Manila’s best milkshake, samosas oozing nothing but cheese, and a restaurant I like so much that I once ate there three times in a month.
Manila’s Best Milkshake
Let’s talk about cheesesteaks first and when it comes to them, I think you’re better off with those at Goodfellas or Elbert’s. The ones at CBD possess a rather banal cheese sauce and I don’t think that green peppers have a place in a sandwich like this. (This is a matter of personal preference and not a nod to authenticity).
I’m impressed with CBD’s burgers however and it makes sense when I find out that the restaurant is owned by the proprietors of Tender Bob’s. A good burger should be juicy (check!), thick enough to force one’s maw open to maximum capacity (check!), and should be encased in a bun that doesn’t disintegrate (check, check!) I also like this burger’s off-the-grill flavor.
- The Onion Rings are like multi-sized, edible bangles – or hoop earrings (!)
Of course, to eat a burger without fries is sacrilegious. CBD prevents such sins of omissions with what I call a frenzy of fries: French Fries Original (long fingers), Curly French Fries (the sisters of McDonald’s Twister fries), and Potato Strips (hello, Pik-Nik!) They’re proper paeans to the potato, double-fried at the proper temperature so they’re not oily, and retaining good crunch and fluffy insides.
- Milkshake mania! (from left and then clockwise): Strawberry Shortcake, far-from-plain Vanilla, Vanilla Peanut Butter Toffee
Burgers and fries aside, CBD serves what I feel is the best milkshake in Manila. I consider myself quite the milkshake meister, having blitzed up (and glugged down) a few hundred milkshakes in my life. CBD calls their shakes Shake & Bake: “Milkshake+Favorite Cake Blended Together.” It’s an astounding concept. Scan the possible flavors that include Banana Cream Pie, Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Fudge, and my favorite, Vanilla Peanut Butter Toffee. Don’t be deceived by its arrival in a rather nondescript paper cup. I dip one finger into the cloud of cream atop and lick. While not real whipped cream, it’s a good quality canned cream topping that’s shaken and squirted.
The milkshake is super cold and creamy and most importantly, THICK. Most milkshakes in Manila are vapid and thin, really just milk drinks and not milkshakes. It’s a thrill to be working this milkshake and then hitting a chunk of cake. It zips up the straw and torpedoes down the throat, gone before I even realize it. When the shake is all gone, I’m still sucking loudly on the straw, vacuuming the remnants of a milkshake that I miss already and attracting stares from people who wonder why a fully-grown woman is making so much noise with her straw.
I’ve turned many people on to CBD’s milkshake. Let’s make you the next one.
CBD (Cheesesteaks, Burgers, and Drinks)
Ayala Triangle Gardens
Ayala Avenue, Makati
See menu prices and more information.
I’m so enamored with this restaurant on my first visit that I end up dining here three more times in one month. Chef’s Table – like its chef-owner, Bruce Lim – is a hothouse of verve and inventiveness. Filipino dishes that we Filipinos take for granted are injected with sass and take flight in the arms of fearless imagination.
The Fried Pusit (squid) alludes to crispness with its oil-blanched exterior but when forked and fed into the mouth, announces itself with nary a crunch. Instead, it’s the softest squid imaginable cooked ‘til it shakes off its translucence, pulsing with a peppery zing gained from celery, green mango, and red onions.
Then there’s one of the superstar dishes, the Tortang Talong, which is nothing like what landed on my lola’s table when I was growing up. A decidedly more soigné version this, what makes this dish is its deep smokiness garnered from a long, slow kiss on the coals. The charcoal and smoke imbues itself into the eggplant upping its sweetness and playing with the pork mince. Rounds of salted egg (itlog na maalat) keep things on a playful keel and the side of caramelized onions – more of an onion compote, in my opinion – is an inspired touch.
The Binagoongang Baboy needs a name change because “pork cooked with bagoong” is grossly insufficient in describing its succulent-salty interplay. I first try this dish with my friend, W, whose effusiveness matches mine. When he tries the binagoongang baboy, he lets rip a catalog of curses, my own profanity-laden refrain following on its heels.
- Braised Liempo
To be able to play with food the way Chef Bruce does demonstrates his versatility and masterful understanding of Filipino cuisine. This feat is made especially more striking when one discovers that he’s a “transplant” from San Francisco. I have deep admiration for Chef Bruce and his imagination that ignites heretofore untold combinations that surprise then satisfy. Other dishes I like at Chef’s Table are the Beef Nilaga and Braised Liempo (above). Not everything is a hit however. I feel that that the pastas and desserts don’t speak to Chef Bruce’s strengths, save for the Buko Pie Martini (above).
The cocktails shouldn’t be passed up when at Chef’s Table. The frenzied taktaktak! of a shaker for an emerging cocktail is one’s reminder and a constant to the soundtrack of this busy restaurant. Try the El Paborito, the favorite, and what I consider the welcoming committee of cocktails. Calamansi extract, ginger syrup, and tequila have the familiarity of a margarita ratcheted up with a citrus sear and a smooch of sweet.
Chef Bruce loves lambanog (a truly potent 80-90 proof coconut wine often referred to as Philippine vodka) and it shows in its frequent appearances in the various drinks. Midway through a meal, servers will hand two shooters over to diners, one of lambanog, the other of tapuy (rice wine). The latter is also clear but gives off a much milder kick with its under 28 proof. Swig ‘em back one after the other, and it’s a flitting flirtation with strong and sweet culminating in a salty crescendo with the olive chaser.
- A take-away bag with personality!
Chef’s Table by Chef Bruce Lim
Unit 106 The Infinity Tower
26th Street The Fort Global City Taguig, Philippines
(02) 399 1888
12 NN – 2 PM | 6:30 PM to 12 MN
www.chefstablemanila.com (for menu prices and more information)
Samosas Oozing Cheese
An Indian meal always begins with samosas. It just must: it’s the drill. Far from the usual curry powder and potato turnover is The Kebab Factory’s benignly named Cheese Samosas. They look and crunch like your regular samosa but one bite blasts all previous notions to bits.
Instead of biting into this baby, rip it down the middle with your fingers or use a knife. Careful, it’s hot! Released from its pillowy depths, the samosa exerts a final exhalation of steam before the cheese begins its languid ooze onto plate or tongue. I’m unsure what type of cheese this is, certainly it’s the melty, delightfully drippy type that’s low on sharpness but high on stringy, squeal-worthy appeal. It’s adequately salty too and pairs perfectly with its crusty cover. I dip it into the tamarind chutney that sits alongside and then I lean back in a cheesed-out bliss.
The Kebab Factory is one of those places whose names belie the diversity of their menus. Its dishes aren’t as strongly flavored as New Bombay or Legend of India but their food shows thoughtful execution and most importantly, good flavor. The Chicken Makanwala is a frightening hue – “fiery orange,” as my friend K, kindly puts it. A dairy-deadly combination of yogurt and cream and ghee, chunks of chicken are completely immersed in this excess of fluorescent sauce. Its color and consistency give cause for pause but once I’m over it, I’m rewarded with a creamy tang tinged with curry and plenty of cumin. It’s wonderful when dipped into with the flaky Roti Bread; I use it alternately as a scoop and as a wrap.
Ironically, the kebabs I try here, the supposed namesake of the restaurant, are tough and overcooked.
The Kebab Factory
Unit 154 Forbeswood Heights, Burgos Circle corner Rizal Drive
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
(02) 403 4159