Took a Cable Car To The Scrapyard

I arrived terribly late at The Scrapyard to a rather raucous welcome. Some old faces and instant friends. I nestled on an ottoman while a plate was shoved up front. I told the waiter I’ll have whatever everyone else was having to drink and I was poured a glass of house white.

Gone are the days where “roasted highland legumes”, kropek, chili wings and other finger food were the only options at watering holes. Bar chow leveled up. Partying is hard work. Nourish. Replenish. Suck on Pochero marrow and sip Sinigang while bobbing your head to a beat.

Nachos

Nachos

I missed out on the nachos and was looking at Pork Sinigang, Shrimp Sinigang, Pochero and Sizzling Pochero gone cold. Not wanting to impose, I declined the offer for reheating. With a lineup of ten dishes, I was just going to have a bite here and there, anyway.

The Pork and Shrimp Sinigang (separate) had the very subtle tang of a guava base, a mild version of the arresting savory-sour taste of the classic tamarind-based stew, the flavor seeping into the meats while not overwhelming the veg components. A piping hot bowl would be a perfect refresher for when one has had one too many shots.

Pochero

Pochero

Sizzling Pochero

Sizzling Pochero

The Pochero, a beef bone marrow stew, reminded me of Sunday family dinners where the morning’s market trip sat boiling for hours on a stove to produce a rich stew and beef you can shred with a fork. I’d fight over the bones with my cousins to score ambrosia: the marrow. Luckily, all that was left intact by my peers for me to enjoy. The salty-sweet creaminess of the marrow made love to my tongue. The meat was not unlike my family’s slow stewed. Gramps would have loved it. Surprisingly still good in its cold state, the Sizzling version kept its soft, look-ma-no-knife texture, smothered in a rich, tasty gravy. Nobody touched the marrow there, too. *evil laugh, scoop, slurp

Gambas came next served in convenient cocktail spoons with Mushroom and Cheese Bruschettas. Be warned that the chili sauce coating the generous spoonful of shrimp ranked high on the Scoville Scale than your usual on this one. The proteins in the cheese do temper the heat when you bite into the Bruschetta, hence the pairing

Sliders, "The Three Stooges"

Sliders, “The Three Stooges”

The slider trio was right up my alley. I christened them The Three Stooges: Curly, the Classic –100% premium, lean beef with onions and a tomato; Larry, the Cheeseburger–the classic plus cheese and Moe, the Bacon Cheeseburger–the classic, cheese and a bacon strip. The Cable Car and Scrapyard both being buddies to, er, Buddies Burgers, this holy trinity doesn’t distance itself from the ridiculously glorious quad patty behemoths of the latter. Just made easier to stuff down your gullet. The accompanying thick-cut fries had skins on, drizzled with herbs and owing a welcome grittiness to rock salt.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

Most Fish and Chips on The Island are more aptly Flour and Chips. What was served thankfully had a light, crisp batter on delicately seasoned Cream Dory fingers. The tartar sauce made the fish sing.

A collective groan of protest greeted the waiter’s announcement for the Beef Salpicao. Too much, too much. We were met with Baked Oysters and the Streetfood Platter for a rebuttal.

Furro Loco. Don't ask. Just Drink.

Furro Loco. Don’t ask. Just Drink.

The Beef Salpicao was served in chunks smaller than the usual menudo cuts possibly for scooping with the side of Garlic Butter Bread Sticks. That proved a tad challenging. Maybe pita chips would do a better job. I love garlic but while the meat was sautéed to a garlicky perfection, the chef was a little too generous with the salt. I digress on account that the tongue numbed by a Furro Loco would need more of a gustatory punch.

The Baked Oysters were done a point of just-about-cooked with the cheese still remaining soft and the whole thing easily scooped out with a spoon. A round of innuendo expectedly came up.

Yin & Yang. Steamed and Fried Siomai

Yin & Yang. Steamed and Fried Siomai

The Streetfood Platter came up last with an assortment of sidewalk favorites: Ngohiong, Fishballs, Steamed Siomai and Fried Siomai.

Cable Car Rice

Cable Car Rice

The carb-nivorous majority dropped hints at a demand with a rice versus cornmeal versus brown rice health discussion. Enter the old favorite Cable Car Rice. A great stir-fry of rice and meats topped with an omelet. Yes, Kristine. There’s your “brown” rice. Hahaha.

oysters

Between these solids, our hostess, not wanting anyone to leave sober, bathed her guests with selections from the open bar from the house reds and whites, poisons of choice and debuting still unnamed cocktails for their summer specials. Incidentally, the Cable Car and Scrapyard is running the Beer Promo from Sunday to Thursday on all local beers. Solo at P50 a pop or with a group for P250 per bucket with a complimentary Crispy Sisig or Baked Oysters. They didn’t leave out Fridays and Saturdays, of course. “Nomihodai” All-You-Can-Drink premium liquors for P500 from 9PM-11PM. Johnny, Jack and the Captain are on the list plus selected cocktails and all local beers.

Nomihodai

See you at the Cable Car and the Scrapyard Lounge!

Cable Car Cebu and the Scrapyard Lounge are located at One Paseo, Paseo Saturnino, Ma. Luisa Road, Banilad, Cebu City.

Tokyo Drift

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Walking into Tokyo Table, we were welcomed by a woman of, erm, rather sumo wrestler proportions. This made me wonder what kind of liberties the management allow their people with the local industry standard of meal provisions for employees. This is an all-you-can-eat place.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish, especially oily fish from cold waters, makes it an incredible source of these heart-strengthening, inflammation-reducing, cardiovascular disease-preventing, brain-boosting, cholesterol-lowering, depression and anxiety-alleviating, skin-moisturizing. . . *pant, pant*. . . life-lengthening nutrients.

Knowing all that and being able to tell the difference between sushi, maki, temaki and the many different variants and versions of each doesn’t guarantee that you are eating healthy. While seafood and vegetable or fruit combinations generally cover your Grow and Glow food requirements, these usually also rest on a bed (or even wrapped in a comforter) of the Go food overkill of rice. Starch. Sugar. Factor in sauces, mayonnaise, cheeses, deep-frying for “crunchy” variants–and the panko breading that goes with that, and you have an easily-downed tube of calories.

I’m not stopping you. I’m not stopping myself. Like the Surgeon General’s Warning on a pack of cigarettes, we will, of course, turn a blind eye to all that. This, by the way, is in no way an endorsement for smoking. I don’t smoke. I just eat.

Clockwise from top: Maki Crunch, Ebi Tempura Maki, Toasted  Sesame Maki, Chef's Roll, Tuna Crunch Roll, Red Velvet Roll, Tokyo Table Signature Roll, Salmon Sashimi Roll, Mango Crunch Roll, California Maki with Tobiko, Philadelphia Roll, Salmon Skin Roll, California Maki with Masago, Anchovy Roll, Salmon Crunch Roll

Clockwise from top: Maki Crunch, Ebi Tempura Maki, Toasted Sesame Maki, Chef’s Roll, Tuna Crunch Roll, Red Velvet Roll, Tokyo Table Signature Roll, Salmon Sashimi Roll, Mango Crunch Roll, California Maki with Tobiko, Philadelphia Roll, Salmon Skin Roll, California Maki with Masago, Anchovy Roll, Salmon Crunch Roll

From the generous spread at the Tokyo Table, here I assembled a sampler of one of each kind of their maki’s. Of note would be the Red Velvet Roll (maki with maguro sashimi on top), Salmon Sashimi Roll (they could have gone fancy and called it Orange Velvet Roll taking cue from the former), Toasted Sesame Maki, Ebi Tempura Maki (ebi tempura plus maki is sorcery), Salmon Crunch Roll, Anchovy Roll(it’s “dilis“-cious!), Philadelphia Maki (cream cheese!) and Salmon Skin Maki.

I found myself looking for the crunch in the Mango Crunch Maki. Although it didn’t exactly disappoint, the Tokyo Table Signature Roll didn’t exactly stand out for a signature offering either. The ubiquitous California Maki’s were as they are just about anywhere. Points for using Masago for the alternative second though that didn’t prove much different from the usual orange Tobiko apart from the green color. The rest just rolled past my tastebuds like popcorn when one is glued to a movie.

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This would have just been a short note on my plate of makis but I obviously had to (well, no, not really. More like wanted to) eat my PHP750’s worth. Beyond these, Tokyo Table also has Tempuras and other fried items, a rather confused Teppanyaki section which included spam, cocktail hotdogs and bulgogi meats (here Tokyo is just an arm’s length from Seoul) and, strangely, a Chinese section which seemed to outnumber the Japanese selections. Ah, the Revenge of Nanjing! As we arrived about two hours into their lunchtime operations, no good photos of the Teppanyaki and Chinese sections could be taken as earlier waves of Kaiju came before us. I’ll cover those sections on my next visit.

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The dessert section of considerably numerous choices was also strangely non-Japanese with Sans Rival, Mango Pandan, Cheesecake, Crème Brulee, Mango Float, Coffee Sans Rival, Dark Chocolate Sans Rival, Panna Cotta, Chocolate Moist (huh? LOL) and Cinnamon Cupcakes.

Their three versions of Sans Rival could easily be rivalled by most neighborhood panaderia offers, what with the soggy, chewy wafer layers. The Dark Chocolate one packed quite a chocolaty punch though. The Cinnamon Cupcake was a winner. Great ratio of frosting to cake and sugars held back on both. The Crème Brulee was thankfully not pre-torched as in most buffets. You get that little prep show before they hand it over to you. It was deliciously creamy and, given its condiment saucer serving, proved to be quite light. The Cheesecake seemed to have sat in the display chiller a little bit too long as betrayed by a cracked, dry exterior. I drowned it in my soy sauce dipping bowl so I wouldn’t have to pay extra for leftovers.

With the rest of the dessert items coming across pretty hmmmkay, I was ready to cleanse my palate with a good cup of black. I’m sure I could still squeeze in liquids. I’m outta here.

Cue in…

Tokyo Table is located at City Time Square, Mantawi Avenue, Tipolo Mandaue City, Cebu

Greek Geek

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Cyma, a local Greek restaurant, has been my family’s default choice when faced with many options and differences in I-feel-like-havings. The wait staff pretty much have us cased. Pikilia and a Tonna Salata for our usuals, sides of Cedar-planked Salmon or Wahoo on a protein-need occasion and Osso Bucco Pasta when La Emmanuela cannot do without her carbs. Mods on serving sizes according to our number.

My Greek Taverna sticks out from the rest of the dreary kiosks lining the Gates of Hell called Mango Square. Dan Brown, were you ever so wrong about Manila. This little outlet always drew my attention among the flashier, loud establishments around it whenever I drive by. I’ve said I wouldn’t be caught dead on that strip but having had a few personal recommendations for Taverna, I lowered my personal restriction to “risk getting caught there alive”.

Coming in from a failed attempt to experience “Tuslob-Buwa’ ” after a late night business meet, we jumped on the chance to try Taverna when we passed by on our way home. We made our way up the sidewalk to the Valley of the Shadow of Death and into the white and blue-themed booth. The Spartan menu displayed variations of Greek handhelds like Gyros and Pitas. Also available were salads and other snack items. Ordered the Greco Platter for a sampler.

The Greco Platter came with a “BUNCH of Fries, BUNCH of meat (Chicken or Pork)”, chicken for ours, “Cucumber, Tomato and Slaw Salad, Onion and Tatziki” sauce. It came served in the bottom half of a regular, packed-meal styro to our unanimously disappointed, “Oh.” One half looked like a pile of crispy-fried potato wedges and the other a pile of shredded greens on tomato and cucumber slices smothered in yogurt sauce.

We judged too soon. The potato wedges were delightfully crisped on the outside with gorgeously cooked centers and dusted with a slightly spicy flavored powder. Underneath those were chunks of perfectly seasoned, shawarma-style chicken. The salad was a generously slathered with Tatziki. We polished off the potato wedges but struggled to finish the chicken and salad. For PHP 215 for all that it was worth more than its price in taste and serving size.

While it’s still a far cry from the local Greek standard, all factors considered, I wouldn’t dismiss it as the poor man’s Cyma. You would have to do away with the pristine interiors, the very smart & attentive staff and the spectacle of flaming dishes (Oppa!) from the extensive menu but you still get great Greek for a fraction of the price. I’m making My Greek Taverna mine. Go make it yours, too.

My Greek Taverna is located at the courtyard of Mango Square, Gen. Maxilom Avenue, Cebu City.

Double Dipping Allowed

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
-The Three Witches; Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Finally having lost my “balut” virginity two years ago, having survived street cart preparations of highly dubious sanitation standards across China and long having heard of the ultimate “value-meal” institution of Tuslob-Buwa’, I was determined to up my local street food experience with my return to The Island.

Tuslob-Buwa’, directly translated from Visayan, means “dip in bubbles”. Ambulant food vendors operating standalone, mostly standing-only open-wok eateries set up in bus and jeepney terminal yards and in alleys downtown, cooking up a storm of Pinoy fried-favorites such as “ginabot”, “tungol” & other animal entrails as well as “ngohiong”, “lumpia”, “bola-bola”, etc. Those of limited means or just caught short on daily allowances would still converge at these joints, purchasing only “puso’ “–rice steamed in diamond-shaped, woven coconut leaf pouches, and dipping(tuslob) these in the bubbling oil(buwa’) flavored by the fried items. Full-flavor, literally “enriched”, at an even lower cost!

After several previously failed attempts to locate one of these operations, an Instagam tag directed us to a convenient uptown location along Gorordo Avenue. Fairly excited, the ever-supportive PussyKat agreed to go with me for brunch.

We arrived at the relatively nondescript Azul, a convenience store-cum-restobar, at the far corner of a tiny strip mall next to InkIan Tattoo Shop. The pothead (as he proudly declared on his shirt) manning the counter greeted us with a pushback saying their “puso” ” supply for the day is already an hour late and he cannot give us a definite time for its arrival. Having already set our sights on gorging ourselves on that deadly combination of fats and carbs we decided to wait. Almost an hour later and with nary an update from today’s antagonist, I decided to scour the neighboring eateries for “puso’.” Scoring some I returned to have our setup served.

A single-burner gas stove was set on the table with a small double-handled wok. A bowl “Soup of Sam-Yang-Gai” ( I got the reference to the old joke but “ets ae secrete”, the pothead said) was served with individual saucers of “atay”(liver pate’), “hibe”(a small variety of shrimp), “sibuyas”(chopped onions), “sili”(dried chilis) and squeeze bottles of cooking oil and soy sauce. All those with twelve “puso’s” inclusive in the set for an amazingly low, low price of only PHP 99.00.

We sautéed the everything before dousing it with the “soup”. Our side orders of ngohiong and deep-fried chicken skin arrived shortly. Peeled the coconut leaf-wrapping off the “puso”, dipped the rice in the “buwa’ ” then reeled in the salty., greasy goodness. The ngohiong, a local spring roll filled with vegetables and bamboo shoots, went well with its accompanying ketchup-soy sauce mix but tasted even better dipped into the “buwa”. Here’s a tip: dip and drag the rice or ngohiong up the sides of the wok to pick up as much of the liver-shrimp-onion combo. To make up for this indulgence we washed it all down with sugar-free iced tea.

Having had too much “puso’ to eat from our outside order and still having more from the late-arriving inclusions, we gave out the rest to the neighboring table of students also thoroughly enjoying the novelty. Tuslob-buwa makes for a great communal meal and I would definitely love to go back with a bigger group. Takers, you know how to contact me. 😉

Azul is located at Taft Property Ventures Bldg., Gorordo Ave., Brgy Kamputhaw, Lahug, Cebu City 6000. Tuslob-buwa is available from 10AM daily till supplies last.

Not So Big Daddy

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We finally caught the much-hyped Big Daddy Food Truck at the parking lot of Chika-an Lahug. I have been itching to try their fare for weeks. It didn’t help that I kept catching endless reruns of Bourdain’s No Reservations featuring the Korean-Mexican fusion food truck, Kogi. A visit would make it to my To-Do list daily and would slowly get edged off as each busy day progressed.

I stepped into the lot with a spring in step like a giddy schoolboy, the PussyKat in tow. The truck was a schoolbus-yellow and awash with lights. Monobloc chairs and tables were scattered on the pebble-covered slope out front. Orders were placed through the driver’s-side window and items picked up at the open counter along the same side, both positioned a little too high up for the Pinoy of average height. Potential hot hamburger facials here. Thankfully, my mutation-acquired abilities of extreme agility and reflex allow me to avoid such unfortunate events.

Like in every new place, I ordered their classic. The Big Daddy Burger was listed on the menu to have “more than a quarter pound patty with BIGDADDY sauce topped with lettuce, tomato and onion.” Having the word “big” in mind and surrounded by their brand labels, the foil-wrapped burger came out smaller than how I pictured it to be. Maybe “more than a quarter pound” was the weight pre-cook. A lot of settling and moisture bleed obviously occurred on the grill. The patty was good but not particularly noteworthy. For the price you could get a bigger, meatier one at the biggest local fastfood chain. The vegetable components stood out in their freshness in the otherwise just-okay whole.

The Chocolate Milkshake we ordered to wash down the grease also came in a disappointingly regular-sized dixie. I slurped up every drop in search of the chocolate in it and tasted none.

Still hungry, I scanned the menu again and considered the Double Lava Burger — “a double BIGDADDY Burger oozing with melted American cheese.” Surely a double would fill me up. The Tokyo Sun Burger –“a BIGDADDY Burger with sesame-dressed slaw, nori seaweed, egg and teriyaki sauce”, also held promise.

Already in a foul mood over the initial disappointment, we decided to head out to an old favorite to recuperate. I wouldn’t tell anyone to count Big Daddy out, though. The food truck movement in the PI is still in it’s infancy. That gives it a lot of room to really grow. It is also quite an experience. And, yes, I’m going back for the Double Lava and the Tokyo Sun. There’s Fried Oreo and Leche Fritos I saw on their FB page, too. We all just have to lower our expectations on serving size now that we know that it’s Not So Big Daddy.

The Big Daddy Food Truck is nomadic. Check out their location schedules on their FB page.

Kim|Tuptim

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Swung by the Little Saigon Big Bangkok at One Paseo for a quick pre-dinner snack. Mieng Kham, a traditional Thai snack made of roasted coconut shavings, shallots, fresh red or green chili, ginger, garlic, lime and chaphlu leaves, can be directly interpreted to mean “many things in one bite”.

LSBB’s had minced onions, roasted coconut, ground peanuts, a dollop of fermented shrimp paste and a sliver of lime all piled on a sesame leaf. The core ingredients were a medley of tastes and textures: the deliciously sweet pungency of the onions, the smoky coconut, the buttery crunch of the peanuts, the salty smoothness of the shrimp paste and the tang of the lime tied up by the delightfully “green” taste and slightly minty flavor of the sesame leaf.

Arranged in quadrants on a wide-lipped dish, we regretted ordering the four-piece. Then again, we had to reserve space for our planned mains at another restaurant. That it made you want more of it made it a perfect opener.

On a related note, “LSBB One is Live!”

Sawadee kaaaaaaaaaaaaah…

Little Saigon Big Bangkok is located at One Paseo, Paseo Saturnino, Ma. Luisa Rd., Banilad, Cebu City

The Illy Series: Marianos

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The rain has thankfully died down to a tickling on Day Three at the Illy. It had been quite a productive day–having started early with lechon, followed closely by pizza and winding down the afternoon with coffee. The PussyKat has been going on forever about Marianos and I’d be pressed for time to squeeze that in before what I anticipated to be another long boat ride back home. A quick call landed us a reservation at six.

Tucked away in a residential area, Marianos  modern, minimalist styling of finished concrete and glass greeted me as a pleasant surprise. Food is experiential so setting and ambience does add to a dish. The blonde woods and white interiors made for a perfect backdrop and single bamboo leaf in a brown reagent bottle provided simple, unobtrusive decoration for the stage.

Although printed on a single sheet, making our selection from the menu proved tough. Everything looked good. We now started to regret our indulgences earlier in the day. There was no way we could have a dish per section and  decided to just get a salad and a main.

We started with a Bacon and Mozzarella Salad which was basically a caprese smothered with a very generous dash of large, chopped bacon and vinaigrette. Sadly, our waiter wasn’t able to inform us about where the mozzarella was from or what was in the vinaigrette. Delicious, nonetheless.  Tomatoes and mozzarella are a classic combination, its sweet and flat, cheese flavors, respectively, balancing the acid of the vinaigrette and the salt of the bacon.

Doi’s Burger was a  Brie-stuffed 100% beef patty with truffle mushroom duxelles, thick bacon and shoe string potatoes. Burgers-on-wooden-boards have become a an industry standard. Marianos gets extra points for the wax paper liner and the little, wooden condiment dish for the ketchup and mustard. Bottled Dijon and not your squeeze-bottle McCormick, it appears. Or as I hope it was. The waiter offered to serve the burger split, anticipating that I will be sharing calories with the lady. And lady as she is, ochobo. Hahaha. The shoestring fries resembled crisped onions that I wished that was an option. My teeth were first met with the crunch followed by the grit of a good char. The mushroom and brie filling burst into my mouth in a molten stream melding with the meat. I made an involuntary “O” face. The PussyKat gave me the jealous eyebrow then made one herself on her bite. Beef and brie. Farewell, Kraft Cheddar Singles. Farewell.

The Specials of the Day caught my eye on the chalkboard and the Baked Brie called out. We were holding out on further orders taking the amount of our intake earlier in the day into consideration. Table envy would become our undoing. The waiter paraded plates upon plates of what looked to be items we were mulling on getting.  The fine lady in the table next to ours just had to have the Baked Brie. Waiter! We’ll have that, too, please!

It was another wooden board presentation. The cheese wheel’s rind cracked to reveal the molten center, a pile of caramelized almond slivers crowning it.  Thin, toasted slices of French bread dominoed alongside fresh strawberries.    The baking process slightly hardened the ever so slightly chewy rind of the Brie, its texture creamier in its molten state while remaining rich taste in taste with a smooth, even flavor.  Bliss in every bite.

 The PussyKat had Crème Brulee on the order queue for dessert. We sadly had to cancel it due to the human physical limitation of having a single stomach. Why must cows be so blessed with four?! *sobs controllably*

 This is yet another Illy surprise deserving a return visit. Till then, Ciao, R̶o̶m̶a̶n̶o̶ Mariano!

Marianos is located at Meadowlark St, Isabel Village, Pala-o, 9200 Iligan City