I Went Crazy Over Pearl Milk Tea

“Where there’s tea there’s hope.” -Arthur Wing Pinero

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Starbuck’s Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit and Honey.

I cannot remember when I learned to love drinking tea. Maybe it was during the time I developed a love for watching period drama movies and TV shows by BBC because I saw a lot of the characters having afternoon tea. Maybe it was the time I discovered how much I loved the taste of Dilmah Peppermint and English Toffee tea that I was able to try in a dessert shop that my favorite uncle always treated us to. I honestly cannot remember the exact time I learned to love tea, but I do remember being introduced to pearl milk tea or bubble tea back when I was in college.

I remember having a Zentea branch in front of my school, but I am not sure if they sold pearl milk tea. What I vividly recall is that bright red shop called SimpleLine, that sold pearl milk tea in a large size at a prize that a student can afford. My classmates and I loved celebrating small victories in school by treating ourselves to a large cup of pearl milk tea. Eventually, more milk tea shops opened near the school that I had about five to ten options should I crave for it.

Unfortunately, news about death from drinking milk tea laced with oxalic acid from a specific milk tea shop (not SimpleLine) somehow affected the industry for some time. I think people became wary of drinking milk tea despite the cause of the deaths appearing to be a foul play. Anyway, the story had a tragic ending and I don’t think the suspect has been identified to this day.

To my surprise, almost ten years later, the milk tea industry suddenly boomed to unexpected heights, with more and more milk tea shops popping up at every corner. Major milk tea brands from Taiwan also started entering the Philippine market. People were willing to wait and stand in long queues just to get their hands on this heaven of a drink that Taiwan came up with. Those who could not wait themselves relied on the convenience of food delivery services like GrabFood, LalaFood, Food Panda, and many more. The craze over drinking milk tea isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

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My colleagues and I were not immune to the lure of pearl milk tea. We have tried several brands over the first half of the year and I’d like to share some of those I’ve tried recently.

Snow Panda

 

This place is more known for its Korean food and the bingsu dessert. They also sell milk tea and I was able to try their Cream Cheese Tiger Milk Tea.

I loved the black tapioca pearls! I think they were at the perfect chewiness based on my preference. However, I could not taste much of the cream cheese and the sugar syrup just made the drink very sweet. Plus, I disliked the SpongeBob design on the plastic lid. It was too unsophisticated for my liking.

I’ll probably try their Korean snacks and desserts next time. After all, most of their high rating and reviews on Zomato were because of their Korean food.

Bobaism

fullsizeoutput_c46This shop, I think I just came across in LalaFood. I have no clue at all where this shop is in Greenbelt because I am sure I have not seen it the last time I was there. However, I was so attracted to the name and to the design on the cups.

The drinks are really pricey though, but seeing leche flan as a topper/sinker/floater (however you’d like to call those things) that I can add to my drink, I decided to push through with the purchase. I ordered their frosted milk with honey and added tapioca pearls and leche flan to the drink.

I was not expecting the drink to come in such a big size! It was so refreshing and I love their leche flan so much!!! However, at more than Php 200 when ordering via LalaFood, it’s so expensive if I am only after the leche flan for the most part.

What I did learn, eventually, was that their cups and lids are made of a material sourced from starchy plants. I am not a chemist so I will not pretend to understand how it is a better alternative to the usual plastic material used in cups, but it’s probably part of the reason their drinks are a little bit more pricey, aside from their claim to use the freshest ingredients (I think every shop claims this anyway).

This brand got in trouble with the Buddhists in Thailand because of an event with a Buddha mascot and the logo on their cups, I think. The outrage came with the circulation of photos in social media. I believe it has been sorted out already, but I strongly feel they should do something with the logo.

CoCo Fresh Milk Tea

I love anything panda-related. So when my officemates were ordering Panda Milk Tea from CoCo Fresh, I made sure to join in.

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Placed in a laminated paper cup, this drink isn’t very Instragrammable. However, it becomes a tad bit more environmentally friendly than most brands.

The drink was refreshing and not as sweet compared to most milk tea brands. I also liked the combination of big black tapioca pearls and the small clear ones. It does live up to the “fresh” in its brand name.

However, I wasn’t completely mindblown by the drink. I’ll probably try it again when there’s a chance to, but it’s not the first on my list when I crave for milk tea.

TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie / The Dessert Kitchen

TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie and The Dessert Kitchen were brought to the Philippines by the same group that brought Lugang Cafe to the country. TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie serves Hong Kong style food with The Dessert Kitchen serves Asian desserts. Recently, they also started selling pearl milk tea.

rWj3p6f0RIKCnGwRN6yJDwI happened to pass by a branch of The Dessert Kitchen in SM Mall of Asia and I could not resist the pull of that huge pearl milk tea advertising tarp. I just knew I had to try it no matter what.

They have a variety of tea served in various styles as well. I cannot remember exactly what style of bubble tea I ordered, but it was Iron Goddess with Cheese Milk Cap or something of that sort. I am not sure what’s causing the gray part on top of the drink because I was sure I did not order the one that had charcoal sea salt or whatever. After shaking, the drink pretty much turned into a pastel gray color.

The tapioca pearls were nicely done and at the perfect chewiness that I liked. The drink itself though was very puzzling. I cannot put a finger on what’s making this drink so different from the other I’ve tried. Was it the iron goddess tea? I do not know for sure, but I know I would love to try more pearl milk tea drinks from TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie or The Dessert Kitchen.

It turns out that iron goddess tea (or tieguanyin) is a type of oolong tea. You can read more about it in Wikipedia. The legends of where this tea came from are interesting.

Roycetea

IMG_0936Affiliated with the Royaltea Malaysia brand, this shop was the first to introduce cheese tea to the Philippines and uses tea from the Sun Moon Lake tea plantation in Taiwan. Knowing my love for milk tea with cream cheese or cheese brûlée, my officemate, Sarrah, encouraged me to try this. We specifically scheduled buying from the shop as soon as we got our salary.

Roycetea is also pricier than most brands, but not as expensive as Bobaism. However, the serving size is large and the cup they use is sturdy and I think it can be reused.

I ordered the Oolong Royce Cheese Milk Tea. It came with super delicious cheese foam that was topped with coconut flakes. I really loved this drink!

Chachago

Another brand from Taiwan, I discovered Chachago in GrabFood. I knew I had to try it!

I was able to try their Roasted Brown Sugar Tea with Salted Cheese Cream. This came only in medium size and had no tapioca pearls. It was truly refreshing and light, with the cheese cream so delightfully yummy!

Another flavor I have tried was the Brown Sugar Pearl with Milk Tea. This also only came in medium size. Like the previous drink, this was also really refreshing and the sweetness was just right to suit my preference.

 

I don’t remember putting the sugar level when I ordered, but I was glad they just put 75%. I will find time to try their other drinks as well.

Tiger Sugar

I was able to try this because I was treated by a colleague for helping out during our teambuilding activity. I was so excited because, at that time, the only branch they had was a city away from work.

I am not sure if this started the brown sugar milk tea trend, but I remember it being famous for the tiger stripes of brown sugar that one must be quick to take a picture of if they don’t want theirs to end up looking like mine.

This brand turns out to have originated in Taichung, Taiwan, around November of 2017. For a relatively new company, it’s making a name for itself really fast! Its branch in Bonifacio Global City was always busy and always had a long queue of customers waiting for their turn. Recently, they opened a branch in Glorietta 4, making it more accessible to customers in Makati and those ordering via GrabFood.

I like it, but I find it a little too sweet. I cannot remember if the sugar level could be adjusted though.

Dakasi

They used to be available in GrabFood, but I think it’s only available over LalaFood these days. Their shops are always filled with customers because they have a lot of options. By “a lot,” I do mean “A LOT!” Seriously, I always had trouble deciding what to order in their GrabFood app menu, so I always ended up ordering any milk tea with Oreos and requesting additional Oreos. One simply cannot have too many Oreos.

Whenever I crave for drinks with Oreos, Dakasi is my go-to place. Their Creme Okinawa with Oreos is my favorite!

When I used to work in BGC back in 2014, there was a Dakasi branch in the terminal of BGC buses. I used to ignore it, not knowing it’s a well-established brand that started in Taiwan way back the 90s.

Sharetea

GaLHCGHrRtirjvCldp+guwMy first time to try Sharetea was in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. I ordered the most basic kind that they had and I liked it so much, drinking it while I ate fishballs from the adjacent food stall.

Imagine my surprise when I saw Sharetea was already in the Philippines and accessible thru GrabFood! I simply had to place an order right away.

I placed an order for Rock Salt and Cheese Cream with Oolong Tea and Oreo. Because I saw that they also had snacks, I bought egg waffle and potato tots as well.

Needless to say that even if I was home alone at that time, I was so happy with my snack that afternoon. The milk tea paired incredibly well with the potato tots dusted with mildly spicy barbecue flavoring. I was also taken back to my time in Hong Kong when I shared a drink from Sharetea with my sister.

Macau Imperial Tea

IMG_1285Another brand present in many countries, Macau Imperial Tea is my go-to place for cheesecake pearl milk tea. There’s no other place I’ve tried that served milk tea with the amount of sweet cream cheese goodness that I liked, which is A LOT of it! Seriously, I love cream cheese that much!

I bet their other variants are also just as good because there is always a long queue of people waiting for their turn to order. That’s why I always make sure to give the GrabFood driver a tip when I order from Macau Imperial Tea because I know how long it took them to line up and deliver the drink to me.

Aside from their cheesecake pearl milk tea, another thing that I love about Macau Imperial Tea is that some of their drinks come in glass bottles like the For Me (strawberry milk) and For You (iced coffee) drinks that come with bear ears hard plastic cover. It was sad that a quarter of my coffee spilled the first time I ordered For You, but I have since reused the bottle for other cold drinks. In the picture below, that’s my For You bottle containing peppermint mocha drink.

 

They also have soda drinks that come in glass bottles, but the bottles aren’t as cute as the For Me and For You ones.

Alishan @ The Alley

IMG_3490I was initially under the impression that this is the same as “The Alley” in Hong Kong, the one that had a deer for a logo. Apparently, a lot of other people thought the same thing.

Alishan @ The Alley can be found beside Dean & Deluca branches. So far, I’ve seen one in Makati and one in BGC. My golly, the queue at the Makati branch is always long! That is a testament on how good their milk tea drinks are.

iTCLiPfmR0elPzvulone2gMy favorites so far are the Brown Sugar Milk with Cheese Brûlée, Sea Salt Caramel Milk Tea Latte with Pearl, and the Alishan High Mountain Tea Latte with Pearl.

For the brown sugar series, I love the bits of brown sugar that have not fully melted and incorporated with the drink because it adds an extra layer of texture to the drink. I also like requesting for cheese brûlée to add to my other drinks.

IMG_0909My friends and colleagues would normally request their drinks to be made less sweet, and I will admit to their drinks being sweet. However, it’s not the sickly sweet kind for me.  I also find the taste to have more depth than the brown sugar milk tea of Tiger Sugar.

For now, Alishan @ The Alley is not available on food delivery services, so one must endure the waiting time to order. On the positive side though, they already started accepting GCash payments. Additionally, last Friday, they started a stamp card promo wherein you get a stamp for every Php 200 purchase. Since their drinks are around Php 160 max, you’ll have to get someone to buy with you to get a stamp. Complete the stamps to get one free drink!

Update (07-Jul-19): Alishan @ The Alley is now on LalaFood! Plus, they already started accepting GCash payments. Lastly, they already started a loyalty program for customers. Purchases over Php 200 is equivalent to one stamp. Get ten stamps to get a free drink!

My dilemma

I’ve started feeling guilty about how much single-use plastic is used up by milk tea shops. While some already have reusable cups and bottles, most do not. Also, one can only request to use their own cups and tumblers when they are the ones lining up. If you happen to order via food delivery services, you’d get the plastic cups and straws.

I came across a post about FLOAT, a non-straw, glass cup that will make drinking pearl milk tea/bubble tea more environmentally friendly. It’s already under production and will hit the markets in winter of 2019 in Taiwan. I am not sure how soon it will be available worldwide, but since I am going to Taiwan in next year’s spring, I will try to get my hands on one of these.

Realizing how much pearl milk tea I’ve drunk in the last few months, I’ve decided to limit my purchases when I can be the one to line up and buy (or when I can ask my friends to buy for me when they do and just hand them my tumbler), and when I can use my reusable cup or tumbler. That will not only help me take care of the environment but also help me take care of my blood sugar levels as well. This love for milk tea is in no way near healthy!

Also, ever since I tried the Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit and Honey from Starbucks, I kind of feel like trying out fruit teas instead of pearl milk tea. I’ve already bought a reusable cup from Starbucks to use when buying their black tea or their hibiscus tea. I heard Alishan @ The Alley has delicious and refreshing fruit teas as well. I feel they won’t have as much sugar as the pearl milk tea drinks and I hope I am right.

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Just Tried: Fat Fook Kitchen

“I know what I bring to the table so trust me when I say I’m not afraid to eat alone.” -Anonymous

Last Friday, my workmate and friend, Karen, went all the way to the newly opened Ayala North Exchange to visit the Watsons branch there. While we were there, I suddenly had a craving for milk tea. Seeing how the line at Macau Imperial was so long, we turned to Fat Fook Kitchen instead.

img_0455Serving Taiwanese food, there was bound to be milk tea in their menu. Only, I was not prepared for how big their milk tea serving was.

They serve their milk tea in what looks like a disposable soup container instead of a tall disposable cup like we’re normally used to. I do not know if it’s optical illusion, but I do believe the serving size is so much more than from your average milk tea store.

Karen, on the other hand, ordered gindara tofu from their take-out counter. We had to wait for a few minutes for them to fry the gindara tofu.  You know what? The wait was so worth it because that gindara tofu was really good stuff! It’s nothing like any street food I have tried in my life! It was flavorful without being too much and all over the place! The texture was soft, yet firm enough to enjoy biting into it. It was not like tofu made from soy. It was then that I sort of had an idea why people lined up to eat at Fat Fook Kitchen’s Glorietta branch. I guess they serve really good food, that’s why they are always packed.

IMG_0564Last Sunday, I had to go to Glorietta to have my eyeglasses fixed. Again. Last time, I accidentally sat on my glasses. This time, I accidentally kneeled on them. I should really stop putting my glasses on the bed when I take them off for any reason. I would feel so bad if the people working at OWNDAYS remembered me for my broken glasses instead of my purchases.

Anyway, I decided to try and eat at the Fat Fook Kitchen branch there. As usual, the place was packed. Luckily, I was first in the waiting list and a family soon left, allowing me to have a seat right away.

I ordered five pieces of pork xiao long bao and a pork chop set meal. I also ordered gindara tofu to take home. My order took around 15 to 20 minutes to arrive and while I was waiting, I realized how badly the a/c worked at cooling the place. The temperature was not high enough to cause one to sweat, but not cool enough for my liking. That’s why I was so glad I did not have to wait too long for my order.

A male server came with my food and he asked, “Ma’am, are you alone again?” I was surprised at the question. Did he think I ordered too much for one person? Did he feel bad for me because I was alone? It was my first time to eat in that place, what was up with “again?” Was he a server in the past in a different restaurant where I went to eat alone as well? So, I just replied, “Yeah.”

I enjoy eating out alone as much as I enjoy eating out with friends and family. When I eat alone, I find that I get to enjoy the food and revel in the different flavors of the dishes I ordered so much more because I get to focus on eating. You see, if I were with someone, I would probably pay more attention to the person and the conversation rather than the food.

Going back to my order, the food looked and smelled wonderfully yummy! The serving was bigger than I expected and the set meal came with more food items than I thought would be included. For one, I had some lightly flavored soup to warm my tummy, half a boiled egg, and some veggies too. The pork chop slice was larger than I was expecting and it smelled so inviting! I also loved the meaty bits on top of the rice! Those tiny pieces were packed with flavor!

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I liked the soup despite being lightly flavored. The joy that I discovered though was it came with a crab roe bun. Gindara tofu, you have some competition! I will make sure to visit a Fat Fook Kitchen branch soon to order crab roe buns to take out.

The xiao long bao looked incredibly cute that I did not want to eat them at all. Having paid for them though, I had to try one. That was when I realized a problem. They only had a silver, regular spoon while I needed a duck spoon. You know, those spoons commonly found in Chinese restaurants that look like a mini ladle. So, I placed a piece on the silver spoon and when I poked a hole into it, the soup practically dripped from my spoon and went to my rice.

I did have some soup left on my spoon and when I tried it, I was thinking if it was the same as the soup served with my pork chop set because they tasted the same to me. The filling, though, was what I liked because it was meaty! While I admit that the xiao long bao was a little doughy than I was used to, they did not skimp on the filling at all. It was as if there was only space for meat and for soup; space for air or emptiness.

I ended up eating only two pieces of the xiao long bao. I had the restaurant pack the remaining pieces, along with a quarter of my pork chop that I already knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat when I saw how big the serving was. I was so full!

Our house companion loved the gindara tofu I brought home for her to snack on. In fact, she liked the first piece she ate that she decided she was going to eat it and the three pieces of xiao long bao with rice for dinner. I guess I am not the only one who loves Fat Fook Kitchen now. I bet she will also enjoy the crab roe buns and the milk tea as much as I did.

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Fat Fook Kitchen experience. Also, always remember that eating alone is not always lonely.

Just Tried: John and Yoko Cosmopolitan Japanese, Greenbelt 5

I can always count on gyoza to make my day.

My sister is home over the weekend! The two hours I spent waiting for her at the airport was worth it because I missed her so much! The last time I saw her was back in March, when I went to Hong Kong with my friend, Jana. That is why I was so excited to be seeing my sister again.

She arrived a couple of minutes past midnight last Saturday. After getting some sleep, she wanted to have her nails done at Nail Tropics. She estimated that I would have to wait an hour and a half for her to be done. Having very short nails (damn nailbiting habit!), I felt it too expensive to have my nails done there so I just opted to have my eyebrows threaded at Browhaus.

Unfortunately, my eyebrow threading lasted only 15 minutes and I had nowhere to go in Greenbelt while waiting for her. I opted to have coffee or any cold drink somewhere while waiting. My feet led me to John and Yoko, remembering the big poster they had of their milk tea selection (which had like three options only). Learning that it served Japanese food, I decided to order gyoza with my brown sugar milk tea because I was a little bit hungry from not eating enough at breakfast.

I just loved the interior of the restaurant! It was cute and cozy, appealing to my girly side that loved pink and mint green color combo. The place wasn’t packed unlike the restaurants on the same floor, making it an ideal place for me to wait because I dislike very noisy restaurants. Not that I don’t want people talking inside the restaurant, I just get headaches when exposed to too many sounds all at once.

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My milk tea order came first. I did notice that there were huge chunks of ice in my drink to chill it. I was kind of disappointed because I felt like the presence of ice was going to water down my drink when melted. When I took a sip though, the caramel-like taste of the brown sugar tasted so yummy, though a tad bit too sweet for my liking. I then appreciated the ice knowing it will water down my drink a bit if I leave it alone for a couple of minutes, just enough to lessen the sweetness of the milk tea. Still, that drink was yummy and the boba pearls were cooked just right! John and Yoko’s milk tea is now part of my favorite milk teas list.

It took a while to have my gyoza served. It makes me wonder if they did not have pre-made pot stickers just waiting to be steamed because I doubt gyozas took that long to cook. Anyway, I was excited about it when it was finally served to me.

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I am normally not used to being served gyoza with the fried bottom facing up. There was some good browning, with a spot or too a little darker than the rest. Oh well, the gyoza was still gyoza no matter which side was facing up.

I was not prepared at all to love their gyoza so much! I mean, I am no connoisseur and is yet to learn how to describe food other than delicious, yummy, and tasty. I also have not been to a lot of Japanese restaurants to be able to say I have sampled so many gyozas to know what’s good and what’s not. Still, I loved how John and Yoko’s gyoza tasted! The filling was cooked well and the wrapper was not too thick or too chewy. While I did poke some holes due to my struggling with the chopsticks (lack of sleep makes my hands shaky), the wrapper did not tear that easily once you bite into the gyoza. You see, I already experienced having gyoza wrappers fall apart after a small bite, leaving the remainder of the filling between my chopsticks.

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After almost more than two hours, my sister was finally done with her mani-pedi session. I told her to just meet me in John and Yoko. I ordered her another gyoza set and brown sugar milk tea. We also ordered Samurai All-Meat Pizza. My sister ate five pieces of gyoza, one after the other. I knew she was hungry by that time, but hearing no complaints from her meant the gyoza really was good.

The pizza took the longest to be served. I was surprised how small the size was (the picture made me think of larger serving size), yet equally amazed at the amount of meat on that pizza with a super thin crust. They did not skimp on the meat at all! Just take a look at those big pieces of bacon! Doesn’t the pizza look so yummy!

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There were no uncooked chunks of meat and they were not overly salty. I do not know what cheese they used, but it wasn’t the stretchy, stringy kind. However, it was so creamy and it complimented the Pomodoro sauce and the meat toppings really well. The crust was crispy, but not too hard. The only downside though was that the inner slices were a little tricky to eat because of the weight of the cheese and the meat toppings. The outer slices still had some crust to hold on to while eating, but the middle part was not.

We were stuffed at the end of the meal! I really enjoyed what we ate and I am excited to try their other dishes. Overall, I was more than pleased with John and Yoko’s food and service quality. I will surely be back.

2019 Trip to Hong Kong: Where to Eat

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” ― Mark Twain

Hong Kong can be very expensive. You must save up if you want to enjoy the best accommodation and shopping experience. What is equally undeniable though, is that Hong Kong is also an amazing place to let your tastebuds feast and have fun.

Here are some of the places I enjoyed eating in throughout my travels to Hong Kong since 2016.

Tai Hing

Founded in 1989 by Mr. Chan Wing On and Mr. Yuen Chi Ming, Tai Hing has grown to have several branches across Hong Kong. There’s even a Tai Hing at the Arrival Area of Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1. It prides itself with its QSC management policy, which I think stands for quality, service, and cleanliness. For more information on Tai Hing and to where their branches are, visit their website here.

This is the restaurant that’s closest to my heart. It was in 2016 when I first tried eating in Tai Hing in its Grand Tower II branch. That was the year my sister was moving to Hong Kong to start her new job as a regional IT auditor. Without a lot of funds at that time, we made sure not to spend too much on eating out. Tai Hing’s food selections are already reasonably priced compared to other restaurants, in my opinion.

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What I love best here is that one does not have to wait too long for food to be served. Despite the speed by which you get your meal, the quality is great and the food is awesome! I also love how smart it maximizes its space. They have tables with drawers that contain the utensils and sugar packets! Check out my IG post below and don’t forget to swipe left.

What I loved:

1. Roast pork rice and barbecue pork rice.

You definitely have to try their roast pork. It has the crispiest skin and the juiciest meat that will make you want for more! The meat was so good that I don’t remember dipping into any condiment to enhance the flavor. Just Google “Tai Hing roast pork” and you will know why this dish is a must-try in Hong Kong.

The veggie was okay. I mean, it’s a straightforward piece of what I assume is a bok choy. The nice thing about it though was that it was not overly cooked. There was still a crunch to it that was nice.

2.  Milk Tea

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Don’t forget to add sugar if you’re not fond of strong tea taste because their milk tea definitely has tea! It’s so unlike the usual milk tea drinks these days that have more sugar and milk than tea. Tai Hing’s milk tea is the real deal!

I liked it hot, surprisingly, but try to have its chilled version. I heard they dip the glass in a bucket of ice rather than putting ice in the drink. That way, the milk tea does not get diluted by melted ice. I was not able to experience ordering the chilled version, but you may try in order to confirm their manner of serving it.

3. Lemon iced tea

Theirs is not the commercial powdered iced tea that’s flavored with lemon. Their lemon iced tea is so refreshing without being too sweet. It goes really well with their rice pork and rice dishes.

4. Luncheon meat and scrambled eggs instant noodle

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It looks like a simple dish. It is! Yet, it tastes highly of home comfort food. The broth was tasty, yet light at the same time. The noodles weren’t mushy and the luncheon meat remained firm.

What I did not like as much:

1. Mandarin orange with honey (drink)

It tasted like paracetamol in syrup form. Think Biogesic or Tempra. It did not live up to my expectation of refreshing orange drink sweetened with honey. I do not know why it was that way or whether it was an isolated case.

2. Preserved cabbage and shredded pork rice vermicelli (noodle soup)

I could not understand the taste of the preserved cabbage. Best not to order this dish if you do not like preserved cabbages.

I am so glad I was able to bring Jana to the same Grand Tower II branch I’ve been to in 2016. However, their breakfast selections are not too varied and are a little bit pricey in my opinion. I hope to be able to bring her there again when it’s past breakfast time.

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Tsui Wah (Hong Kong International Airport)

It started as an Ice cafe in Mong Kok in 1967. It eventually grew to one of the popular chains of restaurants in Hong Kong. It has branches across Hong Kong, a branch in Singapore, and several branches in China. For more information and for the list of their branches, please visit their website.

The first Tsui Wah (and technically the only) branch I have tried was the one in Hong Kong International Airport’s Departure Area. I was trying to prolong my last few moments with my sister at that before going back to Manila. It was my first time at that restaurant as well, and I was not sure what to expect. All I knew was that their place looked fancy and expensive.

It turns out that more or less, their prices are pretty much okay for an airport restaurant. With the rather large servings, I think we got our money’s worth that afternoon.

What I loved:

img_9110Their food selection is varied, I must say. While I normally do not order curry dishes out of the fear of their spices being too much, my sister convinced me to try their Malaysian curry dishes. Oh dear, I did not regret it at all! The curry sauce? It was so flavorful and yummy, with the spices just enough to give heat, but not too much that I would feel my mouth burning. I was so full at the end of our meal!

I was excited to let Jana try their food, so we tried to visit their Portland Street branch in Mong Kok. Just like Tai Hing, they served breakfast until 11:00 am. Even then, as I was looking at the menu, there wasn’t anything that reminded me of the menu from their HKIA branch. It was like looking at a totally different restaurant’s menu because there was nothing familiar to me. I didn’t see any Malaysian curry dish too. I guess the food they serve vary among branches.

The Dining Room (Hysan Place)

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After, visiting Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, we traveled all the way to Causeway Bay to meet up with my sister, Kristine. She told me she’d treat me and Jana to our first dinner in Hong Kong this year.  I was excited to see her as I have not seen her since December.

At the 12th floor of the very beautiful Hysan Place, you can find The Dining Room. This restaurant is a member of the Tansh Global Food Group, along with Shanghai Min and Maison de L’Hui. The Dining Room serves Shanghai-style food and has a strong presence in China. For more details on the Tansh Global Food Group, please click here.

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The restaurant has this vintage clock that the restaurant staff looks at to check if your 90 minutes is up.

There was not a lot of people when we got there, but I noticed a sign that said customers can only stay 90 minutes max. I guess this place gets packed and they have to impose the time limit so that other people can get in. Smart!

The staff was made up of attentive and courteous people during our visit. See that blue bag on the chair? They placed a cover on top of it to prevent it from being ruined by accidental food and drink spills. They provided the cover without being asked (and frankly, I didn’t know they had such thing).

We were given the menu and a slip of paper where we had to check the items that we were ordering. For the most part, Kristine chose for us since she has eaten here in the past. She was telling us how this restaurant served Shanghai-style dishes, which I am not sure I have tried in the past.

What I loved:

1. Braised pork belly with eggs

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Argh! My mouth is already watering at the sight of this dish! This was my favorite out of all that we tried.

The braised pork was so tender and oh so juicy! The pork was coated with this sticky, flavorful sauce that was neither too salty nor too sweet. It was just right. There’s a good amount of fat in these pieces of meat that I loved so much. I don’t eat a lot of pork (especially pork belly), but when I do, I love eating the fatty part, making sure to eat them at the end of the meal. Save the best for last!

The serving size seems small, but it was actually enough for the three of us to have tried it. It paired really well with the rice that I’ll be talking about later.

2. Steamed pork & soup dumplings (xiao long bao)

img_1441I have found a rival for Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao! The buns were neither too thin or too thick. They were sturdy enough to hold the soup inside and not tear easily when you try to lift them with chopsticks. Thankfully, they also did not stick to the paper lining the bamboo steamer basket.

Whatever soup they put inside, I was such a huge fan! If only I could order a bowl of just the soup, I would be very delighted! You see, despite being a clear type of soup, it was not the runny kind that suddenly floods your mouth as soon as you bite into the bun. It flowed gently, coating my tongue and bathing my taste buds with a light, yet flavorful soup. The soup nicely complemented the pork inside, which was cooked just right. The pork was not tough, not mushy, and neither overcooked nor undercooked.

Believe me when I say that one basket with five xiao long bao pieces is not enough for me. I will gladly just eat this dish and be content. That’s how good they were!

3. Fried rice with salted pork and vegetables

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Fried rice and spicy beef brisket pot

Fear not that “salted” part of this dish’s name. The pork was only lightly salted, enough for the rice to make you want to serve yourself some more. The long, thin grains were coated with deliciousness that enhanced the other flavors of the other dishes we tried. That’s because the rice was far from being bland, yet did not compete with the tastes of the other dishes.

That small bowl was enough for the three of us to share. So, if you ordered plenty of meats and dim sum, you do not have to order plenty of rice.

What I loved just a little bit less:

1. The eggs that came with the braised pork belly.

I think they were cooked a little too long. At least that is what I think seeing that gray part between the egg yolk and the egg white. I still liked it, although I wished that the yolks were a little on the softer side. I like my yolks just set and creamy.

2. The spicy beef brisket pot

My sister assured me that it was not as spicy as I was fearing it to be despite its bright red color. I should have known not to trust my sister’s taste buds that have a fondness for spicy foods. Even she admitted later on that the dish was spicier than when she first tried it.

The heat from the spices aside, the beef strips were not too chewy that your jaw will hurt from chewing too much. I truly hate it when the beef is too tough, yet I also do not like beef that’s too rare. I am not sure whether it was due to its being cut into strips, but I liked the texture of the meat.

img_1442The noodles were a little tricky though. I was having a hard time getting them with my chopsticks. I think I need a lot more practice with the ones that tend to slip my chopstick’s grip.

By the way, let me just say that I was so fond of those gold teapots. I mean, I wanted one for myself. The last time I saw golden teapots were in TWG and each pot was priced at Php 25,000 at that time.

Texas Burger (Langham Place)

Move over, stairway to heaven! This is an escalator to heaven!

img_2339When I went to Hong Kong last March, it was my first time to step inside Langham Place. It was so beautiful inside, yet also a little confusing. Despite not being a very wide place, I felt like I was still getting lost inside. I guess I should visit more often to memorize where the stairs and ramps (very useful for those with suitcases) and elevators are.

The highlight, though, was the escalators that transport people from the 8th to the 12th floor without stops in between! Yup, you read that right. You skip three floors to get to either the 8th or the 12th floor, depending on your direction.

Very close to the escalator on the 12th floor was Texas Burger. Having had Asian Food for the last couple of days, it was nice to finally have some American food. Besides, don’t you think those seats look nice? Well, we weren’t able to stay in one of those. Bummer.

Forgot to bring your wipes? No problem! Inside their utensils basket, they provide a pack or two of wipes so you can dig in and eat without worrying about the germs from your hands. I think there’s only one piece per pack though. I need to check the one I brought home as a souvenir.

img_2344Food is a little on the pricier side here. I guess it can be expected seeing how lush Langham Place is. Rent would surely be expensive and therefore, their prices would have to be enough not to drive them out of business. Still, there were affordable items on the menu like the ones we got.1.

They had a lot of items on their menu, but we weren’t looking to eat so much for dinner after our Ocean Park trip anyway. So, we decided to go for the lighter items on the menu, despite how yummy their burgers looked.

What we got:

1. Pulled Pork Soft Taco

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Taco Bell lover Jana did not surprise me when she ordered soft taco for HKD48. She chose the pulled pork variant that had some creamy sauce, tomatoes, and guacamole. Even I, who dislikes guacamole, liked the filling of her soft taco when she placed a teaspoonful on my plate.

Also, look at how cute it looked! I love the wooden taco holder that they used to serve it to the customer. So adorable!

2. Garlic and Parmesan Fries

2807924461460609761_img_2497At HKD 58, I was only expecting fried with garlic and parmesan flavored powder. Boy, I was so wrong. The fries came with real garlic and parmesan cheese!

Although not as photogenic as the soft taco of Jana, I can say that it’s still a good deal. The potatoes weren’t sliced too thinly, yet they did not have a weird texture in the middle. They were cooked perfectly! So, if you love garlic and parmesan together, go for this!

Note: I did not like the dip that came with it though. I would have liked plain ketchup instead.

3. Buffalo Wings Lollipop

-4844908024803562769_img_2504Five chicken lollipops for HKD 68? Yes, please!

The outer layer of the chicken was crispy and the meat was juicy! The chicken pieces were well seasoned were not too salty that you’d be reaching out for your drink a lot to cleanse your palate. And how do I know a chicken is good? If I don’t use the dipping to enhance the flavor. These pieces were so good on their own!

We were already full from the tacos and the fries so we had some leftover chicken that we had to take out and bring to the hotel.

Made in HK (Langham Place)

Before leaving for Manila, we had lunch with Kristine at Made in HK in Langham Place. This restaurant opens at exactly 12nn, so do not be too early like we were. Haha.

Made in HK is a brand under the Cafe Deco Group. Its dishes are mainly Western with a touch of Hong Kong’s style. Aside from Langham Place, it has another branch in Millenium City in Kwun Tong.

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The restaurant staff was really nice, despite our inability to communicate well with one of them because neither Jana and I knew how to speak Cantonese. I guess, next time, I will rent one of those translator devices at the airport.

What we ordered:

We all ordered from their set lunch menu because it came with the starters (soup or salad), main course, sides (rice, pasta, or fries), drinks (coffee/tea with upgrade options) and desserts already. There’s no option for the dessert because what they serve varies daily.

Jana and I got slow-cooked pork ribs. She got the black pepper sauce while I got the red wine sauce. Kristine got a pork chop dish with black pepper sauce too. For drinks, we ordered iced lemon tea. Our meals were indulgent!

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My mushroom soup was on the runny side, unlike the thick and creamy version that I prefer. Seeing how big my meal was though, I was glad we soup was not thick and heavy. I needed all the room for that luscious and sinfully good pork ribs!

The red wine sauce paired really well with the ribs. I was worried it was going to taste weird, but I wanted to be adventurous on my last lunch in Hong Kong that day. Their tastes married well and neither overpowered the other. I also loved that the ribs were not tough to separate from the bones. The slow cooking worked its wonders well because I had juicy meat that I did not have to wrestle with before I could eat.

As for the dessert? Oh, wow! It was a refreshing contrast to the heavy lunch that we had! It was light and creamy, with matcha cutting through and really shining. And when we bit into the blueberry? Woah! There was a burst of tart freshness that I absolutely loved.

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Pacific Coffee

From its inception in 1992, Pacific Coffee has been providing great coffee experience to its customers. Forget Starbucks during your stay in Hong Kong and head over to Pacific Coffee to try their Espresso Chillino.

I personally loved their Rocky Road Rumba Chillino while Jana enjoyed her Iced Cafe Mocha. We could really taste the coffee in our drinks, unlike other coffee brands that serve drinks that tasted more of milk and sugar than the coffee.

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The company is also trying to be more eco-friendly by not offering plastic straws right away. You have to make a special request to get them. I hope they are also moving towards more eco-friendly cups for their drinks.

Whew! What a long post! I hope you try out the places I have listed for you. Make the best out of your HK experience!

For more posts about my adventures in Hong Kong, please click here.

Just Tried: Ooma (Bold New Japanese)

Youthfulness is about how you live not when you were born.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

The celebration did not stop on my birthday! After my two-day leave from work, I went back on the exact day we were going to get our pay. We also scheduled on that day our monthly team dinner/bonding.

This month, we went to Ooma, a restaurant that offers bold takes on your favorite Japanese dishes. I was excited to try out their food because I have a fondness for Japanese food even though I am not yet bold enough to try those that involved raw fish. What made me even more excited was the colorful menu of the restaurant with pictures that tempts you to try everything listed in it. Just look at its menu from its Facebook page. It’s lit!!!

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A page from their menu in their Facebook page.

For starters, we got the Crowd Favorites plate that has a mix of their aburi options. I regret that I only tried the Steak Aburi Maki because I was trying to keep my carb intake low. I made a good choice because that Steak Aburi Maki was so delicious! The meat was flavorful and tender. The truffle oil probably masked the taste of the onions and leeks because I normally dislike food with strong onion flavor. That is why, despite my attempts at staying away from carbs, I ate four pieces of it. Technically, that’s one piece each from the three Crowd Favorites and one Aburi Mixer plates that we ordered!

We also ordered their Hanger Steak that features sous-vide hanging tender accompanied by sautéed mushrooms and crispy baby potato chips. You should have seen those little chips because they were so adorable! The steak, mushrooms and chips laid on a bed of smooth and creamy sweet potato mash that melts in your mouth! The dish had a combination of white truffle oil, herb oil, and Ponzu butter. The Ponzu butter must be the reason for the slight tang that cuts through the sweetness of the mash, giving you an assortment of flavors all in one dish.

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We Filipinos love our rice so we ordered a few bowls of their House Chanan. This is Japanese fried rice with egg and mixed vegetables. I didn’t try it anymore because I was telling myself that I already ate enough rice from the aburi maki pieces I ate. However, considering that we ordered five bowls and only one and a half bowl was left untouched at the end of our meal (we went crazy on the carbs that night), it must have been pretty good!

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Ooma’s Ebi Tempura. Photo obtained from their Facebook page.

It’s sad to eat rice and just steak so we also ordered two plates of their Ebi Tempura (7 pieces each). Normally, ebi tempura would be big because of the batter coating that expanded during frying. That was not the case with Ooma’s. Of course theirs had crispy breading too, but they used large pieces of shrimp that were cooked just right; not tough and gummy. The light sauce that came with it was good enough to add flavor to the shrimp but you simply must try that Aligue Mayo (crab fat mayo) dressing that came with it! It also had Wasabi Aioli dressing that I did not try because I am not fond of wasabi for some reason.

Craving for something warm, I also ordered their Miso Soup. I was not disappointed at all because it was perfectly warm and so comforting that I could not stop going at it! The soup was flavorful but light on the tongue at the same time. The tofu was not hard nor mushy. It was at the perfect texture that I loved so much. It was hard to explain the flavors of this soup but if it there was a serving size that’s good for sharing, I bet I will go fo seconds or thirds.IMG_0659

One way to know that a place is often frequented by diners is when they do not accept table bookings/reservations. With Ooma, the waiting lines can be long at times so it’s best to go early. We were lucky because it did not take long for us to be seated when we went there. A few minutes after we got seated though, a queue was already forming outside for dinner time.

The service in Ooma is excellent as well. We didn’t have to wait long for our food to be served. Despite the speed and the number of orders from an always-packed-restaurant, I can see that they don’t compromise the quality of the dishes and they take time making sure the food’s presentation is on point as well. The servers were quick on their feet to attend to our additional orders and requests.

Just when I thought that dinner was going to be over soon and billing out was the next thing to do, one of their staff suddenly cried out something to the likes of “You know what’s today?” I was surprised because it sounded like something was happening behind me. I thought they were about to break into a cheer or something as part of their usual routine. I was surprised when it was followed by, “It’s Mia’s birthday!” and their staff and my teammates started singing happy birthday to me (they call me Mia at work). On top of that, the restaurant allowed my team to sneak in a cake from Purple Oven for me. They also allowed us to eat the cake in their place, giving us fresh new plates and utensils.

You see, whenever I eat out and I hear people from other table request restaurant staff to sing happy birthday to one of their companions in the table, I normally cringe. For me, I would find it extremely awkward for friends or family to request strangers to sing for me the birthday song. No judgment. I just know I would feel awkward if it were me.

This time, I realized that when it’s a surprise, it can be quite touching. With Ooma, to join in on my team’s surprise for me made me feel like I was not only a paying customer, but someone worth the effort of planning a surprise for. One of my teammates, MC, picked up the cake on the way to the restaurant (he didn’t go with us because he was still in a call when we left) and gave it to the staff. However, none of them knew how the staff was going to pull off giving me the cake before we left. Technically, all of us were surprised as well!

To Roxan (our team leader), Karen, Cess, Mitzi, Ced, Gid, and MC, thank you so much for being awesome teammates! Cess, I hope you were with us to celebrate but I’ll be seeing you next week so I look forward to our own girly bonding. Thanks also to Stephen (newest member of the team) and Deanne (one our department’s team leaders) for joining us! It was indeed a happy birthday week.

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Just Tried: Snails!

It’s been a while! My golly! I haven’t written anything for weeks. I feel so bad for neglecting this baby (my blog). I have so much catching up to do when it comes to writing.

The past few months have been like a rollercoaster, especially at work. Year-end is always crazy in any office, I think. November and December workload felt like giant waves slamming against the huge rocks of Laswitan in Surigao! I had to give up yoga because I needed all the extra time I could get to meet deadlines. We’re down to the last three weeks and everything shall be over after Q4 sign-off.

While I have mostly stayed at home these past few weeks, I still had some mini adventures from time to time. There was also a lot of eating (more like pigging) out lately that’s why I gained a few pounds lately. My clothes are now tighter than when I first bought them. Oh dear, I need to go back to yoga and lose weight!

Before my uncle, Greg, went to the US to be with his family for the holidays, he invited me and Mom to have dinner out. I initially suggested going for Italian food at Mamma Mia in Uptown Mall in Bonifacio Global City, but Uncle Greg went looking around while waiting for us. He then discovered El Corazon, the Spanish and Filipino fusion restaurant where I brought Mom to for Mother’s Day. So, back to El Corazon Mom and I went.

We ordered the same Paella Valenciana that we did last time. We highly recommended it to Uncle Greg because we really loved it back in May. With it, we ordered Seville (shrimp gambas sautéed in olive oil and garlic, served with a basket of Pan de Saland what my uncle went there for, Caracoles (escargot in coconut milk).

I have never tried snails my whole life so that night proved to be an adventure for my taste buds. Armed with a wooden skewer to poke and take out the flesh inside the shells, I started going through this appetizer with Uncle Greg while he shared stories of how his Japanese guests loved eating the snails from a different restaurant. Mom didn’t want to try and could not be coaxed to try them at all so uncle and I helped ourselves to the plate of kuhol. None for her meant more for us!

I honestly and truly loved them! The meat from these snails reminded me of the meat from tahong (Asian green mussels) because they somehow have similar texture in the mouth. They weren’t mushy nor were they gummy. They weren’t the melt-in-your-mouth type, but they had this perfect amount of chewiness. Paired with creamy coconut milk sauce, my taste buds were having a party eating the escargot! I wanted to get a second order!

And the gambas? So delicious! The shrimps were cook just right, not gummy at all. There was just the right amount of olive oil to spread on the bread that came with the appetizer so the shrimps were not swimming in oil. However, I still love the gambas from Lorenzo’s Way better. I can’t figure out why but it has something to do with the garlic. Nevertheless, the dish was enjoyable.

Meals are best eaten over awesome conversation. Uncle Greg never runs out of amazing topics to talk about. That night, he shared with us his experience reading the book, Ikigai, and how fascinated he was over this Japanese secret to a long, happy life. This led us to a discussion on the corporate culture in Japan to their education system to their values and discipline that I almost booked a trip to Japan right there.

For dessert, we went to the Hello Kitty Café where we ordered L’Opera cake, Kahlua Cream Cheese Torte, Strawberry Peanut Butter Frappe, and Cappuccino (dear Italians, please don’t get mad).

At the café, our uncle finally got to talk to my sister’s Korean boyfriend over video call. It was so funny because we were in one video call with my sister while the boyfriend was in a separate video call. So many gadgets were involved and thanks to technology, I think the boyfriend passed level one of my uncle’s “interrogation.” I wonder how many more levels there are to go.

Back to dessert, the L’Opera cake was great! It wasn’t too sweet, the cake was tender but not mushy, and the chocolate was rich but not too milky. The cream cheese torte, was also delicious but after a few bites, my taste buds did not want to have any more of it. That being said, I think four people can enjoy that small cake. The frappe was refreshing and did not taste of artificial flavoring. I sure hope I am right in assuming that they used fresh strawberries for it.

I cannot wait for my next food adventure with Uncle Greg. He’s currently enjoying being with his family in the US, especially his grandson, Ell. I hope to meet that kid one day because I live for his mom’s IG posts about him! He loves food like his grandpa and so I look forward to future food adventures they’ll have together.

Just Tried: i Darts DASH

“It’s a form of mental and verbal gymnastics, and one of the things that appeals to me most about commenting on darts is that no one knows exactly what I’m going to come out with next – and neither do I.” -Sid Waddell

Feels like I haven’t written for ages! I neglected my blog for a couple of weeks already and must get back on the habit of writing. Also, I can see that I have much catching up to do in terms of reading the posts of people I follow. I will try to go through their posts as soon as I get this post up. I am excited for what I will be reading about!

I have to admit that the last few weeks were tough on me. I was not sleeping very well. When I did find myself sleeping, I was plagued with dreams of people trying to kill me and, at one time, of a narcotics junkie I was trying to kill. I was going through my day feeling like a zombie, a tad irritable, and heavily demotivated. It was so bad that I even stopped going to my yoga classes.

The culprit? I think it was the birth control pills I was taking to regulate my period. My hormones went craaaaaazy! Damn you, PCOS, for having to put me through all of this!

Anyway, before I almost hit rock bottom, my very awesome friends came to the rescue (but, to be honest, they didn’t know what I was going through that time) by planning a night out at i Darts DASH in Bonifacio Global City (BGC). It’s the first electronic darts bar in the Philippines that is a franchise of the internationally known i Darts. Already present in different places like Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mexico and Singapore, I am delighted that it’s already in my country too.

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For an easier time finding this place, just look for the Uniqlo store at 7th Ave. cor 30th Street. Yup, just go inside the Uniqlo store and use the escalator to go up to the top most level/floor.

IMG_9556Inside, it kinda felt like a fusion of a pub and an arcade, except that you can only play darts. I wasn’t able to count how many machines there were but they were enough for a lot of people to have a hell of a good time.

Each machine can allow four players and there are different types of games that you can play. Each game will cost one credit per player. Only one reloadable card is needed for all four players to play.

Ten credits cost Php 300 while 25 credits cost Php 600. That is quite a steal already because each game will usually be around 8 rounds per player, throwing 3 darts per round. Believe me, you will not want to use up all the 25 credits because you’ll be exhausted already midway.

We played three different games. The first one aimed to reach the highest score. The second one aimed to be the first to reach zero from 501. The third one, my favorite, was a group effort game where you have to kill zombies by scoring high.

I tremendously enjoyed the zombie game because there were side challenges apart from simply killing off the ugly zombies. When we managed finishing the entire game, one of the instructors told us that most groups only lasted midway. Our group even kept getting additional lives! Hurray!!!

So, what are my thoughts about darts? It was my first time to play and I only hit one bull’s eye the whole night. Also, I had no idea what exactly to do so I just kept throwing and throwing, hoping to hit spots that will give me high points. I think it’s more of a muscle memory thing where you know already which height, angle, and level of force will make you hit your target spots.

Did I have fun? Hell, yeah! Actually, I think not knowing where my darts will land was part of the fun. Plus, the zombie game got us cheering for one another and feeling proud when we gain yet another extra life. This will make a fun team building activity, to be honest.

Enough about the game. Let’s talk about the food!

Please don’t expect set meals here. The food are basically snack foods, most of which are awesome to have with alcoholic drinks. They’re kinda pricey, to be honest, but tasted really good.

img_9562Our first orders were the naked nachos (with chili beef) and the chicken karaage.

The chicken karaage’s serving was like, pfffft, but they were so yummy! The chicken was tender and the dips (barbeque and honey mustard) went really well with whatever breading/coating they put on the chicken. I just wish it came in a bigger serving size for its price.

The naked nachos, on the other hand, put my favorite Nacho King to shame. The chili beef was not that spicy (which I love!!!). I could taste a bit of cumin (which I hate!!!) but the amount they put in was not enough to offend my taste buds completely. I suggest digging for the nachos at the bottom first because they have no cheese or toppings, whatsoever.

We also ordered margherita pizza but we were not able to take a picture because we devoured it right away. Enough to serve three people, the pizza crust was not too thin, but not too thick either. I do not know what kind of magic they put on the tomato sauce, cheese and basil (the only ingredients of the pizza) but I loved the pizza very much.

To go with the tower of draft beer that we ordered, we chose to have the street food platter. We fondly called it the “high-street food platter” because of the price and because of the proximity of Bonifacio High Street to where we were.

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I loved everything except for squid balls. There was simply something off that night and it wasn’t sitting well with me. I went for the kikiam though because that’s my favorite street food. We had two orders of this platter.

My most favorite of all, however, was the lemon pepper chicken skin. We ordered 2 sets again because of the serving size. My golly, it was sooooooooooo good! The chicken skin was so crispy and the amount of pepper used was perfect. And the lemon taste? Heavenly!

Oh, diet, forgive me for forgetting about you again. I just hope my cholesterol levels won’t be shooting way beyond normal because of all the food we had.

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Thank God the food was awesome because the mild draft beer tower we ordered didn’t meet my expectations. It was so mild that it tasted like beer-flavored soda. We weren’t looking to get drunk that night but Php 1,600 felt too expensive for the kind of beer tower we got. I wish we spent on other drinks instead.

The staff at i Darts DASH were courteous and accommodating. We found it amusing that they were obsessing over making sure our draft beer tower had lights and even they even got fresh batteries to use. They were also patient when they taught us how to play darts and they were also cheering us on when we manage to score high.

The best part of this night was spending time with my friends and former colleagues. I miss them so much even though I do not miss my previous work. Two of us already left for new jobs. I just hope that no matter where life brings us, we will always manage to make time to have as much fun as we did on this day.

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Hong Kong – September 2018 (Part 2 | Food)

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”  ― Mark Twain

Hong Kong is not cheap. I can eat three meals in the Philippines for every meal in Hong Kong. Despite that, I cannot deny that Hong Kong has so many restaurants that serve really delicious food.

When I was there, Trixie made use of food delivery services so we did not have to go out to eat. FoodPanda was familiar because we also had it in the Philippines. The other delivery service I learned about was Deliveroo.

One morning, Trixie wanted to eat some Korean food. I am not sure which food delivery service she picked, but for our food, we opted to buy the chicken bento and cheesy fries from Seoul Bros.

I loved the fries! Cheese and potato make me happy so when you put them together, I am filled with glee. The fries were not soggy when our order arrived even if there was quite a lot of cheese. It was great because as much as I love fries, I hate it when they’re soggy.

The bento, however, was another thing. I did not touch the kimchi because I do not eat that stuff. The corn salad stressed me out because I could taste the red onions (which I hate). The rice was a must. For an Asian like me, rice is life! The chicken had this sticky glaze that I could not figure out what it was all about. The bento costs HKD 78, I think.

OMG, the chicken. The chicken! It was spicy in a good way. Being someone who is very sensitive to spicy food, I actually liked the chicken a lot. My nose was starting to get runny already from all the spices but I managed to finish it all. Damn, my tummy felt like it was going to pop!

One day, we wanted to eat pizza. I personally like thin crust better because the thick ones make me full right away. Despite that, I was never really a pizza person.

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We only had a small table so I could not get a proper shot without having to remove everything else on it. 😀

Paisano’s Pizzeria is a restaurant I often heard from Trixie during our FaceTime calls. She figured that I should get to try it while I was there. I was not prepared for how big a slice was. It was so big that a paper plate could not handle it at all! It was almost as long as my hand and forearm!

I really loved this bacon cheeseburger pizza slice. The dough was not too thick and was not very chewy. It was actually soft and easy to eat! For HKD 45, I found it worth the money but I just wish they will do a better job at packing their food for takeout/delivery.

One of the things Trixie and I do not have in common is her courage to eat street foods. Back in our childhood home in the Philippines, there was this house that sold street food from fish balls to grilled chicken blood (we call it betamax). Trixie would drag me there to have her isaw (barbecued pig or chicken intestines) fix. It would take lots of convincing before I would even accept defeat and eat a grilled hotdog from the same store.

That is why it is no wonder that my sister knew a place that sold delicious street food. She bought a small bowl of fish balls for HKD 15. I ate too because I did not want to be brat that time. Surprisingly though, I liked them a lot. The sauce was not spicy either and that made me enjoy the meal more.

What I did enjoy better, however, was my Taiwanese milk tea from the Sharetea stall beside the street food stall. Despite not asking for any adjustments to the sweetness level, they pretty much nailed how I like my milk tea.

The street food and milk tea shop are located in O’brien Road, Wan Chai.

From time to time, we would just order food from McDonald’s. Sadly, they do not have rice meals there. I liked their burgers though.

At the airport, on the day of my flight back to the Philippines, Trixie and I had one last meal together. Being the emotional person that I am, I took every chance to have more time with her before going home.

We settled for Tsui Wah and ordered a beef curry meal, a pork chop curry meal, some spicy shrimp dumplings and lemon iced tea. We may have underestimated their serving size because…

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…look at the size of that pork chop! It’s as big as my face! It’s even bigger in real life than in the picture!

Both the beef and the pork were Malaysian types of curry and you simply must try them! Curry? The pork chop was crispy, but the beef was like melt-in-your-mouth tender. But, aren’t they spicy? Oh yes! But, they were the comfortable type of spicy for me because I enjoyed pouring the curry sauce over my rice. Granted that I had to frequently reach out for my iced tea, I was not turned off by the heat in my mouth and on my lips while we devoured our food.

The best part of the meal? More conversations with Trixie!

Aside from the shops near the boarding gates, the airport also had vending machines where you can buy using your Octopus card. Having felt thirsty after a couple of hours waiting (the downside of arriving at the airport too early), I opted to get myself a drink.

img_9116I noticed a bottle of sparkling water that was just around HKD 17. I thought to myself, why not give this a try and see why such was even made.

Sadly, I only drank around 25 ml of the stuff and never touched it again. It wasn’t because it tasted awful. It had no taste at all, actually. Or, maybe it did taste like normal mineral water. What I could not get was the feel of the water in my mouth. It’s like I am expecting to drink Sprite or 7-Up but wasn’t getting the taste. My senses were confused. I could not understand the hype at all.

Despite our lack of adventures during this trip to HK, I really enjoyed meals with Trixie. We miss her at home so much. Hope to be back again soon!

Just Tried: Restoran Garuda

“The taste of your life depends on the spices you used to brew it. Add laziness to it and it becomes bitter as the bile; put a cube of good attitudes into it and you will lick your lips more and more due to its sweet taste.” Israelmore Ayivor

On the same Sunday when I attended the workshop on caging crystals, I got to have my first Indonesian cuisine experience from a restaurant. I am not sure why I have never tried going to any Indonesian/Indonesian-inspired restaurant all these years. The closest I got to eating Indonesian food was when Mom made chicken sate (or satay) or nasi goreng at home.

It was not planned but that Sunday noon, Restoran Garuda was the only restaurant open near the workshop venue. Having left the house very early to go to church service, and with only one and a half hours from the end of the service to the expected arrival time at the workshop, I did not have the luxury of time to be walking around looking for a place to have lunch. I was also very hungry already.

But, unlike Japanese or Chinese food that I can order easily, I was so confused with the items on the menu. I was not sure whether I wanted to be adventurous, ordering something I am not totally familiar with or going for something that sounds safe based on the description. I was also wary because everything sounded spicy. I am very sensitive to spicy food! Thankfully, a member of the staff was helpful and directed me to the less spicy items on the menu. I ended up ordering the Nasi Goreng Spesial (Special) with Daging (Beef) and a bottle of Indonesian Iced Tea.

Nasi goreng translates to fried rice, very known in Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as other countries such as Singapore and Brunei. It is delicious because it is infused with delectable flavors and spices. The possibilities are endless, I think, there being so many variants there are, depending on the type of rice, meat and other ingredients used.

Because of all the yummy goodness infused in it, it smelled heavenly when they brought me my order! And boy, was it a huge serving!

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In front of me, I saw this message that made me chuckle. This must be the motto of people who love spicy food! I may not love spicy food as much but I agree with the statement. Cheers!

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I was surprised with the Indonesian Iced Tea. Apparently what the word Tehbotol meant in the menu was that it was going to be bottled iced tea. Made by a company called Sosro, it turned out to be sweet, jasmine tea.

As fond as I am of the jasmine scent, I am so sorry that I never really liked jasmine tea. When I drink jasmine tea, it’s so sharp to my tongue that I feel like I am drinking water with diluted soap. It’s not the taste that’s as bad for me. It’s the sensation in my mouth that turns me off. I didn’t consume more than a quarter of the drink then.

Now, let me discuss the nasi goreng spesial. It was so flavorful that I cannot imagine how many yummy goodness-filled ingredients got put into it. The rice really absorbed the flavor, making it seem that the rice was not just tossed into the sauce/flavorings before serving. Rather, time was really spent to allow the flavors to infuse into the rice.

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I told you the serving was huge, right? Thirty minutes of eating made me notice that I have not even consumed half of the bowl. And I am actually a quick-eater! I was so full already and had to go to the workshop so I asked the restaurant staff to have the remaining food packed to go.

When I got home, I had the remaining fried rice re-heated to eat for dinner. There really was a lot left. You might not believe it though but it tasted even better than it did while I was at the restaurant! Maybe because the food had more time for the flavors to marry and get infused into the rice? I don’t know. I just know that there are food that taste better a day or two after they were prepared.

So far, jasmine tea aside, my taste buds had a party when I ate this nasi goreng spesial. It was exceptionally good! I should probably try out the other fried rice items in the menu and just specify to make the spice level ultra mild. Haha…

Please do try out Restoran Garuda! You may book a table via Zomato and Booky. I believe though that Booky has a promo wherein you can book a table and get Php 300 discount when you book 30 minutes ahead and reach a Php 1,000 minimum spend. So, it might be the better deal of the two. Remember that Booky gives a free trial upon signing up which gives one Php 1,000 worth of savings that you can use in the form of Buy 1 Take 1 coupons or restaurant booking discounts. Go check it out now!

Just Tried: Ajisen Ramen

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” ― Mark Twain

Japanese food is good food. I have no words to describe how much I am fond of Japanese food over American and Italian food. So, when I discovered this Japanese restaurant near my Mom’s favorite Italian restaurant, La Grotta Cucina Italiana, I knew I had to try going there for a meal!

Welcome to Ajisen Ramen! Originally from Kumamoto, Japan, this chain of restaurants already has branches in places like Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and many more. In the Philippines, it has five branches spread across Makati, Manila, Pasig, Quezon City and Las Piñas.

Situated in the corner of Plaza 100 Bldg., in Makati, I find that it does not call attention as much as the Chowking branch does, since it isat the corner of the street this building’s in. For me, that only meant less crowd and more comfortable eating time. True enough, there were not so many people when I went there for lunch.

I ordered shogayaki don and gyoza. To drink, they gave me what I think is barley water.

Right off the bat, I saw big pieces of onion. Oh dear. I truly do not like onions in my food. I spent a good five minutes fishing out the onion bits and sadly, having to fish out onions from my food always gives me a headache.

Once I had the onions out, I took my first taste of the shogayaki don and found that I quite like it. The special sauce they say they put in was not too flavorful for me to want to drink lots of water to cleanse my palate. The meat was tender, not at all chewy. The rice was not too sticky and not too fluffy.

However, what I truly loved was the gyoza. It was actually the first thing I was sure I wanted to order. The crispy bottom and perfectly steamed filling were so good and were perfectly complemented by the dipping sauce. I was not sure if it was soy sauce because it had a very light taste.

The stress from the onion situation was taken away by these heavenly pot stickers!

Except for the onions, I had a pretty good experience here. I do have to admit though that it’s a bit pricey here. I can get the same food from Tokyo Tokyo or Yoshinoya for a much cheaper price. Then again, those two are fast-food places and I probably should not compare Ajisen Ramen to them.

Will I go back? I am not yet sure. Maybe when I crave for ramen, I will. I am quite curious about their original white broth ramen. I hope it’s very good and delicious.

By the way, I just discovered that the little girl in their logo has a name! It’s Chii-chan! Isn’t she cute?!

She actually reminds me of the poster I saw in a Chowking branch in Legazpi, Albay.

Have you been to Ajisen Ramen? What would you recommend from the menu?