What You Need To Know About Chowking’s Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken

We have to admit. We’re not fans of sweet and sour. Sure, we’ll eat it but it’s not something we will crave. Maybe it’s because we haven’t found a dish that has the right balance of the sweet and sour flavors. Usually, the dishes — be it pork or fish, have more sourness than sweetness making the eating experience not too enjoyable.

That’s why when we learned that Chowking came out with their version of sweet and sour but this time with a playful twist of using fried chicken as the protein, we knew we had to try it.

Because we wanted to get the full Chowking Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken experience, we ordered them as meals with plain steamed white rice, with egg fried rice, and in lauriat style.

The minute our orders arrived, we couldn’t wait to dig in. Allow us to break down our Chowking Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken sensory experience:

SIGHT. The chicken chunks were just the right size and the portions were just the right amount. The Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken was covered with a red orange sauce that gave the chicken that sheen which made us salivate. The egg fried rice and even our favorite Chicharap added that extra factor in making the dish appetizing.

SMELL. There is nothing like the smell of freshly cooked food. Even with a blindfold, we’re pretty sure that we’ll be able to tell that it was a sweet and sour dish. We noticed that the Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken smelled so good that we already have an idea of how balanced the flavors are. There wasn’t a moment when any of the sweetness or the sourness became overpowering that it offended our noses. The aroma was enough to excite us to taste the dish.

HEARING. The moment our forks sunk into the chicken. There was that undeniable crunch that was music to our ears.

TOUCH. Yes, we did pick a few chicken chunks with our fingers. It was almost as if we’re eating the Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken bar chow style. Even though the meat was dredged and fried, we knew just by the touch that the batter was thin enough to let us get the real taste of the chicken.

And finally,

TASTE. As soon as we took a bite of the Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken, we instantly smiled. Just from the smell, we already knew that the sauce will be well-balanced and we were so glad we’re right. Even though the chicken was coated with the sauce, it was still crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside once we sunk our teeth into the meat. Eating them with the rice made the overall taste more enjoyable. We really liked it with the egg fried rice because it added that savory layer of flavor from the egg as well as other ingredients put into the rice. Before we knew it, we’re about 2 bites away from cleaning our plates.

We couldn’t believe we’re saying this — Chowking Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken completely changed our minds about sweet and sour. It’s definitely a flavor that is worth something to explore more about. As of this writing, we have already been to Chowking three times to get their Sweet ‘n’ Sour Chicken (and Chicharap).

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Tough Cookie Critic’s 10 Best Cookies of 2019

Article by Tough Cookie Critic
Styling by Manila Eat Up and Tough Cookie Critic
Photos by Only The Good Vibes Studio

COOKIES — the classic go-to snack loved by all ages and enjoyed in many ways: warm, cold, dunked in milk, or with scoops of ice cream. My passion for these sweet little treats started not too long ago. During my younger years, I’d be satisfied with any cookie as long as it is sweet and has chocolate in it. There was a time when my sisters would always bake cookies on weekends and holidays for the family, and I would be their official taste tester. That started my obsession with home baked cookies.

If you’re like me with zero baking skills but loves a fresh batch of cookies, then the only option is to go out and buy some. As a stay-at-home mom, I don’t always have the luxury to go to the mall and purchase a box of cookies when the cravings hit. So, I started looking for online bakers thru Instagram and I couldn’t believe there were a ton of them. I tried out a few brands, some were really good and some were meh. Then I got to thinking, why not dedicate a page solely for cookies? That’s when Tough Cookie Critic was born on Instagram.

@ToughCookieCritic is a page where I give my unbiased and unfiltered opinion on all the cookies I come across on the quest to find cookies worth raving about. Having tried over 100 cookie brands for the past few months, I believe I’ve developed an incredible and, I’d like to also think, a credible palate for cookies. To rate the overall quality of each cookie, I use a scale of 1 to 5 — 5-star means exceptional, 3-star means satisfactory, and anything lower means disappointing.  Relatively, there is no absolute best cookie but my goal is to guide everyone to make informed decisions when choosing which cookie to get. This is why I created my list of 10 Best Cookies for this year and divided the cookies into 2 categories — Crunchy & Chewy and Soft & Gooey. So, with my best effort to be fair, accurate, and truthful, here’s my ranked list per category.

CRUNCHY & CHEWY

1. GourmetFinds 

BIG is an understatement when describing GourmetFind’s crowd-pleasing cookies. These muffin-like heavenly baked goods are 4.5-inch wide, almost 1.5-inch thick, and weigh around 170g (6oz) each. It’s loaded with expensive-as-hell Valrhona chocolate and has that perfect slight crunch on the outside and chewy on the inside consistency guaranteed to make you drool from the very first bite up to the last.

Recommended Flavors: Chocolate Chip Walnut and Dark Chocolate Choc Chip

Facebook: GourmetFinds
Contact: +639217622240

2. Moloko Handcrafted Cookies

I am a firm believer of this brand. Moloko Cookies sure do know how to play with ingredients and up the cookie game. From their classic chocolate chip cookies to those out-of-the-ordinary flavors, they seem to get it right every time. Moloko’s NY-Style cookies are to-die-for with its intensely crunchy crust topped with sea salt flakes and delightfully gooey chocolate filling. These 5oz cookies are packed with premium ingredients, mixing 4-5 kinds of chocolate (including Malagos and Valrhona) all in one cookie.

Recommended Flavors: NY-Style Chips n’ Chunx and NY-Style 5-Chocolate

Instagram: @molokocookies

3. Pink Bakery by Ange

When it comes to classic chocolate chip cookies, Pink Bakery by Ange steals the top spot! These palm-sized 100g cookies are perfectly chewy with beautifully browned crisp edges. It is soft in the middle yet firm enough to keep the whole piece together. The dough has an appealing toasty caramelized flavor with an unrefined texture. Its chewy and gooey interior has an ample amount of molten chocolate chips making your every bite satisfyingly chocolatey.

Instagram: @pinkbakerybyange

4. Mo Cookies

These 4.5-inch bigger-than-your-palm cookies have been wildly popular and deserve the spotlight it has been given. Mo’ Cookies currently has 9 flavors, but the Dark Chocolate Macadamia definitely made a mark on me. It has a crisp crunchy edge and chewy center with a toasted brown buttery dough and huge dark chocolate chunks and macadamias visible on top. Bitter, sweet and salty all in one tasty treat!

Instagram: @mocookiesforyou

5. Inglorious Cookies

Inglorious Cookies is a famous cookie brand in Cebu. While it can be quite expensive to ship packages from Cebu to Manila, I assure you it’s worth the expense. Their Aldo cookie (Walnut Chocolate Chip) is the total opposite of their brand name—it’s glorious! A 4.5-inch cookie with golden brown crisp exterior and soft and chewy interior studded with dark chocolate chips. But, the real game changer in this is the walnut. Chopped walnuts in every bite are literally impossible to miss.

Instagram: @ingloriouscookies

 

SOFT & GOOEY

1. D’s Craft Kitchen

Hands down to these cookies! You can never go wrong with any of their 3 flavors. These cookies are perfect in every way: the sweetness, the size, the moistness, the softness, the gooeyness, and the overall taste. Everyone will instantly fall head over heels for D’s Craft Kitchen cookies. I love how it’s not overly done, nothing too over the top or too different. Its simplicity is enticing enough, but the experience in each bite will take you to a whole other level.

Instagram: @dscraftkitchen

2. Keikookies

Keikookies achieved perfection in its own unique way. Its dough clearly sets these cookies apart from the rest: chewy, smooth, soft outside to inside and has a fudge-like consistency. Their 5oz cookie will surely win everyone’s hearts with its distinct, incomparable and mind-blowing texture. All of its flavor has a unique blend of ingredients which makes it irresistibly good and satisfying. Whether classic or not-so-classic flavors, it offers the best of its kind!

Instagram page: @keikookies.ph

3. Sweetsmith

These 100g cookies have good-tasting buttery dough with loads of chocolates and a nice texture. The outside has a subtle crisp thin layer and once you break that layer, your teeth will automatically sink into its soft, moist, and gooey interior. It comes in 6 yum-worthy flavors, but a definite must-try is their Cranberry Oatmeal—a flavor like no other! Whatever kind of cookie you are craving, Sweetsmith has something to offer that will fit your taste.

Instagram page: @sweetsmithmnl

4. Quinn’s Bakery

Quinn’s cookies have a thin crisp exterior and the softest chocolatey interior. It is consistently ultra-rich, thick, dense, and gives a pleasurable melt-in-your-mouth experience. If you are into soft-baked cookies, this is the perfect one for you! Their newest flavor, White Chocolate Macadamia, is definitely not to be missed!

Instagram page: @quinnsbakery

5. Aperitif

This cookie does not look much on the outside, but all the goodness is hiding inside! Aperitif’s Ooey Gooey Chocolate Chip cookie is sinfully rich and gooey and loaded with an obscene amount of chocolate. Heating this up will bring out more of its flavor and edge.

Instagram page: @aperitif_ph

 

That’s the entire ranking for each category. I might create another list for 2020 — who knows? But for now, Manila Eat Up and I would like to encourage all of you to support our local sellers and local brands.

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Why Traveling 30kms To Oh My Tea Was Worth It

Along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City, there’s a milk tea place with milk tea so good that we willingly traveled 30 kilometers for. The place is called Oh My Tea.

We bravely faced the notorious Metro Manila traffic to try Oh My Tea‘s bestselling Thai Milk Tea. Their Thai Milk Teas are made from 100% imported and authentic Thai tea, they are blended with select premium ingredients and meticulously prepared  according to Thai tradition. So you can be assured that each cup is as authentic as those available in Thailand.

First thing we had was their Oh My Tea Thai Red Milk Tea. The most famous type of milk tea that can be found in the streets of Thailand. It’s made with pure Thai red tea that’s refreshing and mildly sweet with only a hint of tea.

Second thing on the list was Oh My Tea Royal Milk Tea which was a slightly intense version of the Thai Red Milk Tea. The taste of the red tea is more prominent in this one with its earthy and rich flavor. Just a trivia— this is the way Thai royals make their teas.

Between the 2 Thai Milk Teas, we personally prefer the Thai Royal Milk Tea.

Aside from the Thai selections, we also tried 2 more. We got excited when we saw matcha on their menu. It’s a no-brainer, we gotta try it.

Oh My Tea’s Thai Matcha is quite different from the usual Japanese matcha we’re used to. The Thai green tea OMT used gave a mild and subdued matcha flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. But it’s still good, nonetheless.

Last thing we tried was their popular classic pearl milk tea— Oh My Tea Signature Milk Tea. This OMT version is creamier and richer with just the right kick of high grade Taiwanese black tea.

4 Milk Teas in one day! We got our 2 favorites from all we tasted— the Thai Royal Milk Tea and Thai Matcha. Totally worth the trip.

Check out Oh My Tea on Instagram and on Facebook.

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4 Ways GoGourmet Saved Us

Once upon a time, life used to be slow and steady. Now, with the workforce landscape continuously changing along with technological improvements, life is becoming more fast-paced and dynamic.

Enter the busy lives of everyone— with work, family obligations, managing the household, personal plans, and social commitments, people are wearing different hats and mastering the art of multitasking. One of the things that gets sacrificed is nutrition which basically translates to food. Hustling 24/7 makes it challenging for people to not only eat balanced meals but to also eat home-cooked meals. That’s when GoGourmet comes to the rescue!

Introducing GoGourmet, the first-ever meal kit in the Philippines. It started August 2017 by a group of chefs whose main concern is to bring delicious food to the tables of people with ease and efficiency. And that’s exactly what we experienced when we got some of their meal kits— both School Meal Kits and Everyday Meal Kits.

Let us tell you 4 fantastic reasons why GoGourmet is our kitchen savior:

1. It saved us time.

Having always a jam-packed schedule, it’s a challenge to carve out time to plan meals, to go to the grocery store or farmer’s market, to prep the ingredients, and to actually cook. GoGourmet cuts those activities in half. Instead of going to the market, we only needed to go the GoGourmet website to look at their sizable menu and decide which home-cooked meals we would like to eat for the week and next coming weeks. There’s a wide selection of dishes— from Filipino dishes to Mexican to American to French to Chinese. They even have soups and salads. After we ordered and paid online, we were given the delivery date. The online shopping time only took us about 10 minutes. It saved us quite a good amount of time to drive to the store, get stuck in traffic, and wait in line at the cashier.

2. It saved us space.

On days and weeks we know that we’ll be home, we plan our meals. Of course we always want fresh ingredients and do our best to steer away from canned products. Most of the time, we buy ingredients by bunches, by bulbs, by packs, by kilos, by jars, and by bottles which take up space in the fridge and the pantry. When we got our GoGourmet meals kits, the ingredients were measured and packed individually. Everything we need to make the dish is included in the kit. By stacking the containers neatly, it saved us space in the fridge.

3. It saved us money.

This is the part that attracted us the most to GoGourmet. Both their Everyday Meal Kits and School Meal Kits are well-priced. With their menu selection, we can enjoy different dishes at home which would have cost us more if we’ll go to the market and buy or go to a restaurant and dine.

4. It saved us. Period.

Having these ready-to-cook GoGourmet meal kits at home saved us from making unhealthy food choices and obviously, from starvation. We appreciate that they even put the nutritional information on their packet so we know exactly how many calories each dish has.

Aside from that, the dishes were easy to make— take out ingredients from the package, get the stove going, follow the simple instructions that came with the kit, cook like you’ve been cooking your entire life, plate up, and serve. Most of the dishes we cooked barely took us 30 minutes to make, from start to finish. That’s even faster than Rachel Ray! We even had one of our friends, who never had any cooking experience (not even to boil an egg), cook one meal and it came out great! She said that it was so easy that even a kitchen novice like her can pull it off.

Porkchop with Mustard Sauce

The 2 best things about our GoGourmet experience— it ignited our fire to start cooking again and it made us enjoy delicious home-cooked meal, fuss free.

We love GoGourmet so much that we already put in our orders for this week. Their Porkchop with Mustard Sauce and Tequila Lime Chicken with Avocado-Black Bean Salsa are our top 2 favorites.

To show you how easy it is to cook a GoGourmet Meal Kit, here’s a video of us making their Adobo Mango Salad.

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The Lokal Food Park is Ready with 16 Food Stalls For You To Try

We admit, we haven’t been to any food parks. For the past months, Metro Manila suddenly exploded with food parks of all shapes and sizes along with vendors selling all sorts of deliciousness. The idea of a food park is not new— it’s basically a food court with food vendors of about 15 or more situated within the space. However, food courts usually have food vendors that are already well-known. They’re mostly established restaurants that want to reach out to a wider audience by putting stalls or kiosks, thereby making their dishes more accessible. The thing we like about food parks is that they embrace homegrown brands. With food partners being mostly small to medium enterprises, food parks give local food brands the chance to showcase their food concepts to the consumers at a reasonable cost. We’ve seen food parks that operate in open wide spaces similar to weekend markets and food parks designed in a compound with enclosures to protect diners from the changing weather. Either way, they are good venues to catch up with family and friends while food tripping at the same time.

Speaking of food tripping, we finally got to have our very first food park experience when we checked out the newest food destination in Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City called The Lokal Foodpark. Just a month old since they had their grand launch, The Lokal Foodpark has about 16 homegrown food partners that offer different cuisines and different types of food— from burgers to noodles to rice meals to chicken wings to milkshakes to name a few. They’re going to open more new food concepts in the next coming months so there are still a lot to get excited about. The moment we got to the venue, we instantly felt that easygoing, friendly vibe. We like the fact that the place is not cramped and the area is spacious enough to move about. They have a few parking spaces in front and since it’s beside a gasoline station, diners can also park their vehicles there. Since we’d like to enjoy more natural light and see the street from above, we got a table on the 2nd floor. We also saw some interesting murals on the 2nd floor where people can have their artistic photos taken which can up their social media game. We were so excited for this food trip that we arrived at 3:00pm, the exact time the food park opens.

We’re thankful that the place is well-ventilated with heavy duty electric fans installed in all possible corners so we didn’t need to worry about sweating like pigs while eating. As soon as we got our table, we headed to all the stalls to check out their food. Let us show you what we feasted on:

1. Potato Giant

We started off light. We figured we’d like to get to the snacks first then move our way to the meals so we will get full slowly but surely. When we saw Potato Giant, we instantly knew we’ll start our gastronomic journey with them. We got 3 items from them— Cheesy Bacon Pot Pots, Potato Balls with Bacon and Mozzarella, and Mojo Potato in Sour Cream. Pot Pots are simply thinly-sliced potatoes fried to a crisp. We like that the batter was light and airy that it didn’t weigh down the potatoes but it kept them crispy enough even when smothered with cheese and bacon bits. The potato balls were flavorful though we would’ve wanted more mozzarella to get that creamy and slightly chewy texture. The mojo potatoes, on the other hand, were crispy and generously covered with sour cream powder. Amongst the 3 items we got, The Cheese Bacon Pot Pots is the one we will order again.

2. Shuma Gorath

Next stop was Shuma Gorath. Just by the name itself, we couldn’t help but be intrigued on what they offer. Allow us to geek out a little bit here. As far as we know, Shuma Gorath is a fictional character which first appeared in comic books published by Marvel Comics and is considered the ruler of a hundred alternate universes. Shuma Gorath has one big eye in the middle (more like Mike Wazowski of Monsters Inc.) and has about 6-8 green tentacles (the drawings vary). So when we saw that they’re selling Takoyaki, we somehow had an idea on the origin of the store’s name. Shuma Gorath looks like an octopus and Takoyaki is a Japanese street food which means octopus balls. We appreciate the fact that Shuma Gorath uses real octopus and not squid. By the way, they also offer Matcha Iced Tea Latte which we think tastes better than some of the matcha drinks we got from well-known cafes.

3. Chicken Busters

Of course we’ve got to have some chicken wings. We are a big fan of chicken wings, especially the hot spicy kind but we decided to try their bestsellers— Honey Garlic Wings and Salted Egg Wings. Since we like the sharp, strong taste of garlic combined with the deep, earthy sweetness of honey, we totally enjoyed their Honey Garlic Wings.

4. Everything But Cheese

In some cases, being too cheesy is a good thing. Most especially when one talks about the Pizza Cheeseburger where you can barely see the beef patty because it’s covered entirely in cheesiness; or about the Honey Parmesan Cheeseburger where the blend of sweet and salty comes in play; or about the Cheese Fondue where you can dip all the sausages and fries you like in a pool of melted gooey cheese on a bread bowl. We totally enjoyed their Cheese Fondue. If you want to go all out cheesy while on a date, this is the one to get. Not only does it tastes good, it’s also a good conversation starter.

5. Pizzeria Manila

A food trip won’t be complete without pizza and we’re glad that The Lokal Foodpark has Pizzeria Manila. They have more than 10 different pizza varieties but one thing caught our eye when we were looking at the menu— Seafood Pizza. It’s not often that we see squid and mussels as pizza toppings so naturally, we got curious. Our curiosity paid off because their Seafood Pizza is very good. The breaded squid were tender, the mussels were buttery, and the nori strips tied everything together with its mild sweet-salty flavor. We also like that even though the crust was thin, it held all the ingredients well without being soggy.

6. El Bigotilyo

True story: We love Mexican food. We love it so much that there was a time when we’d make it a point to eat in different Mexican food joints being run by Mexicans at least thrice a week the last time we travelled in the US. Not to mention the frequent lunches and dinners we enjoyed that our Mexican neighbors hosted. That’s why we got excited when we saw El Bigotilyo’s Mojado. Their massive wet burrito is deep-fried chimichanga-style smothered with salsa roja and salsa verde, topped with torched mozzarella and cheddar cheese. One bite of their wet burrito made us dance in our seats. The flavors just exploded in our mouths. We can appropriately say that El Bigotilyo‘s Mojado was bomb. No wonder it’s their signature dish. Had we not ordered food from other stalls, we’d easily wipe the plate clean!

7. Bucketlist

When we saw the word kebab, we knew we’ve got to try Bucketlist. We wanted to order more dishes from them but since we still had a lot more food vendors to go to, we got ourselves their Chicken Kebab Rice. The chicken was tender and has that distinct Persian flavor that we’re looking for. The sides of onions, cucumber, and tomatoes gave the dish more vibrance. The sauces were garlicky, spicy, and has a hint of sweetness. As for us, we’ll request them to put the sauces on the side the next time we go back so we’ll be able to play around with the flavors.

8. Chuckatoo’s Steak Shack

On to the meaty part of our gastronomic journey. We know that if we won’t try Chuckatoo’s Steak Shack, it’s going to be a huge misteak! A family-owned business, their main objective is to provide the best steak experience to the food-loving public at an affordable price. We got 2 items from them—Signature Steak which is beef tenderloin cooked with their secret spices and Porterhouse Steak which comes with their homemade special gravy. The steaks were cooked and seasoned well which are big pluses in our food books.

9. iSeafood

We’ve always been on a seafood diet. Whenever we seafood, we eat them. So obviously, we consumed iSeafood‘s Garlic Buttered Shrimp the minute we saw it. Amongst the food we love, shrimp is one of them. We love it so much that whenever we get the chance to go to the fresh seafood market, we’d buy them in kilos, cook them in different styles incorporating different flavors, and eat them with our bare hands. The thing we like about iSeafood‘s dish is that the shrimps were plump and meaty which made eating it enjoyable. We would’ve wanted to get their paella, sea and chips, and few other dishes but we still have more stalls to try so we’ll have them next time.

10. Mang-Si-Peng

With all the K-drama and the K-pop coming out, it’s no wonder Filipinos are more curious now about what the Koreans eat. Korean cuisine has been in the Philippine food scene for a long time but it was only a few years back when the consumers started to pay attention to Korean food. One of the things we tried in The Lokal Foodpark‘s Mang-Si-Peng was their Korean Ramen. IT.WAS.THE.BOMB. Not only were the pork, vegetables, kimchi, egg, and noodles flavorful, the broth was something else. It was light, well-balanced, comforting, and most of all HOT. Hot in terms of temperature and hot in terms of heat level. We immediately felt as if we were punched on the face by just having one long sip of the hot broth. It was everything we wished a Korean ramen would be.

11. Pok & Wok

When you see Chinese food being prepared by Chinese folks, you know you’re in for a delicious surprise. And that’s exactly what we got from Pok and Wok. We ordered 3 items— Honey Fire Chicken, Asado Back Ribs, and Vegetarian Fried Rice. Everything was delicious. The chicken was tender with well-balanced flavors of sweet and salty and the heat is just enough to keep you salivating for more. The ribs were perfectly cooked with just the right amount of smoky and earthy. The fried rice can already be a meal in itself. Amongst the 3 items we tasted, the Honey Fire Chicken wins.

12. Wattabox

It basically means “what’s inside the box”. They offer Filipino bar chows and food that you can often pair with beer (which can be almost everything for us Filipinos). We got their all-time favorite Chicken Ala Savory which boasts of flavors close to, if not similar, to the well-loved chicken restaurant Classic Savory. We can say that if you’re far from Classic Savory branch or if you’re craving for a good chicken while in The Lokal Foodpark, Wattabox‘s chicken dish will satisfy that craving.

13. Maceo Maceo

This is one food item that we can’t wait to get our hands on again. This is called Arroz Con Pollo. Imagine a deconstructed version of chicken arroz caldo but still with all the bells and whistles. One would think that it’s just a simple sautéed chicken that came with fried rice, egg, and fish sauce. But as the old cliché goes “don’t judge a book by its cover”, we definitely shouldn’t pass judgement on this one yet just by the way it looks. The rice is cooked in arroz caldo broth incorporating all its flavorful goodness making the rice taste like you are seriously eating an arroz caldo. The dipping sauce is a patis-calamansi vinaigrette which has ginger and garlic bits to make the flavors bolder and sharper. There’s a rhyme, rhythm, and reason in eating this dish. Let’s start with the rhyme and rhythm— 1) break the egg on top of the rice to enjoy some egg porn; 2) mix the egg with the rice; 3) get some pieces of chicken; 4) dip the chicken in the sauce; 5) eat it followed with rice or eat it together with the rice. Very simple instructions. Now for the reason why you need to eat and try Maceo Maceo‘s Arroz Con Pollo: because it’s one of the best things we’ve tasted! Amongst all the rice dishes we ate in The Lokal Foodpark, we emptied the bowl up to the last grain of rice with this one.

14. Food Bliss

Another set of rice meals that we had was Pork Salpicao 2.0 and Hungarian Sausage from Food Bliss. Not only do we like the portion sizes, we also like their dishes. The pork salpicao was perfectly tender and beautifully marinated.  The Hungarian sausage was how we always prefer our sausages— thick and meaty. Between the two, we’d go back for the Pork Salpicao 2.0.

Just when we’re about to inhale the food, we found out that Food Bliss also serves coffee and coffee-based drinks. Since it was a particularly hot day, we decided to give their Banoffee Pie Frap a shot and we were so glad we did! The flavors were so balanced that we could taste the coffee, chocolate, and banana all in one sip. It was creamy and dreamy. Definitely a must-order.

15. Tutti Frutti

Just from the name itself you know that you’re going to have some delicious fun. As soon as we saw Tutti Frutti‘s clean white stall with pops of colors here and there, we decided to get something playful, colorful, and wonderful. We got their Nutella Milkshake with all the cute gummy bears and their S’mores Milkshakes with all the marshmallows. Both were yummy, so it’s a tie. If we were you, we’d just get both.

16. Gulp Station

When you’re thirsty, Gulp Station has your back. They sell drinks from iced teas to lemonades to juices to local beers to imported beers to cocktails. One of the things that got us saying ‘whoa’ was their Blue Lemonade that’s in a bubble gum glass container. They figured having tall glasses might not cut it for the super thirsty so they decided to go short but stout. Their regular-sized Blue Lemonade is good for 1 to 2 people. We also ordered their large Red Iced Tea that’s good for 3 to 4 people and looks like a sink!

We got to successfully try the food in all of The Lokal Foodpark‘s 16 food partners. Here’s our Top 5:

  1. El Bigotilyo
  2. Maceo Maceo
  3. Pok & Wok
  4. Food Bliss
  5. Mang-Si-Peng

We spent about 3 hours eating, drinking, and chatting. We like that the music is not too loud so we can still hear each other. The staff were very helpful and courteous. Shoutout to our favorite staff, Ryan, who was extremely attentive, friendly, and funny.

We can now say that we’re no longer food park virgins. To The Lokal Foodpark, thanks for a good first time experience!

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Check out The Lokal Foodpark on Instagram and on Facebook.

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How Davao Welcomed Us— Street Grub Style

After 8 years, we got to see Davao again. We were ready to see the changes in the landscape and the food scene because we’re aware that a lot can happen in 8 years. True enough, Davao greeted us with new structures, new establishments, new food places, and new traffic situation. Heavy or not, traffic didn’t deter us from checking out our first food stop— Street Grub.

Karlo Mercado, the man behind Street Grub, said that he wanted to share his love for food and travel by giving the food-loving public a dose of his food discoveries during his many travels. The place is well-lit and adorned with graffiti which has the similar vibe of wall arts you see in many countries. The artworks made the space hip and friendly.

Being the eager beaver that we are, we decided to get some of their bestsellers starting with their Chef’s Burger. When this 150-gram beef patty sandwiched between brioche buns and adorned with red onions, arugula, homemade yogurt sauce, and cheese sauce came out, it definitely made us smile. Nothing spells food porn than a perfectly oozing cheese on top of a juicy burger patty.

The next thing we got was their Rib Eye Shawarma Wrap. They wrapped the rib eye steak in homemade pita with Greek salsa, lettuce, and yogurt sauce. Since we love heat, we had them put some spicy sauce to the mix. To add more personality to the dish, we dipped the shawarma in their garlic mayo sauce.

We’re all about the beef so we also got their French Dip. To fully enjoy dipping the beef sandwich in aus jus sauce, we had them cut in bite-sized portions. The dish may look simple but the flavors were spot-on.

When we saw Red Hot Wings on the menu, we knew had to have it. We even told their kitchen not to hold back on the heat level. Yes, we’d like to deliciously punish ourselves sometimes. They went perfectly well with their sour cream aioli.

Speaking of sour cream aioli, the last thing we ordered was their newest offering on the menu— Crispy Pork Sandwich which came with the dip mentioned. Now this one is a surefire winner in our book! The perfectly cooked and spice-coated pork was crispy and tasty. The coleslaw added that refreshing touch to the dish. Their sour cream aioli was amazing that we’re willing to buy them in jars in case they’ll bottled it up to sell! We have to say that Street Grub makes mean dips— from the garlic mayo to the aus jus to the sour cream aioli.

Overall, our visit to Street Grub was an enjoyable one. It was definitely how we want to be welcomed in Davao on our first day.

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Check out Street Grub on Instagram and on Facebook.

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Mantra Bistro: Experience Northern India in Manila

The Philippine food scene has grown positively throughout the years. Aside from more Filipinos getting the opportunity to travel the world and be exposed to different cultures via food, the birth of Business Process Outsource industry (popularly known as the Call Center industry) opened the country to more foreign visitors— Americans, Europeans, Australians, and Indians to name a few. The diversity of nationalities visiting the Philippines allowed diversity and innovations in the country’s food culture too. We got introduced to different cuisines apart from the usual Chinese, Japanese, and American that make up the majority of the restaurants. One of the cuisines that made its way into the Manila food scene is Indian cuisine.

Speaking of Indian cuisine, let us introduce you to Mantra Bistro. A passion project of owner, Ranjit Chimni, Mantra Bistro was established to give the food-loving public the chance to experience authentic Northern Indian cuisine the way its meant to be, with no compromise on quality and the experience. Since we mentioned the word experience, allow us to share with you our beautiful Mantra Bistro experience.

We found the restaurant tucked in Grand Midori along Bolanos Street in Legazpi Village, Makati City. The moment we stepped inside the restaurant and saw the simple yet cozy interior, we knew that we’re in for a good time.

We were served some Fried Papadum as our first appetizer. Also known as Papad, it’s made of peeled black gram/lentil flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, kneaded, flattened, and served either fried or cooked with dry heat. Our first encounter with fried papadum was during our backpacking trip in India a few years back. Quite new to the Indian cuisine, we were so eager to try everything foodwise. The closest we can associate fried papad with are fried wontons or tostada chips when it comes to its crispness but it has that quality that melts in your mouth the second it touches it. Even though Mantra Bistro included a tamarind chutney to serve as a dip, their fried papad were tasty enough that we didn’t really need the sauce.

Mantra Bistro has vegetarian options too. They have dishes that cater to people on that diet. Since we love vegetables, we got their Tandoori Broccoli and their Green Pea Tikki. Both were delicious. The broccoli florets were marinated in lemon and cheese before thrown to the grill which contributed to its smoky flavor. We’ve got to admit that we’re not a big fan of green peas so we’re quite hesitant to taste their Green Pea Tikki. But we also believe in the “Don’t knock it till you try it” motto so we gave it a shot. And we’re so glad we did! The green pea patties were stuffed with cheese and spices and everything nice and they were totally off-the-hook! Who would have thought that a simple patty can convert us to like green peas? As of this writing, we have gone back the second time to Mantra Bistro and the first thing we ordered were the green pea patties!

The next dish we ordered is perfect for cheese lovers. We got the Paneer Tikka— cubes of cottage cheese marinated in yogurt and Tandoori spices, put on skewers, and chargrilled. It has that firm tofu texture with that creamy flavor. Let us tell you a secret: one thing we absolutely love in Mantra Bistro is the mint chutney! It’s the perfect condiment to mostly everything we ordered! We wish they’re selling them in bottles so we can bring them home and smother every food we have with it.

On to the meaty part of our Mantra Bistro visit. We got a selection of chicken dishes— Chicken Achari Tikka (spicy boneless pickle spiced kebab), Afghani Tangri Kebab (drumstick marinated in yogurt, cheese, and ginger garlic paste), Chicken Tikka (fillet marinated in yogurt and Indian red pepper), and Murg Malai Tikka (boneless marinated in yogurt, spices, cheese, and ginger garlic paste). Be it spicy, garlicky, peppery, and smoky, each chicken dish has a distinct flavor that’s full-bodied and mouthwatering. Amongst the 4, our top pick was the Murg Malai Tikka.

By the way, Mantra Bistro has a bar so you can pair their lovely Indian food with cocktails of your choice. If you fancy a non-alcoholic beverage, they offer their popular refreshing yogurt-based drink called Lassi.

With all the chicken dishes we got, we decided to get a different meat this time. Ranjit told us that we should try their newest beef dish on the menu called Beef Tenderloin. The name might just appear to be simple to you and me but the flavors were definitely not. The beef was juicy, tender, a bit tangy, and a bit spicy. The aroma of the spices was enough to make us salivate.

Since we want to reserve the rice consumption for when we get the biryani, we ordered the Garlic Naan and Lacha Paratha. The aroma of these freshly-made flatbreads was undeniably hypnotic, most especially the Garlic Naan.

We saved the best 2 dishes for last because we believe in ending a feast with a bang. These are our personal Indian food favorites— Shrimp Biryani and Rogan Josh.

We love anything biryani and Mantra Bistro‘s Shrimp Biryani variety sounds inviting. True enough, when the bowl teeming with hot rice mixed with spices were placed in front of us, it didn’t only sound inviting, it was everything inviting. The sight, the smell,  the feel, and the taste. The Rogan Josh, on the other hand, brought back a lot of our beautiful memories of India. It also brought back those inebriated days when we’d sober up with a spicy serving of Rogan Josh and naan (but that’s for another article, maybe). The lamb was cooked in curry, tomatoes, and Indian spices. We specifically requested the Rogan Josh to be more spicy because we enjoy it more that way.

Inasmuch as we want to get Kulfi, their Indian ice cream, we didn’t have much space in our already bloated bellies. We’ll try it next time. Another reason to go back.

Our lunch was nothing short of amazing. We’re so glad to have found our little slice of Northern India in the middle of the metropolis. You can have that experience too— Mantra Bistro has got you covered.

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Check out Mantra Bistro on Instagram and on Facebook.

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7 Places in 2 Days— #BestOfTheCoastPH, Boracay Photo Diary Edition

When you’ve been to a place numerous times, our 6th visit to date, you’d like to think that you already know the place inside out— the restaurants, the hotels, the activities, and the beaches. But this is not always the case whenever we visit Boracay Island. Especially on this recent trip.

With our friends Pepe of @pepesamson, Ramil and Edgar of @pinasmuna, and Elei of @iameleimath, we trooped to Boracay Island at the start of summer to experience some of the best the island has to offer, thereby dubbing the trip #BestOfTheCoastPH. Since we know that we will only be in Boracay just for the weekend, our official airline partner, Cebu Pacific, flew us from Manila to Caticlan for faster travel. And for a more efficient travel, we used the Cebu Pacific Air app so we can book flights and do online check-ins from our smartphones. After an hour on the plane and a 5-minute speed boat ride, we’re already on the island.

The moment we arrived, we instantly felt the positive energy of the island. Seeing the blue-green waters with the summer sun casting a silver sheen on the soft waves was enough to put a huge grateful smile on our faces.

Now we’re ready to show you some of the 7 best places we went to for 2 wonderful days in Boracay Island.

1. COAST

Our home for the weekend. Ranked No. 1 in Trip Advisor, Coast, is currently the best hotel in Boracay! From the beachfront view, to the building design, to the amenities, to the accommodations, and to the restaurant, Coast definitely lives up to its rank. We were housed on the 2nd floor which gave us a good view of the swimming pool. Our room was lovely– with its tropical paradise decor and white clean sheets. Not only did we get welcome drinks when we entered the hotel lobby, we also got a welcome cheese and fruit plate with a bottle of red when we entered our room.

Admittedly, it was difficult to get out of bed the next day. It’s that choice to either stay in to enjoy the fluffy pillows, firm bed, and cold comfortable room or stay out to enjoy the fine sand, clear waters, and hot summer sunshine. Well, the struggle only lasted for a couple of minutes because after that, we found ourselves skipping and hopping towards the beach.

The service in Coast was impeccable. Everyone was friendly, accommodating, knowledgeable, and attentive while constantly wearing smiles on their faces. The buffet breakfast that came with the stay was delicious. Don’t worry, we’ll tell you more about our Coast experience on a separate story soon.

2. LOS INDIOS BRAVOS

Not wasting time, we headed over to Los Indios Bravos half an hour after dropping our bags off in Coast. Situated in Bulabog, the restaurant is just walking distance from the main highway. With its red leather couches and dark wooden benches, the place definitely has that Spanish pub feel that spells good beer, good food, and good people. Speaking of good beer, we love the fact that Los Indios Bravos serve local craft beers such as Joe’s Brew, Crazy Carabao, and Nipa Brew to name a few. Of course, we didn’t pass up the opportunity to try some beers to go with the dishes the restaurant prepared for us. After all, every hour is happy hour in Boracay. Well, that’s what we go by when on the island.

The dish that welcomed us as soon as we reached our table was the Cobb Salad. When you have a salad that has Cajun grilled chicken, smoked salmon, bacon, and blue cheese, you know it’s going to be one helluva salad! And it definitely was.

Their creamy and savory Chorizo and Mushroom Risotto was like a well-seasoned dream.  Amongst the dishes we had the pleasure of enjoying, their Veal Cheeks, and Seafood Platter were one of the reasons why this life is worth living. Our dining experience in Los Indios Bravos deserves a longer airtime so we’ve decided to share it with you soon on a separate article. For the meantime, please take our word when we say that Los Indio Bravos’s Seafood Platter is the best in Boracay.

3. SOLANA AT SHANGRI-LA

In our opinion, Boracay has one of the best sunsets in the Philippines. Every sunset is different— some dramatic, some simple, but always perfect. It’s no wonder we found ourselves in Shangri-La’s Boracay’s Solana happily lounging in their private beachside cabana sipping their fabulous cocktails (our personal favorite was their Lemon Basil Cocktail) while watching the sun set on the horizon.

There is something about sunsets that captivate us. Maybe it’s the thought that we survived another day and that tomorrow is a new day for another fresh start, or maybe it’s the embrace of that peaceful warm last rays of the sun while seeing the light paint the sky with incredible hues. Whatever the reason, the sunset lovers in us were greatly satisfied.

4. CHA CHA’S BEACH CAFE

After savoring the breathtaking sunset, we went back to Coast to have dinner at their restaurant called Cha Cha’s Beach Cafe. Since it was a breezy summer night, we opted to dine at the beach. Coast is a hotel concept of Raintree which makes Cha Cha’s Beach Cafe another one of Raintree’s restaurants. We love their restaurants—Stella, Rocket Room, Kabila, and Chelsea Kitchen amongst the many concepts they have. That’s why when we learned about Coast and Cha Cha’s being part of Raintree, we had full confidence that this trip was going to be awesome.

We started the night with some cocktails and some Cold Spicy Salmon and Tuna Poke Bowl. We’re suckers for good poke bowls and this didn’t disappoint. The freshness of both salmon and tuna were evident which made us thoroughly enjoy the dish. We got excited when we saw that our favorite Winner Winner Fried Chicken, which was our staple in Raintree’s Providore, was on the menu. Of course, we had to get it.

As expected, our dinner was delicious but the 2 standout dishes we had were Cha Cha’s Mixed Plate Grill and Cold Seafood Platter. Nothing beats savoring the taste of the tropical island life with grilled meat and fresh seafood.

5. DOS MESTIZOS

Our first night in Boracay ended on a good note so we brought the good vibes over to Dos Mestizos the following day. One of the oldest restaurants on the island, Dos Mestizos is popular for bringing a little bit of Spain to Boracay.

As soon as we entered the establishment, happy hour instantly started. When your welcome drink is a glass of Sangria, you know you’re going to have an amazing lunch.

Tapas of all shapes and colors started arriving— one after the other, flooding our dinner table. The sights and aroma of Salpicao de Vaca, Jamon Serrano, Gambas Al Ajillo, Queso Manchego, Croquettas de Jamon, Bacalao ala Vizcaina, Tortilla de Patatas, Cochinillo, and Paella Negra were intoxicatingly delicious, enough for us to cheerfully shout “Happy Fiesta!”.

From the feast we ate, their Paella Negra was our top pick.

6. NAMI RESORT

It’s another sunset session on the island and what better location but in Diniwid Beach where Nami Resort is. The name Nami came from the term “namit” which means delicious in the Ilonggo dialect (Hiligaynon). And our experience was delicious indeed— from the view of the ocean, to the view of the sunset, to the food in the restaurant. One of our fondest memories of Nami was riding the semi-open bamboo lift to the restaurant. It gave us a great view of the beach while going up about 7 storeys high from the ocean deck.

After watching the beautiful sunset, it was time to enjoy the beautiful food. By the way, make sure to get the table by the window to fully savor the beach view.

We started our early dinner with a few appetizers— Caprese Salad, Mesclun and Watermelon Salad, and Nami’s bestseller, Mushroom Tarts. We didn’t have any shortages of entrée— Honey Bourbon ChickenPan-Seared Salmon, Breaded Dijon Porkchop, Mixed Seafood Platter. Call us biased but our favorite amongst the list was their Pan-Seared Salmon. Our love of salmon prevailed on this dinner.

The sunset that day was spectacular. More spectacular when taken from way up. We’re so happy that Elei brought his drone with him. It gave us a different perspective of the beach and the sunset. Mother Earth is truly amazing.

7. STEAM PUNK

Have you ever had a pre-dinner before the real dinner? It may sound confusing but that’s exactly what we had on our last night in Boracay. Enter Steam Punk, a local burger joint in the middle of  D’Mall. We’re glad to have tried their sandwiches because everything we had was delicious! We stuffed our faces with their Double BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) which compromised of layers and layers of apple-wood smoked bacon and English loin bacon in between sugar-glazed donuts. It was the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Had it not been for the other sandwiches we got, we would’ve finished their BLT. We also had their Shrimp Roll which was totally filling.

Steam Punk also serves Boracay’s famous burger, the Chori Burger. This garlic barbeque glazed chorizo topped with whipped cream cheese and crispy fried onions is an island favorite. As sinful as it is, we paired the Chori Burger with a jumbo serving of their Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Milkshake and it was amazing! If you want to seriously stuff your face with meaty goodness, we suggest you get Steam Punk’s Triple X— half kilo Brazilian beef topped with lettuce, tomato, and onions. Pair it with their Caramel Cheesecake Milkshake and we promise it will make your day.

By the end of 2 days, we were happy, full, and already planning a trip back— a longer trip to be exact. This trip got us to know Boracay even more and made us realize that this island is truly breathtaking in different unique ways.

We’re so lucky to have explored the best places Boracay has to offer with the best people!

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Check out Coast on Instagram and on Facebook. Check out their Website too.

Check out Los Indios Bravos on Instagram and on Facebook. Check out their Website too.

Check out Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa on Instagram and on Facebook. Check out their Website too.

Check out Cha Cha’s Beach Cafe on Instagram and on Facebook.

Check out Dos Mestizos on Instagram and on Facebook. Check out their Website too.

Check out Nami Resort and Spa on Instagram and on Facebook. Check out their Website too.

Check out Steam Punk on Instagram and on Facebook. Check out their Website too.

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All images appearing on this website, unless noted otherwise, are the exclusive property of Manila Eat Up. All images are copyrighted © Manila Eat Up.

Hello Mati’s, Nice to Meat You.

Somewhere along McKinley Hill in Bonifacio Global City is a nice restaurant situated along the Venice Grand Canal called Mati’s Meat and Bread. Anyone who loves Melo’s, one of the famous steakhouses in Manila, should be happy to know that Mati’s is its grandson. That’s why we got totally excited when we learned that we’re going to dine in Mati’s Meat and Bread because we’re so sure that we’ll get to taste quality food . We’re so ready for the meat and greet!

The cozy interior is perfect for dates which can either be a simple catch up with friends or a romantic one, both accompanied with good food and good wine.

We were planning to go straight to the meat part of the “meat and greet” but when we saw Balut Aligue and Gambas Ajillo on the menu, we couldn’t resist.

Known to gastronomic adventurers as boiled bird embryo, balut is one of Philippine delicacies that usually comes with bets and bribes because people, especially foreigners, get weirded out when asked to eat it. We admit, if we didn’t grow up eating balut, we’ll behave the same way too. Luckily, we enjoy eating balut and so when they were served to us in a plate sizzling with aligue (crab fat) sauce, we were all smiles. We appreciated that the bird embryo was small enough to be eaten in one bite and soft enough to melt in the mouth. The aligue added that seafood flavor to the dish which complemented well to the overall taste of the balut. To a person who will eat balut for the first time, this is the perfect dish.

Gambas Ajillo may be regarded as something easy to whip up but aside from the balance of flavors, one of the key things in making this dish was how well the shrimps were cooked. In Mati’s case, they were cooked and seasoned beautifully. The heat from the chilis added personality to the dish, making it quite difficult for us not to order another serving.

If there’s one fish that we can eat every single day, it’s salmon. Raw or cooked, we love salmon. Therefore, this Grilled Norwegian Salmon with Lemon Butter has to be included on our list of things to try in Mati’s Meat and Bread. The freshness of the fish was apparent and the lemon juice we drizzled over the salmon helped brought out the dish’s vibrance. The mashed potato that came with the dish was silky and lovely.

Now, on to the meat and greet proper. Since Mati’s bake their own bread, we wanted to try one of their bestselling sandwiches— the Steak Sandwich. It’s basically a baguette with generous slices of steak smothered with garlic cream cheese. One bite and you’ll get that combination of crunchiness and softness from the bread and that tenderness and juiciness from the meat. We almost forgot the fries that came with it because we were focused on enjoying the sandwich.

For the meatier part of our lunch, we got the Classic Ribeye. Known as the “butcher’s favorite”, our ribeye was cooked just the way we requested— medium. The serving portion is about 150g and with the sides of mashed potato and vegetables, it’s enough for a satisfactory meal.

The Wagyu Salpicao was up next. Our love of garlic is vast and wide so when we saw Mati’s’ gorgeous Wagyu Salpicao, our hearts instantly fluttered. At this point, we just finished our Watermelon Shake and Fresh Dalandan Juice so we asked the wait staff to get us a bottle of good red wine. Wagyu and Wine for lunch, why not?

Last item we got from the menu was their gorgeous Wagyu Tenderloin. All 180 grams of it. The beef was tender but still has that bite. It was so well-seasoned that we almost forgot the gravy that came with it. We ate it together with the Angus Steak Rice which was already a meal in itself!

Contrary to what a lot of people think, the meal we had— even though we got a couple of Wagyu selections, was delightfully affordable. Since Mati’s Meat and Bread is related to Melo’s Steakhouse, they get quality meat from the same source. The grade may be slightly different to make Mati’s prices more accessible but the flavors and the taste are spot on— exactly how you like your steaks.

Since the restaurant is situated along the Venice Grand Canal, you may choose to dine al fresco for that scenic and romantic feel. We’re sure Mati’s would be happy to meat you.

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Check out Mati’s Meat and Bread on Instagram and on Facebook.

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All images appearing on this website, unless noted otherwise, are the exclusive property of Manila Eat Up. All images are copyrighted © Manila Eat Up.