finally made a right choice to order this! I love tinapa (smoked fish) with fried or salted egg and tomatoes for breakfast. Yes, it’s so Filipino! I didn't know that it will taste really great with pasta. It was my first time to have such and I will forever remember that delectable salty flavor. The strong taste and aroma of tinapa is moderated in this pasta and leaves a pleasing texture on the palate. The generous serving is good for two persons but if you fall in love with it, you can devour the whole serving.

Although our dining experience was quite disappointing, I would love to come back for the tinapa pasta and to try the desserts on the menu. We weren’t able to have dessert anymore since we already had Fro-yo prior to the Pia y Damaso dinner. I’ll see if I can convince my J to come back for some desserts next time. I hope he’ll say yes.

*** Restaurante Pia Y Damaso
2/F, Greenbelt 5,
Paseo de Roxas cor. Legaspi St.,
Ayala Center, Makati City
(02) 729.55.11


Early Birds Catch the Chicken

Being punctual deserves a prize. Last Friday, my teammates and I came early to the office and that’s a small but very acceptable reason why our team had lunch at Wee Nam Kee in Ayala Triangle Gardens. It’s a great start, I must say. Let’s keep up the good job, guys!

We arrived at Wee Nam Kee before 11 am since it opens at 10:30 am and as usual people flocked to the place. There were people already seated inside the restaurant and almost the same number of persons waited in queue. We were sixth in line and we waited patiently for almost an hour to get a table. It was hard to get a seat since customers that morning arrived in groups of six and even fourteen. Good thing there were chairs outside the restaurant for waiting customers but the heat of the sun made the wait quite uncomfortable.

These condiments are the first thing you will notice on the table. Pounded ginger, chili and soy sauce. My favorite is the soy sauce because it is pleasantly sweet and it does not overpower the chicken flavor. I am not a fan of ginger but I witnessed how my officemates enjoyed their meals with it so I guess it is really appetizing and delish.

On our table:

Wee Nam Kee Fried Rice (P190)- good for three to four persons.

Medium Roasted Chicken (P488)- I prefer this than the steamed chicken because the latter is cold. However, both have a pleasant aroma and the chicken meat is soft, juicy and flavorful. These are also healthier options compared to fried ones.

Medium Steamed Chicken (P488)

Beef with Broccoli in Oyster Sauce (P275)- This dish is one of my favorites whenever I eat in Asian restaurants. I love broccoli just as long as it crunchy. Wee Nam Kee does this perfectly!

BBQ Pork (Asado) (P220)- The serving is small and is good for one to two persons only. Nevertheless, the tender and full-flavored meat is a sure delight.

The first Wee Nam Kee branch here in the Philippines is apparently more upscale that the hawker-style ones in Singapore. The food is undeniably superb. Moreover, the hands-on owners mingle with the customers and help in managing the crowd.

After our lunch, T kept asking “Do you think it’s worth the wait?” My answer is a big YES!

*** Wee Nam Kee
Ayala Triangle Gardens, Makati City
(02) 846.89.24


A Thousand Stars, A Thousand Lights

Christmas is just a month away! Indeed, time flies so fast. I am getting more and more excited although I have not yet started with gifts shopping (I still have time, right?). I look forward to the Noche Buena, the family reunions and friends get-together parties. I'm sure you are as thrilled as I am!

Speaking of that Christmas spirit, I have been hearing about this 'Christmas in Ayala' and so last night I got the chance to visit the newly-developed Ayala Triangle Gardens near Makati Stock Exchange. It is a popular "green spot" for joggers and for those who simply want to take some time off and have a great walk after an exhausting day at work. Ayala Land included restaurants which are a sure hit to professionals working around the vicinity and for residents of nearby condominiums. (I will make  a separate post about the Restaurants at The Ayala Triangle Gardens.)

If you are along Ayala Avenue this Nativity scene will greet you before you arrive at the Ayala Triangle. It is life-sized and really eye-catching. The Nativity is one of the most popular symbols and displays during the Holiday seasons. During the previous years, buildings along Ayala Avenue put up their respective versions of the Nativity. I remember walking my way home to Makati Avenue (then) just to see them and the sights would complete my day.

 This is the 'Symphony of Parols', a lights and sounds show every 30 minutes from November 17 to December 23 (6pm to 8pm). This spot is like an enchanted forest with glowing lights and stars. Very captivating! It can take away your stress even for a night only.

Lights director Voltaire de Jesus is behind this masterpiece. His inspirations are the movies 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Avatar'. He used 100-percent eco-friendly LED lights which consume 78 percent less energy than regular ones. From 58,000 watts used last year, power consumption now drops to 5,000 watts with the LED upgrade.

Sound director Jetro Joaquin created an instrumental medley of Christmas classics ('Sleigh Ride', 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town') and contemporary hits (José Mari Chan’s 'Christmas in Our Hearts').  

Would you believe that the planning for this took six months? Yes, six months! Well, you can see the result of the creative ideas and dedicated efforts of the organizers in this very delightful and spectacular display. If you have time, visit Ayala Triangle Gardens and enjoy the sight!


For the Love of Thai Food

I love spicy food. That makes me love Thai food. The strong aroma of Thai food is what makes me love it more. 

One of the best Thai restaurants my J and I have tried is Som's Noodle House (I'll do a separate post about it next time). But since it's a little far from our place, we decided to check on Banana Leaf in Greenbelt.

The place was full when we got there but because we were really into Thai food that night, we waited for about 20 minutes to get a table.

At Banana Leaf, you don't eat on a plate. You eat on a banana leaf. Well, I like the idea because it is so Filipino and it adds a relaxed feel to the dining experience.

On our table:

Deep Fried Pandan Chicken (P168)

This is actually an appetizer but we prefer to eat it with rice. Haha! It is not spicy but I like how the pandan leaves keep the chicken soft and juicy. Also, pandan leaves have a sweet aroma which adds flavor to the dish. This should be an easy-to-prepare dish for us Filipinos since pandan leaves grow extremely well in our climate. By the way, this dish comes with a sweet-chili sauce but trust me, the chicken is flavorful enough on its own.


Pad Thai (Thai Style) (P188)

There are two kinds of Pad Thai on the menu. The other one is Pad Thai (Banana Leaf Style) which has wider noodles and cooked with mildly sweet sauce. Thai Style is spicy, with noodles similar to spaghetti noodles but flat. It is not as spicy as I expected it to be. I don't know if that's good or not but I am thankful it is not sour. The serving is generous and I especially like the juicy chicken chunks. I also give two thumbs-up for the flexible and solid noodles.

Thai Green Curry Chicken with Eggplant and Sweet Basil (P238)

Very flavorful but lacks that spicy kick. I know that green curry has a sweet taste but I am just expecting even a tiny hint of spice. Anyhow, the sauce is really savory and I love spreading it on steamed rice. I can eat that even without the chicken! It's that delicious. Oh, I ate the eggplants! Very succulent. I always love curry with eggplant. There's an added flavor and texture to the dish.

Sweet Sago Soup (P80)

We weren't supposed to have dessert anymore because we were super filled already but out of curiosity (or gluttony), we ordered one. I actually expected the big sago like the ones in the usual sago't gulaman. Instead, this halo-halo-like dessert was served. It is made of crushed ice, peaches and papaya (I think). You can barely see the sago because they are the small and white ones. The dessert is delightfully sweet. The kind of sweetness you get when preparing your own dessert at home. It is cold and refreshing and I finished it until the last drop. I enjoyed chewing on the crushed ice and the sago bits (even if it seems hard to do).

The food at Banana Leaf is really great as testified by the large number of customers. Half of the crowd are foreigners, in fact. The service is fast although our dessert came in late. We already paid for our bill when it was served to us. But I can forgive that since I really enjoyed the food. There are many dishes on the menu that I am excited to try next time. I'll go for the seafood specialties.

Do you like Thai food? What's your favorite Thai dish?

Banana Leaf
2/F Greenbelt 3, 
Ayala Center, Makati City
(02) 729.33.33


Happy Birthday, TL!

If you remember my previous post about Conti's pastries, here is the sequel to it.

We celebrated our TL (team leader) T's birthday with a dinner at Conti's in Greenbelt. We usually celebrate birthdays in our office pantry and then have spaghetti, pizza, cake and ice cream so we decided to make an extra effort for our hardworking team leader.

On the table:

Appetizer: Assorted Dips w/ Melba Toast (P120)
The spinach-artichoke spread is light and tasty. It complements the dry and crisp (and tasteless) Melba Toast. The other dip, by the way, is duck liver pate. I didn't try it since I am not really a fan but according to my officemates, it is rich and savory.
I recommended Mango Royale Salad  (To Share P160 / Solo P90) to T because I have tried it when my sister and I had dinner at Conti's in Serendra. I am glad T loves it too, especially the luscious mango bits.
Salmon Croquettes (P90)- tasteful salmon flakes mixed with mashed potatoes, breaded and fried to golden perfection. I find it too oily. You'll have to pat the oil off with a napkin.
This is what I ordered- Mango Salmon Panini (P195)- sliced smoked salmon and mangoes on ciabatta bread. I chose a lighter meal because I thought that I might have a second dinner once my J pick me up. It is light on the stomach yet I feel that I am already full when I finished it. The spread is very flavorful and the bread is toasted to perfection. 
Grilled Pork Chops (P215 / P270 w/ garlic rice)- two pieces herb-filled porkchop grilled to a gourmet's delight, served with saffron mushroom risotto
Roast Beef in Mushroom Sauce (P285)- slices of beef in mushroom sauce, served with buttered vegetables and mashed potato or garlic rice. This is one of the house specialties.
Chicken ala Kiev (P250)- breaded and deep fried chicken breast filled with cheese and herbs, topped with creamy sauce, served with buttered vegetables and garlic rice
Of course, a birthday celebration isn't complete without a birthday cake! We ordered a small Mango Bravo Cake (P495). I instructed the waiter to bring in the cake after our meal. We were already preparing to sing a Happy Birthday song when six waiters merged to our table and sang the song instead. We were all stunned! All of us were surprised because we didn't know the waiters also do the singing, just like how TGIF and Italianni's do it.
We asked for the cake to be sliced and each of us enjoyed a big serving. Mango Bravo is truly heavenly! I always make sure to have this for dessert when visiting Conti's. I miss it every time I crave for dessert.
Conti's is super generous because they gave all of the diners free slices of their fabulous desserts. Yummy! This is an Espresso Turtle pie. Aside from the fact that it is free, I like it because it is soft, rich and creamy. The coffee taste is subtle and it has the right sweetness.
Another free- Strawberry Cheesecake! I prefer blueberry cheesecake, although this one is also smooth and dense.
The servings at Conti's are really generous and filling that's why it is one of the best choice to dine and celebrate special occasions. Although service is a little bit slow because of the large number of customers, the crew are attentive and courteous. The meals are reasonably-priced, plus you might also get free desserts!

*** Conti's
Greenbelt II, Esperanza Street, Makati City
(o2) 756.00.47 and (02) 756.01.37