Closure That Soothes

They have created a great number of ice cream flavors, some of them inspired by regional favorites and national treats: champorado with dilis (chocolate rice porridge with anchovies), sapin-sapin (colorful layers of rice cake), green mango with bagoong (fish paste), and the legendary leche flan pie. Some are now regulars and others are limited editions.

Limited Runs

During the ten minutes we were there, I noticed that the silver stand of shelves was unmanned. Posters reminded people of the rules but no lone crew or professional guard to watch over the goings-on. There was an old man who, after finishing flipping through a novel, reminded a couple of the local kids who raided the collection not to bring any of the books home.

Twice a Return

Viewing the collection from Senator Loren Legarda, it looked like a frozen fashion show. All the pieces were delicate and beautiful, like butterflies of plant materials caged by headless and armless mannequins.

Under the Glass: the Special Valentine flavors

Finding Closure

Sebastian’s Cold Comfort predictably came up with special flavors for this year’s Valentine season. These special flavors started in 2014. For three years, customers have seen the Matinong Boyfriend and Matinong Girlfriend change ingredients and flavors, which kept patrons like me wondering how each tastes like.

What's your poison?

Good, Sweet Feelings | Starr’s Famous Shakes

How many times have you chanced on a restaurant that was on its soft opening?

Rare—at least, that’s how it goes for me. I wasn’t that surprised to see a Starr’s Famous Shakes branch at Greenhills because it is near one of the biggest and most prestigious universities in the country. But what surprised me was that it was new and there wasn’t any customer. I even hesitated to enter. If it weren’t for Cat and Kelvin, I might’ve stayed longer outside.

Door to the Starr's
Door to the Starr’s

It was a bright place. For a small restaurant, it didn’t feel that cramped. Until people started coming in and the begin filling the benches.

The girl behind the counter asked what I felt like having. I couldn’t pick. There were just too many options and even more possibilities. Then I saw the Vanilla Blue Heaven and asked what it was. She said that it was just vanilla that was colored blue. I like vanilla. I like blue. I said I’ll have that.

Cat asked if I recommended the PBB&J (Peanut Butter, Banana, and Strawberry Jam). I explained it this way: as a sandwich, it worked. Well, for me and my weird tastes, it worked well. And she knows how weird I could be with food. I added a quick disclaimer: it might have a different result as a drink. So it’s a gamble. Turns out, it was worth the risk for her because she loved it.

Kelvin took a flavor that is close to his place of work: Strawberry, plain and sweet.

We three agreed that the struggle was real. The milkshakes were a thick mix of ice cream and yoghurt; not as thick as one restaurant I know of. The effort yielded us good, sweet feelings. But what made me like them is the customizability of their offerings, even if I never got try any of it. When I return to one of their branches, I hope I’ll be in a better state to make up my mind about what I want.

 

Starr’s Famous Shakes
GF Cullinan Prime Building, 8 Missouri Street, Greenhills, San Juan City

Before mixing: Four Cheese Okonomiyaki (Php 290.00)

Deceivingly Filling | Dohtonbori Okonomiyaki

We were hot on the trail.

Cat and I just followed the tracks on the cold cement. It felt like being an advance – and hungry! – party. Cat and Kelvin are partial to ramen but they were game for a something new and different. So when I mentioned okonomiyaki, it didn’t take much to get them to try Dohtonbori Okonomiyaki, one of the newest restaurants in the metro. They opened just about four weeks ago.

At the entrance, there was a pretty greeter goddess. She led us inside then asked how many were in our party. We said three and she offered to seat us in a table. Before moving any further, Cat spotted the tatami room and inquired if we could take a spot there instead. The goddess obliged. She walked us over but just before letting us in, she asked us to take off our footwear, which we placed inside small lockers. She led us to a corner, gave us menus, and said that if we’ve decided on what to order, we could call on her or any of the staff.

The room was a smaller area; it only had four tables. Not many could be comfortable sitting in a pit. But it looked like a cool and warm spot. Also, it was peaceful there. Guess it was the ambience.

I found it easy to make up my mind about the food: cheese! The okonomiyaki type had Four Cheese and the pizza type had Quattro Formaggi. But, because we were here for actual okonomiyaki, I went with the latter. I noticed that the okonomiyaki choices also had beef and pork options but – strangely – no chicken. I had a side order of Chicken Shio. Cat had the Cheesy Pork while Kelvin had the Deluxe Okonomiyaki. Unfortunately, I never got to take a photo of their bowls or the finished products so you just have to take my word for it.

Our table had condiments. There were also a collection of instructions for how to cook okonomiyaki, pizza, and the other food offerings on the teppan, which is the special grill used by the restaurant.

From what I remember, the okonomiyaki ingredients had to be mixed first in the bowl about 6-7 times at least. Then pour decent amount of oil on the teppan, which has been left on since we were seated. I poured the mixture onto the teppan and shaped it as close to a circle as possible. Maybe you could shape yours into a star or a heart. Whatever you like! That would be a challenge though. The whole thing is cooked for 15 minutes; every five minutes, the okonomiyaki is flipped. It’s discouraged to mix or pat it once it’s on the teppan. When it’s cooked, you could top with okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and/or yakisoba sauce, even with shredded nori or benito powder.

Personally, I liked the okonomiyaki sauce better than any of their other condiments. It tasted almost like barbeque sauce, just a notch lower in punching power.

Note: Dohtonbori is one of those rare restaurants that allow bottomless drinks to be shared. Also, the non-alcoholic drinks are bottomless. Only their alcoholic drinks come as singles and also far outnumber the non-alcoholic ones, as well as have more colorful options.

While I was rolling on the tatami because of the many anecdotes of Cat and Kelvin, we kept hearing the staff yell from the outside, “Pon Poko Pon!” Any of the staff that exited the tatami room would always exclaim it. And some other things also triggered the same response from the rest of the staff. We dismissed it as their version of a local mall chain’s chant and to keep the staff alert. But something about the words was familiar. When I got home, I found out why: it’s the sound of the drums, as used in Studio Ghibli’s Pom Poko.

Our meal was coming to a close but there was no dessert in sight. The ones I wanted also came as pancakes but I couldn’t handle any more fat disks of food. The okonomiyaki might look like a light and small meal but it’s a deceivingly filling food. It even got me to eat a lot of cabbage! I felt like rabbit.

 

Dohtonbori Okonomiyaki
2F Cullinan Prime Building, 8 Missouri Street, Greenhills, San Juan City

New York Cheesecake Pancakes, Php 285.00

Pancakes for Dessert | IHOP Mall of Asia

You know how sometimes you avoid going somewhere but still end up there?

Strangely, that was what was kind of happening when I was with Jake when we stopped walking in front of IHOP. Just to be clear, I have nothing against IHOP, not even their price range. But, ever since the Spiral Lunch incident of 2012 (which is a whole other story altogether), I have become more aware of people’s certain dining preferences. That’s why I was wary of suggesting IHOP to Jake. He wasn’t oppressive with the idea of having dinner there so he and I marched inside.

The wait staff directed us to one of the booths. And – this is on me – but I forgot the name of the waiter assigned to the table. He was nice and patient because it took a while before Jake made up his mind about his order. I wanted chicken and cheese, which was easy. And because it was a pancake place, I had to ask for pancakes. But the struggle was picking which one.

Yes, you read that right: pancakes for dinner!

Personally, breakfast food is so good, it should be served all day. That’s why I love places like IHOP because not only is the breakfast menu extensive, they serve it even at night. Had I been hungrier than I was, I would’ve asked for the Breakfast Beef Tapa because I am curious as to how it stands against other known tapa places.

First order to arrive was the drinks. Jake had the Iced Coffee (original) and I the Spashberry. Coffee was coffee but the Splashberry was like a cheer dance competition in my mouth, which easily died down when the cheerleaders were gone.

Iced Coffee - Original, Php 145.00; Splashberry, Php 175.00
Iced Coffee – Original, Php 145.00; Splashberry, Php 175.00

I loved the Parmesan Chicken Strips. Nice tender meat though I wish it had more cheese. Or there was a cheese shaker at the table. There was ketchup on our table so why not a cheese shaker? But the revelation during the meal was the tenderloin tips, which were juicy through and through. It was so great, it made me crave for the tapa all the more.

Here’s a predictable moment: I dipped a strip of chicken in the juices of the steak tips. It was a foreign medley. You have no idea what they’re singing about but it just sounds like a Billboard chart-topper, which you buy.

Of course, to cap off the meal, there was the dessert, which was the pancakes. Jake protested that I order actual dessert like cake or ice cream because the stack I ordered was already sweet. Albeit, it was not dessert, the New York Cheesecake Pancakes did not disappoint. Even Jake liked it to the point that he went mad with the four syrups. I combined all four. Maybe the proportions were off by some bit because it did not taste melodious, more like a ruckus for a chorus.

The fun thing about all that: I could do it again—the eating of pancakes and beef, I mean.

 

IHOP
Entertainment Hall, North Wing, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City

Chase the Sun

I got a job but I’ve got a problem
‘Cause I eat too much and I can’t afford to solve it
When I’m savin’ up for that cruise to the Caymans
And I’m hittin’ the snooze so I can keep on dreamin’

Smashmouth is in my head.

Also, while one foot is in the office officially pounding away at the keyboard, the other is at home packing for the weekend. What do I plan to do? I will chase the sun.

  • Read a book
  • Dance like a maniac
  • Sing in the rain
  • Clean the room
  • Join a breakfast buffet
  • Convince friends to go on a road trip
  • Hop to the nearest island
  • Take the trains
  • Relax on a ferry
  • Ride a kalesa
  • Raid a friend’s room
  • Get lost in a book store or a book fair
  • Visit historical ruins
  • Stare in amazement at religious art in old churches and cathedrals
  • Travel to the heart of a forest or a mountain
  • Create a photo shoot
  • Have a free tour of the National Museum on Sunday
  • Attend a town fiesta
  • Do some charity work
  • Knock arrows
  • Fire bullets
  • Play board games
  • Marathon movies or anime
  • Sing at a videoke
  • Try a new restaurant
  • Attend a banchetto
  • Enjoy a large meal
  • Try an exotic dish
  • Weird out friends at the dinner table
  • Indulge the sweet tooth
  • Watch the famous Philippine sunset
  • Talk over coffee
  • Have a second dinner at midnight

Leche Flan (and Ube) Without a Name

I’ve never met a Filipino who doesn’t like leche flan.

For the stranger to the dessert, the leche flan is the local version of the crème caramel. This particular treat is influenced by a Spanish dish and has been a staple during fiestas and other joyous events.

Most know leche flan to have a light texture and the tiny pocks that dot it, making the dessert kind of airy. That is why I was surprised to have tasted a different kind of leche flan at a friend’s house. It was true to the usual taste: a leche flan as sweet as the others. What made it different was it tightly packed! No small holes anywhere. It was smooth, almost silky. While slightly heavier in taste and texture, it would still melt in the mouth so effortlessly.

I asked my friend, Lana, where she got it. And she said her brother bought it somewhere at Victory Mall.

True enough, the leche flan was there. But it wasn’t inside the mall. It was outside and at a stall that primarily sells coconut water or buko juice! Curiously, its box doesn’t have a brand name, just the mark “Special Leche Flan”. It sells for Php 140.00 a box.

Unlike at Lana’s where it came in a closely sealed plastic bag, the ones I bought came with a small plastic tray. That was the sole difference. Everything else was basically the same, just like my first time to try it!

The treat was a hit with the family. It made me believe that the ube would have the same results. Unfortunately, it didn’t. While the ube is good, it was not as rave-worthy as the leche flan. Though they do taste good together.

Leche Flan and Ube duo - a nice medley
Leche Flan and Ube duo – a nice medley