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

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Wokby 4900

Is a rice bowl ever just a rice bowl? Well this is certainly not the case at Wok by 4900. This newcomer to the Poblacion food scene revamps everyday mainstays such as rice toppings and grilled meats by combining them in delicious and inventive rice bowl combinations. Who would have ever thought of doing such a thing to stir fry?

The theme of unusual and fun combinations is evident even from the ambiance of the establishment itself; Wok by 4900 has the features of a casual dining restaurant with its relaxed and cozy seating arrangements on the ground floor, the roof deck and a small private dining area. On the other hand, the well stocked and colorful bar on one side of the room is sure to beckon to diners’ palates, or at least visual interest.

On our visit here, it took us some time to decide on our dinner owing to the intriguing menu offerings, ranging from a duck congee bowl all the way to a ‘breakfast of champions’ bowl featuring breakfast meats such as Spam with egg and fried rice. Eventually Lee ordered a full “Tokyo” bowl which consisted of fried rice with shitake mushrooms and bell pepper, topped with strips of nori and pickled vegetables, as well as beef and chicken skewers. Since I was in a more adventurous mood I opted for the ‘build your own bowl’ menu, and was immediately presented with a checklist of various stir fry bases, meats, toppings, and sauces. Never did I think that a stir fry place would consider adding bacon, chicharron, and kimchi to its dinner-time fare! I eventually picked out a relatively tame combination of stir fried flat noodles with string beans, leeks, tofu and Mongolian sauce, topped with a pork skewer and garlic.

The Tokyo bowl was cooked in the same manner as Chinese stir-fry, but it was also reminiscent of the Japanese fried rice kamameshi. The result was a delicate flavor with a hint of nuttiness combined with spice. The skewers were flavorful and juicy, and far from charred or overcooked. The only thing detracting from the harmony of this dish was the overt sourness of the pickled vegetable topping. As for my attempt at building my own bowl, the effect it had on me was akin to the experience of the critic consuming his first bite of ratatouille in the Pixar film of the same name. One bite brought back vivid memories of a summer night in Bangkok, and sitting down to a hot and delicious plate of freshly stir fried rice noodles while taking in the sights and sounds of a busy marketplace. It has been years since I’ve tasted anything that has helped me recreate that experience.

Although we could not order any of the alcoholic drinks and cocktails, we were still impressed by the beverages selection, which includes house specialties and cocktails named after the various East and Southeast Asian cuisines that have also inspired the rice bowl combinations on the menu. Nevertheless we did enjoy their iced tea, which had just the right amount of lemon sourness combined with sweetness. The bar also serves water in brightly colored glass bottles, an interesting change to the usual glass carafe.

This place left such an impression such that I wound up returning here with a large group of friends the very next evening. This time, in addition to building yet another bowl, this time with rice, adobo gravy, siomai, chicharron and scrambled egg, I also tried one of the dessert offerings: deep fried Cloud 9 chocolate. Like some deep fried concoctions this was served still piping hot with a puffy shell around it. This dish tasted just as one would expect it to: a sticky, sickly sweet gooey Cloud 9 bar. Thankfully there was the option of having ice cream to help balance out the sweetness.

As of now Wok by 4900 is still on soft launch. We look forward to returning here and seeing what other quirky and creative combinations will soon be in store.

The Food Score:  4/5: The set rice bowls here are filling and well balanced both in flavor as well as in terms of ingredients. In addition to stir fry there are other bar chow specialties on the menu for those who are in the mood for something lighter.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: As small as this place is, there are still aple arrangements for solo diners as well as small groups. The staff are very accommodating and the food is served quickly and hot. On the whole, the ambiance here is quirky but casual, perfect for a laid back dinner before heading out for a night on the town.

GERD Score: 4/5. One good thing about the place, even if they’re set up as a pub, is that, there are plenty of options and flexibility for people who have to deal with heartburn, especially with the build your own bowl. It’s worth checking the place out to have a good time and not worry about the burps after.

Epilepsy Score:  4.5/5:.The fact that there’s an option to build one’s own bowl here is a boon; diners can mix and match ingredient in accordance to their tastes and health considerations. However the stir fry bases all contain starch or gluten, which may not be feasible for some diners. The non-alcoholic beverage selection is of course limited, but at least there is free flowing water here.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5. While there are some quirks that need to be worked out, as is the case with new restaurants, we are looking forward to having even greater dining experiences during our next visits. This is a place to go for quiet nights out as well as big group gatherings; in short, it’s ready for whatever party one has in store.

Wok by 4900 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Chupacabra

For some people, dinner and drinks make a perfect combination to start off a long weekend—-or get through a rough mid-week. So when one of my good friends commented out of the blue that she wanted to have tacos and margaritas—and it was just the beginning of the work week—I suggested we drop in one Wednesday evening at El Chupacabra. This Mexican themed bar located in Poblacion, Makati, has gained a reputation for its potent drinks and cocktails, as well as being a readily accessible place for great Mexican cuisine. Since Mexican food ranks fairly high on my list of favourites, this place was a must-try.

At first it was difficult to find this place; had it not been for the crowded outside seating area I might have missed this establishment entirely. Fortunately the bar’s interior was relatively quiet so this was where we sat down. My friend ordered two of El Chupacabra’s signature street tacos: the carne asada (grilled steak) taco, and the San Francisco style lean pork sisig taco. I got the picadillo (ground beef) burrito filled with meat, beans, cheese and Mexican rice. We also decided to split an order of gringas (quesadillas) filled with garlic and cheese.  For drinks, I simply had iced tea while my buddy had a glass of La Chupadita, the house signature drink.

Unlike other restaurants wherein the tacos are served folded and filled, El Chupacabra presents its street tacos flat, with the toppings heaped up. This allows the diner to eat the taco either like a pancake, or to fold it up according to one’s preference. On the other hand the burrito was served still wrapped in foil, but with a side of plain nachos and salsa. Both the tacos as well as the burrito were rich and heavy on the spices, and the burrito in particular was oozing with cheese.  On the other hand the quesadillas were milder in flavour, with only a little zing provided by the dips. As for La Chupadita, it was just as strong as its reputation has it. Definitely this is a drink to be reckoned with.

One thing is for sure, El Chupacabra is not a place for those with delicate constitutions. The hearty flavours require a robust stomach to digest, while the drinks must be taken with caution unless one is foolhardy. This is definitely a stop in the Poblacion bar crawl, but definitely not for a quiet dinner out!

The Food Score:  4/5: As far as flavours go, this place does it well. El Chupacabra has been touted as a haven for Mexican food aficionados, and my visit here didn’t disappoint. However presentation and plating of the dishes may be improved, if only to add to the dining experience.

Ambiance/Service Score: 3.5/5. The service is fast and friendly, a plus given the many customers who are at this place at any given point. However the ambiance may be off-putting; the graffiti on the walls and the reddish lighting do not exactly make one feel cozy, and instead evoke a feel of crouching in one of those shadowy establishments so often seen in Hollywood films.

GERD Score: 2/5. Considering the place’s menu leans to Tex-Mex and for bar patrons, the cheese or the spicy heat from their different selections doesn’t give much room for anyone who has to deal with heartburn.

Epilepsy Score:  3.5/5: This place is primarily a bar, so non-alcoholic options are understandably limited. However the heavy spice content of the dishes may not sit well with some sensitive diners. Gluten free tortillas are not an option here either.

Team Glasses Score: 3/5. While El Chupacabra is certainly worth a stop for Mexican food afficionados or anyone doing a Poblacion pub crawl, it just isn’t as friendly for diners with dietary issues. Definitely not for the weak stomachs!

El Chupacabra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kite Kebab

In recent years kebabs, just like shawarmas, have been rising from their reputation as quickly grilled street foods, to more upscale fare in casual dining restaurants. One place that exemplifies this change is a cozy bar known as Kite Kebab Bar, located in Poblacion, Makati City. We might have bypassed this place altogether if not for its charming outdoor dining area with its wide cushy seats and a wide window decorated with small colourful lights. Much to our delight when we finally dined here, the restaurant’s interior was just as artfully decorated as its facade.  The walls were covered with bright murals, which made a great backdrop to the bar’s comfortable seating and well finished tables.

At first we were impressed by the menu, which featured various kinds of beef, chicken, lamb, and seafood kebabs, as well as a selection of salads and side dishes. In fact the menu enjoins customers to make their own platters by mixing and matching kebabs with side dishes, rice, or pita breads. However, we were informed that some of the kebab meats, as well as side dishes such as the smoked eggplant yogurt were not available that evening. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that the long weekend had just finished and the kitchen was not yet fully restocked. After a while we decided on these combinations:

For Lee: chicken kebab, biryani rice, and ox brain

For Kat:  tenderloin chipotle, basmati rice, and mojos.

To wash this all down, we paired our food with calamansi juice sweetened with honey, and a classic yogurt drink.

The chicken kebab was more akin to chicken tandoori in terms of taste, while the biryani rice lacked some of the characteristic aromas and flavour imparted by spices such as star anise; however both these dishes were still rather delicious. The highlight of this plate was the ox brain, which was lightly sautéed and minimally seasoned. The result was a smooth, silky side dish that would be tempting for adventurous diners as well as the more squeamish newcomers. We would definitely recommend this. Likewise, the tenderloin kebab was well seasoned with just enough of the chipotle spice blend to complement the beef’s natural hearty flavour. The mojos were served hot and crisp, with a mild garlic dip. All in all, this was a simple but tasty plate.

Unfortunately most of the desserts were out of stock too this evening, so we simply capped our meal with a small pot of tea to cleanse our palates. At the very least it allowed us to linger and enjoy the bar’s coziness a bit longer before heading out into an unusually cool summer night.

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The Food Score:  3.5/5: Aside from the bugaboos with the flavours, we found the servings to be rather small for the price. However the selection is friendly for first-time diners, but also features dishes touted to be for the adventurous or more discerning diner such as kombutsa tea.

Ambiance/Service Score: 3.5/5. As beautiful as the bar’s interior is, one thing that marred it for us was the presence of large beer crates right in the main room. And while it’s definitely sad that many food items are not available, at least the staff are conscientious enough to immediately inform diners if there are any shortages on the menu.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. As far as selection and our experience here is concerned, there’s still some heartburn-friendly items that will still whet one’s appetite, because alongside the spicy and oily are subtle choices like hummus, and with regard to alcoholic and caffeine-filled beverages, there are also fruit juices and yogurt drinks available. We suggest cutting back on the butter a bit.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: At the very least the foods are not too heavily spiced, thus making them friendly for sensitive diners. The drinks menu features a large non alcoholic beverages list, which is a boon for patrons who may worry about interactions with medications

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. The Kite Kebab Bar is worth including on one’s itinerary for an evening bar-hopping throughout Poblacion. It may not be the place to get a full meal, but it is certainly a location to stop and catch one’s breath for a little while.

Kite Kebab Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Commune

Trusting that a favourite restaurant is still in its established spot is one comfort in this ever-changing city. This was why I was surprised and saddened when I learned that the Commune had moved from HV Dela Costa Street in Salcedo Village. Here was where I had passed a few fun afternoons with friends, bonding over writing and this cafe’s crostinis and coffee. Fortunately it was not long till I learned that the Commune was now located at Poblacion, right in a neighbourhood that was fast becoming a food tripper’s haven.

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Lee and I decided to have dinner here after one exhausting work day, eager to seek some comfort in the familiar. Since we were feeling quite ravenous, we decided to try out some more substantial fare than the crostinis and sandwiches, as appealing as they seemed just from the menu descriptions alone. After a bit of discussion, we decided to try the pork longanissa and tomato pasta, as well as the pork adobo with salted egg relish.

Although the longanissa and tomato ragu was rather mild for our tastes, the pasta was cooked to al dente, lending a much appreciated texture to this dish.  The adobo was comfort food at its finest: well cooked in a flavourful sauce, and served over hot rice. The salted egg and tomato relish was a nice addition to offset the adobo, and helped round out the meal nicely.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that apart from its famous coffee concoctions, the Commune also offers a selection of juices and ‘non coffee’ drinks ranging from hot chocolate, teas, and juices. Any of these promise to be great accompaniments to the various dishes offered, both for solo scoffers and for hungry groups. However the coffee remains the main attraction here, particularly for the latte art featured in every cup.

Indeed there is no place like home for many people, and the Commune may qualify as such. It is a calm place in the middle of the big city, a touchstone so to speak. It is no wonder that it will be sought out, regardless of location.

The Food Score:  4/5: The Commune’s particular strength is in their sandwich and crostini creations, not to mention their coffee. This place does good things with rice but great things with bread.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: The restaurant gives one a great view of the bustling neighbourhood beyond its walls, but its ambiance does not join in the sound and the fury. In fact the premises are cozy yet sleek, a place to let one’s hair down and yet have some semblance of style.

GERD Score: 2/5: At least as far as heartburn triggers are concerned with things like cheese, eggs, and fried food, the Commune offers only a small selection that can be considered friendly to people with it.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5: Again, one thing we appreciate about restaurants and cafes is their having options in terms of foods and beverages, and the Commune has plenty of them. Aside from the non-caffeinated drinks we mentioned above, the cafe also has healthy food options such as salads and sandwiches. However of course, for those sensitive to preservatives, the sausage and tocino dishes may need to be skipped.
Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: This place is a calm, classy haven in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Poblacion. It’s a spot for comfort food, a bit of quiet before a night out, or simply just a place to unwind with friends. And for some people, that’s more than enough. \

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