Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kyushu Japans Restaurant: a hole in the wall but serves good food!

Have you experience when you eat something regularly and suddenly it was taken out of your system, you feel weak and you just have to have it and nothing else can replace it?

I had that feeling a few weeks ago when I was craving for Japanese food.  In the Philippines, there's a wide range of Japanese establishments.  And of course, in Singapore, from cheap, mid-range to expensive Japanese restaurants, you name it the country surely has it.

There are a number of Japanese restaurants around Netherlands, but once that craving hits you, it should be near to your place.  We spent about an hour searching online for a good but not-so-expensive jap place and HT hubbie beat me this time (usually i'm faster in this matter :D)

My eyes went big and i started drooling when this plate arrive on our table.
Our neighbors were looking at us as we eat and enjoy our sashimi.  They're used to Japanese food = Sushi, that's it. And raw fish is a delicacy that only locals can eat just like how they eat their herring.  So they were quite amaze how happy hubby was, everytime he garnished his fat slice of raw tuna or salmon with a bit of wasabi, dipped in the sauce and place it in his mouth. I did the same but for them it's like "nah, she grew up with those".

We haven't had this before so it became a must-have that night.  These Aigamo (duck yakitori) were delicious though I prefer eating duck the chinese way as I can savor the duck meat and its juice than the teriyaki sauce overshadowing the meat itself.

For the mains, hubby had Gyuniku Teriyaki.  They served a slab of sliced grilled steak and drown it in teriyaki sauce.  It was nicely cooked (medium rare) and very tasty.  And hubby's meal won't be complete without a bowl of yaki meshi (jap fried rice)  - not in the picture.

And I had one of the famous japanese don...Katsu don.  I got something simple due to my craving.  The price was not cheap considering I can get like 2 bowls or even 5 bowls in different places in Singapore but hey, I just need to have this!  The pork cutlet was lovely and without any fats at all which suited me, and I felt like I was being transported back to Asia, eating the meat with rice seasoned with good blend of soy sauce, mirin and a bit of dashi. (heaven)

And we cannot end our japanese meal without this Matcha ice cream (green tea).  Ok, I was so ecstatic that night that I forgot to ask for the desserts menu and immediately ask if they have green tea ice cream.  And we got this huge plate.  The green tea was strong enough for the enjoyment of my palette.  Though I would prefer just serving the green tea plain as how you can get it in Asia so the taste resides in your mouth until you walk out of the restaurant smiling.

The place is not fancy...just small tables and i think it can accommodate about 20-25 people at a time.  What i like about this place, they made an effort to put up a sushi bar despite of the small area.  (And they serve plum wine...yum!)

This is one of the hole-in-the-wall restaurants around Utrecht (there's a Vietnamese restaurant beside it, next stop!).  And this made our food hunting more exciting as we discover this type of places that gives satisfaction but doesn't hurt our pockets. 

Price Summary in Euros:
Salmon Sashimi €4.50
Tuna Sashimi €5.50
Aigamo Duck Yakitori €4+ (2 sticks)
Grilled Steak Fillet €16
Katsu Don €16
Matcha Green Tea ice cream €8 (way too much...thanks to those fruits and whipped cream)

Kyushu Japans Restaurant
Voorstraat 66
Utrecht Netherlands
(do call for reservation due to limited seating)

Friday, November 19, 2010

TIME OUT: Madrid Spain Part 3: How to stuff yourself in Madrid for 5 days?

Travel guides gave a lot of reasons to be in love with Madrid...from the wonderful architecture of the buildings, their great museums, numerous plaza and garden up to their well-decorated churches...but they forgot what we loved the most about the city...

the delight it gave to HT couple's tummies!!!

Today, I'll be your "Lonely Planet" on the "must-eat" in this city.

If you're on a budget, drop by at this big supermarket at El Corte Ingles and enjoy looking at the chorizos, jamon and rioja wine and buy a few to bring it with you home...

Or make your own tapas in the hotel instead of going out...you get more meat from your euros (3 euros for a big chorizo sausage and 7 euros for a pack of chorizo iberico).

And don't forget to get a bottle of this rioja wine for half the price compared to dining out (12+ euros).  (This rioja wine is pretty good and also available in Carrefour in Singapore - about 40 sgd as far as I can remember)
We didn't have a corkscrew with us but was lucky to bump to a chef in a convenience store who was well-equipped and admired the bottle while opening it.

Paella, a popular rice dish in Spain but not in Madrid as per the travel guides, is still a must-have when you had the opportunity to visit only this city in the country.  Tourist spots would have signs of Paella for a few euros but pay for at least a better quality Paella than just eating a plate of colored rice to keep your money's worth. 

There are a few places where locals go to but if there's only 2 of you dining out, most of these places won't accept you unless you pull a few more people on the street to share the rice with.  I stumbled a blog talking about La Buginvilla.  It was recommended by a Valencian and the restaurant is situated a bit outside from the tourists trap area.  The Paella are charged per person and not per order (typical in Spain) so sharing is not an option.

Paella Mixta ( about 15+ euro per person - a combination of seafood and chicken).  The dish was good and the grains were nicely cooked to its authenticity and not too salty just like how other tourists consistently find paella in Madrid drowned-in-salt tub...but the seafood and a small piece of chicken leg were a bit of disappointment.  I can't blame them as the city is not situated near the coast to provide abundance with its cost.  Still, HT couple took the train back to the hotel...carrying a full load of rice in our stomach...we were happy campers.

After strolling at the El Rastro (flea market) on Sundays, don't forget to drop by at this bar for a
caña of beer (no matter what time is it).  To avoid stomach problem from drinking too early...

Fill up yourselves with...
 Sardines y de pimientos y panLooking at those small fishes, I miss tuyo (dried salty fish) dipped in vinegar and eaten with rice in the Philippines for breakfast.  Spanish version, is grilled and not too salty.  You can munch from head to tail and if you don't fancy eating small bones, just throw it on the floor and you won't be sued nor kicked out as everyone does it anyway.  I was scared of eating the peppers that it might burn my tastebuds but it was cooked until its spicy-ness were gone but the classic taste were retained.  We ordered the media (half racion) but people here eat a full plate and we wouldn't mind eating the same amount too if we didn't just had spanish pastries.

If McDonald's are for the US, Cerveceria 100 Montaditos are for the Madrileños. 

I can't blame them though...1 euro for a Jarra cerveza (a big mug of beer) as long as you order at least 1 montaditos(small sandwich between 1-2 euros per piece) which goes with free potato chips.  That sangria-looking cerveza (alcohol) in a big mug was my water in Madrid.  Tinto de verano is red wine mixed with carbonated water or lemonade (wikipedia) and French people wouldn't like ruining their wines but Spaniards don't care as long as it taste good, they eat or drink it.

from left to right (Anchovies with quezo iberico, jarras cerveza, Pork in tomato sauce with quezo iberico) - we just love that cheese in this montaditos!  And they have a promo of todo los miercoles (every Wednesday), all items are 1 euro each!  I had 3 tinto de verrano in one stretch.  Guess who got drunk?

Another must-have are the gambas.  But do they take note they're not cheap and it won't fill you either.

But you can't leave this country without savoring into gambas al ajillo (8+ euros) sizzled in garlic and olive oil.  We clean up this divine plate using our bread.  No oil traces left.

These langostinos plancha ( 13+ euro for 6 grilled big shrimps though they were small) was a good tapa plate too!

Me enjoying the shrinps and the way locals eat (standing with bar type tables with a glass of wine or beer).

We also love this shrimps place...for their vino tinto dulce. (sweet red wine)...and this one taste like port --- so much sweeter tha normal sweet red wine.

Whew...I got hungry giving these tips.  And that was how we stuff ourselves in Madrid for 5 days.

El Corte Ingles (supermarket) - near Sol Metro
La Buganvilla (paella) - Calle Almagro 12
Bar Santurce (sardines) - Calle de las Amazonas 14
Cerveceria 100 Montaditos (small sandwiches) - all over Madrid (in every corner)
Restaurante La Casa del Abuelo(gambas) - Calle Victoria 12 (and 2 more branches)

Monday, November 15, 2010

TIME OUT: Madrid Spain Part 3: El Desayuno (What's for breakfast?)

El Desayuno or breakfast is the most important meal for the day.  I'm sure you've heard this several times from your doctor, your parents and even kids are well versed of this concept.  I read that the Spaniards take their breakfast seriously with a cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk), a glass of fresh orange juice and toasted pan (bread).  But in my observation in this country, they take any meals of the day as serious as they can (i.e. 5x a day).

HT couple first  el desayuno was in this famous chocolateria.  In very early mornings, this place is dominated by the locals coming from parties until wee hours to fill up their stomach with solids and to wash the over consumption of alcohol from their system.  At 8 am till mid-morning, when the locals are about to go to bed or some are just starting their day, this is the time where this place is plagued by tourists (and we were one of them).

What everyone is going ga ga over here?
a cup of chocolate caliente y churros!  (Hot chocolate with churros)

This ain't your hot chocolate drink type...
Look at the thickness of this hot cocoa which is perfect in dipping the churros (fried dough).  Churros here in Madrid are not the same as what we can get in Manila.  (Our churros has flavors just like how Americans eat their pretzels).  These bread sticks in Madrid is tasteless which were done on purpose so you can savor the lip smacking cocoa which was not sweet and maintains its chocolate-y goodness.  And I was amazed how a number of thin churros dunk into this cup filled up our stomach easily.  (They also serve the fat and more airy type of fried bread sticks called "Porras").

After our satisfying breakfast, suddenly this latino guy with a baby put his shoulders around me and posed for the picture...(check out the other guy if he's trying to put his hands in my bag - pick pocket in action? LOL)

Next stop...
This place was our regular el desayuno just in front of Sol metro station.

This bread was the reason of being regulars here.  Ensaimada or ensaymada is a typical merienda (snack) or breakfast in the Philippines.  The big difference of this pastry in what I was used to, is that here in Spain, they use pork lard (taste like jamon fat) instead of butter and cheese.  And I find their version more fluffy than ours. 

Another best seller is Napolitana y Crema, a light puff filled with generous cream.  This was a delight and really gave us the sweet kicks during early mornings.  (I heard their napolitana y chocolate) is a hit too!

The bakery has a salon or dining area upstairs for diners who prefer to take it slow while enjoying their pastries.  If you don't mind standing and wanna be locals, grab a space at this counter and you'll enjoy everything the salon offers (and 20 cents cheaper per item).

Price Summary (in euros)
Chocolate y churros : 3.70 (set)
Ensaimada: 1.10 per piece
Napolitana y crema: 1+ per piece

Chocolateria San Gines
Pasadizo de San Gines 5 (small street beside the Iglesia of San Gines)
off Calle Arenal
Madrid, Spain

La Mallorquina
Calle Mayor 2 (exit of Sol metro station)
Madrid, Spain

Saturday, November 13, 2010

TIME OUT: Madrid, Spain Part 2: Oldest restaurant in the world (Guinness)

HT wife, being a true blue Filipino, loves eating pork.  Pork dominates most of our dishes.  Whether it's simmered in soy sauce, broiled, fried or barbecued, you would not miss at least a part of a pig in a Filipino's plate.

From whom do we inherit our love for this meat?  Who else, other than the Spaniards! 

Restaurante El Sobrino De Botin, is the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  The restaurant started way back 1725 and had been significant in Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises (I heard there is a Hemingway's table - in one corner) which you can book for a quiet, romantic dinner.

And in a restaurant as famous as this...

This long queue was to be expected.  (It was 730 pm and the restaurant opens at 8 pm).  Reservations are recommended, I actually booked ours 2 days before our trip to Madrid.  And if you weren't lucky to make a reservation, most diners were tourists so there is a high turn over of customers and for sure you'll get a table (as long as you don't mind eating late just like the Spaniards). 

As soon as the door opens, diners are accepted one by one (yeah just like they're checking if you have a ticket).  Once you enter the place, you can never miss this counter of bottles of wine and a big slab of jamon (look closely).  It drove away my boredom waiting in line.

We got a table at the 2nd floor (I think this place has 5 floors in total).  No fancy chandeliers or porcelain display, but they lived to being the oldest restaurant and gave the place an old-school atmosphere.  (that means no dress code).

HT couple already knew what to order before we stepped into this restaurant (at least HT wife did!)
Sopa de Ajo - a Madrileno style of onion soup, this bowl consists of onions, chicken broth, and bread with an egg swimming on top.

I broke the egg yolk and mixed the soup just like in congee.

HT hubbie's expectation of this was somehow close to French onion soup which has a very strong, aromatic taste of the bulbs.  However, this sopa, was quite bland but was saved by few pieces of salty jamon.  The egg dominated the soup taste which fitted my mood that night.

HT hubbie's order for the night...Botin's Fillet Mignon.  This is one of their specialties (letters in bold in the menu), but was not an adventurous dish.  This was not HT hubbie's first time in Spain, and he was able to experience a friend ordering a young pig which was almost like embryo in texture.  Thus, he skipped being a local this time.

The meat was succulent and tasty (thanks to almost a pond of mushroom sauce). Both of us do agree that  Morton's steakhouse is still at the top of our list.

And now...what did HT wife got?

A good portion of Cochinillo!  Tracing my roots included making myself at home in this country.  And food is a good medium of transporting me back to my home.  This roasted suckling pig, was perfect for my tastebuds just like our lechon (roasted pig) in the Philippines. (we just made our version of cochinillo bigger...the more the merrier).

And for Filipinos, we consider a lechon perfectly cooked when....
the pig skin is crispy at its finest!  The skin was thin and gave good crack sounds everytime I bite on it.  I didn't mind acting like a scavenger when HT hubbie threw a few pieces at the side of his plate.  (he's not fond of it)

The meat was very tender and not dry.  It was full of flavor from it's own juice.

The other table was amazed by my eating skills of cochinillo.  They had difficulty eating it and I ate mine up to the bones.  Yum!

HT hubbie witnessed my biggest smile ever after I took the last bite of my meal.

If ever you'll be in Madrid, I highly recommend this place...it might be famous for tourists but prices are reasonable (20+ euro per plate).  They served tap water (agua de grifo) and do keep in mind that nothing is for free in Europe (and Spain is not an exception)...so if you're not eating the bread they served at the start of your dinner, let them know so you won't be shocked when your bill arrives.

Price Summary (in Euros)
Sopa de Ajo: 8+ euros
Main courses: 20+ euros
*wide range selection of Rioja wine

Restaurante El Sobrino de Botin
Calle de los Cuchilleros 17
Madrid Spain (near Plaza Mayor)
+34 913 664 217

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TIME OUT: Madrid, Spain Part 1 : Mercado De San Miguel

HT couple hopped on a plane last weekend to trace HT wife's roots.  (for those who are not aware, Philippines was a Spanish colony and its name is taken after King Philip II of Spain.  Though, with the invasion of the Americans much later, some of the influences that the Spaniards instilled to Filipinos had been altered or had been slowly diminishing).  This was what I thought before stepping into this wonderful city.

As soon as we stepped out of the airport, we're ready to know the city to its fullest.  Madrid's metro is quite extensive and lots of interchanges.  I can somehow compare it to Singapore's MRT ease of use and accessibility (cleanliness is another topic).  And for just 1 euro for every single trip (regardless of the distance), we, coming from the Netherlands can't complain more about that.  (ok there is a 1 euro surcharge going to/from the airport). 

The hostel (Hostal Oriente, to those who are interested, it's about 50 euro a night-> cheap) we stayed in was just less than 100 steps away from the Opera station.  The location was excellent and the room was pretty neat and new.  One of the hostel keepers is a Filipino, who's the only one who can speak English among the people there (This made me appreciate the Netherlands as everyone at least can understand English...in Spain, no matter how hard you try, sometimes even sign languages doesn't help).  Being a Filipino, I was amazed on how much words we have are the same in Spanish (just different spelling), and this kinda helped me and HT hubbie to wander around without much needed help from the locals.

Since we have to transfer 3 metro lines going to the hotel from the airport, (about an hour trip), We ended up getting hungry during the times that the Spaniards are used to having pinchos or tapas (small portion) while gulping down glasses of sangria. 

Mercado De San Miguel was our first stop.  This architecture of glass is a market cum tapas place where you can get your food and eat it on the bar of the stalls or tables in the middle while standing no matter how high your pair of heeled shoes are (take it from the Spanish ladies).

name your choice, you'll get it here (olives, ham, home made pasta, 1 euro oysters and fresh seafood)

Our first stop: Olives
It was already 2 pm and we didn't grab anything since 4 am, so we were really famished.  We immediately grab a few pieces and 2 glasses of sangria in this olives stall (no long queue).  Those ham and pimiento (peppers) in between the olives were really great.  The others had octopus pieces which we kinda didn't like.  (1 euro a stick and 2 euros for a glass of Sangria) - not bad for starters.

a plate of seafood tostas.  Our favorites were the caviar, crabmeat and the smoked fish.  They do have octopus and mussels as well. ( a good deal of 1 euro a piece)

As a true Dutch, HT hubbie tried the croquettas in Spain (that black piece contains squid ink, i think).  It tasted weird.  But most pieces have seafood and meat fillings.  It was way too oily for us.

Who can resist this homemade potato chips?  I can't!!! (They eat chips a lot maybe I inherited this from them too :D)

These bocadillos (sandwiches) were the highlights of our food expedition in this market. With delicious chorizos and jamon iberico (smoked ham Iberico) as fillings, we both concluded Spain is really a food haven. (3 euros a piece - it's quite pricey for a small sandwich but worth to try).

While queueing for these tiny sandwiches, I was pushed by a Latina-looking lady and I turned around and look at her(she was standing at my back).  Little did I know that rudeness I got was a modus operandi which brought us to this next stop...

my wallet was gone...sniff

Yes I was a victim of pickpocketing despite my bag was in front of me.  If you're gonna visit this place, it's not enough that your bag is only at your sight but better hold on it (later we notice how the locals hold on to their bags tightly).  They're not violent but they're experts. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What we are addicted to...

I've been experimenting quite a lot in the kitchen since I moved to this side of the world.  And I'm actually enjoying it.  I spend half of my evening in my favorite area in the house making sure HT hubbie gets a satisfying meal.

Desserts are not a normal part of our dinner until we remember, we had this at one of our friends' place and decided to whip it up at home.

Looks can be deceiving...this bowl is made up of yogurt which is not your 0% or 2% fat type.  Greek yogurt has a high percentage of milk fats and is filtered to remove most of the water giving it's creamy texture (and delicious taste too!)  Add 3 teaspoons of honey (or more) and chunks of walnuts...ta dah!  You have yourself a simple yet authentic Greek dessert! (as long as you don't use a "no fat" cup of this dairy)

And this is what HT hubbie and I've been addicted to lately.  We forgot that calories exist in this world.

(Oh, a little secret, I heard this dessert is a good aphrodisiac!)  :D