When I was a teenager and later on a single working woman, the SM City North EDSA was my playground. It was the only “city” in Metro Manila that I knew like the back of my hand. I would take a Victory Liner bus from Olongapo (my hometown) and escape from the small city to a much smaller “city” to do my Christmas shopping or just plain window shopping. That was ages ago. After I moved to my husband’s house in Paranaque, going to Quezon City seemed like a chore. With the high cost of gasoline these days, visits to QC are limited to just once or twice a year (usually to watch a show at the Araneta Coliseum).
Last week, however, I found myself at The Block for the very first time. It was the birthday of my dear friend’s son and she invited me to celebrate with them. The Block is a recent addition to the sprawling SM City North EDSA commercial complex, which has undergone a major makeover since the last time I visited. It certainly felt like unfamiliar territory to me. I was intimidated by the thought that it’s nothing like it was before. Good thing my friend was there to help me navigate the place. Since it was her son’s special day, she treated us to a hearty lunch at Gumbo on The Block‘s second level.
Once inside the restaurant, one can immediately sense the Mardi Gras atmosphere. Think The Princess and The Frog, the Disney animated movie. Gumbo is a nice family restaurant that brings to us the flavors of New Orleans, Louisiana through its Creole and Cajun-style dishes. There were only 5 of us at the table, but my friend ordered food good enough to feed an army. The Family Feast is great for those with monster appetites and consists of Bourbon-style barbecue ribs, battered cream dory fillets, shrimp kebab, honey-glazed chicken, glazed skewered vegetables and corn on the cob. Everything was really tasty!
But what really stood out for me was the Spaghetti Puttanesca. It’s the perfect symphony of al dente pasta, black olives, capers, fresh basil, artichoke and anchovies tossed in a simply wonderful pomodoro sauce. Yummm….
A week later, I was back at The Block to meet with another friend and explore the place even more. I decided to have lunch at the Tokyo Bubble Tea Restaurant on the ground floor. Actually, it was not my first time to try the restaurant. I have dined at its branches in SM Megamall and Harbor Point Subic before, but I had an intense craving for its Okonomiyaki, so that’s what I ordered. An okonomiyaki is often described as a savory Japanese pancake or sometimes a pizza, but I see it as more of an omelet. The ingredients for this dish vary from one Japanese region to another, but it’s traditionally made with shredded cabbage, ham or bacon slices, eggs and a special batter. When cooked, it’s then topped with a unique sauce, Japanese mayonnaise (which I absolutely love!), katsuobushi (bonito flakes), shredded seaweed and some kind of pickle. Craving satisfied.
I couldn’t leave The Block without a quick trip to Tous Les Jours Bakery near the SM Hypermarket. Although its name is obviously French, TLJ is a Korean bakeshop specializing in top-quality breads and pastries — and some of the most gorgeous-looking cakes I’ve seen! I felt so bad that my birthday isn’t for another 8 and a half months!
Who could resist the delicious smell of freshly baked bread? Not me. So I bought a whole lot of breakfast and pambaon items from TLJ. I’ve tried the Soboro bread, the Cream Cheese Walnut Bread, Almond Croissant and several others. The Madeleines are so good, too! And the prices are very reasonable. TLJ is one good reason for me to visit The Block more frequently.
But now the question is, where should I go next?