Great Restaurant Dishes Part 2
Here are the restaurant dishes that make the biggest impact on me in the last quarter of the year.
Chef Tatung’s Balbacoa & Pichi-Pichi
The first time I eat Chef Tatung’s Balbacoa (also balbakwa), my friend takes one spoonful and follows it up quickly with his anti-cholesterol meds. I can’t help giggling but really, this dish demands it. A complex stew more than a soup, it’s a medley of tausi or salted beans, star anise, ginger, and ground peanuts. Harnessing his creativity, Chef Tatung thoughtfully layers these dominant ingredients, each one playing a part in flavor and texture. Ox tail is the star swathed in this stew, contributing its gelatinous nature and imbuing the balbacoa with a stickiness that shuts lips closed – but just long enough to chew and swallow before opening up again for another spoonful.
At Chef Tatung’s former digs in Quezon City, the Warm Tsoknut Chocolate Cake was popular enough to merit its own fan base. But at the restaurant’s spacious new spot in Taguig, it’s all about the Pichi-Pichi. Fun to say, it’s fulfilling to eat because it’s served warm, almost hot, the beauty of desserts like this. Cassava dumplings are anointed with pandan and assume its characteristic green hue. Tender to the tooth and slightly smoky, the triumph here that sends this dessert over the top is the custard sauce that tastes remarkably like liquid leche flan , if you can imagine that. Showered with shards of queso de bola, its salty sweetness tricks and tickles the palate and makes me ask for more.
First, let’s say it correctly: da-YOU-deh. I think their teas are phenomenal and though I’m a coffee person in the morning, in the afternoon and especially in the evening, my heart belongs to tea. I appreciate how this store makes the practice of tea drinking so approachable and elegant. Every tea choice I ponder is offered to me for sniffing and contemplating, perchance it will lead to sipping and savoring. (Most often it does).
Unfortunately, some of the food I eat here isn’t as memorable, most notably the scones. Unlike the ones I bake at home, da.u.de’s scones are hard and taste like rancid oil. Hopefully, they’ve improved. Perhaps it’s an off day but I’m turned off.
My friend’s order however is another story altogether. He orders the Pho (P390) and though I think I know pho, this is unlike any I’ve ever seen before.
First, a bowl is placed before you, a portrait of vibrancy in tendrils of green cilantro, rings of red onions, strips of green and white leeks, and a charge of red in the center from a chili pepper – all atop a tangle of white rice noodles. Then – swiftly, efficiently, a large cast iron tea pot is hoisted high over the bowl and a steady stream slips out. The broth is tantalizingly fragrant, its wisps of steam curling up and into noses and igniting hunger pangs. It’s spiced tea – the promise of undisclosed spices and leaves and fruits perfuming the essence of a soupy broth.
There’s a trio of sauces alongside the bowl where one can mix and match to the pho. But – as my friend will attest because I scarf down more than my fair share of his pho, it’s best to leave the soup as is and relish its spicy, tea-blessed goodness.
da.u.de Tea Lounge
4th Ave between 26th & 27th Streets,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
(02) 478 3579
On Facebook: daudetea
Relik’s Appealing Appetizers
Finding Relik is like stumbling upon a precious secret. A hidden flight of stairs leads to a bar that reminds me of a place where a password is required before entry. I like the masculinity of the interiors paired with the old wood and leather and I’m sure if I knew how to appreciate a good whiskey, I’d like this place even more.
I’ve head raves about the Mixed Paella but it must be ordered in advance so I go for what’s popular, the Baked Australian Brie (above and cover photo; P530). Truth be told, this is a dish that’s a no-brainer to make at home and for a fraction of the cost. The sweet fruit compote accentuates the brie’s warm, butter-soft interior and the Melba toasts proffer options for crunch. Hard not to love this dish until there’s nothing left.
Relik offers one of the better risottos in Manila with its Pepperade and Lardon Risotto (P320). I’m quite certain that it’s piperade (stylized spelling theirs), a sauté of tomatoes and peppers glistening from their olive oil soak, on which lounge lardons, strips of thickly cut bacon fat. Together with the perfectly al dente arborio rice, this is a supremely satisfying dish.
Relik Tapas Bar and Lounge
2/F Commercenter Bldg
31st Ave corner 4th St Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
(0917) 529 8333
Banapple’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Pancakes
It’s the simple foods I make at home that I find myself enjoying very much when I eat them at restaurants. Pancakes are something I make weekly and even though I think mine are killer good, I enjoy the pancakes at Malcolm’s Deli and the Pancake Sandwich at Pancake House.
I don’t usually eat at Banapple – don’t have much patience for the lines – so it’s often grab and go for me. But one weekend, I endure the wait and resulting cramped table to have the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pancakes (P135).
This is a plate that promises abundance with its overly generous portions of peanut butter, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, and syrup; it’s almost too much for the flapjack stack it’s meant to dress. The pancakes themselves suffer from a flour that’s too low in protein and too much liquid – each forkful falls apart making it from plate to mouth. But that’s a piddling excuse not to indulge in them. I like their fluffy lightness and they give me a good excuse to eat a large amount of peanut butter.