Makchang

Tucked away in a dark street beside a lively Arabian restaurant, Makchang is easy to miss if you are not particularly observant. Keep your eyes peeled next time you pass by Adriatico Street, because the Korean barbecue they serve is heavenly! The restaurant is always packed, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. In fact, Makchang prides itself in having a huge fan base of native Koreans — a stamp of approval that the food is authentic and delicious.

Makchang is a staple for my family and I. One time, we were even willing to wait an hour for a table (yes, that good). What makes it so great, you ask? I’ve thought about it, and I came to the conclusion that it is because of the simplicity of the restaurant’s offerings. A meal at Makchang is often comprised of barbecue beef or pork + steaming bowl of white rice + soup + spicy fermented vegetables.

The restaurant was surprisingly empty when I arrived. Perhaps because it was a bit early for dinner.

This is their menu. Don’t let the limited options fool you — the food they have at hand is more than satisfying. You get to choose from pork, beef and even innards (if you are courageous enough!). You can also opt to choose if you prefer it marinated or not.

Fun fact: The waiter told us that no one — aside from the owners — knows the recipe of the marinade. It is made by the owners, then sent out to the restaurants daily.

The service at Makchang was fast. The moment we sat down, bowls of complimentary soup were served and all of our utensils were laid out in a flash. The soup was a tasty broth with strips of lettuce. It whet my appetite for what was to come.

Unlike other restaurants that use electric grills, Makchang opts for the old-fashioned, charcoal experience. It would have made it sweltering hot, but the great exhaust system they had prevented that.

Complimentary Side Dishes

Makchang provided complimentary side dishes: kimchi, spicy radish and a sweet and spicy vegetable mix. They also gave us dips for the meat and lettuce for wrapping them in.

THIS. I don’t know what this dish is called, but it belongs in fermented-vegetable heaven! The scallions and bean sprouts were fresh and crisp and were seasoned with the most amazing spices that created the perfect sweet and spicy harmony. Best paired with a spoonful of rice and a slice of meat.

Pork Galbi

The waiter brought the marinated pork galbi and began to grill it skillfully. He adjusted the vent every once in a while to make sure the smoke was not blowing into our faces.

Waiter appreciation: The servers at Makchang are all very attentive, ready to cater to your every need — be it a refill of water, tissue or more side dishes (I am guilty of polishing those off).

He then cut up the pork into smaller pieces. Just like that, it was time to eat! (Thank goodness. I was already drooling from watching.)

How to eat: Dip in sauce and pop in mouth. Follow that with a spoonful of rice and fermented vegetables. Groan with happiness. Repeat like there’s no tomorrow.

Here is another way I like to enjoy the meat: grab a piece of lettuce, pat down a spoonful of rice, fermented vegetables and top with a glistening piece of tender meat.

The piece of pork galbi in all of its gloriousness. Wrap the lettuce and the contents like a spring roll and take a huge bite. You can thank me later.

Kotdungsim

Easily the star of the meal. The moment it hit the grill, I was at the edge of my seat, eyeing the magnificent marbled beef hungrily.

I almost fainted out of happiness when I ate the piece of beef. It was so juicy and it just melted in my mouth. Dipping it in the oil-based sauce with salt and pepper only enhanced its flavour and made it so divine.

I will never forget this beef. Never. I shall return.

Sweet Potato

After I returned from heaven, my gaze feel upon a plate of uncooked sweet potatoes. Curious, I asked the waiter how it was supposed to be cooked.

WooSamkyup

Grinning, he slid the pieces of sweet potato onto the grill along with the thin slices of beef we were to devour next. He explained that the fat from the beef would aid the sweet potato to cook, as it is normally prepared with oil.

The sweet potato was meh. It was on the hard and crunchy side and unlike its name, not sweet.

We helped ourselves to the beef. It was not at good as the previous one, but pretty tasty.

It took several attempts and looking like an idiot trying to balance chopsticks on one hand and my phone on the other to take this picture.

Makchang is highly recommended if you want to treat yourself to authentic Korean barbecue. It is not fine dining, but the dishes they put out are fit for a king! Moreover, the prices are very reasonable for high-quality meat.

Four pies!

4 p

Address: 1782 M. Adriatico St, Malate, Manila

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Bizu Patisserie

Sometimes when I’m in a rush — like this morning — my mind goes blank and my stomach forgets to rumble. This results in me failing to remember to eat breakfast (crazy, right?), which then transforms me from happy to scarily cranky in about an hour.

In order to keep myself sane, I hopped off the car and burst into Bizu to treat my hungry belly to a decadent French brunch. My head was spinning with joy just thinking about it. Luckily, the waiter sensed that I was on the brink of kicking something out of starvation, so he plopped a basket of bread on my table after I hurriedly rattled off my order.

FOOD.

It took a lot of self-restraint not to tear at the bread like a caveman, believe me. It also took a while for me to form coherent sentences again.

Complimentary Bread and Herb Butter

The bread was toasted, so it was warm and crunchy on the outside when I ate it. It was not extraordinary, but it hit the spot.

Fried Chorizo Paella with Marinara Sauce

THIS. This is my favourite dish on the menu in Bizu, and I will never stop raving about it. Fried Chorizo Paella Balls are the best, I tell you! Crisp on the outside and delicious, rich rice with chorizo on the inside. It all just comes together with the zingy marinara sauce. Five pieces is NOT enough. I could eat this forever.

Slow cooked Angus Beef belly , Potato Gratin, Grilled Vegetables, Horseradish and Mushroom gravy

After attacking the bread and the fried paella balls, I was feeling pretty full. But I forgot about that when the waiter placed the 10-Hour Roast Beef dish in front of me. Come on, how can you not expect me to devour that? The meat, as expected, was fork tender and the gravy complemented it perfectly. The gratin could have used a little more seasoning, but it was otherwise delightful.

It was so worth it to forget to eat breakfast.

Four pies to Bizu! I have been a loyal customer of Bizu for years, and I will definitely keep coming back. After all, where else can you get delectable and quality French food at such reasonable prices?

4 p

MARIE

Address: G/F, Promenade, Greenhills Shopping Centre, Greenhills, San Juan City

Texas Roadhouse

Over the last couple of months, Manila has been blessed (thank you, food gods) with the arrival of franchises of different renowned restaurants from around the world. One of them is Texas Roadhouse, an eatery hailing from the USA.

I arrived at Texas Roadhouse at around 6:30pm and was surprised to find it nearly filled with people. (Although in retrospect, it was one of the only few restaurants open at Uptown Mall and it recently opened. Thank goodness my family and I arrived early, because when we left, the restaurant was jam-packed and had a waiting line.)

At the door, we were greeted by a chorus of “Welcome to Texas Roadhouse!” from a group of enthusiastic servers standing by the door. It made us feel right at home.

Before seating us at our table, we were shown the chiller, where all the cuts of meat were stored. I suppose it was to inspire us to order them later on! As I examined the meats, I noticed that they were leaner cuts and lacked the marbling that made meat oh-so-tender. Hm. However, I didn’t let that stop me from ordering a steak!

Stuffed heads of animals hung from the walls eerily.

Freaky. No wonder the waiter faced the opposite direction as he walked past.

Complimentary Bread with Cinnamon Butter

Complimentary bread was served the moment we sat down, causing me to stare at the waiter incredulously, wondering where he pulled out a basket of four piping hut buns. However, I forgot all about my server’s magical powers when I bit into the piece of bread.

I think my brain went into a food coma. So soft. So fluffy. So warm. So homey.

OhmygodIlovebread. Bread is life, I told my parents and sister dreamily as I helped myself to more bread, slathering it generously with cinnamon butter.

Oh god. Don’t get me started on the fragrant and silky cinnamon butter. I can never eat butter plain again.

This is easily the best complimentary bread I’ve had. I told the waiter so with a mouth full of bread and he seemed very pleased.

Complimentary Peanuts

After I devoured the bread, I helped myself to a couple of peanuts. They were crunchy, salty and creamy. It is a very unique starter, I have to say.

I was off to a very good start!

Buffalo Wings with Celery and Blue Cheese

The first appetizer that arrived was the buffalo wings. If you’re wondering why the plate looks so empty, it’s because we only ordered five pieces (we wanted to try more food, heh). The wings were…ordinary. Tender, but lacking in crunchiness. We should have ordered the spicy version — the mild one lacks a kick. However, I definitely like it better than the ones served at Applebee’s, whose wings are less meaty. I also appreciated the light and smooth blue cheese dip and the crisp celeries (ate all of these because my family is not a fan for some reason).

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

The salad that arrived next was average for me. Crisp vegetables, tasty dressing, slightly dry chicken.

Sirloin Steak and Ribs with Mashed Potatoes and Corn

It is confirmed. No fat, no marbling, no optimal tenderness and juiciness. The medium-rare sirloin was lean and slightly difficult to chew. I definitely was looking for a more melt-in-your-mouth steak. It also lacked seasoning, but that was luckily remedied by a dab of steak sauce. On the other hand, while the meat on the ribs fell off the bone, I’ve tasted better (S&R ribs, anyone?).

Sigh.

What made up for the dish were the creamy and smooth mashed potatoes and the buttery corn. Yum! I could finish a bowl or two alone. Finger-licking good, I tell you.

Sirloin Steak

Close up of the sirloin steak. No marbling, unfortunately.

At some point during dinner, music blared from the speakers. Suddenly, the servers all fell into formation and began to dance. Wow, they certainly took the enthusiasm up a notch! We gave them a loud round of applause when they finished.

Texas Red Chili

The dance was not enough to distract us from food, however! A few minutes later, we realised that we had not been served our chili and proceeded to make a follow-up with our server. He applied his magical powers again, whisking out a bowl of chili from the kitchen just moments later.

Damn, he is good.

I ate a mouthful of chilli. Three words:

Explosion. Of. Flavours.

It has so many spices that fade in and out as you consume the dish. The hearty dish is then enhanced by bits of meat, beans and the sprinkling of cheese. Wow. I am not a huge fan of spicy food, but this is good. It made me wish I had some of the bread left over so that I could mop up the chili with it.

My dad loved the dish too. He declared it the best chili he has ever tasted. That is a huge honour coming from a man who has eaten a wide variety of chili.

Overall, I would come back for the bread, sides and chili. Simple but spectacular dishes. I would also like to try the country style chicken with homemade gravy I was eyeing on the menu but was too full to sample.

Three pies!

3 pie

MARIE

Address: 4th Floor Uptown Mall, BGC

World Street Food Jamboree 2016

I nearly fell off my seat out of excitement when I first heard about the World Street Food Jamboree a few months ago. I wanted — no, had — to go and sample the different cuisines. If you haven’t heard of it before, two words: food festival. The World Street Food Jamboree is a segment of the World Street Food Congress wherein vendors from around the world have the opportunity to showcase and sell their unique dishes to hungry foodies (like myself) for five days.

However, as the date approached, I grew wary of having to brave the scorching heat at the outdoor venue. Thank goodness my stomach managed to convince me to go, because it was a spectacular experience.

On April 24, the final day of the Jamboree, I made the trip to BGC with my family. I dashed inside, only stopping to receive a free bottle of Listerine (What an odd freebie. Subliminal message?? Or maybe they wanted me to use it after munching on all the sweet treats.) they were handling out at the entrance.

Chocolate Murtabak by Markobar Cafe (Indonesia)

My first stop was at a stall that featured an open-faced pancake hailing from Indonesia. I was immediately charmed by the variety of colours that decorated the dish. After taking my first bite, I was blown away. It had a thin, crunchy crust and the pancake was moist and chewy. The different spreads and toppings and the light drizzle of condensed milk elevated the dish and made the Indonesian street food a delight to eat. I would have this for a snack or dessert anytime!

Satay Beehoon by Alhambra Padang (Singapore)

Next, I sampled a noodle dish originating from Singapore. Since the Chocolate Murtabak set the bar pretty high, I was a little let down. The noodles could have been firmer, and the shrimp was overcooked. However, the chunky peanut sauce was spot on! I couldn’t pinpoint the exact flavour because it was a unique fusion of sweet, spicy and peanuts. Also, the squid and the satay were cooked well, so this was a satisfactory dish overall.

Churro Sundae by Churros Locos (USA)

The moment I bit into the churro, my eyes widened and the first coherent thought that came into my mind was O–M–G. My teeth had just sunk into the crispiest churro with just the right amount of sugar dusted on top. And no, it was not hollow like most churros found in Manila, as adequately expressed by the man standing behind me: “Hey, it has filling!”.  To clarify, not filling like a cream, but filling like they-did-not-scrimp-on-the-batter-filling. AND it wasn’t the slightest bit greasy! What is this delicious sorcery? Moreover, aside from the delectable pastry, the creamy vanilla ice cream, fluffy whipped cream,  sweet sprinkles and warm chocolate syrup made me groan happily. Unforgettable.

Carrot Cake by Chey Sua Carrot Cake (Singapore)

If you live in the Philippines or in a country located in Asia, you’ve probably sampled the white, plain-looking radish cake before at your local Chinese restaurant. This dish takes the traditional radish cake and reinvents it frittata-style, dubbing the creation carrot cake. I was pleasantly surprised by the tasty savoury dish, although I only  tasted the egg and radish and not the salted and pickled daikon it also contained. I absolutely loved the sweet dark red paste that had a spicy kick. It really took the carrot cake up a notch.

Spicy Paella Lechon by Pepita’s Kitchen (Philippines)

Tell people you have not tried Pepita’s lechon (roasted suckling pig), and you would get a loud, dramatic gasp. (If you haven’t, get one, stat!) Lechon is a staple in the Philippines, and if you want the best, you get Pepita’s. I don’t know how they do it, but their lechon always has the crispiest skin, and is stuffed with the most delicious rice. I usually get my serving of Pepita’s lechon around Christmas time, when I let go of my inhibitions and guilt and eat half the pig.  It was no different at the Jamboree, and I have no regrets! The skin was crispy, the meat was juicy and tender and the fragrant rice was flavoured perfectly with herbs, mushrooms and a dash of truffle oil. I opted not to add the spicy sauce because it was perfect the way it was. I’m drooling just thinking about it again.

Sugar Glazed Squash Pilipit & Suman sa Lihiya (South Luzon)

The dish sounded and looked interesting, but that’s about it. I am used to eating soft suman (rice cake), so I was not a fan of the hard version presented in the dish. Also, the glazed squash was incredibly difficult to bite into and the Magnolia ice cream on top tasted ordinary. However, the sticky and chewy fried rice cake was superb, as was the caramel sauce drizzled over the dish. Unfortunately, it felt like they threw a bunch of Filipino delicacies into a bowl and hoped that it would all come together. It didn’t.

Overall, I would give my experience a rating of four pies! Almost everything I ate was divine. My only regret is that I didn’t get to try all of it! Despite my ravenous appetite, my stomach still has a limited holding capacity. The only thing I can do now is glaze enviously at pictures of the other dishes. World Street Food Jamboree 2017, I’m coming for you!

4 p

MARIE