Now available at Gangnam Wings, Megamall: Samgyeopsal Sets!

My love for Korean food is well-documented in this blog and in my social media accounts.  This love has only been further stoked when, urged by my husband and daughter who are both K-drama fanatics, I started watching Goblin.  Everytime I see Gong Yoo, Lee Dong Wook and Kim Go-Eun either wolfing down or sedately eating samgyeopsals or ramyuns, I would find myself near to salivating.

I was happy to discover this Korean chicken-and-beer joint located at SM Megamall during a recent Zomato Foodie Meetup.

Named after the upscale district in Seoul made famous by Psy’s earworm of a song, the place had a lively and informal vibe, with playfully designed interiors (check out those rubber chickens!) and K-pop music videos playing in the background (yes, including songs from Goblin OST). Gangnam Wings is well-suited to the after-office crowd who will be craving for their chimaeks (chicken and beer) after a day’s work.

This resto is well-known for its authentic Korean fried chicken: crispy skin and tender juicy meat enhanced by distinct sauce coatings. Even its dishes have that playful vibe with its most popular orders named (not surprisingly) after famous Korean dramas: Goblin Wings (Php280 for half dozen pieces), which is a combo of three sauces – the Original Crispy, Garlic Soya, and the Sweet and Spicy – Php280; and Descendants of the Chicken (Php548 for ten pieces), which consist of any 2 combinations of sauces from Korean Buffalo, Korean Barbecue, Honey Garlic, Soya Yogurt and Spicy Asian.  These sauces indeed have distinct flavors but, surprisingly, I liked them all, even the Korean Buffalo which was quite spicy.

I would recommend pairing the chicken with Beef Bulgogi Fries (Php298).  These consist of thick fried potato wedges topped with beef bulgogi bits, aromatic herbs and a special mayonnaise.

A surprising piece de resistance is the Ginseng Chicken (sorry, I didn’t get the price :-)).  A whole spring chicken is boiled, together with herbs and seasonings, for an hour with rice inside, such that the rice cooks while inside the chicken.  The closest it comes to texture and flavor is the arroz caldo but with significantly less rice and a lot more falling-off-the-bone chicken.

For dessert, we had Rockmelon Bingsu (Php280), shaved ice with melon balls served in the melon shell and topped with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream.  I can imagine myself eating this with my kids to ward off the summer heat in the near future.

I also sampled two of its Sojuritas (soju cocktails): the Watermelon Soju (Php688)and the Yakult Soju (Php248).  Both were refreshing drinks with a little kick but I had to stop myself at two shots apiece as I still had to drive myself home.  (By the way, I much preferred the tangy sweetness of the Yakult Soju, but then again, I was never a big fan of watermelon anyway.)

However, the real star of the show is the affordable Samgyeopsal Lunch Set which are now available for lunch and dinner.  From 11am to 2pm, diners have the choice between Unlimited Pork at Php349/head, or Unlimited Pork and Beef at Php399/head.  From 5pm to 8pm, on the other hand, Unlimited Pork is priced at Php449/head, while Unlimited Pork and Beef is priced at Php499/head.  These sets come with unlimited meat, rice, ice green lettuce, side dishes (such as kimchi, mini potato balls, sweet fishcakes, vinegar radish, bean sprouts and onions, all prepared fresh in the kitchen) and iced tea.

Currently, all of these Korean barbecue sets will be composed of unmarinated meats but marinated variants are being considered for future offerings.

A concern that was raised was the absence of exhaust pipes to suck out the smoke from the cooking meats on the dining tables.  Surely, the lunch crowd will not appreciate smelling like inihaw when they get back to their offices after their meal break.  Owner Rinky Tuano assured us that this concern has been considered and will be addressed by air conditioning and the exhaust in the kitchen.

Gangnam Wings is located at the Megastrip Unit 1-114 Upper Ground Floor, outside Building A, SM Megamall, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City.  Other branches will open soon in San Fernando, Pampanga, Sta Rosa, Laguna and in Antipolo, Rizal.

Gangnam Wings Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclosure: Together with other Zomato foodies, I was invited to attend a foodie meet-up held in this restaurant.  All the food items mentioned here were served to allow us to sample the fare and were not paid for by the attendees, including myself.

At the request of Gangnam Wings, this post was updated to reflect the new pricing of the Samgyeopsal Sets.

Happy lunch at Twapakto in Scout Rallos, QC

My officemates and I were happy to discover this new eatery along Scout Rallos in QC.  It’s a bit of a distance from our workplace but the travel to the location is well worth the time.

Twapakto, a Fookien word that means “big tummy,” calls to mind the bliss that comes from having a fun and satisfying meal with good friends.  Even the store’s interiors have a fun vibe; the bare concrete walls set off the colorful furnishings with cute illustrations of happy big-tummied people.

Our group of four ordered a bowl of Crispy Pork Belly Rice (Php180) for each of us and a half-order of Twapakto Char Siu or Chinese Pork Asado (Php380) for sharing.  Now, I’m not much of an asado aficionado but I found myself liking this dish; the meat was full-flavored and the sauce was not too sweet.  The piece de resistance, however, was the pork belly; the meat was tender, the skin was cracklingly crispy and the fat melts in my mouth.  I also ordered a Leche Flan Shake Special (Php100), which was a sweet, creamy cap to the meal.

We went back to the store the following week but were disappointed to discover that it’s closed on Mondays. 😦

I look forward to coming back to that Crispy Pork Belly, though.

Twapakto is located at the 2nd Floor, Elements Hall, 27 Scout Rallos Street, Laging Handa, Quezon City.

Twapakto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Why not try your hand at cooking Chinese dishes at home? Check out these recipe books on Amazon.com!

Want to try some recipes today? There’s no need to leave home to shop for ingredients.  With Honestbee, just order your groceries online and you’ll get them delivered right at your doorstep at your preferred time. Use this referral link and get Php500 off for a minimum spend of Php2,500.  You can download the Honestbee app on iTunes or Google Play.

If you’re in the US and an Amazon Prime member, sign up for a free trial of Amazon Fresh to get your groceries delivered to you.

Buffet Survival Guide: All-You-Need-to-Know to Eat-All-You-Can

Family gatherings and get-togethers are best celebrated with food, lots and lots of it.  Good thing there are all-you-can-eat buffets!

Originally, the term “buffet” referred to the sideboard table where dishes are served during family meals or parties.  The word later evolved to refer to the format of serving food wherein diners generally serve themselves.

It’s no wonder that all-you-can-eat buffets have grown in popularity in recent years.  Diners get to have their fill of whatever food they choose at a fixed cost, while being able to try out new dishes that they don’t normally order.  And since the food is already served and just refilled, diners do not have to wait to enjoy their meal.

Savvy all-you-can-eat diners have come up with various techniques to make the most out of their buffet dining experiences  Take these tips to heart to maximize your own buffet adventure.

  • Check for additional savings through discount promos.  Some restaurants, like Vikings, offer promos wherein celebrants get to eat for free their birthday as long they are accompanied by a minimum number of guests paying the full rate.  Other establishments offer discounted buffet rates to cardholders of partner banks such as BDO, or via restaurant booking apps such as Eatigo, or through deal sites like Metrodeal.  Also, lunch buffet rates tend to be lower than dinner buffet rates so if you can schedule your meal during the lunch period, you can save a few bucks.
  • Make sure the food offerings are in line with your tastes.  Whether you want to stick to classic favorites or you’re in the mood to be adventurous, make sure that the dishes served in your chosen resto are to your liking.  An eat-all-you-can buffet of food that you don’t like is not a fair deal.
  • Get hydrated before eating but ease up on the drinks during the meal.  Drinking some H2O, particularly lemon water, before starting your buffet quest will help in digestion while minimizing bloating and heartburn.  However, drinking lots of liquids, especially fizzy ones, during the meal will use up some precious tummy room.
  • Don’t fill up on fillers.  Pasta and grains can be quite filling so minimize the carbs to make room for dishes that would normally be expensive ala carte such as seafood, sushi, steaks and roasts.
  • Pace yourself. Take some time to savor each bites will let you maximize your dining experience while minimizing the feeling of bloating later.

Consider buffet dining a treat so don’t overdo it and make sure you enjoy the meal with great company.

Check out my reviews of all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants:

Review Rundown: Ramen Joints in Tomas Morato

Much removed from the instant noodles that we used to associate with the dish, ramen nowadays, especially for foodies, call to mind creamy full-bodied broth from rich meaty stock, firm noodles as well as tender meat, sumptious seafood, crisp vegetables, and flavorful aromatics.

Ramen shops and Japanese restaurants that offer this tasty Japanese noodle dish have sprouted all over the metro, especially in the Tomas Morato area in Quezon City.

Personally, I gravitate towards ramen with chashu (seasoned pork slices): the more tender and melt-in-your-mouth, the better. While my preference when it comes to broth is more towards the shio (salt-based), I’m usually open to eating shoyu (soy-based) or miso-based ramen.

Here is a rundown of the ramen I’ve sampled among such restaurants located in this foodie-friendly area.

Tonkotso Ramen (Php295) at Omakase

Rating: 3/5

I found the blend and contrasts of textures from the creamy broth, the crisp black fungus and the firm noodles interesting but somewhat lacking in flavor.

Check out my restaurant review here.

Tokyo-style Ramen (Php250) at Ariake

Rating: 3.5/5

Again, it’s the blend of textures among the noodles and crisp veggies that give this ramen a boost.

Read my restaurant review here.

Chasu Ramen (Php245) at Tokyo Bubble Tea

Rating: 3.5/5

The cuteness of its kawaii surroundings is apparent in the pretty presentation of this miso-based ramen.

Read my restaurant review here.

Shoyu Ramen (Php250) at Kimono Ken

Rating: 4/5

Despite my marked preference for salt-based ramen, I found the flavor from the chashu slices full-bodied, amply complemented by the nori garnishing, egg and aromatics.

Read my restaurant review here.

 

Tonkotsu Ramen (Php300) at Isaribi

I loved the rich milky-white pork-broth (with a bit of a garlicky taste) with firm ramen noodles, thin slices of green onion, half of a tamago (soft-boiled soy-tinged egg), and slivers of chashu pork belly.

Read my restaurant review here.

Follow this blog for more foodie and resto reviews.

Why not try your hand at preparing Japanese cuisine at home?  Check out these recipe books from Amazon.com!

Want to try some recipes today? There’s no need to leave home to shop for ingredients.  With Honestbee, just order your groceries online and you’ll get them delivered right at your doorstep at your preferred time. Use this referral link and get Php500 off for a minimum spend of Php2,500.  You can download the Honestbee app on iTunes or Google Play.

If you’re in the US and an Amazon Prime member, sign up for a free trial of Amazon Fresh to get your groceries delivered to you.

Ramen craving satisfied at Osaka Takoyaki, SM East Ortigas

My #RamenPhase is still going strong which is why I was excited with the opening of this new Japanese resto near my place.

Located at the second floor of SM East Ortigas, Osaka Takoyaki has a sprawling space with pine wood chair and tables can accommodate around 50 diners. It’s floor-to-ceiling glass windows provide the store with a lot of natural light but it made me feel a bit exposed, akin to eating while in a fishbowl, in contrast to the coziness of other Japanese restos. Its proximity to the gaming arcades and the loud upbeat ambient music from the mall also detract from the zen atmosphere.

The wait staff are friendly and helpful. Upon entry, I was greeted with “Irasshaimase!” or “Welcome!” in Nihongo. As soon as I was seated, I was offered a cup of barley tea to drink while waiting. Before leaving, the wait staff would make a small bow. These small gestures do make me as a guest feel valued and welcome.

I ordered a Tonkotsu Ramen (Php299) which was served steaming hot and prettily presented due to the pops of color from the pork slices, aromatics and the tamago against the creamy broth. In terms of taste, my ramen was satisfactory, the broth and pork slices were well-seasoned with the sliced green onions adding a bit of herby flavor to contrast with the dish’s saltiness. In terms of texture, however, I found the noodles too firm and the meat not as melt-in-your mouth as I would like. It even has some tendons that are hard to chew. The meat could benefit from a few more hours of slow cooking.

Overall, on the basis of I think Osaka Takoyaki has a good value-for-money proposition and, with a few improvements, has the potential to be one of my favorite ramen places.

Check out my reviews of other places where I gave in to my #RamenPhase craving:

 

Osaka Takoyaki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Why not try your hand at preparing Japanese cuisine at home?  Check out these recipe books from Amazon.com!

Want to try some recipes today? There’s no need to leave home to shop for ingredients.  With Honestbee, just order your groceries online and you’ll get them delivered right at your doorstep at your preferred time. Use this referral link and get Php500 off for a minimum spend of Php2,500.  You can download the Honestbee app on iTunes or Google Play.

If you’re in the US and an Amazon Prime member, sign up for a free trial of Amazon Fresh to get your groceries delivered to you.

Bingsu treat at Jang Da Bang Cafe

Despite the spate of relatively balmy weather these last few days, there’s no denying that summer is already here.

And with the hot summer days, icy snacks like bingsu are a godsend.

I discovered Jang Da Bang Cafe during one of my Korean Food adventures at my favorite Korean resto, Jang Ga Nae, with my daughter – slash – partner-in-crime. After indulging ourselves in our favorite Korean dishes, some of which were quite spicy, we decided to try out the cafe right next door for dessert.We were happy to discover that Jang Da Bang has the same owner as Jang Ga Nae (as if the similarity in their names was not a dead giveaway, duh!). In fact, in our subsequent visits, the family developed the habit of ordering our preferred bingsu dessert at Jang Ga Nae (included in our bill), then hopping over to Jang Da Bang where our freshly made bingsu will be waiting for us.

While Jang Ga Nae’s interiors have the quintessential Korean grill resto look and feel, Jang Da Bang has a brighter and more airy ambiance. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in a lot of natural light that brings out the pops of color in the displayed artwork and plants. It has a more relaxed atmosphere compared to its sister-store, making it an ideal place for hanging out.

We have sampled its two fruity bingsu offerings: mango and strawberry. Both have finely shaved ice flavored with condensed milk and accompanied by cornflakes for texture and red bean paste for added sweetness. A regular-sized order of either is good for sharing among three: myself and my two kids who apparently inherited their “sweet tooth” from me.

Our preference is the mango bingsu (Php199 for regular). Aside from cubes of sweet ripe mango, it also has bits of peaches, pears, nata de coco and the occasional cherry from – standard can of fruit cocktail, and is topped with vanilla ice cream.

The strawberry bingsu (Php205 for regular) on the other hand, suffers in comparison to the other variant only because the tartness of the strawberry bits is not adequately countered by the sweetness of the strawberry ice cream topping.

Going here for dessert after our Korean lunch has become a weekly family habit which will likely continue on for quite some time.

Jang Da Bang is located right across Jang Ga Nae at 8137 Plaza Ortigas, Jose Escriva Drive, Ortigas, Pasig City (behind the University of Asia and the Pacific).

Jang DaBang by Jang Ga Nae Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ultimate Katsu Experience at Saboten, BGC

I have been hearing a lot of good things about Saboten for quite some time. My predilection for katsu has led my family to its BGC branch one weekend as our lunchdate.

In keeping with the cuisine it offers, Saboten’s interiors have a Zen-like quality. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows and lanterns provide a mixture of natural and warm light that shows off the glow of the light pine wood and beige furnishings. Large slabs of black stones offset with white pebbles serve as elegant walkways. The area is clean and uncluttered, a suitable environment for feasting on our favorite Japanese food.

For appetizers, Hubby and I sampled the endamame (Php99), soybeans steamed while in still in their pods and served with a light dusting of salt.

The kids, on the other hand, busied themselves with preparing our katsu sauce by crushing the toasted sesame seeds, then mixing it with the prepared sweet brown sauce.

Our main dishes consist of set meals which are served with refillable shredded cabbage, pickles, rice and miso soup:

  • Tenderloin Set (Php450 for large)
  • Shrimp and Tenderloin Set (Php595)

The katsus are juicy with the crunchy panko breading providing a texture contrast to the tender meat inside. I especially liked the rolled cutlet with cheese; the melted extra salty goodness inside blends well with the tastes and textures of the katsu sauce and rice.

Saboten is indeed a special treat: its offerings are quite pricy so it’s not our standard weekend meal. That said, we would come back most probably to celebrate another family occasion.

This Saboten branch is located at Ground Floor, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

Saboten Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato