Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rockwell's Ultimate Taste Test

This is the place to be on September 3, 2011, bar none.

For more information about Rockwell's Ultimate Taste Test, please visit:

(Thanks, Anton, for the poster!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chef's Table: Fifth and Sixth Courses, Main Course and Dessert

Chinese style steamed lapu-lapu on a bed of filipino ube mash topped with pechay

 The main course is a delectable array of traditional Filipino Favorites. One after the other, Binagoongang Baboy, Corned Pork, Kare-Kare, Prawn Aligue My Way, Chill-A-Fino, and Tortang Talong, were dispatched from the chefs' kitchen in a steady stream after the last empty pasta plate was taken from the table.

Binagoongang Baboy
Soft and crispy pork belly sauteed in shrimp paste sauce served with grilled egplant

Corned Pork
It surprised me how despite the fact that I thought I 've already had my fill of food after the pasta dishes, I still managed to eat sizeable servings of the main dishes. Among the pork dishes that I was most interested in was the Corned Pork, which is "creamy laing topped with soft pork strips served with tinapa rice," its impressive plating only heightening my interest. My favorite among the main courses though is the Chill-A-Fino, a steamed fillet of the eponymous Lapu-lapu (a beautiful fish named after one of our earliest heroes) is steamed and enthroned on mashed ube. I have always loved ube halaya as a sweet and creamy dessert. I have however, never had ube made savory like mashed potatoes, which the mashed ube tasted a lot like. Come to think of it, why not? Ube (purple yam), being a tuber like the potato.

(Every Filipino family has a relative who makes the best version of this favorite Filipino dessert, in mine, it's my Tita Luz, my mother's eldest sibling.) 

Kare Kare
Soft ox tail  chunks drenched with creamy peanut sauce served with eggplant caviar
Prawn Aligue My Way
Prawns on a bed of sotanghon flavored with aligue sauce
 wrapped in banana leaf, 
oven baked to perfection

Tortang Talong
Chef's Table's version of the classic tortang talong 
enhanced with salted eggs
Topping off this generous generous meal are desserts made with native Filipino fruits, jackfruit, banana, mango, and coconut. Mirroring the "Filipino cuisine with a soul" theme that runs through the courses before them, the desserts offer a refreshingly new yet comfortingly familiar flavor to them.

Mango Cheese Cake
A rich and creamy cheesecake topped with fresh mangoes in butterscotch sauce
Biko with Calamansi Cream Sauce
Filipino rice and coconut cream pudding paired with a sweet and tangy calamansi cream sauce
Langka Creme Brulee
A classic custard dessert with an all Filipino candied jackfruit
If instead of or on top of dessert, you are in the mood for some alcohol, Chef's Table also offers cocktails that are designed to complement your meal. They too, have surprising combinations and equally quirky names, like, quite notably, the NCR (stands for "No one Can Run" and not National Capital Region as you might expect) which is described as "(a) drink for the brave to try; fusion of brandy, tequila, gin, lambanog and chili extract balanced with orange and mango juice."

Buko Pie Martini
Our take on a classic buko pie twisted in Chef's Table style

The choices in the menu at the Chef's Table may seem overwhelming and choosing can get a bit tricky. But the great thing about this place is that the diner is welcome if not encouraged to talk to the staff and even the chefs on duty to help decide on a meal that will satisfy a craving or two. This openness reflects even on the interior of the entire restaurant, most especially the kitchen which exudes an easy-going, what you see is what you get kind of vibe that contributes to a deeper appreciation of the food created in it.

Chef's Table is located at Infinity Tower, 10th Avenue corner 25th Street, The Fort. Visit its website at

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chef's Table: Fourth Course, "Pandaigdigang Pansit"

Calamansi  Tuyo Spaghetti
Spaghetti sauteed in tuyo oil and flakes, enhanced with calamansi juice
and topped with fried tuyo and queso de bola
Fourth Course means pasta or, as Chef's Table calls it, Pandaigdigang Pansit. Their pasta varieties have surprising combinations and at the same time are all too familiar to the Filipino palate. Can you say- tuyo, calamansi, bistek, and puso ng saging? And can you imagine them in your pasta?

Beef Steak Pasta
Penne pasta sauteed in steak sauce enchanced with calamansi,
topped with tender beef slices, onion rings and queso de bola
Banana Heart Carbonara
Linguine in creamy sauce mixed with banana hearts and kangkong
topped with grilled chicken and queso de bola

Among the best-sellers is the Calamansi Tuyo Spaghetti- the humble (economics-wise) yet infamous (smell-wise) tuyo (dried fish) gets to star in this satisfying pasta dish. The calamansi (often referred to as Philippine lemon), lately getting a lot of attention in those foreign cooking competitions I gather, gives the tuyo flavored pasta a nice tang.

Chef's Table is located at Infinity Tower, 10th Avenue corner 25th Street, The Fort. Visit its website at

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chef's Table: Second and Third Courses, Salads and Soups

Chef's Salad
Mixed greens combined with seasonal fruits and vegetables and sliced boiled eggs
tossed in roasted garlic calamansi vinaigrette, topped with Egmont cheese

The second and third courses are refreshing parades of colorful salads...

Davao Salad
Mixed greens tossed in durian vinaigrette
topped with pan seared tuna, Davao fruits and vegetables

Inasal na Chicken Caesar Salad
Torched romaine lettuce in a localized Caesar dressing
topped with grilled chicken and queso de bola

Fresh local sea grapes with cucumbers, tomatoes and shallots,
tossed in house vinaigrette

...and unique and equally eye-catching soups.

Reversed Sotanghon Soup
Fried sotanghon noodles in a savory classic French onion soup
topped with crispy liempo bites
The Reversed Sotanghon Soup is a show stopper. The nest of sotanghon noodles is served crispy fried and piled high in a bowl, but once doused with the French onion soup (served in a separate pouring container), the noodles wilt into their more recognizable sotanghon form. Think crispy pancit canton/chow mein.

Cool Watermelon Soup
A refreshing combination of watermelon and calamansi
enhanced with quesong puti, pickled shallots and roasted shallot oil

Chilled Carrot and Ginger Soup
A combination of fresh raw diced tanigue, apples and
cucumbers tossed in citrus fruit juice
in a pool of an invigorating carrot and ginger puree

Roasted Tomato Halaan Soup
Fresh halaan steamed in lambanog combined with a rich roasted tomato puree
Bet you never had halaan cooked this way. Growing up with my mother's halaan in ginger soup, I sure haven't. This soup bursts with heady flavors which are as bold as its color. I remember the hint of the lambanog, the briny sweetness of the halaan, and the piquant flavor of the tomato puree from this particular soup lingering on my tongue until the next course, despite all the other soups and salads it came to the table with. Halaan steamed in lambanog with tomato puree, this is definitely not yo momma's halaan soup.

Any of the salads and soups, not to mention the appetizers to some extent, at the Chef's Table could be a meal on its own, especially for the light eaters. They come in generous portions so finishing a serving could fill you up real quick. So if you plan to have several courses at the Chef's Table, I suggest you bring company.

Kind of makes you wonder what the main course would be like, huh?

Chef's Table is located at Infinity Tower, 10th Avenue corner 25th Street, The Fort. Visit its website at

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chef's Table: First Course, Appetizers

Ensaladang Tuna at Salmon
A combination of fresh tuna and salmon enhanced with local aromatics
topped with kamote chips

Friday last week, I was invited for lunch at the Chef's Table. Chef's Table is ground zero of Chef Bruce Lim's commendable effort at serving Filipino Fine Dining to the general public. Armed with a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Bruce along with his team of chefs at the Chef's Table, aims to serve diners Filipino food "prepared using global culinary standards".

It was a very long lunch, with a spread that is not only an abundant feast for the tummy but also a tantalizing feast for the eyes. Naturally, there is a lot of beautiful food to share, and one post doesn't seem to do it justice.

So, let's do this in a series, starting with the appetizers, and some libation.

Cebuana Chili Chicken Wings
Lightly battered deep fried chicken wings
smothered with Cebu-inspired sweet chili sauce
Cold Pansit
Cold sotanghon in sweet sesame soy sauce topped with cucumbers,
apples, red radish, julienne and  fresh grapes, served with beef tapa
Crab Cakes
Freshly picked crab meat, seared and baked to perfection
served with sampaloc aioli
Calamansi Juice
Green Mango Shake
Chef's Table Iced Tea

Chef's Table is located at Infinity Tower, 10th Avenue corner 25th Street, The Fort. Visit its website at

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Decimating a Max Brenner Chocolate Burger

This is the Max Brenner Chocolate burger:

Max Brenner Chocolate Burger
Chocolate beef patty topped with cream cheese and caramelized chocolate onions
on an oatmeal crusted bun

This is my friend, RJ, in the process of decimating the Max Brenner Chocolate burger:

This the Max Brenner Chocolate burger, decimated:

The date was August 12, 2011, the time- 8-ish in the evening, the place- Max Brenner Chocolate Bar at Greenbelt 5, Makati City. It was a balmy Friday night. I had just had my fill of the Chicken Nibblers and Fries and Cinque Formaggi Pizza. Along came RJ who announced that he is going to give the Chocolate Burger a go. I was pretty excited about this. I mean, come on! It's chocolate. In a burger. This momentous event came after his all too recent foray into the world of odd (I suppose by "odd", I mean it subjectively) burgers, which adventure started with his nutty (I do not mean the legume) peanut (this one I mean the legume) butter burger.

I will remember that day forever.

Chicken Crispers and Fries
Cinq Formaggi Pizza
Gorgonzola, mozzarella, gruyere, cheddar and
parmesan cheese on a pesto basted crust

Read more about the Max Brenner Chocolate Barhere.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Yellow Orange Adobo and Hybrid Dessert at XO 46

Adobong Batangas
My father has this food specialty that when he makes it, it's one huge family affair- his version of adobong baboy. He cooks his adobo in a traditional palayok (clay pot) over wood fire and it takes him hours and hours to make. The lengthy slow cooking process results in a flavorful, aromatic, and impossibly tender pork with almost gelatinous skin. This adobo only gets better when eaten after a day, because by then, all the flavors of the native herbs and spices had gotten the chance to infuse into the pork. My father uses pork belly for his adobo and adds achuete (annatto) and dahon ng bayabas (guava leaves) to the fray. The achuete stains the fat that is rendered from the pork belly producing a bright yellow orange sauce, which I loved for its lingering flavor but hated because it would leave oily yellow stains on the corners of my mouth after I eat it.

It's quite unlike your traditional toyo (soy sauce)-based adobo. My father says it's how his family used to make it in Iloilo where he grew up. One thing you should know about my father, there is no arguing with him when it comes to the authenticity of the cuisine he grew up with.

I do not miss a lot of pork dishes ever since I stopped eating it, but I admit to missing a few. My father's pork adobo is one of them. That is why I could not help but wonder sometimes how my father's recipe would play out if I used beef instead of pork. I got my answer when I was introduced to Adobong Batangas by XO46 Bistro Filipino. It had the hallmarks of my father's "yellow orange" adobo which made the dish a family favorite, but the good thing about it is that it is made of beef instead of pork. As with my father's adobo, the beef in XO 46's Adobong Batangas is pull-apart tender and worth the extra calories. It simply begs for serving after serving of hot steamed rice.

with Aligue Butter and Sweet Butter

Aligue Butter
While we waited for our meal at XO 46- Adobong Batangas included- we were served with complimentary puto with aligue (crab fat) butter and sweet butter. Although the combination made me a bit wary at first, I liked the aligue butter. I ended up piling it on with every bite of my puto.
Strawberry Salabat

For my drink, I chose Strawberry Salabat (it was a toss-up between that and the Salabat sa Tanglad). Again with the uncanny combination, I know, but I guess the fact that I enjoyed the aligue butter on my puto emboldened me to choose this strawberry and ginger tea. After a swig of my Strawberry Salabat, I decided that it really does pay to be adventurous once in a while.

Only two months into operation, XO 46 appears to have earned quite a following in its unassuming little nook almost hidden behind a pocket garden in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the frenetic city that is Makati. Already past 1 in the afternoon, when we arrived, the place was still brimming with lunch-goers.

Fabada de Toledo
good for 3-4
Gambas al Ajillo

Chef CK
Aside from the Adobong Batangas, the other specialties that we were invited to try out at XO 46 are the Gambas al Ajillo (shrimps with garlic and olive oil) and Fabada de Toledo (stewed white beans with chorizos and pork belly). Both are traditional Filipino-Spanish dishes which are likewise executed very well by XO46 expert chefs headed by executive chef CK Kalaw.

For dessert, we were treated to Sapin Sapin and Manticado Jalaya (frozen ube jalaya and leche flan with ice cream). They are of course desserts that the Filipino palate is native to, but with ingenious twists. What caught my eye about the XO 46 Sapin Sapin is how neatly piled the colorful layers were. It looked very dainty, and this daintiness translated to the taste of the Sapin Sapin which didn't taste too sweet (an all too usual pitfall of most sapin sapin, in my opinion) just delicately so. 

Sapin Sapin
For good measure, the XO 46 Sapin Sapin is served with classic Filipino Manticado ice cream. The sweet and slightly bitter cherry-based liquer, which is meant to be poured over the ice cream, gives the otherwise smooth flavored Manticado ice-cream an appealing bite.

Manticado Jalaya
As with the XO 46 Sapin Sapin, the Manticado Jalaya in XO 46 has its own disarming charm. What is interesting about this particular dessert is the fact that the ube jalaya is fused with a layer of leche flan. This "hybrid" jalaya is served with Manticado ice cream, hence the moniker Manticado Jalaya. I guess it's no small wonder that the XO in XO 46 stands for extra ordinary. Unique twists like these to Filipino classic cuisine do take quite a bit of extraordinary thinking to get right.

Notably, the manticado ice cream is made in-house, which reinforces the impression I get that folks behind XO 46 put a lot of attention to every aspect of their menu. This attention to detail is evident even in the furnishings  and the overall ambiance of the restaurant. The chairs and couches are very comfortable (overlooked by a lot of restaurants but is something I treasure in those that ensure that they are). The interior is reminiscent of old Filipino-Spanish architecture, from the wood carvings gilding the ceiling to poignant photographs of Philippine scenes adorning the walls.

Oh, and lest I forget, ballads from OPM greats like Rey Valera and Asin, are piped in through the speakers, rounding out the whole traditional Philippine dining experience.

XO 46 Bistro Filipino is located at G/F Le Grand Condominium, 130 Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City. For more information about XO 46 Bistro Filipino, visit its Facebook page at
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