Episode 101: Of Cravings, Large Servings, and Ramen Shokudo

Satisfying a craving for ramen is quite easy nowadays, with the dozens of Japanese restaurants popping out in the metro for the past few years. But sometimes, just grabbing the nearest bowl of ramen within reach isn’t enough. If you’re going to eat ramen, you might as well get the most satisfying noodles that you can, right?

The invitation that day was a bit sudden: Maiya was craving for ramen, and she wanted to try out Ramen Shokudo, a new Japanese ramen restaurant in Quezon City. Being the ramen fan that I always am, I agreed to accompany her to dinner.

I found out later that Ramen Shokudo was a relatively new place. The restaurant opened last February 2017, and it boasts of serving authentic Yokohama-style ramen, made with 100 percent natural ingredients and no MSG. That’s quite a tall order.

To add to the authenticity of the restaurant, the dining area is set up in a cozy bar-style with a grand view of the action in the kitchen, similar to ramen bars in Japan. The area can accommodate about 22 people, which also means you may have to fall in line before you can get seated. Just like in Japan.

First off on our meal was their gyoza, the traditional ramen side dish. The gyoza had a crispy, salty, oily feel in it, complimented by the spicy kick of their gyoza sauce.

Along with the gyoza came the curry cheese roll, their best-selling appetizer, which is basically deep-fried gooey cheese rolls with curry drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise. The taste of the savory cheese and the spicy curry blended well, especially while it was hot.

Finally, it was time for the ramen.

Ramen Shokudo’s best-selling tantanmen is a bowl of thick, dense noodles resting on a rich broth and topped with a slice of juicy chasyu, ajitama, and minced pork. The result is a rush of spicy, creamy, meaty, oily, peanut-like flavors bursting in your palate.

Maiya ordered the shoyu ramen, noodles with a mix of pork and chicken broth in a savory soy sauce base and topped with menma, scallions, and ajitama. This variety is light and mildly salty, and is recommended for those who like simple, subtle flavors in their ramen.

The servings were large and quite heavy, but we still slurped our way through the noodles like it’s the biggest thing we’ve had in life. I’ve eaten tantanmen in a lo of places, but this has been the best and the most satisfying bowl I’ve had in years.

As for Maiya, judging by her reactions, it looks like eating at Ramen Shokudo satisfied her cravings in many ways. In the end, though, she could only finish three-fourths of her ramen, and she was so full by the time we left. Yup, the ramen must have been that heavy.  Not for me though, since I finished off mine with ease, but my stomach is a different story altogether.

Perhaps it was a good thing that Ramen Shokudo didn’t have dessert; otherwise our stomachs and waistlines would have been busted afterwards… except she started asking about that crepe shop I casually mentioned on the way home. Maybe next time.

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Ramen Shokudo
401 Banawe St., Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City
Tel. No.: (02) 247 7873

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P.S. It’s been months since I last blogged about food. Sure, I get to post on Instagram about my latest food adventures, but I’ve never had the time to write here. Looks like this latest assignment is my wake-up call to start eating – and writing – again.

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Episode 64: Where To Eat Near (and somewhat near) the TV5 Media Center

TV5 moved to its new headquarters, the TV5 Media Center, in Mandaluyong last December. The place is huge, it houses better equipment, and everything’s so stylish and neat-looking that it feels more like an office for an international news agency than a TV station. It’s quite far from home, but the excitement brought by driving at full speed to the new office and zipping past heavy traffic kinda adds to the romanticism of the job.

Working at the new TV5 Media Center is more comfortable now, but the only problem is where to eat. Unlike in Novaliches where there’s a canteen and a mall across the street, we’re sitting amidst a sea of concrete buildings, with no visible place to get a quick, cheap meal, much more breakfast. (Not to mention breakfast is very important to me. “Higit sa balita, almusal muna,” as I always say.)

I took the time to look around for places where I could eat, and these are what I’ve tried out, in no particular order:

Robinsons Forum – just near the MRT Boni Station and the tricycle terminal, some of Robinsons’s fastfood chains are already open early in the morning. Country Style, which sells my favorite Triple Choco Boom bread, is also open at this time.

Hanako Express – For those near the Robinsons Forum area, Hanako is located at Madison Street near Globe Towers. It’s a great place to get Japanese rice bowls for lunch. So far I’ve tried their katsudon, which is small but filling.

I also tried their Meiji chocolate cake – it’s rich and sickeningly sweet, like a spring romance.

Fastfood chains – Speaking of fastfood chains, there are two Jollibee branches along Pioneer Street that are a few minutes’ walk from TV5 Reliance. One is at the intersection of Pioneer and Sheridan, while the other is further ahead towards Kapitolyo. Either way, Breakfast Joys are served quite quickly since only a few customers come in the morning. It’s the distance from TV5 Reliance that turns me off, so if I wanted to dine there, I’d go there before proceeding to work.

Meanwhile, there’s a  7-11 branch several meters away from Jollibee, where you can get a quick konbini snack and more.

If you’re facing TV5 Reliance, at the intersection to your right is a McDonalds. On our first day in Mandaluyong, many TV5 employees who reported in the morning dined there, especially because it’s the nearest restaurant from the office. The quickest you can get from there is their Sausage McMuffin with Egg, which is good enough for breakfast in my book. (If I had more time, I’d get the Big Breakfast.)

There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts branch at the intersection to your left (again, if you’re facing TV5 Reliance). I discovered that Dunkin’ Donuts already has a Kani Wasabi Bunwich variety; it turns out they’re sold only in malls and big branches. Nothing beats an infusion of wasabi and crab in the morning.

(Recently, though, their Kani Wasabi tastes only like Kani without the Wasabi. I wonder if they ran out of wasabi to mix with the crab spread. I hope the same’s not happening in other branches, or it’s about to get phased out so soon.)

Greenfield District – The Greenfield District is a shopping and dining complex at Shaw Boulevard. There are lots of restaurants to choose from, both fastfood and casual, so you’re sure to find one for your preference. So far I’ve had lunch at the Ramen Bar and Wendy’s.

Rufo’s  – There’s a Rufo’s branch at the Shaw Boulevard area for those who prefer to start their with the classic Filipino breakfast of champions. I’ve heard so much about their saucy, tummy-filling tapsilog, and I’m not disappointed. I’d like to visit this branch at night though, when customers come there to drink beer and dine on their beer matches.

Persiana – Persiana opened along Pioneer Street in 1994 to serve people’s craving for delicious, filling, and affordable Mediterranean dishes. They’re best known for their gyros, pizzas, and rice meals. The place is good for small gatherings over lunch or dinner.

So far I’ve tried their spicy cheese sticks and shawarma, and for a restaurant-grade treat, they’re quite good.

Kanto Freestyle Breakfast – for those around the Kapitolyo area, Kanto Freestyle Breakfast is the best place for all-day, belly-busting, have-it-your-way breakfast meals. You can get two eggs done as you want it, garlic rice, and the treat of your choice, and you can have the breakfast of your dreams. (They have set meals, too.) Kanto also serves marvelous pancakes and breakfast sandwiches.

My only problem with this place is that seating is quite limited, and you may have to wait for a while to get served since the place is always full with customers. The wait is worth it, though.

Tasty Tucker – Right next door (and the nearest landmark to TV5 Reliance) is Tasty Tucker. The first I visited ever since I came to Mandaluyong, it serves a mean selection of Filipino and European dishes such as rice meals, all day breakfasts, pasta, pizza, and salads, plus cakes and pastries.

My favorite meal at Tasty Tucker is the Australian Big Breakfast, a plateful of bacon, sausage, hash browns, toasted tomatoes, and toasted bread (though I still tend to order a cup of rice with it). The meals here are a bit expensive, so it would be best to dine here on paydays or when you feel like splurging.

Old school street food – There are a few carinderias near TV5 Reliance for those who have a really tight food budget. I spotted one at a garage for jeepneys along Sheridan Street. They serve the standard P30-40 per serving viands, plus P10 for a cup of rice, which is good enough.

Then there’s that carinderia near the police station at Greenfield District. It’s more spacious, and they serve more viands, including pork barbecue and mami. I prefer having their sinigang na baboy and fried liempo.

There are a lot of other places near Sheridan, Reliance, and Pioneer Streets where one can eat and spend time with coworkers and friends. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your budget, taste, and whether you have the time for leisurely dining. As for me, as long as I can have my breakfast, and it doesn’t hurt my wallet too much, it’s all good.

Episode 59: Ryback Weekend 3

Once again I found myself at the receiving end of a draining, stress-filled weekend at work, and so it was decided that a good weekend feast is in order. (I know some people think this is unhealthy, but c’mon, allow me this one luxury to de-stress myself, you know?)

There’s a bunch of new restaurants at SM North EDSA that I haven’t explored yet, one of which is Arafu Cafe at the main mall’s third floor. It’s a welcome addition to the hundreds of Japanese food spots in Metro Manila, although this place is all about home-cooked comfort food.

From what I gathered, Arafu Cafe started as a food delivery service for Japanese expats at Bonifacio Global City. The business, owned by Ms. Manami Maejima, soon developed into a restaurant at The Fort, and because of its following, a second branch found its way into SM North EDSA.

Instead of the usual Japanese fare, Arafu Cafe boasts of its hamburger steaks (or should we say “hamburg/hanbagu”) as its specialty. Yes, Barangay Ginebra, it’s their version of the Salisbury steak. The Japanese version is usually made from ground meat (pork and beef) with finely chopped onions, egg and breadcrumbs flavored with various spices. It’s a favorite bento dish, especially for kids, as well as a lunch treat in fastfood restaurants.

My lunch/dinner was a Tawara Hamburg Steak, served with refillable rice and clear soup.

The Tawara Hamburg Steak is think, succulent, and soft, not like the usual melt-in-your-mouth steaks, but with a noticeably meaty goodness. You can feel a juicy and rich flavor being unleashed in your palate in every bite. By the way, the hamburg steaks here are usually served with either the subtly-flavored demi-glace sauce, or the Japanese sauce to enhance the taste.

I also ordered as a side dish some Dashimaki Tamago or tamagoyaki – egg rolls served with grated daikon radish and soy sauce, another lunchtime staple. It’s different from the tamagoyaki I’ve tried in other places – soft, almost watery, lightly flavored but filling.

The last part of the meal was a cup of cappuccino and a marble cookie, a sweet ending to a savory meal.

Thanks to Arafu Cafe, I’m adding hamburg steak to my list of Japanese comfort food (along with omurice, ramen and sushi, among others). Rice meals like this are served quick and easy to enjoy.  Now that I remember it, I got a Tonkatsu Combo, which makes it two comfort food choices in one plate. They also have combos with fried chicken, ebi furai (shrimp), and smoked sausage, by the way.

Speaking of tonkatsu…

Arafu Cafe – SM City North EDSA

Third Floor, Main Building, SM City North EDSA
Phone: (02) 4410268

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Yabu House of Katsu is said to be one of the restaurants that brought the katsu craze in the Philippines. Okay, we can consider this high-end katsu, according to our wallets, at least, but it still attracted a lot of local foodies.

Yabu boasts that its katsu is made through the expertise of katsu specialist, Chef Kazuya Takeda of Tonkatsu Takeshin, one of the best tonkatsu restaurants in Tokyo. This place has been around for a while, but it was only very recently when I was able to treat myself to any of their specialties. Long story. Question is, what made their katsu so popular?

My target was Yabu’s branch at The Block at SM North EDSA. For my dinner, I ordered their specialty dish, the Kurobota Pork Set. When they said it’s a big, succulent slab of premium pork cutlet, they weren’t kidding!

Before I forget, I also got spme appetizer – hiyayakku tofu and a potato and egg salad. They’re heavy!

The cutlet comes with Yabu’s signature katsu sauce, which is served before you get to eat. You are then asked to perform some sort of pre-dining ritual – you grind some toasted sesame seeds with a mini mortar and pestle and then mix it with the katsu sauce. The finer the ground seeds, the tastier the sauce, so they say.

The pork is covered in a light coating of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and are fried to a crispy finish. The meat is juicy and so tender and soft that it’s easy to bite on. All of Yabu’s katsu sets are served with unlimited Japanese rice, miso soup, shredded cabbage and a bowl of fruit.

I was mistaken when I thought the premium pork cutlet was tasty because it had less fat and more meat. The server pointed out that it was, in fact, the fattiest in the menu. It’s just that the fat is really packed in with the meat, which enhances the flavor. The cutlet isn’t your typical melt-in-your-mouth type – it actually feels coarse and crunchy in your palate – but it’s the flavor that makes every bite worth it.
The glutton in me decided I wanted to try more of Yabu’s products, so several minutes later, into my table came a la carte servings of salmon cutlets and potato croquettes. I also ordered some of their sake. Woo-hoo.

Despite being expensive, people flock to Yabu, and for good reason. Despite being a mere cutlet house, everyone likes their katsu, be it pork, chicken, or seafood. Then there’s the unlimited rice and soup (you can never go wrong with unlimited rice). Lastly, it’s probably the feel of partaking in something as authentic as ramen or sushi, luxurious as it is.

If I get the chance, I’d get one of their katsudon varieties. Have I mentioned I developed a love for katsudon? They say policemen feed it to criminals to make them confess, and students eat it before exams as a morale booster. For me, it’s just a rice bowl worth enjoying, plain and simple, though I’ve tried a lot of katsudon from other stores. I’ll reserve that for another story.

Yabu: House of Katsu
SM The Block
2/F The Block, SM City North EDSA

Episode 28: How to eat sushi, and then some

I love sushi, plain and simple. I love the taste of raw salmon, the sweetness of the sushi rice, and the sudden burst of wasabi in every bite. Anyone who’s into Japanese cuisine would have sushi among their favorites, along with ramen, tempura, curry rice and yakiniku. It is, after all, the most popular icon of Japanese cuisine.

So when Century Tsukiji (at Century Park Hotel) announced that it’s having an all-you-can-eat sushi promo, I thought why not go for it, I can enjoy as much sushi as I want. It’s the Japanese food fan’s ultimate fantasy! But what I thought was a simple food raid turned into a crash course on the Japanese way of eating sushi.

As soon as MC and I entered Century Tsukiji, we took our seats at the sushi bar, where all the fresh fish are at. If you’re having sushi, the bar is said to be the best place to have it; not only is the service faster; you can watch how the sushi is prepared and served.

Chef Yamazaki, Century Tsukiji’s sushi chef, was at the bar to take my orders. Right beside his station are thick, chilled slabs of fish and other seafood, including octopus legs. Damn, they look fresh and tasty. Heck, come to think of it, it’s the freshness of the fish that makes sushi special.

The server brought us some oshiburi (hot towels). I remember reading that some Japanese restaurants give oshiburi to customers before they dine. It’s supposedly the norm. After wiping our hands, the server poured some hot tea and soy sauce of us.
While my sushi is being prepared, the server brought a pot of dobinmushi (clear soup with shrimp, chicken, mushroom, and calamansi on the side), and chawanmushi (steamed egg custard with shiitake, ginko nuts, chicken and seafood). I learned that just in case the sushi chef takes a while to serve me, I can have some of those.

A server set a plate near the bar counter, and Chef Yamazaki placed piece by piece of sushi. He said I’m allowed to dig in at this point and he’ll just fill up my plate as I go.

And fill the plate he did, as he served what turns out to be a total of 21 varieties of sushi for me. There’s the tuna and salmon, crabstick, octopus, cuttlefish, sea urchin, mackerel, shrimp (boiled and raw, salmon roe, eel, egg, maya-maya, flatfish, tawilis, octopus… Ack, I can’t remember the rest!

With the sushi in place, I knew it was time to attack. I quickly took out the chopsticks set beside me…
“No chopsticks! Eat the sushi with your hand!” Chef Yamazaki suddenly said.
While eating sushi with chopsticks is fine for some, more traditional Japanese prefer that you eat them with your hands. Hence, the oshiburi. (Also, it ensures that you don’t drop the sushi in case your hands go numb from holding chopsticks.) Your mileage may vary, though.
At the plate is a small mound of gari (pickled ginger) and wasabi. Eat only a little bit of gari to clear your palate, I was told. No wasabi on your soy sauce; wasabi loses its flavor when mixed in soy sauce. If wasabi is added, apply it on the fish using chopsticks if you wish.
By the way, trust the sushi chef to know how much wasabi would make your sushi taste good. If the wasabi’s flavor crawls to your nose on the first bite, banzai!
You’re not supposed to dip the sushi rice first, because the rice would absorb the soy sauce and fall apart. Dip the fish side instead. Toppings with their own sauce, i.e. eel (unagi) should not be dipped in soy sauce.
A sushi meal is traditionally ended with a bowl of soup, hence, the dobinmushi. I sipped everything and ate the morsels while eating the sushi. Oh well.

After finishing all 21 varieties of sushi, the real fun started. Anyone would be satisfied with eating the whole line-up of Century Tsukiji’s sushi, but no, Barangay Ginebra, I’m here for the all-you-can-eat sushi promo, and eat all I can is what I was about to do.

First up was some California maki, rice roll with crab, mayonnaise, nori, rice, sesame seeds, and tobiko. Some enthusiasts say California maki is for wimps; why eat this when there’s good sushi available? Futo maki, (fish powder, egg, gourd, vegetables, rice, and nori) was next, followed by some octopus sushi, raw shrimp, salmon, and whatnot.
 While all of this was going on, we took the time to talk with Chef Yamazaki. He helped us identify some of the fish I had, and then went on to proudly say how fast a sushi chef he is; in fact, back when he was younger, he could prepare 120 pieces or so of sushi in one hour. (Wow, that restaurant where was in must have been really busy!)

Accommodating and cordial as he is, the chef looks very dedicated in his craft, and strict when it comes to enjoying sushi the traditional way. In any case, it’s nice to strike a conversation with the sushi chef; it establishes rapport and the chance that you’d be recognized as a valued customer.

Soon, Century Tsukiji was about to close for the afternoon. Any last orders, I was asked. “One more of that first set I had earlier,” I answered.
“What? You’re gonna eat all of that?” MC asked. He should have known better.
MC didn’t avail of the sushi promo since he didn’t want to stuff himself and go fat. Instead, he ordered a bento meal with sashimi, several kinds of appetizers, chawanmushi, salmon teriyaki, assorted vegetables and seafood, stir-fried noodles, shrimp and vegetable tempura, and rice (his most hated part of the meal).
It’s not the only stuff that Century Tsukiji serves; they also have teishoku (set meals), sashimi, noodles, salads, grilled dishes and desserts. They also serve beer and Japanese sake, just what you can expect from a place that takes pride in being as authentic as a Japanese restaurant can be.

Eating norms vary in every country. Filipinos, for example, can eat with or without utensils, though if one want to impress the locals, eating food with bare hands is the way to go. (Phil Younghusband comes to mind.) Woe to you if you end up in countries where you’re expected to dine with only your right hand. Table manners in other countries, utensil or not, is another matter.

The same goes with Japanese cuisine. Now that I remember, the Japanese follow lots of dining rules, such as the consumption of noodles and soup, the proper use chopsticks, pouring alcoholic drinks, paying (or not paying) tips, etc. This from a culture that shows high regard for tradition.


In the case of sushi, eating it the way the Japanese traditionally do adds to the enjoyment of the experience. Plus, the sushi looks really pretty sitting in that plate, and you can’t help but admire it first before eating it. After all, the Japanese dine not only with their palate, but with all five senses.


Knowing cuisine etiquette is a way to show respect to the country whose cuisine you’re eating. Whether it’s to have a deep understanding of a foreign culture, to impress your hosts, to act properly in formal situations, or simply to be able to do as the locals do, following the norms at their dinner table is an interesting and enlightening dining experience.

However, keep in mind that some people from different cultures can’t eat the way we do. Some would even prefer to eat something the way they want it. Let this go. We have to respect the way we eat, though we must remind them to respect ours as well. Respect and tolerance, along with proper education, is the key.

By the way, I learned recently that one is supposed to eat sushi moderately, and set a pace at it. It’s said that eating more than ten kinds of fish and other seafood is too much because your palate numbs. And yet I ate 21 kinds of sush, and quickly at thati. I ended up very full, heavy, and sleepy for the rest of the day. Thank goodness for the gari.

Episode 19: Tweetup at Ramen Bar! Opening up to society, and then some!


tweetup (plural tweetups)
Noun – A real-life meeting organised on the social networking site Twitter.



Tweetups are great places to meet people you encounter over the Internet. It’s nice to interact face to face with people whom you only know through usernames and talk to through Twitter posts. Nothing beats making new connections at a personal level.


Believe it or not, I’m a newbie at going to tweetups and gatherings like these. Maybe it’s because I go out alone most of the time, or I don’t get invitations, or when I do I end up being out of place or “alone in a crowd”, so to speak. Call me socially inept, but that’s how it is.

So when I came across this invitation to a tweetup, I was eager to sign up. While joining a tweetup is a nice experience for an adventurer like me, there was actually another reason I was motivated into attending it.

The tweetup was to be held at Ramen Bar, a newly opened Japanese restaurant at the ground floor of Eastwood Mall in Libis, Quezon City. Okay, so it’s newly opened but foodies in Metro Manila are already raving about this place and its food.

(Now if it’s ramen, and if it is authentic as they say, I am SO there.) 


Ramen Bar is owned by Charles Paw (also the owner of Digital Hub), Japanese chef Masa Ishikawa, and his friend Yoshi Kadowaki. As the name suggests, the place specializes in authentic ramen, the recipes of which are made by Chef Masa himself (who, I heard, has his own ramen bars in Nagoya, Japan).

There were other guests aside from the tweetup participants inside Ramen Bar; good thing there were chairs for those who were willing to wait for seats. The place is small with a fastfood feel in it; simple but a bit too plain for a specialty restaurant like this. The caricatures at the walls were funny though.

Before anything else, mealtime.

  

First stop is the R.B.S. #1 (Ramen Bar Special #1 – P380), a soy-infused tonkotsu ramen topped with tamago (soft-boiled egg), naruto (fish sticks), nori (dried seaweed), negi (spring onion), chasyu and kakuni (braised pork belly).

The kakuni is so soft and flavorful. The seaweed and fish sticks are tasty and go well with the broth. The broth itself has a hint of pepper and soy sauce in every sip. The noodles are al dente, they’re chewy, and every bite makes your palate aware of the other flavors in your ramen. I liked the RBS because there were so many flavors swimming in your mouth but they don’t overwhelm each other. My only problem with this is that the ramen cools down to room temperature quickly.

Shio Torigara Ramen (one of their specialty ramen), is, well, chicken soup with tamago, chasyu, nori, and naruto toppings. Think twice before you reconcile in your head that you’re having chicken soup with pork toppings. The flavors remain distinct, the broth tastes light, and the combination of toppings are as good despite looking like standard fare. Indeed, this variety is better than it sounds. Also, I’ve been told the Shio Torigara Ramen is just one of many varieties that Ramen Bar serves… which means, there’s a new flavor waiting for me everyday, or something to that effect.

I learned that Ramen Bar’s noodles are freshly made, and these can be enjoyed with either tonkotsu (pork bone) or ukokkei (chicken bone) broth. Given the tedious process undertaken to prepare ramen broth, I say Ramen Bar did its best to serve ramen that’s authentic as authentic can be.

Kakuni buns (P180 for 2 buns) are to ramen what siopao is to mami. The buns are stuffed with tender braised pork belly, lettuce, Japanese mayo, and special sauce. The buns look small but they actually taste great. This soft, meaty, filling side dish is a recommended must-have with your ramen.

The Tempura Ice Cream (P120) is made with vanilla ice cream coated with tempura batter and served with chocolate sauce. It’s an interesting dessert to end your meal; it’s refreshing, kinda tastes like a cream puff, and the ice cream goes well with the chocolate sauce.

Kevin Yapjoco (@kevinyapjoco), the organizer of the tweetup, was there by the door to greet the participants when I arrived. I heard that Kevin is an IT consultant, but he tweets and blogs about clothes, men’s fashion, and “living in style”.

Throughout the tweetup I was also able to meet Tweetmates from all walks of life. For example, there was Jeman (@orangemagtv), who owns an online magazine. With him were his friends Eunice (@yesyes_yo), a photographer, and Iya (@iyassantos). There was that girl they call Divasoria (@divasoria), Kiko (@nerveending), Fabian (@urbanfervor), among many others (there are too many of them to list down here).

The participants, especially the first timers, got to introduce themselves to the crowd. There were give-aways such as gift certificates, trinkets and other items, and even a trip to Cebu. The rest of the time was spent in loud, hearty conversation over sips and bites of ramen.

I won a bottle of perfume! Nice!

The participants were nice to talk with, they make you feel welcome, and they easily made quick, light and hearty talk and such. Sharing a good meal over talks about fashion, sports, and vacations is a great way to connect or blend in or jump into the fray with the others.

I learned a valuable lesson about myself here. Whether I’d think of myself as being “alone in a crowd” or not still depends on me. I could either approach people and engage in idle conversation or sulk on my seat and watch everyone group together . Then again, what if I really don’t have anything to say? Or what if I can’t genuinely relate? Judging by what happened to me at Ramen Bar, I hope I left a good impression to the people in this tweetup, or something.

In any case, if I get another opportunity to go to another tweetup by myself, I hope by that time I’d be more confident to be around crowds, to open up conversations with people I don’t know, and to make myself known. I’m certainly going to end up in another gathering where I know nobody, but I hope I’m ready.

Then again, when all else fails, there’s always Twitter.

Episode 6: Eat-All-You-Can Assault at Yakimix! Biting off more than one can chew?!

It was my turn to invite my brother (and now certified foodie) MC to a buffet dinner a few weeks after the showdown at Café in the Park. Our destination: Yakimix Sushi Smokeless Grill Restaurant at the SM Mall of Asia. Yay, another eat all you can feast. XD

Before going to Yakimix, we read a lot of mixed reviews about it, especially its pilot branch in Hobbies of Asia in Pasay. Much was said about the service, the ambience, the food, among others. Some reviews were dissenting, some were good, while others simply say this was a typical pigging out restaurant, nothing much.

Notwithstanding what local netizens have said about Yakimix, we decide to go ahead. And one Sunday afternoon, after a back-breaking Balinese massage, I met up with MC and went in for the assault. By the way, Yakimix MOA opens around lunch time, closes for a while, and then reopens at 5:30 in the afternoon.

Every customer in Yakimix is seated in front of his own griddle, heated and oiled occasionally for your meat of choice to sizzle on at the privacy of your table. Everything else is self-service, although drinks are a-plenty and are served upon request.
There were so many dishes to choose from, fewer than the ones in Café by the Park but enticing nonetheless. Among the Chinese dishes, we sampled the yang chow rice, sweet and sour pork, and crab and corn soup. The bulgogi and the kimchi were the most familiar in the Korean line-up, although there were more to try such as the beef tripe, some squid here and there, and the octopus.
The Japanese category has its own (by now, already familar) dishes to boast of, such as the sushi and maki, and shrimp tempura. The Japanese dishes run out so quickly, people (including me) actually wait for the chefs to refill the table. The tempura is apparently the restaurant’s best seller. Now why there’s a big plate of crispy pata on the table is beyond me.
One also cannot fail to miss Yakimix’s desserts – cakes of all flavours and mini-pastries, a good way to end the battle of flavours that rage in your mouth and tummy after eating so much.
Finally, there’s the grilled food. Yakimix offers a wide array of raw pork, chicken, beef, and seafood to choose from. Some of them are marinated, while others came with their own sauce. All the customer has to do is pop your seafood or meat of choice into your plate, throw them into your griddle, and dig in. Repeat until pan is non-greased,Then ask for oil and repeat the process all over again.

MC pigged out on the tempura and raw shrimp, which he threw into the griddle to cook with gusto, while I attacked the salmon steak and belly (“salmon is luv, salmon is luv”) and the various meat dishes. There were a lot of grilled fish and fried rice to go after too, and various sushi and soup to follow them up with. We were determined to try out everything Yakimix has to offer heavy eating foodies like us. 
Despite being seasoned eaters who devour mountains like molehills, we ended up overwhelmed by all the meat and other stuff we had. There was so much shrimp and tempura (not enough for MC alone) and grilled meat to deal with, and the fried rice was really heavy. Partly at fault was the tendency to drink a lot of lemonade. The attempt to sample everything went on with hilarious results.
Eventually, MC barely had room for dessert, and I was too stuffed to even move around. We were at least careful not to leave as much left-overs as we could, but to put it bluntly, we’ve eaten more than we expected we could…
In the end, the buffet at Yakimix was a really big challenge for us. There were indeed so much to choose from, all delicious and filling to the extent of making one turn into a glutton or have one’s intestines give up and burst, whichever comes first. Who could blame us? Everything tasted and smelled good.
Still, eating at Yakimix was a good experience. We have no regrets ending bloated there; if there is, it would be the failure to control our urges to take it slow and really savor everything properly . So much for trying to watch what we eat. I on the other hand, am determined to go back there someday and conquer Yakimix’s throng of dishes. Until the next food trip, it would be L-carnitine and lots of work-outs for me and MC. Of course, it would be a while until the opportunity for another food raid came.

Episode 3: Extreme Dining in Style! Cafe in the Park Beckons!

My brother MC texted me just a few weeks ago. “Come join me for a buffet dinner,” he said. MC told me that he got a gift certificate at Café in the Park. I readily agreed, and we decided to meet on a Sunday, the day when Manny Pacquiao pummeled Miguel Cotto like an over-ripe tomato.

Let me give you an idea of what Café in the Park is. Café in the Park is one of the outlets of Century Park Hotel, also where MC works as a receptionist. CPH, as my brother would call it, is a business hotel in Manila, about seven kilometers away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, several kilometers more away from Makati, a few minutes away from Malate… Wait.

Café in the Park specializes in breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets, although it also boasts of an “equally mouthwatering” a la carte menu (which I haven’t tried).
This would be the second time I dined in Café in the Park. The first time was a year ago, when two of our family friends had their honeymoon at CPH. What we had was a really good feast, although I had to dodge the dagger looks of my dad and mom as I ate (we had an eat all you can dinner buffet).
The restaurant’s buffet consists of samples of international cuisine, all of which are enticing and delicious in their own right. Too delicious though. Let me repeat, I’m talking about an eat all you can buffet here.
The first we sampled were the rice and soups. We had “sinigang na baboy” and crab and corn soup for starters, followed by some rice – there were two varieties of these, which is the steamed rice and seafood fried rice. Right beside the rice are several other dishes such as kalderetang baka, mashed potatoes, and fish fillet.
In one corner of the buffet area are the Chinese dishes. We tried the assorted dimsum (we had meat buns and different kinds of siomai), lemon chicken, and the lo mai chi (a sweet dessert with coconut).
On one side of the main table is a shelf filled with raw chicken, fish, shrimp, and crab. One can get his meat of choice and have it cooked accordingly. Believe it or not, the meats get cooked really fast. By the way, you can also order roast beef cooked according to your preferences (medium rare, if you please). They are roasted just as quick and served with gravy.
Just beside the raw meats is the salad station. While I’m not entirely a fan of salads, it’s interesting to note that the salad ingredients smell and look fresh, and you can throw in whatever you find suitable. I regret not trying the salads.
The next area – my most favorite – is the Japanese section. This section has samples of sashimi and maki from Century Tsukiji, another outlet in CPH. While I was looking at the salmon sashimi, my mind was chanting “salmon is luv, salmon is luv” and decided to give in.
Right after attacking the shrimps, the sashimi and maki, we headed to what must be the European section of the table. This has different kinds of bread and cold cuts like ham and spreads. I was, however, only interested in the century egg, since I already had lots of rice.
In the middle of the heavy meal, one of the waiters brought us some cakes, courtesy of Century Park’s Deli Snack bakeshop. We were also treated to fruit crepes with ice cream. Speaking of dessert, the buffet does have dessert – chocolate and fruit cakes, pastries, and even Filipino treats like puto bumbong. No cake for you, Kero-chan… Sorry.
We only had an hour or so to eat, so the dishes we had brought to the table disappeared quickly, and why not. The dimsum are hot and filling, the roasted chicken, salmon and shrimp are lightly flavored but juicy. The sashimi and maki are fresh and tasty, hands down.
The roast beef was the biggest challenge of all – thick, juicy, savory, but really tough to slice and tear through. Ripping the damn beef slab with your teeth is overrated, but it works and adds to the enjoyment.
Eventually, MC had to go back to work, and I was too bloated to eat dessert. I could have eaten more, especially the steak and what’s left of the cakes, but I decided otherwise. Too bad.
Dining in Café in the Park is my first crash course into the world of hotel cuisine. While I’m unsure of which dish is which at first, it’s obvious that I experienced some of the best that Century Park Hotel has to offer in hospitality, fine dining and international flavor. Never mind that it cost a lot, everything we had were all delicious after all.
Eating in a hotel restaurant, admittedly, is a good experience. Being in a high-class establishment shows how meticulous people can be in preparing a dish, making it pleasing to the eye and enticing to the nose and palate, and serving them to discriminating customers.
A good quote from the J-dorama “Kuitan” comes to mind: “For the people who grew the vegetables, for the people who cooked the meals, and the lives… We have to thank all of those when we eat.” This is why I am thankful to having been pampered and served really great food in Café in the Park.
As for MC, well, I just want you to know that I’ve had the best eat all you can buffet dinner ever in the history of hotel cuisine. Thanks, bro.