Cheesy fries and roast beef, black spaghetti, and an ice cream flavor that brings me to my knees.
I’ve picked up Boo from school and we’re having merienda in Kitchen’s Best. She’s not especially enamored with her order of spaghetti and meatballs and right now, she’s making eyes at my roast beef. “That looks good, Mom,” she states. I look at her knowingly, knowing what’s going to come next. “May I have it?”
Now, the better mother would have smiled widely and sacrificed her ravishing roast beef for her only child but frankly, I’m not a better mother when I’m hungry. And hungry I am today. “Boo!” I chide. “I’m hungry and I like my roast beef. You can order this next time.” “Please Mom, won’t you share it with me?” My daughter is wheedling and pulling that doe-eyed-good-girl look she knows I can’t resist. I growl like a hungry mother bear and hand the plate of roast beef over to her, settling for her spaghetti and meatballs. (She’s right, it’s a little off today).
After Boo is introduced to Kitchen’s Best roast beef, it’s all she can talk about to my Bin for the next two weeks. She proclaims the place as one of her “favorites in the world!”, including it on her short rotation of restaurants that she loves. As a result, we’re in Kitchen’s Best three times in less than a month chowing down on the roast beef.
This is not roast beef as most gourmands would expect, sliced from a standing rib roast and served with au jus. I’m not even sure which cut of meat is used here – all I’m sure of is that it’s thinly-sliced and tender, rimmed with fat, and served with an avalanche of bouillon-heavy gravy. At just P275, this is roast beef in the same category as those served at Dayrit’s and Pancake House. It’s affordable, filling, and sometimes, exactly the kind of straight-up fare I hanker for.
Boo and my Bin often end up sharing and inevitably fighting over the cheesy fries (P195; cover photo), thick fingers of potatoes smeared with a canned cheese sauce that’s unexplainably irresistible. What’s terribly tempting about these cheesy fries are the tidbits of tuna on top. The inherent saltiness slices through the cheese and crunch and leads to arguments between dad and daughter as to who gets the last few fries.
Me, I’m happy with the arroz a la cubana (P180), a dish composed of elements so disparate they almost don’t work but do. Kitchen’s Best version is a touch too sweet but it’s easy to overlook when the rice is moistened by a punctured orb of yolk spilling a swath of gold on bananas and beef.
For those who adore tomato soup, try the one here (P180). It’s hot and herby and heavy on the cream but satisfies on all counts.
G/Floor Karrivin Plaza
2316 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati.
381 8518/211 0010
The Last Chukker
Back in the mid-90s, I remember enjoying the Decadent Chocolate Cake at Seasons restaurant, situated then in the old Greenbelt. When Seasons was no more, I didn’t lament for long since there were other chocolate cakes with caramel sauce competing for my affections.
But when I read that Seasons has been “reincarnated” as The Last Chukker at the Manila Polo Club, it behooves me to get over there to see if maybe, just maybe, the chocolate cake would stoke long-lost memories. And my friend Jay is kind enough to extend an invitation to me, especially since my dad rescinded my Polo Club membership on the day I got married.
There’s an elite air about The Last Chukker, no doubt about it. Black and white shots of polo players and their well-groomed steeds line the walls and dark wood abounds. It’s a small place and you can see everyone – and everyone can see you.
The menu has an Italian bent, shades of when Conrad Calalang ran Seasons, and fast forward now to The Last Chukker run by his daughter, Vanna Calalang Severino. The wood-fired oven figures prominently here so the pizzas (P275-P435) are notable certainly, but there’s something else; something that imprints on my mind the way that decadent chocolate cake did years ago.
“Try the homemade black pasta with squid rings, (P320)” Jay suggests. Apparently, it’s his girlfriend’s favorite, something she orders every time she’s here. “She can’t seem to order anything else,” muses Jay. “It’s that good.”
And you know what, it is. Skeins of noodles, swarthy black on a stark white plate are tousled with rings of squid and slivers of garlic. There isn’t so much a sauce, rather, it’s rivulets of what appear to be broth running through the noodles. Tasted on its own, it’s crisp and crystalline, a rendering of a squid and seashell broth reduced ‘til only its essence remains. It’s salty like the sea, tasting like it too, with a wave of aromatics adding to the flavor. It’s immense and immensely enjoyable. I don’t wonder why Jay’s girl orders only this.
The decadent chocolate cake is on the menu and we order it but alas! I won’t speak of it here. Suffice it to say that it’s eclipsed by another dessert, the banana bread pudding with Kahlua crème anglaise (P145). Now, bread pudding is easy to love, and if it’s got bananas, too? Well, that’s a no-brainer right there. Jay makes short work of piercing the pudding’s inflated top – poof! it protests – before a pool of cream is poured in. My mouth waters uncontrollably, I grab my spoon and scoop some up.
Tufts of soft bread anointed with sugar crystals that have caramelized, convey a crunch that’s quickly overcome by flitting notes of butter and vanilla and cream. The overall effect is that of swallowing something so smooth and slightly sweet, like fluid velvet but warm with the kick of liqueur.
The Last Chukker
Manila Polo Club
McKinley Road, Makati City
Tibok-tibok ice cream
Kapampangans have a luxury called tibok-tibok. It possesses a curse-inducing creaminess made from carabao’s milk and coconut milk. It’s topped with latik, burnished bits of oily residue, the reward for constantly stirring coconut cream in a hot pan. Tibok-tibok is the richer cousin – dare I say – of the maja blanca.
One of my favorite artisan ice cream makers, Ian Carandang of Sebastian’s, has translated the tibok-tibok into an ice cream. Liters of hand-pressed coconut milk are melded with sugar and the magic of his imagination to produce an ice cream flavor that’s both a sensual pleasure in itself and a paean to Filipino flavors. That it’s dairy-free and vegan-friendly too can only be a plus.
Its texture is incomparably lush, its flavor a proclamation of coconut love. I take a spoonful into my mouth and immediately, molten meltdown commences: I am willingly held captive by coconut. Swells of coconut flavor swirl and sway, smoothness wending down my throat. I bite, and teeth bump into bits of latik: nubbins of smokiness, commas of saltiness that seem to say, “Hold on tight, it only gets better from here.”
Tibok-tibok ice cream
From February 5, 2010 at all Sebastian’s branches.
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