El Loco at Excelsior

Part 2 of the Sydney Adventures: After the second work day in Sydney, I ended up joining the team for a couple of pints and some tex-mex for… Taco Tuesdays in El Loco at Excelsior. Honestly, I felt loco for Tacos when we got there.

The place was nicely situated on a corner, with colorful wooden benches on the outside and a mix of a pub and a cantina inside. The mexican-inspired decor made for a touch of life amidst the dimmer lighting inside.

For early dinner here, the team ordered some pints of local beer, Nacho Supreme as an appetizer, and some Carne Asada, Baja Fish, and Secretos de Tacos for our Tacos.

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Nacho Supreme

The Nacho Supreme, like any tex-mex meal, had plenty of cheese and chillies along with diced tomatoes and spring onions. Judging by how the nachos was prepared and feels to the bite, I’d say it might actually be made in-house or at least, not just shoved out of a plastic pack and placed on a plate, which is a plus in my book. It was crunchy, lightly salted and firm, being able to hold the mix of ingredients on top of it without feeling soggy at all.

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Baja Fish Tacos

With the Baja Fish Tacos, I’m not a huge fan of it since the fish was covered in batter. I feel the fish could have been grilled and placed on the tacos instead. The salsa berde and the chipotle mayo thankfully brought some punch that helped balance its flavors.

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Carne Asada

As for the Carne Asada, I loved the mix of the firm and chewy taco along with the slight spice mixed in with the meat. It’s what a tex-mex taco should be. It has a solid base that won’t crumble to the newly cooked meat and fresh vegetables, while not being too doughy or floury to the bite.

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Secretos De Tacos

And last but not least, the Secretos de Tacos; while not as appetizing at first glance, I can safely say that it is quite interesting and worth a try. The secret meat blends well to the accompanying corn bits, chipotle mayo, and greens. It even led to an interesting discussion between us co-employees on what it could be, but giving the answers we came up with would spoil the surprise.

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Feeling full but wanting to make the most out of the remaining day, I went out ahead of them. It was 7:30pm thereabouts and the afternoon sun shone on my face as I walked away. I enjoyed my time at El Loco at Excelsior because of both the good food and the chance of getting to know my officemates a bit more in my short time here. It is a good place for some company and friends after a long day.

Food Score: 4/5: The food here at El Loco was hearty and filling after three or four tacos and best enjoyed with good company since the place is suited more as a casual dining and bar area after a long day.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The decor, while slightly dim, was very colorful and vibrant without appearing too forced or loud to the eyes.

Service Score: 4/5: The service here was attentive enough to what we needed, be it additional orders or additional tissues. We even got our table reserved in advance without any problems at all.

GERD Score: 3.5/5: Given that El Loco is geared more as a dining place and a pub, there would be a limited amount of options for anyone who is dealing with GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: A continual problem with Tex-Mex is the blend of seasonings and spices, which could easily trigger anyone who is sensitive to these foodstuffs. Having a menu with the exact ingredients stated would be a great bonus to neurodivergent diners with food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: For good tex-mex meal and time at the pub after work, El Loco should be a good treat with the mates. However, for those dealing with GERD or Neurodivergent issues, there are at least still some options to enjoy.

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Bondi Wholefoods: A Sydney food adventure – Part 1 of 5

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A Sydney food adventure for ½ of the Team Glasses Food Blog, yes you’ve read that right. I found myself in Sydney for a week because of work, so I decided to sample some places I’ve had here. First of them was Bondi Wholefoods.

After the eight-hour flight and another 30 minutes of train and walking, my boss and I decided to try something healthy and organic near where we’ll be staying.

It was an open air dining experience, with cozy chairs and sleek black facade complemented the plants around the place. They even have ready to eat sandwiches, wraps, and even cans and bottles of kombucha near their counter. For my meal here, I’ve tried the Slow Cooked Bio Lamb Wrap.

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Slow Cooked Bio Lamb Wrap

The combination of smashed avocado, grilled eggplants, roasted pepper strips, and baby spinach was both fresh and well thought out. The biodynamic lamb was unfortunately much too bland for my preferences. The wrap that held these together was amazingly great at doing so without turning soggy or breaking up in my hands. Alongside this, the tzatziki on the side complemented the wrap.

For breakfast the next day, I tried their Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap (toasted) with some hot chocolate mixed with soy milk.

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Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap

The texture of the wrap was much better with the slight crunch on every bite. The lime, coriander, brown rice, tomatoes, sour cream, cheddar cheese, plus the accompanying chipotle salsa made for a wonderful tex-mex burrito-style experience altogether. It was much more to my liking.

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The hot chocolate, of course, is always a pleasing site and a good accompaniment to the Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap.

Food Score: 4/5: The gestalt of my food experience here at Bondi Wholefoods was pretty good overall, despite the first encounter. However, that’s more of my taste preference than anything else.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Especially during the wee hours of the morning, the quiet start of the day while sitting around with the greenery is already something to look forward to dining here.

Service Score: 4/5: The service we received here was warm and accommodating all throughout our time dining at Bondi Wholefoods.

GERD Score: 4.5/5: Aside from catering to many food restrictions, outlining the ingredients used to make the food is always a helpful guide for everyone dealing with GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: The selection of non trigger foods such as gluten free items is a great relief to neurodivergent diners. Another plus is that additives are used sparingly, if at all, in their dishes.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: For the health conscious or even someone looking for a filling meal that doesn’t make him or her guilty, Bondi Wholefoods is the place to go.

Year End Special: Mantra Bistro

Year-End Special: Mantra Bistro!

And we’re back! After the rush of year-end obligations and the Christmas holidays, we finally found some time to try out an up and coming restaurant we’d just heard of while browsing articles on social media. After all there has to be something great afoot if even expats are said to be flocking to a food spot in the metropolis. This was what brought us back to Legaspi Village to visit Mantra Bistro, located at the Grand Midori on Bolanos Street.

We had been forewarned that the exterior was “unassuming” (as many of our favorite culinary finds have been). If it had not been for the colorful sign saying “Mantra Bistro” and the warm greeting “Come In, We’re Awesome”, we might have missed the place entirely. We quickly discovered that the Mantra Bistro actually covers two rooms: the actual restaurant/bistro, and the “Tapas by Mantra” bar just a connecting door away. Since it was a bit too early for us to enjoy the edgy and dim lighting and bar fare at the Tapas area, we remained in the main bistro area, which felt more like a slightly upscale casual dining restaurant than anything else. Its classy interior had few, but striking, designs on the walls evoking traditional Indian motifs in more contemporary color schemes. This simple but elegant decor was the first feast for our eyes on this evening.

We started our evening with a complimentary appetizer of fried roti chips with a tangy, savory tamarind dip. This did much to whet our appetites for the hearty dinner ahead. We decided to try the Rogan Josh, a goat curry with tomatoes and spices, which we paired with the Dal Tadka, a dish of yellow lentils stewed with cumin seeds, chili, and garlic. Since this was our first time to try the food at Mantra Bistro, we opted for the “mild” spiciness level for our food.

A real treat of the evening was having some warm roti bread alongside our spicy selections. The Rogan Josh was rather on the hot side, with a full bodied curry just slightly tamed down by the stewed tomato. The meat was carefully slow cooked to the point it was practically falling off the bone. The Dal Tadka was less spicy but just as flavorful, with the lentils stewed to just the right consistency. The serving sizes of these bowls were rather hefty, making them perfect for sharing for 2 up to 4 people.

But the best part of the night were the drinks we got to wash down our hearty meal with. I chose some sweet lassi, my favorite yogurt drink, to cleanse my palate. Lee chose some hot masala tea, which in other cookbooks or cuisines is also known as karak. Karak is something he’s been trying to find in the city ever since he returned from overseas, and to serendipitously have it on this evening was a real joy.

Ever since the inception of this blog, we’ve tried a number of Indian and Indian-themed restaurants, but so far, Mantra Bistro has met our expectations not just in terms of quality but even in authenticity. There is something to be said after all when even homesick expats troop here for a good taste of home. We look forward to enjoying more of the dishes from this exceptional place, hopefully in the near future!

Food Score: 5/5: Where do we even begin? The food defies the stereotype of Indian cuisine being “very hot” and “overly flavored”; the dishes bring out a more subtle yet memorable blend of flavors. We appreciate having hot bread, a unique appetizer, and of course delicately prepared drinks to round out our dining experience. Our only nitpick would be having a few too many meat bones in our goat curry, but otherwise it was all good.

Ambiance Score: 5/5: Mantra Bistro is both classy and artsy, taking care not to fall either into being overly uppity or downright kitschy. It’s a great place for business/client meetings, as well as for nights out with family and friends–which can even continue on at the bar next door.

Service Score: 5/5: The servers were very courteous to all the patrons, and did not hesitate to present us with options for our meals or answer our questions. The team was very professional and sharp all throughout, from our arrival to the time we headed out the door.

GERD Score: 4/5: Mantra Bistro is a great place for people with GERD because it lists down the ingredients used for each menu item and because we could adjust the spiciness of the curry based on our preferences. Of course, Indian cuisine is meant to be shared so it’s always bring to have company along.

Neurodivergent Score: 4.5/5: Although the fact that this is a bistro means there are plenty of alcoholic drinks, non alcoholic options such as lassi and fruit juices are available. Though bread is a perfect partner to many of the curries and sauces on the menu, gluten free options such as basmati rice, zeera rice, saffron rice, and biryani dishes are also prominently featured. People sensitive to various natural spices and flavorings may need to inquire about these, or pick milder dishes for their culinary trip.

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: We’re glad to have found this spot, which we would recommend for people wanting some authentic Indian cuisine. Cheers to you, Mantra Bistro!

Mantra Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

An Evening and a Bowl at Ajisen Ramen

 

Sometimes, the cure to a really long week is a nice cup of tea or a massage, but for crazier than usual times, Ramen is the banner call of the day. After meeting some of the Ortigas puspins (stray cats), we decided to have hearty bowls of ramen. Just as luck would have it, Ajisen Ramen was just around the area, in a quiet strip of walkway through Emerald Ave.

Seeing the same logo, letters, and ramen reminded me of simpler times during my University years with my friends after class. This time around, I got to share new memories with Kat here.

 

For dinner, I picked some Seafood Ramen. The noodles were just right with the firmness and chewiness one expects off typical ramen. The broth was just as I remembered from my college days with the fattiness contributing to its creaminess rather than overwhelming it. The broth temperature was well within the heat one expects at first service. I didn’t care much for the kani sticks or the overly large cabbage slices there, but the star for the show really was the squid. It’s not easy to cook squid that isn’t overly chewy or rubbery, but they got it just right. It was firm but almost melts in the mouth.

 

Kat, on the other hand, picked a bowl of Spicy Tan Tan Ramen. The heat of this dish was of the slow burn sort, making it perfect for a rainy day, or a sunny day with a large glass of tea. Apart from noodles and ground pork, there was little in the way of viands, making this perfect for a light sort of meal.

 

We also shared a plate of gyoza together. To me, it was par for the course with the dumplings done well enough, but the seasoning of the pork inside needed a bit more work for me.

 

Overall, it was a filling dinner and a much needed break from the daily grind of life, and perhaps even some luck for our day from the lucky cat (a calico) statue moving its paw to and fro.

Food Score: 4/5: Our food was served hot and fresh off the kitchen, plus the flavors were spot on with our bowls of ramen.  

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The branch of Ajisen Ramen here was cozy with some mix-and-match decor here and there, which would either feel homey or out of place in some instances depending on preference.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers were attentive to our needs from the time we entered the place to the time we left.

GERD Score: 4/5: One good thing about Japanese food be it here at Ajisen Ramen or elsewhere is that one can either share a large bowl of ramen or a sushi roll, it’s an experience to be shared. As it is, their menu speaks for itself if a menu item is spicy or not, but perhaps they can do more with placing signs that something is spicy or trigger-inducing ingredients for GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: The trouble with these sorts of meals is that one is never sure what sorts of spices or flavorings have been combined to get that ‘umami’ factor. Nevertheless there are still enough fresh options on the menu for diners with more food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Our dinner trip in Ajisen Ramen is something great for a quiet meal out in Ortigas with some friends, but there are some caveats here and there to keep in mind as well.

An Evening with Ajisen Ramen

Sometimes, the cure to a really long week is a nice cup of tea or a massage, but for crazier than usual times, Ramen is the banner call of the day. After meeting some of the Ortigas puspins (stray cats), we decided to have hearty bowls of ramen. Just as luck would have it, Ajisen Ramen was just around the area, in a quiet strip of walkway through Emerald Ave.

Like old times in College

Seeing the same logo, letters, and ramen reminded me of simpler times during my University years with my friends after class. This time around, I got to share new memories with Kat here.

Seafood Ramen 🙂

For dinner, I picked some Seafood Ramen. The noodles were just right with the firmness and chewiness one expects off typical ramen. The broth was just as I remembered from my college days with the fattiness contributing to its creaminess rather than overwhelming it. The broth temperature was well within the heat one expects at first service. I didn’t care much for the kani sticks or the overly large cabbage slices there, but the star for the show really was the squid. It’s not easy to cook squid that isn’t overly chewy or rubbery, but they got it just right. It was firm but almost melts in the mouth.

Spicy Tan Tan Ramen

Kat, on the other hand, picked a bowl of Spicy Tan Tan Ramen. The heat of this dish was of the slow burn sort, making it perfect for a rainy day, or a sunny day with a large glass of tea. Apart from noodles and ground pork, there was little in the way of viands, making this perfect for a light sort of meal.

Gyoza

We also shared a plate of gyoza together. To me, it was par for the course with the dumplings done well enough, but the seasoning of the pork inside needed a bit more work for me.

Overall, it was a filling dinner and a much needed break from the daily grind of life, and perhaps even some luck for our day from the lucky cat (a calico) statue moving its paw to and fro.

Food Score: 4/5: Our food was served hot and fresh off the kitchen, plus the flavors were spot on with our bowls of ramen.  

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The branch of Ajisen Ramen here was cozy with some mix-and-match decor here and there, which would either feel homey or out of place in some instances depending on preference.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers were attentive to our needs from the time we entered the place to the time we left.

GERD Score: 4/5: One good thing about Japanese food be it here at Ajisen Ramen or elsewhere is that one can either share a large bowl of ramen or a sushi roll, it’s an experience to be shared. As it is, their menu speaks for itself if a menu item is spicy or not, but perhaps they can do more with placing signs that something is spicy or trigger-inducing ingredients for GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: The trouble with these sorts of meals is that one is never sure what sorts of spices or flavorings have been combined to get that ‘umami’ factor. Nevertheless there are still enough fresh options on the menu for diners with more food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Our dinner trip in Ajisen Ramen is something great for a quiet meal out in Ortigas with some friends, but there are some caveats here and there to keep in mind as well.

Whistlestop

A city that never sleeps needs its share of 24/7 food establishments to cater to denizens at all hours. One of the longest standing in this business is Whistlestop, nestled among the bars and restaurants of Jupiter Street, Bel-Air in Makati City. After a few hitches in previous plans, we finally seized the opportunity of a sleepy Saturday morning to grab brunch here, in preparation for a day jam-packed with activities.

 

We eschewed some of the usual breakfast fare of pancakes, bacon, and sausages for dishes that would do just as well for lunch. Lee decided on the 1977 Vintage Tapa, while I most uncharacteristically chose to start off my day with Beef Kebab.

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The 1977 Vintage Tapa was flavorful, a balance of well marinated sweet and salty tapa flakes, and perfectly seasoned garlic rice. However, the sunny side up egg was rushed and the meal was too oily for my tastes.

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The main downside to the Beef Kebab was the size of the kebab pieces themselves. Apart from increasing the portion size, I believe that this dish could have been improved with the use of more spices in the meat to give the dish its characteristic kick.

 

It would take us more time to thoroughly sample Whistlestop’s extensive menu of all-day selections hailing from various cuisines. We hope to find more culinary gems and must-haves during future visits here.

 

Food Score: 3.5/5: The menu at Whistlestop is inclined towards a combination of bar chow and hefty main courses and entrees, making it ideal as part of a bar crawl or a recovery scenario. At least for the dishes we picked, there was more that could be done in terms of flavor and presentation.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Whistlestop evokes the feel of an old-time saloon, a look that goes easily from day to night. It is a place wherein one can relax among friends for brunch, fill up for lunch or dinner, pre-game for a night out, or recover in the early hours.

Service Score: 4/5: While we appreciate the servers telling us off the bat which items were available, a little more attentiveness would have helped make our dining experience better.

GERD Score: 3.5/5: Being a watering hole, its menu options for people with heartburn leaves much to be desired, but in fairness, there are at least some options along with a list of ingredients in some menu items. Having a buddy or two tag along might help make the meal ideal or at least doable.

 

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: Some of the dishes at Whistlestop rely heavily on preserved and seasoned meats, which may be a no-no to some diners with dietary restrictions. There is little too in the way of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverage selections.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: Over the years, Whistlestop has definitely earned its reputation as a 24/7 dining spot. It is a good place to go when ending a bar or restaurant crawl in the area…if one is not planning to stick to a strict diet! For us, our search for our recovery food fix still continues. 

Whistlestop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Juju Eats

Juju Eats

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Before an event we needed to attend, Kat and I reminisced a bit from the times when our offices were still nearby and we’d catch a meal or two in the area. In the midst of the same old streets of Tordesillas, we spot Juju Eats, its green and white signage catching our eye neighboring another branch of Kite Bar. With our hungry tummies, we decided to pre-game here for a bit, and stepped inside.

The interiors were simply neat but rustic with its wooden surfaces and furnishings, and there’s plenty of space to move about, even to leave a bike or two around. It almost reminded us of a coffee bar, or a fancier version of subway at first glance. After ordering, the staff assembled the food in front of us as well, which is a plus.

For dinner here, I chose some Crispy Catfish (comprised of fried catfish, green mangoes, green papaya, cilantro, their house mix, red onion, cashew nuts, basil, and nampla dressing) while Kat picked the Bimbimbap Bowl (comprised of red rice, kimchi, oyster mushrooms, picked onions, carrots, romaine, cilantro, sesame seeds, and korean dressing).

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Crispy Catfish

With my Crispy Catfish, the mix of fresh ingredients and dressing almost overwhelmed the catfish at first go, but once it made itself known, the crispy fish complemented the crunch of the fresh vegetables and nuts, and nampla dressing (which unfortunately was spiced by chili, being a thai one). Perhaps my younger self without the heartburn would delight over this wholeheartedly, but with me, I still enjoyed it despite the chili.

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Bibimbap Bowl

The Bibimbap bowl was quite hot thanks to the kimchi, but the greens and vegetables provided a welcome respite from the heat. The red rice base made the dish substantial enough to be considered a light meal, albeit a little heavier than a salad.

The reusable glasses for water, along with the eco-friendly choices in serving food was just icing on the cake with our stay here. With our tummies full and satiated, we set out once more for another adventure, to our event and with another great place to dine included in our list.

Food Score: 4/5: We’ve held the belief that one can’t go wrong with fresh ingredients and a well thought-out recipe, and Juju Eats has them in both our Crispy Catfish and Bimbimbap Bowl. We do think that they could explore this further with other combinations in the future to spice things up.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: After our time here, we found that Juju Eats was definitely a place one can relax and dine after a long day at work, a quiet place to study for your next recitation in class, or to savor the moments of the day with a cup of tea.

Service Score: 4.5/5: The servers here were quick to get our orders, neat from start to finish on how they prepped our food, and always ready to be helpful with our questions.

GERD Score: 4/5: While Juju Eats has a great selection of healthy eats, I sincerely hope they make an update in its menu. There really isn’t any quick-to-see icon if the sauce is spicy or not, so those suffering from GERD might make the same mistake as I did today.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Some of the ingredients may be a bit too much in terms of spice and seasoning for sensitive diners. However the array of gluten free and preservative free foods is not one to be passed up on.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: After experiencing what Juju Eats has to offer, we found our stay to be a lovely experience, and recommend the place for anyone looking for a casual dine with family or friends, a study date with yourself, or even just to unwind after the week, while still eating healthy.

Gringo

 

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After several weeks of busy days, Kat and I finally had a quiet dinner out. In my case, I discovered Gringo after one of my classmates left for an assignment abroad. Having enjoyed my experience there, we went to Gringo at Legaspi Village for a Mexican food trip.

Dinner on a Friday night is always a lively event, and we arrived to a nearly packed restaurant around this time. The place exuded a rustic vibe with hints of their Mexican theme. Comfy and relaxed on a table for two, we looked at the menu. For me, I had a quarter of Gringo Southern Spice Chicken with some Mexican Rice and Smokey Beans, along with some Nachos. Kat, on the other hand, had Pork Adobada Burrito.

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Gringo Southern Spice Chicken

The Gringo Southern Spice Chicken was in some ways a misnomer in my opinion. It’s not even close to the heat from the typical Cajun-style chicken we all know, but more than made up for it by being flavorful. Each morsel of their spiced and juicy chicken, along with the smoked beans and the subtle Mexican rice made a tiring workday evening a truly enjoyable one. Only minor nitpick would be that the rice should have played a better role with some herbs or a hint more spice to it, but it doesn’t downplay the entire experience regardless.

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Pork Adobada

The burrito was so hefty it surely deserved to be named in capitalized letters. The meat and rice filling had just the right amount of spice and flavor so as not to overwhelm an eager diner. It is already a meal on its own for one, or an appetizer for two.

The servers here were on top of most everything we needed, which was impressive considering the busy shift. We’re passing some kudos down their way too.

When you’re craving for some great Mexican or Tex-Mex food but don’t want the usual clichés, hit up Gringo for a feast.

Food Score: 4.5/5: The bursts of flavor with every bite should be reason enough for several more visits in the future for us.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Gringo’s simple and no frills approach, using mix and matched tables, well patterned planks of wooden walls, and open airy space, works best for casual and relaxed dining.

Service Score: 5/5: Notwithstanding the dinner crowd, our needs were quickly met by the servers roving around. It was a team effort all around for them.

GERD Score: 4/5: After dining here, my consensus was that Gringo should be a place visited by those dealing with GERD. While the serving size might be something to consider for someone dining here, the varied selections of food and drinks, and having someone tag along should still make the place worth a visit.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Like a lot of Tex-Mex places, Gringo employs a mix of spices and seasonings that may be too much for patrons with food intolerances and hypersensitivity. However again there are always safe options on the menu

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: After our visit, we highly recommend going to Gringo for your lunch and dinner food cravings. Not only do they cater to the casual or meticulous tastes, they also give a great experience for those dealing with some medical concerns like ours.

 Gringo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria

A good many people would rank among their comfort foods heaping bowls of mac & cheese, spaghetti with meatballs, or alternatively, large slices of pizza with all the fixings. This is exactly what Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria caters, combining tried and tested favorites with their special take on Italian cuisine. An sister restaurant of the famed Mama Lou’s establishment, Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria is a great choice for casual dining, a quiet night out, or simply seeking food for the soul.

 

On our visit to this restaurant’s branch in Robinson’s Galleria, it took us some time to pick out entrees from their extensive selections of pizzas and pastas. Their long pastas are available in three kinds of sauces: pomodoro (tomato based), olio (oil based), and alfredo (cream based). Other types of pasta such as ravioli, lasagna, and macaroni are also on the menu. Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria also offers popular pizza combinations such as pizza margherita, as well as one of a kind toppings such as kimchi, clams, and foie gras. We eventually decided on two simple pastas: creamy salmon ravioli, and Macheroni (pommodoro, basil, and ricotta).

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The creamy salmon ravioli was relatively mild in terms of flavor, despite its being cooked with anchovies and capers. What made this a real treat was the restaurant’s very own homemade pasta, which made the ravioli itself chewy without being soggy. On the other hand, the Macheroni was a bit too creamy for my tastes, but it’s somewhat balanced by the salmon and basil. The bread was passable in any case.

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Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria also offers a range of appetizers, soups, salads, and even desserts. This place is great to begin a night on the town, or for a quiet dinner with family and friends. We hope to be back some day to sample the pizzas and other selections in this up and coming restaurant.

 

Food Score: 4/5: If comfort food is what one seeks, Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria has got it. This is not the place for gastronomy or novel combinations, however. That being said, flavors here are on the mild side of the spectrum. The real treat though is their pasta, which is made fresh in the restaurant each day.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: Despite its being situated in a mall, this place is a cozy haven, with chairs and lighting perfect for casual dining. No fancy light tricks or old bistro vibes here; this is a family restaurant through and through.

Service Score: 4.5/5: The staff are very attentive and prompt, adding to the homey feel of the place. Dishes are served hot and on time, with a little flair from the pepper mill of course.

GERD Score: 4/5: The selection of their menu definitely provide plenty of options for the ones who want their traditional taste, and those with adventurous ones. This trait definitely makes up for any meals that might trigger heartburn and other concerns

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: One great thing about Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria is the emphasis on fresh ingredients from the pasta, the pizza dough, and the sauces. The wide selection of dishes allows most sensitive diners to pick out something in accordance with their tastes and medical indications.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: For comfort food, Nonna’s Pasta and Pizzeria certainly has quite a bit to bring to the table. We hope that you, our readers, will give this cozy place a try soon!

Nonna's Pasta & Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vina Trang

A day after the Zao trip, I needed another solo  Vietnamese food trip to ease the sick days. This time around, I decided to sit down at Vina Thrang at Century City Mall for a nice bowl of healthy Pho for the weary foodie soul.

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For my stay here, I chose their Pho Nam which is a steaming bowl of flat rice noodles, beef broth, soft tenders and beef round steak. There was also some celery and spring onions mixed in as well..

The Pho’s broth was at my preferred temperature, with some hints of steam flowing up from the bowl. Just like in the tale of Goldilocks, “It’s not too hot, and not too cold. It was just right.” The soft tender pieces of steak were soft enough to be slightly chewy with some firmness. It was tender and well cooked, completing the comforting experience to the bowl.

Aside from the warm and fresh bowl of Pho, Vina Trang also provided a glass of their cool pandan tea in lieu of your typical house water. The restaurant also sells bags of the stuff. Instead of your typical tea bags, these leaves inside are whole for a purer flavor.

The theme of the place tries to balance both modernist chic with some paintings of typical everyday vietnam life, as we know it here in Manila, which makes the place cozy, but not too distanced from being what it is. A place where one can enjoy Vietnamese food as it should be, simple, straightforward, and unpretentious. This is definitely a place to try every now and then to get your Vietnamese food fix when you’re in the Century City Mall area.

Food Score: 4/5: Vina Trang manages to stick well to its Vietnamese roots with fresh ingredients and tried and tested methods of cooking it well.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The paintings around the restaurant brings the more modern look come to life here, which makes for a great casual place to dine.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers here were attentive to my needs and quite accommodating to my questions.

GERD Score: 4/5: The good thing about their menu selection was that the main ingredients are placed in, but I would hope that they also place markers if a particular item was spicy or not at any given time. The variety on drink selections is most welcome.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: The fresh ingredients are a great boon to the place, but sensitive diners may need to be cautious with some seasonings.  The drink selections offer plenty of non-caffeinated alternatives to complement the dining experience.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Overall, we think that Vina Trang is a place for anyone looking for a quick and healthy eat, while satisfying one’s Vietnamese food cravings.

Vina Trang Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

‘Sup with Sorghum?

During one of our recent forays into a food exhibition we passed by, we tried out what appeared initially to be popcorn. However, something about its texture was lighter than what we expected, leading us to inquire a little further.

 

We were proudly told by the exhibitioner that what we had was not corn at all, but Sorghum.

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Sor….what? Was this another up and coming healthy food trend? Not exactly. We learned that sorghum has been around a lot longer than we thought. The plant known as sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) has been cultivated for thousands of years as a staple in parts of the continent of Africa as well as in the subcontinent of India. It is a hardy plant that can withstand dry and harsh conditions, and has been said to be able to take root even with less cultivated soils. Several varieties of sorghum are used not only as bases for breads and porridges, but even as sweeteners.

 

In recent years, sorghum has caught the attention of health conscious foodies, thanks to its nutrition density. A 100 gram serving of sorghum delivers around 339 to 355 kilocalories, which is a little less than the calories present in a similar sized serving of quinoa. Sorghum also packs more protein, iron, and dietary fiber than other staple foods such as rice. This makes sorghum appealing to those intending to go on a diet limiting simple carbohydrates. Another attractive quality of sorghum is the fact that it is gluten free, making this a great choice for those with gluten hypersensitivities or allergies.

 

How does one cook sorghum? Grainhouse provides two suggestions for cooking sorghum. It can be boiled just like rice until it is soft, or it can be popped just like corn. Sorghum’s mild flavor lends itself well to being combined with flavorful sauces and meats for an entree, or with salt and spices as a popped snack. More adventurous gourmands may want to try out traditional recipes from India or northeastern African, using sorghum to make porridge or couscous.

 

At present, sorghum is not widely available in the Philippines. However it is being cultivated by small scale growers in Ilocos Norte, as part of initiatives to provide alternative grain sources as well as livelihood for communities. This is exactly what Wholly Grain by Grainhouse is doing right now.

 

In case you’re looking for something different from the usual popcorn, or are simply health conscious, sorghum would be a great healthy alternative to consider. We hope to see this crop find a place in our local culinary repertoire.

 

Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 (a book review)

What makes a city? It is more than just the mortar and stone in its buildings, or even the very people populating it. A key aspect of a metropolis is its supply lines for food and resources, which is the very thesis of Daniel F. Doeppers’ book, Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945.

 

Doeppers, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has retold some of the most intriguing chapters of Manila’s history in terms of how its inhabitants regularly (or not so regularly) ate, drank, and sourced their basic needs from nearby provinces. The book goes into interesting details ranging from how the waterways of Bulacan and Malabon were changed to accommodate the rice trade, all the way to the rise of the popularity of chocolate as a beverage, and how it was displaced by coffee. Everything from animal and human diseases, fishing practices, and the potable water supply makes its way into the text.

Apart from these bits of trivia, Doeppers’ text also documents the rise of families and companies involved in the food industry, many of which are still big players in commerce to this day.

 

Although lengthy and at times tedious with its emphasis on economic trends and statistics, Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 provides a fresh look into life in the city of Manila, especially for the denizens who hardly get a mention in textbooks. One gets a vivid sense of the ingenuity, tenacity and good humor characterizing the residents of this old city, all the way up to the devastation that befell it during the Second World War. It reminds people that much of human history is associated with the realities of existence such as feast and famine, all of which go on despite upheavals and grand events.

 

This book is a recommended read not only for anthropologists and scholars of Philippine History, but even for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It is well thought out and spaced under easy to follow subject headings, making it suitable for earnest study as well as casual reading. Since we at Team Glasses Food Blog are not only foodies but also history geeks, this book was a particular treat.

 

Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 is available from the Ateneo de Manila University Press at Bellarmine Hall, Katipunan Avenue. More details may be found at www.ateneopress.org.

(featured image from wikipedia)

The Good Bugs

Most of us grew up with an (acquired) aversion to bacteria and germs. We were always told that having these little entities in our guts would make us sick. However, not all bacteria cause stomach upsets; in fact, there are some kinds of bacteria which promote better digestion and health overall. These microorganisms are better known nowadays as probiotics. These special bacteria can resist the extremely acidic and enzyme-filled environment of the human gut, and thus can reside there for a relatively longer period of time.

So why eat or drink these kinds of bacteria? In recent years, probiotics have been studied for their beneficial effects in managing digestive problems such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and even irritable bowel syndrome. They are also helpful for children suffering from colic. They may be beneficial in managing allergies, atopic dermatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease; however, more studies are needed to show the effectiveness of probiotics for patients with these disorders. Probiotics may also have an antioxidant effect by reducing the ‘oxidative stress’ and damage caused by harmful bacteria in the gut.

Various strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are among the more well-known probiotics. These bacteria may be found in special preparations marketed for therapeutic purposes, but they are also found in some commercially available foods such as yogurt and some dairy preparations. Other foods containing beneficial bacteria include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kombucha (fermented tea). Like all things, these foods and other probiotic preparations must be taken in moderation. In fact, probiotics are not recommended for some critically ill persons, or those with severely weakened immune systems.

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Kombucha tea (Source: statickflickr.com)

 

In our anecdotal experience, regularly taking probiotics in addition to making necessary dietary and lifestyle changes has been helpful in preventing attacks of GERD, or at least in limiting their severity. We’ve also realized that drinking probiotics help us recover more quickly from our relatively rare stomach upsets and food poisoning misadventures. We hope that as more research is done about probiotics, that we can better incorporate these into our recommendations for healthy eating.

 

Sources:

Connor, E. (2017). 6 Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/probiotic-foods#kombucha6

 

Sanders, M. E, Guarner, F., Guerrant, R., Holt, P.R., Quigley, E.M., Sartor, R.B…Mayer. E.A. (2013). “An update on the use and investigation of probiotics in health and disease.” Gut, 62, 787-796. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2012-302504

 

Wang, Y., Wu, Y., Wang, Y., Xu, H., Mei, X., Yu, D….Li, W. (2017). “Antioxidant Properties of Probiotic Bacteria”. Nutrients, 9, 521. doi:10.3390/nu9050521

Food in the Time of Conflict: The Marawi Siege Crisis, and How We Can Help

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© Mike Gonzalez, 2005.

Photo By Mike Gonzalez (TheCoffee) (English Wikipedia) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Bullets and bombs are the most well-known, but not necessarily the most widespread of weapons during times of war and conflict.  Displacement, disease, and hunger affect both combatants and civilians, with the latter often winding up as refugees forced to make perilous journeys to safety away from the ‘Ground Zero’ of war zones, places that had once been home to them. In different parts of the world, refugees from all parts of the world are forced to make do in crowded temporary housing, camps, and evacuation centers. In these places, they often face shortages in basic necessities such as food, potable water, clothing, and medication.

One such ongoing crisis is the siege in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Philippines. Marawi was a beautiful city, the provincial capital with a rich history because of the heritage of its Muslim and Christian inhabitants. On May 23, 2017, a group of extremists known as the Maute group attacked Marawi City, leading to clashes with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Most of Marawi’s 220,000 residents were forced to flee to neighboring cities and municipalities such as Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City to escape the continuous firefights and airstrikes between government forces and the extremists.

At present, more than 55,000 refugees are staying in Iligan City and neighboring municipalities. The Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as other agencies involved in the relief and evacuation efforts have to stretch limited supplies of food and other relief goods to meet the needs of refugees already being housed in 37 schools, multi-purpose halls and other buildings converted to evacuation centers, as well as newcomers who have just been rescued from or escaped the conflict zones in Marawi City.

One of the most immediate needs of the refugees is food, whether ready-made or in prepackaged forms. What makes this food crisis more challenging is that food donations for refugees from Marawi must be halal or prepared according to Islamic dietary laws. Halal foods are free from pork or pig by-products, therefore even vegetables and other foods fried in pork lard or fat are not permissible for consumption. Halal foods must also be free from blood, alcohol, and also involves a specific means of humanely butchering animals to be used for food.  

Apart from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, other groups involved in the relief efforts for the refugees from Marawi include the Red Cross, Alagang Kapatid foundation, Save the Children, Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, and the Office of the Vice President. Universities such as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Naga, De La Salle University, and La Salle Academy in Iligan are also accepting and coordinating donations for the refugees. One group directly involved in preparing and distributing halal food to the refugees is the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen. The Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK) at present prepares 10,000 to 12,000 meals each day for the evacuees in Iligan City.

Art Relief Mobile Kitchen is no stranger to feeding refugees from calamities after all. Starting all the way back from the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) in 2013, ARMK set up a mobile kitchen near the area where refugees landed from Leyte and other typhoon-hit areas, with the efforts from volunteers and donations either in cash or in kind helped feed the multitude coming to Manila for safety.

Now the same case is happening in the evacuation centers in Illigan and Cotabato City almost a month in with the fighting in Marawi, where there are still reports of people in need of assistance and relief. Let’s not sit back and allow hunger to become a weapon of terror, help out in anyway you can, especially with addressing Art Relief Mobile Kitchen’s herculean task of feeding of our brothers and sisters in Marawi during Ramadan.

To learn more about Art Relief Mobile Kitchen and how to donate, one can visit their Facebook page by clicking here.

Throwback Thursday Summer 2017: Where Do We Send the Hobbits?

It’s the last Thursday of May, a perfect opportunity to look back on half a year of great meals, adventures, and laugh trips all in lieu of getting ‘beach bodies’. It has also been six months of reading all kinds of books; this week I’m reading through biographies, while Lee is making his way through Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” While geeking out over the latter book, we found ourselves speculating about the eating habits of Middle Earth’s various denizens, and how they would fare in the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila. As a result, we have decided to look through our entries and scores, and bring back our personal favorites as well as hearty food recommendations in the odd occasion we ever come across such valiant folks with appetites that surpass their heights.

 

So without further ado, here are our two lists: Team Glasses Summer Favorites and Where Do We Send the Hobbits?

Team Glasses Summer Favorites:

  1.       Corner Tree Café Vegetarian Food: A wide range of delicious dishes inspired from different world cuisines, cozy ambiance, excellent service…and did we mention the food is vegetarian and all natural? This is definitely our pick for date nights, quiet group outings, or even a chic family evening out.
  2.       Faburrito: This is not just Tex-Mex; it’s Tex-Mex without the drawbacks of searing one’s tastebuds on chili, or feeling heavy in the gut thanks to too many oils in the cooking. It’s definitely a healthy upgrade that is friendly to Tex-Mex newbies as well as diehards.
  3.       Urban Chick: This place is solid proof that eating on a student budget isn’t limited to instant noodles, siomai, or even fast food burgers! The sandwiches and plated meals are hefty and tasty—especially the wings!
  4.       Hummus Elijah: Who ever thought there would be so many ways to appreciate hummus? The fact that the selections here come pretty close to authentic Middle Eastern cuisines is definitely a treat.
  5.       Paris Delice: There is more to French food than escargot and croissants; a lot of French cooking is all about using fresh, quality ingredients to come up with everyday dishes that are still on the healthy side. The sandwiches, salads, and pastas here are light on the stomach and yet leave a lasting impression on the palate.

 

Where Do We Send the Hobbits?

  1.       The Balkan: One word: Goulash! We’re sure if we set up each hobbit with a hefty bowl of the Balkan’s rich stew, they’d be merry all evening. There are many other dishes suitable for hobbit appetites, as well as a wide selection of drinks to wash them all down.
  2.       Wok by 4900: There’s a bowl here for every taste—and thus every hobbit. The creative drinks here would definitely pique the interest of the more adventurous of their kind.
  3.       Urban Chick: Hobbits may find themselves hard pressed to match the appetites of the students and foodies who frequent this establishment. It’s just as well that Urban Chick is more than up for the task of accommodating the many and the hungry.
  4.       8 Cuts: Because who can pass up a luscious, dripping burger and some crisp thick cut fries?
  5.       Dekada: Filipino food is meant to be shared, if not with another person then with the entire table. Dekada takes this to heart, and brings in quality to go with quantity. And that is not something that most hobbits would pass up!

 

The best part is that one does not have to go all the way to Mordor and back for these great food picks and your last hurrah for the summer. Stay tuned for more food adventures and in time, another Throwback Thursday from Team Glasses!

 

Got any suggestions or places you think we should review? Feel free to leave us a comment or drop us a line at the ‘Contact Us’ page!

Finding the Foodie Soul at Soul Origin

Lee’s quick note: It has been a while since we posted anything for Team Glasses Food Blog, and that’s more of the busy schedule at our grad schools than anything else. Since our semesters are over, we’ll be crunching out our more or less usual two weeks for posts whenever possible. Let us take this time to thank you for visiting our site and reading our reviews. We definitely want to hear from you soon. Now on to the review.

Part 3 of the Sydney Adventures: As I was waiting for my companion to get a pair of shorts that his wife was looking for, I decided to wander around the airport a bit to find a decent and healthy meal before the flight. After sumptuous meals here, I admittedly dreaded the idea of a bumpy ride and a less than stellar airline food. Thankfully, I did not need to go far because when I looked right, I found Soul Origin.

Seeing the counter and the selection of different ingredients and viands reminded me of a deli at first. The kitchen tiles and rustic vibe along with the ferns on top made the entire place inviting to both sight and scent.

My re-opened and slightly squished but yummy Salmon Baguette

For my snack here, I had a Salmon Baguette. The baguette consists of fresh salmon, capers, cream cheese, mixed lettuce, capers, avocado, and red onion. Kudos on the bread that held these ingredients firmly together. It had that fresh-off-the-oven feel and texture to it, firm but not stale, just the way I liked it. At the same time, the cream cheese helped bind the saltiness of the capers, and the slight sweetness of the salmon, along with the avocado slices, into a subtle yet fulfilling experience while waiting for my flight home.

I went here on a summer, so I still have their summer edition menu too, as well as their catering menu as well. I figured they have a different selection per season as well, which makes for a wide variety all year round. Should be different now its the Winter Season there

As I finished my baguette and headed to the loading bay, I took a moment to savor the last vestiges of my meal. In my mind, Soul Origin is a place I’d definitely drop by for another meal again in the future when I find my soul travelling back to Sydney.

Food Score: 4.5/5: Aside from being a healthy alternative to plenty of sandwich places, the selection here is fresh and balanced, making it a great place for a snack or even a meal.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: The well stacked and organized viands offer enough eye candy to passersby, and the place itself had a wonderfully rustic vibe to it without being over-the-top.

Service Score: 4/5: The service here was fast and straight to the point, given the busy nature of the airport, so no complaints.

GERD Score: 5/5: While there maybe some possible triggers here for people dealing with GERD, there’s plenty of selection here that it will still be worth a meal here.

Neurodivergent Note: Special kudos to Soul Origin for having this comprehensive allegens guide with their menu items. It is very helpful not only for people dealing with GERD or Neurodivergence, but also those who deal with special dietary regimens on a daily basis.

The Allergen Index

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: For anyone looking for a healthy and great meal in Sydney Airport, Soul Origin is a must go to for a bite or three.