Sarsa Kitchen + Bar: Flavors of Negros—and it’s not just inasal!

Where does one go when rain changes one’s plans for a game night? We had that problem several nights ago, when an early evening rainshower foiled our plans for a stroll into Poblacion and left us and two other good friends stuck in Rockwell. Fortunately for us we had espied some places where we could sit for a quiet evening of conversation and the occasional tabletop game, and we decided that Sarsa Kitchen + Bar would fit the bill.

Until our dinner out, most of our experience with Negrense cooking was limited to inasal thanks to the preponderance of restaurants specializing in inasal chicken in the metropolis. We were then happy to find that the menu at Sarsa offered this favorite, as well as an array of other Negrense inspired dishes such as squid pinangat, or Negrense sizzling beef rendang.

What caught our group’s attention was the sisig selection, which we could not resist trying out as a homage to our college lunchtimes centered around this very greasy, spicy meal. Our friends tried out the inasal sisig and the brainy pork sisig (with sriracha sauce), while I went for the tuna sisig cooked with lambanog onions and achuete aioli. Lee finally got a chance to indulge his seafood craving, and asked for grilled prawn skewers with talangka sauce and coconut milk.

IMG_4326

The best surprise about the tuna sisig was the achuete aioli, which lent a flavorful but not overly spicy touch to the fish. Never again will I look at achuete oil the same way again.

IMG_4330

The prawn skewers were a welcome treat since Lee is a sucker for these types of seafood. While his personal preference is to have the prawn meat to have a sweet to salty taste within it, he realize that the prawns’ soft, juicy, and natural flavors complemented the crab fat sauce underneath. Along with an order of rice and it’s definitely a meal one should try and experience at least once during their stay here.

We also had the opportunity to order dessert (in between board games), and we agreed to try the banana tsokolate turon. The tsokolate sauce was good in the sense that it was not overly sweet, but it fell a little short of the tablea flavor we look for in most chocolate dishes.

With all this good food, great service, a relaxed ambiance and excellent company, we did not quite notice time flying by. Definitely this quality makes Sarsa stand out not only as a place for dinner out, but also quite possibly as a place for brunch, or family affairs. Definitely we can recommend this restaurant for anyone wanting good Negrense food, or just Filipino food cooked with a flair.

The Food Score: 4.5/5: One thing about the dishes here is that the blend of flavors is perfect; not one flavor overpowers the other. It’s a balancing act that is difficult to maintain on a plate. However a lot of the foods are on the greasy side, which may not bode well for other people.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: This place is airy, clean, and definitely relaxed for leisurely dining The staff are very polite and accommodating, and service is reasonably fast here.

GERD Score: 4/5. The food portions here are the right amount either to share around or have for yourself. Best part for me is that my little problem did not trigger as badly as I expected it to, if at all.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: The general problem with Filipino food is that it is heavy on gluten and spices, which may really not agree with some diners. Though this place is advertised as a bar, the selection of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages is broad enough to cater to all tastes and most medical restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. This restaurant has become a go-to spot for family lunches and dinners, as well as work meetings, or casual nights out with friends. With the food and the ambiance here, we definitely understand why.

Sarsá Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements

Healthy food for the Filipino Palate: Satinka Naturals

IMG_4308

As a fact of life here in the Philippines, and an inherent irony, is that a good portion of Filipinos don’t consider incorporating vegetables into their diet. Don’t believe me? What are we most known for in terms of food? Some examples are Lechon, Crispy Pata, Sisig, Adobo, and the list piles on and on. Or if one walks to a roadside eatery, we add in pork, beef, or shrimp into the few vegetable viands.

Thankfully there are some exceptions and one of them is Satinka Naturals.

It all started when Kat asked me to surprise her with our dinner pick and the place caught my eye while searching one. Satinka Naturals is found by the corner of Kamagong and Chino Roces / Pasong Tamo in Makati, as both a place to eat, and a place to get organic products for many needs.

The interior reminds one of a rustic home, a mismatched but well-kept and loved Filipino-Spanish home, but with some modern sensibilities to the place. In a word, the place is cosy.

We started our dinner with some Yoga Tea, a mixture of ginger root, cardamom, black pepper, and cloves. While unusual to the Filipino palate, taking a sip of this tea with honey was a delightful experience, especially for me with my discovered preference for adding spices. This also gave me an idea on what to do with the cardamom pods I brought home from Qatar.

IMG_4313

Greek Platter

For the main dinner itself, I ordered a Greek platter and Kat had the Vegan platter. The Greek platter had chicken strips marinated with oregano, paprika and caraway seeds, giving each strip a vibrant flavour with every bite. The spiced beef in tomato sauce and feta cheese helped balance the meal with its bits of acidity from the tomatoes. The accompanying salad and shredded cucumber, as well as the red rice knit these two meat dishes together, creating a memorable meal hands down.

IMG_4316

Vegan Platter

The vegan platter consisted of two types of ‘meatballs’ made with beetroot, carrot, and a mix of other veggies, a marinara dipping sauce, raw ‘zuchinni pasta’ and a garden salad. Now whoever said that vegetables weren’t filling has certainly not encountered this rich meal. The vegan balls were heavy and savory, thus necessitating the other greens to cleanse one’s palate. This meal may be a bit overwhelming for those not used to vegan meals, but it is certainly worth a try.

IMG_4320

Sagada Yogurt with Honey

We ended our night with a small bowl of Sagada yogurt with honey. It was a solid dessert after our hearty dinner here at Satinka Naturals. But if we were to do it again, we would have ordered the pot of tea after the meal to make it an absolutely perfect end to the night.

Food Score: 5/5. Aside from minor nitpicks here and there, we enjoyed the food not only through its taste alone, but also from preparation and presentation to the organic ingredients of our meal. There is a wide selection of entrees and group platters to choose from, all of which use healthy and fresh ingredients. The beverages section can boast of having Sagada Coffee, several types of tea, and craft beer all available. One must never be shy to order.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5. Throughout our stay, it was surprisingly quiet and the hustle and bustle of the outside world didn’t get inside at all. At the same time, their décor, tables, and cushions speaks well of not only their tastes, but also become a place to rest our minds after a long trip around the Metro. Their service is not only attentive, but also quick on their feet in handling anything we needed.

GERD Score: 4.5/5. Surprisingly, even with the large portion and serving, the food here doesn’t trigger my burping at all, which is remarkable in itself. Also, the food is spiced just the right amount, so as not to make it too spicy for people with heartburn / GERD. While there is some alcohol in the vicinity, there’s plenty of beverage options as well.

Epilepsy Score: 5/5. No MSG and artificial flavors! This is cause enough to celebrate. And the vegan meals have no gluten, thus making this a bonus for people sensitive to this substance. The non-caffeinated teas and fresh fruit shakes are excellent too for diners with restrictions due to either their seizures or their medication

Team Glasses Score: 5/5. Our entire dinner here was a great experience because they create great food for diners with health concerns like us.

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!

The Wild Poppy

Gardens and green spaces are rarities in the heart of the metropolis, especially in a busy neighborhood such as Poblacion. This is probably why some restaurants, cafes, and bars make it a point to have more nature-themed touches, if only to provide a respite from the bustling grays of the concrete jungle. One such refuge is The Wild Poppy, a cozy restaurant located on Don Pedro Street. The greenery of the place’s outdoor sign and its fresh green-and-white interior makes it clear that this is a haven, a place to escape the frenetic lights and traffic of this part of the city.

18600719_1389457557805766_1786004021_n

We had the good fortune to drop in twice at The Wild Poppy: first for a quick bite to eat en route home from work, and then eventually for an actual dinner. On our first visit here, we tried out the “Flying Chicks”: chicken wings with hoisin sauce and topped with sesame seeds. The wings were juicy yet crispy, and the hoisin sauce’s sweetness was not too overwhelming on the tongue.

18554451_1389457671139088_799062721_n

However, the real stars of that trip were the drinks: we had some milky matcha and fresh watermelon shake. The watermelon shake was particularly refreshing, with a perfect consistency that was neither overly coarse or overly mushy. Now with our appetites whetted, we resolved we would soon come back for a proper sit-down dinner wherein we could relish each bite of the food.

18554880_1389457507805771_618538073_n

For our latest journey here for dinner a few nights ago, we agreed that we’d try another appetizer/starter as well as two entrees. Unfortunately for us, the entrées selection here was rather limited; the true measure of variety here was in the various drinks and tonics, especially the gin mixes we could not drink! After a long debate, we decided to start off with “Tofu and the Gang”: crispy sautéed tofu with Chinese sausage in sesame oil. As incongruous as this pairing seemed at first, it was actually quite a delight: the stronger flavors of the Chinese sausage were set off by the milder ones from the tofu, thus making a dish that would prime the appetite instead of satiating it entirely.

IMG_4305

Most of the dishes on the menu happened to be on the spicy side, so Lee found that the only dish he could safely order was the “Hoi Belly! Rice Bowl”. This turned out to be a deliciously braised slab of pork belly served atop this restaurant’s signature fried rice. This rice bowl did more than just fill our bellies; the pork was practically melting in our mouths with each bite! Definitely this is one dish we recommend.

Lee’s “Goin Coco” drink had a soft approach to the palate. Initially we thought it would taste more like tea, but we found the coconut milk with notes of the taste of tea was very welcome, considering the richness of the pork belly rice bowl.

As for me, I was in a rather adventurous mood so I ordered the “Chicken Ren Damn Rice Bowl”: chicken rendang with cucumbers and spices on top of rice. I suspect that the profanity may have to do with diners’ reactions when taking a first bite of this very spicy dish. However once that initial shock was over, I realized that the chicken rendang was well balanced out by the coconut milk used in the sauce. The result? I consumed every bite without much trouble—and without draining the dalandan juice brew I had ordered on the side!

Had we been able to partake of the various gin concoctions offered at The Wild Poppy’s ample bar, we might have tarried way past dinnertime. After all, how often does one get to at least figuratively escape the city? We’d definitely consider this place for another quiet night out, when we need some breathing room in the middle of the urban hustle and bustle.

The Food Score: 4.5/5: Our one gripe here is that the food selections are rather limited, at least in comparison with the drinks selection. However we are definitely not disappointed with the dishes we’ve had here, thanks to the delicate balance of flavors in each and every bite.  

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: This place is on the small side and can feel cramped on a busy night, however the laid back candlelit ambiance does a great deal to help one relax. The ample terrace is also a good place to sit and dine al fresco. The staff are very polite and accommodating, and service is reasonably fast here.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. Thankfully they have legends on the each food item if the selection is spicy, which unfortunately, makes for a harder choice when there are only two entrées safe for people dealing with heartburn. The portion size of the meal’s just right (at least for Lee) in terms of having a comfortable meal without feeling bloated after.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: Diners who are sensitive to heavily seasoned foods or ingredients may need to eschew some starters and entrees.  Of course, the preponderance of alcoholic drinks severely limits one’s choices in terms of liquid refreshment if one is taking medications that preclude drinking alcohol.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. The Wild Poppy is really more of a place to gather with friends for a quiet night with drinks, but the food is definitely worth a visit on its own. We definitely recommend this place for a weeknight out.

The Wild Poppy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Heartburn: A change in lifestyle

the_definition_of_heartburn

Photo by Christopher Dart (https://www.flickr.com/photos/darty53/8686152556/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Before working abroad in Doha, I already had the problem of acid reflux and normal remedies prescribed by the doctor worked out well for me. A bit of portion eating there and a less chili, no coffee, booze, or softdrinks for a period of time, and drink your medicine. After those two weeks, I’d feel better and be back to eating anything I liked without a care in the world. A matter of wash, rinse, and repeat. Easy peasy, I’m mostly healthy after all. I was unfortunately mistaken.

After the wear and tear of shifting schedules from my many tech support jobs, and the six day work week in Doha, perhaps my body finally called up to take its dues. A month or so after coming back to Manila, I began burping and having the taste of stomach acid line my mouth. Didn’t mind it much, drink some water or some milk, good to go. I only took notice when I kept regurgitating foam after a single bottle of beer, my walk home punctuated by spitting out the foam that came up from my throat.

The gastroenterologist pretty much confirmed my worst fears, I had heartburn a few months before I turned 28th. I bet you’d ask, “So what? Just drink medicine and go.” or “It’s not like (insert here disorder / disease / ailment), you have it much better.”

One would normally dismiss such thoughts, until Kat reminded me what an untreated and ignored gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) / heartburn can do to someone.

According to this article from cancer.org, one of the risk factors for having esophageal cancer or Barrett’s esophagus is GERD. While it does not happen to everyone with heartburn, I most certainly do not want to ever encounter them in my life if I can help it. After all, everything that we eat and drink goes through the esophagus, so it’s imperative that we take care of it, along with everything else in our body.

I can safely say that I’m a foodie, having both an interest in having a meal and making one, something I share with Kat. I didn’t want to give up on that and live in the spectre of being defined as another foodie who had to stop because he couldn’t each much anymore. And with a few changes here and there, I can say I’ve done rather well with a good deal of help from Kat and a couple of friends’ suggestions here and there, along with our Team Glasses Food Blog.

But there are times where heartburn catches up to me, no matter how I try to take care of myself. After the string of many food adventures, I had to get myself checked up again. As per my latest gastro check up, I was told that it’s a recurring thing, so I guess I’ll have to deal with this the best way I can.

On my part and your part, if you’re dealing with heartburn but still love eating great food, here are some things to remember:

  1. Follow your gastroenterologist’s advice and don’t cut corners. Maintaining your health matters more, no matter how the medicines costs initially.
  2. Remember your trigger foods and stay away from these or at the very least, do your best to put these on the side if possible. Also skip the alcohol, deep fried food, and tobacco—even if you don’t have GERD.
  3. Find what works for you, in terms of food portioning and the meals you can actually eat.

As what I’ve learned here while writing with Kat about our different food adventures here in Team Glasses Food Blog, life doesn’t really end if you’re living with medical conditions here and there. One can still find great food places in Metro Manila, without sacrificing your health. And this is the reason why we continue to write our foodie reviews, thoughts, and adventures. We really hope that we help you out in our own way.

Mitsuyado Sei-Men: Travels for Tsukumen

One of the places Kat and I have talked about but had not eaten in ever since I got back is here at Mitsuyado Sei-Men. Located all the way from the other side of Jupiter street, it sure was a walk indeed, but thankfully a fun one at that. Kat had been here before a few years back, so we tried it without knowing (or remembering in Kat’s case) the food besides that it’s a tsukumen place. Tsukumen refers to dipping noodles; instead of being served in a steaming bowl of broth, the noodles and the soup or sauce are served separate.

IMG_4291

Inside, the place’s interior reminded me of Japan in the 1950s from wooden walls to older photos and a bicycle mounted on the wall. There were enough tables to accommodate solo diners, intimate dinners for two, or large groups.

IMG_4293

For this meal, I ordered the Marotoku Tsukumen, and Kat had the Curry Tsukumen. We also added an order of karaage and gyoza, thinking initially that the noodles where the thin ones. Lo and behold, we had thick udon noodles on our bowls.

IMG_4295

Marotoku Tsukumen

The pork slices were nice and tender, complementing well with the sprouts. The dipping sauce was thankfully well balanced and not spicy. However, I had to give that perfectly boiled egg to Kat since it’s one of my triggers. The curry, on the other hand, was a slow burn in itself; instead of a sharp explosion on the tongue, it gave a more mellow, lingering heat at the back of the throat. The gyoza and karaage were cooked to perfection, and not slick and oily. These were perfect complements to the rather lively nature of our main dishes.

IMG_4294

Curry Tsukumen

All things considered, we had a pleasant dinner here at Mitsuyado Sei-Men, and enjoyed our meal.

Food Score: 4/5. While slightly above our usual price range for other restos, the place served good tsukumen as well as excellent side dishes. Although the selection may not be as adventurous as other Japanese noodle establishments, the taste and portions are heartier and worth the while  

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. The placed had a quaint ambiance to it that exudes nostalgia and the servers were attentive to our needs.

GERD Score: 3/5. Portion-wise even their small tsukumen order is for sharing, so anybody dealing with heartburn should find a buddy to share their bowl with. A bit of advice from us is to have a slight adjustment to the menu, adding in a legend or tag if a meal is spicy or not.

Epilepsy Score: 3/5. The problem with such highly flavored and soupy dishes is that one cannot be sure of the sorts of seasonings used there. Some diners may be too sensitive to the seasonings used in the curry and other broths.

Team Glasses Food Score: 3.5/5. While there are rooms for improvement for Mitsuyado Sei-Men with regards to food and a few suggestions here and there, it’s still a decent place to dine with friends if you happen to be on that particular part of Jupiter Street.

Mitsuyado Sei-Men Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Enchanted Farm: Food For More than Just Eating

It is a courtesy when dining out to give one’s ‘compliments to the chef’ after an excellent meal. Sadly, it is not a common practice to pay respects to those who grow the food! In recent years, some farm-to-table restaurants have raised some awareness about where they source their organic vegetables and free-range meats, but for most diners the distance still remains between their tables and the farms, ranches, and fisheries where the food is actually produced. However, there is at least one place wherein customers can come up close and personal with a community that is behind some up and coming food brands in the Philippines: Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm.

18275020_1380946085323580_2065748279375371177_n

At the entrance to the farm

Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm is located at Barangay Encanto, Angat, Bulacan. This venture by the non-profit organization Gawad Kalinga has partnered with a village to help set up social enterprises wherein much of the profit goes to the community that started up the business. Since 2010, the Enchanted Farm has served as a start-up point and ‘incubator’ for a variety of social enterprises such as Bayani Brew, the Human Nature beauty and personal care line, as well as other start-up businesses begun by students who have trained at the farm village university. Not surprisingly many of these enterprises would be featured at the farm’s seventh anniversary fair, which Team Glasses was all too eager to pay a visit to this month.

One product that immediately caught our attention was the Luscious Choco Gelato courtesy of Kayumanggi Organic. We discovered that this was actually a vegan gelato, making use of coconut milk in lieu of cow’s milk. Admittedly I was skeptical at first, but then again, chocolate has always been more than enough to overcome our doubts.  And indeed, our faith in chocolate was proven right, for the first spoonfuls of this gelato had the distinctive flavor of tablea melting in our mouths. The gelato itself was light and smooth on our tongues, yet remaining rich in flavor down to the last drop. Most interestingly, the gelato did not trigger another of Lee’s acid reflux attacks, a problem we’ve encountered on most other occasions with dairy desserts.

18342498_1381038235314365_7777750346590902467_n

Alas, this gelato was so good that we finished it before getting a picture. This is all that’s left!

Another treat during our visit to Enchanted Farm was the duck burger from Golden Duck, a social enterprise centered around a duck farm started within the community. At first glance these burgers appeared to be on the plain side: bread, patty, onion, and tomato. No lettuce or cheese. One bite though was enough to explain exactly why this was the most Spartan burger we’d encountered yet; all the goodness was in the patty itself. The duck meat was rich and fatty, but seasoned with pepper to offset the otherwise heavy taste. This was one case wherein no fixings were necessary.

18403419_1381039418647580_6074573436631766342_n

“How is this NOT a thing?!”

Yet another homegrown delight was the chocolate cake from the Make Peace Bakery, a French-inspired bakery run by the community youth. This particular dessert was not too sweet, with a light chocolate flavor that sank through every bit of the chocolate sponge cake. Only a little icing was necessary to spruce the cake up. The result was a dessert to rival those of Manila patisseries—and at a fair price to boot.

Thankfully we, and other travelers, do not have to venture as far as Bulacan to sample these treats. Kayumanggi Organic sells its chocolate gelato as well as coconut oil, coconut sugar, and wild ginger over at RealFood in Alabang. The duck burger as well as other products from Enchanted Farm are also available at Enchanted Farm Café on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.
Hopefully as these products and other social enterprises become more available and prosper, more communities will make their way out of poverty and continue to develop. And having healthier and sustainable food options in the market is a great boon to gourmets and gourmands who would like to be sure of their health—as well as the welfare of those around them.