Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sentosa: Heart of Singaporean craving

Singapore, a melting pot of the orient, a crisscross of cultural roots, a heterogeneity of Asia's prime cuisine.

The place is a conglomeration of nearby races gravitated towards an urban sinkhole called Singapore. These races are Malay, Thai, and Chinese predominantly with a little tangibility of Indian influence.

So does their cuisine. Sentosa is an epitome of a Singaporean spirit, a best of brewing cultures of the East with the best of their cuisines concocted to satisfy the cravings of all races combined, and beyond.

Sentosa Singaporean Chinese Restaurant's design elements were that of a well-adorned Chinese restaurant with the trimmings of Thai by its apparent velvet lining cutting the monotony of the bare look that holds the exquisitely beautiful chandeliers. The nicely cushioned seats with circular print is halfway between a Chinese and Malay derivative.

That night, I got myself a Radish Cake in XO Sauce(Php95 + 10% SC), which is essentially a radish cake cut into cubes and deep-frying it with vegetable oil and a special XO sauce, Sentosa & Spicy Beef(Php285 + 10% SC), a delicious thinly sliced beef with a bit tanginess at every bite, Fried Rice with Salted Fish and Chicken(Php200 + 10%SC), a rice fried the Chinese way but mixed with salted fish and strips of chicken, and refillable Chrysanthemum Tea(Php85 + 10% SC), it's so fresh that you can actually see the Chrysanthemum flower floating inside your glass.

There are still an assortment of entrees that seemed worth trying so next time I have to make sure I still have a stomach space, especially for the dessert.

Turning iPod Nano into a wrist watch

Blame it on Steve Jobs by churning out a product with vivid touch screen display but embellished with a functional clock design as its lock screen.

Several entrepreneurial guts of accessory manufacturers are tapping to that idea, and produced a bracelet that will make your MP3 player not just a clipped marvel of your clothes, but a fitting fashionable watch of your wrist.

Cottage industry includes the likes of Lunatik, Tiktok, Hex, and Rock Band.

The image you see below is a Rock Band brand, costing about $19.99. The image on top is a generic wrist band with similar design as the Rock Band but costing about Php350, bought at The A-Shop. I couldn't attest the quality of Rock Band versus the generic wrist band since the Rock Band hasn't landed in the Philippine shore yet. But it has the same special cut to accommodate the Nano's clip.

I don't like the Rock Band actually. I am waiting for the Lunatik. But while I waited for it to hit our retail shelves, might as well be a cheapskate and stash your money for the real thing.

Dad's Ultimate Buffet

The first time I was at Dad's was wayback 1999 when buffet was not yet a mainstream dining habit, and blogging was not yet an online literary notoriety, much less food blogging.

Just today, in celebration of my college room mates birthday, we troop to the place like hungry lions hunting for its prey. Our faces so ferociously beastly that one can literally feel the hungry animals in us when we headed to Dad's Kamayan and Saisaki Buffet.

Last 1999 that I hit Dad's was at Megamall. This time, since we expect a lot of urban zombies to swarm all of the country's malls, we diverted to West Avenue.

Although the building is a little bit of unkempt and surely needs overhauling, the place is nevertheless clean and well-resolved. The set up remained their signature arrangement, sorted with a dedicated section for each buffet type, separation of Dad's, Kamayan, and Saisaki.

The buffet is classified into two dining type, one for not-so-hungry lions with Blue Plate. And the other for the staunch hungry pride with White Plate, they call it Ultimate Buffet where you can crisscross at all sections. Although I forgot the price for the Blue Plate but for our buffet type, White Plate, it was pegged at Php645 but you are obliged to get their Moist Towel which at Php4 each. And since we don't want to devour gargantuan volume without ramming down our throats, we got ourselves a bottomless soda which is at Php81.

Although it may pale in comparison as it with Spiral, Circles, and Heat, I couldn't complain at its price point.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Summer Destination: Beach? Or bahay

Summer is so close that the scorching heat of the sun already bites the skin. It has even had just unfold from the windy March. The thing with summer is that people are so bent in spending it outdoor, something that I consider a kryptonite as I can't bear standing outside at the perils of sun's rays. I am just an indoor type of person. In fact, I have been wishing all these years that there could be indoor beaches, or indoor fun run, or indoor soccer. I wish the entire Philippines would be air-conditioned.

It's not because I hate the sun. In fact, I am doing astronomical imaging and had always been fascinated by its radiance, the lofty sight of how hydrogen atoms fused, turning into helium at a quantum level, and consequently all other elements on Earth. It is so beautiful and we are made out of it. As Carl Sagan said, "we are star stuff." Yes, without the sun, life wouldn't have been formed. It gives energy to chlorophyl-thriving organisms, it contributes to the evolution of carbon-based life forms.

Yet, it is also as dangerous as it delightful. And the danger is not just an occasional manifestation. Everyday, the Earth's magnetosphere is wrestling with the intense energetic burst out of the solar flare's differential rotation. Everyday our ozone layer will have to act as punching bag from the beating of ultraviolet radiation. And the danger is not something you would want to dismiss. Take note, if a PINHEAD piece of the sun were to be placed on Earth, you will have to stand 145 kilometers away to be safe.

I got all forms of invites from friends during summer-- La Luz, Laiya, Quezon, Subic, Galera, Boracay, Poracay(yes, it is not misspelled, google it out) but I never joined the pack in any of them. We have all-expense-paid company summer outing every year but I never attended anyone of them.

That is why, every summer, I will have to joust as to whether staying indoor or outdoor, to saunter around the beach or stay inside my brethren.

What about you, where is your summer destination.

Monday, April 18, 2011

ZAGG Invisible Shield: Making gadgets fugly over time

I have the propensity to glorify my gadgets the way I deify my science icons like Hubble, Einstein, Sagan, Hawking, and Kaku. The level of glorification goes as much as to overprotect them like how a Mom to his children(or since I don't have a maternal instinct, I better have to use the analogy of shepherd and a herd of sheep).

All my gadgets are protected with the most utmost care-- from display protector, surge protector, keyboard protector and all sort of protective shield I can get.

In an effort to protect them, we either bought unwisely some items that we ended up not using because for one, they hamper the functionality of your devices. How many of you bought keyboard protector but ended up having a hard time typing as the silicon cover impedes your typing speed. How many of you bought iPhone cases that rendered useless because some buttons will not work anymore. To think that I only bought branded items and accessories, I could have minimized this unfavorable fate.

Secondly they look fugly over time. Just look at this iPod Touch 4th Gen and how ugly it has become because the supposed military-grade material ZAGG Invisible Shield that would have protected it from bumps and scratches appeared UGLY at the course of wear and tear. It is thicker than Gmask but my Gmasked item still survived up to this day. The longest running Gmask protection I had was almost 5years now. Only the reinforced protection at the gutter was removed but it still looks good and astutely fitting, not the unappealing, worn out, and detached lateral sides to corners.

Avoid spending a thousand bucks for this.

Lola Maria: Home-grown Filipino cuisine

Amidst the proliferation of culinary schools bustling in the metropolis and producing great chefs, the adage 'no one cooks best than Lola' still holds true in our deep-seated Filipino culture.

Lola Maria Restaurant concept is forged into this dining tradition. Named after the great grandmother of its the restaurant owner Ginger Villavicencio, it is an assortment of Filipino comfort food prepared in scrumptious cooking the Lola way. I don't know if they are in anyway related to the Villavicencio clan of the Dad's/Saisaki restaurant chain.

Lola Maria restaurant is nestled at the Legend Villas, the country's most notably nostalgic hotel that is close enough to being a home. Lola Maria's Vigan-inspired wooden furnitures compliments smoothly with the entire home-grown set up reminiscent to an ancestral Spanish-built architecture.

The breakfast buffet has limited choices but good enough for a nice lazy Sunday morning after a hard and blistering gym session. It has the usual flare: Filipino kakanin(desserts made from sticky rice), home-style pancit bihon, tuyo, egg omelet, burger steak, arroz caldo and misua soup, mango and pineapple juice, brewed coffee and chocolate de batirol, cereals, cold cuts, cheese bar, do-it-your-own salads, fruits, breads of almost all kinds -- French croissant orFilipino pan de sal, and a lot more.

I was informed that they serve more choices during lunch and dinner, with prices Php350 during weekdays and Php499 during weekdays. The is because they serve 12courses during weekdays while only 9courses by week ends. I guess I will be back then.

It came to my attention that they also do celebrity-concocted dishes, like Randy Ortiz Vegetable Quiche or Iza Calzado's Fish Pinipig or Ara Mina's Rosemary and Garlic Rib-Eye Steak.

The customer service is topnotch, people are very warm just like your very own rural roots.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Distillery: Eastwood Watering Hole

I always pass by The Distillery at the Forbeswood Heights Condo at The Fort but I never had a chance to try it out because when I am bent in doing so, they're always jam-packed. The place is teeming with Makati's nocturnal elites and office workers, binging with booze, and with neckties hanging loose as if trying to unweave from the shackles of corporate slavery.

Just lately though, together with our big wigs, we tried The Distillery Eastwood. Our group seems like a heterogenous melting pot of races, half of them are Caucasian and half of us are brown race. :)

These Finnish and German folks were so surprised because one bottle of Jagermeister and Russian Standard we ordered had just the price of one shot of it from their place. Damn, that expensive cost of living in Germany and Finland?

We surveyed bottle per bottle and we realized that yes, they are actually priced more wallet-friendly than most bars. We ordered Corona Beer, Russian Standard, Jagermeister, and Ginger Ale.

My only gripe though is that their customer service is not really of premium value. We asked the bar manager to have our two tables stuck together so we can condense ourselves into just one group but they refuse, giving a lame reason that Eastwood admin wouldn't allow it. I know that Eastwood admin will only not allow if they will exceed from the required occupancy perimeter to the activity center, which can only be done if places in linear vertical position. But we are just suggesting horizontal arrangement which will not at all increase distance. They didn't even think that the volume of our orders surpassed the accumulated volume of their other customers that night. Oh well, so much for the customer service.

One table is just good for 6-8people, exceeding that, your group will have to be separated. Compressing 8-10 would be a bit uncomfortably squeaking.

Next time, when in Eastwood, we'd better drink at The Gallery, Richmond Hotel. I wouldn't mind paying more for a better customer service.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Buenisimo by Cafe Ysabel: A heritage cafe

An offshoot of a Spanish-charmed restaurant located at the San Juan has now found a new home in the Eastwood Mall Veranda. Buenisimo is a reformulated Cafe Ysabel to attract a wider market spectrum and dining demographics– this time targeted towards a hippier and a younger cavalier servente who prefers quality food over the run-of-the-mill fast-food.

Buenisimo by Cafe Ysabel is a brainchild of the culinary genius Chef Gene Gonzales and his sister Giannina. The matriarch restaurant, Cafe Ysabel, is located in San Juan, one I hardly had a chance to drop by whenever I'm in the area.

Exuding a composite posh interior and a modern elegance, Buenisimo still retained its classic design with the integration of wrought iron doors and wooden carvings. The interior is a bit leaning towards virility though, as it imposes dark and strong black and brown colors, reminiscent of a stereotype bachelor's pad.

I was welcomed with a courtesy bread along with vinaigrette dip. Then I grabbed myself a Grape Salad with White Cheese(Php278), a profuse amount of red/green grapes, grilled Laguna white cheese, capers, olives, balsamic vinaigrette, Filleto a la Gino(Php598), a US Hanger steak, wild mushrooms, roasted bone marrow, truffle demiglace, and a Buenisimo Shake(Php178), a combination of fresh mango, passion fruit, and mint. Note that their prices don't come with service charge which is a good thing for a cheapskate like me who is always on a shoestring budget.

Having been an icon in the culinary world, the menu in the Cafe Ysabel and Buenisimo are painstakingly done to perfection. They are as flavorful as they are presented to be. One need not spend hefty premium for a gas fuel and vroom away to San Juan to be able to taste the goodness in one of Manila's heritage cafes.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Crisostomo: Turn of the Century Filipino Cuisine

I am starting to dodge my culinary adventure in Eastwood since it is the area that our Section Editor is planning to cover for our issue of the newsportal. And yes, I am at the periphery to hunt for restaurant that I could have a lunch at. I am a forerunner of the adage: "fast-food on week days , fine dining on week ends." But today is not the day since most fast-food stops in Eastwood are full. This is a surprising fact because there are actually only three dining demographics despite business heterogeneity: people from call centers, people from IBM, and people from Citibank.

I stopped by Crisostomo: Turn of the Century Filipino Cuisine. The restaurant is forged by the same culinary mastery by Chef Florabel Co of Felix Restaurant in Greenbelt which I have dined at once. Looks like her restaurants are an ensemble of dedication efforts. Her father is Felix and her husband's name is Crisostomo, so she must have named them after them. Secondary only, perhaps, is the concept it was derived at.

Crisostomo was formulated to have a revolutionary flare on Filipino cuisines, the same stance that evoked from the spirit of Crisostomo Ibarra who had been a bastion of cultural change. It was embodied in the restaurant's interior that has lighted drawings of the 17th century Filipino clothing styles and the Noli Me Tangere-inspired menu. The pinnacle of classic wooden elements complemented well with the modern well-cushioned seats.

It was hard for me to order because most of their entrees are good for 2-3people at the least. So I grabbed myself an Adobo Damaso(Php325 + 10% SC), a chicken and pork fried twice to recapture its crispiness, served with fried kangkong and a special sauce, Crazy Sisa Squid Salad(Php220 + 10% SC), a green salad with sprinkled with dried squid and strips of green mango, a Pandan Rice(Php60 +10%SC), it's just a steamed rice, and a Green Mango Shake(Php150 + 10%SC) that you can literally taste the bits and freshness of green mangoes. And oh, they serve a Cornbits-like courtesy appetizer too.

It was a nice dining experience, it feels like singing a kundiman with contemporary spin.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Messier Marathon 2011 at Caliraya, Quezon

Every year, our group of Filipino astronomers heads right up to the raven recedes of Caliraya for our annual Messier Marathon. This time around, the marathon is a public event where astronomy students from different schools are invited to join.

For those who have a little or no knowledge about the things we do, Messier Marathon is essentially a forging of people in the field of astronomy and astrophysics to scout the sky with Messier objects in just one night, list them down in a la catalogue style, and those who have the most number of found will win.

Messier objects are a catalogue of deep-sky objects such as nebulae, galaxies, star clusters, supernovae and others visible especially in the "pitchblackness" of the night using the lens aids of any telescope kind(refractor, reflector or catadioptric). The keyword is pitchblack, so to avoid any light obtrusion we had it at Caliraya. Always Caliraya.

We had it every May or April because it is the time of the year where rainy season doesn't spoil our observational objective. This year, we had it last April 2, 2011.

The group was divided into two: the marathoners and the imagers.

The marathoners are those participants who hunt the sky with messier objects using scientifically and systematic methods incorporating starmaps and other requisite equipments.The imagers are those who'd like to embrace the beauty of the cosmos by capturing images of Messier objects.

One doesn't have to be an astronomy ace or a seasoned astrophysicist to do a marathon. All you need is a good telescope and an efficient hunting system. Much like hunting a myriad of preys in a safari jungle, this time you do it in the cosmic landscape.

I wasn't able to attend this year's Messier Marathon though because of my EIC-ship of our newsportal, that I ended up having too many articles in my desk to examine and arrive at an editorial decision to see if these stories sell for the next issue. Next year, I will probably be there.

Special thanks to James Kevin Ty for the photos.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Meidolls Cafe: Tokyo Maid Cafe

I don't watch anime, and I am never enamored by women in skimpy skirts that flaunt like Vegas sirens. The closest thing I have ever watched was Sucker Punch, which is technically not anime but essentially just some teen age girls in Sailor Moon-inspired outfits kicking ass against a barrage of fictional enemies.

But I am a sucker for "mecha" though– robots, androids and artificial intelligence with positronic brains and perform human functions, and more. I still have my childhood affinity with Astroboy, Mazinger Z, Silver Hawks, Voltron, Diamos, Macross, and of course, the champion celebrity of the all, Voltes V. I even had 1foot-tall Gundam Wing action figure. If they will be counted as part of the anime culture, so then I partly love it.

And perhaps, it's that indefeasible fondness is what brought me to the Philippine's first Tokyo Maid Cafe, Meidolls Cafe, at the suburbs of Cainta. It is a cosplay cafe, with attendants dressed in an elaborate French maid costumes with curly blonde ringlets touching their shoulders like anime characters. Their tables and chairs also Japanese-derived, the short-legged chabudai and zabuton.

Their Lasagna Roll is not available so I ended up ordering Chicken Katsudon Sandwhich(Php80 + 10% SC), Meidoll Pesto(Php95 + 10% SC), and a cup of Cappuccino(Php95 + 10% SC).

While it is a fresh and promising concept for a cafe, I honestly think it needs some improvements. For one, they have to be on a right location, perhaps in a more urban landscape. Second, they have to work on their menu. Their Chicken Katsudon Sandwhich is good but their Meidolls Pesto literally tastes bland and you can't even slightly taste the strong tanginess of the pesto and olive oil. Provided that it is their maiden launch and that their area is just temporary which will eventually expand soon, they should have put a good airconditioning unit. The place is a bit hot especially during the afternoon. I should know because I am sensitive and allergic to non-airconditioned places.

However, kudos to their attendants. They really have done an excellent job to make your experience really good. They have power up gesture that is supposed to energize your dining experience. They even have dance numbers too. Beat that Cebu Pacific attendants.

I spoke Tagalog to the attendant who served me but to my surprise she can't understand it. I asked if she was a Japanese, she said she's Korean. Now that is close to authenticity.

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