Monday, 21 November 2016

Spices: Our Dining Adventure in SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

When I researched about the must eats in Siem Reap, I only found a number of must try dishes. It seems that Siem Reap doesn't really offer much, I just took note of the few must tries and decided to wing it.

Our first meal was in a restaurant that our tour guide brought us to dine in. Initially I told him to bring us to a place where locals would dine. But since they get to eat for free here if they bring tourist in, I just reluctantly obliged to eat here. Prices were quite expensive for how the simple the dishes were, we had the Khmer Stir Fried Beef Curry and the Khmer Kako Chicken Soup. Upon looking at the ingredients used in cooking the dishes, it seems that both dishes will be packed with flavors. Since it contains different herbs and spices like galangal, lime leaf, garlic, lemon grass and more. It seems very Thai like but upon tasting both, we were utterly disappointed.

Khmer Stir Fried Beef Curry

Khmer Kako Chicken Soup

After a disappointing lunch, we went to Pub Street looking forward to a nice meal. One of the most mentioned places that I read about is the Khmer Family Restaurant. We went here to try out two famous Khmer dishes, the Fish Amok and the Lok Lak.

Khmer Family Restaurant

The Fish Amok is always mentioned as the must try dish in Siem Reap. It's basically a fish curry mixed with different herbs and spices, steamed and served on a bowl of banana leaves. I'm a big fan of curries, whether it's Thai, Japanese, Indian or Chinese. The Khmer curry tasted different, it leans toward the sweet side. I could taste the different herbs and spices but it was just too savory sweet for me.

Fish Amok

Upon looking at the Lok Lak, it reminded me of the Beef Salpicao, served with a fried egg and white rice. But what makes the Lok Lak different is the very aromatic black pepper. The pepper used in this dish comes from the province of Kampot thus it's called Kampot Black Pepper. The pepper has a beautiful sweet aromatic smell and it didn't have that spicy harshness on the mouth. I just wished the beef cubes were more tender.

Lok Lak

While strolling around we found a food cart, selling fried spiders, insects and snakes. Since my brother, Jim hasn't tried these before. We bought and tasted some. It was cooked and prepared the same way like the ones we saw in Beijing, deep fried and dusted with salt. Among all the exotic treats, my favorite is still the fried grasshoppers. Crunchy-ly addicitng!

Bugs, Critters and Spiders

When we visited the temples outside the main city, we stopped by of what looked like another tourist trap restaurant. But to our surprise the food we had were pretty good. On the menu, the ingredients used in each dish were listed. We decided to go for the Khmer Stir Fried Pork and the Khmer Sour Herb Chicken Soup.
The dishes were flavorful and I can taste the herbs and spice that was listed down. Upon seeing and tasting the dishes, the influence of the Chinese and Thai is so evident in Khmer cuisine.

Khmer Stir Fried Pork 

Khmer Sour Herb Chicken Soup

We had a free day and decided to walk around and see what we can try out and eat. For breakfast, we found a small Vietnamese resto that was owned and ran by a Vietnamese expat. The bowl of Pho and glass of Cafe Sua Da reminded me the time when I visited Vietnam, it was so authentic and delicious.

Vietnamese Coffee and Noodle Resto

Pho Bo and  Ca Phe Sua Da

For Lunch, we crossed the river and went to Peace Cafe. A vegetarian cafe, resto, trade shop and they even have cooking classes. We were saving space for dinner so we ordered something simple and light. We had the Squash Croquettes and the Veggie Burger. Both dishes were prepared and cooked really well though I felt that the dishes wont fool meat lovers. I love vegetables thus I  enjoyed how basic and 'healthy' tasting the dishes are.

Veggie Burger

Squash Croquettes

For dinner, we had an amazing 6 course degustation meal in Cuisine Wat Damnak. Its one of my top reason why I would want to go back to Siem Reap.

Amuse Bouche from Cuisine Wat Damnak

After dinner we were already so full but there was something that we wanted to try, the Happy Pizza. Go around the restos around Pub Street and you can spot signs of the the said specialty. Happy Pizza is basically your ordinary pizza doused and topped with a special herb. A little tip, don't over eat,  a slice or two is enough!

Happy Pizza Anyone?

Ham and Egg Happy Pizza

After sleeping all throughout the whole morning because of the Happy Pizza fiasco, having lunch in Cambodian BBQ was the perfect meal to get rid off our hangovers. In this restaurant, they serve the Cambodian style of hotpot. On the center of the circular pot was where you grill the meat and on its sides is the clear broth. You grill the meat on the center and let the fat and juices of the meat drip in to the clear broth. Vegetables and noodles are also placed in the broth.

Cambodian BBQ
Hotpot Cambodian Style

What makes this resto unique is the different types of meat that they serve. You can either pick the 7 kinds or 14 kinds of meat. The server told us that ostrich wasn't available but still we went for the latter. There were three dipping sauces, a citrus, a soy based and a peanut based sauce.

Our flight was back was late at night, we wanted to grab a bite before heading for the airport. We found ourselves wandering around the riverbank and saw food carts parked along the street. Though there were quite a lot of food carts that spread across the whole street, you can only find three types of food carts. One is selling drinks, one is selling pancakes/crepes and the last one is selling stir fried instant noodles.

Food Carts

Pancakes / Crepes

Stir Fried Instant Noodles

It's hard for me to think of a word to describe the food culture and it's also hard to pinpoint a specific flavor that I'll remember about Siem Reap. What I'll remember about this place is what happened during and after each meal. I have to admit that Siem Reap for me is not really a place that I would go back to dine but with Cuisine Wat Damnak, it's a total different story.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Spices: Allium (Closed)

We wanted to veer away from the noisy mall restaurants in Glorietta and Greenbelt thus we ended up in Allium, a restaurant tucked away in one of the small streets in Legaspi Village. I found out about the resto thru reading my cousin's blog ( Upon reading that she enjoyed her meal here, I had nothing but high expectations.

Upon being seated a basket on what looked tiny dinner rolls was served. I took a piece and popped it in my mouth, it was warm, slightly salty, soft and chewy. Little did I know I was popping one piece after another, we had to ask for another round of complimentary bread. And another...

Bread Basket

They have a good list of wine offerings on their menu, we picked the Chillean Camenere reserva to go with out meal.

Casa Silva 2010 Carmenere Reserva

We opted to go for their degustation menu as it looked more affordable than going for ala carte. For 3 courses it cost 1,400php while 4 courses cost 1,800php.

The first starter we had the Butter Milk Fried Oyster - Chili Honey Yuzu. I have mentioned before that I prefer my oysters fresh and raw but Allium's fried oysters were really good. It was lightly breaded, the oysters still had that slimy fresh texture and the chili honey yuzu sauce was such a delight.

Butter Milk Fried Oyster - Chili Honey Yuzu

The next starter was the Hokkaido Snow Crab and Sea Prawn Fritter - Madras Curry Aioli-Piquillo.  The fried fritters dish was absolutely amazing, perfectly cooked seafood plus I really liked how the chef incorporated the stubtle curry  flavor to the aioli. It made it taste extra special. Between the two fried breaded seafood starters, I liked this better.

Hokkaido Snow Crab and Sea Prawn Fritter - Madras Curry Aioli-Piquillo

We had to pay a supplementary fee of 325php for the Special Nigir Plate, it consists of Shinma Aji Belly, Chutoro, Otoro and A5 Wagyu Tataki. The extra fee was so worth it, everything on that platter was top notch. I liked how the chef placed the sushi platter in order where you will start with the Shinma Aji Belly and end with the Wagyu Sushi. I remember starting with a 'uhmmm' with the Aji and ending with at a 'wwwoooowww' with the Wagyu.

Shinma Aji Belly, Chutoro, Otoro and A5 Wagyu Tataki

For our mains, we started with the Norwegian Salmon Micult - Hokkaido Scallop - Giant Prawn - Prawn Jus - Asparagus. It only takes two words to describe the whole dish, simple perfection. Everything on that plate was cooked and grilled perfectly, simple jus with no complicated flavors. We savored the freshness of each seafood, the way it's supposed to be. Special mention to the giant prawn which was so tender and juicy, usually grilled prawn as big as this gets tough and rubbery.

Norwegian Salmon Micult - Hokkaido Scallop - Giant Prawn - Prawn Jus - Asparagus

The Iberico Boneless Baby Back Ribs - Celeriac - Peach - Brussel Sprouts - Carrots was of excellent quality. The chunks of pork was so tender that you don't even have to use a knife. I enjoyed the char texture and flavor of the ribs. My only gripe is, I found its too sweet to my liking. Good thing the celeriac and the wine was on hand to cut off the sweetness.

Iberico Boneless Baby Back Ribs - Celeriac - Peach - Brussel Sprouts - Carrots 

I was really surprised to see only three dessert choices. We decided to go for the Peanut Butter - Valrhonna Napoleon and the French Apple Pie - Cinnamon - Chantilly. I'm really not much of a dessert person but I found the desert missing 'oomph', both dessert was kind of dry and lacking in sweetness.

Peanut Butter - Valrhonna Napoleon

French Apple Pie - Cinnamon - Chantilly

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal in Allium, the place looks great, it's relatively quiet and most importantly the food was of great quality and delicious. The place is a great alternative to the restos in Greenbelt and Glorietta.

***Sadly the restaurant has closed its door this year but good news is on their facebook page, they are planning to open up another restaurant. Something to look forward to.***

Address: Ground Floor Grand Midori, Bolanos St., Legaspi, Makati City

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Spices: Grande Torino

After a few weeks of its opening, we decided to give the Italian restaurant a try. Reading and hearing that the place is run and owned by an Italian. I had nothing but high expectations of the place.

Grande Torino

While choosing our wine, one of the owners and wife of the Italian chef/expat approached us and helped us choose the wine. While doing so, she informed us that her husband was not around to prepare the food but the kitchen was manned by cooks that was trained by her husband. We were so glad that we followed her recommendation for the wine. We had a bottle of the Clevasana Langhe Nebiollo wine. The wine was really good, aromatic, bold and has a good length.

Clavesana Lan Nebiollo - Php1,600

Flavor wise, the Arabiatta was good, really simple and made well. But the biggest problem was the linguine pasta, it was way overcooked. The sogginess of the pasta totally ruined the whole dish.

Arabiatta - Php280

The Margherita Pizza was decent but not impressive. The size was quite big and they didn't scrimp on the cheese. Though, I would have wanted the crust to be crunchier, it needed a few more minutes in the oven. I would also like it better if there were more fresh basil leaves on it.

Margherita Pizza - Php325

The Filetto di Tonno was a big disaster. The tuna fillet was way overcooked, so overcooked that it had turned rubbery. The parsley sauce tasted good but I felt that it overpowered the natural flavor of the fish. I think it would be better if they serve the sauce on the side instead.

Filetto de Tono - Php364 /

We were contemplating if we should have dessert after the below average meal. But when the server told us that the Tiramisu was prepared by the Italian chef/owner, we decided to give it a try. The Tiramisu was really good, the flavors of the rum soaked lady fingers and mascarpone cheesed were balanced and spot on. Something worth going back for.

Tiramisu - Php190

After dining in Grande Torino, Ive read mixed reviews about this place. If based on what I experienced, I would have second thoughts of going back but after trying the Tiramisu, tt made me wonder. If the the Italian chef was around, would the food taste different? I guess next time if I do decide to give the place another shot, I'll make sure that the Italian chef is around.

Grande Torino
Address: 59 West Capitol Drive, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig City
Tel No.:  +63906 5776438
Operating Hours: 10am to 12am

Monday, 11 July 2016

Sights: SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A City Infused with Culture and History

The Angkor Complex. I've seen, read and heard a lot of features about the temple complex ruins. I never really prioritized on visiting the city until one of my friends told me that it was one of the most beautiful places he's ever seen. With this in mind, it was off to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

There are different kinds of admission tickets or what they refer as Angkor Pass. Depending on how extensive you want to go, you can pick from a day pass, a three day pass or a week pass. An important thing to remember is that you have to use the days pass on consecutive days.

Ticketing Office
Admission Rates: One Day Pass    - $20 (around 900php)
                           Three Day Pass  - $40 (around 1,800php) 
                           Seven Day Pass  - $60 (around 2,700php)

You can choose to visit the different temple complex on your own but I strongly suggest you hire a service of a tour guide. We rarely hire tour guide services when we go on trips but this time around we gladly did. The temples are filled with small alleyways and it can be quite confusing navigating around. Since there are a lot of temples in Siem Reap, the tours are divided into two, the Small and Grand Circuit. You can choose to hire a car but the best way to go is riding the tuk-tuk.

Tuk Tuk

We picked the three day pass and decided to take on the Small Circuit as this was the more popular choice among the two. Our first stop was the Bayon Temple, it is also known as the temple of faces. The amazing giant carved faces can be spotted on some of the towers of the temple.

Bayon Temple

Carved Faces

We passed by Phimeanakas and admire the architecture from afar. We decided not to explore the area anymore as the sun was scorching hot. Our guide told us that there weren't really any intricate carvings left inside the temple but it was the largest around the area since it served as the king's temple.


It was nearly noon when we passed by the two terraces. The Terrace of the Leper King and The Terrace of the Elephants. The first terrace is known for its intricate carvings while the latter is known for the intricate elephant head sculptures that fronts the wall.

Terrace of the Leper King

Terrace of the Elephants

Next up, we were off to visit a a temple where Angelina Jolie shot scenes for Tomb Raider. Ta Prohm is also known as the jungle temple. An amazing temple where you can see trees grow right on the temple itself.

Ta Prohm

After having lunch, we visited the most popular Temple in Cambodia, Angkor Wat. Cambodians are very proud of this monumental landmark as it appears on their local currency and even on their national flag. The ruins of Angkor Wat was truly an incredible place. One amazing fact to remember about the temples are these were all handmade.

Angkor Wat

This carved wall used to be covered in gold leaf.

Hand carved walls and window columns

The huge blocks of stones has holes in it. Long Bamboo Poles were placed inside the hole and workers would manually carry the rocks with the pole on their shoulders.

We were surprised to see buddha statues with lit incense around the grounds. Our guide told us that monks would regularly go there to pray.

It was a pretty steep climb up to one of the towers.

The next day we were off to visit more temples but this time around, we traveled further off the main complex. After travelling for almost two hours on a tuktuk. We arrived at the foot of the mountain of Kbal Spean. We had to do a 30 minute  hike up the trail to reach the area where the carvings are.

At the foot of the mountain

Trekking up

Upon reaching the top, my initial reaction was, is this it? We only saw a few carvings from where we are. Luckily a student volunteer approached us and asked us if we wanted to see more wall carvings. We happily obliged and he became our guide. He didn't ask for a fee but still we gave him tip after the short tour.

Kbal Spean

You'll spot carved circular stones around the whole area. Also known as the River of a Thousand Lingas, the water that passes thru it is supposed to be holy.

Carvings on the Stones

As the water is supposed to be holy, we saw locals taking a dip in the waters.


Just a few kilometers from Kbal Spean was Banteay Srei, also known as the Citadel of Women. Though the temple is quite small, it has its own charm that makes it a must visit site. The intact intricate carvings on the yellowish/pinkish sandstone was beautiful.

Banteay Srei

We initially didn't planned to visit the Landmine Museum but after reading about the museums's role on helping to improve the lives of landmine victims, we decided to make a quick drop by.

Landmine Museum

The museum is really small and simple but after reading about what CNN's hero of the year  nominee, Aki Ra has done and is still doing. We were glad that we visited the place as proceeds of the entrance fees goes to his Relief Center. Aki Ra is truly someone worth praising for.

Hero Trophy given to Aki Ra by CNN

For more info regarding the Landmine Museum, feel free to visit their website at

Aside from visiting the temples, there is one more must do in Siem Reap. It has to be watching Phare, the Cambodian Circus. Held nightly on a big top tent, this was the perfect way to get rid of the temple burnout.


The Big Top Red Tent
For more information on shows and ticket prices, visit their website at

The acts are very similar to the Chinese acrobats shows that I grew up watching. Though some acts were already familiar and the language used was in their local dialect, we had such a fun time watching. There are 8 different shows which they rotate on a daily basis. We enjoyed watching Sokrias (Eclipse) so much that we wanted to catch another show the day after if only time permitted us. A must do in Siem Reap!!!

For our nightcaps, we always went to Pub Street and to its neighboring streets, alleyways and walkways. This place has it all, restaurants, shops, bars, clubs, massage places, street stalls, etc.

Pub Street

If you want to watch a cultural dance show, you can head to Temple Restaurant. You can dine and watch for free.

Spas and Massage Places can be found everywhere.

Eat, Drink and be Merry.

Walk around the river at the end of pub street.

Siem Reap is visited by millions of tourists every year but in spite of this, the city hasn't lost its local charm and culture. It is given that the temples are the reason why tourist come, people say that there aren't much other things to see. I agree that two to three days of visiting the temples is enough unless you are there to take dramatic shots of the place. But in my opinion, the best way to enjoy Siem Reap is to go along with the unhurried vibe of the city, just go with the flow and slowly absorb and enjoy the city's rich culture and history.