Sunday, August 26, 2012

Food review: Trattoria Gourmet

My friends and I were catching up on gossip that I barely paid any attention to the food, unfortunately. This is going to be a short post because what I really want to do is show off Tatin's photos! (You can read about her camera and lens here and here.)

The word trattoria, according to Wikipedia, means an Italian restaurant that serves comfort food, normally in a rustic environment. So it's quite ironic to find the restaurant at the fifth level of Shangri-La Mall, near the MRT exit. Nevertheless, you do find some peace and quiet if ever you find yourselves inside the restaurant, with the warm glow of its lighting, walls, and tablecloth. I doubt you'd feel the same if you were seated outside with the heavy foot traffic in this section of the mall.

I've always had the impression that this restaurant was pricey. This was probably because during the few times I ate there, I only managed to get soup, which at P200 and served in a tiny bowl, was overpriced to me. This time though, with five friends who shared all meals, our bill amounted to P360 per person, excluding drinks but including taxes. We had a lot of leftovers but I have to note that we ate like the French—we only had several small bites.

Again, all photos by Tatin. I forgot to take the receipt home, but all dishes are in the range of  P300 to P400.

Bread with pesto and pâté dips, with compliments of the restaurant.

The dips were smooth to the taste and almost underwhelming, which I suppose is a good way to introduce rich courses.

Boscaiola (pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, salami, bacon and cheese)

With all those ingredients, you just know this is going to be a hit. I like thin-crust pizzas but this is one, while a few millimeters thicker than paper-thin pizzas, smartly complements the heavy meat that are the toppings. The tomato sauce is on the sweet side so this is very family-friendly.

Three kinds of pasta: penne with three cheeses, spaghetti mare monti with pesto, and meatball pasta.

I'm getting hungry just seeing this picture. These to me were the highlight of the meal, with the pesto taking the gold medal, and the three cheeses and meatball pasta tied in second place. I thought we made an excellent choice in selecting these three—I liked how they were wildly different in their richness.


This was beautifully presented—the sauce around that pile was still bubbling in heat when it reached our table. It was creamy and easily melted in my mouth and I think it immediately captured the warmth of this restaurant. Pam raved about this dish, while it was only okay for me and Jill. Jill found it too rich, like it was almost ulam or good as main course. In my case, it had a sourness that confused my palate and contradicted the creaminess of the dish.

Trattoria Gourmet

5/F Shangri-La Plaza Mall
EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard
Brgy Wack Wack
Mandaluyong City

+63 2 637 2784

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ever upward

We had a four-day weekend (back at work today) and I didn't even manage to read a single page from the book I'm reading this month.

For three days, I was bedridden in what must have been my worst case of cold/sinusitis so far. My headache was so bad I had tears running down my face. I took way too much cold medication and pain relievermy hyperacidity acted up and my piss was the color of phlegm.

I didn't have the gall to complain. If anything, I felt blessed.

* * * *

I've always wondered about the date I'd meet my Creator.

It could be that long weekend you've long awaited, a date you've counted down the days and minutes to because you were 'bored' or 'sick' of everyday life. There's a humor in there somewhere, I just don't think I'd find it funny if that were to be my case.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Beauty review: Richenna Bubble Color

Ever since my college days, I've been wondering how I'd look like as a blond (the other hair-related thing being how I'd look like as a skinhead). Japan and Korean boys make it look so easy, and perhaps there's the catch right there: boys.


Yesterday, I decided to have my hair cut shorter than usual as I planned to dye my hair blond afterward, DIY style. I figured that a four-day weekend was coming up and so in case my skin tone can't pull the color off, I have time to dye my hair back to black.

From my research, I learned that Tony Moly has hair bleach and blond dye so I went straight to SM Makati after my haircut. As it turned out, my research was lousy for all they had were two dyes in tones of red and brown.

I took this as a sign and went to Watsons, where there are other hair colors, and I wasted an enormous amount of time vacillating between going blond or not. In the end, I picked this:

Imagine me, a 6ft-tall guy, paying for this at the cashier, lol.

I didn't buy hair bleach (for one, there was none) so I didn't really expect my hair to go the way of Sailor Moon. I only started to get scared when I found no reviews of the product on Google, save for one, who wasn't too happy with her result. At that point, I didn't even mind if my color wouldn't change; I just didn't want my hair to fall off.

Richenna Bubble Color (P350 at Watsons) is a Korean brand. Somehow, my fears were assuaged when I opened the box and I noted how the instructional brochure and coloring materials were of good quality. The brochure is poster-size, with full color photos and respectable grammar. The gloves were made of rubber and even had a garter at the base so there was no way your hands would get dyed or wet. It also provided a plastic cape to protect your clothing.

What I loved the most though, was the coloring bottle: it was a foam dispenser! So I guess that's how it got the 'bubble' in the name.

The color and developer are 50g each. You'd probably need two boxes if you have shoulder length hair. Once you mix the two in the foam dispenser, you tear off the perforated dots in the box and voila! Your dispenser is secure and won't topple.

I love how considerate they were about that. At this point, I trusted the brand :-)

The great thing about foam is that your color won't drip and it spreads out evenly on your hair. I wished though that the smell was nice—it was as bad as hair dyes normally come.

I left the solution on my hair for 30 minutes. (Normal is 20mins; additional 15mins if you have darker or 'virgin' hair, according to the instruction.) However, looking at the mirror, I 'felt' (usually you really can't tell until you've shampooed your hair) that nothing changed with my color. I decided to do a second round, applying the same amount of foam in my hair as in the first. Within two minutes, I saw the pop of color. I decided to leave it on again for 30 minutes, but the burning sensation on my scalp wouldn't go away, so I cut this down to 15 minutes and shampooed.

Here's the description at the back of the box:

The formulation with lavender and sage extract minimizes hair damage and helps to leave your hair silky and shiny. The amino acid provides moisture for your hair to look healthy.

Meanwhile, I couldn't even lather the shampoo and run my finger through my hair because it was so coarse and I assumed, damaged! To think I had no more than 4 inches of hair; I can't imagine how harder it would be for those with longer tresses.

It was so bad I panicked. After rinsing the shampoo, I used the conditioner provided by Richenna then added a spoonful of Neutrogena Body Oil.

Thankfully, that did wonders. Although it felt coarse again after my final rinse (though this time, I could now run my fingers through it), with a few drops of the oil on my towel-dried hair, it felt and looked good again.

So how blond am I? Actually, not at all; I'm brown!

I LOVE how I actually have highlights. I suppose this was the effect of the second coating I did. (Since I have short hair, it's really not worth for me to get one at a salon.) The tone also changes depending on the lighting, but overall, I like how it has given me a fresh, new look.

Will I use it again? Well, I really like the foam idea, and most dyes smell bad and do dry out your hair. The only exception has been Revlon. That was a way better experience actually, but the color I got that time was subtler and in Pam's case, it faded easily. (In my case, it lasted really long; my stylist, who did not color my hair and was from another salon, commented on that and how subtle it looked.) I probably would not use Richenna again IF the color doesn't last long and if my hair feels damaged for more than two weeks. I'll update this post if that's the case.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Film review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

In the first few minutes of the documentary, I learn that a 20-course sushi-only meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro is worth at least ¥30,000 (about P16,000). Incredulous, I verified the price with Google, which in turn, did co-sign it as fact.

Okay, P16,000 for sushi. The 99 percent (yo!) is not amused.

So why was it then that by the end of the documentary, I was looking at the restaurant's menu, food reviews, and reservation details as if I were planning to eat there?

Jiro Dreams of Sushi makes a strong case for an expensive meal that would last no longer than 25 minutes. The camera, with the incredible depth of field, captures the beautiful, mostly healthy pink sushi, plumped up on elegant, black-laquered plates like ethereal pieces that would cringe from poorly manicured hands.

"We are not elitists," said Yoshikazu Ono, elder son of Jiro Ono, Japan's legendary sushi master and star of this documentary. "What we do is no big secret."

It really is no secret that passion and hard work ultimately lead to success. Jiro has been improving his craft for the last 70 years,  and he has mastered it to a level that the best seafood and rice suppliers in Japan refuse to sell their goods to other than him.

"Only Jiro can cook our rice and bring out its best qualities," explained the rice supplier, who refused, for example, Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Jiro and his crew also pay great attention to his customers, carefully planning their seating arrangement, table setting, and food proportions. If a customer is lefthanded, then Jiro would place the sushi appropriately; female customers get smaller-sized sushi.

There are no villains or conflicts in this documentary, save for issues on continuing his legacy and the environment. The film hooks viewers' attention through the sheer beauty of sushi and that is enough, and for some, even worth dreaming about.

Thanks Eon for this recommendation.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, August 13, 2012

Film review: Bourne Legacy

The plot, in general, is simple: the CIA terminates the Operation Outcome program—and literally—its trained agents Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), and everyone else who has knowledge of it. This includes Dr. Marta Shearing (spectacularly played by Rachel Weisz), one of the scientists who provide the agents with performance-enhancing drugs.

This whole drama unfolds in the same timeline as Bourne Ultimatum, the third and preceding film in the Bourne franchise, so I highly suggest you watch Ultimatum first (or at least, read the Wikipedia entry) for you to get the many cross-references.

I was just warming up to this premise at its two-and-a-half-hour mark when the first few notes of the theme song, normally signalling the end credits, began playing. Wait, the movie's over?! As a matter of fact, it was, and other members of the audience felt the same as I observed and heard them from my seat. (Pam, in her case, was waiting for Edward Norton's character, the main antagonist, to fly to Manila as he did go here to shoot scenes. In the movie, his character never leaves the U.S.; in fact, he never leaves the CIA.)

While tightly edited, the Bourne Legacy, which now stars a new lead, did labor and spend a lot of screen time trying to fit itself into the whole Bourne scheme of things. It did so successfully—the franchise's puzzle pieces all fit soundly—but by the time Legacy has claimed its space in the film series, there is little time left to pursue a different direction and storyline. (Though it may as well have been a smart move: the ending begs for a sequel.)

The film wonderfully and faithfully captures the frenzy and organized chaos that is Manila, pulling off motorcycle chases in the middle of the city's traffic jam and wet markets. Although it was jarring to see well-known Filipino actors in their bit roles and hear security guards speak in a Filipino-American accent, I suppose these are nuances that only Filipino audiences would pick up.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, August 06, 2012

A long entry that happens to mention Jamba Juice a lot

I seriously have not heard of Jamba Juice before and would have probably remained as oblivious if Jill and Pam didn't drag our group to the far end of Bonifacio High Street. On a rainy Sunday night––really late, like past 10 p.m.––the place, which is at the mouth of a wide open, grassy field, felt removed and peaceful, and should be a perfect getaway for lovers and brooders unless there happened to be a group of 10 like ours who decides to destroy that peace by discussing Japanese porn and vibrators loudly. It's also a good place to stalk the cute owner/manager at the dessert place next door, called Slice, in case you're figure-conscious and would rather sip on healthy juice than indulge in delectable desserts as you watch the dreamy skinhead count his store's earnings (as he was doing that night). Disclaimer: To most of us, he was dreamy but birthday boy Jolo, a straight guy in our group, rated him as, "Ok lang."

If it isn't obvious yet, I'm writing as many irrelevant information as I can because what I have to say about my order at Jamba Juice is really short.

As we entered the store, I immediately latched onto birthday girl Tatin, my jigglylicious jamba spirit guide, as it was my first time there and I found the menu overwhelming. She recommended the açaí smoothie (açaí juice, vegetable and fruit juice, apple juice concentrate, natural flavor, citric acid, ascorbic acid), which I didn't even dare reconsider since I trusted her taste and it was apparently one of Jamba's popular concoctions.

Me with my Jamba spirit guide, Tatin all fruity
Me with my Jamba spirit guide, Tatin all fruity

Within five minutes, our orders were served.

Açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) smoothie, P170 for 22oz
Açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) smoothie, P170 for 22oz

The açaí tasted like blueberry to me. It was thick and heavy––as if all that juice, fiber, and vitamins are jammed into my 22oz cup––and nothing quite like the watered down smoothies from the ubiquitous juice stalls you see in malls. Ultimately, I like the assurance that what I'm drinking doesn't use artificial flavors and added sugar aka high-fructose corn syrup. (By the way, the American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar for women and nine for men in a day, so I'm not sure if the maximum of 94g of naturally occuring sugar from the "power" variant is fine.)

Jamba Juice's promise
Jamba Juice's promise

The staff are really courteous and nice. One went to our table, apologized for the intrusion, and asked if we may fill up their survey form. I was up to the task and answered honestly at least until I got to this portion:


I know what they're getting at, but I've never really been comfortable about questions that require you to declare your wealth (or lack thereof) unless it's for a scholarship grant. Meanwhile, Tatin upbraided them for not allowing pets inside the store.

After collecting our forms, the staff immediately gave our group seven cups of complimentary Jamba Juice, which of course, made me feel guilty about my clothing answer, lol.

We were all feeling pretty happy about the treat, when minutes later, he came out with another tray of freebies, this time, samplers of their steel cut oatmeal with brown sugar! And there were so many to go around that we passed the tray on to the next table.

Yummy! Essentially, it's just oatmeal with... well, brown sugar :-P
Yummy! Essentially, it's just oatmeal with... well, brown sugar :-P

I had just declared my love for Jamba Juice's customer service when I turned around and saw that the store also had a photobooth! (Instead of a sticker printout, you email your photo to yourself––one point for the environment!) It was awesome because until then, we haven't had a photo of all 10 of us that night so that was a really good way to cap our day :-)

Jamba Juice
7th Avenue cor. 29th Street South,
Bonifacio High Street Central (across R.O.X.)
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City

Theatre Drive corner Commerce Ave.,
The Street, Alabang Town Center,
Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City 1780

Operating Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 7am-11pm
Friday to Sunday: 7am-1am

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Yabu: The House of Katsu

I've long been tempted to try this restaurant, thanks to the many Instagram photos I've seen of its specialty dish: the tonkatsu sets. Not only did they look appetizing, but together with the photo filters, they were so pretty I wanted to see them personally served to me as well.

Upon ordering, we were given a bowl of sesame seeds, which we were supposed to grind to a powder, or thereabout. This serves as the base for the tonkatsu sauce.

For this outing, I decided to try the Rosu set (P405 - 180g; P355 - 120g; P315 - 90g). The pork loin is 3/4-inch thick with a trimming of fat, and the dish is served with Japanese rice (unlimited), miso soup, Japanese pickles, cabbage (unlimited), and three quarter slices of pineapples and watermelon. The cabbage dressing comes in two choices: shoyu vinaigrette (my preference) and sesame paste (cream-based, which we found watery/bland that we had to ask for a second bottle to share among the four of us).

Rosu (pork loin) set, 180g
Rosu (pork loin) set, 180g

The cutlet was indeed, as the menu described it, thick and juicy. There was also a freshness and 'cleanness' to it, which I can't say the same of other tonkatsu meals I've had––not that they were not fresh or that there was anything wrong with them––but you can tell that Yabu is serving you premium meat. (It's also so thick and filling that I ended up not finishing my plate.) The cabbage is beautifully shredded and reminds me of Sunday mornings, for nostalgic reasons.

For those that prefer their meat lean (no fat), there is the Hire set priced at P405 (150g) and P330 (100g). Another option is the Kurobata Pork set, which is named after the Black Berkshire pig, whose meat are highly prized in Japan.

Yabu: The House of Katsu

2/F Atrium, SM Megamall
Julio Vargas Ave, Brgy Wack Wack
Mandaluyong City, Philippines

+63 2 576 3900
Twitter: @yabuPH

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