Merienda meetup at Bench Cafe, BGC

Merienda – or minindal – is a time-honored tradition in this country. A light meal or snack in the afternoon often figures as highlights in our childhood, and carries on to our adulthood in the form of coffee breaks.

During a recent meetup with my OFW friend, Tina, I revisited this childhood experience with classic merienda fare at Bench Cafe in BGC.

Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC

Bench Cafe is an offshoot of the top Filipino clothing brand Bench in partnership with restaurant developer Foodee Global Concepts. This restaurant brand centers around its concept of combining traditional and modern takes on Filipino food.

Its flagship store in BGC also provides a posh yet comfortable background in which diners can fully enjoy its Pinoy dishes. Tables and chairs are amply spaced in a spacious floor space brightly lit with both natural light and pendant lighting and tastefully highlighted with wall art.

This well-appointed eatery served as our venue for a long-awaited get-together. Due to quarantine restrictions, Tina was unable to come home to the Philippines for two years so I jumped at the chance to check out Bench Cafe’s OG branch for our meetup.

Our merienda included:

Pancit Guisado (Php259 good for two | Php420 good for four).

Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC

A hearty dish of stir-fried noodles mixed with meat, shrimp and vegetables, and topped with pork rind, this dish is usually a highlight for many of my afternoon snack times at home.

Flan B (Php219).

Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC

Bench Cafe’s version of the Pinoy classic custard and caramel dessert topped with macapuno, always a sweet and creamy indulgence!

Classic Turon ala Mode (Php55).

A crispy fritter made with banana encased in lumpia wrapper with caramelized sugar topped with ube ice cream, another merienda staple.

Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC

Ube Halo Halo (Php99/12oz | Php145/16oz).

A thirst quenching dessert and icy beverage made with coconut shaved ice with garbanzos, caramelized banana, leche flan and nata de coco topped with ube ice cream and rice krispies.

Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC

These Pinoy favorites on the table and my dear friend to catch up with made my merienda experience at Bench Cafe so special.

Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC
Bench Cafe? BGC

Check it out! Drop by this branch at the second floor of Bench’s flagship store at 9th Avenue corner Lane O Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global Citt, Taguig, open daily from 10am to 7pm.

Other branches are located at:

  • Level 2, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Greenbelt, Makati City
  • Ground Floor, Padre Faura Wing, Robinsons Place Manila, Ermita, Manila

You may also order for delivery via GrabFood.

Stay updated on Bench Cafe’s offers and promos by following it on Facebook and Instagram.

Why not, ChocNut? Check out the limited edition #SMChocNutTuron

What was your favorite time of day back when you were young?

Mine was the late afternoon when I get home from school, I can finally watch cartoons for a while and my meryenda is waiting for me at the table.

One of the highlights of meryenda time is when I have hot freshly fried turon laid out before me. This classic Pinoy sweet snack is made with slices of local sweet plantain bananas – more commonly called saging na saba bananas – and slivers of jackfruit flesh – also known as nangka – encased in lumpia wrappers with brown sugar that crystalizes upon frying.

With these simple ingredients, our genius forebears were able to create an irresistible dessert that has not lost its appeal to generations of Pinoys.

SM ChocNut Turon
SM ChocNut Turon

No wonder, then, that its version of the Turon is among the best-selling products at SM stores. Shoppers wanting to munch on something after a bout of retail therapy, or on their way to restock their pantry at the supermarket can easily purchase one or two of these freshly made desserts for just Php25 apiece.

Well, guess what! A new variant of the famed SM Turon is now available and is making some buzz among the metro’s foodies: the limited edition ChocNut Turon.

SM ChocNut Turon
SM ChocNut Turon

With each bite, you get the same crunch from the fried lumpia wrapper, sweetness from the banana and the smokey caramelization from the brown sugar, but this time, these flavors are accentuated by the nutty milk chocolate goodness from another childhood favorite, the ChocNut.

Who says you can’t get the best of both worlds, eh?

You can even opt to bring this new meryenda home to enjoy it with your loved ones. Buy one (or two pieces, who’s judgin’?) for each family member, pop them in your oven toaster two to three minutes in medium heat, and voila! You’ve got a delicious treat for the entire family!

SM ChocNut Turon
SM ChocNut Turon

You can even pair them with vanilla ice cream for a decadent ChocNut Turon Ala Mode!

Well, nuttin‘ should stop you and your fam from enjoying your SM ChocNut Turon. Grab them at over 100 SM Supermarket, Savemore and Hypermarket outlets nationwide.

SM ChocNut Turon
SM ChocNut Turon

For more updates, follow SM Markets on Facebook and Instagram.

Disclosure: Product samples were provided for this feature.

Home-grown and heritage dishes at Anonas Bistro

Now more than ever, we harried denizens of the metro look for comfort whenever we can, right?

Well, what’s more comforting than feeling the warm welcome of home?

That’s what it felt like to enter this newly opened restaurant in Anonas, Quezon City.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Sure, the hustle and bustle of the city may stay just outside its doors, but inside its premises is a haven for your spirit.

“We want this experience to be like going home to your lola’s house in the province,” shares co-founder Lucien Aquino. “You’re with your family, your lola is cooking your favorite food in the kitchen, and you feel right at home.”

Anonas Bistro, QC

The place certainly calls to mind the familiar comforts of our beloved ancestral homes in the province that we enjoy spending time in again and again.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Its outdoor seating area is surrounded by lush greenery. Sheltered by a large mango tree from much of the sun, it affords diners a comfortable al fresco setting for their meal. In the evenings, lighted lamps adorn the mango tree giving diners whimsical lighting for their dinner.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

The two-storey residential house was renovated by builder/contractor Lucien and his co-founder Roman Ignacio, updating the structures and finishings to current standards and for use as a restaurant. Its dining areas are furnished with heavy wooden tables and chairs, shipped all the way from Ilocos. The walls, on the other hand, are decorated with artworks by local artist Ronan Rosacay as well as other homey bric-a-bracs.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Completing the transformation of this space into a homey Filipino restaurant is Chef Severino Palunday. He brings with him a considerable thirty years’ worth of culinary experience as a sous chef in a European cruise liner.

Anonas Bistro, QC

From his kitchen, Chef Sev whips up traditional and home-style Pinoy dishes, that make use of fresh local produce, just like the ones your lola makes, but infused with the techniques and methods of an internationally trained chef.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

His menu includes:

Soup of the Day. Usually a cream-based soup that the chef whips up from choice ingredients. It is served with every meal.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Creamy Tofu (Php135). A savory appetizer made by combining crispy fried tofu, aromatics with cream.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Dinakdakan (Php315). An Ilocano dish in which pig parts such as ears, liver and face are boiled until tender, then grilled and sliced thinly. Flavorings and chilis are then added to complete the dish.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Fried Lumpiang Ubod (Php195). A Filipino appetizer (or ulam in my case) which julienned ubod (or heart of palm) are sauteed with chopped meat and vegetables, encased in lumpia wrapper and then deep-fried and served with a spiced vinegar dip.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Gising-gising with Shrimp (Php275). Otherwise known as ginataang sigarilyas, this Kapampangan dish is made with chopped winged beans in coconut milk spiced with siling labuyo, garlic, onions and shrimp paste. Chef Sev serves it with plump shrimp.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Pork Belly Roll (Php380). Pork belly is seasoned and stuffed with aromatics and flavorings, then oven-roasted until the skin becomes golden brown and crispy and the meat is tender. Chef Sev serves it with mashed camote and a buttery gravy.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Kare-Kare Ox Tail (Php480). A viand made with stewed ox tail, tripe and other offal in a sauce made from roasted peanuts, onions and garlic, colored with annato seeds and then thickened with ground rice.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Turon Ala Mode (Php160). A dessert made with fresh ripe banana slices encased in lumpia wrapper and then deep-fried until golden and crispy. It is then topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Mango Shake (Php120).

Anonas Bistro, QC

Avocado Shake (Php120).

Anonas Bistro, QC

Ampalaya Apple (Php120).

Anonas Bistro, QC

Whoever said that Filipino food lacks color and character obviously has never encountered Chef Sev’s takes on Pinoy food classics.

Anonas Bistro, QC

So if you’re looking for a place where you can come home to good food and a good homey vibe in Quezon City, Anonas Bistro is your best bet.

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro, QC

Anonas Bistro is located at 145 K-6th, East Kamias 1102 Quezon City, open daily from 10am to 10pm. For inquiries and reservations, call +63 995 1200969 or email anonas.bistro@gmail.com.

For more deets on Anonas Bistro, visit its website or follow it on Facebook and Instagram.

Disclosure: I attended a food-tasting here together with fellow foodies. All food items mentioned here were served for us to sample the fare and elicit our honest feedback.

Anonas Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Check out my reviews of other Filipino restaurants:

Bench Cafe opens newest branch in Trinoma

The clothing brand Bench has been around for as long as I can remember. One of the “proudly Filipino” enterprise success stories, it has been a major player in local fashion and has even expanded its sphere of influence to that of a lifestyle brand with its personal care producrs, skin care services and hair salons.

It even ventured into the food business, notably with the opening of the first branch of its eponymous restaurant Bench Cafe last year.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Fast forward to today and Bench Cafe has already opened its fifth branch at Trinoma Mall in Quezon City. Such speedy growth is proof that its concept of combining traditional and modern takes on Filipino food works and has found its place in Metro Manila’s highly competitive food scene.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

The cafe held a special preview for bloggers the day before its Grand Opening. Together with my fellow foodies from #WeLoveToEatPH, I got a taste of how Bench Cafe’s Chef Carlo Miguel melds local flavors together and updates classic Pinoy favorites such as:

Binagoongan Ceasar (Php149). Romaine lettuce with dilis and croutons tossed in a creamy dressing made with bagoong (shrimp paste) and queso de bola.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Tinapa Cones (Php129). Homemade lumpia wrappers formed into crispy cones and filled with tinapa (smoked fish) mousse and salsa.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Gising Gising (Php195). A spicy dish of chopped beans cooked in coconut milk and chilis.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Sisig Skillet (Php249). Pork cheeks and belly cooked in two ways and served topped with calamansi foam.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Fried Chicken (Php480). Whole spring chicken fried to a golden brown with crispy flavorful skin and juicy meat served with a honey patis sauce.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Dancing Fish (Php400). Crispy butterfly tilapia doused in escabeche sauce.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Pancit Guisado (Php239). Stir-fried noodles with shrimp, meat and chopped vegetables.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Silogs (from sinangag or “garlic rice” and itlog “egg”) are breakfast staples for many Filipinos. Bench Cafe serves these with garlic rice, fried egg and homemade atsara. The silog variation we’ve tasted here is the Tendon Silog (Php199) made with melt-in-your-mouth beef tendon in pares sauce.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bongalmusal (Php349). If you’re ever at a loss on what to have for brekkie, this hyped-up silog meal serves up everything you could want! Spam, US beef tapa, tocino, daing (dried fish) and corned beef. Best of all, this dish is good for two so do share it with someone special.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe also introduced Bench-Tos which are glamourized takes on the fare available at a Pinoy turo-turo. This small roadside eatery is where diners point out the food they want and a serving is placed on their plates. Bench Cafe updates this concept by merging it with the Japanese bento – the chosen viand is served on a tray along with vegetables, homemade salsa and atsara as well as steamed Ifugao rice. Variations of this offering that we tasted include the Bagnet Kare Kare (Php339) which has a rich peanutty sauce that has no need for bagoong to have flavor, and the Inasal Liempo (Php299) which is Bench Cafe’s take on the Visayan grilled pork belly.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

To cap out meal, Bench Cafe serves up its own takes on dessert classics with the smooth and creamy leche flan it dubbed Flan B (Php185) topped with macapuno and Classic Turon ala Mode (Php49).

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench also applied its own twists on the popular dessert called Halo-Halo, which consists of sweetened fruits and other fixings topped with shaved ice and served with milk. Its variations include White (Php85 for 12oz | Php129 for 16oz) made with coconut shaved ice with garbanzos, caramelized banana, leche flan, nata de coco and coconut ice cream; Mango Otap (Php90 for 12oz | Php109 for 16oz), mango shaved ice with crushed otap, mango puree, cream and fresh mango cubes; Ube (Php95 for 12oz | Php149 for 16oz), ube halaya and palm beans added to the White Halo Halo; and Mais con Hielo (Php60 for 12oz | Php100 for 16oz), corn- flavored shaved ice with milk and kernels of sweetcorn.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

I had a great time discovering fresh ways to enjoy the food that I grew up with at Bench Cafe.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Many thanks to the management and staff of Bench Cafe for having us and to EJ of #ILoveToEatPH for extending the invitation.

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

Bench Cafe, Trinoma

This Bench Cafe branch is located at Ground Floor, MRT Wing, Trinoma Mall, Bagong Pagasa, Quezon City, open daily from 10am to 9pm.

Other branches are located at:

  • Second Floor, Bench Flagship Store, Bonifacio High Street, 9th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
  • Level 2, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Greenbelt, Makati City
  • Ground Floor, Padre Faura Wing, Robinsons Place Manila, Ermita, Manila

Bench Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclosure: Together with other foodies, I attended a foodie meetup held here wherein food and drink items were served to allow us to sample the fare. These were not paid for by the attendees, including myself.

Check out my reviews of other Filipino restaurants:

Filipino comfort food you grew up with at Limbaga 77, Tomas Morato

Filipino food sometimes get some flak for being unimaginative, too greasy, salty or sweet.  Many of us, however, grew up with happy memories of the dishes that our mom lovingly prepared during holidays, our lolas slaved over the kitchen during family get-togethers, or were proudly served by our neighbors during fiestas. Criticism against our beloved dishes either go over out heads or are met with fiery backlash.

The thing with Filipino food is that one dish may have numerous versions, depending on the region, or even the family, that serves it.  In fact, these recipes are even more enriched by the stories and histories that go into their preparation.  Filipino food is basically an amalgamation of native and foreign influences, and can easily be adapted according to regional, familial or even individual tastes.

This makes the work of Limbaga 77, a Filipino restaurant located along Scout Limbaga Street in the foodie-friendly Tomas Morato area, all the more challenging.  According to owner Sonny Fortuna, the restaurant tries to stay true to the traditional and classic Filipino recipes. But with so many regional or individual variations, which versions should the restaurant present?

Based on my experience during a recent Zomato Foodie Meetup held at Limbaga 77, the versions that showcases the use of traditional and native ingredients take centerstage.  The dishes served belie, more than anything, the allegation that Filipino food is unimaginative.

Take for example the Stuffed Bulaklak ng Kalabasa (Php227), an appetizer that made of squash blossoms stuffed with native cheese and minced pork, dipped and batter and deep-friend to achieve that crisp golden brown layer that gives in to a sumptuous bite of melted cheese and pork.

The Green Mango Pomelo Salad (Php377), on the other hand, combines the citrus-y flavors of the fruits with the grilled shrimp.  Some shrimp pieces are a bit over-grilled though.

Most of Limbaga 77’s offerings are reminiscent of the special Sunday lunches that Filipino moms prepare to feed the family after church.  The Roasted Chicken (Php577), Bistek Tagalog (Php477), Crispy Bagnet (Php477), and Limbaga 77 Stuffed Laing (Php477) are all on-point as main dishes, showcased by the Danggit Rice (Php77) and Garlic Rice (Php57).

In the Pochero (Php577), in particular, the rich tomato-based broth provides a savory-sweet background for the slow-cooked beef short ribs, the crisp vegetables and saging na saba; in terms of presentation and use of fresh ingredients, I think the dish wouldn’t be out-of-place in a hapag-kainan during the colonial period.

Here’s some trivia for you: Did you know that the Pochero is one of the favorite dishes of Filipino reformist, writer and journalist Marcelo H. del Pilar?  (Many thanks to fellow foodie Lawrence Chan for this interesting tidbit!)

The Buffalo Wings (Php277), was developed by the resto to appeal to younger diners who may want some finger foods for their after-office hangouts.  Its blue cheese dipping sauce has some bits of cucumber in it, adding some cool freshness to the spicy dish.

However, for me, the star of the show is the Limbaga 77 Paella (Php1,277).  Five people can share this hearty Filipino-Spanish masterpiece made with generous helpings of seafood – shrimp, mussels, clams and squid – as well as chicken, Spanish chorizo and hard-boiled eggs.  It’s a good thing we foodies took a while in taking pictures of this dish together with the other viands served as the heated shallow pan the paella was served in gave the grains at the bottom a bit of a toasty crunch.

The desserts served also had interesting stories  The Brazo Tableaand the Davao Tablea  Cake, for instance, use cacao discs sourced from Davao, the country’s top producer and exporter of cacao, giving these confections a rich chocolate taste.  (The cakes can be further improved to have a moist texture, though.)

If you ever wondered what other uses can there be for queso de bola beyond the Christmas season, look no further: Limbaga 77’s Queso de Bola Cheesecake has a sweet-salty flavor that will satisfy those who tire of too-sweet delicacies.

The classic chocolate mousse dessert also gets a local twist with the inclusion of native coffee to the Barako Brownie Mousse: the thick mousse is flavored with coffee and topped with rich powdered cocoa.

Here’s another trivia: Did you know that kapeng barakogot its name from varraco, the Spanish word for wild boar?  In Spain, wild boar are very fond of eating the plant’s leaves and berries.

Two classic Filipino desserts were fused together in Bikoron: a mashup between the biko and turon wherein the mild-tasting kakanin is wrapped in lumpia wrapper, deep-fried and drizzled with a slightly sweet peanut sauce.

The last dessert served is the Perlas ng Mangga: the Philippines’ national fruit is given a  backdrop of sweet cream and tapioca pearls.

Don’t think that drinks in this resto fall by the wayside: fresh and fruity blended concoctions were also served such as Lychee Grapes Shake, Minty Mango Watermelon and the Mabuhay Smoothie (coconut milk syrup with pineapple), each at Php177.  I opted for the Grass Citrus Iced Tea (Php97), a refreshing brew of pandan and lemongrass with a hint of calamansi, to drink during dinner and a cuppa with baculicha, a sweetener often served with coffee in Vigan, after the meal.

For diners who want combinations of their favorites, Limbaga 77 now offers Bestseller Tandems at Php397 each.  These include:

  • Limbaga 77 Stuffed Laing + Adobong Tadyang ng Baka + Garlic Rice
  • Spicy Seafood Adobo + Adobong Tadyang ng Baka + Garlic Rice
  • Limbaga 77 Stuffed Laing + 1/4 Baby Back Ribs + Garlic Rice
  • Spicy Seafood Adobo + Grilled Liempo + Garlic Rice
  • Limbaga 77 Stuffed Laing + Toasted Vigan Longganisa + Garlic Rice
  • Toasted Vigan Longganisa + Seafood Chopsuey + Garlic Rice
  • Grilled Liempo + Seafood Chopsuey + Garlic Rice

Limbaga 77 is located at No 77 Scout Limbaga Street, near Tomas Morato Avenue, Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City.  It is open daily from 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm.  For inquiries and reservations, call +63 926 715 6134 or email limbaga77cafe@gmail.com.

Credit: Thanks to fellow foodie and flat lay slayer John Bunag for styling the flat lay of viands served.

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.

Limbaga 77 Cafe Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Check out my reviews of other Filipino restaurants:

Food nostalgia at Classic Savory, SM East Ortigas

Pinoys have an interesting relationship with food, particularly the tastes they have grown up with. A lot of the appeal of classic Pinoy fare has to do with the memories associated with the flavors you encountered during family gatherings and celebrations: the pancit canton that was your lola’s specialty, the turon that you used to munch on with your cousins for merienda and so on.

Such nostalgia came into play when Hubby and I took a break from shopping and errands, and dined at the Classic Savory branch at SM City East Ortigas.

This food chain started as a panciteria by the Ting brothers in post-war Manila, primarily serving lomi to its mostly Chinese clientele, before it introduced fried chicken to its menu, thereby attracting more Pinoys to its offerings.

That blend of Pinoy and Chinese flavors were present in the combo meal (Php485, good for 2 persons)  that we ordered.  It consist of a half chicken, pancit canton, fried rice, salt and pepper spare ribs, special turon and iced tea.  Given its price and the mix of flavors, I think this is already good value for money.

Classic Savory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Check out my reviews of other Filipino restaurants:

Want to learn more about Filipino cuisine? Check out these books on Amazon.com!

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