Kanto Freestyle Breakfast

Since we at Team Glasses have taken on the challenge of being working students pretty much six days a week, we have realized that a hearty breakfast has become essential to maintaining our well-being and sanity. Fortunately for us, we have learned of some 24-hour dining places not too far from our usual haunts. One such example is Kanto Freestyle Breakfast, which has become synonymous with delicious yet affordable meals to begin the day (or end a late night).

We stopped by Kanto Freestyle Breakfast’s branch in Poblacion, Makati, one Saturday morning. This branch is literally at a kanto or street corner, evoking the feel of a homestyle diner or eatery. Despite the rather simple ambiance, the menu laid before us was anything but. The fare here encompassed traditional Filipino breakfast food such as tapa (beef jerky), longganisa (sausages), tuyo (dried fish) and champorado (chocolate rice porridge), as well as other cosmopolitan favorites such as pancakes, omelets, and sandwiches. Diners even had the option to ‘freestyle’ breakfast by mixing and matching different viands. For this adventure we decided to try out Kanto Freestyle Breakfast’s rendition of tapsilog: New Zealand Beef Tapa served with garlic fried rice and an egg cooked as per the customer’s preference. We also tried out the hash browns topped with poached egg and tomato pesto.

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The tapa was scrumptious but perhaps a prior warning in the menu that the tapa had chili in the marinade would have been appreciated. Along with the rice and fried egg, it balances and spreads the saltiness of the soy sauce marinade around beautifully. However, like most Filipino breakfast choices, it tends to be on the oily side.

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The hash browns with poached egg was an interesting experience for us; this was not a combo we normally would have thought of. The egg was cooked to the right degree of runniness, and went well with the crispy hash browns. Although we had been looking forward to having the tomato pesto to round out the dish, the tomato was more of garnishing in this case. Thankfully the dish was flavored with a hint of paprika for a much needed kick.

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We also had the Kanto Hot Choco to accompany our meals. Though this drink had much in the way of flavor, and was served with a good helping of hot milk, we found it a little on the thin side for our tastes.

Throughout the meal we wound up musing about the health value of the ‘traditional’ Filipino breakfast, which often consists of rice with a side of some fried or boiled meat or fish, and in some cases accompanied by an egg. Coffee, especially instant coffee, is also a feature of many Filipino morning meals. Admittedly the Filipino breakfast can be improved with the addition of more whole grains as well as fruit and vegetable options, alongside the reduction in the consumption of sugars such as overly sweetened coffee. This will be something we hope to find in our future breakfast excursions.

The Food Score:  4/5: The servings here were hearty, with well cooked and flavorful viands. The menu also caters to a variety of tastes; those who eschew rice for breakfast may choose pancakes, waffles, and bread to fill up on.  

Ambiance/Service Score: 2.5/5: Sad to say this was the major downside of our breakfast. The service at this branch was rather inattentive with small things such as cleaning tables, or bringing the bill to the customers.  

GERD Score: 3/5: The variety does help to find options for people with heartburn. However, it would be helpful for people with GERD if the menu pointed out if a meal had chili peppers or is inherently spicy.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: Variety saves the day again here, as there is a selection of dishes that are mostly free of preservatives and other possible triggers. Some caution must be exercised with the  meaty breakfast viands, as these often tend to be cured or preserved products.  

Team Glasses Score: 3/5: This place is excellent as far as comfort food and hangover cures are concerned. However we feel we can find other healthy breakfast options in different establishments.

Kanto Freestyle Breakfast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Berde

In our many meetups in the Ayala Triangle area, we have been keeping an eye out for this place named Berde, while it was still being remodeled inside one of the spaces there. And in the first week of October, we finally had the chance to do so.

Berde, which translates to the color Green in Spanish, runs with the concept of choose-your-own-toppings into a salad or rice bowl. And to simplify this, one picks their protein, grains, greens / vegetables, and sauce, or pick a pre-selected bowl combination. However, what sets them differently from Faburrito or Salad Stop is their selection that’s tailored to Filipino tastes. At the same time, they also like a bit of diversity since they display their fish of the day, which for today was tuna.

In our food trip here, I tried to make my own bowl which was composed of a rice and salad combo, fish kinilaw, calamansi singkamas slaw, crispy garlic bits, green sauce (fresh basil, cilantro, and parsley), and ginger and green papaya atchara. Kat on the other hand, picked the Manok-Out signature bowl, which is made out of chicken inasal, berde salad, red rice, malunggay coconut pumpkin mash, calamansi red onion pickle, peanuts, and green sauce.

For our foreign readers, here are some terms to help you familiarize with Filipino cuisine.  Kinilaw is raw fish soaked in vinegar mixed with ginger, and green onions. Calamansi is Philippine lemon, which is size of a marble. Atchara, on the other hand, is pickled green papaya with carrots and annatto for its distinct yellow color. And inasal is a local variant roast chicken marinated in a mixture of lime, pepper, vinegar and annatto, then grilled over hot coals while basted with the marinade.

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The Tuna Kinilaw Bowl

In my bowl, the red rice and greens combination was the perfect subtle base to enjoy the sour notes from the kinilaw and the atchara that comes along with it. Their green sauce and the crispy garlic bits added some texture and sophistication that tied everything together.

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Manok-Out Bowl

The specialty Manok-Out bowl was a mix of delicate flavors, both from the chicken inasal as well as the greens and the vegetable puree. The rice added some body and fullness to the dish, helping round out the lightness of the rest of the bowl.

The entire place had a laid back vibe to it and made it perfectly suited for either a late breakfast, a quiet lunch, or a dinner date.

Food Score: 5/5: The main things we adore about Berde are the fresh ingredients and balanced selection that lend itself to be mixed and matched easily. And their Manok-Out signature bowl is spot on.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4.5/5: The place had a minimalist vibe to it, which made for a soothing feel during our quaint dinner here. And kudos to their staff, who walked us through the menu since it was our first time here and being attentive during our dinner.

GERD Score: 5/5: From selections to the spicy warning icon on the beef adobo, it’s a treat to dine here for anyone dealing with heartburn. And the portions here are enough to leave you full, but not bloated.

Epilepsy Score: 5/5: Fresh ingredients and natural modes of cooking, as well as a wide selection of viands and condiments make this place an option for sensitive diners or those with food restrictions.

Team Glasses Food Blog Score: 5/5: Simply put, we recommend Berde because they give a nod to Filipino tastes and keeping it healthy at the same time, especially for people with our respective conditions.

Berde Bowls Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Locavore

Sometimes there is nothing quite as comforting as ‘homecooked food’, and for many Filipinos this points to some classics such as sinigang, kare-kare, dinuguan, lechon—just to name a few.  It has become a challenge for restaurants to serve up their own versions of these favorites, especially in the face of trends such as fusion cuisine, food parks, etc. One place that is up to the task is Locavore, a sit-down restaurant/bar that caters to culinary purists as well as adventurous gourmands alike.

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I had the opportunity to dine here one Sunday lunchtime, as per the recommendation of one of my siblings. Fortunately, my family had made a reservation beforehand, as there was already a line of patrons outside the restaurant as early as 11:30 in the morning. Perusing the menu was a serious matter, as all the dishes were simply yet enticingly described; here at Locavore, tapsilog is not just meat with fried rice and a sunny side up egg! Eventually we decided on these entrees:

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  1.    Chori Silog

This is far more than simply chorizo sausage + egg + rice. What arrived at our table was an intimidating set-up of garlic rice topped with a soft and runny scrambled egg, crowned with a homemade chorizo patty. This very rich mountain of food was dripping with labuyo aioli and barbeque sauce, providing that sweet and spicy mix so beloved by Filipinos.  A side dish of picked cucumber and onion helped round out this sumptuous meal. In my opinion this meal is more appropriate for a breakfast or brunch as opposed to a family lunch. Nevertheless, it was very filling and definitely brings value for what one pays for.

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  1.       Dinuguang Lechon

Who would have thought that two fiesta favorites could make such a good marriage? The thick and tasty dinuguan makes a balance to the crisp and slightly salty lechon, especially the skin! This is not a dish that is meant to be enjoyed alone.

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  1.       Kare Kare Wings

I do have a weakness for chicken wings in all kinds of sauces, but it usually takes some persuading for me to eat kare kare (especially since most kare kare requires bagoong and I have some pretty dreadful allergies). This time I was won over; Locavore serves its kare kare wings with a choice of dips: bagoong and a special buttermilk ranch dressing. The kare kare was surprisingly light on the palate, with just the right amount of peanut flavor. The ranch dressing was an especial treat, since it lent a great contrast to the classic kare kare taste. Here’s to my adding kare kare to my list of ‘Things that Chicken Wings Must Be Dipped In.’.

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  1.       Sizzling Sinigang

It’s not every day that one gets served stew that is sizzling on a plate. Locavore does just that, with its beef sinigang sa sampaloc served with sautéed French beans and a garlic confit. The soup itself was so thick and flavorful, perfect for dipping in the French beans or spooning all over hot rice. The beef was so tender that it could melt in our mouths. It can only take culinary magic to make a dish that is this rich and yet does not overwhelm the taste buds.

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We washed all of this down with Locavore’s sorbetes, which comes in the classic trio of Tsoknut, milk (gatas) and cheese (keso). The other dessert offerings such as the sizzling pandesal pudding were just as tempting, but these will have to wait for subsequent food trips.

Although Locavore also styles itself as a bar, it also has a friendly selection of seasonal fruit juices as well as mocktails for those eschewing alcohol. We tried the Cucumber Lime Cooler and the Apple Lime Cooler mocktails. Both of these icy drinks had just the right amount of sweet-sourness to cleanse the palate and whet one’s appetite for the rest of the feast.

 

We cannot look at Filipino food (especially sinigang!) the same way again after this trip to Locavore. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to try more of its delights soon!

 

The Food Score: 4.5/5:  The food here is rich, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Nevertheless the cuisine at Locavore exemplifies the Filipino mode of feasting, all the way down to appealing to the Pinoy penchant for sweet sour dishes. And I will insist that the sinigang is sheer sorcery.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5: The service here is excellent and prompt, however the restaurant itself is quite crowded. The black and white décor may be appealing for patrons who will go to this establishment in the evenings for the bar aspect, but it seemed a bit dreary for the Sunday family lunch crowd.  

GERD Score: 3.5/5: Some Filipino favorites and heartburn normally don’t go hand in hand, but the wide selection of dishes makes the place worthwhile to visit. One’s best option is to share on the heartier meals.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: Again, variety saves the day. While some foods here are definitely processed and should be eaten in moderation, there are enough fresh options such as ensalada for those with dietary restrictions. The mocktails also make this place an option for partygoers and night owls who may wish to accompany friends to the bar, but cannot partake of the other alcoholic offerings.  

 

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Locavore is definitely a place to go if one wants Filipino food taken to a new level. Whether for a family lunch or a loud night out, this place has you covered. This is a place worth the excursion, whether for newbies to cuisine in this part of the world, or die-hard aficionados.

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

Tong Keun So

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In our many months of writing down reviews here in the Team Glasses Food Blog, we finally had a chance to eat at a Korean restaurant. And all of this due to a last minute change of plans when my dad arrived from Davao, a day before his birthday.

To celebrate, we ended up at Remedios Circle in Malate and picked a place called Tong Keun So. For the frugal person my dad is, the signage displaying the PHP 990 for the Tong Keun So Hanmari (which consisted of rib finger, prime chuck eye roll, and brisket point) was enough to seal the deal.

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Tong Keun So Hanmari

The wooden tables and bright room, along with the lively crowd dining made for a perfectly casual and cozy place to dine in. Best of all, aside from the usual side dishes like kimchi, the servers were doing the grilling of the meat for us.

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Bulgogi-Jungol

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The Dips

Aside from the grilled meats and side dish staples like kimchi, we also had a medium-sized Bulgogi-Jungol (which is a beef stew with mushrooms and other assortments of vegetables), and Haemul-Gyeran Jien (an egg dish) came with the Hanmari. Accompanying the meat are some crisp lettuce, and three dips, which are a spiced red paste, a sweet soy sauce-onion combination, and a mix of salt, pepper, and sesame seeds.

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Haemul-Gyeran Jien

Even without the three dips, the grilled meat, rice, and lettuce wrapping these all together was amazing and simple. A word of caution, one has to remember to dab lightly when dipping the meat in the salt-pepper-sesame mix. I dabbed a little too much and it overpowered my tastebuds a bit.

The Haemul-Gyeran Jien we had for a side dish were light and fluffy, flavored subtly with vegetables. These made the perfect complement to our more strongly flavored main entrees.

Like with most Korean restaurants here in the Metro, the serving size per order is meant to be shared. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience sharing a meal with loved ones, just like what we had here.

 

 

 

 

Ambiance / Service: 4/5. The entire place has been inviting to dine in, no frills at all. The real star here was the attentive servers who took care of the preparation of our meals here, especially with the grill.

Food Score: 4/5. While simple in appearance and preparation, the dinner was quite hearty, filling, and satisfying without the guilty feeling one normally gets, because these weren’t oily at all.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. Even with the spicy chilli-based selections that’s a staple in Korean cuisine, there’s still enough choices to pick from with anyone dealing with heartburn.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Some of the seasonings may not be amenable to more sensitive persons. However the more subtly flavored dishes may be given a bit of extra kick with one’s choice of condiment, which allows for persons to choose flavorings more suited to their conditions.

Team Glasses Food Score: 4/5. Tong Keun So is a must-try, when craving for Korean food but without the worry of having too much about our own respective conditions, provided however that one’s meals here are experienced as a group.

Tong Keun So Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

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.