A box of delicious wonder
My sister in law has lived in Japan for the past 14 years, and when she comes to Manila to visit, we always go to Tsumura when she starts feeling a little “homesick.” She tells me that it’s here ”“ more than any other local Japanese restaurant ”“ where the food is most authentic.
I’ve written about Tsumura before and it’s certainly adhered to its standards, both in consistency and quality. There are many dishes to love here ”“ have you tried the beef usuyaki? My GOD! ”“ but my new favorite are the bento boxes (P600/P800), available only at lunch. It’s the edible antidote for the indecisive types, those who want to try everything but end up choosing nothing.
Impressive and intimidating in size, the sheer variety of food offered on one plate — er, box, is inspiring. Beautiful to look at, the Japanese aesthetic is one to meditate on: perfectly rolled cylinders of short grain rice, just-cooked nuggets of succulent beef, seafood cooked in an ethereally light batter, truly deserving of the name “tempura,” tamago (egg) rolls, a slab of unagi (freshwater eel) glistening with teriyaki sauce. Lord, have mercy.
Tsumura Sushi Bar and Restaurant
2nd Level 88 Corporate Plaza Sedeno corner Valero Streets,
Salcedo Village, Makati
887-4848 / 887-4850
An avenue of burgers
A.Venue Mall is situated at the beginning (or the end) of Makati Avenue, depending on where you’re coming from. Envisioned to be the country’s first mall that integrates entertainment and an events venue in one complex, the mall was built to cater to those living in the upcoming Antel Spa Residence and the A.Venue Residences & Hotel Suites. For a structure that’s dab smack in an area reputed for er… “shadier” pursuits, A.Venue sticks out like the swan among her ugly sisters. It’s quite the looker of a mall with several of the establishments’ windows facing out onto Makati Ave.
But I worry about the future of specifically the restaurants inside. It’s deserted and quite the picture of barrenness, even on a Saturday afternoon. The first floor is constructed as one long hallway and the waiters of the various eateries are strategically positioned outside with menus. They’re respectful but aggressive (if there’s such a thing) about displaying the menu and pointing out the bestsellers. They’re so sincere that I can almost see glimpses of pleading in their eyes (Come in! Please!) and I feel bad for walking away and choosing another restaurant.
And that’s the bad thing about this mall. Because of the way it’s designed, everyone can see everybody else moving in or out of the restaurants, and I swear I can almost hear a chorus of “aw, shucks!” when I choose one restaurant over another. Meantime, the servers of the restaurant I’m about to dine in are falling all over themselves in joy at finally (!) having someone to serve.
And that’s why I like Burger Avenue. Because it’s situated at a corner near the street, I can slip in and out without attracting the attention of those hawk-like waiters. During my first visit, I’m not very impressed with the burgers. They’re quite sweet, almost like a higher-quality version of those from Tropical Hut. Plus, they’d just run out of fries, and what’s a burger without fries?! But my Bin has fallen in love with Burger Avenue, so we keep going back, and I say, I’m starting to like these burgers (P199 below).
There are (pre-set) toppings to choose from, so I can’t mix and match at will, which is fine, since I always just have the cheeseburger anyway. My Bin adores the blue cheese burger, and of course, we both like the potato wedges and onion rings.
Burger Avenue has an intriguing come-on called the Ridiculous Challenge: eat a three-patty burger with all the fixins and if you can eat it in five minutes, it’s free. If you succeed, the staff will take your picture and they’ll stick it on their wall of pain/fame, with the rest of the (crazy? courageous?) eaters who’ve gone before you. I hear the record is 40 seconds!
A. Venue Mall, Makati Avenue corner Valdez St. Makati City
The succulence of steak
When I can get a table, I like going to Mamou. I enjoy restaurants that possess that homey but slick vibe with an open kitchen and where the staff is confident and astute. When I’m at my most carnivorous, I order the steak (single ”“ 400 grams/P1,680; twin ”“ 800 grams/P2,800), either the single or the twin, depending on how many people are with me.
Mamou’s steak is USDA Prime Angus Beef that come with a choice of two sides: white or red rice, baked mashed potatoes, corn pudding, and creamed spinach. I like the last two. What amazes me about the steak here is that it’s cooked to medium rare (my preference) and it arrives in a pool of what looks like its own juice. It blows my mind to think that one steak could exude that much succulence, but I assume that the au jus has been mixed with some clarified butter and sea salt. There’s just no way, otherwise.
When it comes to steak, this one isn’t as great as say, Elbert’s or even Highlands Steakhouse, it’s got too much litid (tough ligaments) and it’s not as tender. But I like it simply because of its size, its juiciness, the crispy nuggets of fat with a smoky flavor, and the pieces of meat that have been sprinkled with stray grains of coarse salt that crunch in my mouth. And of course, the ample amount of golden jus is perfect for dipping the house bread in.
Serendra, Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City, Metro Manila
One good salad
A good salad is hard to find ”“ there’s got to be more to it than iceberg lettuce and the tired trio of tomatoes, carrots, and Thousand Island dressing. Eck. And because a good salad requires so many disparate ingredients, I prefer to eat salad at restaurants instead of making it myself at home. I dream about the tonnos salata at Cyma and the Chinese Chicken Salad from California Pizza Kitchen.
I’m surprised when I come across the simply-named house salad (P280) at Basilio’s, one of those restaurants at Forbeswood Heights, along the same strip as Paul Calvin’s Deli. Though chef-owner PV Valdez describes the cuisine served here as comfort food, the interiors speak of a more refined flavor. The house salad is an unusual pairing of assorted greens, skirt steak, a creamy dressing, and frozen grapes. My dilemma ”“ a delicious one ”“ but a dilemma nevertheless, is whether I should mix all the components together or mix and match at whim. Deciding on the latter, it’s an exercise in flavor: the sweet piquancy of the skirt steak is emphasized by the soft crispness of the greens which is a perfect foil for the garlicky dressing. The harmony of flavors is then rounded out by the coolness of the grape on my tongue, its softening interiors crunching under my teeth like the lightest sorbet. It’s a perfect example of a dish where well-thought out flavors mingle to create an extraordinary intensity of experience.
Unit 151 Forbeswood Heights,
Rizal Drive corner Burgos Circle
Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
856-1742 to 43