Sunday finds: Kapoke

Kapoké

For a good many people, the idea of eating ‘raw fish’ is equated to eating Japanese specialties such as sushi, sashimi, or our local Pinoy kinilaw. More finicky folks may insist they are eating fish tartare. In recent years though, a new food craze has given these Asian classics new life.

Poké (pronounced as poʊˈkeɪ) has its origins in Hawaii, where it is usually served up as an appetizer. The main base for poké is raw fish or seafood, mixed with onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and other seasonings. Innovative chefs have made new poké combinations with varying sauces such as the infamous Sriracha, and new toppings such as mushrooms and mangoes. One such enterprise here in Metro Manila is Kapoké, a friendly weekend stall enterprise that allows customers to also experiment with their own combinations for poké.

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One breezy Sunday lunchtime, we found Kapoké while exploring a weekend market near our usual haunts. And on their menu, we had to choose the different parts of our customized poké meal. Being first timers in the art of the poké, they were more than happy to guide us along with crafting our bowl. Every bowl is composed of a base (salad greens, sushi rice, and plain rice), your choice of fish (tuna, salmon, or a combination), and a selection of toppings and condiments like green onions and sesame seeds to esoteric ones like chicharon bits, nori, and wasabi mayo.

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Unlike other very strongly seasoned fish dishes, our poké bowl turned out to be light and refreshing. We selected sushi rice with salmon, cabbage, green onions, sesame seeds and chicharon bits, topped with wasabi mayo for a subtle kick. It was right on the money with how most ingredients did not overlap the other. The wasabi wasn’t overpowering and was still able to enhance the flavor of the salmon, while the greens and seeds gave it a crunchy texture. One nitpick is that the sushi rice could have used a bit more mirin-rice vinegar to further stand out. This aside, we definitely enjoyed our shared bowl during that lovely Sunday lunch, and we look forward to trying more poké combinations in the near future.
Kapoké can be found each Sunday at the Legaspi Market, located at Herrera st. cor Legazpi and Salcedo V.A. Rufino St, Legazpi Village, Makati City.

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Food Strip Chronicles: Industrie Food Loft

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After my Persons and Family Relations class got cancelled for the day, I proceeded all the way to SM Megamall for one of our Saturday dates, away from our usual haunts. With a bit of walking, we decided to try out a place Kat was eyeing for sometime, the Industrie Food Loft found in Julia Vargas street.

For both of us, the area of Julia Vargas was more or less terra incognita, for the reason that we do not work or live near the area. One could say we went on an adventure, carrying her statistics notes and my law books.

At first, we didn’t quite know what to expect aside from the word-of-mouth talk about the place, but when we got there, we found it to be a rustic two story cabin with the actual food loft right upstairs. The wooden chairs and tables, well-lit dining area, and different hole-in-the-wall stalls of different cuisines made it appear quite livelier than its wooden exterior. And for this reason, we decided to try out different spots for an early dinner study date, even if we found a familiar face with Buns and Bros.

Hoka

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A modern take on certain Japanese foods, their menu focuses mainly on sushi rolls or rice bowls. For this one, I chose a rice bowl (one can pick between steamed or stir-fried rice along with the actual meal), namely their Salmon Aburi, which consists of a pan-fried salmon fillet with torched aburi sauce on top.

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Salmon Aburi

The salmon’s inherent sweetness managed to be well balanced with the savory aburi sauce and the smoky notes from the torching method. It’s was a treat on the taste buds. But in hindsight, steamed rice would have been the better choice for this one since the saltiness of the stir-fried rice’s flavors clashed with the actual star of the dish. Quite simply, their Salmon Aburi rice bowl is a filling and satisfying meal for people who need something substantial as a meal. I do have one nitpick however, which is the importance of picking out the bones in any fish fillet to be served. Thankfully, I bit into it early on and felt it immediately, so a crisis averted.

 

 

Pullet

 

Kat on the other hand, had a hankering for some winner, winner, chicken dinner. This meant specifically some fried chicken along with a serving of macaroni and cheese. The Mac and Cheese definitely made the cheese-fiend quite happy, especially seeing all that melted cheeses on top oozing into the soft and firm macaroni.

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Mac and Cheese

The fried chicken, on the other hand was served with a syringe full of gravy, which happened to be a quirky and welcome touch to those that like to try something new every now and then. We noticed that most of the flavor of the chicken was on the skin and breading, instead of the chicken meat itself, which was a tad bit disappointing. Maybe some buttermilk on the chicken might have improved it significantly.

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Pullet’s Fried Chicken

 

Manila Creamery

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And for dessert, Kat had some Matcha Taho shake, which is cold matcha-flavored taho (fresh soft tofu with caramelized brown sugar, and tapioca balls), with two pieces of matcha-flavored Pocky sticks. The smoothness of the tofu and the tea flavors one gets from the matcha is surprisingly complex, even if at first glance it appears as your usual sweet drink. This unlikely combination is a match made in heaven, and truly deserves its reputation as a bestseller.

 

We left Industrie Food Loft around 7:30 or 8:00 PM in a satiated state, but in a good way, looking forward to the next time we’ll find ourselves there. Hopefully this time we can come with some more friends and perhaps some board games in tow.

 

Ambiance / Service Score: 5/5. From the well-lit place, lively atmosphere, and cozy seating, to the attentive staffers that kept the place orderly and neat, it’s definitely a great place to hang around and enjoy a good meal (or three).

GERD Score: 3.5/5. One drawback from the place is the fact that there are fewer options for people who deal with heartburn in general for a solo diner. In all fairness however, perhaps the point of the place is to have company along be it a date or as a group or barkada.

Epilepsy Score: 3.5/5. Much of our food selections were highly seasoned, which may be problematic for some diners who are sensitive to preservatives. However there is a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks and beverages in the Industrie Food Loft. We recommend in particular the Virgin Sangria from On The Rocks.

Team Glasses Food Blog Score: 4/5. Even if there are some selections that are not entirely heartburn or epilepsy-friendly, the wide variety of food selections to choose from mitigates that particular problem, ensuring that you’ll still have a great time dining here in the first place, which we definitely did.

 

Tablea Xiao Long Bao

Tablea Xiao Long Bao…say what??

 

This is not a drill.

 

One of the frustrations stemming from my food restrictions is a moratorium on eating dumplings and other dim sum, unless I can ascertain its contents all the way down to any additives or seasonings. The particular dumpling I have come to miss is the Xiao Long Bao, that famed soup dumpling purportedly originating from Shanghai. These are usually filled with a mixture of pork and broth, served almost hot enough to scald a careless eater’s tongue.

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I thought myself resigned to having to make my own dumplings until an unexpected side trip to this year’s Ultimate Taste Test event held in Makati City. Among the many delectable and eye-catching entries, one immediately grabbed my attention: the tablea xiao long bao courtesy of Sabaw Dumplings. I had to blink several times to make sure I had read the menu correctly, but there was no mistake. Right in front of me were freshly steamed dumplings filled with melted dark chocolate enclosed in a chocolate dough wrapper.

I was warned not to bite into my tablea xiao long bao, in order to prevent the liquified chocolate from oozing out onto my hands or my clothes. With this advice in mind, I carefully popped the first of three dumplings in my mouth, and wound up with an explosion on my tongue, as if I had taken a shot of a very thick hot chocolate drink. After a little while I was able to more safely enjoy the other two dumplings, and appreciate the slightly nutty, bittersweet flavor of the tablea filling. Who would ever have considered xiao long bao as dessert?

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In Lee’s case on the other hand, he had a go at the bula long bao. After two unsuccessful tries of pushing the dumpling into his mouth without popping the wrapper, third time was the charm. As he puts it, it was all the good hearty goodness of bulalo into one mouthful. The tender meat and potatoes to the slow cooked broth itself, it all exploded and provided a much needed kick for the food-heavy afternoon we both had. In hindsight, he posits, “I should have bought two orders for myself.” Only concern we might have would be not being sure about the actual ingredients and process into making the soup base, but otherwise, Lee still recommends it.

 

For more xiao long bao goodness, check out Sabaw Dumplings at their homepage on Facebook.

Pipino

One of the most readily mentioned health foods—regardless of trends and fads—is Cucumis sativus, or more commonly known as the cucumber. It has been touted as a refreshing source of micronutrients such as magnesium and potassium, as well as antioxidants that help protect the body from the effects of stress and toxins. It is only fitting that this fruit should lend its name, albeit in the Filipino language, to a healthy dining restaurant on Malingap Street, Teachers Village, Diliman in Quezon City.

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Pipino is one of three restaurants located on 39 Malingap Street; one of its neighbors, Pi Breakfast and Pies, is dedicated to baked delicacies and hearty morning meals. The other, Pino, is a sleek and edgy casual dining restaurant and bar. Pipino on the other hand specializes in vegan dishes inspired from various Southeast Asian as well as Italian cuisines. The restaurant with its small store has a fresh and airy garden-type ambiance. Casual and comfortable seating and homey accent pieces add to the serene vibe, perfect for a leisurely dinner, or in my case, a girls’ brunch out.

My friends and I dropped in at the beginning of the long weekend, as part of kicking off some newfound resolutions for healthy eating. In light of this, it took us a while to peruse the menu of vegan Filipino dishes, eager to find a new take on some of our favorite flavors. We decided to try out the potato chilaquiles, the vegetable kare-kare, the tofu satay, and the portobello inasal.

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The potato chilaquiles, a platter of fresh potato chips topped with chili con lentils, salsa, jalapenos, and vegan mayo capers, is clearly meant for sharing or as ‘bar chow’. Despite the presence of chili peppers, the sauce is more of tangy than actually hot and spicy, and thus will not force diners into consuming copious amounts of beverages to beat the heat. It was an excellent way to whet our appetites for the coming entrees.

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The vegetable kare-kare has been touted as a vegan version of the kare-kare of Pino, with beans and eggplant in lieu of the traditional ox tripe. Everything was still topped with the traditional peanut sauce, and served with a side of black bean bagoong. As I have an allergy to the usual seafood bagoong, this vegan version was a welcome surprise for me.  No flavors were skimped or lost in this healthy take on a Filipino favorite.

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The tofu satay came as a pair of grilled tofu and vegetable skewers, served with satay sauce and brown rice. The tofu was delicately seared on the outside, yet firm and moist on the inside. The vegetables were also carefully grilled, brushed only with oil to preserve their natural flavors. The satay sauce did not overwhelm this precise mixture, but added a mild and slightly earthy backdrop to the tastes of the tofu, tomato, and zucchini. This is a hearty yet ‘guilt-free’ dish for the calorie conscious.

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The portobello inasal was also a welcome surprise; I had encountered various ways to cook mushrooms but inasal had never crossed my mind till this particular meal. The roasted mushroom was served on top of brown rice, with red beet puree as well as an eggplant ensalada salad. The inasal cooking method had imparted a slightly earthy flavor to the outside of the mushroom, but still locked in its natural juices. The red beet puree provided a slightly sweet contrast to the mushroom, while the eggplant salad was an excellent way to clean the palate.

A plethora of other Filipino favorites, as well as pastas, salads and desserts are featured on Pipino’s menu. The cookies and pastries are also available in the in-house store. Among the restaurants in the Maginhawa Street/Teachers Village stretch, this is one place that can cater to diehard vegans as well as newcomers to healthier food choices. It is worth traveling across the city for. More power to the chefs and staff of this wonderful haven, and we at Team Glasses look forward to coming back here soon.

The Food Score:  5/5: This is a place that does vegan and healthy food right: flavors locked in, few spices and seasonings, and fresh ingredients. It’s a far cry from the ‘rabbit chow’ feel so associated with some other establishments. While the food is a little above the student budget range, the prices will not break the bank or leave a diner in debt.

Ambiance/Service Score: 5/5: The airy second-floor location is perfect for a relaxed dining experience, far above the hustle and bustle below. The service is prompt, friendly, and helpful. Although it may take time for the food to be served, the dishes are worth the wait.

GERD Score: 5/5: The selections are plentiful, allowing for persons coping with GERD to more easily pick foods that will exclude any triggers. The serving sizes are manageable, and good for either sharing or solo scoffing—with less risk of reflux.

Epilepsy Score:  5/5: The style of cooking here uses few additives and seasonings, thus making the dishes safer for persons with adverse reactions to these substances. Preserved ingredients are scarce. The restaurant’s ambiance is devoid of harsh lighting and loud sounds, making it a safe space to dine.

Team Glasses Score: 5/5: We’d travel miles again for this restaurant and its specialties. While this is not a place for students to hold study groups and cramming sessions in (despite its location in proximity to some universities), this is more of a place to celebrate the beginning of the weekend, or take a break from the chaos of the city.

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