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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Crepe Amelie

A good many people would consider crepes as desserts or heavy snacks. We at Team Glasses feel that this is oversimplifying such a wonderful creation that has gone far beyond being an unusually thin pancake. After all, if one can eat pancakes (fixings optional) for breakfast, who’s to say that crepes cannot be given the same treatment? With this in mind, we searched for a café or crepe restaurant that would be open on a sleepy Saturday morning—and it so happened that Crepe Amelie would fit the bill.

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We ventured here on a sleepy Saturday morning, when much of Poblacion would still be recovering from a traffic-filled, rainy payday Friday. Even at just past 8am, the café was already open and ready, smelling deliciously of butter and freshly brewed coffee. The ambiance was mellow with soft yet upbeat French music, a perfect contrast to the stark grays of the concrete jungle beyond the windows. After some mulling over the fairly ample menu of crepes, sandwiches, pasta, and all-day breakfasts, we decided to try the Roast Beef crepe, the Breakfast Quesadilla, and hot chocolate.

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The Roast Beef crepe is one among a selection of savoury crepes, filled with meat, vegetables, and seafoods instead of dessert fare such as fruits, creams, and syrups. This particular crepe featured thinly sliced roast beef covered with a dill sauce, with roasted potato wedges on the side. The mildness of the crepe was the perfect backdrop to the flavors of dill and beef. Despite its richness, it was not heavy or overly cloying to the tastebuds, making this perfect for a light meal. The only thing missing was a small serving of fresh green salad to cleanse the palate. Nevertheless, we struck gold on this dish.

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On the other hand, the Breakfast Quesadilla was a crepe filled with bacon bits, egg, cheese, and tomato, and covered with baked beans. This heftier creation was not as spicy as its Tex-Mex name would suggest; on the contrary, it was mild and sweet, and friendlier to the Filipino palate. I never thought that a soft crepe would be a great substitute to a crisp and toasted tortilla, but this meal certainly had me convinced of this interesting alternative.

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As for the hot chocolate, it was exactly what we like in a respectfully made cup of hot choco. One sip brought to mind the words deep, dark, and earthy. There was certainly no skimping of ingredients in the making of this concoction.

Crepe Amelie also offers a selection of salads, pastas, cakes, and even yogurts for diners who may fancy something else besides crepes, or who wish for a main course to go with a dessert creation. It is enough to have diners coming in, regardless of the early or late hour. We definitely will keep this place in mind for those fine dining days in the Poblacion area!

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The Food Score: 4.5/5: The selection of dishes caters to all palates, but some of the flavors are a little on the bland side. That aside, the food is filling, and hefty enough for hungry solo diners but just the right size for diners who wish to share the meal.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: The ambiance is a perfect contrast to the busy atmosphere of A.Venue and Poblacion, but the service here could be a little more prompt at times. Nevertheless the staff are very courteous and accommodating.

GERD Score: 4.5/5: While there are selections that are less than GERD-friendly, there’s quite a numerous selection of food choices to go along with one’s own condition, from savory or sweet crepes to some yogurt.

Epilepsy Score:  5/5: There are crepes and other dishes here to serve most dietary restrictions. Can’t have processed meats? There are vegetarian selections available—and we don’t mean just the salads! There are also non-caffeinated drinks for those who cannot stomach coffee.

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: Crepe Amelie does a great job at making a chic dish such as crepes accessible and palatable to the Filipino taste. All bugaboos aside, this was a very satisfying breakfast experience.

Crepe Amelie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A step back in time at Kusina Felicitas

For part one of the short solo Vigan trip, I decided to take on a suggestion from our good friend Carmel and try out a place she ate in before. A place called, Kusina Felicitas located in Grandpa’s Inn just a pebble’s throw away from the main line of Spanish houses in Calye Crisologo.

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Tapang Ilokano

Native Tsokolate

Tsokolate

An hour or so after landing in Vigan via bus, I went there to try out their breakfast menu, specifically the Tapang Ilokano, Itlog ken Kinirog, a lightly-flavored and soy sauce-marinated strip of beef with a sunny-side up, garlic and spring onion fried rice, atchara (pickled papaya), and a sweetened banana. The meal itself was plain for me, not as flavorful as I expected it to be. Could have skipped the banana though. However, that cup of native tsokolate is pure goodness in a cup.

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Vigan Longanisa

While I was a bit disappointed with my breakfast, I gave it another shot for a spot of late lunch, ordering some Vigan longanisa (sausages stuffed with pork and garlic) and Gamet soup (seaweed soup with clams and vegetables). I think I ate my own words before eating when I said, “I won’t order rice for this one.”

The longanisa is, lightly fried but not oily and the small portion of fresh vegetables balancing the palate. In summary, just the way I like it.

Gamet Soup

Gamet Soup

The star of the lunch on the other hand is the soup. The tomatoes and spring onions liven up the umami taste of seaweed and the small clams. These complex flavors reminded me of a fresh sea breeze in a mid-afternoon stroll by the beach. And the rice is fluffy, and perfect for the two dishes above

My entire stay at the restaurant can be summed up in two words. Cozy and Rustic. The wooden furniture and enclosed living space exuded the visage of an old spanish dining area during a feast, and the meals fitting a prayle.

Food Score: 4.5/5. Besides the slight hiccup of the morning menu, the food is worth coming back to if one wants a taste of what Ilocos cuisine is all about. Illocos cuisine has its fatty side, but there is a strong emphasis on use of local vegetables, which gives it a healthy spin.

Ambiance / Service Score: 3.5/5. The place is a quaint experience and in some ways, a nice step back in time. The attending servers were mostly trainees for that day and not as attentive as I would personally like but get the job done nonetheless. Definitely some room for improvement there in my opinion.

GERD Score: 4/5. While one should stay away from the bagnet for obviously oily reasons, most of the fare here is heartburn friendly, with their wide range of vegetable and seafood options such as the gamet soup I had.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Unfortunately most longanizas, even the famed Illocos longaniza, are made with preservatives such as salitre, thus one should limit intake of these meats. However other fresh foods in this restaurant and the region are rather safe, and very healthy for those with health conditions.

Team Glasses Food Score: 4/5. In its entirety, Kusina Felicitas here in Vigan is one of the best places one can go to for a culinary adventure into Ilokano food. A place on top of our list when Kat and I decide to go to Vigan together for a vacation.