Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Mutant North Park In Cubao

Some sort of mutant North Park sprung up in our neighborhood in last couple of months. It’s called North Park Kopi Tiam and I’ve always wanted to check it out. I finally got to do that, when I had dinner there with my dad last night.

Just in case you think that it’s just the modern-Asian architecture and interiors that makes it distinct from the other NP branches, they have a very… interesting menu. While its menu still keeps some of the usual NP mainstays like lechon macau, salted garlic squid and congee, the rest of it is mostly made up of Japanese and Korean dishes. That’s sort of interesting since aren’t the Japanese and Koreans… historical enemies? Anyway.

While waiting for my dad to get there, I started off with an asado roll and cold milk tea. You can hardly go wrong with an asado roll but theirs was huge but had a lot of air inside. I was expecting something better and honest from an old reliable like North Park. But I was even more disappointed with their cold milk tea. The best cold milk tea used to be at the Wan Chai resto along Meralco Ave, but they’ve phased that out and I’ve been searching for a replacement. So far, masarap pa yung cold milk tea ng Chowking. In hindsight, I think the cold milk tea at North Park Kopi Tiam lacked that sort of sweet syrup that goes with restos that make you mix your own iced tea. Maybe they forgot to give it, maybe I should have asked for it.

(L-R chapchee, shrimp pajion, yasai itame)
Anyway, we got the following:

Chapchee - Korean sotanghon with beef and veggies. Spicy enough, and I like the subtle sesame seasoning.
Shrimp pajion – Korean pancake with shrimps and onion leeks. A bit too sour for my tastes, but hey, it’s probably authentic Korean flavoring for all I know.
Yasai itame – Which is Japan’s version of chopsuey. The vegetables were crunchy, and I liked it that the spiciness of the dish took time to fully develop on my palate.

Those were just all to share between my dad and I. For myself, I got khalbi (a.k.a. Korean beef stew). I have this thing for sesame (flavoring, seeds, etc) so if I have that, I’m good to go. My only issue with their khalbi is that I felt it had more litid (cartilage?) than it had beef.

Another thing that makes North Park Kopi Tiam different is that they have baked good and pastries. Aside from that airy asado roll, they have bola bola and cheese cornbeef rolls too. They have cookies, brownies, banana loafs and mamons. They also have a much longer dessert menu. In fact, they have cakes. My dad and I settled on their Moist Chocolate cake, which was definitely moist, and very, very good. It’s a family thing, the sweet tooth.

Looking at the menu, it feels like North Park wanted to serve every Japanese and Korean comfort dish imaginable, and decided to come out with a coffee shop (which is what kopi tiam means, said the waitress when she had to hazard a guess). Sounds confusing? A bit. But that’s what you get when you combine food from ancient and historical enemies. I’m still slightly hung up on that.

I’ve almost forgotten to say that, at North Park Kopi Tiam, they have steak. They serve porterhouse and rib eye cuts. They also have an Angus Charbroiled Burger, which I have to remember for when it’s a burger sort of day for me.

North Park Kopi Tiam is at No. 3 C. Benitez St., Barangay Horseshoe, Cubao, QC. They deliver from 1oAM-10PM. 722-7946 and 722-7948.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Best Rockwell resto yet

Well, it isn't really IN Rockwell. Just ober-da-bakod, actually. From Kalayaan, past Grilla, along the small eskinita with the iron-grilled fence separating the fancy from the not-so-fancy, you'll find SOMS-- arguably the best restaurant in the area. Oh, and it isn't really a restaurant either. More like a semi-upscale carinderia. 'Upscale' because they have waiters (and, I hear, a pretty waitress), incandescent lighting (or at least lightbulbs), and really good Thai food. How good, you ask? So good that tables are almost always full during dinnertime, and it is not uncommon to see Volvos, BMWs, and the occasional Porshe pulling up to get take-out.

Must-tries are the Thai milk tea, catfish salad and their assortment of curries. Red, if you like it hot, green, if not. I've never been a curry person. In fact, if you asked me a few years ago what my top 10 dreaded dishes/food items were, curry would be right at the top of my list. Next to durian, of course. And adobong paniki. But back to the curry at SOMS. I don't know what exactly is good about it, but if I had to hazard a guess (Naks! I've always wanted to say that.), it'd be the sauce. It's flavorful enough so that you can pour it over rice and eat it kain-karpintero style, but mild enough that you don't feel the need to use extra-strength deodorant after your meal. Also good, albeit not extraordinarily so, are the Pad Thai, spring rolls, and bagoong rice.

What makes SOMS so special, what endears it to me the most, is its prices. I took 10 of my friends there last month and our bill totaled P1020. I kid you not. With their dishes priced at P60-P80, with their perfect-for-hot-summer-nights cold milk tea, it is, hands down, my favorite restaurant of the moment.

There is also something to be said about their charming eat-along-the-road-under-naked-light-bulbs set-up. As you lean back on your monoblock chair, enjoying the cheap but yummy fare, don't worry about alikabok. Spice of life, I say. Something to be savored. Every now and then. Preferably at SOMS.

SOMS is open everyday, from 9am to 11pm. Try to go before 9pm, before they run out of milk tea.