Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mango Tree: Thai Cuisine at its Best at Bonifacio High Street Central

Mango Tree is an international Thai restaurant brand with outlets  in Bangkok, Dubai, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Doha

mango tree bonifacio high street
Mango Tree is found in Bonifacio High Street Central with a store-like facade.  It also has a cozy al fresco and bar area. 

mango tree bonifacio high street
Once you go inside, you'll be mesmerized by its cozy, casual fine dining ambiance.  It has majestic curtains, elegant black leatherette lofts and beautiful table settings.  

mango tree bonifacio high street
It has a modernistic atmosphere with high ceiling.  It has a mezzanine area too.  It's walls are filled with Thai ornaments which give it a nice Thai flair. 

Project Brave Kids
My main reason for dining at Mango Tree is to celebrate the birthday of the kid beneficiaries of Project Brave Kids.  For the second anniversary of Mango Tree, they decided to donate a portion of their sales for their anniversary months March, April and May to Project Brave Kids, a non-profit organization who seeks to aid the family of children from age 0-12 who are inflicted with cancer.
 

project brave kids
I've always had a soft spot for Corporate Social Responsibility activities so I just had to attend this small gathering.  After losing a 15-year old friend to leukemia a decade ago, I could understand the struggles of these kids and their families so I really appreciate Mango Tree's initiative in choosing to do this.

project brave kids
Children's Birthday Cake by Mango Tree
These kids are quite sensitive so Mango Tree did their best to prepare a little gathering serving them spaghetti and preparing cakes so they could be comfortable.  It was a success because I could see smiles on the kids faces as they blew their birthday candles while the entire Mango Tree crew sang them their birthday song.


Food


Cold Appetizers
yum mamuang
Yum Mamuang (280 php)
The Yum Mamuang is a green mango salad with peanuts and grated coconut.  This dish was executed perfectly.  The peanuts, grated coconut as well as the onion bits were able to complement the nicely thin green mango strips well.  If you love our local tangy green mangos then this is a must try for you.

Hot Appetizers
tod mun goong
Tod Mun Goong (380 php)
The Tod Mun Goong are deep fried shrimp cakes served with sweet chili sauce.  The Tod Mun Goong has a wonderful golden brown crispy coating and a tender yet compact shrimp cake within.  I like that it wasn't oily at all.  Both kids and adult will enjoy this.

Soup & Curry
tom yum goong
Tom Yum Goong (450 php)
The Tom Yum Goong is a spicy hot and sour prawn soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, mushroom and red chillies.  This had generous amounts of shrimp and the taste of the Thai spices and coconut milk were prevalent.  The one served to us was toned down so the spiciness was hardly determinable for me and instead I found it a bit salty for my taste.   Although my companions who don't like spicy dishes loved this, I personally prefer this being authentically Thai spicy so I'll probably request the chef to cook it that way on my next visit.  


Thai Specialty
talay ruam mit
Talay Ruam Mit (1700 php)
The Talay Ruam Mit is an excellent option for the lenten season.  It's a hot seafood platter of grilled prawns, squid, crab and a trio of sauces.  This platter is a bit expensive but the seafood served are as fresh as it can be.  The crabs are deliciously sweet and flavorful.  While,  the squid are soft and chewy which makes it quite addictive with the sauces. However, the prawns were not cooked evenly as some parts were still raw. 
 

pla krapong neung ma now
Pla Krapong Neung Ma Now (850 php)
It was my first time to try the Pla Krapong Neung Ma Now.  It's a steamed sea bass with fresh garlic, chili and lime sauce.  It's served hot with a candle at the bottom so its recommend to eat this upon serving.  The flavors of the ingredients are fragrant yet subtle so you can enjoy the nice clean taste of the sea bass.  This is a must try!

gai phad med ma maung
Gai Phad Med Ma-Maung (400 php)
The Gai Phad Med Ma-Maung is another new discovery for me.  It's probably because we often opt for the usual Pandan Chicken when ordering.   The Gai Phad Med Ma-Maung is stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, capsicum and onion.  It's reminds me of my favorite Chinese dish.  I guess this is the Thai counterpart of it.  The taste is good but again I'd prefer if this was spiced up a bit with some more capsicum.   Also, I'd imagine the play of textures would have been better if the chicken bits were not dried and tough to eat.  

Rice & Noodles
pad thai jay
Pad Thai Jay (350 php)
The Pad Thai Jay is our favorite stir-fried rice noodles with mixed vegetables and tofu.  This is one of the best versions of pad thai I've encountered yet.  The noodles were moist and bouncy.  It has generous amounts of crunchy bean sprouts that makes it a chewing pleasure to eat with the rice noodles.  And more importantly, the taste was well-balanced.  It was neither too strong nor too light.  I highly recommend this and I'll definitely order this again on my subsequent visits.


khao ob supparod
Khao Ob Supparod (380 php)
The Khao Ob Supparod is pineapple fried rice with chicken bits, corn kernels, green peas, onions, mushroom and raisins.  I expected this to be dominantly sweet and sour similar to the Chinese version but its actually different.  All the ingredients especially the bold flavor of the chicken makes this a flavorful fried rice which can be eaten on its own.  This is quite interesting to try!

Desserts
Finally, my favorite part in every Thai meal...


tum tim grob
Tub Tim Grob (250 php)
The Tub Tim Grob is red ruby water chestnuts with homemade coconut ice cream.  Unlike those served in Simply Thai or Makan Makan which I loved because of the textures of the red rubies, I fell in love with the Tub Tim Grob because of its delicious mildly salted ice cream made from coconut cream.  The red rubies, the ice cream plus the jackfruit delivers a heavenly sensation.

tako khao phod
Tako Khao Phod (220 php)
The Tako Khao Phod is a coconut custard with sweet corn.  Don't let its appearance fool you.  Although this may look plain, inside it has a genrous layer of corn kernels and  coconut bits.  Unlike the usual gelatinous texture, this one is pleasantly soft, smooth and creamy.  In terms of flavor, it was not plain coconut cream but instead slightly salty.  Although its not the usual for me, I'm quite surprised that it actually works well especially with the other components. 

Drinks

Specialty Drinks
thai iced tea
Thai Iced Tea (90 php)
The Thai Iced Tea is a delicious blend of Thai iced tea with the right amount of sweetness.

carrot and orange juice
Special Drink of the Day (fresh orange and carrot juice)

Tsinoy Foodies Verdict
Mango Tree is a world class Thai restaurant with superb casual fine dining ambiance.  They're Thai chefs can offer you an authentic Thai experience.  But at the same time, they can also cater to adjustments to soothe the Filipino taste.  I suggest you advise the kitchen about your preference upon ordering.   Mango Tree is a great place to start your exploration for Thai cuisine.  The back portion of their menu even has Thai names with the photos of the dishes to aid you in ordering.  The servers are quite knowledgeable with the menu too so don't hesitate to ask them.  The price is a bit steep but given the food quality, service and location, its quite reasonable.  I like that they have a wide range of Thai offerings so I'm really tempted to go back and explore some more.

Tsinoy Foodies Review Rating Mango Tree Menu
Ambiance Cold Appetizers | Hot Appetizers |
Soup & Curry | Grilled |
Vegetables | Thai Specialty
Rice & Noodles | Dessert |  
Cocktails | Cocktails 2 |  
Cocktails 3 | Cocktails 4 |  
Juice | Soda |   | Coffee | Tea | Specialty |  
White WineRed Wine |  
Alcoholic Beverages 1 | Alcoholic Beverages 2   
Taste
Service
Price
=Favorites or Recommended 
Mango Tree
Business Address 7th Avenue, Bonifacio High Street Central, 
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila
Business Hours Lunch: 11:30 am-2:30 pm
Dinner: 5:30 pm-11:30 pm
Payment Options   Cash
Service Charge 10%
Budget/Person 800-1,500
Free WiFi Yes
Unlocked Foursquare Perks None
Contact (02) 217-2367
Other  Email:  info@mangotree.com.ph Facebook Fan Page | Website

Disclosure
The food was provided for as part of the party.  My utmost respect for Mango Tree's cause did not in any way obscure my objectivity in making this review.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

La Preciosa: Fine Dining Restaurant and Buffet at Laoag City

My relatives invited us to go sand surfing at Paoay Sand Dunes and then we headed to Laoag City Ilocos Norte to search for a place to eat our dinner.  La Preciosa is just by the roadside so it's easy to spot along with other popular restaurants.  But, parking by the roadside is a bit of a challenge especially during peak hours. 

la preciosa
We were intrigued by the long lines at La Presciosa and decided to join in.  We had to wait around 30 minutes before we were called in.  It's a good thing that they have a seated waiting area outside so we were able to order in advance comfortably.  Moreover, the owner was there too and she shared the history of La Preciosa to my aunt.


la preciosa laoag ilocos norte
According to proprietress Pam Aragoza, the restaurant was named in honor of her mother Preciosa Palma who first started Peppermint Café back in 1994.  Back then, they catered mostly to local residents because tourism was not so prominent.  When her mother passed away, they decided to move to a bigger location and La Preciosa was born.


la preciosa laoag ilocos norte
La Preciousa is actually a old-style residential home turned restaurant.  It's a two story house with a terrace which they use as an al fresco buffet area.


la preciosa buffet
Buffet (250 php)
For those who are not willing to wait, they suggest to them their buffet selections for only 250 php.  I went up and took a peek at their selections.  I saw the eggplant omelette (poqui-poqui) and the chicken pepian among them but somehow buffet didn't appeal much to us since we want to have full control of our options.

la preciosa cakes
Soon enough, we were called in.  We passed by their small shop section where they sold local delicacies including coffee beans and their cake display.

la preciosa tiramisu
Tiramisu (900 php/whole cake)
la preciosa banoffee
Banoffee Cake (90 php/slice)
As I passed by the kitchen area going to the rest room, I noticed that a lot of customers order the cakes by whole for take out. 

Food
My dear aunt, who hosted our dinner, was in-charge of ordering.  Showing utmost hospitality to fellow Tsinoy Foodie Kurt who she came to know is a first timer in Ilocos, she selected the recommendable Ilocano dishes for him to try out.  

P.S. Pardon our crappy photos, we were really hungry and eager to eat after the tiring activity and the wait.

Vegetables
eggplant omelette poqui poqui
Eggplant Omelette (110 php)
The Eggplant Omelette or locally known in Ilocano as poqui-poqui is eggplant cooked with egg and tomatoes.  This is fairly good but we both agree that the one we had at Kusina Felicitas is better in terms of texture and taste.


Ilocano Dishes
insarabasab
Insarabasab (160 php)
The Insarabasab is grilled pork and liver in papaitan sauce.  Although I've been to Ilocos countless of times, this dish is a first time for me too.  We all loved this!  The mild chewiness of the grilled pork and liver countered by the crunchiness of the onions makes this pleasurable to eat.  The sourness is also in an appetizing level.
 
crispy dinardaraan
Crispy Dinardaraan (160 php)
The Crispy Dinardaraan is the Ilocano version of dinuguan with an added crispy twist.  This was perfectly executed!  We all enjoyed this.


chicken pepian
Chicken Pepian (160 php)
The Chicken Pepian is chicken kare-kare cooked in Ilocano style.  This was suggested by the server as their specialty dish so we took her advise.  I'm glad we did.  In fact, we ordered two of this because we loved it so much.
 

sinanglao
Sinanglao (165 php)
Their version of Sinanglao is not too sour and has a bit ginger and peppery taste.  The meat is tender enough.  Somehow, it was pale in comparison to Kusina Felicitas version.


Beverages
bottomless iced tea
Bottomless Iced Tea (55 php)
We asked the server if the Bottomless Iced Tea is house blend.  He told us yes but it turned out to be Nestea.  We didn't mind though since all of us were so thirsty after our day activity under the sun.  We just wished calling for refill could have been easier.


Cakes & Desserts
carrot cake
Carrot Cake (240 php/Whole Mini Cake)
When we asked for their signature cake, the waiter suggested the Carrot Cake.   However, he soon came back and informed us that no more slices for the Carrot Cake were available so we had no choice but to order the whole mini cake. It's a good thing we did because it was delicious!  It was served warm, soft and moist.  The texture and sweetness of the buttercream icing is just right too. 

tiramisu
Tiramisu (90 php/slice)
Another best-seller is their Tiramisu so we also had to try it.  The Tiramisu was a bit sweet with light coffee taste and a crunchy broas at the side.  It didn't stand out as much as the Carrot Cake for us. 


Tsinoy Foodies Verdict
La Preciosa offers delicious Ilocano dishes with fine dining yet local and homey feel.  This is definitely an excellent choice when you're opting for authentic Ilocano food in Laoag.  Despite it being fine dining, the food is quite affordable.  Although Kurt is not usually adventurous in terms of food, I could safely declare that he enjoyed this one.  However, our experience would have been better if the service is a bit faster.  Although the servers are friendly, we could see them scrambling to accommodate the high demands of diners as well as those ordering for take out.   Oh, and don't worry about the attire because we managed to get in wearing shorts and sandy flip flops during our visit. 

Tsinoy Foodies Review Rating La Preciosa Menu
Ambiance Meat | Fish | SeafoodIlocano Dishes
Pasta | Chicken | Vegetables |
 Pulutan | Ala Carte | Sizzling | Rice |
 Soups | Breakfast | Salads | Sandwiches |
Drinks | Beverages | Cakes |
Taste
Service
Price
=Favorites or Recommended 
La Preciosa
Business Address Rizal St., Laoag City, 
Ilocos Norte, Philippines
Business Hours
Payment Options   Cash
Service Charge
Budget/Person 150-300
Free WiFi No
Unlocked Foursquare Perks None
Contact (077) 777-5130
Other  Email: info@lapreciosa-ilocos.com Website
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Cafe Uno and Kusina Felicitas: Delicious Ilocano Dishes

During our day stroll at Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, we Tsinoy Foodies, were looking forward at an authentic Ilocano lunch. 

cafe uno
Among the suggested dining places of our Vigan City Tourism Pamplet is the Uno Grille.  However, it was too crowded so we were pointed by the staff to Cafe Uno which is on the opposite side.


uno grille

Cafe Uno, Uno Grille and Kusina Felicistas have the same owner.  As we entered Cafe Uno, we were ushered to a small wooden round table for two.  The place was also packed so were so we felt lucky that we were accomodated.  We were given two sets of menu: one for Cafe Uno and one for Kusina Felicitas.


cafe uno
Cafe Uno has a cramped yet cozy ambiance.  It had painting hanged on its rustic walls. 

cafe uno
It also has a display of different cups and mugs.

Food
I wanted fellow Tsinoy Foodie Kurt to be acquainted with Ilocano dishes so I gave out some suggestions and he gave the final say.

Kusino Felicitas Menu

Mak-Makan ti Ilocos (The Food of Ilocos)
okilas dinardaraan
Okilas Dinardaraan (100 php)
The Okilas Dinardaraan is fried crispy pork cracking (chicharon) served with dinardaraan dip.  Their version of dinardaraan or pork blood stew is a bit wet so it's already similar to the Tagalog style of dinuguan.  The pork crackling were perfectly crunchy and the dinardaraan was quite tasty with a bit of a zing.  Although this is a sinful dish, both of us were delighted to munch on this.


poqui poqui
Poqui-poqui (100 php)
Kurt isn't a fan of vegetables so we had to compromise with the Poqui-poqui instead of the leafy ones. Its quite controversial because it names sounds quite vulgar in the Filipino language.  But, the Poqui-poqui is actually just the Ilocano's version of eggplant omelet (tortang talong in Tagalog)This is delicious especially with its silky texture that Kurt devoured this as if it was his favorite meat dish.

sinanglao
Sinanglao (190 php)
The Sinanglao has tender beef chunks with skin intact.  We enjoyed the rich flavor of the beef innards which gives a slightly bitterish taste that is countered by the sourness. 


felicitas fried rice
Felicitas Fried Rice (110 php/ good for 3 persons)
Felicitas Fried Rice is a fried rice with longanisa, egg, carrots, cabbage and leeks.  It is quite tasty. 


Cafe Uno
frozen rocha mocha
Frozen Rocha Mocha (90 php)

I'm a sucker for cute sweet treats like this so I was practically had this big smile on my face when the Frozen Rocha Mocha was served.  I was expecting this to be a bit sweet but surprisingly the blend is just right.  The cold coffee is thick, aromatic and delightful.  I loved it!

Tsinoy Foodies Verdict
Kusina Felicitas dishes are delicious and affordable.  The serving size are great for sharing.  It was beyond our expectation so our orders could hardly fit at our table.  Kusina Felicitas is a nice place to get acquainted with Ilocano dishes.  

The ambiance of Cafe Uno is warm and cozy.  It's the perfect place to relax and chill after a exploring the town of Vigan.  Availing yourself of their cool drinks is the perfect way to re-energize yourself against the hot weather outside.  Being a sentimental fool , I'll always remember our lunch here as one of the warmest and happiest among the meals I've spent in a foreign place.  And, although it may be simple but it's these rare moments that I look forward to in my life.

Tsinoy Foodies Review Rating Cafe Uno and Kusina Felicitas Menu
Ambiance Cafe Uno
Pasta | Noodles | Salads
Iced DrinksIced Drinks 2 |
Hot Drinks | Mexican Delights
 Sandwiches | Desserts |
Kusina Felicitas

Mak-Makan ti Ilocos 1Mak-Makan ti Ilocos 2   Asian FavoritesAsian Favorites 2 |
 Dig-Digo | Inaapoy | Pampangas | Exotic

Taste
Service
Price
=Favorites or Recommended 
Cafe Uno and Kusina Felicitas
Business Address G/F Grandpa's Inn, 1 Bonifacio St cor Quirino,
Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Business Hours 3pm-4am
Payment Options   Cash
Service Charge
Budget/Person 100-300
Free WiFi No
Unlocked Foursquare Perks None
Contact (077) 722-2118
Other  Website
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Lilong and Lilang Restaurant and Coffee Shop: Hidden Garden at Vigan Ilocos Sur

When I was young, I used to spend most of my summers at my mom's home town in Ilocos Sur.  I don't have much recollections about the food places we've been to back then so last year, we Tsinoy Foodies, headed to Ilocos Sur after passing by La Union.  

hidden garden vigan ilocos sur
One of the popular tourist destination in Vigan, Ilocos Sur is the Hidden Garden.

hidden garden vigan ilocos sur
It's a bit far from the main district of Vigan City so you have to take a pedicab or kalesa to reach this.  There are many varieties of plants. 

hidden garden vigan ilocos sur
It also show cases superb landscaping because it is owned by a famous landscape artist Francis A. Flores.

hidden garden vigan ilocos sur
All the plants are for sale. 

hidden garden vigan ilocos sur

Some of these plants are new to me.  While, the others we have at home.  The price are a bit expensive since its clearly targeted towards tourists. 


hidden garden vigan ilocos sur
They have an aviary too which is free and open for public viewing.

hidden garden vigan ilocos sur

hidden garden vigan ilocos sur
They also sell pottery items as souvenirs.

Lilong and Lilang Restaurant and Coffee Shop
After roaming around the Hidden Garden under the intense heat of the sun and after seeing all the tempting food advertisemnts hanged along the way, no doubt you'd be headed for Lilong and Lilang Restaurant and Coffee Shop.  It is found within the Hidden Garden.
liong and lilang restaurant
The place has a native feel as you seat on the picnic style wooden tables with the plants and trees surrounding you.  The dining area is quite spacious with a capacity for more than a hundred diners.  As expected, they are also lots of insects so be sure to settle near a fan. 

liong and lilang restaurant
Budget Meals
If you're on a tight budget, you can try their budget meals.

vigan empanada
Vigan Empanada Corner
hidden garden fruit shakes
Fruit Shake Station
Food

Specialty of the House
bagnet
Bagnet (170 php)
The Bagnet is one of Ilocos' famous deep-fried pork belly (kasim) dishes. But, this is the saddest Bagnet I have ever encountered.   The meat is to tough to eat as it is dark and over cooked.  The skin of the pork chunks is not very crunchy too.

Trivia: According to my family and other locals of Ilocos, contrary to the popular belief of tourists, the best Bagnet is not really from Vigan but from Narvacan.

sinanglao
Sinanglao (130 php)
The Sinanglao is served in hot clay pot. 

sinanglao
Sinanglao (130 php)
Sinanglao is another Vigan specialty which is a soup flavored in tamarind and filled with beef innards and skin.  The soup is not as flavorful as I hoped but I found the beef innards and skin quite pleasurable to eat.

igado
Igado (130 php)
The Igado is an Ilocano dish with sliced pork, meat, liver and heart and cooked in their local adobo style.  It is sauteed in garlic and onion then stewed in soy sauce with vinegar, pepper, bayleaf and chickpeas.  This is dried and tasty, just like a local Ilocano would love it.  But, I found its components a bit too tough to chew.


Ilocano Native Delicacies
vigan empanada
Empanada (40 php)
The Vigan Empanada is coated in think dark brown coating and filled with vegetablesThe vegetables were crunchy.  But, the batter is a bit disappointing.  I loved those sold in the streets and markets better.  This is more expensive too. 

Trivia: According to my family and other locals of Ilocos, contrary to the popular belief of tourists, the best Empanada is not really from Vigan but from Batac Ilocos Sur.

Desserts
native halo halo
Hidden Garden Native Halo-Halo (75 php)
The Hidden Garden Native Halo-Halo has a nice presentation since it is very colorful and served in a wooden bowl.  It is delicious and refreshing to eat.   It has a scoop of mango ice cream, jelly, sago, sweetened banana, cereal and coconut shreds. 

Fresh Fruit Shakes
grape fruit shake
Grapes (80 php)
The Grapes fruit shake is a perfect for the hot weather.  It is has a sweet blend too.
melon fruit shake
Melon (80 php)
The Melon fruit shake is nice and milky.  I'd prefer this over the Grapes fruit shake.

buko juice
Buko Juice (40 php)
 The Buko Juice is also a great option.  The coconut they use are young so the juice is sweet and flavorful.


Tsinoy Foodies Verdict
Lilong and Lilang Restaurant and Coffee Shop offers a nice and unique ambiance for tourists.  It's a must stop for the place but not for the food.  The food is not rave worthy especially in terms of pricing.   I'd personally dine there only for the sake of convenience. 

Tsinoy Foodies Review Rating Lilong and Lilang Restaurant and Coffee Shop Menu
Ambiance Menu 1 | Menu 2 |  
Menu 3 | Menu 4 |
Specialty |
Taste
Service
Price
=Favorites or Recommended 
Lilong and Lilang Restaurant and Coffee Shop
Business Address Brgy. Bulala, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
Business Hours 7am-7pm (Closed on Good Friday)
Payment Options Cash
Service Charge

Budget/Person 250-500
Free WiFi No
Unlocked Foursquare Perks None
Contact (077) 722-1240 | (0928) 965-9190
Other  Website
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