Episode 53: Ryback Weekend 2

One weekend, I left work so hungry, I thought another Ryback Weekend is in order. And so it is.

I’ve turned my back on my oath to do away with fastfood ever since I did a review of the Amazing Aloha, but until that weekend, I’ve resisted the urge to eat out in such places. Maybe this time it’s because I’m looking for a quick meal, or I was too drained to think of proper nourishment.

In any case, off I went that lunchtime after work to the nearest mall to pig out. Lunch consisted of a McSpicy with fries and drinks.

From what I gathered, McDonald’s McSpicy is a localized item; I couldn’t find it in the US menu, but it seems it’s available in other countries, such as Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong. (Come to think of it, I hear we’re the only country whose Mickey D’s serves McSpaghetti, but I digress.)

McDo describes the McSpicy as “100% juicy whole chicken meat, seasoned with just the right amount of choice spices, topped with fresh crunchy lettuce and flavorful dressing, all in a perfectly toasted sesame seed bun.”

Looks like McDonald’s really did a number on this one, trumpeting it as one really spicy sandwich that can tickle the Filipino tastebud. Some (off-cam and off-mike) even compare it to KFC’s Zinger, that mighty sandwich that made tongues burn and hearts palpitate (when it first came out, that is).

So I ordered a McSpicy, and what I got was a deconstructed chicken fillet with shredded lettuce and dressing on top, sandwiched between the halves of a sesame seed bun.

Does it look good? Yup. Does it look tasty? Judging by the ads, and then comparing it to the stuff on my plate, so-so. Now, does it taste good? The chicken fillet was meaty, and there was a small hint of spiciness in the fillet, but that was it. I’m sure I ordered a McSpicy, not a McNotSoSpicy. A guy like me who likes his food spicy should know. Then again, your mileage may vary.

Anyway, the McSpicy does tickle the ordinary burger eater’s taste buds, but nothing much can be said, other than it being the next Mickey D’s novelty burger. There must be a burger out there that’s worthy of the tag “spicy,” aside from the Zinger, that is.

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Speaking of KFC, I took the trouble of falling in line to get one of those “manly,” big-sized meals of theirs, one of which is that Double Decker Fully Loaded Meal

I have to give credit to KFC for coming up with monstrosities like the Double Decker Burger. It’s basically two chicken fillets with cheese and coleslaw in a sesame seed bun. Now THIS is what I call a manly burger. Now add a cup of rice and a piece of chicken (original or hot and spicy, and you’re in for a heavy meal.

Does it look good? Yup. Does it look tasty? So-so. Now, does it taste good? Well, if you’re the type who likes all of his favorites in one plate, a Fully Loaded Meal is meant for you.

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Come Sunday, I’ve had enough of fastfood chicken, so I went after that one place at SM North EDSA that I’ve been most curious about: Chuck’s Grub.

From what I’ve gathered, Chuck’s Grub is a brainchild of the husband and wife team Enrique and Isha Andaya-Valles. It started as a featured stall at Mercato Centrale at The Fort (yup, THAT Mercato Centrale), and takes pride of being the first fish and chips shop in the country. It’s said that Enrique, who stayed for a while at London, thought the Philippines should be able to enjoy this staple British meal. To date, it already has a good following, with six branches already opened around Metro Manila.

The best-sellers at Chuck’s Grub would be the beer battered dory and chips. Now, dory is your typical, everyday budget fish fillet treat, but here it becomes more special. Nowadays they also serve rice meals, burgers, and calamari, among others, so anyone who needs a quick seafood fix can feel at home here.

My lunch/dinner – lupper? – was a serving of cobbler (four pieces of it), a recommended fish for meat lovers because of its flavor and consistency in the palate. This came with unlimited chips (promo, promo), and dips of your choice (mine was vinegar and garlic mayo). I also ordered some beer to help everything go down.

To say that I liked Chuck’s Grub’s fish and chips is an understatement. The fish was flavorful, the chips were not too salty, and the dips complement the meal. Even though I was hungry, I couldn’t help but let the flavors of the fish linger in mouth so I could savor the experience of eating good fish. My only problem is the price – each is worth a full meal elsewhere, which would be a turn-off for heavy eaters out there, but it’s worth every cent, for all I care.

Anyway, I left the shop full and satisfied, hoping for a chance – and a bigger budget – to try out their beer battered halibut. I hear it’s rich and creamy, a mouthwatering experience for fish lovers, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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Episode 52: Ryback Weekend

One Saturday, I went off work so down and hungry, I decided out of the blue that for the rest of the weekend, I’d go pig out for lunch. I’ve never eaten out for a long while, much more treat myself, so I was bent on eating what pleases me. That was what I would later on call my “Ryback Weekend”.

(cue Ryback’s theme “Meat On The Table”)

A quick walk around SM North EDSA brought me to Kangaroo Jack, a fastfood-style Australian steakhouse. Now this was admittedly my first time to dine there (I stopped food-tripping for a while due to budget restraints, mind you), so I wasn’t familiar with their menu. Ergo, the steaks and grilled selections themselves were out of the question. Same goes with the pasta and sandwiches. I could have gotten a recommendation.

Then I noticed their merienda buffet promo, which was only worth P220 per head.

As expected of a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat spread, the place was quite packed, but not so crowded that there won’t be space for “table for one,” namely, me. Now that I think about it, this would be the first time in years that I had an all-you-can-eat raid by myself.

And so, like a hungry wrestler, I started my raid.

Round 1: spaghetti with meat sauce, fish fillet, mushroom soup with garlic bread, pepperoni pizza

The batch of mushroom soup that I got was getting cold, and the croutons have all but melted. What’s the rule when it comes to croutons in soup? Wait, there isn’t any? Ah, whatever. 

The thin-crust pepperoni pizza was crispy and cheesy, and tasty like a heavy appetizer. The spaghetti could have used a bit less sauce but it was meaty and flavorful. The winning dish, though, was the creamy and lightly breaded fish fillet, best when paired with the pizza.

Round 2: pesto pasta, fried chicken, fish fillet

The pesto pasta was mild, not too pesto but good enough. With it came more pieces of fish fillet, and some fried (read: kinda heavily breaded) chicken. Still passed my standards, though. By then, I was pacing myself and taking small portions so I can try everything on the buffet.

Round 3: java rice, more fried chicken and fish fillet

By this time, a couple had occupied the table next to me. A few more enter the restaurant and prepare to attack the buffet table. There’s also a few waitresses surrounding my table, as if they were waiting for me to mess up and leave leftovers. I paid no heed and continued my meal. More fried chicken this time, more fish fillet, plus some java rice. This is pretty heavy stuff.

Round 4: callos, pork ribs (read: bones), plain rice

The callos (that’s beef tripe for you) tasted great, especially when eaten with its sour, tomato-ish sauce mixed with steamed rice. The pork ribs, well… All I got were bones and a thick, spicy sauce.

Round 5: nachos, macaroni salad, more callos and pork ribs (now with meat), plain rice

Nachos with salsa and macaroni salad in the middle of the meal? Why not? The bad news is that either my taste buds are already screwed,  or there’s something sour in my macaroni salad. I took a small serving just for compliance and got more callos and a fresh batch of pork ribs (now with soft, sweet-spicy meat).

Round 6: more pepperoni pizza, fried chicken, mushroom soup

I was already a bit bloated at this point, but I suddenly craved for more pizza. Off I went then for a few more slices, some fried chicken, and more mushroom soup. By then, the people around my area have left, and new customers have arrived.

Round 7: banana fritters and coffee jelly with chocolate sauce     

An hour and a half after I started my “merienda” buffet raid, it was time for dessert. I quickly finished the sweet coffee jelly and the chewy fritters, paid my bill, and left. I definitely overstayed my welcome. On the other hand, I ate so much I was momentarily unable to walk, but my hunger was definitely sated. Let’s just say I went home in a good mood.

At the end of the day, though, Kangaroo Jack’s food is affordable, but not something you’d want to come back to over and over again. The service is great, but the buffet dishes are a hit-or-miss. If I feel like having steak and I’m low on cash, I’ll probably drop by here, but that’s for another story.

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I was very hungry when I left work the next day, so I decided I’d go find myself a good meal. Not a buffet this time, just a big meal worth my money.

…Or so I hoped, because I came across Dragon Chef at the fourth floor of Trinoma

Dragon Chef is headed by restaurateur Ricky Laudico (Marciano’s, SumoSam, etc.) and Chef Florabel Co-Yatco (Crisostomo, Elias, Florings, etc.).”Hearty and Hip Chinese Cuisine,” their tagline says, and it’s obvious with its wide selection of classic Chinese dishes.

As fate would have it, they were offering a dimsum buffet worth P329 (tax not included) that afternoon. I never bothered to ask if it was a limited offer or something. I just followed my gut (har har, gut) feeling and went in.

It took a very long while before I realized I was dining alone in the restaurant. Cue “The Way It Used To be”.

Round 1: seafood siomai, ha gao (shrimp dumpling), xiao long bao, Yang Chow fried rice

Ah, xiao long bao. That soft, hot, soupy dumpling never failed to amaze me. There was a time when I referred to xiao long bao as “Syaoran Pao,” but I digress. Along with it came small servings (you have to order each dimsum per piece, and some require for you to wait a while) of seafood siomai, ha gao, and a bowl of Yang Chow fried rice. Steamed dimsum is indeed the best.

Round 2: spicy pork and mushroom, shrimp wanton

A few bits of fried dimsum were next on my list. They took a few minutes of cooking, but it was worth the wait. Crunchy bits of spicy meat and soft seafood in a deep-fried shell is heavenly, especially when dipped in soy sauce, calamansi, and chili oil.

Round 3: pork and seafood siomai, steamed spare ribs, Yang Chow fried rice

The main dish for this course was steamed spare ribs. This is really tender in every bite, with a hint of sweet and salty in its juices. Next came a plate of pork and seafood siomai, and more Yang Chow fried rice. I just remembered, they say Chinese cuisine uses so many seasoning on their dishes, so eating make you feel bloated and very thirsty. The stuff I’ve had so far went down easy, though, so it’s all good.

Round 4: fried beef dumpling, shrimp dumpling, xiao long bao, chicken feet… or at least what’s left of them. Whoops.

I don’t eat chicken feet, but when I do, I want it steamed and braised. Chewing on animal gelatin and chicken fat is blissful, like unblocking your chakras and letting warm, delicious streams of energy flow within you. Can’t say the same for roasted feet.

By this time, I could feel the waiter and the cooks glaring at me. I’m still the lone customer in the place, though. Either I’m making them work too much or this is the first time someone raided their whole buffet menu.

Round 5: chocolate peanut buchi, almond lychee

At this point, I was sure I’ve tried everything on the menu, so I ordered for the final course: dessert. The almond lychee was just fine, but the hot chocolate peanut buchi won me over.

My only regret is that I forgot to ask for how long they will offer that buffet promo. It’s the only way at the moment that I can have my dimsum fix, especially xiao long bao.

As for the regular menu, Dragon Chef’s dishes are good for sharing, which is why they’re expensive, in my price range, at least. I know that dining in places like these require you to be with someone, either your family, friends, or a date, but not for me at the moment. That’s why I’m making do with the buffet.

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If there’s something I learned from my weekend buffet binge, it’s that my stomach can no longer handle rich stuff, much more buffets. All the stuff I ate gave me a few additional kilograms instantly too. I think I skipped dinner and next day’s breakfast after eating so much, to offset that, but to no avail. Still, it was worth the adventure.

I also learned the buffet culture is really rich. People always want to try a little bit of everything, be it sports, clothing, or cuisine. Especially cuisine. That’s why buffet restaurants are hot businesses – there’s always a dish suited for everyone, and every dish is sure to disappear (partly because there’s that “no-leftover” policy to think about).

Finally, you can never have too much of good things, like food. Okay, maybe you’ll get indigestion or a frequently full bladder, but seeing all of your favorites in one table will surely make your stomach yell “Feed me more! Feed me more!” and urge you on. Heck, being able to eat as much as you want is one of the finer things in life.

Now then, where’s the next buffet raid?