Man Eats: Zapata’s

“You’re gonna drive an hour and a half just to eat?!?” – my Dad when he found out that we were traveling all the way to Pampanga to have lunch.

Oh Dad, its as if you don’t even know me.

The many times I’ve gone to Pampanga, C’s Italian Dining was almost always the destination (best Panizza evaaaarrr!). This time around we decided to try Zapata’s, a Mexican restaurant that many of my friends have been raving about. Also, since the Hermano’s Taco Shop experience, we badly needed to have some good Mexican food and we hoped that this would do the trick.

Zapata’s was pretty easy to find since its located at the same strip as C’s. For the guys who still don’t know where that is, Zapata’s is located at the same strip as strippers. Got it? Good.

Given the long drive, I was hungry. And I don’t just mean “I could eat a horse” hungry — I mean “I could eat a house” hungry. Good thing the tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole didn’t take long.

Holy Guacamole, Batman!

Now’s about a good time to order a Grande Combination Plate. “What’s that,” you say? Good you asked.

Burrito + Beans + Enchilada

Taco + Chili con Carne

Soft Taco

The Zapata’s Grande Combination plate is a hefty order of a Taco, a Burrito, an Enchilada, a bowl of Chili con Carne, a bowl of Mayan Bean Soup, Borracho Beans, and Mexican Rice. According to the waitress, the order was good for about 2-3 people.

Or maybe 1 fat boy.

Aside from the so-so enchilada, everything else was really good. The Chili con Carne, most especially. I just dumped the whole ramekins of shredded cheddar cheese and onions and it was good to go.

Since it was my first time to eat in Zapata’s, I couldn’t pass on dessert.

I should have.

It glows!

Much the opposite of their entrées, Zapata’s Key Lime Pie was a let down. Not only did it taste nothing like Key Lime Pie, it looked a little something like what gave Donatello and the gang their awesome ninja powers.

Overall, Zapata’s was definitely worth the day trip. Next time, I’m just gonna stick to Razon’s Halo-Halo for dessert.


Man Eats: Kanzhū

Before anything else, here’s a video showing how hand-pulled noodles are made. Video is narrated by Alton Brown, host of Food Network’s Iron Chef America and Good Eats.

Don’t mean to sound like a snob but I really prefer hand-pulled noodles over the machine-extruded kind. It might be the slightly uneven thickness, the rougher texture, or the chewier bite, I don’t know.

What I do know is that the noodles in Kanzhū are excellent.

Hand-pulled Noodles *snicker*

While deciding which noodles to order, the waiter gives us a small bowl of sesame seed-tossed caramelized peanuts. Totally unexpected given that Kanzhū isn’t really one of those big Chinese restaurants like Gloria Maris or Tao Yuan (I heart you, Tao Yuan).

Free Peanuts!!!

We decided to go for the Braised Beef Dry Noodles (their best-seller, according to the waiter) and Seafood Fried Noodles.

Braised Beef Dry Noodles
Seafood Fried Noodles

Both were really nice. So nice, in fact, that my wife came back the next day to take out two orders of the Seafood Fried Noodles for dinner since it paired well with Mom’s Sweet and Sour Pork.

We also ordered the Pork & Chive Dumplings, which we requested to split between fried and steamed since we wanted to try both. Although the steamed dumplings were good, fried ALWAYS wins.

Steamed Pork & Chive Dumplings
Fried Pork & Chive Dumplings

For veggies, we got the Wok Fried Chinese Sausage & Baguio Beans. I often get Baguio Beans and String Beans mixed up. Funny since I love string beans and I don’t really care much for Baguio Beans. The Chinese Sausage was good, though.

Wok Fried Chinese Sausage & Baguio Beans

One surprising thing on the menu was they had a couple of lamb dishes. I didn’t get to try any though since my wife hates lamb.

Well, at least I have a good excuse to come back.

Man Eats: IMC Kavino

There are only a handful of people I trust when it comes to recommending good eats. So when Karina (not her real name…her real name is Carina) tweeted that I had to try out IMC Kavino, I did.

IMC Kavino, which is short for International Master Chef Kavino, is a new “Chinese Fusion” restaurant located in the malas spot of Jupiter Place, along Jupiter Street, Makati (beside Mey Lin). This particular location is to successful restaurants as what Kris Aquino is to successful relationships. I hope Kavino does better than them, including Krissy.

Some Free Appetizer

I don’t know what this dish is called but it was a nice, clean way to start the meal. It’s like kimchi, but using lettuce instead of cabbage.

Fried Onion Cake

This was the highlight of the meal. A fried mantou-like mini-bun topped with a bit of mayo, mahu (pork floss) and spring onions served on a bed of fried crispy noodles.

Vietnamese Spring Roll
Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Served at the same time as the glorious Fried Onion Cake, the Vietnamese Spring Rolls paled in comparison. While the wrapper was crispy and flaky, the filling wasn’t as exciting. Damn you, FOC, for getting my hopes up so early on in the meal.

Fried Squid Balls
Super Crispy Wasabi Squid Ball

Eh. Super ok lang talaga.

Golden Sand "Bite-sized" Bean Curd
Golden Sand “Bite-size” Bean Curd

Fried Tofu is always a winner. Always.

Pero pewde bang mag submit ulit ng name studies?

Pork a la Peking
Pork a la Peking

While I would have preferred regular Peking Duck, the Pork a la Peking was really interesting. The International Master Chef used his mystical fusion powers and substituted the duck with fried, battered liempo. Also, this was huge compared to the regular peking duck wrap. That’s a plus, by the way.

On another note…

Peeking Duck
A Peeking Duck

Given I was the family, I didn’t have time to take pictures of all the dishes before they were wiped out (or too messy). Here are the ones I didn’t get to take pictures of:

Hot Sour Soup — Too watery for my taste but tasted good.
Japanese Style Salad Taro Puff — Avoid like the plague.
Golden Garlic Yang Chow Fried Rice — Slightly browned and burnt. One of the best I’ve ever had.
Mango Sago with Sea Coconut and Pomelo — Very nice and interesting.

Overall, IMC Kavino is pretty good. Some hits and misses but given their extensive menu, I’m pretty sure there are more yummy dishes to discover.

P.S. I was going to complain that the stuff we ordered was kinda oily since most of them were fried but given the amount of alcohol I had in my body from the previous night, oily was good.

Man Eats: 2nd’s

2nd’s is a (fairly) new restaurant in Bonifacio High Street and is now taking up the space that Mag:net used to occupy — a massive upgrade, if you ask me.

While this place boasts of a wide selection of single malt whiskies, tonight is for eating (a lot) and not for drinking. Ok fine, I had a bottle of Hoegaarden when I got there but that’s it.

Since the group wanted to try a lot of things on the menu, it was share-share so we could lamon-lamon a lot-lot.

Bacon Chicharon with Muscovado Mustard Dip and Spiced Vinegar

Buffalo Bacon Chicharon with Bleu Cheese Dip

Personally, I liked the Bacon Chicharon better than the Buffalo Bacon Chicharon. I don’t know about you but I like my pork tasting like pork, not reminiscent of chicken. The Bacon Chicharon was tastier and crispier than the Buffalo variant since the latter’s glaze made the chicharon a bit soggy. Don’t get me wrong though — both were good, bordering brilliant even, but the simpler the better, I guess.

“But it’s just basically bacon,” you say? Well, basically, bacon is basically the best food in the world, basically. Be it honey-cured, canadian, or chicharon-ed, bacon brings home the, well, itself.

Note to self: Even if this dish oddly reminded you of the Swift Sizzler/Sizzlean of the 80’s, don’t bother mentioning it since many won’t get the reference.

Chicken Adobo Croquettes

This one, I didn’t like so much. I mean, I love adobo and I love croquettes and the idea of combining the two might seem like a great tapas dish in principle, but the execution didn’t really work for me. Maybe because I like my adobo with rice. Maybe because I like my adobo browned and garlicky. Maybe because I don’t really like my adobo mushy. In any case, next!

Grilled Jamon N’ Cheese

I’m torn. On the one hand, I loved the melted cheese and how buttery the toast was (by the way, I love butter as much as I love bacon…oh, and my heart hates me). On the other hand, I was kinda disappointed because I couldn’t taste the jamon serrano, which was kinda the whole point of this sandwich.

Good Morning Spaghetti

I thought that they called this carbonara dish the Good Morning Spaghetti because it has bacon and eggs. But here’s Luis’ explanation: “You know when you come home drunk early in the morning and you try to whip up some pasta? This is what you end up with.”

Either way, this was awesome! You know what made it awesome-er? The crumbled Bacon Chicharon I put on top.

Fuck yeah, bacon!

Truffled Mac N’ Three Cheese

Superman has kryptonite. Achilles had his heel. I have Mac N’ Cheese.

2nd’s Truffled Mac N’ Three Cheese, however, was blue kryptonite. While it may make other bizarro humans weak, it really didn’t have that much effect on me.

While I liked the addition of truffle oil to the emmental, bleu, and sharp cheddar cheese threesome, I found the dish too dry and the bleu cheese was too overpowering for my taste.

Three Little Pigs Kawali

I loved the touch of rosemary (one of my favorite herbs) and foie gras bits. This is probably as good as lechon kawali gets. Unfortunately, it was just that…lechon kawali. Not sure why it was on the menu along with more interesting and more thought-out dishes. If I were management, I’d just leave the lechon kawali business to Gerry’s and Dencio’s.

Banana Rum French Toast

Even if this dessert would have been better in a breakfast menu, I really liked it.

This + Bacon Chicharon = Breakfast of Champions! I wonder if they’re open at 7:00 am.

Lavazza Brewed Coffee

Any establishment that serves Lavazza coffee deserves plus points in my book.

Overall, the 2nd’s experience was very good and I’m actually pretty excited to come back to try the other dishes like the Roast Beef Raclette, The Jerk Burger, and the Crisp Duck Confit.

Based on this visit to 2nd’s, I’d definitely come back for…

…the Good Morning Spaghetti and Bacon Chicharon!

Akala mo “…back for 2nd’s” no?!?

That’s so played out.

Man Eats: Hermanos Taco Shop

Hermanos Taco Shop

Last Sunday, I decided to try out Hermanos Taco Shop in Gilmore, Q.C. since many claim that this place has the most authentic Mexican food in Manila.

As you’d expect, Hermanos’ menu has the usual burritos, tacos and quesadillas. What really stood out from the menu was their Rolled Tacos. I was excited to try this since I was watching the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate…with My Hands the other night and they featured rolled tacos from Chico’s Tacos in El Paso, Texas.

Rolled Tacos (beef and chicken combo)

This wasn’t the best thing I ever ate. Not with my hands. Not with utensils. Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. I do not like them [that much], Man I Am. The “hefty” serving of tortilla chips didn’t really help either. The beef was so-so, the chicken was bland and the fried tortilla wrapper was too thick and it masked even more of taste. Sayang, I really had high hopes for this dish.

Beef Fajita Burrito

Beef Fajita Burrito in yo’ face

Up next, the Beef Fajita Burrito (no beans, please). I’ve heard complaints that the burrito in Hermanos isn’t big enough, most probably because they’ve gotten used to the huge servings in Ristras, but I, for one, am glad that the burrito here doesn’t make me feel like I ate extra extra extra rice. Taste-wise, the burrito was actually good, especially when you add a bit of their homemade hot sauce and extra cilantro.

Given that we live in a country where Mexicali and Tia Maria’s have been the benchmarks for Mexican fare for the longest time, I’d say that Hermanos isn’t that bad.

Is it authentic, though? Jury’s still out on that one.