Kite Kebab

In recent years kebabs, just like shawarmas, have been rising from their reputation as quickly grilled street foods, to more upscale fare in casual dining restaurants. One place that exemplifies this change is a cozy bar known as Kite Kebab Bar, located in Poblacion, Makati City. We might have bypassed this place altogether if not for its charming outdoor dining area with its wide cushy seats and a wide window decorated with small colourful lights. Much to our delight when we finally dined here, the restaurant’s interior was just as artfully decorated as its facade.  The walls were covered with bright murals, which made a great backdrop to the bar’s comfortable seating and well finished tables.

At first we were impressed by the menu, which featured various kinds of beef, chicken, lamb, and seafood kebabs, as well as a selection of salads and side dishes. In fact the menu enjoins customers to make their own platters by mixing and matching kebabs with side dishes, rice, or pita breads. However, we were informed that some of the kebab meats, as well as side dishes such as the smoked eggplant yogurt were not available that evening. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that the long weekend had just finished and the kitchen was not yet fully restocked. After a while we decided on these combinations:

For Lee: chicken kebab, biryani rice, and ox brain

For Kat:  tenderloin chipotle, basmati rice, and mojos.

To wash this all down, we paired our food with calamansi juice sweetened with honey, and a classic yogurt drink.

The chicken kebab was more akin to chicken tandoori in terms of taste, while the biryani rice lacked some of the characteristic aromas and flavour imparted by spices such as star anise; however both these dishes were still rather delicious. The highlight of this plate was the ox brain, which was lightly sautéed and minimally seasoned. The result was a smooth, silky side dish that would be tempting for adventurous diners as well as the more squeamish newcomers. We would definitely recommend this. Likewise, the tenderloin kebab was well seasoned with just enough of the chipotle spice blend to complement the beef’s natural hearty flavour. The mojos were served hot and crisp, with a mild garlic dip. All in all, this was a simple but tasty plate.

Unfortunately most of the desserts were out of stock too this evening, so we simply capped our meal with a small pot of tea to cleanse our palates. At the very least it allowed us to linger and enjoy the bar’s coziness a bit longer before heading out into an unusually cool summer night.

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The Food Score:  3.5/5: Aside from the bugaboos with the flavours, we found the servings to be rather small for the price. However the selection is friendly for first-time diners, but also features dishes touted to be for the adventurous or more discerning diner such as kombutsa tea.

Ambiance/Service Score: 3.5/5. As beautiful as the bar’s interior is, one thing that marred it for us was the presence of large beer crates right in the main room. And while it’s definitely sad that many food items are not available, at least the staff are conscientious enough to immediately inform diners if there are any shortages on the menu.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. As far as selection and our experience here is concerned, there’s still some heartburn-friendly items that will still whet one’s appetite, because alongside the spicy and oily are subtle choices like hummus, and with regard to alcoholic and caffeine-filled beverages, there are also fruit juices and yogurt drinks available. We suggest cutting back on the butter a bit.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: At the very least the foods are not too heavily spiced, thus making them friendly for sensitive diners. The drinks menu features a large non alcoholic beverages list, which is a boon for patrons who may worry about interactions with medications

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. The Kite Kebab Bar is worth including on one’s itinerary for an evening bar-hopping throughout Poblacion. It may not be the place to get a full meal, but it is certainly a location to stop and catch one’s breath for a little while.

Kite Kebab Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Yalla Yalla Express

When the terms “Middle Eastern food” and “to-go” are combined in the same sentence, what often comes to many people’s minds is shawarma in all its pungent pita-wrapped glory, or freshly seared kebabs. One place that is out to challenge this notion is Yalla Yalla Express, which features Lebanese cuisine, located on Don Pedro Street in Poblacion, Makati.

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We espied this tiny restaurant during our previous forays in the area, but we only got around to trying it out one late afternoon, thanks to feeling a little peckish after work. From outside we could already smell the rich flavours of roasted beef and chicken shawarma, and just the slightest hint of spices. Inside the simply furnished restaurant, we immediately found the posted menu, which aside from shawarma, also offers beef kebab, falafel, shish taouk (chicken skewers), and sujuk (spicy sausage).  These meat choices can be served up either as wraps, or with rice. Yalla Yalla Express also has sandwiches, brick oven pizzas, and traditional dips such as hummus and moutabal (roasted eggplant)

Since we decided that our meal was to be an early dinner, we opted to try the shish taouk and the sujuk, both served with turmeric rice. Each meal came with Lebanese picked vegetables (cucumber, tomato, and beetroot), as well as onions tossed with pepper and spices. These vegetables provided a welcome contrast to the heady tastes of the meat and turmeric rice. Unlike many pickled vegetables which are tart and sometimes almost acrid, Lebanese pickled vegetables are more sweet-sour, even refreshing in flavor.

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The shish taouk was cooked enough to lock in the subtle flavour of the chicken meat, but not too much to the point of drying it out. On the other hand the sujuk’s spiciness was more than the simple, explosive heat of chilis; it was a deep flavour that lingered on the tongue and yet did not overwhelm the palate.  A nice addition was the presence of garlic sauce as well as chilli sauce, allowing for diners to add a little more savor to the food. The only thing missing in our dining experience was a tall glass of yogurt to wash it all down.

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At this point Yalla Yalla Express is still in its soft opening phase. We hope that more customers will give this place—and Lebanese cuisine—a try. It is indeed a hidden gem in the labyrinth of Poblacion.

 

The Food Score:  4.5/5. This is true for both flavour and quality, as well as authenticity. Lee says that the food we had was just almost like the food he enjoyed during his stint in the Middle East. The slight bugaboo we had was finding the turmeric rice to be on the oily side, but this didn’t detract much from our enjoying the meal. The prices are a bit higher than what one would expect for take-out meals, but the quality certainly justifies the cost.

 

Ambiance/Service Score:   4/5. Our food came in takeout boxes, which we suppose is due to this place being an ‘express’ establishment that can cater to those on-the-go. This, along with the minimalist furnishing of the restaurant, made our experience feel a little less homey. However the service was efficient and friendly, something we definitely appreciated

 

GERD Score: 4/5. Normally, when one combines the words “meat” and “rice”, one would think that it’s a recipe for heartburn disaster, but in this case, even with the slight oily feel from the rice, the food is pretty good for someone managing it. Again, triggers differ from one person or the other, but as long as you chew slowly and set aside the trigger food, you’ll be fine.

 

Epilepsy Score:  4/5. Dishes here do not make use of processed meats, which is a relief to those who cannot eat items laden with preservatives. However diners who are sensitive to spices may need to eschew some of the meals like the rice boxes we had.

 

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. This place is still in its soft opening, but already we can consider dining here to be rather worthwhile. We look forward to coming back for even better Lebanese food next time around.

Persia Grill

Ah, Valentine’s Day: a big night for couples, traffic, and overbooked restaurants. According to a relative of mine in the restaurant business, this occasion is a major day for revenue if only for all the couples, families, and even groups of friends celebrating this holiday dedicated to the expression of romance. So this year, for Team Glasses’ first Valentine’s Day out, we decided we’d have to look beyond the lists of ‘romantic restaurants’ in the city. We eventually chose to go to an old favourite, Persia Grill.

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Luckily for us, there are several branches of this restaurant located in Metro Manila, with one of them found in the Greenbelt area. We arrived here in the early evening, before the dinner time rush. Right away, we were charmed by the restaurant’s cozy interior that still had distinctly Persian touches such as the elegant colored glass lamps hanging from the ceiling, and a small collection of traditional art prints on one wall. The overall effect was welcoming and classy, without resorting to Middle Eastern stereotypes just to make the restaurant live up to its name.

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We decided to try out the Peshgaza appetizer, which was a sampler platter of four dips and bread. The dips were salad oliveyeh (potato with chicken, herbs, and pickles), baba ganoush (roasted eggplant in olive oil), must o’ khiar (yogurt, cucumber, mint and onions), and hummus. The servings of this particular appetizer were generous enough for three to four people, or perhaps just two very hungry ones. All of these dips were flavourful yet not overpowering; in particular the must o’ khiar was perfect for cleansing the palate as a prelude to a hearty main course.

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I was determined to have Lee try out the gormeh sabzi, a favourite dish from some of my previous excursions to Persia Grill. This stew of slow-cooked beef, beans, and pickled gherkins is touted on the menu as a ‘national dish’. One bite was certainly enough to explain to us why this dish would be a worthy candidate for the title. Although the beef was not yet tender enough to melt in one’s mouth, it had been cooked long enough to pick up the flavours of rest of the ingredients. The stew itself was aromatic and spiced well without being too hot on the tongue, something we certainly appreciated during our leisurely dinner. We also opted to have Persian rice on the side, served still warm with butter on top. 

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Unfortunately this was still the busiest night of February, and by the time we thought of having dessert, we could see the place already beginning to fill up with couples and groups of friends also eager to celebrate. One of these days we’ll have to head back there to try the baklava and yogurt, among other concoctions on their menu. But that is another tale.

The Food Score:  5/5. Whether this is ‘authentic’ Persian food is still up for debate, but it doesn’t change the fact that the food in this restaurant is filling, tasty, and very friendly to diners who may not be as accustomed to Persian or other Middle Eastern cuisines. The spices go further than simply hot chilli, and employ a whole range of flavours to tickle one’s curiosity and fancy. The serving sizes are meant for sharing, so this is perfect for group or family nights out.

Ambiance/Service Score:   4/5. This particular branch of Persia Grill was a bit small, thus limiting the number of diners who could enjoy this place at any given time. Although some traditional Persian music was played on the speakers to add to the ambiance, the occasional selection of European classics occasionally detracted from the mood. The set of colored lamps are a nice touch, which caused Lee to reminisce his Friday rest-day adventures in the Middle East.

GERD Score: 4/5. While there are some dishes that could and perhaps will trigger one’s heartburn from their menu, a couple of advantages are that most of their meat options are grilled, and that they have a wide variety of food options to prevent burping episodes.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5. Perhaps the one drawback about this place is that it may not be easy for a diner to request for a dish to be made without ingredients that could trigger or aggravate seizures. However the menu offers a wide range of food and drink options, thus giving one a better opportunity to avoid trigger foods. The restaurant’s ambiance is relaxing and far from a sensory overload, thus reducing the likelihood of having a seizure induced by too much light or sound.
Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5. We’re not picky about whether this is ‘authentic’ Persian food; we just love to eat and tell people about it. And this place fits the bill of ‘food to share’, both in terms of size and quality. Now, time for dessert.

Persia Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato