Pre-Christmas Dinner at Antonio's

I just realized that for the many times (years actually) I've been going to this place, I never really got to blog about it. Last night when we took Grandma Jo ( the nickname we gave my mother-in-law because our son calls him that) to Tagaytay for dinner, I decided it was about time I finally featured it here on my blog...it's been way too long. 

Antonio's Restaurant, owned by the now famous Chef Antonio Escalante, is about an hour and half away from the bustling city of Manila.  However yesterday, with the horrendous traffic in SLEX (particularly Alabang-Sucat area) it took more than that. It was a painfully long drive going there but I knew it was worth it. When we finally entered the dirt road going into the Main House, my mother-in-law who is visiting from New York was so intrigued because it seemed like we were going into such a remote place. The dark and winding path gave her the impression that this restaurant must be extraordinarily special for people to actually go that far. As we entered the massive wooden gate with an arc lined with lovely white flowers and saw a jam-packed parking area, she was immediately impressed.
She knew she was in for a real treat!

Antonio's is not only known for its delicate and hand-picked cuisine but for the classy and regal ambiance it provides its guests. I have two photos of the main dining area below to give you a glimpse of the kind of architecture and detail you will find in this place;

Another thing I love about Antonio's now is the way they space out your entire meal. Once you are seated, they give you two small menus; wine/drinks list and appetizers menu (the Huge Entree menu will be shown after you take your hors d oeuvres). So you know you are in for a looong and beautiful dining experience altogether. 

 Soft and warm poppyseed bread with butter swirl

For Appetizer, we originally wanted their two Portobello Mushroom offerings; the one with Balsamic Garlic and the other one with Foie Gras. Unfortunately they ran out so we opted for these instead;

 Escargot de Bourguignonne (Php 350.00)

 Raclette with Picked Vegatables and Roasted Potatoes (Php 350.00)

  This one we really wanted... Roasted Bone Marrow topped with Parsley and Capers with an Onion Marmalade on the side (Php 600.00). A bit over the top for me. I still prefer it the simple way; just nicely roasted bone marrow with a splash of lemon and sea salt smeared on toasted crostini/crackers/baguette. The capers and parsley masked the condensed beefiness taste of the marrow.

Moving on to our Entree;

When you order your main course, it actually comes with their House Salad, Soup, Dessert of your Choice and Cofee/Tea.

House Salad with Rasberry Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Craisins (Cranberry Raisins which my husband and I love!) and Blue Cheese Cubes 

My mom-in-law and Dad split the Salad with Duck Confit 

My Entree : Roasted Rack of Lamb with Port Wine Jus (Php 1,700.00) and supposedly Garlic Polenta but I had it changed to Garlic Risoni instead. I had my lamb cooked "medium" and it was done perfectly. The change of side dish from polenta to risoni was also an excellent move because it was amazingly delicious. Risoni is actually pasta shaped like long grain rice. They cooked it al dente with cheese and garlic...ooh la la! :) That's all I can say!

Joel's Seafoof Sampler  (Php 1,600.00) : From left to right - Prawns Thermidor, Chilean Sea Bass with Foil baked Olives, Parsley, Pine Nuts over Mashed Potatoes and finally  Pan-seared Scallops on Celeriac Mashed Truffle Cream Sauce  

They also gave us a round of their homemade Limoncello which sadly I coudn't take because I have to stay away from liquor for 4 months (I'm 5 months on the way!)

As always, we all saved room for dessert. We sampled 4 different things and just put them all on the center for everyone to share and taste;

Poached Pear on Port Wine topped with Vanilla Ice Cream

Panna Cotta Sampler with Chantilly Cream

Double Chocolate Souffle with Chocolate Sauce... so rich and sinful!

Lemon Panna which tasted like Lemon with Cream Smoothie. Nothing spectacular though!

We ended our glorious dinner with a Christmas toast and big smiles. Once again, we were stuffed, satisfied and happy guests! We took some time to take family photos for grandma Jo to keep as remembrance :)

My Boys enjoying the cool Tagaytay December weather and the ambiance of Antonio's. I was so surprised little Henri actually liked the Raclette Appetizer. His mature taste amuses me sometimes! :) 

I had a 'major-major' celebrity sighting by the way. We were seated right beside the table of Juday/Judy Ann Santos and hubby Ryan Agoncillo! Sorry, I just had to share. I'm obviously a fan. Haha!

2 more days before Christmas!!! Happy Eating and Happy Holidays Everyone!

Antonio's Tagaytay
Bgy. Neogan
Tagaytay City, Cavite


Have a Break, Have a WASABI KITKAT?

My cousin Maan recently came from Japan and brought me some weird and unusual Kitkat regional flavors. Sharing with you these flavors which I'm sure a lot of you have yet to try...

 People have been raving about these two popular Japanese flavors; Green Tea and Wasabi. I finally got to try them and I must say that the green tea one is absolutely addicting (well maybe I'm a little biased because I really love green tea!). Meantime, the wasabi one is very subtle...it's white chocolate wafers with a slight hint of that peppery wasabi.

Take your pick... the flavors range from cheese to sweet potato to Soy Sauce..yup! Shoyu Soy Sauce which tasted more like salty caramel.

Take a break and have a crazy-flavored Kitkat :)


Sawasdee: Thai Street Food

I was able to take a few days off and a much needed get vacay from the Manila stress to travel with my husband and brother Philippe to Bangkok. It was their first time to visit and my fourth time to see the so-called City of Smiles. One thing, I absolutely love about Bangkok is their street food. Unhygienic to some and highly questionable in terms of its safeness to others, I am still all for it. We live but once so I might as well enjoy the whole experience even if there's a fear of occasional stomach upsets! Hahaha! :)

Though intimidating to a lot of foreigners, these food stalls on the streets provide convenient, delicious and affordable meals to the locals. Wherever you go in the city, you are likely to find these stalls very often in busy areas with a lot of people traffic. The popular ones include noodle stalls, made-to-order stalls, satay or bbq stalls and those that sell packed fruits and boiled vegetables.

The hotel we stayed in (Baiyoke Suite Hotel) is situated at the bustling Pratunam area where you can find practically all kinds of street food alongside the bargain stalls of the flea market. Hip and Joel were in awe with the whole gamut of food choices...

Different kinds of Barbeque - Pork, Beef Chicken, innards... I sampled the  strips of beef and it tasted very similar to our local "tapa" / cured beef often eaten at breakfast with rice!

 local crepe with sausage inside

 Grilled catfish served with matching freshly made fish and chili paste

 More and more bbq options

 Steamed Assorted greens with shrimp paste on a plastic bag! 
 Dessert crepe with choice of banana/egg/syrup on top. Hip really enjoyed this dessert so much. 

 Fruit stall : My favorite is their sliced green mangoes with salt/sugar/chili mixture! Heaven!

 Grilled Sausage - more like very tasty longanissa with rice (yes rice inside!)

 Fresh seafoods to put inside your made-to-order Tom Yum

Tom Yum made right in front of you! You choose what you want inside (chicken, squid, fish or shrimp or just vegetables). Ofcourse we choice all of the above! And they ask you how spicy you want it to be. We wanted the authentic flair so we went for the spicy (how the locals have it cooked). It was awesome!

Freshly made Fish Chili Paste that you can eat with grilled seafood or steamed vegetables. I closely watched the old lady as she skillfully used her wooden mortar and pestle and pounded the fish, chilies and other spices creating a chunky green paste which smelled so delightful and tasted spectacular!

We returned to our hotel room on our second night with plastic bags filled with different thai viands - creamy Tom Yum, assorted barbeque, vegetables with fish paste, grilled shrimp plus two generous portions of Pad Thai (Stir Fried Noodles with Shrimp). We sat down in front of the tv and enjoyed each of our amazing, taste and zesty street finds.

Sampling the local cuisine particularly food on the streets is I believe the best way to experience the local culture of Bangkok. I highly recommend you take time out to enjoy their delicacies when you're there... and just so you know our stomachs were fine...no upsets whatsoever :) 

Life is good. Enjoy!


Mamou : A "Glorified" Home Kitchen

Since we arrived from New York about 5 months ago, my husband Joel has ate in this restaurant thrice already (all of which were not with me unfortunately but with friends). He has been raving about their steaks in particular. According to him, it's the closest thing to Peter Luger's steak here in Manila. Well, Lugers is not exactly my top NY steakhouse pick (I still prefer Wolfgang's or Quality Meats over it) but something close to that here in the city is definitely worth a try. 

Last Friday, we both shared a carnivorous craving which mind you, rarely happens to me nowadays! So  he thought that it was the perfect chance to take me to Mamou Serenda. The place supposedly gets really packed during the weekends so you should definitely make reservations beforehand. Luckily, our friend Ziggy, who helps manage the place, was able to squeeze us a table. We also met the gracious owners - a friendly and warm couple (Ziggy's aunt and uncle). They even briefly sat down with us for a little chit chat. 

Well, I honestly wasn't really able to peruse their eclectic menu because Joel already knew what he wanted me to try and so he ordered away...

 They served a complimentary basket of warm assorted buns to start our meal

 Lorenzo's Truffle Cream Pasta (Php 335.00) - I'm not exactly a huge fan of cream-based pasta sauces because they tend to be very heavy but I actually liked this one. I guess I'm a bit biased too because as much as I don't like cream, I absolutely love truffle oil. The earthy and sensual aroma and flavor just makes everything taste so much better.

 USDA Prime Rib (Php 2,800.00) - We asked that it be cooked medium-RARE. We repeated and reiterated the word"rare" because Joel told me that the last time they ate there, they had to send back their steak thrice (gulp! who does that? Having worked in the professional kitchen myself, I pitied the chef on the meat station!)  Maybe it was partly luck and partly skill that night because our order came out perfect the first time around. The 400 gram piece of meat was served on an oil splattered hot plate with oozing olive oil that you can baste the meat with while its hot. It was sprinkled with sea salt on top and came with two sidings of mashed potato and creamed spinach. Both were rather small in size. The sidings unfortunately ended up untouched because we focused all our efforts on the succulent, juicy slab. The thickness was just right and the quality of meat was patently top-notch. Joel and I savored each delectable bite of the meat laced with marbled fat....He liked it with a generous amount of their signature steak sauce while I enjoyed it with just good old sea salt since I don't like masking my meat with sauce!

This was an extra treat for us because they made us sample their special Kurobuta Sinigang (complimentary) with Bagoong Balayan. Although this is a weird addition to the steak and truffle pasta we ordered, Ziggy and Tita just gave in to our request to taste the soup because I've heard a lot of raves about it. And I understood why. The sinigang is the thick, gabi-generous and slow-cooked sour broth that I love with a twist. And who would have thought that bagoong would marry perfectly with it as a dipping sauce. Genius!

I must say, I was quite impressed with my over-all experience - food was superb, service was efficient and the ambiance was homey. I would most definitely come back here again for some glorified comfort food.

Serendra, Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City, Metro Manila
02 8553569


Thursday Date Night: Crystal Jade Finally Here in Manila!

The Xiao Long Bao sensation has finally hit Manila. Last month, Crystal Jade opened its doors in Virra Mall, Greenhills Center. Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts Holding is one of Asia’s most celebrated and multi-awarded food and beverage companies. It has been satisfying the cravings of authentic Chinese cuisine aficionados in more than 80 outlets with 19 culinary concepts in Singapore and other major cities in the Asia-Pacific region. A name respected for the success it has been relishing over the years, it hails itself as a reliable provider of consistent quality food and service. 

This famed restuarant brings good and not to mention tasty memories of our family Hong Kong food trips. Joel has been wanting to go for the past 2 weeks but my sister said the line there during weekends (especially during lunch service) gets crazy. The wait time is about an hour and half or so. We decided to wait it out first and let the craze subside. Finally last night, we gave in to the temptation and spent our "date night" there. 

 Their Steamed Pork Soup Dumplings (Php 158.00) - They're not the best we've had (I think after Din Tai Fung, no xiao long bao can possibly be better!) but it's good enough. It was able to satisfy Joel's Chinese craving. 

Steamed Sliced Pork with Assorted Capsicum & Bean Paste served with pancakes (Php 260.00)

 Noodle with Spicy Cold Chicken (Php 288.00) - Joel wanted something spicy so he sampled this was and boy was it hoooot! The cold chicken was well-flavored and married perfectly with the hand-pulled noodles. What I love about it is that it's served with a spoonful of coriander/cilantro on the side which you can mix with the chicken and noodles. It accentuates the flavor beautifully. But waaah! It sure gives your tongue a good burn! hahaha! I had to ask for a glass of milk and Wong Lo Kat to hlep get the spiciness out of my mouth! 

Wong Lo Kat (Php 44.00) - This helped my tongue recover from the spicy chicken noodle dish above! This herbal drink actually tastes like Sago't Gulaman without the well...sago and gulaman! Did that make sense? 

 For those who have been curious about Crystal Jade, the best time to go is on a weekday at an off-peak time. We went around 8:30 already and there was no line. We were seated promptly and service was quick and efficient.

* The only downside about last night's experience was that they don't have their own restroom inside the restaurant. Joel had to go out and enter the mall only to find out that  that when he got there he needed a stub from the restaurant to enter because its a "Pay Restroom". So with much irritation and frustration, he had to go back and get that stub. Argh!

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao
Unit 117-211 Ground Floor, Virra Mall, Greenhills Shopping Center
Greenhills, San Juan
570-6912 or 570-6910