Sunday, January 24, 2010

22 Prime: High on Wagyu

For H's birthday, we found ourselves on the 22nd floor of Discovery Suites for some steak. I had heard that 22 Prime, voted Best Steak Restaurant 2008 by readers, served some pretty good AND reasonably priced steak.

Sadly, my phone (where I kept my notes) was stolen before I could blog, so I just have pictures and a few, er, "sound bites" to offer. If you'd like to see actual prices though, you can view them here.

We started off with complimentary bread sticks which came with three different dips.

One was tomato-ey, one was mustard-y (if I remember right), and one was lemon-y. Note the nice view in the background.

Then we had our appetizers: Chef Rick's Cheese Bread, which I've heard good things about. It's broiled sun-dried tomato bread with four kinds of cheese. Kind of flaky, pleasantly oily, and I am totally craving for it. Right. Now.

And then before our steak was served, we were asked to choose our weapons. The waiter opened a wood-and-glass case with a flourish to show us their selection of steak knives...

And then, we attacked! H got the Melbourne rib eye. He asked for medium, but it was kind of bordering on well done. It was alright. All steaks served with your choice of two kinds of sauce on the side.

Meanwhile, I chose the wagyu medallions...

We ate our meat with potato gratin and spinach gratin.

I barely touched the side dishes because a) I was full from all the bread, and b) I was too busy enjoying the juiciness and glorious, glorious fat of my melt-in-your-mouth wagyu!

Good. Grief. Now I'm craving for THAT.

Considering we had appetizers and side dishes and both had good-quality steak, I'd say a bill of a little over a grand per person ain't bad. Our total bill was what you'd pay at some other places for one good steak!

Sigh. My husband should have his birthday every month.

22 Prime is located at 22/F Discovery Suites, 25 ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City. For reservations, call tel. (02) 719-6808/719-8888.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Van Gogh Is Bipolar: Happy Food

"We're going to Van Gogh Is Bipolar."

I asked my co-worker, Kaye, to repeat what she just said because it didn't sound like a proper sentence. After talking for a bit more, we cleared up the confusion and I found out that Van Gogh Is Bipolar is actually the name of a cafe located along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City.

I researched a bit and I found out that the place is owned and run by Jetro, who is bipolar himself. I made plans on a Friday to have dinner there, tried to make a reservation (for me, Mike, Cheng, and Miguel), but was told that the only available table was outside. Well. For a seemingly obscure place, it sure was popular!

Once you get there, Jetro will be sure to attend to you and give you a little orientation. He told us that the place was his home during the day, and that the food he served was the stuff he cooked for himself to keep from getting depressed--there are explanations in the menu about almost every item, saying how it's supposed to help boost your mood.

The cafe is located in this apartment complex-type place, right beside Blacksoup. The inside has three little dining nooks, including this cozy corner:

You're free to doodle on the red graffiti wall! There's even a desk where you can carve and scrape stuff.

The dark room/bathroom. Interesting photos (including nudes) are plastered all around the cafe.

The dishes are all named after bipolar people: Sting, Jim Carey, Pres. Clinton, Robert Downey Jr., to name a few. Who knew, right? Jetro talked us into getting the Courtney Love Drink of the Day (P75). "It's a surprise!" he told us. But he later revealed that it had lemongrass, melon, and mint, among other things. I reeeally liked this drink, absolutely refreshing! I think Cheng ordered one of the FruiTEA MinTEAs (in the Erlenmeyer flask, below), which is served with wild Palawan honey.

The tea is caffeine-free and is supposed to help relieve stress. I didn't get to try Cheng's hot drink though, because I was perfectly happy with my cold concoction.

While waiting for our food and during comfortable lulls in conversation, we would watch Across the Universe, which was being screened on the wall near Blacksoup. There was this charming, artsy, hippie vibe to the place, much like Cubao X of yesteryear. It had a different kind of energy from typical restaurants. I kind of felt like I wasn't in my element, like I wasn't cool enough for the place! Oh well. I was there for the food, and for what I (rightly) figured was an interesting experience.

After a bit of a wait (while there are a few waiters, Jetro is generally host, cook, and server, so do be patient), my Pres. Roosevelt's Meal (P225) arrived. It's grilled Norwegian salmon belly served with black mountain rice.

Black mountain rice, Jetro explained, is a rare kind of rice grown dry. I think it's cooked with a bit of olive oil and, perhaps, soy sauce because it was very moist and flavorful. The fish (lurve salmon!) was really soft and tender. According to the menu, cold-water fish, like salmon, is an excellent source of omega-3, which helps one maintain a happy-positive vibe. Miguel, who's not a big salmon eater, still had a few bites while waiting for his order, the Pres. Lincoln's Meal (P899 for the "lovers" serving), which he shared with me. (And P.S. Don't be misled by the serving. What we have is strictly platonic!)

It had two cups of that yummy rice, more salmon, lamb, and chicken wings. Mike and Cheng's platter had the surprise dish of the day (tilapia), but ours did not. Sadness. We figured maybe they ran out--it was a busy, busy Friday night at Van Gogh!

While Miguel is not a salmon fan, I am not a lamb fan. There's something about the way it coats my tongue that I don't like. But this time I gave it a chance. While it still had that innate lamb gaminess, I (unexpectedly) liked it. Maybe the benefits of lamb kicked in--since it's a grass-eating animal, it's a healthier source of protein than chemically fed animals. (Chemicals = bad for your mood) Or maybe I've just realized that it's a close cousin of steak. And this girl loves steak!

There are a lot more interesting things on the menu, as you can see from here. I so would have wanted to try Mel Gibson's Darkest Sin (P125)--a shot of vodka with dark chocolate, walnuts, almonds, and wild honey--but we headed to Pino for dessert. One reason to go back. (As if I needed much convincing.) During their screening of The September Issue, perhaps?

Van Gogh Is Bipolar
is located at 154 Maginhawa St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon City. Call (02) 394-0188 or text 0922-8243051/0922-8243052 for reservations.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

For my milestone birthday, I spent a whole week celebrating with people I love, stuffing myself silly with food that I love. Amid all the cooking and entertaining and eating at my regular haunts, I wanted to do something a little special, so we headed out to a place I've been wanting to visit for months now.

This is Laya, a Balinese-style house-turned-cozy restaurant in the hills of Antipolo. Owner Irene, who was so accommodating and who very pleasantly responded to all my texts in the days leading to our visit, revealed: "It used to be my family's rest house. But it didn't make sense because we live just five minutes away!"

It's a weekend dining place which is by reservation only, and which serves a multi-course meal for a reasonable price. For P650, we got a five-course meal plus bottomless pandan iced tea and coffee or basil tea to cap our dinner. They don't serve wine, but there's no corkage so feel free to bring a bottle!

Last weekend's dinner was made up of classic dishes with a playful, modern, Asian twist. We started off with Spiced Tuna Tartare on Crispy Wontons.

Irene told us that there were two ways of eating it: 1) Mix it all up, crushing the wontons, or 2) eat them like nachos. I attempted method number 2 at first, but after I bit into a wonton, the rest of it fell under the weight of the tartare (which kind of tasted like chopped-up sashimi). I loved how that bit of wasabi dressing on the side added a little kick.

Next up: Thai Tomato Basil Soup with Shrimp Dumpling and Cilantro Foam.

The dumpling was just a tad dry, but the soup was quite nice--the perfect way to warm us as we were chilled by the January air.

We then moved onto the Asian Caesar Salad Sticks with Ginger Aioli.

Again, Irene said that this deconstructed salad could be eaten in two ways: 1) Mixing it up like a regular salad, with the dressing poured over, or 2) Dipping each salad component into the ginger aioli--a method that Irene described as "funner." Ahh, a place that encourages you to play with your food! And since I'm all about the fun, guess which method I opted for?

After getting through three courses, I was already reaching "comfortably full" levels. We were then served our main course. You could choose between two courses. H picked the Red Curry Glazed Pork Loin Roast with Roasted Onions and Saffron Cashew Rice Pilaf.

Sounds like a mouthful. I can't really describe it since I just got all of two bites. Just think of it as yummy ham with yummy sauce on yummy rice.

I got the Hoisin Baked Norwegian Salmon with Soba Noodles and Shiitake Mushrooms and Sesame Scallion Salad.

I'm a salmon fan, so I did like this dish. The noodles were good, but I did wish that there was less sauce.

For dessert ("Ahh, the last course!" sighed my expanded belly): Bananas in Thai Coconut Pancake with Mantecado Ice Cream and Latik Sauce.

The crepe-like pancake deviates from the usual fried lumpia wrapper. The ice cream offsets the strong flavor of the latik. And since ice cream is possibly the Greatest Invention Known to Man, I happily gobbled up H's share (bless him and his minor lactose intolerance!).

But what I thought was the last course in fact...wasn't. Irene, having heard that it was my birthday, gave me a sweet surprise:

Awwww. Fruit skewers with a side of spicy chocolate sauce for dipping. (It tasted like it had some chili powder in there.)

After all that food, I needed to take a bit of a walk, so I took a look around. Laya has a pool, a wooden swing, and a cozy little cabana.

Imagine lounging with a cup of hot tea or tsokolate-eh! Divine.

Such a lovely, relaxing place! (Must thank Miguel for telling me about it a few months back!) Irene says that the plan is to turn it into a bed and breakfast. For now, it's a really cool chill spot for a romantic date or an intimate dinner. They accept weekday reservations for at least 15 people, and can close the place for private functions on weekends for a group of at least 20. For me, it was the perfect end to a week that celebrated my big 3-0, summing up some of the things that make me happy: good food, good vibes, wonderful company. I would be incredibly fortunate if the rest of my years were filled with all these.

Laya is located at Sierra Madre St., Grand Heights Subdivision, Antipolo. Check out their website at For inquiries and reservations, email, or call or text 0917-8464322.

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