Sunday, June 12

Instagram Worthy Hangout in Cebu for Korean Drama Fans

Ain Restaurant and Bar 

Ain Restaurant and Bar (Blue Door)

Me and my friend went for a swim in one of the resorts in Mactan last weekend and decided to grab something to eat on the way back home. We thought of eating at Yamiga (Korean Shabu-shabu) but when we entered the arcade where the restaurant is located, we saw that the it was noticeably full of tourists and we didn't want get into that circus. So we went further in to the arcade to make a U-turn, and that's when I saw this stand-alone resto with white picket fences and a blue door. If you've ever watched a Korean drama recently, you would know that they often use these scenic locations for shoots.

I was in awe and I had to get out of the car to take a few snaps. The Instagrammer in me wanted to take artsy photos and post them right away! The place is instagram-worthy. From the moment I stepped into the garden, I knew that I wouldn't be satisfied with one photo alone. My artistic soul was telling me to go in and check out the place, and so I did.

There's a cool wallsticker beneath the AC more visible in daylight

Ain Restaurant and Bar, that's the name of this not-so-hole-in-the-wall restaurant (No, not named after Korean actor Yoo Ah In), and the owner is this lovely Korean ahjumma who was so sweet that she welcomed me when I went in and told me to take a few more shots. The interior of the restaurant was superb! Clearly, the owner paid attention to details and knew that Filipinos love taking pictures that she didn't leave a blank canvas in the room, everything was so picturesque. It was more like an American diner with lots of movie memorabilia, which reminded me of my favorite place in Dumaguete, Gabby's Bistro. 

Glamping tents outside are perfect for couples and groups of four
The bar counter and open kitchen (spot the ET)

We decided to have dinner there instead of going around Mactan and looking for another place to eat. Through our little chit chat with the owner, we learned that they just had their soft opening a few days ago and they are still trying out their recipes. We had a look at their menu and saw that the prices were reasonable and the dishes were more on American (steaks) and Italian (pasta and pizza). After a few discussions, we decided to have a go at Gorgonzola Pizza and Carbonara.

These daybeds were so comfortable that I felt like I could just lay there and look at the stars.

Maybe it was because the restaurant is still new and they were still on a dry-run that we had to wait an hour for our order, but we didn't realize it was that long since we had fun taking pictures of everything. The owner gave us a pitcher of fruit juice and a plate of salad on the house to ease our grumbling tummies. 

While waiting for our order, I wanted to go and do my business in the restroom and the waitress pointed me to the direction of a coca cola and sprite cooler/ fridge. I was confused for a minute and then it dawned on me that the fridge really was the restroom. I opened the fridge and thought that I was opening the door to Narnia. I found the set-up amusing and told the owner that she was really creative for thinking out of the box.

At last, the food has arrived! We gobbled it up in a jiffy. The Carbonara was good, not too salty, and not too sweet and it was served with pickled jalapeño on the side just in case you wanted an extra kick. The serving, however, is only good for one. The pizza was OK, but it needed a little more improvement. The owner had to apologize profusely since her assistants didn't prepare the dough before hand and it was not able to rise properly. I was a little bit more understanding than usual and assured her that it was alright since the pizza tasted good anyway.

Despite the food experience, I would still come here again if ever I'm in the area mainly because of the service and the Instagram-worthy interiors. Hopefully the food would improve soon.

Bagumbayan Uno, Maribago, LapuLapu City
near Yamiga, White Sands, and Maribago Blue waters

Coming from Mactan Newtown on your way to Maribago, on the right side of the road, you will see a restaurant called Yamiga. Turn right and enter the arcade. You will see the restaurant on the left side of the cul-de-sac. You wont miss it!

Italian/Mexican/American Restaurant

Price range: 250PHP - 899PHP

Gorgonzola pizza
Ribeye steak
Steak hamburger
Hurricane french fries

Sunday, June 5

Crazy for Korean Cuisine

Captivated by the Flavors of Korea

I have grown such fondness and affinity for food over the years. I was such a lanky child that everyone would think I was sick all the time. I was thin, not because I had a chronic illness or because I wasn't fed enough (believe me I was), but due to my hypersonic metabolism I was able to consume a high caloric diet without even gaining weight! Those were the days. Now, I eat a  grain of rice and I gain a few pounds!

I was always adventurous when it comes to food. I wouldn't say that I've tried everything. There are still some  cuisines and exotic dishes I am curious about. Food has only two categories for me, those that I have eaten and those that I have plans of eating. However, through my entire existence, I've had a few favorite cuisines and one of which is Korean food.

One's first impression on Korean food is that its all chili and spice, but they dont realize that it's all about balance and everything nice. A typical Korean meal is composed of a little bit of red, a little bit of brown, green and white. Hence the unlimited "Banchan" or side dishes.

Due to the influx of Korean tourists in the Philippines, Cebu in particular, the number of Korean restaurants in the city doubled in number. A few years ago, some people wouldn't even know what Samgyupsal (삼겹살) is and now most Cebuanos can't get enough of it. Korean restaurants and coffee shops have been popping up in the city and growing like mushrooms. Blame it all on the Hallyu craze. If you watch k-dramas, you would know. But there's so much more to the cuisine than thinly sliced pork belly grilled to perfection.

Here's a list of other specialties that can be found in Cebu:

1. Topokki / Deukbokki (떡볶이)
 Rice cakes cooked in spicy korean pepper paste/powder and sugar. I prefer to top this with lots of cheese.

2. Soondae (순대)
Korean blood sausage. I didnt really like it at first because my imagination got the best of me. After a few blinks, I realized that I eat dinuguan (blood stew) which has even more pig's blood than this one. I loved this the second time I ate it. You dip it in salt with pepper powder and sesame seeds. Best paired with Toppokki.

3. Mandu (만두)
The korean version of dumplings or siomai. It's tastier than your usual siomai sa tisa. Dip it in soysauce with sesame oil or just eat it as is. yummmm!

4. Korean Fried Chicken (KFC)
In my opinion, the best chicken ever! I cook this at home and its definitely delish! Deep fried chicken (double fried) and topped with sweet and spicy sauce (yangyam sauce), soy garlic, or just the classic chicken. BEST with BEER! (say hello to calories)

5. Jjampong
The original Jjampong made from scratch, not the ones from Lucky Me is a spicy noodle soup with mixed seafood and a flavorful broth. If its not spicy enough for you and you feel like you can handle a bit more spice, you can add a drop of capsicin, an oil extract of the hottest chili you can ever imagine.

6. Jjajangmyeon
Stir fried noodles in black bean sauce. Again, it wasn't a favorite at first. I suppose it was because of the color, but I guess the third time's a charm. It took me a long time but I've grown fond of this dish after a few tries. Best paired with pickles (tamuji) to counter the oily texture of the dish.

7. Guksu
Guksu is a noodle dish that could be eaten hot or cold. I usually have the cold guksu during summer and hot guksu when it's raining. This is also tradionally a dish that they serve during weddings. If you like it spicy, you might want to try the Bibimguksu. Its a cold noodle with red pepper paste and other spices.

8. Makchang
If you live ginabot, then you'll like this one. Beef or Pork intestines that you can cook in the grill much like samgyupsal. Best paired with... chan.. chan ... chan. SOJU!

9. Gukbap
Rice porridge. Its more like a soup that could either be beef, pork, soondae, or pork innards boiled until flavorful and then you can mix it with rice. Think pochero with rice.

10. Korean Stew (Yukgaejang/ Kimchi Jjigae / Doenjang jjigae)
There's something enticing about a soup served in a stone or clay pot. Aside from the usual kimchi or bean paste stew, you should also try the spicy Korean version of pochero. Yukgaejang is a spicy beef soup with lots of vegetables and is also best for hangovers. If you love seafood, you should definitely try Haemultang, a mixed seafood stew that's sooo good, you'd want to eat the whole bowl!

11. Korean Sashimi
Unlike the Japanese version, korean sashimi is usally dipped in a red pepper paste mix with garlic and leeks and eaten as is or wrapped with perilla leaves. yummm!

I still have a lot more to add to this list. I might post a second part in the next couple of weeks. Until then, I hope you open your eyes to the different k-food options available in town. Be adventurous and who knows, you might turn out to be a K-food addict like me.

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잘 먹고 ~~~ Eat Well!

Wednesday, September 3

Tumbling at Tumalog

The darkness was overwhelming. It was as if the shadows were feeding on what little light my headlights were giving off. The relentless rain was pouring on my windshield, worsening my view of the road.  My passengers woke up startled because I hit the break all of a sudden, and they stayed awake for the rest of the trip. That was how my week ended. All of us went home intact and unscathed. That weekend was one for the books.

But before the darkness…
Before the rainstorm…
there were four friends in search of an adventure…
and boy were we in for a surprise!

That sunny Sunday morning, me and three of my friends were gearing up for a road trip to the south of Cebu. We were all itching for an adventure and decided to go on a nature trip to Oslob’s Tumalog falls. We did not do any research beforehand and just went along with the trip “old school” style. NO GPS, NO GOOGLE, NO MAP, just four friends and a borrowed car.

It was a three and a half hour drive to Oslob with the obligatory stop at Carcar Market to shop for local delicacies (who wouldn't stop for a bag of chicharon?!). We also had scenic stop at the century-old Boljoon church which was like a jewel hidden between coral stones. A great piece of Cebuano history.

Nuestra Señora de Patrocinio Parish Church of Boljoon

The church is fronting the Bohol Strait

There's a staircase across the church that leads to the crystal clear waters of the Bohol Strait. Locals and even tourists can take a quick dip here to cool off from the Cebu heat.

From Boljoon, it took us about another hour to go to Oslob. Tumalog falls is about 10 minutes away from the town proper by car but motorcycles or "habal'habal" are also available. 

You will see a sign at the right side of the road. The road to the falls is small and a bit steep but it's cemented.
We parked our car at the entrance and we had to walk 500 meters from there to get to the location. But it was no ordinary walk, though. The road going to the falls is so steep you would even hesitate to use your longboard or bikes while going down. Going down is easy, but going back up is a feat. 

However, when you reach the falls, you'll realize that it was all worth it.

The way home was dark. It was so timely that there was a power outage in the south and the rain was pouring nonstop. It was a little terrifying, but hey, I asked for an adventure, didn't I? 


Monday, August 12

Phat Phooodtrip: For The Love Of Pho

If you've read the first few posts in this blog, you'll notice that I have this obsession for Vietnamese food, from Pho to their fresh spring rolls, even making my own Pho Ga from scratch. I love how all the herbs and spices combine into a flavorful dish that would certainly knock your socks off.

I have been withholding myself from making reviews on restaurants that I've been to, not because they're not worth the effort (believe me, it takes a huge amount of brainpower to put these things into writing), it's just that I'm too lazy!! However, after last night's culinary experience, I felt the need to make a write up just because it was too good too pass up. Even after 16 hours, my taste  buds are still craving for MORE!

Vietnamese cuisine has it's own distinct flavor. It uses various types of condiments, herbs and spices but still give out a delicate flavor. Most of their ingredients are fresh and If you are one of those health buffs who counts calories, Vietnamese food is a great alternative to your usual salad bar.

I haven't heard of any authentic Vietnamese restos in the city up until a few weeks ago. The Abaca group opened up a restaurant at The Crossroads called PHAT PHO and I have been itching to try the place out since it opened but I didn't have the time to do so. So I was ecstatic to try it out last night with some friends and family.

Phat Pho is a small nook where half of the space is used up by the kitchen and the other half is occupied by bar stools and high tables. The restaurant was like a modern day cafeteria with an industrial vibe that speaks CASUAL in bold letters. It's amazing how they maximized a small space and turned it into a restaurant with modest interiors.

I was impressed with the service. It was speedy, the people were friendly and accommodating. Our orders were already on the table in under five minutes. SUPERB! I thought I had to wait too long.

We decided to have Rice Paper Rolls or fresh spring rolls (pork and shrimp), Pho Xao, Spicy Seafood Pho (which was their specialty of the day), Tender Pork Ribs, Chicken Satay, and I ordered a baguette on the side because a Pho is always best paired with a baguette.

(L-R) Top: pork fresh spring rolls, tender pork ribs, Pho Xao
Bottom: Shrimp fresh spring rolls, Chicken Satay, Spicy Seafood Pho

Pho Xaw is the Vietnamese version of the Phad Thai, but personally,  I like this better. Maybe it's because this dish is a little more delicate and the sauce is just perfect. The spring onions is a plus because I'm such a fan of spring onion. If you love Phad Thai, then you should definitely try this!

Unpretentious, clean, healthy rice paper rolls. Vietnamese fresh spring rolls usually have lettuce, cucumbers, spring onions. cilantro, carrots, pork and shrimp carefully wrapped in rice paper. This dish is refreshing and delicious! If you're on a diet, you can skip the peanut sauce. If you want too check out my version of the fresh spring rolls: Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

I didn't have time to take a photo of the Spicy Seafood Pho because we were already starving, but I have to say it was THE BOMB DOT COM! Their Pho bowls are good for 3-4 people but after i had a taste of the broth, I would have definitely made it for one because it was THAT good! The cilantro leaves and Chinese basil definitely made a huge impact on the dish. The soup isn't really that spicy, you have to add the condiments in your own soup bowl and add Sriracha according to the level of hotness you prefer. However, I was a little disappointed with the baguette because I wanted it smothered in garlic butter but it was just plain and boring.

The tender pork ribs lived up to its name. It was indeed tender and sauce was perfect for the dish, not too sweet and not too spicy or salty. The Chicken satay was very simple (in a good way), far from the usual barbecue lathered with ketchup or soy sauce. It was flavorful even though it looked quite simple.

It was a great culinary experience, the best PHOODTRIP I've had in weeks and I would definitely come back with some friends again.