Monday, July 9, 2012

Buddha-Bar: Europe and Asia in one sensually gustatory place

If there's one upscale restaurant-lounge that appeals to all the senses, it's got to be Buddha-Bar, which I never knew existed in the metro until I got an invite to dinner specially prepared for us by Executive Chef Maria Milagros Socorro Santos.

Buddha-Bar is a worldwide chain of restaurant-lounges. The Paris branch is probably the most well known. But checking out Buddha-Bar's website, I learned that besides Paris, they can be found in Beirut, Cairo, Caracas, Dubai, Georgie, Jakarta, Kiev, London, Monte Carlo, Mexico, Prague and Washington. The Manila branch opened in 2011.

Located along Kalayaan Ave., the first impression you get of Buddha-Bar is its size. Three floors of restaurant space (the lounge on the ground floor, the restaurant on the 2nd floor, and the 3rd floor is a roofdeck with canopied lounge chairs for a different dining experience. Total seating capacity is about 500.

But wait till you enter. 

It was actually quite dark for a restaurant. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the dimness. Then it hits you. 

Visual Sensuality

It was eye candy as I looked around -- shiny wooden floors, amber-colored lighting coming from hundreds of lamps and tealights on tables, a gigantic Buddha that towered over the open space in the middle of the room that was 2 stories high, classy and opulent furnishings, deep mahogany tables, intricate wooden carvings that adorned the ceilings, smatterings of Chinese and Japanese art objects as well as Khmer statues. The bright red carpet on the stairs leading up to the 2nd floor had subtle lighting on each step so that from afar, the entire staircase and the carpet looked so grand. Going up that lighted staircase was surreal, almost like you were in a movie set. The whole place felt like a temple merged with a hotel lobby and nightclub all rolled into one. I was told that the "look" of all Buddha Bars worldwide are the same. And all the furnishings were brought in from abroad.

This gigantic Buddha was shipped into Manila!

Ground floor interiors

View of mezzanine. Notice the 18th century style wrought-iron balustrades along the sides.

View of the awesome lighted staircase from the mezzanine

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Moshi Moshi in the heart of Katipunan Avenue

Katipunan Avenue, the main street that bustles with cars and students on their way to Ateneo and UP, now houses another restaurant. Located on the 2nd floor of the new Regis Center (house to Fully Booked and other popular restaurants) you will find a Japanese restaurant called Moshi Moshi.

Moshi Moshi is owned and managed by a young lady entrepreneur, Jessica Cocabo, who happens to be one of my daughter's batch mates in high school. I mean....I knew this lady when she was still THAT small! And here she was running Moshi Moshi!

Jessica invited the Food Club (kids included) to try her food offerings. I came with 3 of my kids and a niece. Some of the other Food Club folks also brought their little ones along.

The first thing you will notice as you push the door open is that it is brightly lit, tasteful and modern, and clean. Decor follows the clean, minimalist Japanese look but you can see that a lot of effort went into making it cozy as well.

Logo at entrance

View from the outside

Ordering counter

Kit Kat Wasabi done up into a cute arrangement

Dining area

A quiet nook

Jessica herself thought of the green lampshades

Now on to what we were able to sample.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Archipelago 7107 by Barrio Fiesta at Il Terrazzo, Tomas Morato

I've been to Il Terrazo along Tomas Morato several times to take yoga classes but I had not really gone the rounds of the restaurants there save for one. So when Rowena invited me to try out the menu fare of Archipelago 7107, which happened to be just a level down from the yoga studio, I gladly agreed.

So a few Wednesday nights ago, right after a great yin yoga class, I joined the Food Club at Archipelago 7107.

Some trivia first.

Archipelago 7107 is the brainchild of young entrepreneurs Aimee Tan Cosiquien, Katherine Uy Chan, and Clifford Uy. They teamed up with a 3rd generation restaurateur, Tyrone Ongpauco. If that last name strikes a note, it's because Tyrone belongs to the clan behind the Barrio Fiesta chain of restaurants.

But unlike Barrio Fiesta which is known for its very Filipino ambience in bamboo and wood, Archipelago 7107's ambience is casual but chic.

While some Filipino restaurants focus on recipes from the owner's region, not many provide the whole array of food served up in different provinces. This is what Archipelago 7107 aims to do, which is why I am guessing they named their restaurant this way (Archipelago, to represent the entire Philippines; 7107 being the total number of islands).

Here's a sampling of their menu offerings which we tried that night.

Kuhol sa Gata (PhP 215)

I must confess that never, ever in my life have I eaten kuhol (the culinary name for snails) and I certainly was not planning to break that, even with this well presented Kuhol sa Gata. So contented myself with taking pictures of it while the rest of the Food Club relished it (and they said it was good!).

Ilocano Rice (PhP 245)

Tuyo Rice (PhP 175)
Next we tried two types of rice: Ilocano Rica and Tuyo Rice. The Ilocano rice (obviously from the Ilocos region) is a combination of bagnet, Vigan longganisa, salted egg, onions and tomatoes that served as toppings over flavored rice. Tuyo Rice, on the other hand, is a southern kind of rice preparation. It is garlic rice topped with dried fish and scrambled eggs and served with onions and tomatoes. Both were very good but if I had to choose one, I'd go for the Ilocano Rice. By the way, I checked their menu and these are not the only rice choices they are offering. They also have Seafood Rice and Paella Negra Rice for 3-4 persons per order and Garlic Rice and Pandan Rice available as single serves.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Beauty of Raw

"Eat your vegetables". 

Yes, that was my Mom's mantra when I was growing up. It was a mantra I almost never heeded. I hated vegetables. But after beginning my yoga journey, I began to appreciate vegetables more and more. My body was actually looking for it.

But here's the thing. In many readings, I learned that COOKING vegetables actually makes us lose a lot of the nutrients that we could have ingested because either these are destroyed by heat during cooking or these leak out into the water/oil we cook the veggies in.

It’s no wonder then that more and more people seeking a healthier lifestyle are now advocating consuming foods RAW. But why raw????

Raw and living foods (plant-based) preserve the enzymes, proteins, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients of whole foods in their natural state. Bottomline, you absorb 100% of the nutrients in the food, not just about 20%, which is what’s left after cooking food the conventional way.

And raw need not be bland and yuck-tasting, according to raw food chef Mona Lisa Neuboeck who spoke to a group of us at Sugarleaf Makati recently.

Who is Mona Lisa Neuboeck?

Mona Lisa’s background is quite interesting. She was born in Seattle, Washington but was raised in Salzburg, a small city in Austria. Her father was an Austrian butcher coming from a long line of Innsbruck butchers. She had the chance to do many things including modeling, attending culinary academy in Austria, as well as getting involved in theater costume design school.

 In her modeling career, she said she went through yoyo diets that not only made her weight seesaw but also left her always hungry and craving for popular foods. It took her years of experimenting with countless diets before coming to the conclusion that eating raw foods was the simplest, healthiest, most satisfying way to detox the body, gain/maintain a slim figure, get glowing healthy skin and significantly reduce one’s carbon footprint as well. Not only did her hunger pangs and cravings cease but eating raw foods had a balancing effect on her emotions as well. Now a Certified Raw Food Chef , Mona provides vegetarian/vegan/raw food consultancy services.

Here are some things I learned from Mona:

• There are around 500,000 different types of enzymes. The more enzymes you take in, the more life force you have.

• When you don’t take in enough enzymes to digest the food, the liver will use your own body enzymes to do the digesting. For example, we think we need protein but what our body needs is the amino acids broken down by the enzymes. Mona says that despite being vegan she is not protein-deficient because her protein is found in broccoli which has more protein per calorie.

• Her raw food diet brought incredible energy and endurance for her activities that include surfing and yoga. The enzymes she took in did not waste her own body’s enzymes.

• Raw food is not an anti-aging diet but “youthening diet”, in Mona’s words. “It makes you younger”, she says.

• The first 2 weeks to a month, you may feel like giving up on the vegan diet because you may break out in zits, feel lethargic, want to rest all day, etc. It’s because the body is going through a detox process. She says once you’re over that hump, you will then feel more energized.

Mona introduced us to several different food items that were ALL RAW. Check these out.


This smoothie does not only contain grapefruit. It also has apples, lemon, bananas (high in electrolytes) and ginger (for an extra kick). Some cayenne pepper is also added in. She likes to use saba type of bananas instead of lakatan. Lots of ice makes the smoothie slushy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cafe de Bonifacio: A Revolutionary Filipino Cuisine

There is a new restaurant that some blogger friends and I tried a few days ago -- Cafe de Bonifacio, located at the Podium.

Taking inspiration from their youthful days of activism, two friends (one with Molave and the other with Kabataang Makabayan) put up Cafe de Bonifacio. The restaurant's logo sports a sun which is very similar to the one found on Andres Bonifacio's personal flag. And several of its signature dishes bear names from the Katipunan era.

Initially I thought that their cuisine was an Asian fusion, much like some other restos I've tried. But Alfredo Wenceslao, Managing Director of Cafe de Bonifacio, corrected us and said it's basically a Filipino cuisine with a 'revolutionary' twist. He introduced us to the chef whose specialty is Roti (and you will find lots of Roti dishes, both in the main dish list and dessert) and the chef told us they scouted around for the different spices that would give a different take on each of the Filipino dishes.

Alfredo Wenceslao (right) with Cafe de Bonifacio's chef

Juned was already there when I arrived but the others were still stuck in traffic so to while away the time, I ordered a unique beverage called Mango and Basil Cooler, a fusion of green mangoes and fresh basil leaves. I did not really know how basil leaves, added to a fresh fruit drink, would taste but it sounded healthy so I went for it. Surprisingly, my palate liked the basil touch to the drink and it's just a perfect summer-y drink.

Mango and Basil Cooler (PhP 95)

Here are the dishes our tummies went through that night.

Ensaladang Talong was a smokey eggplant tossed in with other fresh veggies and mixed with a special vinaigrette dressing. A slice of salted egg added a touch on top.

Ensaladang Talong (PhP 140)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Relik Tapas Bar and Lounge

On the second floor of the Commercenter Building at Bonifacio Global City is Relik Tapas Bar and Lounge. Unlike other food outlets that you often find because it is visible and popular, Relik falls under the realm of "best-kept food hideaways".

If your type of decor is the homey-comfy, rustic type, you will take to Relik Tapas. Their cuisine is Spanish-Mediterranean comfort food consisting of modern tapas. Urban and retro designs are found all over. Walls hold vintage items that include wooden tennis rackets, vinyl records and framed pictures from the 50s and 60s. Tasteful antique-like table lamps hang on chains on one side of the restaurant.

There is a private non-smoking room that can be used for executive lunches and meetings.

Private non-smoking room

We were introduced to Relik Tapas' Executive Chef, Chef Benjo Tuason who was trained in Australia.

Chef Benjo Tuason and the managing partners Patricia Cortez,
Timo Roxas-Chua and Ryan Ordonez

During the event attended by bloggers, this was what we were served. I did note that their menu contained many healthy choices, which is great for me as I always try to discover the healthier offerings of every restaurant.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Creme Fraiche
One of my favorite soup choices is pumpkin soup and Relik Tapas' Roasted Pumpkin Soup is one of the best and tastiest I have ever tried.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipes from San Miguel Great Food Club's Flavors of Christmas 2011

At a recent event sponsored by San Miguel, called The Flavors of Christmas, I was able to get quite a few recipes from 2 chefs who were there. I've selected those I particularly like and am posting them here.

Chef Ed Quimson - Christmas Ham, Roast Jumbo Chicken with Green Grapes and Cranberry Jelly

Lori Baltazar (food blogger at Dessert Comes First) - Chocnut-Queso de Bola Cheesecake, Brownie-in-a-Cookie Cookie

I'm sharing these recipes with you. I myself will try Chef Ed's special sauce on the Purefoods Fiesta Ham that I am saving for Noche Buena.

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