Monday, September 2, 2013

Brussels, Belgium: Eats and more!

I had been to Brussels several times, but most of the time, meeting up with friends and ex-colleagues.  I never played as tourist.  A friend of mine wanted to see Brussels and it was a great opportunity for me to hop on an intercity train (without HT hubbie) and be a Brussels tourist for a weekend.

Where did we go?  I'll save that for later as the main subject for this post is...where did we eat?  (We ate more and spent more time walking to our eating destination than looking for tourist attraction - yes, indeed, my friend is also a foodie)

After checking-in in our hotel at past 22:00, we went out to walk around and stumbled into this crowded friture/frituur.  We grabbed a portion of frites (fries), and chose our own sauce (selection: tartar, mayo is common, curry ketchup, etc).  It was addictive and the portion was good for 2.  It's almost everywhere in Brussels, but I suggest to check out the crowd in the middle of the night (that's where locals flock after a lot of drinking :)). - ~3.2 euros ~this one is in Rue Henn Maus (street)

 Never leave Brussels without grabbing a waffle.  (it's all over the city - you won't miss it).  You can get it with whipped cream, some fruits on top - but for no-frills, get a plain one orwith smudged-dark chocolate.  This one is in Belgaufra (Rue de Neuve shopping street) ~2 euros a piece.


 For lunch, we went to Nordzee, Mer Du Nord @ Rue Sainte Catherine.  We checked on what they offer for that day from the hanging whiteboard, placed our order, paid, left our name, and waited until we hear them shouting from the top of their lungs - yes, we rushed to get our lunch treat.
Fish Soup/Vissoep- lots of taste, veggies and chunks of fish.  My favorite.  We went back the next day and ordered the same for breakfast.  We had bigger chunks of fish when we were there around 11 before the crowd starts to prowl the area. ~5 euro/serving
shrimp croquette/garnalenkroket - my friend loved this.  Best eaten when warm - tasty and chunky. ~8 euros for 2 pieces
Mussels/mosselen -  the season for this shellfish - the 'BER' months!  Cooked with white wine and herbs - it was perfect as a bread dip. (they served unlimited bread).  ~ 8 euros
washed off with white wine - they have spanish, french, italian ~ 2-4 euros 
Around the area are bar type tables where you can placed your plates and start digging in.  Love this street food feeling with real plates.  There's a square in front of the place where this lovely church stands...lovely food in a lovely area...what more can you ask for.

For dinner, we had 2 places on the list - but we decided to go old-school.  Les Brassins - a restaurant near Port de Namur/Naamsepoort.  We took chance and didn't made any reservation.  We arrived around 1930 and they had a few tables where the walk-ins can sit, were still free.  But after half an hour - suddenly the place was packed. 

ham on the bone - I always like eating ham in a Belgian place.  I'm not sure why,but it's been a staple.  This was huge, quite salty (for my friend) but it was fine for me.  It was slightly overcooked as some parts are quite tough. ~ 17 euros

Hare leg stew -  the reason why we went to this place.  I remember HT hubbie saying that it's typical for them eating hare when he was younger so here we are (2 asians curious of how it taste like).  Their version is simmered with kriek bier - cherry beer.  I was disappointed because there's not much taste from the sauce to the meat.  They offer 1 leg or 2 legs - glad we sticked to 1 leg.  ~13 euros

Both dishes came with this sides - fries and stoemp(stamppot in dutch) - mashed potato with beans (there are different varieties, such as with creme spinach, farmer's cabbage, etc.)  Again, these were all bland. 
The prices of the dishes was reasonable but the food was so-so.  If you wanted to try old Belgian fare for experience, this is the place to go (or better yet go to Brugge).  Otherwise, i suggest to go to some place, where you can get a good burger or pasta or even korean fare.  After all, Brussels, is quite multinational as a city.
After dinner, we were looking for a Belgian dessert.  We rushed to our 2nd place in our dinner list- which I read good reviews on their steak/fries (steak frites) and burgers - but we only had space for a piece of cake.
quirky backdrop of Houtsiplou - Placce Rouppe 9 - a modern simple restaurant...
We ordered speculoos cheesecake - the bottom is made up of speculoos cookies.  The cheesecake was not too sweet and has a smooth texture ~5.50 euros
TIP: Check out this shop for speculoos cookies and spread take home.
It was quite windy and cold that night - so my friend and I decided to grab some hot drinks i.e. coffee for me and I started playing with her chocolat chaud aka hot chocolate with our speculoos cheesecake.
I skipped buying marcolini chocolates, as I have a new favorite - Pierre Ledent's macarons - a friend of mine once bought a box for me...and I just love it.  I got a box of 8 for ~12.50 euros for HT hubbieI love their flavors - green tea, rose water, mint and mojito among others.
And where did we go?
Grand Place/Grote Markt in the evening.
Grand Place/Grote Markt in the morning.
Manneken Pis with clothes
Manneken Pis without clothes
Another Manneken Pis in action
Appreciating the whereabouts in Brussels..

We were lucky to witness this parade...

and more...

I enjoyed my short weekend in Brussels.  Next time, i'll play as HT hubbie's tourist guide.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Manila, Philippines: What's new?

HT couple steps into HT wife's homeland every year and is always amazed on how versatile and how diverse the food scene of Manila is evolving every year. 

Ramen Santouka
Glorietta 4 Ground Floor
 (outside entrance), Makati
The legendary hokkaido ramen and HT couple's favorite has landed in the metro.  We first tried this ramen at our 2nd home country, Singapore and we just fell in love with the bowl with pork cheeks.  (see post ).  It's a little bit cheaper in Manila (400+ pesos for medium size bowl with pork cheeks), but the quality is the same.  Miso, Kara-Miso, Shoyu, Shio are all available.  HT wife prefers Shio and HT hubbie always get kara-miso.  Ramen sets are also available.

VERDICT: Highly recommended by yours truly.  BUDGET ESTIMATE: ~300-600 pesos/pax

W Global Center, 30th St. cor 9th Ave.
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
(one of their receptionists mentioned they're opening the 2nd IHOP in the metro soon)

The famous US-chain international house of pancakes which specializes in all-day breakfast menu.  I'm sure you've seen the IHOP signboard if you've watch the Man Of Steel and yes, if you want to try out their special pancakes and US is way too far to travel, hop on a plane and fly to Manila. :)

When this chain opened in the metro, I've seen long queues in pictures, my friends getting up early to be able to grab their pancakes and still getting a 100+ queue number...crazy!  Manila went gaga over IHOP.

With all the hype, i was fortunate to be brought by my Manila friends to IHOP.  Just like any American chain, the menu is extensive...unlimited drinks are available and combos of omelettes and pancakes as well as steaks and pancakes (whether it's a good combination for you or not), yes, they're all present in their menu.

Here's what we got:

 New York Cheesecake buttermilk pancakes - this was my favorite. 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Big steak omelette with cinnamon pancakes

Splashberry - made up of strawberries, lemon-lime soda and premium orange juice.  My friend got a Never Empty Coffee Pot (iced coffee) - you would never go thirsty.

VERDICT: It's nice to be able to try out the pancakes and what IHOP can offer.  But in my opinion, with the price (about 300 pesos for a stack of pancakes) and the food that you can get, it's not worth the hype.  Service was fantastic though (kudos to the team).  

BUDGET: ~300-500 pesos/pax

IHOP has established their name in the US and extending it to Asia (opening the first chain in the Philippines) was a good choice.

FACTS about HT WIFE (my friends in NL would kill me):  I prefer American pancakes than the thin dutch pancakes (click on the link).

Yabu - House of Katsu
SM Megamall, Robinson's Magnolia, SM Mall of Asia, SM Southmall

Another craze in Manila...we got to their branch in Robinson's Magnolia at 2 pm (past lunchtime) and we're the 7th in the waiting list.  Thank God they have a device wherein when you're table is ready, you get a vibration notification from that device (and the coverage is the whole mall) so you can shop while waiting.

Introduced by HT wife's brother and HT couple being fans of kurobuta (from Japan) - rich marbled, soft and flavorful pork (wagyu beef in pork dictionary) we just have to try it out.  other kurobuta post

We enjoyed their Kurobuta premium tonkatsu set and the kurobuta curry set (600 pesos).  (You can get rosu - porkloin - which has fat trimming and/or hire - tenderloin - slices without fats (300-400+ pesos) - these are cheaper than kurobuta but for first timers, I would recommend to go for kurobuta - my brother has tried the rosu/hire and the kurobuta, and he did noticed the difference between the two.

Kurobuta tonkatsu set - their sets come with unlimited rice, unlimited miso soup and cabbage salad (this is pretty normal in Manila  - if you notice)
it comes with this make your own sauce (sesame seeds, pepper, salt) with thick sauce - love that grinding bowl!

 Kurobuta curry set - we were asked to choose from regular, hot and very hot.  I got the hot one and my brother with his love for spiciness took the very hot.  The curry sauce was lovely and they cooked it for 3 hours with 45 ingredients...yum! 

VERDICT:  A must-try.  It's on the high side but it's all worth it.  If you wanted to try out the kurobuta, skip the curry set and if you're a curry lover, i suggest to get other meat than kurobuta to really savor the curry with a more reasonable price.

BUDGET ESTIMATE: ~300-700 pesos/pax

I can't wait what my home city is up to for next year...come on Manila, suprise me! 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Valencia, Spain: architecture and food collage

 Museo Nacional de Cerámica y de las Artes Suntuarias

 Valencia Cathedral

The interior is beautiful!

For cheap/small bites and tinto verano: same fast food in Madrid

 Banco de Valencia

Valencia train station

Check out the big servings of tapas and paella.
 patato and ham croquette

goose liver (tapas style)

Paella marisco - seafood
Paella Valenciana - rabbit and chicken

 the whole pan version

 somebody got drunk because of too much sangria...:p