Southern Living: Classy Hamsters

Last week, my friend Kat invited me and a couple of friends (Kayce and Casti) to join her do some food tasting for her magazine, also incidentally titled Southern Living. They’ll be featuring several restaurants in BF, Paranaque and being the only person assigned to review these dishes, she needed help. And who would be the best people to call but her friends who won’t say no to free food? Honestly, we won’t say no to free anything.

I took this opportunity to also learn about restaurant interiors, and I was not disappointed. All four restaurants served different cuisines and the execution of the interiors looked so far from each other that I didn’t know  what to be excited more for. To share my newly acquired knowledge here or to taste all the food.

Before I start, this is what I have to say about those 2 days: –Wait. I have to channel my inner fat kid here– IT WAS AMAZEBALLS. MY FRIEND HAS THE BEST JOB EVER. We literally looked like hamsters trying to stuff ourselves with dishes good for 10 people from each restaurant.

I also loved how the type food they are serving spills over to the overall look which of course saves me a lot of time from thinking of witty titles for each section.

Dong Juan: Filipino Contemporary

Originating from Cebu, the owners didn’t stray too far from the initial look of the interiors as they set up their franchise in Presidents Ave. in Paranaque. They primarily used recycled wood for their partitions a few scallop shell light pieces which is better known in the Philippines as capiz. And for their walls, white-washed pierced concrete were placed side by side to somehow create focal points in the area then balanced out by Filipino-themed art pieces.

Impression from the food and interiors: Casual Eating

This restaurant was meant to be a place for small groups but not meant for very long seating. But that’s okay because the food won’t last that long. The Beef Soup was a great start. And I particularly enjoyed the Crispy Beef Tadyang, Black Angus Tips, and the oh-so-creamy Creme Brulee that melted in my mouth. The reason why I don’t have much pictures of food was because… I was hungry, and I got so excited.

Here’s one of our desserts: Ice Cream Burger!

When you eat here, also make sure that you try their Calamansi Blush. It’s the traditional Calamansi juice mixed with strawberries and syrup. Yummy!

This is where I learned a new word from our nurse Casti. Peristalsis. I actually considered this to be the blog title, but I don’t think people would understand.

Peristalsis – the progressive wave of contraction and relaxation of a tubular muscular system, especially the alimentary canal, by which the contents are forced through the system.

We had to literally get what we stuffed in our mouths down our bellies to make room for another fest in about 30 minutes. Guess how?

Tito Chef: Transitional European

Only about a 5-minute walk away from Dong Juan is Tito Chef. As a person who appreciates nice places, I’ve always passed this place on the way home wishing for someone to go here with me. It’s refreshing to see very well-polished interiors in the south since most are really for casual dining. They also have intimate rooms where you might think you’re already in an actual house. Plus, the lighting elements were very subtle which made the presentation of the dishes look top-notch.

One of the private rooms. This can be reserved, all you need to do is order food worth Php 4k.

Also, the cute ceiling art of pots and pans really affirmed my belief that ceilings should not be boring.

They also have a culinary shop underneath Tito Chef. They sell things like cook books and other cooking tools. Tools? (Obviously, I don’t cook)

Impression from the food and interiors: Fine Dining

The interiors are very cozy with an ambiance that will get you talking to your companions for long hours. A perfect place to have important dinners, meetings or if you want to impress somebody but don’t want to travel too far from the south. Though the food was very different from what my taste buds are used to, I did enjoy it.

Tofu Panna Cotta

I recommend the Salmon Tartare, French Chicken Stew and the Tiramisu for dessert.

Tito Chef’s gorgeous cakes!

Mandarin Palace: Chiclectic

It’s not a mix of different styles, the interiors are as Chinese as you can get. Upon entering, the red accents on the walls and the big circular table with the lazy susan in the middle will not confuse this place as anything else. I called it Chiclectic because we ate about half if not all the dishes in China. Eclectic was an understatement.

Impression from the food and interiors: Family Style

The food in Mandarin comes in big servings. The ambiance is not intimidating and it will allow conversation and interaction. We were only four and we got curious why we were given a table for 8. When the food came in, our jaws just dropped to the floor. Everything was well-cooked and well-prepared.

This was the first wave, after the dimsum was served, I couldn’t move anymore.

And I have to give it to the restaurant’s official food carver for turning their dishes into works of art.

Swan Apple!

Dishes of note: Beef Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce, King Fish in Asian Sauce, Salt and Pepper Spare Ribs, Pumpkin Soup with Seafood, and their Oyster Cake (no, this is not dessert).

I felt bad a bit about eating too much, it really looked like we were greedy and spoiled they way the waiters were serving us a wave of different dishes every 10 minutes. But I got over it soon after. As I am and will always be Rated PG (Patay Gutom!)

Don Limone: Romantic Mediterranean

This was the most precious gem of all, a treasure hidden in BF Aguirre, is Don Limone. Named after the Italian town Limone Sul Garda, this restaurant was inspired to use lemon in ALL their dishes. I also liked the idea that the owners are also the chefs and that everything is home-made. The place felt like a little bistro in Italy, I even imagined Don Corleone walking in at one point.

It’s good that we stopped here last because my food standards escalated from just bacon and toasted bread to mellow mushrooms marinated in olive oil, parmesan and spices with home-made focaccia bread dipped in balsamic vinegar.

Impression from the food and interiors: For Sharing

You can’t go wrong here, whatever the occasion might be. The place allows dinner with friends or intimate dates. Most of the food are for sharing which is perfect. We were given shots of their home-made Limoncello and WHEW! Was that strong. By the end of the whole thing, we were as giddy as school girls with secret crushes. After a feast of Hellenica, Tuna Harizza Pizza, and Lamb Shank Casablanca, we ended it with the party-in-my-mouth Limoncello Cheescake. Fist bite—TEARS IN MY EYES. And if you knew me, you’d know that doesn’t happen a lot.

The Hellenica: Greek salad, humus en fuego, meat and some potatoes marinated in lemon then fried and topped with cheese and bacon.
The first lamb chop I ever loved.
You and me. We’ll see each other again on my birthday.

I told my friends, it’s a good thing we love to eat. I hate it when people put too much concern on how they look that they forget to enjoy really great food. Can’t wait til the next time Kat drags us along again.

Even if the pose is the same, I don’t think we looked this cute.

To end, here’s a nice thought:

Any designer who does not appreciate or know about good food is not a very good designer. The planning of a meal and its presentation – the texture, the color, the tastes, the hot and cold temperatures – are the same concerns that affect an environment.

— Robert Kime, Architectural Digest


(Kat’s articles will be published this December on Southern Living Magazine.)


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