El Loco at Excelsior

Part 2 of the Sydney Adventures: After the second work day in Sydney, I ended up joining the team for a couple of pints and some tex-mex for… Taco Tuesdays in El Loco at Excelsior. Honestly, I felt loco for Tacos when we got there.

The place was nicely situated on a corner, with colorful wooden benches on the outside and a mix of a pub and a cantina inside. The mexican-inspired decor made for a touch of life amidst the dimmer lighting inside.

For early dinner here, the team ordered some pints of local beer, Nacho Supreme as an appetizer, and some Carne Asada, Baja Fish, and Secretos de Tacos for our Tacos.

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Nacho Supreme

The Nacho Supreme, like any tex-mex meal, had plenty of cheese and chillies along with diced tomatoes and spring onions. Judging by how the nachos was prepared and feels to the bite, I’d say it might actually be made in-house or at least, not just shoved out of a plastic pack and placed on a plate, which is a plus in my book. It was crunchy, lightly salted and firm, being able to hold the mix of ingredients on top of it without feeling soggy at all.

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Baja Fish Tacos

With the Baja Fish Tacos, I’m not a huge fan of it since the fish was covered in batter. I feel the fish could have been grilled and placed on the tacos instead. The salsa berde and the chipotle mayo thankfully brought some punch that helped balance its flavors.

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Carne Asada

As for the Carne Asada, I loved the mix of the firm and chewy taco along with the slight spice mixed in with the meat. It’s what a tex-mex taco should be. It has a solid base that won’t crumble to the newly cooked meat and fresh vegetables, while not being too doughy or floury to the bite.

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Secretos De Tacos

And last but not least, the Secretos de Tacos; while not as appetizing at first glance, I can safely say that it is quite interesting and worth a try. The secret meat blends well to the accompanying corn bits, chipotle mayo, and greens. It even led to an interesting discussion between us co-employees on what it could be, but giving the answers we came up with would spoil the surprise.

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Feeling full but wanting to make the most out of the remaining day, I went out ahead of them. It was 7:30pm thereabouts and the afternoon sun shone on my face as I walked away. I enjoyed my time at El Loco at Excelsior because of both the good food and the chance of getting to know my officemates a bit more in my short time here. It is a good place for some company and friends after a long day.

Food Score: 4/5: The food here at El Loco was hearty and filling after three or four tacos and best enjoyed with good company since the place is suited more as a casual dining and bar area after a long day.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The decor, while slightly dim, was very colorful and vibrant without appearing too forced or loud to the eyes.

Service Score: 4/5: The service here was attentive enough to what we needed, be it additional orders or additional tissues. We even got our table reserved in advance without any problems at all.

GERD Score: 3.5/5: Given that El Loco is geared more as a dining place and a pub, there would be a limited amount of options for anyone who is dealing with GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: A continual problem with Tex-Mex is the blend of seasonings and spices, which could easily trigger anyone who is sensitive to these foodstuffs. Having a menu with the exact ingredients stated would be a great bonus to neurodivergent diners with food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: For good tex-mex meal and time at the pub after work, El Loco should be a good treat with the mates. However, for those dealing with GERD or Neurodivergent issues, there are at least still some options to enjoy.

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Bondi Wholefoods: A Sydney food adventure – Part 1 of 5

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A Sydney food adventure for ½ of the Team Glasses Food Blog, yes you’ve read that right. I found myself in Sydney for a week because of work, so I decided to sample some places I’ve had here. First of them was Bondi Wholefoods.

After the eight-hour flight and another 30 minutes of train and walking, my boss and I decided to try something healthy and organic near where we’ll be staying.

It was an open air dining experience, with cozy chairs and sleek black facade complemented the plants around the place. They even have ready to eat sandwiches, wraps, and even cans and bottles of kombucha near their counter. For my meal here, I’ve tried the Slow Cooked Bio Lamb Wrap.

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Slow Cooked Bio Lamb Wrap

The combination of smashed avocado, grilled eggplants, roasted pepper strips, and baby spinach was both fresh and well thought out. The biodynamic lamb was unfortunately much too bland for my preferences. The wrap that held these together was amazingly great at doing so without turning soggy or breaking up in my hands. Alongside this, the tzatziki on the side complemented the wrap.

For breakfast the next day, I tried their Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap (toasted) with some hot chocolate mixed with soy milk.

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Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap

The texture of the wrap was much better with the slight crunch on every bite. The lime, coriander, brown rice, tomatoes, sour cream, cheddar cheese, plus the accompanying chipotle salsa made for a wonderful tex-mex burrito-style experience altogether. It was much more to my liking.

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The hot chocolate, of course, is always a pleasing site and a good accompaniment to the Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap.

Food Score: 4/5: The gestalt of my food experience here at Bondi Wholefoods was pretty good overall, despite the first encounter. However, that’s more of my taste preference than anything else.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Especially during the wee hours of the morning, the quiet start of the day while sitting around with the greenery is already something to look forward to dining here.

Service Score: 4/5: The service we received here was warm and accommodating all throughout our time dining at Bondi Wholefoods.

GERD Score: 4.5/5: Aside from catering to many food restrictions, outlining the ingredients used to make the food is always a helpful guide for everyone dealing with GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: The selection of non trigger foods such as gluten free items is a great relief to neurodivergent diners. Another plus is that additives are used sparingly, if at all, in their dishes.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: For the health conscious or even someone looking for a filling meal that doesn’t make him or her guilty, Bondi Wholefoods is the place to go.

Gringo

 

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After several weeks of busy days, Kat and I finally had a quiet dinner out. In my case, I discovered Gringo after one of my classmates left for an assignment abroad. Having enjoyed my experience there, we went to Gringo at Legaspi Village for a Mexican food trip.

Dinner on a Friday night is always a lively event, and we arrived to a nearly packed restaurant around this time. The place exuded a rustic vibe with hints of their Mexican theme. Comfy and relaxed on a table for two, we looked at the menu. For me, I had a quarter of Gringo Southern Spice Chicken with some Mexican Rice and Smokey Beans, along with some Nachos. Kat, on the other hand, had Pork Adobada Burrito.

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Gringo Southern Spice Chicken

The Gringo Southern Spice Chicken was in some ways a misnomer in my opinion. It’s not even close to the heat from the typical Cajun-style chicken we all know, but more than made up for it by being flavorful. Each morsel of their spiced and juicy chicken, along with the smoked beans and the subtle Mexican rice made a tiring workday evening a truly enjoyable one. Only minor nitpick would be that the rice should have played a better role with some herbs or a hint more spice to it, but it doesn’t downplay the entire experience regardless.

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Pork Adobada

The burrito was so hefty it surely deserved to be named in capitalized letters. The meat and rice filling had just the right amount of spice and flavor so as not to overwhelm an eager diner. It is already a meal on its own for one, or an appetizer for two.

The servers here were on top of most everything we needed, which was impressive considering the busy shift. We’re passing some kudos down their way too.

When you’re craving for some great Mexican or Tex-Mex food but don’t want the usual clichés, hit up Gringo for a feast.

Food Score: 4.5/5: The bursts of flavor with every bite should be reason enough for several more visits in the future for us.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Gringo’s simple and no frills approach, using mix and matched tables, well patterned planks of wooden walls, and open airy space, works best for casual and relaxed dining.

Service Score: 5/5: Notwithstanding the dinner crowd, our needs were quickly met by the servers roving around. It was a team effort all around for them.

GERD Score: 4/5: After dining here, my consensus was that Gringo should be a place visited by those dealing with GERD. While the serving size might be something to consider for someone dining here, the varied selections of food and drinks, and having someone tag along should still make the place worth a visit.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Like a lot of Tex-Mex places, Gringo employs a mix of spices and seasonings that may be too much for patrons with food intolerances and hypersensitivity. However again there are always safe options on the menu

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: After our visit, we highly recommend going to Gringo for your lunch and dinner food cravings. Not only do they cater to the casual or meticulous tastes, they also give a great experience for those dealing with some medical concerns like ours.

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

Vina Trang

A day after the Zao trip, I needed another solo  Vietnamese food trip to ease the sick days. This time around, I decided to sit down at Vina Thrang at Century City Mall for a nice bowl of healthy Pho for the weary foodie soul.

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For my stay here, I chose their Pho Nam which is a steaming bowl of flat rice noodles, beef broth, soft tenders and beef round steak. There was also some celery and spring onions mixed in as well..

The Pho’s broth was at my preferred temperature, with some hints of steam flowing up from the bowl. Just like in the tale of Goldilocks, “It’s not too hot, and not too cold. It was just right.” The soft tender pieces of steak were soft enough to be slightly chewy with some firmness. It was tender and well cooked, completing the comforting experience to the bowl.

Aside from the warm and fresh bowl of Pho, Vina Trang also provided a glass of their cool pandan tea in lieu of your typical house water. The restaurant also sells bags of the stuff. Instead of your typical tea bags, these leaves inside are whole for a purer flavor.

The theme of the place tries to balance both modernist chic with some paintings of typical everyday vietnam life, as we know it here in Manila, which makes the place cozy, but not too distanced from being what it is. A place where one can enjoy Vietnamese food as it should be, simple, straightforward, and unpretentious. This is definitely a place to try every now and then to get your Vietnamese food fix when you’re in the Century City Mall area.

Food Score: 4/5: Vina Trang manages to stick well to its Vietnamese roots with fresh ingredients and tried and tested methods of cooking it well.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The paintings around the restaurant brings the more modern look come to life here, which makes for a great casual place to dine.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers here were attentive to my needs and quite accommodating to my questions.

GERD Score: 4/5: The good thing about their menu selection was that the main ingredients are placed in, but I would hope that they also place markers if a particular item was spicy or not at any given time. The variety on drink selections is most welcome.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: The fresh ingredients are a great boon to the place, but sensitive diners may need to be cautious with some seasonings.  The drink selections offer plenty of non-caffeinated alternatives to complement the dining experience.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Overall, we think that Vina Trang is a place for anyone looking for a quick and healthy eat, while satisfying one’s Vietnamese food cravings.

Vina Trang Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zao

In our many food travels, Pho remained to be our go-to choice when either one or both of us are sick. Unfortunately, this food journey was me coming down with the flu and wanted something hearty but helpful at the same time.

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Since Phat Pho at Serendra was closed, I asked Kat for other options and she recommended that I try Zao, the place where she first had a bite of what Vietnamese cuisine had to offer.

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For my time here, I chose the Zao Pho, a nice warm bowl of flank, brisket, meatballs, tendons and rice noodles, along with herbs, just like how they serve it in the South.

As a matter of preference, I’m partial to steaming hot broth and theirs was warm but not as warm as I would like. However to be fair, the subtle broth brought out the elements of the dish, from the fresh herbs used to the tenderness of the brisket and even the tendons. Tendons tend to be where people normally struggle in cooking it just right. The chefs at Zao nailed it, as the tender bite-sized pieces of tendon melts in the mouth.

Aside from the fancy-but-cozy feel of the place, I felt rather welcome at Zao from start to finish. The Zao Pho helped with making me feel slightly better from being sick because of the recent change of weather here in Manila.

Food Score: 4.5/5: I would have to say that their Zao Pho is really good and their other fares are both visually appealing and a treat to the senses.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: Zao’s décor may have looked intimidating at first glance, but I felt rather a home and comfortable here. The place provided a happy medium between elegance with privacy, and a date spot either with your friends or significant other.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers here at Zao were quite attentive to one’s needs and handles, be it my request for warm water to immediately taking care of any requests I have because I felt under the weather that day.

GERD Score: 4.5/5: I appreciated the fact that they provide the list of ingredients in each menu item, which can help people with heartburn or certain food allergies to pick out the food they can eat. At the same time, their menu offered many food options which was also helpful as well.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Some flavorings and seasonings may not go down well with sensitive diners. That aside, the list of ingredients is a great help in picking dishes for those with hypersensitivity or medication interaction issues

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: The great thing about Zao is that Vietnamese food is mostly healthy and freshly served, give or take a few spices that some people have concerns with. The place is definitely a must-try and another great place to have some Pho during the sick days, or even on a lark.

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

Triple Header: Tambai Alley

For our latest food adventure, we decided to delve further into the lesser travelled haunts of the Poblacion area. Since Tambai Alley is situated farther from its rambunctious counterparts at the main strip, we thought it was worth a visit for our date before our finals exams and presentations.

At first glance, Tambai Alley doesn’t look much to any passerby during day time as the place blends around its surroundings. At night however, it figuratively puts on its lipstick and comes to life. It is well lit and even has makeshift counters and stools by the walkway. Tambai Alley has three dining spots within. The innermost dining area is EBI 10, at the middle one is Wantusawa, and at the front is Tambai. At the top of the house is an intimate bar named Kampai,  but since we do not drink we had to skip this last place.

 

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We started our night adventure here by dining at EBI 10 first and worked our way outwards. I selected a piece of small Ebi Tempura and an order of Scallop Popcorn with some rice, while Kat decided to test their mettle with some Gyoza and rice.

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While waiting for our food, I glanced around and found the place lively with Japanese-themed murals on the wall, evoking the feel of a cozy ramen and sushi spot.

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Small Ebi Tempura and Scallop Popcorn

If someone were to ask me about my thoughts on 55 pesos on ebi tempura, I normally look at the person in disbelief. In this case, I simply ate my words because the ebi tempura here was a treat. Each bite was crunchy, the dipping sauce was served hot and complemented the tempura perfectly. The rice complemented the other two wonderfully as well. However, I’m not a fan of the scallop popcorn as it was too rubbery for me.

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Gyoza

The gyoza had just the right balance of natural flavors, all enclosed in perfectly cooked wrappers. They were not too crunchy (a sign of being overcooked) or soggy (a sign of being left out too long). These dumplings plus rice were already enough for an early dinner.

Stepping outside, we were again greeted by the neon blue light of an open oyster shell at Wantusawa which caught our attention a little earlier in the evening. The place was set up as a bar, with chalkboard writings of their menu filling the empty space of the walls. Coupled with the dim lighting, one would find the place perfect for unwinding after a long day at work.

The thing that sets Wantusawa apart from most bars in the area is the fresh oysters from Aklan. They serve these oysters fresh, baked, and even as a ceviche. Aside from this, Wantusawa also has other selections like spicy scallop and crab fat pasta and grilled prawn laksa, along with the typical hard liquor, beer, and wine.

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The fiery ceviche

In my haste, I chose the ceviche without asking them to cut back on the heat. Because of this, I unfortunately wasn’t able to enjoy the other ingredients aside from the oysters. That one was a classic case of mea maxima culpa on my part.

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To make up for this, I also ordered a freshly-shucked oyster, served with kalamansi juice and hot sauce. A quick squeeze of the kalamansi and that oyster went down smoothly on my palate from the shell.

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Kat wanted to try the Hiyayako “Cold Tofu” Salad. Much to her delight, this was topped with bonito flakes and drizzled generously with a sweet sauce. It was just the perfect dish to clean the palate after the hearty meal from next door.

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We ended our night at Tambai, Tambai Alley’s take on a yakitori spot. By the way it’s set up, one would eat by the tables and chairs on the pedestrian walkway after ordering some booze, yakitori sticks, and even merchandise at the nearby hole in the wall.

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The Tambai haul

This time around, I ordered a stick of Quail Egg wrapped in Bacon yakitori and US Beef Isaw (intestine) along with a small bowl of their take on Japanese rice (typical fluffy rice with a dash of those instant rice toppings). Kat wanted some cold soba and Japanese Sausage yakitori.

While the Quail Egg and Bacon was a pleasant experience on my palate combined with their fluffy rice, I’m not a fan of their iteration of isaw and peanut sauce put together in one plate.

The soba was rather limp, and the sauce needed a little more flavor. The Japanese sausages though were a treat, with a mild spiciness like no other. These would have been great with a cold drink to wash them all down.

To sum it up, our triple header adventure at Tambai Alley left our tummies full and we had a fun time together with one less item on our bucket list.

 

Food Score: 3.5/5: Even with some stars of the show, the place really is meant as a casual drinking spot with friends than a dining place.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The place here is really something special, from casual with Tambai, private with EBI 10, and chill with Wantusawa.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers here were attentive and our food came in rather quickly. Overall, these are all good places to unwind, even on a warm summer night.

GERD Score: 3/5: I find the places slightly too limited for people with heartburn / GERD, aside from your typical salad and some exceptions.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: While some ingredients here may be highly seasoned, there are enough fresh and unseasoned selections for finicky diners. Alcohol though is a main attraction of the alley, and there’s little in the way of non-alcoholic beverages and mixes to quench one’s thirst.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: For those with health conditions like ours, we highly recommend the place for a light snack, with several friends who can imbibe to unwind after a long day at work. But if you’re looking for a meal, there are some options which you can still enjoy here, though not many.

Morganfield’s

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It was a idyllic sunday afternoon and Team Glasses Food Blog wanted to try something new at Mall of Asia, just before the Ed Sheeran concert. In the midst of the groups of people moving to and fro, we saw Morganfield’s and thought, ‘why not give this a shot?’

Stepping inside, the place is reminiscent of a pub by the sea with its wooden chairs and tables, and dim lighting for the mood. These makes the place a good place to hang out with friends for a drink (if we could still drink in the first place).

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Bacon-wrapped meatballs

To whet our appetites (and for our bacon cravings), we started our meal with some bacon-wrapped meatballs. The meat was well seasoned and the bacon added a layer of saltiness.

For our late lunch, I ordered the Seafood Basket and Kat had the Bacon and Egg Aglio Olio, and we had a glass of Ginger Pop each to wash it all down.

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Seafood Basket

The Seafood Basket consists of beer-battered shrimp, fish, and calamari with a bed of french fries, tartar sauce, and coleslaw on the side. Personally, I would have liked a wee bit more pepper or paprika on the batter, but it was alright in itself. The shrimp and calamari are cooked well but the fish wasn’t as impressive. In my opinion it’s better as a snack with four or more people than an actual meal for one.

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Bacon and Egg Aglio Olio

The Bacon and Egg Aglio Olio was generously flavored with toasted garlic, with a little zing from some chili flakes. The egg was a bit too well cooked for our tastes though, and we would have preferred it a bit runny.

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Ginger Pops

The Ginger Pop is a nice balance to clean the palate with the mint subtly toning down the sharpness of the ginger, and the sweetness of the honey and brown sugar mix.

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Just before we left, the scent of their ribs tickled our senses. We dare say that the Carnivore is worth a try sometime, from the Home of the Sticky Bones.

Food Score: 4/5: The meals we had here at Morganfield’s are great for filling up our stomachs for the long night ahead, without making it feel like a chore.

Ambiance Score 4/5: Its overall look from the wooden furniture and walls, hues, and decor gives the place a cozy and warm feel to it, a place to unwind from the daily stress in a casual environment.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers we have are attentive and the food arrived at the right time and temperatures, a sign of a freshly prepared meal.

GERD Score: 3/5. Unfortunately for people with GERD, unless you have company and try their less fried meals, there are barely any options here that one can enjoy by their lonesome, or even in a group.

Neurodivergent Score: 3/5 : Oily options, grilled sausages, and full on fat make for comfort food, but not for a happy brain. This is just the sort of thing to have after a hangover, not to focus! That being said, there are plenty of fruit juices and non-alcoholic options such as the Ginger Pop that are great for health-conscious neurodivergents.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. Weighing everything, the place is great for a casual meal for those that don’t have health conditions to worry about. However, for one that deals with neurodivergence or heartburn, the place has fewer options to offer.

Morganfield's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato