Sunday, May 25, 2008

LAN ZHOU LA MIEN RESTAURANT: A cheap, pleasant eat!

When: May 22, 2008
What: Late Lunch
Where: Lan Zhou La Mien
819 Benavidez Street, Binondo Manila
Tel: (+632) 480-0732

Upon recommendation of Di and FredV, blogger ManilaFashionObserver and I decided to eat in this almost hole-in-the-wall joint along Benavidez Street in Binondo. It was a Binondo lunch date for me and blogger MFO, as we had previously made arrangements to do this little food trip downtown even before she came back to Manila from her new home, New York.

We didn't know the name of this restaurant because the couple who recommended it couldn't remember the name either :) But we had no trouble finding the place, after we were given directions and landmarks where this restaurant is located.It's called Lan Zhou La Mien (Lan Zhou Pulled Noodles). The place was brightly lit with fluorescent lights. Place was full when we got in about 1pm. All diners were Chinese-- they spoke Mandarin. We knew this would be a good place to eat. But again, this restaurant is not for everyone. If you've been so used to eating in Michelin- star decorated restaurants, you'd probably be a bit slighted at the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of the restaurant. But for MFO and I, we were not too bothered by the lack of ambiance. After all, we were here for the food!!

When I stared at the menu, I couldn't believe my eyes. Hand- pulled noodle soup for Php 80!! That's just about US$1.85 (conversion rate US$1/ Php 43.2) per bowl! There was a big covered plastic bowl which contained spring onions. This was the "condiment" we were to add to our noodle soup.

MFO and I both ordered the Beef La Mien.
The noodles were wonderful! I've never appreciated La Mien noodles before, so these are particularly pleasant to eat. A little bounce (al dente if we are to compare this to Italian noodles haha) was perfect. The soup stock was good too-- not too salty and there's a little hint of sweetness (I hope no MSG, though I still suspect a sprinkle or two of it). Meat was good, not dry.

The Menu:Cute spelling error-- ChicHen lamien :) I told you the noodles are cheap. Below Php 100 even!

MFO and I were extremely pleased with this little noodle place discovery of ours. I'm sharing this with you all in the hopes that you too, can pass by and lunch at this little noodle joint :) And don't forget to share your experience with me afterwards!

The 4-1-1 on LAN ZHOU LA MIEN:

FOOD RATING: 3 stars (***)
AFFORDABILITY: $ (Super Cheap!)
AMBIANCE: No need for ambiance for food this cheap and this good!
SERVICE: 3 stars (***) Staff very well trained
NEXT TIME WILL TRY: Fried Dumplings

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

FRENCH CORNER: A Little "Southern" Comfort in the City

When: May 4, 2008
What: Brunch
Where: French Corner
L102-L103 Westgate Center Commerce Avenue cor. Filinvest Ave, Alabang Muntinlupa City
Locsin Bldg, Makati Avenue, Makati City
Tel: (+632) 771.2345/ (+632) 771.2346

I've always enjoyed Chef Billy King's cooking. From the time I first had dinner at Le Souffle (while he was still partner at that restaurant), to the time I was served lunch at Le Chef at The Manor at Camp John Hay during that period when I was writing for a Weddings Magazine, Chef Billy King has never failed to produce something spectacular. I suggested French Corner for brunch with my family since I haven't eaten there in two years-- that plus my siblings have never really wandered off to Alabang, and this was a good enough reason for them to go.

Garlic Mushrooms. This was excellent. Has a nice spicy bite to each mushroom. I thoroughly enjoyed this appetizer and so did everyone else.

Tuna Tataki. Php 315 One of the specialties of French Corner, this seared tuna was very fresh. Other than it being fresh, I must say it fell short of my expectations. The seared edges were not crusty, which is what I think I would've preferred.

Caesar Salad the "Classic Way". Php 195 A family member ordered this. It tasted rather tart. I reckon too much lemon juice perhaps?

My favorite dish of the day was the Chilean Sea Bass. Php 925 It was perfection. Fresh, tasty, and not overcooked. This was a winner. Sauce consistency was likewise good. I'm not too sold on the pasta pairing but it does work somehow. The marriage of taste was certainly not smooth, but it was alright.

For mains, my husband ordered the red rice risotto, my brother ordered the steak. Mom went with the baby back ribs, while my sister- in- law also ordered the sea bass. All our kids shared 3 big pasta plates (pesto and carbonara).

Now for my favorite dessert, Chocolate Souffle. Php 195 A dessert that Chef Billy King is also known for. I hesitated to take the shot for a second or two and the souffle had somewhat deflated right when I took the shot. It was gooood.

Banana Caramel Souffle. Php 195 Another souffle that I love. I couldn't resist ordering two of the souffles. I ended up sharing this one with my children. One of them loved it, while the other one passed up on the opportunity to finish half my share.

The Bad News:BILL: Php 9,351.52 (as of May 5 $1/Php42.230 rate : US$221.45). No wine ordered with the meals.


SEATING CAPACITY: 120 Pax downstairs, 2nd floor another 120 pax
FOOD RATING: 2 stars (**)
AFFORDABILITY: $$ Affordable good food
AMBIANCE: 2 stars (**) Beautiful at night
SERVICE: 3 stars (***) Staff very helpful
NEXT TIME WILL TRY: Lamb Chops and More souffle!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

SALA: One of the best restaurants in Manila

When: April 29, 2008
What: Dinner
Where: Sala Makati
Locsin Bldg, Makati Avenue, Makati City
Tel: (+632) 750.1555

I have been to Sala a few months ago with my friends Daphne, April, and PJ, but I've never eaten there with my husband before. Since I was writing an article about intimate wedding venues for a glossy, I thought it would be perfect to revisit the restaurant and this time, write about it.

I had phoned Chef Carlo Miguel earlier to ask some questions about Sala Makati for the magazine, and during the course of our conversation, he mentioned he wasn't going to be in Sala that very night I was to have dinner. So I wondered how the meal would be without him at the kitchen.

Sala's main dining room seats about 40 people, and the place is great for dates and more "intimate" business lunches.
I ordered the beef carpaccio with caperberries, greens, doused with mustard vinaigrette. Php 460+I love this starter. I love carpaccio (beef or tuna) and the greens were fresh and crisp (not limp). The dressing was not too sour. It was actually perfect.

For my entree, the spiced duck breast (magret du canard) on a parsnip and potato hash with roast apples, red wine reduction. Php 980+
Another dish I've always loved, magret du canard. The coarse salt and pepper which was laid out on each table was put to use to this dish. I added a pinch or two of the coarse sea salt. It gave the dish a good salty edge. The duck was not fatty, and was very tender. This is the second time I've had this, and again, this dish wins marks for its consistency in excellence.

My husband had the veal. He loved it. I made a mental note to order this dish next time.

Panna Cotta. Php 340 This is the perfect meal ender. I've had panna cotta, but I've never known what "exquisite" panna cotta tasted like until I had this silky smooth and creamy Sala pannacotta. This is THE best panna cotta I've ever known. I'll always come back to Sala for this dessert. It's really heavenly!

The bad news:BILL: Php 2,970 (as of May 2 $1/Php42.345 rate : US$70.15 ). No wine ordered with the meal

Parting shot:

4-1-1 on SALA:

FOOD RATING: 3 stars (***)
AFFORDABILITY: $$$ Not cheap, but worth every pretty penny
AMBIANCE: 3 stars (***) Quite despite being in the heart of Makati
SERVICE: 3 stars (***) Staff very friendly
WILL I GO BACK? Definitely

Friday, May 2, 2008

TAILLEVENT: A Luxury Dining Experience in Paris

Still excellent, despite Michelin downgrade
Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—On a recent trip to Paris with my family, it was decided that we would dine in at least one French restaurant that has been awarded the coveted 3 Michelin stars. After all, Paris is considered the culinary capital of the world, and not to have experienced fine dining the “French” way would be a gastronomic tragedy.

Taillevent is considered one of the grandest dining institutions in Paris. Founded in 1946 by André Vrinat, the restaurant was named after Guillaume Tirel (nicknamed Taillevent), the court chef to King Charles V in the 14th century who was known to have written the first ever cuisine book.

The town house that Taillevent sits on since 1950 is steeped in French history itself. It was built in 1852 as a bachelor pad for Napoleon III’s philandering half-brother, the Duc de Morny.

Jean-Claude Vrinat, the son of Taillevent’s founder and the man responsible for personally handpicking the 3,000 or so selection of wines in the restaurant cellar, has presided over the dining room since 1972 and was rarely absent from personally welcoming his faithful clientele as well as new patrons until his passing last January.

Taillevent has held 3 stars in the Michelin guide since 1973, with chef Alain Solivérès at the helm of the kitchen since 2002. The restaurant has played host to the likes of political heavyweights Mikhail Gorbachev and Jacques Chirac, technology giant Steve Jobs, fashion legend Hubert de Givenchy, and Hollywood royalty such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

In 2007 however, the restaurant was stripped of a Michelin star. A number of restaurant correspondents decried this almost-unceremonious demotion, and this intrigued me immensely. And that was the clincher—I booked us a table there for that “unforgettable luxury dining experience,” also with the hopes of finding out for myself if the restaurant indeed deserved 2, instead of 3 stars.

And so my gastronomic journey began at Taillevent with taking bites of the warm cheese chouxes as I pored over the menu—all in French. With much help in translation from the very affable Jean- Marie Ancher, the restaurant director who has been with Taillevent for 35 years, we got around to ordering.

A small, almost plain-looking bowl of chicken mousse arrived shortly after. A spoonful of this fine mousse immediately unmasked a surprisingly delightful aftertaste of popcorn. To say it’s an inventive dish is almost an understatement.

I ordered the mousseline de pommes de terre ratte—this dish of puréed potatoes, topped with a circumference of finely minced black truffles, came full circle in the taste department with the egg yolk center. I’ve honestly never had anything so remarkable—it was like tasting heaven on my lips. The plating itself was an aesthetic achievement and was almost too beautiful to eat.

To complete the meal, I went with the classic baba au rhum (rhum cake), and I was glad I did. The cake was very moist, and soaked with just the right amount of rhum.

As we went about dinner, we could also not help but notice the conscious yet unobtrusive service that each diner received. With nary a gesture, our glasses were constantly refilled with our wine of choice, a moderately priced Bordeaux Red 1993 Mouton de Rothschild. Service was par excellence.

The three hours or so of dining at this fine institution was truly unforgettable. In the end, Taillevent will continue to be a temple of culinary and service perfection, with or without that last Michelin star. In my book at least, Taillevent is one of, if not the best restaurant in Paris and deserves those 3 stars.


Potato mousse with black truffles and egg yolk
Lamb with artichokes

The Closet Glutton with Chef Alain Soliveres in the Taillevent Kitchen

4-1-1 on TAILLEVENT:
SERVICE: 3 stars (***)
AMBIANCE: 3 stars (***)
FOOD RATING: 3 stars (***)
AFFORDABILITY: $$$$ Very expensive but definitely worth it!
WILL I GO BACK? Definitely.
ADDRESS: 15 Rue Lamennais, 75008 Paris (from Champs Elysee, turn into Rue Washington *near Lido*, a street after is Rue Lamennais. Easy to find)
NEXT TIME WILL TRY: Frog legs spelt and risotto or the Lobster spelt and risotto

Monday, April 28, 2008

LEMURIA: A unique dining experience in the City

When: April 25, 2008
What: Dinner
Where: Lemuria @ The Winery
5 Julieta Circle, Horseshoe Village Quezon City, Philippines
Tel: (+632) 724.5211 ; (+632) 722.2185
Mobile: (+63917) 525.0129

On Friday afternoon, theclosetglutton (moi) decided she wants to try Lemuria for dinner. So my hubby, being the wonderful man that he is, called Lemuria for a table for two :) This is also thanks to our friends DV and FV, who had brought up the restaurant name to me. Having never been to this restaurant (Lemuria has been in business since June 2006), we had difficulty looking for it. It was inside Horseshoe Village in Quezon City (near Santolan). We ended up taking another entrance of the village, which turned out to be the wrong one-- the road leading to Lemuria was under construction. So we had to double back to another entrance, and in the process, spent some 20 minutes more on the road before getting to the other entrance and into the restaurant itself. I was hoping the run- up to this dining experience would be more painless, but alas, it was not. But again, the stomach was growling ever so loudly, so there was still plenty reason to look forward to Lemuria.

Compliments of the chef:Good starters. Quail egg "biscuit" and some meat floss "sandwich"

My husband ordered the Goat Cheese and Beets Souffle. Php 420+It's an excellent starter dish, I must admit. I loved the beet-sweetness of the souffle, with the goat cheese.

I ordered the Seared Foie Gras and Braised Cabbage with Figs Glaze. Php 880+It's a delightfully sinful dish, one that you cannot miss at Lemuria. Oh cholesterol, cholesterol. Note to self: Must "sweat" this foie gras out tomorrow. 100% necessary. :D

Braised Lamb Shank was nothing extraordinary. Php 880+Hubby was rather disappointed. I tasted the meat, it was as what hubby said-- "flavorful, but not that great".

My dish, the St. Pierre (fish fillet confit, tarragon oil, lemon thyme butter, porcini). Php 780+I enjoyed the fish throughly, and the nice taste of the shredded sugar-y lemon rinds (or at least I thought they were), but I simply loathed the lentils that "held" the fish. I honestly think the fish would've worked much better with a mousseline of potatoes.

For dessert, we went with the Valhrona Chocolate souffle with glacee.I was expecting liquid chocolat oozing out of the core of this souffle, but it didn't happen. Nevertheless, the chocolate was good. Not to-die-for excellent, but good enough to be reordered again. The ice cream was a heavenly pairing to the richness of the chocolate, by the way :) A moment on my lips, forever on my hips :)

The bad news:
BILL: Php 4,041.25 (as of April 25 $1/Php 41.87 rate : US$96.50). No wine ordered with the meal.

The parting shot:Beautiful at night... It almost felt like we were in Sonia's Garden in Tagaytay.

Here's the 4-1-1 on LEMURIA:

FOOD RATING: 2 stars (**)
AFFORDABILITY: $$$ Definitely not cheap!
AMBIANCE: 3 stars (***) Excellent little hideaway
SERVICE: 3 stars (***) Staff very well trained
NEXT TIME WILL TRY: The wine, definitely-- extensive selection. And the twice cooked pork belly with risotto.

The Closet Glutton... Premiere Post

This blog ain't no Michelin guide, but I'm telling you that I've always loved food and eating, enough to actually begin writing about it.

I would usually be the last person on the table to finish eating. If I have dinner with people I barely know, I am known to eat like a bird. But when I'm comfortable enough, I eat everything in sight, well almost everything-- unless the food's just impossible to swallow even with my favorite drink (read: the food sucks).

My posts will all be about food. My recipes (if I decide to cook on an odd day), places, and restaurants I eat in or have eaten in, and well, everything else related to food.

I am a closet glutton. I love food and eating without trying to look like I do :)

And oh, a little note-- the most important thing to look at in my restaurant posts, is the FOOD RATING :) THREE (***) STARS say it's heaven on the lips.

That STARS guide is the gauge if the restaurant is worth going back to or not.

Hope you all enjoy the read!

TCG (The Closet Glutton) :D