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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Simply Fishy

After the heavy rains have died down, and we pick ourselves up from the devastation of typhoon Maring (international name "Trami'), it is certainly a time to go back to something simple.  What better way to serve a meal than to make one that doesn't require a lot of time and ingredients.  Here's a recipe for steamed fish fillet I'd like to contribute to your recipe box.

The Recipe:
200 gms. boneless fish fillet (lapu-lapu or grouper, cream dory, or maya-maya)
4-5 garlic cloves, minced (more if you like)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. Chinese cooking wine
1 tsp. chopped spring onions
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
Arrange fish fillets on a plate.  Add sesame oil and cooking wine evenly on the fillets.  Sprinkle salt evenly followed by the minced garlic.  Place in a steamer or arrange a rack inside a big casserole with simmering water reaching only 1/4 level.  Steam fish for 10-15 minutes.  Sprinkle spring onions on the fillets and serve immediately.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Neighborhood Joints

Small cafes are one of my favorite places.  They're usually within a short distance from your house, have a homey atmosphere, and a specialty dish or two with prices that are not so steep.  They're a perfect place to go to if you just want a change of scenery and yet still feel comfortably familiar.  I like three so far.

Café Cristina
M.L. Quezon Street, Antipolo City
(across Shopwise)

This is the nearest to where I live and in a busy location within my city.  Ample parking is available too as it is located within the Hotel Cristina compound.  The interiors have a feel of a residential living room (perhaps like your own?), complete with collections of old books (I sighted an old edition of Encyclopedia Britannica), a piano and period bric-a-bracs. 

They serve good coffee and coffee-blended drinks, but I go here to enjoy their great-tasting Pasta Carbonara (Php145).  My daughter, being the unofficial Carbonara expert, gives a thumbs-up to the rich eggy sauce that is boosted well by chunky bacon pieces.  I also recommend their competent Sizzling T-bones (Php199), Lechon Kawali and Katsudon (Php150 each, although, I think what they meant is Tonkatsu not Katsudon).  For dessert, a slice of Cappuccino Cheesecake does the trick.  They have wifi too so you can definitely cozy up with your cup of joe and still be in touch with the virtual world.

(Thanks to the photographers/patrons in Foursquare for the pictures)

Brickfire Grill
Ortigas Avenue Extension, Cainta
(near Tikling Junction)

This restaurant is relatively new and we were caught by surprise because it just sprouted up right within the PTT gas station.  Coming from Pasig, it will be right after Max's Restaurant on your left, before reaching the Tikling Junction.  You'll just have to take a U-turn at the nearest break along Ortigas Avenue Extension.

The place is small, but being surrounded by glass windows gives it an illusion of space.  The menu offers a little of everything that will taste good on the grill.  The Nachos and Fries with Cheese Sauce was a generous starter.

Then since its on the menu, we had to try their adobo, which have variations.  You can have it with just chicken, or pork only (Php99), but they have chicken and pork combined with a spicy sauce (Php150).  We got the chicken and this was served enclosed in a wooden barrel complete with hard-boiled egg, and tomato and onion salsa. 

You take out the barrel and you are met with your chicken meal wrapped in banana leaves (binalot style).  Their adobo is Tagalog-style:  soy-infused slightly thick sauce that had the chunk of rice swimming in it.  The salsa itself is to swoon over as it gave the right tang and balance to the chicken dish.

The only steak they have on offer is the Cowgirl Annie (Php145).  You can either have it sweet, tangy, or their original flavor.  We got the original-flavored Annie and it was great for a Pinoy beef T-bone - tender and well-grilled with scorching in the right places.  This was served with rice (or mashed potato, your choice) and gravy.  For the price, you won't feel short-changed.

They have other items on offer like Tangigue Steaks, Baked Prawns, and Pasta but that's for another trip back.

Ramen Bar
Eastwood Mall, Quezon City

I admit this is a departure from what generally is thought of as a neighborhood restaurant but at the time of this writing, the rains were pouring and what better way to warm yourself up than a bowl of hot piping noodle soup without Japanesey prices? 

Personally, I am not a fan of ramen, but there Shiyo Ramen (salt infused broth with tonkotsu ramen, topped with tamago, naruto, negi and chasyu) was a scene stealer.  Despite the clean taste, you can still clearly decipher the pork.  I suppose the simplicity and purity of salt does the trick.  Although, you may also try their Shoyu Ramen (with a soy-infused broth) and this is also good, but one can still depict the natural oil from the pork base.

But that was my husband's dish.  I was equally happy with Ramen Bar's Beef Yakiniku Rice topping although I would have wanted more beef in my bowl and their flavorful Gyoza, which they served deep-fried, not just seared which is the usual way of serving it in other fine Japanese restaurants.

Enjoy these comforting bowls amid glowing halogens, subdued voices from other tables, and cute anime sketches overhead, and it is still a neighborhood stop.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Heritage in Cuisine

August in the Philippines usually means paying homage to Filipino as the official language.  While this is just one aspect of Philippine culture, the recognition of the language brings with it activities that also touch on other things truly Filipino.  Thus, during this time, schools all over the country are now geared toward learning activities that relate to all things involving the language - be it literature, songs, dances and even food.
On this note, I remember our visit to Marikina which is a city quite active in promoting its food culture.  An example of this is the conversion of the old Guevara ancestral home, a genuine bahay-na-bato (stone house), into the city's cultural center.  The house is a good example of turn of the 20th century architecture.  It was previously owned by Don Jose Guevara and Don Laureno "Kapitan Moy" Guevara, who belonged to Marikina's elite at that time.  It was said that Kapitan Moy's claim to fame was as the one who manufactured the first pair of shoes in the country in 1887.  It is probably from this beginning that Marikina rose to everyone's consciousness as the shoe capital of the Philippines as the industry itself flourished until the early 1970s, if I recall correctly.

Nevertheless, it was through the efforts of then Marikina mayor Bayani Fernando that this ancestral home was purchased and repaired.  The second floor is now used for cultural events of the city, but is also open to be rented out for private functions and events.  The ground floor houses the Café Kapitan Restaurant on one side and the Piano Bar in the other. 
If you're looking for a place that is rich in local Marikina culture and/or treating friends to a hearty Marikeno meal, head to Café Kapitan.  On the day we went, there was Cream of Mushroom Soup, Waknatoy (Marikina's version of Menudo), Bistek Tagalog, Breaded Fish and Chicken Fingers. 
However, the Cafe's version of Vegetable Paella is quite popular, and upon tasting it, I found out why.  The rice was cooked slowly in the saffron broth, and generously peppered with a variety of vegetables, it is a meal on its own. 
The buffet price also includes a dessert of the day (Buco Pandan Salad or coconut shreds in screwpine infused cream and Palitaw or raised rice flour cakes) and bottomless Iced Tea.  All this for Php150/person amid stone walls and a genteel ambiance, it was certainly worth recalling a bit of history this side of Metro Manila.
Kapitan Moy Building
C. Cruz Street, Barangay San Roque, Marikina City
(across the Church of Our Lady of the Abandoned)
Tel. No. +63 2 646 4303