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.

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Urban Chick

For the second part of the Maginhawa Street Adventures, is our first ever date in the area. Since my mind was zoned out from the law school entrance exam, we decided to go to Urban Chick, a place that Kat has been telling me about for some time now.

Nondescript outside, one wouldn’t think that the place is spacious, but it definitely is once inside. The wooden tables and chairs, along with the menu on chalkboards are a nice touch that makes the resto have a homey classroom diner feel to it. And there’s enough space to move around comfortably, which is a plus since the place normally sees groups of students at any given time throughout the week. The clucking chickens to call for service is a quirky and amusing add on, and their ground rules for their free wifi is definitely a reminder for each one to be kind and positive. Just like the owners.

First ones that came to our table were the garden salad for me and the croquettas for Kat. The salad had fresh vegetables but my preference would be with less dressing on mine. But the croquettas are a perfect appetizer, a crunchy exterior and a soft and creamy center, with just enough seasoning to wake one’s taste buds without ruining an appetite.

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Croquettas and Garden Salad

For our main meal, we shared six pieces of chicken wings coated in barbecue sauce with plain rice each. And I kid you not, the wings blew my mind with how flavorful they were, along with their right amount of crunch and the tenderness of the meat inside.

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BBQ Chicken Wings

The last one was the oreo balls and they were alright in balancing out the savory meal before, a soft treat to the palate.

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Oreo Balls

All factors considered, we’re definitely going back so we can have a go at their pastas and sandwiches. The place is perfect for a group of great friends and loved ones at student-friendly prices.

Food Score: 4.5/5. Besides the salad hiccup, I believe the food here is great. The menu is varied to accommodate all tastes, budgets, and appetites, ranging from solo snacks and portions, to platters good for a group of friends.

Ambiance / Service Score: 5/5. Urban Chick is a restaurant that leaves one at ease with the furnishings and the casual feel of the place. They treat their clients not as clientele but as guests welcome into their own home, a place open for studying students, groups of friends, or in our case, as a couple out on a date

GERD Score: 4.5/5. While there are meals like the Alphan Meal that will trigger one’s heartburn like crazy because of the volume of food, there are still plenty of great options for anyone as long as they repeat the mantra ‘chew slowly and thoroughly’.

Epilepsy Score: 4.5/5. Hooray for fresh ingredients and natural seasonings! This place is a refreshing change from the stereotypical ‘unhealthy’ student fare of instant noodles and other overly processed nasties. Of course coffee is unavoidable in such a haunt (the Sweet Bae concoction packs quite a punch), but as always there are other options.

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5. Overall, Urban Chick is a must for any foodie travelling to Maginhawa. The walk from the other end of the long and winding street is worth every step, and best shared with friends.

Hi everyone, we’re taking in suggestions for our next food adventures  whether in Makati, Maginhawa, or anywhere in the Metro. Hope to hear from you soon!

Urban Chick BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Faburrito

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For a good many people, the term “healthy eating” would not readily belong in the same sentence as “Mexican cuisine” or “Tex-Mex”. Images of greasy burritos and tacos, or pots of chilli con carne often come to mind, much to the dismay of diners eager to avoid strongly flavoured foods or those that may raise one’s cholesterol. Fortunately there is one restaurant, Faburrito,  that rises to the challenge of changing this popular notion.

We first stumbled on Faburrito en route to a doctor’s appointment one sleepy December afternoon. We quickly realized that although the main dishes consisted only of tacos, salad, burritos, and bowls, the combination of ingredients in these dishes were actually complete meals in themselves. Interestingly enough, none of these options were particularly heavy on meat or cheese, unlike similar dishes in other establishments. There was even a vegetarian option: fajita mushrooms. Diners with larger appetites also could choose from a variety of side dishes such as soups and quesadillas to round out their meal.

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Selections 🙂

Choice is definitely a big part of the Faburrito dining experience, as the friendly service crew quickly showed us. We were asked if we wanted to include or exclude particular ingredients such as black beans or spices. The cook even accommodated Lee’s request to prepare his meal without cheese. Other diners were also given the option to customize their dishes according to their tastes and needs. This simple gesture was not only thoughtful and considerate, but showed the restaurant’s commitment to providing healthy meals. After all, healthy eating is hardly ‘one size fits all’, but consists of taking into account portion sizes and individual meal components for each person.

Both the regular and the large meal sizes were definitely filling. And lest anyone worry about this being overindulgence, the Faburrito staff have kindly posted the calories present in each meal option. One can dine on less than 450 calories (found in the burrito meal), without walking away with that heavy, greasy feeling that is sometimes associated with fast food dining.

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It is also notable that 10% of the proceeds in this restaurant are donated to charity. To support this restaurant and their causes, please check out their page at www.faburrito.com.

The Food Score: 4.5/5. The food was refreshing to the palate, and left us feeling full without being bloated. The ingredients are fresh, and blended in such a way that subtle flavours in each dish are brought out for the diner’s enjoyment. However their fish option is fried and battered, while their bowls can be rather heavy on the dressing.

Ambiance/Service Score: 5/5. The staff was cheerful and patient despite us and other customers taking time to think through our food orders. The meals were served quickly, and requests for extra water or the bill were easily accommodated. Though the place is small it hardly feels cramped owing to the bright decorating style.

GERD Score: 5/5. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a healthy choice. No burps or acidic feels after the meal, and this is coming from someone who regularly encounters problems even on small serving sizes at times.

Epilepsy Score: 5/5. No preservatives are used in cooking! And if one is sensitive to particular ingredients, there is always the option to have them eliminated from one’s meal.

Team Glasses Score:  5/5. It’s not every day when one finds a restaurant that caters to the needs of both our problems here at Team Glasses. We will most definitely eat at Faburrito again.

Ristorante delle Mitre

When one reads of Intramuros, or the Walled City, the images that immediately come to mind are those of narrow streets winding between old houses or alongside statuesque churches, all crammed within centuries old fortifications still housing artillery. Over the years this part of the City of Manila has drawn in students, scholars, tourists, or just anyone curious about a certain chapter in Philippine history, but this does not mean that foodies are completely out of the scene. In fact, right across San Agustin Church, is Ristorante delle Mitre, a place that provides delicious nourishment for the bodies that house the pious (or not quite) visitors to the Walled City.

The feeling of ‘going back in time’ whenever visiting Intramuros is still present when one visits Ristorante delle Mitre, as the furnishing and ambiance are reminiscent of the interior of the sala or dining room of a 19th century bahay na bato. As the name implies, this establishment is also a loving tribute to the clergy of the Philippines; various dishes on the menu are named after prominent cardinals, bishops, and other figures in the Philippine church. Yet the fare is a far cry from ascetic both in terms of variety and quality. One can stop by for a quick merienda of empanaditas (tiny empanadas) and coffee, or linger for a leisurely full course meal all the way to dessert.

We have had the opportunity to drop in for lunch twice at Ristorante delle Mitre. On our first venture there we tried two rice meals: fried tawilis, as well as beef salpicao. Now one of the best ways to cook tawilis is to fry it crisp such that one can crunch it, bones and all. Ristorante delle Mitre does exactly that, and so well to the point that we did not even need their delicious vinegar sawsawan to enjoy the fish.  The beef salpicao was tender, with just enough garlic to give the dish its characteristic flavour without overpowering one’s tastebuds. Both of these meals were very affordable, within the price range of a lunch out in other popular restaurants.

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Tawilis

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Beef Salpicao

Our second trip to Ristorante delle Mitre was slightly more decadent; we picked their pesto pasta and their grilled sole with mashed potatoes. Much to our delight the pesto was very well blended and flavourful, a far cry from simply minced basil leaves extended with lots of oil. The grilled sole was the highlight of the meal. In this restaurant spices are used judiciously, and this fish dish was no exception.

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Pesto Pasta

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Grilled Sole with Mashed Potatoes

However, Ristorante delle Mitre is definitely not the place to go if one is in a rush. The service here is leisurely, and during peak hours it may take a while till one’s orders get served. However like most good things, the food here is definitely worth the wait.

The Food Score: 5/5. The selection and execution of the food in our two trips has been downright heavenly. Seasoned just right with a touch of clean presentation, can’t go wrong with that.

Ambiance/Service Score: 3/5. While it does try and come close to resembling a Spanish-era living room, it does go overboard with the number of statues and reliefs around it which make moving around slightly challenging if you have a backpack.

GERD Score: 4.5/5. As long as you refrain from drinking wine and picking something spicy (maybe a trigger food in your case), you’re pretty good to go and order most anything here.

Epilepsy Score: 4.5/5. While not all the items here are free of preservatives, such as the Vienna sausages on the breakfast menu, there are enough options for diners with restrictions. Desserts, coffee and other drinks are also not made with artificial sweeteners.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. All in all, great food and mostly health conditions-friendly selections serve Ristorante delle Mitre quite well as a foodie stop for a decent, filling, and comforting meal.