Monday, October 28, 2013

Izakaya Nihonbashi Tei

A darling of the foodie community, Japanese restaurant Nihonbashi Tei has been reviewed to death by so many food blogs all over the internet, but of course, I don't want to get left behind! There are already several branches of Nihonbashi Tei around Metro Manila and they're always packed to the brim, not only with Japanese-food-loving Filipinos but even Japanese nationals as well! I suppose that's how you know that a place is really authentic, right?

A brief backgrounder: There are so many different kinds of Japanese restaurants. You have the sushi-ya (sushi shop), ramen-ya (ramen shop), tonkatsu-ya (tonkatsu shop), etc. which are specialty restaurants that serve a specific dish. However, there is also the izakaya (of which Nihonbashi Tei is an example) which is technically a pub, where people gather to drink sake and make merry. Food served are also complementary to alcohol, (basically pulutan) such as grilled meats, rice, noodles, and sashimi.

Stepping into any one of their branches will transport you to traditional Japan, with wooden and stone decor and flooring, Japanese characters lining the walls, and most importantly, quaint little rooms where you get to sit on the floor and dine on low wooden tables (although these are smoking rooms). If that doesn't get you in the mood for some delectable Japanese cuisine, then I don't know what will.

What I love about Nihonbashi Tei is that they don't skimp on ingredients. Their salmon sashimi has the largest slices I've seen, their miso soup has fresh briny clams in it, and their spicy tuna maki is HUGE.

That being said, let's get on with the show!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cozy Afternoons at Cafe Xocolat

If you are ever in the Katipunan area, and you find yourself looking for a place to:
  1. treat yourself to some nice comfort food
  2. spend a lazy afternoon catching up with an old friend
  3. just chill out and curl up with your laptop or book while enjoying a nice cup of hot chocolate
... then Xocolat is the place for you!

I can't believe I've never blogged about this place. This is definitely one of my ultimate go-to place, and why shouldn't it be? A small, cozy cafe converted from the sala of an old house, Xocolat definitely has that homey feel that makes me want to stay here all day. In addition, with the friendly staff, eclectic decor and of course, the consistently good food, I kind of wonder why I haven't just moved in already (well, they're not open 24/7 for one).

Xocolat's comfy vibe makes it the ultimate chill-out place

The food... oh, the food. Obviously, for a place named after the world's favorite food, Xocolat offers excellent chocolate. Their signature beverages and cakes are some of the most decadent chocolate offerings this side of town. Because of this, you'd think that those exotic creatures called people who don't like chocolate won't have any reason to come here, but actually, Xocolat offers so much more. The menu is a labor of love, carefully crafted to bring you all the best comfort food.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cha Dao Tea Place: Part 5 of The Great Maginhawa Food Trip

This post is the fifth of a five-part series called The Great Maginhawa Food Trip.
Part 1: Tomato Kick
Part 2: Friuli Trattoria
Part 3: Cocina Juan

We've finally come to the end of the series! It's been a fun ride, and it'll be some time before our next post, making this the perfect time to check out some of our older posts! ;)

Anyway, our final course for The Great Maginhawa Food Trip is none other than a cool glass of pearl milk tea at Cha Dao Tea Place.

The small shop consists of a counter where they serve their specialty tea drinks, as well as several little tables where you can just sit and chill with your friends. In fact, the tiny store is full of students studying and holding meetings. There's not much room, but the bright tea-green walls, light wooden furniture, and quiet atmosphere make you feel calm, relaxed and refreshed, the perfect space for you to unwind. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sancho Churreria: Part 4 of The Great Maginhawa Food Trip

This post is the fourth of a five-part series called The Great Maginhawa Food Trip.
Part 1: Tomato Kick
Part 2: Friuli Trattoria
Part 3: Cocina Juan

We're now nearing the end of The Great Maginhawa Food Trip, and our fourth installment features a little, old-fashioned cafe called Sancho Churreria Manila. What is a churreria, you ask? Why, a store that sells churros, of course! And excellent churros, at that!

Even before entering, the glass panels already make the store look very warm and inviting, with sunlight streaming through from outside. The interior isn't very spacious, but the displays of yummy goodies as well as the cozy furniture and decor help you feel right at home. The store was packed when we were there, with people having important business meetings, long overdue reunions with friends, or maybe just some lazy afternoon coffee. I never wanted to leave.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cocina Juan: Part 3 of The Great Maginhawa Food Trip

This post is the third of a five-part series called The Great Maginhawa Food Trip.
Part 1: Tomato Kick
Part 2: Friuli Trattoria
Part 3: Cocina Juan

UPDATE: As of September 2013, which is when I last visited Maginhawa, Cocina Juan is no longer open for business. You can check their FB page for updates!

Part 3 of The Great Maginhawa Food Trip is about Cocina Juan F. Gallery. The F. Gallery part refers to the restaurant's double function as an art gallery, with its walls displaying some paintings and other pieces by local artists. I'm not an art critic, so I'm not going to comment but even to my unrefined eye, the art is certainly interesting. (I'm not that sure what the F stands for but I'm assuming it's "food".)

Cocina Juan, one of the more unique finds in Maginhawa, serves Nicaraguan food. I'll wait here while you look up Nicaragua on Google... Good? Okay. Nicaragua, as you might have learned already, is a country in the Central American region, which is right between North and South America. Easy, right? It's also right below Mexico, which explains some of the menu options in Cocina Juan, which seem to be Mexican-inspired, if not actual Mexican dishes. What sets Central American food apart is their use of meats, grains and various herbs and spices. Their cuisine was also influenced heavily by the Spanish, much like Filipino food.

Now enough history/geography lessons! It's time to focus on Cocina Juan and their fantastic food! 

The restaurant itself is a cozy little house, brightly-painted and with assorted foliage covering the front, so much so that it might be hard to catch the tiny signage in the front. Just make sure to watch out for the big red chili pepper when you look for this location.