Episode 24: Return to Banchetto! Man versus Burger!

When I last visited Banchetto, I missed the chance to get one of those half-pound burgers, those big, beefy monstrosities served on a giant bun with tomatoes, lettuce, and whatnots.

For so long, those big-pattied burgers were so elusive, so hard to come by, no thanks to the long lines for those wanting a (figurative) piece of it. I remember those vein-blocking beasts staring at me from the grill, their smoky eyes leering at me, teasing my nose and taste buds, taunting me as if I will never be able to press my lips and sink my teeth on their tempting carcasses. (Just so you know, what I had last time was just a 1/3 pound burger.)

One Friday night, I decided I’m going back to Banchetto, find more treats to try out, eat more, and finish my previous commitment here: hunt that damned half-pounder.

For this episode, I joined the tandem of Tsongkibenj and Deah Ricacho (from Aksyon TV Ch. 41’s “Andar ng mga Balita”, and Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM’s Nite Chat and Kasindak-sindak). After their radio program that night, we drove off to Emerald Avenue, and to the target destination.

Banchetto is still that same eye-catching, mouth-watering feast that continues to draw customers from all over Metro Manila. The usual stalls are there: the dessert shops, the barbecue grills, the ones selling rice meals and specialty dishes. The scent of grilled meat and cooked breads still wafts all over the place. As always, Banchetto was crowded with patrons from Ortigas and God knows where else. Wading through the sea of people is still a chore, but a fulfilling one nonetheless.

We eventually settled down at a nearby barbecue chain so Before taking on that half-pound burger, the group had a few stops to make.

First up was a panna cotta, a big cube of semi-sweet, syrupy, gelatinous goodness. Dessert first? Works for me.

My favorite takoyaki stall was there as always. I remember having one of these in my first visit, and this time, I bought not one but all three varieties of these: wasabi, garlic, and peppered mayo. Tsongkibenj said it’s good and all as long as you don’t eat them at rapid succession. Still, I ended up finishing about two boxes of takoyaki. Yum, yum.

There was a stall that sold grilled salmon and buttered vegetables, one that I didn’t notice in my first visit. Tsongkibenj suggested that we get some. The salmon was well-grilled; the salmon skin was a bit salty, but the savory taste of the flesh and vegetables balanced the flavor of the whole package. The two also bought California maki (which disappeared quite quickly) and crème brulee (which I didn’t try).

And then there’s that ddukbokkie, Korean spicy rice cakes. I bought a serving for me to enjoy at home, but I forgot to eat it; so when I took it out of the fridge and reheated it a few days later, I found out that the spicy stuff seeped into the rice cakes and it was all good.

Now what’s Banchetto without lechon? Filipinos love it, the lechoneros of La Loma have perfected it, every feast in the country isn’t complete without it, but me… I’m ordered on the pain of literal death to avoid that crispy, juicy, sinful chunk of meaty goodness. Avoid it I did for some time, but now, in the name of love and all things in this world that are good, I’m gonna enjoy and adore this dish all my life.

I found the damned half-pound burger at the Monster Burger stall, and surprisingly, the line for orders wasn’t that long. I had to wait for an hour before the burger gets cooked, though. Didn’t matter.

You may think the half-pound patty looked really big while uncooked but will shrink into a packed, crumbled mass of meat once served to you, and guess what, you’re right. Don’t be discouraged, though. Also, the burger comes in a big, fluffy bun with a good amount of tomatoes and lettuce. Add-ons? You pay extra for cheese and wasabi mayo.

Finally came the moment of truth: the half-pound burger is ready.

Now then, how should I describe this burger: rich, delicious, thick, beefy, juicy, savory? Cholesterol-ridden, even? The moment my teeth sank on that burger patty, it felt like I was biting through chunk after chunk of heavenly goodness. Eating the burger was messy, but every piece of it was satisfying. The veggies were fresh, the bun was soft to the palate, and the patty itself was melting in my mouth. There was a whole storm of flavors whirling in my mouth. Needless to say, my tongue and belly were satisfied.

The sad thing about the trip to Banchetto that night was that I must have overfed myself. I ate so much of the panna cotta, takoyaki, salmon, maki, and the burger, that I’m so stuffed I couldn’t sleep by the time I got home. So much for watching my food intake.

Seriously though, Banchetto is still the best place so far to get your money’s worth when it comes to food. There are just so many dishes to try out and so many types of cuisine to choose from. Will there be a third time here? I sure hope so. After all, I haven’t tried the kebabs.


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