Monthly Archives: October 2014

Tuantuan Chinese Brasserie (2nd anniversary post!!)

(Warning – Picture-heavy post.)

So I was lucky enough to be able to attend the grand opening of Tuantuan, a Chinese restaurant in SM Megamall. The visit also coincided with this blog’s second anniversary, and I thought that was pretty awesome. Tuantuan is owned by the same people behind Lugang Café, which explains why it also has the same elegant, chic ambiance that Lugang Café is famous for.

I felt sort of awkward at first when I saw the other diners in the restaurant, since most of them consisted of spiffy-looking individuals – I even considered dining at another restaurant instead. But since my mom was being a little bit extra persuasive about wanting to have lunch here (she was worried that this resto might garner long lines the next time we come back), I had to give in to her whims and clamor.

Look at these gorgeous flower wreaths! The place was currently being blessed when we arrived. We even got to see the ribbon cutting!

Interior. As expected, the atmosphere inside the resto is sizzling with energy.

Menu: Tuantuan noodle soup, Specialty noodle soup combos, Tuantuan curry, Ala carte, Tuantuan congee & porridge, Macanese dishes, Drinks, and Desserts.

I had to take so many menu shots – The design of their menu is hands down one of the best ones I’ve seen.

Crispy Barbecued Pork Snow Buns. Now where have I seen this before? Soft and crumbly on the outside, flavorful and tender on the inside.

Parsley & Century Egg Fish Soup. The soup itself was very rich, with a velvety texture. We chose fish tofu and squid balls for our toppings, fresh ramen for our noodles, and Hong Kong-style coffee for our drinks. The ramen noodles were indeed fresh! You can also pick two side dishes to go with your soup. You can make over 100 different combinations with your choice of noodles, toppings, and side dishes!!!

Tuantuan’s noodle dish, created by Hong Kong chef Gordon Liu, has won several accolades from the Annual Chinese Restaurant Awards, and the HSBC Diner’s Choice Award, to name a few. The noodle broth (known as the Deer Garden broth), has a base made from fresh halibut and Pacific cod. It is simmered for several hours to produce a clean taste.

Honey Garlic Spare Ribs. I love that the honey just had the right amount of sweetness, and wasn’t too overpowering. The ribs could use a little bit more meat though, but other than that, this dish was just perfect (especially when paired up with a cup of steamed white rice).

Fried Black and White Milk Bread. Soft, cotton-like pieces of bread that you can dip in a bowl of condensed milk.

Cold Horlicks Milk. This is only the second time that I have tried Horlicks, and I must say that I really like the taste so far. Apparently Horlicks candy used to be really popular here in the PH back in the day.

… Well. Not too bad for their first day! Some of the waiters made a couple of mistakes when it came to our orders, but that was totally understandable. Like I said earlier, I’m so glad that this blog’s anniversary was celebrated in a very festive/splendid way. I feel really accomplished this year since I got to visit soooo many restaurants, especially compared to 2013 and 2012. I’m looking forward to doing even more!!!

Tuantuan Chinese Brasserie is located at 3/F SM Megamall, Mega Fashion Hall, Julia Vargas Ave Wack Wack, Mandaluyong. Tel no: (02) 570-9011.

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Red Engine/Downtown Pizza & Pasta

During a trip to Tagaytay, I finally got the opportunity to step inside the city’s famous Sky Ranch amusement park. I was already planning to do a review of one of the restaurants found inside the park, called Red Engine – But imagine my surprise when I found out that this diner actually shared its space with another restaurant, called Downtown Pasta & Pizza.

Interior.

The two menus, side by side. I find the contrast between the two restaurants slightly amusing.

Red Engine’s menu: 1st Gear (Appetizers), 2nd Gear (Soups), 3rd Gear (Salads), Mexican treat starters, 4th Gear (Rice plates), Prix Fix Meal, Red Engine Assembly Line (Burgers, Pastas, Sandwiches, Meat station), 5th Gear (Desserts), and Coolants.

Downtown’s menu: Zuppa, Antipasto, Insalate, Panini, Pasta, Pizza, Stuffed calzone, Piati alla grigla, Ali di pollo, Bistecca, Dolce, Razzle, Fruity shakes, Frost, Bevarde, Fredo, Birra e vino, Caldo.

One Hot Chick – Deep fried chicken fillet tossed in buffalo sauce, with fresh green lettuce and sweet caramelized onions. Nope, I did not use an Instagram filter for this photo – The hamburger buns are really red! I guess this must be the reason why the place is called Red Engine. IDK. Anyway, this burger wasn’t so bad – The chicken was fresh, although I couldn’t help but think about the possible chemicals that were used to give the bun its color. ._. Oh, and the buffalo sauce that they used was quite mild, so this chick isn’t really THAT hot after all. Still a good chicken sandwich, though.

Mango Shrimp Salad with ripe mangoes, fresh lettuce, shrimp, croutons, tossed in honey mustard dressing.

Far East Meatballs – Oven-baked meatballs topped with pomodoro sauce and mozzarella cheese. Eh, nothing too special, except for the sauce and the layer of gooey cheese on top. I think I can easily make this at home. This is the only dish that we ordered from the Downtown menu.

Red Spaghetti – Made with ground beef, bacon, and hotdog slices.

A moist Brownie Ala Mode for dessert.

… Eh. It was so-so. But I would probably come back so I could try more of Downtown’s menu or Red Engine’s other dishes.

Red Engine and Downtown Pizza & Pasta are located at Sky Ranch, Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Tagaytay City. You can also find them at Makati.

7 Corners @ Crowne Plaza

We haven’t set foot in Crowne Plaza’s 7 Corners buffet since Christmas of 2011, where we unexpectedly paid a huge amount of money because it was Christmas Eve. Now, we came back because it’s been a year since I started working at my current job, and I wanted to celebrate it in an ostentatious way.

Of course, since this is a buffet, I only got a few pictures of their interior. Oh, and it just so happened that my parents and I were lucky enough to be seated beside… The owner. Y’know. THE OWNER. If you guys haven’t got a clue who I’m talking about, I’ll give you a small hint: Crowne Plaza is owned by Robinson’s Group of Companies.

… Anywaaaaaay, the current buffet had a Spanish theme going on, which was awesome since aside from the usual paella, I haven’t gotten the chance to try their dishes or visit a Spanish restaurant.

Steak, medium-rare. Truly a piece of heaven for carnivores such as myself.

My first plate consisted of Biryani rice, two slices of pizza, potato slices with spicy chorizo, and a piece of Spanish croquette made out of fish. The croquette wasn’t that good, but the rest of the food in this plate was just amazing! The pizza slices weren’t too thick, and had the right amount of softness. The potatoes/chorizo was perfectly cooked too.

Two plates of seafood, mostly oysters and grilled shrimp for dad. Finally got to try lobster for the very first time! ^^

Another plate of biryani, and two pieces of naan bread. Back in 2011, I got to try their version of the chappati and it came with an assortment of dips. My favorite among those dips were the mint jelly (which I paired up with the steak this time, along with a bit of herb sea salt – marvelous combo) and mango chutney.

A bowl of vegetable soup and several pieces of lechon skin.

Salad, and another one of dad’s soups.

And finally, an assortment of mini cakes/brownies for dessert, which I unfortunately could not finish since I was already stuffed at this point.

I could barely move after my lunch! Hooray! (sarcasm) -_- But I think everything was worth it. Just be prepared to shell out a couple more bucks if you’re planning to eat here during the holidays.

7 Corners Buffet is located at Crowne Plaza Manila, Ortigas Avenue Corner, Asian Development Bank Avenue, Ortigas, Pasig City. Tel no: (02) 633 7222. Links: Facebook.

Shrimp Bucket

Ah, shrimp – The fruit of the sea, according to the film ‘Forrest Gump’. If you know me, I’m very, veeeeeerrrrryyyyy picky when it comes to shrimp because of its taste – I cannot eat shrimp raw, and the only shrimp dish that I can eat without any complaints whatsoever is Wendy’s shrimp sandwich. I’m even picky when it comes to shrimp tempura. But even though I have a sworn love-hate relationship with this edible creature, I still paid a visit to Shrimp Bucket to try their food, hoping to find a way to get really acquainted with the cuisine’s specialty.

The interior was very, very cramped.

Menu: Starters & salads, Other mains, Sides, Dessert, Shakes & smoothies, Special shrimp iced teas, Soft drinks and juices, Sangria by the carafe, Our margaritas, Cocktails, and Beers.


I’m so glad that I ordered their Lemon Raspberry Iced Tea, since it helps get rid of the shrimp’s bleach-like taste.

Chicken & Shrimp Lettuce Wrap. This was an exceptionally good appetizer – Minced pieces of chicken and shrimp that you can wrap in small lettuce leaves and pop in your mouth.

For our main dish, we ordered Bags by the Pound. This is literally a bag of steamed shrimp drenched in your dip of choice. We were supposed to try it with the coconut dip, but our waitress recommended the Salty Eggsperience dip instead. Of course, I was slightly hesitant to try the pieces of shrimp, but after eating my first piece… Wow. The shrimp absolutely lacked the fishy taste that I really hated. It was very clean and fresh. And the waitress was right – The salted egg dip does give the shrimp pieces some zing. I think I ate around five pieces of shrimp that day.

Our other main dish was their Fish Fillet with Spicy Sesame Sauce. The fish pieces were very tender. The sauce wasn’t as spicy as I thought it would be, but that’s okay.


For our dessert, we tried their Sollie’s Tapioca in Coconut Milk. Slightly disappointing.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that all three of us enjoyed our meal at Shrimp Bucket (in fact, the only complaint that my parents had was that the dip was too salty). I think it’s safe to say that this won’t be our last trip to this restaurant.

Shrimp Bucket is located at G/F Grand Hamptons Tower 1, 31st St cor 2nd Ave Fort Bonifacio, Taguig. Tel no: (02) 550-2898. You can also find them at the UP Town Center.

Ippudo

Ippudo first opened in 1985 in Hakata, Japan’s ramen capital. It was founded by Shigemi Kawahara, who has been given the awesome title of “Ramen King”. His main philosophy when it comes to making ramen is to constantly reinvent in the kitchen and redefine Ippudo’s recipes. Ippudo reached its globally-renowned status thanks to Shigemi’s own version of the tonkotsu (pork bone) broth, which has a smooth, delicate and creamy taste.

Ippudo currently has 80+ stores in Japan. It has also reached international shores, with franchises opening up in New York, London, Singapore, Seoul, Taiwan, Sydney, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Jakarta, and Hong Kong, among others. Their first branch here in the Philippines opened not too long ago, and it was met with an overwhelming response (aka long lines).

Similar to my Tim Ho Wan experience, I was hesitant to do a review on Ippudo once I spotted the long lines. So I made a plan to just visit the place on a weekday. My strategy worked! And sometimes it also pays to come early, because when we arrived… Hohoho. There wasn’t any line AT ALL. (by the time we left, the line was around two meters long.)

Lots of interior pics. The ambiance reminded me so much of Ramen Nagi, right down to the waiters and chefs shouting random Japanese phrases, aside from the usual irashaimasse/arigato gozaimasu.

Menu: Shiromaru Motoaji, Akamaru Shinaji, Karaka-men, Ramen toppings, Kae-dama, Gyoza & buns, Salads, Ala-carte, Rice, Dessert, & Drinks.

Ippudo Hakata-Style Gyoza.

Ippudo Pork Bun – Steamed buns filled with a slice of juicy braised pork belly, and Ippudo’s original sauce. Admittedly, it looks and tastes like an ordinary cuapao sandwich, except 5 times more tender.

Shiromaru Motoaji. This is Ippudo’s classic Hakata-style ramen served with a nice tonkotsu broth, served with thin-noodles, pork loin, bean sprouts, kikurage and spring onions. I had the Shiromaru Chashu (with simmered pork belly), while mom had the Shiromaru Tamago (with soft-boiled egg). From the moment I took my first sip of the broth, I knew that this was going to be one of the best bowls of ramen that I have ever tried. I’m so glad I picked hard noodles this time instead of the usual soft – It really does make a huge difference.

Dad had their Karaka-Men. This ramen also has a tonkotsu broth, except the noodles were slightly wavy. It also had a slice of pork belly, and spring onions, plus miso paste, fragrant garlic oil, and spicy minced meat for an extra punch.

Dashimaki Tamago with Mentaiko Mayo. I ended up ordering this dish because I love scrambled eggs, hehe. The omelette rolls are nice and fluffy. Make sure to dip it in the spicy cod roe mayonnaise dip for some much-added flavor.

This was the definite highlight of my day for sure, and my day was pretty much spectacular. We paid quite a hefty amount for the food that we ate, but I didn’t really care—I thought the price was totally worth it. And I’m so glad this place is very accessible so I can come back whenever I want, to try their ramen again.

Ippudo is located at 3/F SM Megamall, Mega Fashion Hall, Julia Vargas Ave cor EDSA Wack Wack, Mandaluyong. Tel no: (02) 470-1837

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen is yet another one of those authentic Japan-based ramen joints that arrived here just in time for the ramen craze sweeping across Metro Manila. Ikkoryu, which was launched by Yamagoya Ramen, has actually been around in Japan since the 1970’s! They specialize in thin, straight Chikuho noodles floating inside a bowl of hearty tonkotsu broth.

For 40 years, Ikkoryu has been making innovations to their ramen in order to satisfy the taste of their customers. Their ultimate goal is to spread Japan’s well-loved ramen culture all across the globe.

Menu: Ramen specials (vegi tama tonkotsu, ninniku tonkotsu, tantan tonkotsu), Ramen (yuzu tama tonkotsu, ajitama tonkotsu, aburi chashu tonkotsu, takana tonkotsu), Topping, Kobachi (uni sauce with chips), Itamemono (ika butter), Agemono (karaage), Rice menu (chashu don, aburi chashu don, ninniku yakimeshi, takana yakimeshi), Salad (hiyashi chukka), Dessert.

The humble Gyoza makes a comeback in this entry.

Black Garlic Tonkotsu ramen, one of Ikkoryu’s bestselling dishes. The top of the broth was blanketed in a thin layer of special roast garlic oil, giving it a unique appearance. It has a strong, robust flavor too. The slice of chashu was sooooo tender; it literally melted in my mouth.

Mom ordered a bowl of their Ikkoryu Original Tonkotsu ramen. The broth had a milder, more flavorful taste than my Black Garlic ramen. I think I’ll order this one instead when I come back. This ramen also had a slice of chashu, as well as green onions, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms and a piece of dried seaweed.

What makes Ikkoryu’s ramen super authentic? First of all, their noodles are freshly made from Japanese flour. Constant attention is paid towards the room’s humidity and temperature, so they can guarantee that their noodles have a high-quality texture and taste. A secret soy sauce is added in their tonkotsu broth, producing rich and flavorful ramen soup. Preparing the broth can take several hours, but everything is simply worth it in the end.

Okay – Personally I didn’t exactly enjoy their Black Garlic tonkotsu because of its intense, garlicky taste. But I will come back to Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen for sure, so I can choose the type of ramen that will blow me away.

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen is located at 5/F Shangri-la Plaza Mall, East Wing, Shaw Blvd cor EDSA Wack Wack, Mandaluyong. Tel no: (02) 477-8333. You can also find them at Bonifacio High Street, Powerplant Mall, SM Aura, and Century City Mall.

Brasas

What I love about the Podium is that it is the home of restaurants that serve different types of cuisines. So far, the ones that I have tried are Indian (New Bombay), Chinese (Shi Lin), fusion Mexican-Filipino (Madeca), and lots more. This time, I paid a visit to a small resto called Brasas to sample some delicious Latin-American delights.

Their interior’s walls are decorated with Spanish expressions and little drawings of bulls. It may look unkempt, but I think it gives it a bit of charm.


Menu: Latin classics, Sandwiches & wraps, Picadas, Soup & salad, and Beverages.


We only ordered two things: First is the Cuban Pork Wrap. Very, very meaty, with slow-roasted pork shoulder, sautéed onions, rice and beans all wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla. It was light, yet filling.

Our appetizer is their Empanadas Colombianas, crunchy corn empanadas filled with beef brisket, potatoes, and served with a small bowl of aji dip. I expected it to be a little bit bigger, but other than that, this dish was great too.


For our drinks, we tried out their Latin Iced Tea (right), which is tea infused with passionfruit, mixed with lime and honey, and Guarapo, (left) sugarcane juice with mint and lime. The iced tea just tasted like regular iced tea, and I liked the sugarcane drink better. Should’ve tried their version of the pina colada instead.

Brasas is good for those who want to try something else other than the usual Japanese, Thai, Chinese, American, etc. cuisines.

Brasas is located at 5/F The Podium, 18 ADB Ave Wack Wack, Mandaluyong. Tel no: (02) 570-5559. You can also find them at SM The Block, SM Aura, and SM Jazz.