Pho Bac (the Team Glasses Sick Day Special)

There are some days that can only be cured by a bowl of soup, particularly one that is a step above instant chicken noodles. We happened to have one of those off days recently thanks to a sudden shift in the weather, but fortunately, we found ourselves within walking distance of Pho Bac, another Vietnamese restaurant that serves just what the doctor ordered.

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Pho refers to a number of Vietnamese noodle soup recipes, usually made with a mix of rice noodles, meat, and an assortment of herbs. The restaurant Pho Bac serves up chicken, beef, and seafood soups, as well as variations such as pho with egg noodles, or with mixed seafood. Other dishes available here include salad noodles, and house specialties such as Vietnamese crepe and chao tom (shrimp on cane with rice wrapper).

Since Lee and I were feeling under the weather, we chose to have two different bowls of pho: mi ga or chicken pho with egg noodles, and bun ca or pho with fish and rice noodles.  Both orders of pho were served with small dishes of bean sprouts and basil leaves that we could add to our soups according to our respective tastes. No other strong spices or condiments were necessary for our meal.

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In my past experiences eating chicken pho, I have found that much of the flavour comes from the spices in the broth. However Pho Bac’s mi ga also derives its taste from the egg noodles themselves, which lend a certain heartiness to an otherwise mild dish. In contrast, the bun ca also features small cubes of tofu and a hint of chili, giving a little extra kick to the soup. These interesting soup dishes were not only tasty but also very filling. In fact I daresay that the pho in this restaurant is large enough to serve as an afternoon snack for two or three.

In some ways, food is medicine in itself, if only for its giving the body what it needs to boost its natural immune defences. And while pho is definitely not a cure-all, it does fit the bill for those ‘off’ days when a little warm soup is all that one needs to get back in fighting form. Fortunately Pho Bac is found at a number of locations, ready to serve the hungry, peckish, or peaky diner needing that extra bit of heartiness to get on.

The Food Score:  4/5. For some diners, the pho may be too mild in flavour; in fact we could hardly taste the spice in the bun ca. However on the whole,  one definitely gets value for one’s money in this restaurant. This is where one can find comfort food without breaking the bank.

Ambiance/Service Score:   4/5. The particular branch we were at was rather cramped, and difficult for diners to move around in. However the staff was helpful and attentive, and the food was served as promptly as possible.

GERD Score: 4/5. Considering that even the globules of spice in the pho didn’t set me off that much, it’s definitely heartburn friendly to an extent. But it has to be said that considering the size of the pho itself, it’s not meant for a single person with GERD. Only upside to that is, more to share.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5. The trouble with soup in general is that one isn’t always sure what goes in the stock. So sensitive diners may need to pass on the pho, or at least inquire what ingredients were used. Herbs and spices may not agree with some people or interfere with their medications, so it’s also best to inquire about these before ordering.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. If one is looking for soul food on a bad day, this is worth a visit. After all, good food in itself is therapeutic, and a good bowl of pho from here fits the bill.

Pho Bac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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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

Paris Délice

After a rather hectic set of days for this week, Kat and I decided to take a visit one of our usual haunts, a French fast food place by the name of Paris Délice. And since we here at Team Glasses Food Blog have a fascination on French food, we can call ourselves as casual and familiar people who enjoy dates here.

Let’s go to their staples first, baguette sandwiches. In our visits, we’ve tried Le Mozza, L’Americain, and Le Parisien. For my exacting tastes, bread is always best freshly baked or at least in the level of crispiness between too soft or too brittle. They manage to get that nice Goldilocks zone on the ten inch baguettes often, and the ingredients are crisp and fresh. What you see on their pictures is what you get, which is appreciated. For the latest sandwich we had, I present to you Le Farmer, a simple looking sandwich that packs a punch with its symphony of fresh vegetables, ham, and brie. Just like their other choices, it’s both light and filling as a meal. C’est magnifique!

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Le Farmer

And then off to their pastas. Previously, we’ve tried the Salmon Fume which unlike most of overdone carbonara dishes drowning with cream; this is close to perfection itself. The sauce isn’t the star of the show, but rather, everything on it. The pasta’s well done, the salmon strips cooked well, and the sauce doesn’t overpower the two. Hints of basil leaves also helped balanced out the flavors of course. For today however, we had the poulet au pistou which is their take on chicken pesto pasta. Unlike other pesto preparations, this one was not cloying and overpowering to the palate.  This delicately flavored dish owes its character to its light creamy pesto sauce as well as the lightly seasoned chicken chunks. It is well balanced, like many of the other dishes in this restaurant.

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Poulet au pistou

Food Score: 5/5. For its price range, the food exceeds typical ideas of grimy fast food and gives the sense and the reality that the food reflects your money’s worth with a bit more than expected. And we definitely love the fact that it’s made out of fresh ingredients from vegetable to bread.

Ambiance / Service Score:  4/5. The place is comfortable to stay in for a bit with a vibe, perfect for dates or just a quiet get together with friends. Lastly, service is cordial and warm and in the off-chance that the owner’s there, feel free to speak in French which is appreciated. My little nitpick would be just a bit more light, but that’s more of a matter of preference.

GERD Score: 5/5. While dairy or tomato sets me off in high amounts or steady portions normally, I never encountered any burping and acidity. As long as you keep in mind that citrus, soda, or things like tomatoes isn’t exactly your friend anymore, you’re pretty set. Noting down your trigger food and how you eat is your friend.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5.  Dishes here do not have high levels of preservatives, which are considered to be seizure triggers. Also the fruit juice selections at this place do not usually cause unwanted drug interactions with anti epilepsy drugs. However if one is sensitive to gluten, food options in this place would be more limited.

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5. Paris Délice caters to our food needs as foodies with medical bugaboos, and at the same time has as welcoming vibe to anyone who eats there. This place is definitely a restaurant we continue to come back to.

Paris Delice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bucky’s

For quite some time before starting this blog, Lee and I were under the impression that we’d have to travel out of Makati City just to try up and coming places to eat. Then one day, while stopping by a convenience store in the Poblacion area, we ran into a long time friend who was apparently en route to a meet-up. She pointed out that there were a number of establishments within walking distance from our respective homes, and that we should consider stopping in for a bit. Well, in the name of finding some good food, we decided to stroll down Kalayaan Avenue and turn left at Don Pedro Street, and thus we found ourselves right in front of a row of restaurants and cafes worthy of future escapades.

First up on the list was Bucky’s, as per my buddy’s suggestion. We stopped in one sunny afternoon and discovered that much of the fare was exactly what we hoped for: savory and sweet snacks that were perfect for filling up after a long day at work, but not so heavy as to preclude the possibility of a later dinner. The staff was accommodating, and ready to guide us as to how to order one of their specials: Make Your Own Bucky’s Parfait.

Like some other establishments with a ‘make your own combo’ component, Bucky’s uses a checklist format to guide diners with choosing combinations of cookies, brownies, soft-serve ice cream, toppings and sauces to create a unique parfait. The available ingredients are more comforting and familiar, and what one would expect out of an ice cream bar. If one is looking for strange toppings such as chilli cheese sauce for ice cream, this isn’t the place to go!

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Parfait with chocolate syrup, marshmallows, pistachios, and rice crispies

We chose a chocolate base and vanilla ice cream for our parfait, and topped it off with marshmallows, rice crispies, pistachios, and chocolate sauce. The result was a soft-serve concoction that looked almost too good to eat. The Bucky’s Parfait is definitely meant to be a shared experience, except for those who consider ice cream a meal in itself.

Apart from parfaits, Bucky’s also offers larger meals such as pasta and sandwiches, and snack foods or pica-pica to share with friends. We also tried out their mozzarella sticks (which were more nugget sized), which came with a flavourful and well-balanced marinara dip. Unfortunately five mozzarella sticks are hardly for sharing, especially with a cheese fiend aboard.

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Bucky’s definitely has a niche in this part of the city; most of its neighbours are styled as grill and barbeque places, or as bars and lounges. This is a good place to go for a quiet afternoon with friends, a prelude to a night out, or a wrap-up to a hearty dinner. We’re happy to have this in our neighbourhood.

The Food Score:  4/5. It may need to be specified if the portion sizes are for sharing, or meant to be consumed solo. Nevertheless the dishes are tasty without being overwhelming to the palate. Homemade ricotta and yogurt also figure in some dishes, adding a healthy bonus.

Ambiance/Service Score:  4/5. The staff and service crew are friendly and ready to help out diners with navigating the menu, especially the checklist. However the restaurant premises are rather small, and occasionally difficult to move around in.

GERD Score: 4/5. Considering that fried food, soft serve ice cream and dairy, beer, and coffee are my triggers, they still offer some fare that won’t cause GERD, at least for my case. Also thankfully, eating a combination of their parfait and nuggets are great because the acidity problem didn’t come out as bad as one would expect.

Epilepsy Score:  4.5/5. The large and small plates have fresh, balanced ingredients, utilizing almost no processed or heavily preserved meats. The Make-Your-Own-Parfait option allows one to enjoy a custom-made dessert with little to no fear of accidentally ingesting a trigger food.  Although Bucky’s prides itself on serving excellent coffee, and also offers beer and sodas, there are fruit shakes and hot chocolate also available on the menu for those with some dietary limitations.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. This cozy and fun place is worth a visit for anyone interested in food tripping within the Poblacion area. We probably won’t go here for a full on dinner but we’d be glad to have a bit of dessert.

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