Monday, November 28, 2011

Milk Tea at Moonleaf, Harrison Plaza Village Square

Verdict: Good for small groups or a quick take-out
Damage: somewhere between 45-200 pesos/person

There's Milk Tea Madness in Manila!  Have you noticed the milk tea stalls and branches popping up like Shawarma did a few years ago?

April and I decided to grab our tea plus milk at one of the most popular teashops in town -- Moonleaf.  What started out as a small store in Magiting St., Teacher's Village, Q.C. has now expanded to 3 new stores+11 branches around Manila including one in Los Baños, if I counted right. Search Moonleaf reviews in blogs and you'll see the teatoppers raving about Moonleaf's milk tea.

We were one of those who were able to catch the soft opening in Harrison Plaza Village Square last Sunday after an awesome church service at Victory Malate, which is within the same mall.  As a testimony to the Pinoy's new-found fondness for  tea, Moonleaf was packed with fans by the time we got there.

Despite the long line, we were served quickly and courteously by the staff.  I'm a milk tea fan and was excited for my Wintermelon Milk Tea as recommended by April.  And look, yay! It finally arrived!

My milk tea damage: PHP75 for the Wintermelon Milk Tea plus PHP10 for the pearls
I survived the milk tea test long enough to take some pictures. Those are tapioca pearls you see on my drink, but you can also try their teas with nata crystals, pudding, or even without milk.

I don't know if they forgot to add some flavor, but the "sweetness" that other bloggers say about the wintermelon brew was sadly lacking in this cup. As April said, it was matabang (lacking in flavor) compared to the wintermelon blend she had before at the Los Baños branch. No matter how long and how hard I sipped, I just couldn't get a hint of the "honey-fruit-like sweetness" I've read of.   I guess they still lack consistency when preparing their teas.

In fairness, the tea tasted freshly-brewed as advertised and had a slightly smoky taste, probably because of the wintermelon.   The pearls were also good, not soggy or hard. I have always liked the texture of tapioca pearls since the Zagu Pearl Shake craze.  The pearls in Moonleaf had the same chewy feel.

Was April's Yogurt Milk Tea with nata better? My pretty friend looks happy in anticipation of her drink.

April's wallet damage: PHP85 for Yogurt Milk Tea plus PHP10 for the nata
Yogurt Milk Tea was a new item on the menu and as a self-proclaimed yogurt fan (expect my yogurt food trips in a future post),  I just wasn't able to feel the yogurt in this one.   Well, I could definitely taste the fruity nata, but I expected a bit more creaminess from the yogurt.  Moonleaf, where's the yogurt?! *tears tears tears*

So, will I go back?  Well, yes, if I happen to catch another Victory Malate service. Or maybe I'll try the one in Maginhawa St., QC.  I just want to give this quaint shop another chance on a regular day and understand why others are raving about it.  I'll probably order the same thing, but with pudding. And maybe I'll also add in a slice of chocolate cake or cheesecake.

If I'm satisfied, I might have enough motivation to leave a memento on this nice wall. Just like these happy customers did.

Moonleaf is located at Harrison Plaza Village Square, Pablo Ocampo cor. Mabini St., Malate, 1004 Manila, Philippines. Store hours are 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM.  Check out other branches on their website.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's the best food to eat for Christmas?

Some people dread the Christmas season, because they're expecting inevitable weight gain from all the tempting food they'd have to resist.  All I can say is...hwaaaattt?!

Christmas is about spreading love and joy and fun and celebrating Christ's birth.  Jesus was born in a simple manger and we don't even know what Mary and Joseph ate there.  Definitely, it wasn't turkey and cranberries and chocolate towers and fruit cakes. But that doesn't mean that we should unnecessarily starve ourselves.  Thank God if you can live a prosperous and healthy life and eat well.  Share all the blessings with someone!

Before you think that this is just an excuse to stuff myself silly for the holidays, of course it is! Kidding aside, the best food is eaten in moderation (a-hem).  This way, you'll have to make time to savor each bite...smells wafting, juices trickling, flavors bursting in your mouth, textures playing on your tongue...hmmmmm...yummmm!

So anyway, thinking about writing a pre-Christmas post made me hungry for food I'd love to eat this season.  Here's my top five.

I need my meat!

Christmas ham.  Honey glazed pure meat with thin ribbons of fat

Honey Baked Ham Recipe

Holiday Turkey with Cranberries. Slivers of turkey blanketed in sweet cranberry sauce.

Turkey Milanesas with Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Seafood gooooood!

Lobster Thermidor. Melted cheese on a pillow of fresh lobster meat.

Lobster Thermidor Recipe

Sweet thoughts

Chocolates.  The dark kind.  Truffles would be awesome.

Lindt Lindor 60% Extra Dark Noel Christmas Truffles

Lindt Lindor Dark Chocolate Mint Truffles Review

Dark chocolate and almond layered cake from Lolo Dad's Cafe.  This is absolutely delectable!  My review and a picture of this next year... :)

So right now, I am absolutely salivating and craving for everything.  If you're craving for what I'm craving, I placed the link to all the recipes/reviews on the captions.  I tried to get Lindt and Lolo Dad's recipes for you, but they threatened to toss me in a huge pool of chocolate (I would have gladly said yes, but I can't swim).

 What's on your list?  :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Fusion of Flavors at Lu

Published in Appetite Magazine, August 2011 issue

     Lu.  One simple syllable cannot capture the gastronomical feast that awaits the unsuspecting customer.   To the observant eye and discerning taste bud, Lu offers a luscious surprise.

A world of flavors

            Kristine del Gallego, Lu’s owner, is a lovely surprise herself.  Chic and attractive in a simple apple green dress, her quiet sophistication gives way to animated pleasure when she talks about her business.  The pretty meztiza says that Lu’s menu can be described as nice, simple, and healthy.  The words are true, but are an understatement to the culinary delights showcased in Lu’s menu.

       Contrary to the popular impression of being a Mediterranean and Moroccan restaurant, Lu prides itself on offering a mix of different flavors.  It’s comfort food and a world of flavors with a twist, Kristine emphasizes.  Then she instantly coins a new term and gives in a little, you can call it Mediterrasian.  Kristine says that she would like to avoid Lu being “boxed in” to a certain theme.    

An interactive dining experience

As if to prove her point,   Kristine asks us to try the Steamed Buns with Pork Belly Confit (P380).  The dish sounds like an elaborate way of describing your usual cuapao, but is actually one of the best examples of what Kristine would call a fusion.  Each palm-sized steamed bun opens to reveal tender slices of slightly salted pork belly, crunchy pieces of chicharon, juicy slices of soft peach and thin strips of fresh cucumber.   The coriander provided the twist, giving a slight flavor that explodes in the mouth. 

Kristine finds it enjoyable when customers deconstruct the appetizer, tasting the ingredients one by one before taking a complete bite.  I could understand their curiosity; pork and peaches are not your usual combination, but with this dish, the differing flavors and textures were a great mix.

            The steamed buns exemplify Lu’s aim – to make every meal an interactive dining experience.  Kristine explains that each bite is like a party in one’s mouth.  Lu is not the place to eat and run. The ambience here invites customers to linger and to talk, not just about any experience, but about the one most interesting thing at the moment – food!

It’s all in the lemon

            The twist in most of Lu’s dishes can be attributed to the ordinary lemon.  One would think that the lemon slices were just there to provide a dash of color; who would have thought that squeezing a small amount of citrus juice could immediately transform a dish?  One of our favorites was the Queso Fundido con Chorizo (P325) served with miniature pita bread.  Lu gets their cheese from the famous Malagos Farmhouse in Davao, so you can enjoy the fact that you're eating local, artisanal cheese. The torched gooey cheese has to be eaten hot, unless you wanted to spread waxy cheese on your pita.  We did not acknowledge the lemon’s presence, until Kristine told us to squeeze its juice on top of the cheese.  After doing this, I piled in all the cheese that my tiny pita could handle.  The tang of the lemon toned down the saltiness of the cheese.  Lu surprised us once again.

Other lemon-hinted recipes are the newest items on the menu. For starters, try the Cashew Crusted New Zealand Mussel and Prawns on Citrus Greens(P395).  The thin slices of fried wanton go very well with the juicy tenderness of fresh seafood and the zing of lemon and cilantro mixed with the greens.

 This lemon twist surprise was duplicated in the Turmeric Chicken with Pomelo-Cucumber Achara (P395). The chicken was grilled to perfection and served with sweet chilli sauce.  For another lemon-tinted dish, you could try Lu’s Gambas al Ajillo Angel Hair Pasta (P385).  The distinct smell and flavor of truffle oil blend well with this slightly spicy dish.  Or if you prefer something more luxurious to the taste, you could try my personal favorite – the Herb-crusted Lamb Spare Ribs with Bejewelled Couscous (P595).  This meal was the biggest surprise of all.  The lamb itself was subtly seasoned, while its crust was salty with herbs. The saltiness plus the lemon’s and couscous’ sour taste combined for an astonishing blend of flavors.

Happy endings

            I could say that we were served our just desserts by a talented crew of chefs.   I was undoubtedly full, but the head of the kitchen, 26-year old Enrique Moreno, was not done yet.  This young and innovative chef who assisted in the whole photo shoot still had time to whip up the impeccable end to a full-course meal.     Delightfully sweet, and slightly salty and bitter, the Cerveza Negra Butterscotch Red Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream (P350) was the perfect finale to Lu’s menu of surprises.

            There are still a lot of dishes to sample in Lu’s menu, like the Minted Pea Soup with Sundried Tomato Pesto (P315).  The creamy subtleness of the soup went nicely with the toasted Jamon Serrano crisp, which tasted like salty bacon.  But I’m going to ramble on again. Go check out Lu yourself for more tasty surprises.

Lu is located at G/F Joya Bldg., Joya Drive, Rockwell, Makati City, Metro Manila
For information and reservations, phone 02-4033991

You might still be able to grab back issues of Appetite August 2011 in some stores.  

Vendo Machine

This must be one of the most frustrating things that can happen to anyone who's craving.

 Perfect song: Hanging by a Moment.

Whoever you are who wanted Potato Fries that day, this gave me and Ching some good laughs. Sorry to sound sadistic.  But believe me, I feel you.

The Vendo Machine is located somewhere in Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong. No reservations.

Photos courtesy of Ching.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ye Dang Korean BBQ

First post belongs to Ye Dang.  We went here months ago, so forgive me if you notice some memory lapses. Why this for a first post?  So I could write a better review -- the best motivation to go back ASAP.


Verdict:  Best Korean restaurant for a casual date or for eating out with friends and family.  
Damage level:  around P500 per person, more if you're feeling especially gluttonous.
Go here: 1) When you're hungry. 2) When you're more interested with tasty meat rather than Korean boys.

The Koreans have invaded.  And for once, I could say I'm pretty happy about it. I have to thank Leo for dragging us to Ye Dang for a late-night dinner.

I was pretty skeptical to eat Korean, since I'm a Japanese fangirl through and through.  But I admit, I was hooked by the time they served the complimentary starters and side dishes.

Unfortunately, these photos weren't meant to be blogged. can't take away the yummy-ness of  Ye Dang even with crappy photos.  Kimchi, spicy fish cakes, marble potatoes (yup it's somewhere there) and lettuce on one side...

Sweet anchovies, dipping sauces and more greens on the other end.

Did I say that these side dishes are unlimited?  Simply order two meat viands, and you get to request for the  side dishes of your choice to your heart's content.  I personally liked the spicy fish cakes best.  In other reviews, you might also catch a glimpse of mung bean sprouts and minty Korean shiso or Perilla leaves (deulkkae or tŭlkkae).  I think they ran out by the time we got there though, so better come a bit earlier if you want a taste of everything.

You might be tempted to peek at Koreanovela boys in this jam-packed resto, but believe me -- the man-meat isn't as tasty as the red-meat.  We had Pork Belly/Samgyupsal (below) and a beef dish, both of which I couldn't find fault with.  Well, except that my initial impression was that there wasn't enough for three.  You have to understand was late and  the onions and meat were making wonderful sizzling smells from the grill.

Meat is usually cooked on grills atop each table, but you can choose to have it cooked in the kitchen. This would take the fun out of the whole Ye Dang experience though. You might end up smelling a tad bit like BBQ, but it's worth it. If you're worried about the heat and smoke, each table has its own retractable exhaust pipe vent to take care of these.

All the meat was placed in this charcoal griller.

Strike a pose gals.  Aiah with her side dish, and Leo preparing hers the Ye Dang way.  There's only one way to eat here --   get a chopsticks-full of white rice, your favorite side dish, and a slice of juicy meat; wrap the whole shebang in leaves; plunge the mini-sub in sauce; and place the whole thing in your mouth.  I'm salivating just from the sheer memory of it!

We also had Bulgogi by the way, which is the best Bulgogi I've tasted so far... which explains why there are no pictures of that.

Stuffing ourselves silly with unlimited side dishes, two meat dishes, white rice, Bulgogi, cool pandan water, and more unlimited side dishes made us too full even for dessert.  We tried choosing some sweets in the Korean grocery near Ye Dang, but only Leo had the appetite to grab a box of ahem, Japanese Pocky.

I'm still partial to Japanese food, but Ye just make my tummy crave for Korean.

Ye Dang is located at 88 Meralco Ave, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City. It's very near Metrowalk. Call 02-6361461 for reservations.