Wednesday 30 October 2013

Spices: Tapella

Barcino is not the only placed one can choose to lounge around and have wine in the Greenbelt area, Tapella is just a few steps away. If you want a more refined, peaceful and quiet ambiance then Tapella is the best place to go.

Tapella's Pintxos Calientes

The wine list is not as extensive as Barcino's but it's still better than a regular resto's wine list. We had Spanish wine from the Ribera del Duero region, bottle of Mayor de Casstilla.

Mayor de Castilla Ribero Del Duero - Php700++

A complimentary basket of assorted warm bread was served. Nice.

Complimentary Assorted Bread

I really didn't have any expectations from the food, just like Barcino, they also offered full meals and tapas or bar chows. We went there to have wine so we just ordered two dishes, the first of which is the Boquerones Al Vinagre or fresh marinated anchovies. I had doubts that they will serve fresh anchovies, I initially thought that they would served the bottled or canned ones. But to my delight, they did serve fresh fish, the marinated anchovies tasted clean and fresh.

Boquerones Al Vinagre - Php235

It was a choice between an assorted plate of cold or hot tapas, I chose the latter, the Pintxos Calientes. On the plate was a variety of tapas,  a mini burger, fried cheese sticks, chicken skewer, croquettes, fried squid rings, toast with olive and a creamy soup shooter. Without any expectations I dig in and I was pleasantly surprised with everything I tasted. Each appetizer tasted good, cheese sticks, squid rings and croquettes were crunchy with a nice soft center. Burger and chicken skewer was succulent and tasty plus the soup was nice and creamy. Everything exceeded my expectations, I enjoyed each and everything.

Pintxos Calientes - Php395

Though I have been here only once, I can't wait to go back to try out more of the dishes that they offer. Food wise, I enjoyed it here better than Barcino. The only reason I've been to Barcino more times is they offer a lot of more wines, I do hope Tapella will expand their wine list in the future. In doing so, I'm pretty sure that they'll expand their clientele.

Address: Ground Flr. Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City
Tel No: 757 2710

Monday 28 October 2013

Spices: Barcino

It is common knowledge that we pinoys are big beer drinkers. Whenever somebody mentions going to a bar, it 's automatic that beer would always be the preferred drink. During the past few years, wine bars have been opening everywhere, a sign that we are starting to appreciate the wonderful complexities of wine. One of the first wine bar resto that established its position in the market is Barcino.

There always have been wine stores and restaurants that serves wine but never really an actual wine bar where one can find a great selection of affordable and premium wines. Barcino offers a great selection of wines, majority of which comes from Spain, they have a whole menu dedicated to all of the wines that they offer. I've been here a couple of times, here are some of the wines that I tasted and took pictures of...

Spanish Rioja - 2009 El Camino

Argentinian Shiraz - 2009 Osaado

Spanish Castilla Mixed Varietal - 2010 Finca Constancia

What I find really nice about this place is that they've also come up with dishes to pair with the wines. They offer full meals but most of the items on the menu are bar chows. I wouldn't really rave about the food in Barcino, some dishes tasted good and some were just ok.

Complimentary Bread and Dip

Wine pairs well with cheese, to pair with our Spanish wine, we ordered a plate of Spanish Manchego cheese.

Manchego Cheese - Php320

Though I wanted the Calamares Ala Romana to be coated with less breadcrumbs, it was still pretty good. Nice and crunchy with squid that's soft and tender.

Calamares Ala Romana - Php295

I would have like the Paella Negra better if not for the mayonnaise on top, there were just too much of it.

Paella Negra - Php410

It also goes for the Fideua, there were just too much mayonnaise on top. I hoped they served the mayonnaise on the side instead.

Fideua - Php425

During weekends, Barcino is always packed with so much happy people enjoying their glasses of wines. Though the food tasted just ok, it was still good enough to be bar chows. One thing is definite, it is a great place where you can hang out and enjoy a good bottle of wine.

Branches: Ortigas J. Vargas, Fort Bonifacio, Greenbelt 2 & 5, Rockwell, Alabang
Webpage: wine store -

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Spices: Greeka Kouzina

Whenever I passed by this resto during dinner hours, the place was always packed with so much people.To find out what the hype was all about, I decided to dine there early this year. We arrived at around 8 pm and as expected there was queue of diners waiting to be seated.

We ordered a bottle of Yellow Tail Merlot to go with our meal. A good quality medium bodied wine that's simple and very easy to drink.

Yellow Tail Merlot - Php780/bottle

The first dish that we had was the Salmon in Avgolemono sauce. I'm not sure if I got the greens right, the salmon was served with a bunch of blanched watercress on top and served with a lemon butter sauce. The dish looks pretty good but it fails badly taste wise. The salmon was overcooked, the fish flesh was tough and rubbery, it didn't have the glorious melt in your mouth feel. Luckily there was a wedge of lemon on the dish, because I couldn't care less for the lemon butter sauce. It tasted off, it might because of the wrong ratio between the amount of butter and lemon.

Salmon in Avgolemono Sauce - Php495

For each main dish that one orders, you get to choose one siding to go with the dish. The resto offers a variety of sidings, an extra order of Sidings costs 180php. We got to try three. The first is the Yesimites, a pepper stuffed with rice. This simple side order was pretty good, I liked how the pepper had a little char on it plus it was pleasantly sweet.


I would have enjoyed the simple Lettuce Salad more if the leaves weren't chopped finely. The lettuce sort of lost its freshness and crispness.

Lettuce Salad

The Roka Garides Pasta was pretty ordinary, it's not something that I would order again. It had a few Arugula on top but it wasn't enough to instill that aromatic astringent bitter flavor to the pasta.

Roka Garides Pasta

If there is one dish that I really liked and I should say a must order in this resto, it is the Arni Lemonata or Roast Lamb. Written on the menu, the five hour roast lamb is supposed to be the resto's bestseller.

Arni Lemonata - Php580

I was happy to see a huge piece of meat being place in front of me. I got my knife to tear off a piece and to my surprise, I didn't even need one, a fork will do, the meat just literally falls off the bone. Not only was it super tender, it tasted great as well, it absolutely has no gamey flavor. There were two dipping sauce that came with the lamb, I barely touched the sauces because it didn't need any plus I think it's actually a big mistake to use it, it's like putting ketchup on a good piece of steak.  I really enjoyed this. It's a perfect dish to pair with a good bottle of red.

'Fall off the Bone' Roast Lamb

The Roast Lamb is one reason for me to go back but the other things I tasted needs fine tuning. It tasted fine but something was lacking. I didn't feel like I was eating Greek food, I was looking for the Mediterranean flavors, flavors of olives, lemons and fresh herbs.   I haven't tasted much so it's hard to say if this goes for all of their dishes so I guess the only way to find out is to go back which I'll do.

Greeka Kouzina
Address: 285 P.Guevarra St., San Juan City
Tel No.: 02 6245974

Thursday 17 October 2013

Spices: Restaurant Bobby Chinn (Vietnam)

To regular viewers of TLC or travel living channel like I am, you might have come across the series Restaurant Bobby Chinn. I didn't get to watch the whole series but I did catch a couple of episodes. The TV series featured how Bobby Chinn, a celebrity chef, went through the process in opening up a restaurant. I really didn't take note of where his restaurant was until I saw the restaurant while walking on the streets of Saigon, Vietnam. Right then and there, I wanted to go back the next day to taste and experience his restaurant.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn's Duck Confit

The restaurant is divided into two areas, the dining area and bar area.The whole place had a simple but chic look at the same time.

Bar Area

Dining Area

Initially I wanted to try out his Set Lunch Menu but when we got there, they didn't offer it anymore. What they had was a buffet spread of Appetizers and Starters. One can choose to go buffet or you can order a main dish then add a specific amount to try out the buffet spread. We decided to skip the buffet and pick out items from the menu to share among us.


A complimentary plate of warm toasted buttered bread and smooth creamy hummus was served.

Complimentary Bread and Hummus

We each had a glass of wine to accompany our meal, an Italian brand that I've tried and liked. A Banfi Col di Sasso,  a blend of Cab Sauvignon and Sangiovese wine.

Banfi Col di Sasso 

To start, we ordered the Salad of the Day. For that day, they were serving Som Tam or Papaya Salad. The salad was divine, everything on the plate was perfect. The slivers of green papaya, herbs and vegetables were fresh and crunchy, shrimps were plump and juicy and the flavor of the vinaigrette was spot on.

Som Tam - 100,000 VND (around 200php)

The Crispy Duck Confit Leg was superb. The duck leg was cooked to perfection, the skin was brown and crispy and the meat was super moist and tender. I didn't even have to use a knife to tear off the meat from the bone. Served with lemongrass scented lentils, chipotle sauce with lemon oil and topped with potato fritters.

Crispy Duck Confit Leg - 300,000 VND (around 600php)

Moist and Tender Duck Meat

When the Crispy  Skinned Norwegian Salmon was served I was surprised to see how thick the salmon was, it was almost if not an inch thick. With salmon this thick, it would be kind of tricky to cook this.

Crispy Skinned Norwegian Salmon - 430,000 VND (around  880php)

But as soon as I cut through it, a yellowish-pinkish center greeted me. As I cut off a piece and took a bite, bliss! The skin was crunchy and the flesh was so moist and flaky. Perfection! The salmon was served on top of Wasabi Mashed Potato with Ginger Demi Glace then topped with potato fritters. The Wasabi mashed potatoes tasted interesting, it had the flavor of Wasabi and it just had a tinge of spiciness. I enjoyed the mashed potatoes so much, I just loved how it tasted of Wasabi. The whole salmon dish has to be one of the most memorable fish dish I've tried.

We didn't even have to order dessert because the head chef send us complimentary Chocolate and White Chocolate mini muffins.

Chocolate and White Chocolate Mini Muffins

I've watched a lot of Bobby Chin's TV shows, he is a person that I find who's really passionate about his craft. I admire him for being tactless at times, if he doesn't like something , he is not afraid of saying what he really thinks. On this note, I'll also be blunt to say that this is one awesome lunch. Service was exemplary and food was excellent, it's a resto that's worth visiting  again.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
Address: The Link at Khumo Asiana Plaza Saigon, 39 Le Duan Street, Ben Nghe
Tel No.: +84 86291 7788

**update: the resto has change its name to Bonbon Restaurant.

Friday 11 October 2013

Spices: The Refinery (Vietnam)

Since Vietnam was under French rule before, it was not a surprise to find French Bistros around the city. From affordable hole in the wall places to up scale fine dining restaurants. We decided to have lunch at a mid-priced casual French bistro and wine bar, The Refinery.

The Refinery

The bistro's yellow painted walls induced a very warm and cozy vibe.

Bar at The Refinery

During weekends the resto offers a special brunch menu, one can choose to have a Full or Mini Brunch.I went for a Full Brunch that costs 330,000 VND (around 675php)

Weekend Brunch Menu

To go with our Full Brunch, we decided to pick a white wine from the long and extensive wine list. We wanted to order a full bottle but since it was still too early we just ordered by the glass.

Gentil by the glass - 144,000 VND around 295php

The Brunch came with Fresh Juice, I initially wanted Watermelon but none was available and I ended up having Passion Fruit Juice instead.

Fresh Passion Fruit Juice

To start off a basket of home made breads, bagel and danish was served. The breads came with Cream Cheese, Honey, Butter, Marmalade and Jam. The breads might look common and ordinary but each piece of home-baked bread was exceptional. The toasts have a slight crunch and moist center, the bagel was super soft and chewy and the danish was deliciously flaky.

Home Baked Breads and Spreads

There were different choices for the main course, all of which came with Fresh Sautéed Spinach and Roasted Tomato. I chose to have The Refinery's Egg Benedict. Poached Eggs on Toast with Ham and doused with Hollandaise Sauce. Everything on the dish was perfectly cooked, egg yolks were runny, toasts had the slight crunch, ham was smokey and what made the dish exceptionally well was the Hollandaise sauce. It was so smooth and creamy and it had a tinge of  that 'vinegar' sweetness and sourness flavor.

The Refinery's Eggs Benedict with Sauteed Spinach and Roasted Tomato

We order an additional dish of Parpadelle with Smoked Salmon, Fried Capers and Mustard Dressing. The pasta dish was disappointing, the pasta was a tad overcooked and the whole dish was so bland. For thick cut pasta like parpadelle, I would expect something like a heavy cream for it's sauce. This had slivers of smoked salmon and fried capers, I barely tasted the mustard dressing.

Parpadelle with Smoked Salmon, Fried Capers and Mustard Dressing

For dessert, we picked the Chocolate Mousse. Served in what looked like a cocktail glass, the mousse was pretty good. Velvety smooth, wasn't clawing sweet and it had that rich chocolatey flavor.

Chocolate Mousse

We finished our brunch with a cup of coffee. This is the first time I've heard and tried Punto Italia and this is one GREAT cup of espresso!!!. The crema was thick, coffee was very aromatic with a strong robust flavor without the bitter and sour aftertaste. I automatically fell in love with the coffee upon first sip.

Punto Italia Espresso

Though I was disappointed with the Parpadelle pasta dish, I still enjoyed the other dishes I tasted. If ever I'll get the chance to visit Ho Chi Minh again, I'll definitely go back and try out more dishes. The Refinery is a great place to spend a whole day in to lounge around, sip wine and partake on the bistro style food the resto serves.

The Refinery
Address: 74 Hai Ba Trung, Ben Nghe, Ho Chi Minh
Tel No: +84 8 3823 0509