Gotti’s Ristorante

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Away from our usual haunts in Makati, we found ourselves in Megamall with dad and his business partner for a surprise dinner, and with a challenging budget of 300 per head, we decided to take a chance at Gotti’s Ristorante at the Atrium 4th floor.

The place reminds one of the different modern casual dining areas here in the metro, from sleek designs of solid red mixed with pictures of Italians, to the wooden chairs and cushioned leather seats, as well as the restaurant being lit and pleasant to the eye.

 

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Margherita Pizza

So for dinner, we shared a Margherita pizza. Aside from that, I had the Gambino Gamberi, Kat had the Salisbury Steak with rice, and then dad and his business partner had the Grilled Chicken Pesto and Creamy Basil Bacon pasta.

As we see it, one gets their money’s worth here in terms of volume. The pizza was more or less alright with its crisp thin crust sides, the cheese complements the tomato base and I would say, a guilt-free margherita.

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Creamy Basil Bacon Pasta

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Grilled Chicken Pesto

The grilled chicken pesto and creamy basil bacon pasta had well-cooked pasta for both. As for the taste however, I have to say that it’s a little uninspired and too overdone in either creaminess or the oily feel to the tongue. However, these are things that can be improved on in the future.

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Gambino Gamberi

With the Gambino, it’s quite filling and the stone-baked rice meal concept is actually quite interesting, especially in keeping our meal warm. At the same time, I’m quite a sucker for seafood and they cooked this one well enough.

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Salisbury Steak

The Salisbury steak on rice was served piping hot, with enough cheese on top to make the first bites delectable. However a little sauce coating the rest of the dish would not have been amiss. Nevertheless for a solo dish, this was a pretty tasty deal.

There was actually a lot of food left over from the two pastas that we took some home too. That said, if one wants to be full and hang out with friends at a budget, Gotti’s Ristorante is a good place to dine in.

Food Score: 3.5/5. The food here is a testament to the adage you get what you paid for, with decent taste suited for the Filipino palate and decent serving sizes, but there’s some room for improvement with some hits and some misses here and there.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. Gotti’s ambiance is pleasing to the eye, from clean lines and welcoming appearance, it’s a treat to dine here every now and then. The servers were quite attentive as well, which is always welcome.

GERD Score: 3/5. One could say that each order of food is for sharing, so it can be a task for someone with heartburn to go at it alone. That said, there are thankfully some good options for selections, but again, for sharing.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. This is a case again of not knowing what exactly goes in the seasonings and flavorings. Unlike some other establishments, diners don’t have as much control over any dietary limitations and modifications to menu items. However there are enough food selections to cater to the preferences and needs for most diners.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. When one puts everything into consideration, Gotti’s Ristorante is a decent place to dine in on a budget, giving value for money with their serving sizes. The place is certainly great to bring some friends in for a casual dining experience. However, for people who have medical conditions such as ours, we believe they can do better.

Señor Pollo: Winner, winner, chicken dinner?

Almost a year ago, I went on a month long chicken fast because I was sick and tired of the stuff from working in the Middle East, with a few exceptions here and there because of circumstance. By this time however, that wasn’t the case with our dinner as we further expanded into another food place in Poblacion. For this one, we chose to dine at Señor Pollo, which is close to WokBy4900, Lobo, Kite Kebab and Commune.

 

Stepping inside, the place really resembles more of a typical Filipino watering hole than a casual dining place, which is perfect for bringing your friends along for a brewski and some food with stories to tell. The artistic touches here and there contrast the concrete gray, adding a bit of spice and life into the place.

So for dinner, I chose to go with their trademark roast chicken with some tossed salad and cilantro garlic rice for my sides. Kat, on the other hand, chose the two-piece fried chicken with Colombian beans and Mac-and-Cheese.

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Señor Pollo Roast Chicken – Quarter

I have to say quite frankly that I wasn’t enthused with the salad since it was too wet for my preferences. The roast chicken was juicy for the most part which is a good thing for me, perfect with the chimchurri. And the rice added a subtle but good dimension to the salty-sour taste of the chimchurri and the roast chicken.

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2 piece Fried Chicken

The fried chicken on the other hand was a dream: crisp and flavorful on the outside, juicy and subtle on the inside. The gravy, although seasoned with pepper, didn’t overpower the chicken in the slightest. However the sides were on the rather bland side; perhaps we should have gone with something more adventurous like ‘patatas bravas’.

Summing it all up, you get what you paid for here at Señor Pollo. You’d have a decent-sized serving of food for its price. As to liking it, I’d have to say that it’s really a matter of preferences in this case.

For any restaurant suggestions that you’d like for us to try and rate, feel free to leave a comment below or contact us here.

Food Score: 3/5. As food goes, the roast chicken was good and the accompanying dips were decent and alright for adding flavor into the chicken. Unfortunately we had a bit of a stomach bug after this food trip; definitely a major setback.

Ambiance / Service Score: 3.5/5. The place is really a place to hangout rather than as a casual dining place, so it depends on how one goes about it. However it has to be said that the place has good service to take care of your food needs.

GERD Score: 3/5. Unfortunately, since this is Mexican-inspired cuisine, there are bound to be some uses of chili in some of the meals. Also, in the case of the quarter portion of roast chicken, I’d hazard to say that the meal is meant for sharing unless one is really hungry. Thankfully, there are some food and beverage options that can work out for people who are dealing with heartburn.

Epilepsy Score: 3/5. Once again the problem with very flavorful food is that one has no idea exactly what spices go in it. Diners with sensitive systems may need to go for either the blander food options or eschew this altogether.

Team Glasses Score: 3/5. All things considered, Señor Pollo delivered some hits and some misses in our time there. That said, the place isn’t friendly for people with medical concerns like ours, but is still good for a decent meal.

Señor Pollo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

A quaint experience at Happy Garden Cafe

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On another solo adventure, I decided to walk the quieter streets of Jupiter. Moving past Makati avenue, amidst the unlit streets, I found myself seeing a garden of sorts and a sign that says ‘Happy Garden Cafe’. Stepping inside, it’s like a rustic white patio with mismatched tables and chairs, giving the feel of dining just by your own garden.

Although I was the only patron there for a Saturday dinner at the time, the place was lively because the staff were hard at work preparing for someone’s birthday party the next day.

The menu is varied with usual fares but with cheerful names like Delightful for how you like your eggs done in the French Omelet sets, to Transformed for chorizo and egg pizza. For my dinner however, I went with Mucho which consists of a pompano fillet with shiitake and caper sauce, along with some steamed vegetables and cauliflower rice (an upgrade from the rice pilaf that accompanies this dish).

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Mucho

Personally I’ve never tried cauliflower rice, which I have come to enjoy with its texture and different flavors melding together. And the steamed carrots and broccoli helps balance the palate. However, the main star of the dish, which is the fish, is lackluster. Yes, it was cooked with the right amount of juiciness and texture to make it a somewhat enjoyable meal. But, when the caper is the only thing one can taste distinctly, perhaps some adjustments can be made with how the fish is seasoned.

For anybody with green thumbs, they also have some plants on sale outside that’s good for any garden. In summary, I’m ambivalent about my meal here at Happy Garden Cafe, but there’s definitely room for improvement food-wise. It’s a good place to bring the barkada in for a simple lunch or dinner away from the hustle and bustle of Makati avenue or the central business district.

Food Score: 3/5. In some ways, there were upsides and downsides to the meal I had, but objectively, it was well-created and I did somewhat enjoyed the meal. However, it has to be said that flavor is important too and I found that part to be lackluster.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. The service was more or less attentive to my needs and the place had a casual dining feel to it, which should be better for the mornings and with a group of people with you.

GERD Score: 4/5. An upside is that there are plenty of options for anyone dealing with heartburn with their different menu items. And my Mucho meal was rather nice and filling without triggering burping episodes.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Like many establishments of its kind, this cafe uses natural methods and seasonings for its dishes, thus making them friendlier for diners who may be triggered by preservatives. As bland as the dishes may seem, at least they are safe to eat.

Team Glasses Food Score: 4/5. Even with its miscues in terms of flavor, Happy Garden Cafe is still a place one can consider when in the Jupiter area and looking for a filling plate of healthy food that suits our respective conditions.

Happy Garden Cafe 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

Cafe Mediterranean (the Alexander the Great Special Part 1)

The Cafe Mediterranean

The Alexander the Great special (Part 1)

Apart from food, one of our shared passions happens to be World History. We decided that for this month we’d pay an ironic tribute to one of the most celebrated conquerors of ancient history, Alexander the Great, by writing about restaurants featuring cuisines from end to end of his empire. Well what better place to start other than the Cafe Mediterranean?

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The Cafe Mediterranean features Greek, French, Italian, and Turkish cuisines, to name a few.  The ensuing variety in the menu is something I have always appreciated, since there are choices for snacks or appetizers, as well as entrees and platters for a small gathering. On our latest visit here, we were joined by some of Lee’s immediate family, thus giving us an opportunity to try out platters and group meal selections. To start off our dinner we chose a sampler plate of four appetizers: kofta (lamb and beef meatballs), tapenade (minced olives with olive oil and capers), labneh (strained yogurt), and foule (fava beans with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice). The kofta in particular was flavourful and juicy, while the tapenade’s sharp tartness was perfect for whetting our appetites for the rest of the meal.

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For our entree, we ordered two different platter sets: the gyro platter with beef, tuna, chicken, and falafel, as well as the kebab platter with chicken, beef, fish, and kofta kebabs.  These platters were also served with sides such as hummus, tabbouleh, and salad. We also ordered biryani rice and couscous to accompany our food instead of the usual pita bread.  The meats were all lightly seasoned, cooked just right to retain their natural flavour and juices. The falafel in particular was a treat; when served warm its crisp outer crust readily gave way to its delicate, slightly sweetish chickpea interior. However the biryani was a little wanting in terms of flavour, but certainly not in quantity. In fact these two platters were more than enough to satisfy our party of 6.

This visit, and our other ventures to Cafe Mediterranean, have never been disappointments. One feature of Cafe Mediterranean is that is a “Restaurant Against Hunger”. Diners can order from a special menu of Syrian dishes, and proceeds from these sales are donated for the welfare of Syrian refugees. This is their way of paying it forward and at the same time, providing excellent food nonetheless.

So would Alexander the Great himself have partaken of this sort of meal (or at least its precursors?) Heaven only knows, but certainly food this good is worth traversing an empire for.

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The Food Score:  4.5/5. The slight problem with the biryani aside, the food here was filling and very satisfying in terms of taste and quality. The serving sizes are reasonable, and their drinks selection (especially the yogurt drink lassi) is a treat.

Ambiance/Service Score:   3.5/5. Unfortunately the service, at least in this particular branch, is not attentive. It took a while for us to call the attention of the staff if we needed something. The ambiance of this restaurant is relaxed and casual, though it can only go so far given its location in a busy mall.

GERD Score: 4.5/5. Thankfully, the place has plenty of selections for people who have heartburn. Most of the dishes here are grilled, not fried which is a plus. However, the one thing everyone has to note is that the quantity of food per order can be a bit much for a single person, so to be on the safe side, share and just add one extra order of bread.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5. Spices and some flavourings used in the dishes here may trigger some sensitive diners. Some of the dishes use preserved meats (such as the pizza) so it may be best to give these a pass or at least some thought before ordering.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5. If one is looking for authenticity, this may not be the place to go. However for us, since we just want some good Mediterranean themed food to share, this is definitely one location we are returning to.

The Cafe Mediterranean Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

An adventure in Vietnamese Cuisine: Ba Noi’s

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Since I got back here, one particular cuisine always comes up when discussing our culinary adventures. Besides our liking for Japanese, Italian, and Middle Eastern food in no particular order, Vietnamese comes out as third in Kat’s list, because of some previous culinary adventures and the reputation of Vietnamese cuisine as being somewhat healthy, at least compared to some Filipino cooking. Thankfully, we finally found some time to try out the food at Ba Noi’s, on Perea Street in Makati.

After a lot of debate over the rather extensive menu, Kat took the Bun Ga Nuong Xa which is grilled lemongrass chicken over dry rice noodles. I, on the other hand, had Bo Luc Lac which stir-fried beef served with fried basil leaves and a salt and pepper dip with lime. To wash it all down, we ordered some Jasmine Tea.

The Bo Luc Lac is a well-balanced dish with the medium rare beef, fried basil, and dip complementing each other in the tightrope of getting different flavors to jive well together. It’s perfect with the plain rice I ordered, but at the same time, had to set aside the chili and the seeds as much as I could. If medium rare isn’t your thing, one can definitely ask if the chef could meet it to your standards (but whatever you do, don’t butcher it by asking for a well-done). The salt and pepper dip that comes with this dish is a simple but delicious touch.

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On the other hand, the lemongrass chicken came of as more hot and peppery than tart and lemony. This wasn’t entirely a surprise, knowing that Vietnamese cuisine shares some similarities with other Southeast Asian cuisines such as Thai. As it was, the rice noodles made an interesting contrast to the rest of the very savory ingredients.

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And the Jasmine tea is a nice touch to cleanse the palate after a savory meal.

The place had a casual metropolitan chic feel to it, well suited for its casual dining feel. If you’re going for something authentic-looking, this isn’t the place. Otherwise, the place is definitely worth a shot.

Food Score: 5/5. As food goes, Ba Noi’s is spot on and if Kat’s red cheeks after eating all the spicy goodness is concerned, a moment of perfection. This place also serves Vietnam drip coffee, which is reputed to be good (and Kat still mourns the fact that she cannot have any of this drink).

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. The servers are attentive enough and catered to our needs well. And the modernist interior is neat and visually pleasing to dine in.

GERD Score: 2.5/5. Thankfully there are options, but unfortunately, not many for someone dealing with heartburn because Vietnamese cuisine has bird’s eye chili as a staple.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. In general, dishes here do not rely on preserved meats or artificial seasonings, which is a good thing. Unless one is triggered by chilis, this place should be pretty safe.

Team Glasses Food Score: 4/5. Ba Noi’s definitely meets up our expectations of a good Vietnamese restaurant, having both good food and a comfortable place to eat. We enjoyed our experience here and recommend the place for those who want to take a bite of Vietnamese cuisine.

To our readers, if you have any suggestions as to which restaurant or cafe you’d like us to try next, go to our Contact Us page and let us know your thoughts and suggestions.

Ba Noi's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato