Do you remember when I participated in the first Mega Food Tour a couple of months ago? It was such a fun experience for me and such a big step for this blog. Things got even better when I was tapped to join the Mega Food Tour version 2.0 a few weeks ago!
I returned to the SM Megamall’s Fashion Hall to join the group headed by Mr. RJ Ledesma, Mr. Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet and the SM Team as we rounded up 7 establishments for the tour. Seven restaurants may not sound as impressive as the 13 we visited during the first Mega Food Tour, but trust me when I say that it was still a challenge to our bellies.
One of the first places we visited was Linguini Fini (Manila), an Italian-American restaurant brought to Manila by the Moment Group. Linguini Fini is from Hong Kong, but is the brainchild of Chef Vinny, an Italian chef who grew up in New York City.
I don’t eat beef, so I didn’t try their Straccetti Di Manzo (Php495.00) even if I thought it looked so good. These thin slices of seared rare beef, served with artichokes, arugula, gorgonzola cheese and anchovy aioli looked tempting when put together so nicely.
I know my photo of the Papardelle “Nose to Tail” Bolo (Php430.00) above looks unappealing, but I recommend you guys try this out when you visit this restaurant. This dish is made of pork testa (which is pig’s head, if I’m not mistaken), veal and oxtail ragu and Parmigiano Reggiano. This was an extremely tender and flavorful dish that’s only heightened by the soft papardelle, made fresh in Linguini Fini’s own kitchen.
They also feature porchetta on the menu and have it served in two different ways. The first type is served sliced with caramelized onion marmalata (Php595.00) on the side.
The sliced porcetta was good, but I enjoyed it a lot better when it was chopped with chili mostarda, fennel and focaccia (Php485.00). I found this version to have stronger flavors and just more fun to eat overall. The buttery focaccia bread found underneath the meat soaks up all the juices, making it taste sooo good. I won’t forget that chili mostarda served on the side anytime soon because that was a star on its own!
Apart from the good food, I also liked their interiors. From the cool artworks to the open kitchen where you get to watch the food preparation, it’s really a great place to simply chill. You just know you’re going to get nice food in a few minutes’ time.
The much talked about Ippudo was also part of our itinerary. This was my first time to try the restaurant, so I can’t really compare it to their branches abroad. To those who aren’t aware of it yet, Ippudo was introduced to Manila by the same group who handles Yabu.
Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll see this area on your left side. I liked this part in particular because you’re a little more isolated from the rest of the crowd. It also gives you a chance to look inside their kitchen and watch the action as it happens.
We were given the chance to try a lot of items from Ippudo, one of which was this serving of Oroshi Ponzu Gyoza (Php210.00). Steamed pork and vegetable dumplings, slightly pan-fried on on one side to create a crispier outer layer..what’s not to love? These are served with some grated radish on top and ponzu sauce on the side, making them taste even better.
A big favorite of our group was the Nikumiso Tofu Salad (Php210.00), a dish consisted of silken tofu topped with minced meat, chunks of avocado, pineapples and cherry tomatoes. All this in a very light sauce made from sesame dressing and fish sauce! It’s a satisfying and refreshing dish to enjoy along with your other orders.
We learned that a lot of Japanese diners would order a small bowl of rice toppings to have as accompaniment to their ramen. Ippudo let us try their Hakata Meshi (Php250.00), a bowl of rice topped with chashu (roast pork), nori (seaweed), mentaiko (roe) and shredded eggs. I really liked the sweet-salty flavors and have no doubt that I could easily finish an order on my own.
Ippudo currently serves three types of ramen (descriptions taken from their menu):
1. The classic Shiromaru Motoaji (Php375.00) – “original tonkotsu broth with ultra thin noodles, pork loin, bean sprouts, kikurage, and spring onions”
2. Akamaru Shinaji (Php390.00) – “original tonkotsu broth enhanced with special blended miso paste and fragrant garlic oil. Served with thin noodles, pork loin, bean sprouts, kikurage and spring onions”
3. Karaka-men (Php390.00, pictured above) – “original tonkotsu broth with thin, wavy noodles, pork belly, and spring onions. The special spicy minced meat, miso paste and fragrant garlic oil add a kick to the senses”. I found this to be milder than I expected it to be. It’s the only type of ramen available in Ippudo which uses wavy noodles. The other two variants uses straight ones.
Our next stop was another Japanese restaurant. Rosanjin, in my opinion, has a more traditional approach to Japanese cuisine. The place itself was very quiet, with minimal designs. This is definitely not one of those modern Japanese places where you queue up to only get katsu in all types and sizes.
Their food presentation was absolutely beautiful. The photo above shows some of the sets they may have available in the restaurant. You may choose your main dish from the following: grilled saba, tempura, sukiyaki, assorted sashimi, etc. These sets come with vegetables, soup, pickles, and unlimited Japanese rice. If I remember correctly, the sets are priced at around Php450.00 each; that’s already pretty good, considering how much food you’ll get to enjoy!
They also served us their burgers, which I really wanted to try but, again, wasn’t able to due to dietary restrictions. 🙁
We stopped by Tim Ho Wan for a few minutes to get our hands on their delicious Pork Buns (Php145.00 for 3 pieces). I’ve tried these before during the first Mega Food Tour, but there was really no harm in eating them again. 😉
Our food tour wasn’t restricted to the SM Fashion Hall area. We also visited the Atrium where two restaurants have recently opened their doors to the public. One of these restaurants was called Eri Curry.
Owned by Erica, who also serves as the restaurant’s chef, this place is for those who can’t get enough of Japanese curry. They have a lot of different items which you could try. Eri Curry gives you the liberty to choose the spice level for your curry (Just Right, Spicy and Fiery) and how much rice you would want to have with it (200g, 300g or 400g). It’s a good place for those who enjoy customizing their own meals.
Right beside Eri Curry is Triple-O’s by White Spot. The colors of this place reminded me of the Tropical Hut franchise. I’ve already seen their Facebook page before the food tour, so I was excited to visit the place when I learned that it was part of the itinerary.
Hailing from Canada, this brand promises to serve really good, big burgers and sandwiches to the hungry Filipino crowd. To give you an idea of what things you may get to enjoy, here’s a photo of their menu board during our visit.
We were able to sample some of their products, like the Monty Mushroom Burger (not in photo), sweet potato fries, onion rings and milkshakes. I really enjoyed their sweet potato fries, especially when dipped into their chipotle mayo. Other sauces available are their honey mustard and Triple-O’s sauce, which is another good one to try.
For drinks, I highly recommend getting their creamy Strawberry Milkshake (small Php150.00, regular Php200.00). I’m not a big fan of strawberry-flavored products, but the one from Triple-O’s was really good. I prefer it over their vanilla milkshake, which I found to be too sweet for my liking.
What’s a food tour without dessert, right? The Mega Food Tour organizers made sure we all had our fair share of the latest sweets found in the area.
Found near the ice skating rink at the topmost floor, Kool Kids Ice Cream and Co. is the place to visit if you’re looking for ice cream infused with liquid nitrogen. Watching them prepare the ice cream is like watching the shows on Discovery Channel (yes, I enjoy things like that). Really kool! 😉
Mr. Miguel Aranaz and his team were nice enough to prepare several items for us to try. The photos above are just some of them. The Piña Koolada, with its cute little umbrella, was a favorite among the other bloggers I spoke with. If you want the comforting flavors, try their Nuts 4 Nutella (the one with pretzels) or the Camp K (the one with a graham cracker). Looking for something unusual? Try their seasonal items, like the Yuzu (Japanese lime) flavored ice cream if it’s still available when you drop by their place. It’s a flavor worth getting to know!
We also dropped by the newest Cupcakes by Sonja branch at the ground floor of the SM Fashion Hall. We had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Sonja Ocampo herself, who was such a nice person. It was a thrill getting to meet her and hear about her brand’s history.
One of their newest offerings was the Birthday Cake Milkshake (Php195.00). A blend of vanilla cake, birthday cake frosting and sprinkles, it’s perfect for those who prefer to ingest their calories through a straw rather than chew them.
I couldn’t resist their signature Red Velvet Vixen cupcakes (Php85.00/pc), which I have a very soft spot for (along with their Mocha Motion [Php85.00/pc, not in photo]). I don’t recall when I first tried these; all I know is that I came to appreciate cupcakes better after trying Cupcakes by Sonja.
Last on the desserts list was a visit to Mochicream Café, where we indulged in all things matcha. I’m a big fan of anything made with green tea. I know some people find the slight bitter aftertaste such a turn-off, but it’s the characteristic that I enjoy the most. Not to mention that green tea has all these great benefits for our health. Winner! 🙂
From upper left, clockwise: a type of matcha cake, matcha dacquiose, iced matcha, Ichigo To Kurimo (French toast baumkuchen served with strawberries and cream, almonds and matcha ice cream, Php250.00)
I’ve tried their cream and jam-stuffed mochi items before, so I concentrated my efforts on their other items. Of all the ones we were able to try, my favorites would be the iced matcha (Php135.00 for 12oz, Php165.00 for 16oz) for the drinks, and the Matcha Dacquiose (Php170.00 per piece) for desserts. If you love crunchy or nutty items, I think you’d end up falling in love with the matcha dacquiose too. ♥
I wasn’t the only one who felt happily stuffed by the end of the tour. Getting to try the food is just one thing. Learning more about the brands, their owners and how they started were all part of what made this food tour fun. I suggest you check out the places I mentioned above with your family and friends in tow. Who knows? You may just discover a new favorite of yours. 🙂
*THANK YOU to Mr. RJ Ledesma, Mr. Anton Diaz, the entire SM Team, Mercato Centrale Group and all the restaurant owners / team members for being so accommodating to us during the tour. 🙂