Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wagyu Burgers

wagyu burgerJust like pizza, burgers are the perfect food. You’ve got your dairy, bread, veggies, and meat, all in one package. But a really good burger is hard to find. If you’re looking for more than a tummy-filler, don’t mess with the fast foods. The relatively new burger restaurants – Brothers, Hotshots, Bite Club, etc., are pretty good. Chili’s is a few notches higher. But, if you want to eat an honest-to-goodness, stuff your face burger (here in Manila), try to get your hands on some Wagyu patties.

Wagyu is a breed of cattle, maybe more well known as Kobe beef when raised in Kobe, Japan. You can find some Wagyu beef here in the Philippines and we were able to get our hands on some one-pound patties.

Used in burgers, these Wagyu patties can transform a so-so burger into a juicy, dripping-down-your-arm, meatfest. We tried four different kinds of burgers: the classic - with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and provolone; the blue cheese burger – a classic with blue cheese; and Michael Schlow’s famous Schlowburger – a classic without ketchup and mustard but with a horseradish mayo sauce and crispy onions; and finally, with everything, plus bacon. Serve with French fries (frozen Frenchies are pretty good).

Take care grilling these Wagyu patties because overcooking them will just ruin everything. Err on the side of undercooking, even if you don’t usually like your beef this way. E. Coli, you say? *&%#$ it! And don’t forget to chill a few beers before preparing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Good cheesecake is hard to find. I like it firm, tart, and stick-to-the-top-of-your-mouth creamy. None of that soft and jiggly gelatinous waste of stomach space that most restaurants and hotels serve. Some places that serve pretty good cheesecake are Burgoo (below P200) and Italianni's (over P200). I don't remember if Cheesecake, etc. is any good but with a name like that, it better have something yummy to offer.

But why go out to have when you can make some righteous cheesecake at home in less than 30 minutes (not including bake time). Here is a recipe for plain cheesecake which I've tweaked a bit to my own taste.

For crust: Mix together 1.5 cups crushed graham crackers, 0.25 cup melted butter, and 0.25 cup brown sugar. Press into baking dish and refrigerate while making cheesecake.

For cheesecake: Mix together two bars softened cream cheese (Magnolia is fine), 4 eggs, 1 cup white sugar, and the juice of 1 lemon. Beat until fluffy then pour into baking dish with crust. Bake for one hour at 350˚. Freeze for half a day and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Shawarma Snack Center: Hindi lang pang Shawarma, pang ulam pa!

I recall when, a few years back, shawarma stalls sprouted like mushrooms all over the city. The common wrap was fine for a budget pampalipas gutom but was more reminiscent of cafeteria food - tasted terrible and were not filling at all.

Shawarma Snack Center redeems that tainted image. As the name not so subtly implies, it is renowned for its superb shawarma that on several occasions, I literally had daydreams about it and nightmares about not being able to satisfy that craving. ssc_frontI think the two basic ingredients are responsible for this. In SSC, the pita could be a dish on its own. Also, unlike cafeteria shawarmas, the filling is not replete with day-old coleslaw-like veggies leaving the beef nowhere to be found. When you bite into SSC’s Shawarma you immediately taste the tenderness of the huge portions of beef. A regular shawarma costs 45 pesos and a special one (I think what makes it special is its gargantuan size) costs 60 bucks.

chicken_tikkaBut don't limit yourself to just the shawarma. Everything else we've tried in this place was really good. They usually have six cooked dishes sitting in heated serving plates, carinderia style. Form the ala carte menu, the favorites are tabouleh (bulghur and parsley), a stuffed zucchini dish with some rice and herbs, and kebab with rice or bread (P160). A pretty reliable indicator of the quality of the food is the unfailing presence of middle-eastern men whenever we visit the place.

taboulehThere’s a wide variety left on the menu still unexplored (including the hookah/shisa) which we never get to try since we usually get stuffed with the shawarma first. Don’t get me wrong, there is no regret here, let me just reiterate how eating their shawarma is a must. My advice is just to visit the place as often as possible, and try out new dishes all the time but I’ll bet you will never tire of their shawarma. As they confidently claim, "You can't eat just one!"

SSC is along Salas Street, in Manila. To get there from Roxas Blvd, make a right at Pedro Gil, turn left at Mabini and once you see a Happy Tours and Travel landmark, make a left on Salas and voila, SSC. It's open until the wee hours of the morning. SSC also has little shawarma stalls around the city but somehow, it just tastes better in the main restaurant. Expect to shell out P100 to P200 per person. Street parking only.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Countryside: Chicken Ass Nirvana

I think I've found the place to get my chicken ass fix. At Countryside Grill, P30 will get you a skewer of five small chicken asses. Your order will come with a bowl of spicy vinegar, into which you can dump all the chicken asses. If you're really hungry, ask for a spoon and start shoveling ass into your mouth like you would breakfast cereal. You won't find the need to spit out the bones because they're small enough to chew up and swallow. If something gets stuck in your throat, don't worry, a P25 beer will dislodge it quite nicely. If you're not into chicken ass, you can also get good old pork barbecue and tenga.

Get your fix along Katipunan, on the Ateneo-bound side, just before the fly-over. Dress comfortably (shorts and flip-flops).

Mien San Noodle House

Looking for noodles in the San Juan area and tired of the usual North Park / Hap Chan fare? Introduced to me by my Taiwanese friend, Mien San serves cheap and honest (Taiwanese?) food. Since you won't find the usual Cantonese dishes most Filipinos are familiar with, take the opportunity to try out new things. Start with the Tofu with Century Egg, which pairs well with fried Mantou. Get some dumplings while you're at it; they come cheap, at around P50 per eight-piece order. Don't bother looking for soy-sauce with calamansi. In Mien San, they serve the dumplings with a dipping sauce made of black vinegar and soy sauce (my best guess). And then the noodles. Either dry or with soup, the noodles go for a bit more than P100 for a large order. I usually request that the noodles be split into two or three bowls. I always get the Sour Pepper Noodle Soup or dry Spicy Cha-chang Noodles.

It's hard to spend more than P150 per person at Mien San. Find it along Ortigas, to your right when traveling from EDSA to E. Rodriguez, after crossing Santolan. It's a bit hard to spot so keep your eyes open for "Feet 'R Us" foot spa, which is right next door.