Hungry In The Hospital

coffee jelly

A recent incident makes me see that even in an unfortunate circumstance, my appetite remains strong.

My dad is confined in the hospital for a week. For the first three days, he’s in the ICU (intensive care unit) where my sisters and I are continually trying to dodge the “one visitor per patient rule.” Several times, we’re shooed away by a good-natured nurse or a security guard who’s seen one too many “rule benders.” Flowers aren’t allowed nor fruit or food baskets. A day later when Papa feels like eating again, a food tray comes for him with typed words in bold on paper, “Low Salt, Low Fat.” And low flavor too, I snort. Papa hears me and grins weakly.

Hospital food is hideous. Truly. I’m not sure whether it’s meant to keep patients in their sorry states or inspire them to get better and get out in search of much-improved sustenance. I’m at the hospital everyday to keep Papa company and the same food shows up: a pallid broth of some kind, lean fish or chicken cooked to a fare-thee-well and a cup of rice I need to bang on with a spoon to flatten, as well as a side dish of sautéed veggies, flaccid as can be. The only bright spot on the tray, literally, is a saucer of peeled fruit, usually sliced apple rounds or orange segments, peeled and deseeded and sour as hell. At one point, so exasperated am I at such questionable edibles that I tell my mom, “If I ever land in the hospital and am forced to eat that, I give you permission to pull the plug.” My mom, who’s much used to my melodrama, rolls her eyes. “Sobra ka naman!”

In contrast, Makati Medical Center (Makati Med) has undergone renovations, one of the few in its 40+ years of existence. The atrocious slope leading to the lobby is gone and there are now decent food purveyors as well as the nearby People’s Support Center building that houses several fastfood joints and a Mercury Drug. All in all, pleasant surroundings for patients and their caregivers.

small, medium, large
small, medium, large

I begin everyday with coffee. There’s a Seattle’s Best on the lower ground floor. Surprisingly, they don’t serve brewed coffee, just espresso based drinks, so it’s either a single shot or an extra-hot cappuccino for me. My sister Charley likes their chai tea, she not being a java drinker like her big sis. Other times when I hear the call of the siren, I saunter over to the nearby Starbucks. I’m pleased with the new Shared Planet (certified Fair Trade) espresso as well as the Chocolate Biscotti, beautifully packaged by Scala. Gazing at the chocolate nibs and nuts in the biscotto (singular form) is the backdrop to my alternately troubled/tranquil musings.

Starbucks' new chocolate biscotti

One thing I don’t expect while at the hospital is hunger. But hungry I get in spite of worrying about my dad, freezing to death in the ICU (dang, the AC is arctic!), and keeping up with work while attending to my family. I’m thankful to Makati Med’s Floating Island Restaurant for palliating my heretofore invincible hunger and for the sheer assortment on their menu.

It may be the most unlikely place in Manila to get good food, this restaurant-in-a-hospital. Gone are the cheesy faux leather booths in tan, misplaced magazine stand-slash-gift shop at back, and the – if I remember correctly – questionable palm tree accents. I never ate at the pre-renovation Floating Island simply because I recall being so turned off by it. I’d just grab one of those saucer-sized siopaos and hightail it out of there. Speaking of siopao (P60), it’s still available at the tiny takeout counter to the left of the new Floating Island, but sadly, the filling is grossly inverse to its size.

FI menu
Floating Island delivery (within the hospital) menu

In the week that Papa’s in Makati Med, my sisters, my brother in law and I, and occasionally my mom, plow through several of the items. First on the list is the Dagupan boneless bangus (P355), larger than any bangus I’ve ever seen with a glistening fat belly (my favorite part!) and so impeccably fried that I argue with my brother in law over who gets the last vestiges of the crispy ends. I regret not snapping a pic but you understand how taken I am with the fish, photography is the last thing on my mind. Paired with the mangga at bagoong (P110) and adobo rice (P295), it’s incomparable.

American b'fast

beef tapa

I appreciate restaurants that address customers who may want breakfast for dinner. Floating Island offers all day (and night, ’til 10pm) “brekkies” for people like me and Boo, who orders the beef tapa (juicy, not dry with that sought-for “beefy taste”; P205) on one day, and the all-American breakfast (sausages, hash brown, 2 eggs any style; P175) on another. Then she tops it off with a parfait (a scoop each of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, as per her request), the sides of which dribble over gloriously with fudge sauce and the requisite stemmed cherry.

crispy pata

ensaladang talong

garlic chicken

This is an establishment that’s built its name on solid bestsellers, marked on the menu with a star. I receive dish recommendations from Alex Revilla, whose family opened Floating Island almost 40 years ago (in Makati Med). On two separate meals, my family and I enjoy the crispy pata (a most un-photogenic but delicious dish; P570 [large]; P505 [small]), wherein I grab the knuckles and begin to gnaw. Try the pata with the ensaladang talong (P130), the plating of which reminds me of a train (the eggplant) toting a tomato-salted egg-onion ring load. There’s also the garlic fried chicken (P340; half) that seems incongruous with the accompanying soy sauce-vinegar-calamansi-sili dipping sauce but it works for some. I prefer the chicken with gravy (just ask for it) or plain ketchup. Smattering into pieces on first bite, the chicken oozes juice into the mouth leaving an echo of garlic underlined by the mass of crispy garlic bits on the bottom of the plate.

katsudon
katsudon

I know that my dad is getting better when a few days after his transfer to a regular room, he calls to tell me to get him some decent food. “The food is pangit here,” he complains. “’Di ko kaya.” I have to laugh. Mom orders some chicken inasal (P220) for him from Floating Island as well as a lumpiang sariwa (fresh lumpia; P95) for herself. It’s delivered to the room (P55 delivery charge) in these neat bento boxes and I’m told they’re quite happy with both.

Floating Island caters to what marketing types call a “captured market.” It’s the only dine-in restaurant in Makati Med as far as I know, save for the employees’ canteen at the basement catered by Skyline. Aside from making “hospital meals” more palatable, the servers at Floating Island are quick and efficient. Though service time (usually 12 noon to 2pm, and especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays) is crazy-hectic, they remain cordial. During slower hours, they’re attentive but don’t hover. They’ve been trained well, with most of them being second or third generation of the original staff of the restaurant. Alex tells me that the function room is reserved often and those in the know call in at least one day ahead for the paella (not on the menu), a specialty of the new chef.

banoffee pie

When in need of solace, sweets satisfy me like nothing else can. Outside Floating Island, there’s a Lavazza coffee bar (good coffee!) and across it, a dessert stall that sells sizable bar cookies and a very decent banoffee pie that I buy for takeout one night to assuage a sugar craving. They also have what I call cake-in-a-cup, versions of their cakes in cups. Below, choco delight (P60), their version of chocolate cake with caramel sauce.

chocolate cake in cup form

The best desserts at Makati Med however, save for the upcoming Dairy Queen that’s bring constructed as I write this, is at Floating Island. I don’t think I’m a fan of coffee jelly (P90; cover photo) until I snag a spoonful from the one my sister orders. Vanilla ice cream leaves white trails as it oozes down tar-black gulaman that’s irresistibly chewy. The killer dessert that I behoove everyone to try though is the bread pudding, an item so new it hasn’t even been priced yet. Similar to the bread pudding of Myron’s but softer, it is – in my Bin’s words – “… like eating a large tocino del cielo.” (tiny, molded egg custards). He tells Alex that it’d be awesome heated up a bit and topped with a scoop of mantecado ice cream. Like I said, killer.

old fashioned bread pudding

Keeping in touch
My dad is now back home in good health. Our family can’t be more thankful. In times of distress – from health or hunger (!) people stormed us with text messages and calls. I was using my phone constantly to reschedule appointments, text concerned parties, and because I had no room left to carry a camera, I relied on my cellphone to take photos of the food you see in this post. There were some wifi spots in Makati Med and its environs; there, I’d use my phone to quickly upload food photos I wanted to share with friends, who didn’t believe me when I said the food at the hospital was excellent. Come and see those photos. Join my contact group on Ovi by Nokia and be updated the minute I have a food find that’s too good to keep to myself.

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Floating Island Restaurant
1/F New Annex Bldg., Makati Medical Center, Makati
888.8999 (local 66)
I’d like to especially thank servers Arnold and Joseph, restaurant manager Nora, and of course, Alex Revilla.

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Scala Printing and Packaging Inc.

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All photos in this post are proudly taken with my Nokia 6700 Classic.

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