Monday 25 March 2013

Spices: Cafe Juanita

As soon as we entered the doors of Cafe Juanita, beautiful quirky looking  chandeliers, statues, figurines and ornaments greeted us, the whole place was filled with interesting conversation pieces. This alone is one reason why people should dine in Cafe Juanita.

Cafe Juanita

I have to admit, upon looking at the menu and looking around, I didn't have high expectations on the food. The menu was so extensive that I assumed the quality of the dishes would suffer because of this. And with so much decorations inside, I thought that the place is more of a 'must-see' rather than a 'must-eat'.

Being still half full from munching around Kapitolyo, we only got to try out a few dishes. First of which is the Vegetarian Curry. A variety of vegetables and strips of tofu in curry sauce. Everything on the dish was cooked perfectly. The vegetables still had a good crunch, tofu strips were tender and the curry sauce was rich and thick. Flavor wise it tasted ok, I hope that it had the pungent Indian flavor but it was more on the  Filipino gata(coconut milk) curry flavor.

Vegetable Curry - Php199

The Pan Grilled Fish Fillet on Kare Kare sauce was pretty good. Just like the first dish, everything was cooked perfectly. I'm not sure what kind white fillet it was but the big chunk was soft and milky all throughout. The sauce tasted nutty and creamy, we found ourselves spooning out what was left on the plate.

Pan Grilled Fish on Kare Kare Sauce - Php373

The last dish that we got to try was the Tinuktok, a dish from the Bicol region that consist of crab meat and coconut strips wrapped in taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and crab fat. It reminded me of  the Pinangat dish that I've tried in Bicol. But with the addition of the crab meat, buco strips plus the aligue (crab fat), it had so much  more texture and flavors. It was delicious and addicting, I can go back to Cafe Juanita again just to eat this.

Tinuktok - Php199

I enjoyed dinner at Cafe Juanita, my assumption was totally wrong. The food was prepared and cooked well, the resto is not just a must-see, it is also a must-eat. Next time around, I'll go there with an empty stomach so that I'll be able to try out more dishes, specially the resto's award winning Sinigang.

Cafe Juanita

Cafe Juanita
Address: 19 West Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City
Tel. No.: 632 0357

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Spices: Gunther's (Singapore) - Ranked 14th as Asia's Best for 2011/2012

After securing our plane and F1 tickets, the next thing I did was to look for a nice place to eat in Singapore. Since there would be the F1 event, I knew that most good restaurants would be fully booked. After making inquiries in some of the restos, Gunther's replied and told me they have a table available on our selected date.


The restaurant is relatively small, there were only a few tables set up. The place evokes a very chic and minimalist vibe with its black walls and ceiling. 

Inside Gunther's

We decided to have their Three Course Lunch Set Menu. Luckily for us the starter and main course had three choices so we got to try out everything. The Lunch Set cost SG $38++ (around Php1300) per person.

Lunch Menu

Complimentary mini baguette and butter was served.

Mini Baguetter and Butter

The first starter that I got to try was the Stuffed Eclair, Farmer Salad, Iberico de Bellota ham. It looked really good but this was our least favorite. 

Stuffed Eclair, Farmer Salad, Iberico de Belotta Ham

Between the eclair was the famer salad and Iberico ham. I felt that it would have been better if the potatoes were cut smaller and they could have added more slices of the ham. The huge chunks of potatoes overwhelmed the flavors and textures of the whole dish.  

The Toast Champignon de Paris, Vongole consists of a toast withe slices of mushroom, lettuce, arugula and clams. The combination of flavors and texture on this dish was spot on.

Toast Champignon de Paris, Vongole

I like the bread's crunchiness, it complimented the juicy texture of the mushrooms and clams.

The Scrambled Eggs, Smoked Salmon looks and tastes so simple. But this has to be the most creamiest and tastiest scrambled eggs I've ever had.

Scrambled Eggs, Smoked Salmon

For our main course, I started with the Roasted Threadfin, Green Asparagus.  

Roasted Threadfin, Green Asparagus

The very first thing that caught my attention was the huge stalks of green asparagus, it was thicker than a normal finger and is around eight to 10 inches long. I thought the the asparagus would be hard and stringy but it turned out really soft and tender.

The fish was cooked perfectly, the skin was crispy and the center was soft and milky. It was on top of a lightly seasoned chunks of tomatoes and olive oil. Also on the dish was some fragrant rice.

The Tomato Pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano was an absolute delight, all of us declared it to be our favorite. Angel hair pasta in a creamy Parmigiano Reggiano cheese sauce with cherry tomatoes

Tomato Pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano

Everything on that plate was perfect. The pasta was al dente and I love the harmonious blend of the saltiness of the creamy cheese sauce and the sweetness of the juicy tomatoes. So simple yet unforgettable.

The last main course was a surprise, we asked what Gunther's Creation was for that day, the server answered Braised Beef Cheeks. When the dish was served it looked so promising, a chunk of beef with a red wine reduction on top of mashed potatoes, roasted corn and a vegetable fritter on the side.

Braised Beef Cheeks

The most tender part of any meat, be it pork, fish or beef can be found on the cheeks. This is exactly how the dish was prepared, the chunk of beef was so tender that you wouldn't even need a knife to cut a piece off. The beef cheeks was under seasoned, it needed a tad more salt to bring the flavors of the sauce and meat. Nonetheless we enjoyed the dish.

For dessert, Caramelized Banana, Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Ganache and a Spiced White Wine Reduction. The dessert was simple and tasted like how it looks. What I enjoyed most is the swirl of the spiced white wine reduction on the plate, mixed with the different components on the dish, it brought out interesting flavors.

Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Ganache, Caramelized Banana with Spiced White Wine Reduction

The Coffee they served was Nespresso and it came with Petiys Four that consist of a Madeleine, Almond Cookie Financier, Vanilla Syrup Crisp and Chocolate.

Nespresso Coffee

Petits Four

Our lunch was simple yet satisfying, we all had smiles when we made our way out of the resto. Each ingredient was of excellent quality and everything was cooked perfectly.  And for only SG $38++, this is one of the best lunch where we got great value for what we spent.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine (Singapore)
Address: 36 Purvis St., Singapore 188613
Operating Hours:  Open from Mon to Saturday for Lunch ( 12pm to 2:30 pm)
                                                                             Dinner (6:30pm to 10:30pm)
                              closed on Sundays
Tel No: +65 6338 8955

Thursday 14 March 2013

Sights: Mint Museum of Toys (Singapore)

It was by chance that we found one of the most unique and astonishing museums that I've been to. It was after lunch at Gunther's when Jon spotted a signboard pointing to a toy museum. Right then and there we decided to visit The Mint Museum of Toys the next day.

Mint Museum Of Toys

We already saw a sort of toy museum/shop in Seoul, the place housed different toys that was collected by its owners. So when we went to Mint Toy Museum, we kind of expected to see the same stuff we saw in Seoul. But to our surprise, Mint Toy Museum was totally different and better. To compare the toy museum in Seoul was totally inappropriate.

Toys Toys Toys
At the entrance, the usher told us to start with the upper most level and make our way down to each level. The toy museum has five levels and each level has a specific theme. Level 5 - Outerspace, Level 4 - Characters, Level 3 - Childhood Favorites, Level 2 - Collectables and Level 1 - The Mint Shop.

A Toy Theme at Every Floor

As soon as we entered the museum, our jaws dropped. Floor to ceiling display shelves which contains numerous and numerous number of toys.

Floor to Ceiling Display of Toys

Not only were there a lot of toys, the age of some of it dates back from the early 1900's. Now this is what you can call a real 'Toy Museum'.

Wind Up Robot from the 1930's and 1940's

A Tin Robot that cost US $13,000

While looking around, we saw Mr. Chang Ya Fang walking and explaining stuff to his nephew. Mr. Chang is the owner and the collector of all the toys inside the museum. He asked us if we wanted to have our picture taken but I requested if we can have our picture taken with him. He happily obliged and after having our photo taken with him, he asked us if we wanted to walk around with them. We gladly said yes, we were about to be given a personal tour from the owner and collector himself, what luck!!!

Picture with Mr. Chang Ya Fang

Mr. Chang is so passionate about his collections, he knows each piece by heart and he would tell us little anecdotes of some of the toys. The very first thing he told us that every toy on display is still working. He then pointed out to a set of what looked like the same toy and said that no two toys are alike, everything on display is different from one another.

Toy Car Collection

He also pointed out the original boxes of the toys, he said that these boxes makes the toy more valuable and collectible. He would sometimes go out to search and buy the original boxes of the toy he already has.

Original Old Toy Boxes

Being big Star Wars Fan, we were drawn to his collection of Star Wars Action figures, toys and oringinal movie posters. Mr.Chang mentioned that George Lucas was the first person to allow his toys to be mass produced. Though he said that he is not much of a big fan, he still keeps an awesome collection.

Star War Toys and Movie Posters

On the stairwell leading down to the lower level, a huge wall contained his collection of the most loved android robot, Astroboy.

Astroboy Collection

Upon entering the Characters Level, we got so overwhelmed with the number of Batman toys and merchandise that was on display. Jon had a blast looking at each one of them, he's a fan. Did I mention that Mr. Chang told us that he thinks he has the largest collection of Batman toys and memorabilia around the world?

Batman Collection

While Jon and Jim was ogling at the Batman display, I was at the Tintin display shelves looking and dying in envy with his Tintin Collection.I told Mr.Chang that I'm a big fan and I've collected all the comic books. He dragged me to a corner, pointed something and whispered.."That is an autograph first print comic book, that thing is worth $1000". All that I can mutter out was. Wow!

Tintin Collection

I Just Had to Take a Picture with Tintin and Snowy

The Authographed First Print Comic Book

His Popeye collection might also be the largest in Asia.

Popeye Collection

We enjoyed looking at toys with familiar faces, The Flinstones, Snoopy, Dennis the Menace, Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear and many more.

Bugs Bunny

The Flinstones

Yogi Bear


Dennis the Menace

James Bond


Japanese Anime Characters

There were even some toys that were the only ones known to exist in the world. I asked him where he gets his toys from and if he still remember the very first toy he got. He said he still has in possession the very first toy he got as a kid. He has been collecting toys for so long that he couldn't even remember when it started. He mentioned he buys his toys from auction and or direct sellers from all over the world.

Dan Dare Gun: Only one Known to Exist in the World

Green Hornet Blue Car: Only One Known to Exist in the World

On the next stairwell going down, the display shelves house different stuffed toys. I was so amazed to see the same Steiff Teddy Bear I saw in the Teddy Bear Museum in Seoul. I knew that the word 'Teddy' was derived from US Pres. Theodore Roosevelt but I didn't know the story behind it. Luckily Mr. Chang was there to tell us the history behind the 'Teddy' Bear.

Stuffed Toy Collection

On the next level, all three of us enjoyed looking at the extensive Disney toys and memorabilia.

Mickey Mouse 



Mickey Mouse Watches and Clock

We were surprised when Mr. Chang told us that Walt Disney first character he drew was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He added that not many people know of this, specially the younger generation like us.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

He asked us if we were familiar with Mickey Mouse, we said yes and we're actually Disney babies. He asked us if there are any mention that Mickey and Minnie are actually married. Everyone knows they are together but married? I don's think so, I don't remember watching anything that showed they were. Mr. Chang pointed out a tin can and said that that piece of unauthorized Disney merchandise might hold the answer. Mickey and Minnie riding a tractor with a 'Just Married' sign at the back.

Mickey and Minnie Just Married Tin Can

Mr. Chang being a big Beatles fan had a wide array of Beatles figurines and memorabilia.

Beatles Collection

He also has collected all sorts of memorabilia of the Royal Family in England.

British Royalty Collection

Would you believe that this Tumbling Toy came from the 1840s??? Wow!

Tumbling Toy from the 1840's

The Smallest Fighters in the World Toy caught my attention. It's just as big as a matchbox.

Matchbox Boxing Match Toy

Our tour ended in the dolls area, he told us that dolls aren't just girls. He showed us dolls he collected from all over the world. I asked him if he has a favorite theme or specific toy, he laughed and said that he has been asked the same question over and over again. He replied that his toys are like his children, he loves and put importance to everyone of them.

Dolls Collection

He introduced us to his wife and Mrs. Chang told us that we were so lucky to bumped into her husband because he rarely visits the museum. Mr. Chang told us to come back again because every after a couple of weeks, his other toys in his warehouse takes the shelves.

Handmade Dolls from China

Before saying our goodbyes, I asked him what attracts him to a specific toy, what makes him buy and want it. He mentioned three different considerations, rarity and price are two of them. But the most important to him is how a toy brings about a certain joy and happiness within him. He continued to explain that toys are made to be played and enjoyed, collecting it is just secondary.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

He gave us a few advice if we want to start our own collection even if he discourage it since most toys nowadays are mass produce. He suggested that we stick to a specific theme so we can build up on that particular toy and more importantly he reminded us to play and enjoy the toy.

The Posted Motto in the Elevator

We bought this 1980's Han Solo and Jabba the Hut Figurine from the Mint Shop

Han Solo and Jabba the Hut Figurine

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to The Mint Toy Museum, we felt like being kids again while looking at Mr.Chang's toy collection and listening to his stories. I forgot to mention that MINT actually stands for Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys. And this is actually what we experienced, for those couple of hours, we had no worries and were smiling from ear to ear. The feeling was like opening a new toy out of its box for the first time.

Feeling like Kids Again

We'll be back...

Mint Museum of Toys
Address: 26 Seah Street, Singapore 1888382
Operating Hours: 9:30am to 6:30pm Daily
Price: Adult - Sg $15 (around 490php)
          Kids - Sg $7.50 (around 245php)
Tel No: +65 63390660