(Pardon me, I’ve been really lazy and uninspired to write lately. The thing is, I have so much material — so many ideas in my head, so many restaurants I’ve tried recently — and yet, I can’t get myself to blog about them. But I’ll try… )
I remember when my husband first took me out to a restaurant ages ago, he was quite fascinated by the fact that I stared at the right side of the menu (where the prices were listed) and ordered the cheapest item I could find. I guess it stemmed from my long history of paying for the things that I wanted for myself: I had always been self-sufficient and hated being a freeloader. I was too shy and maybe even too proud to accept free stuff from other people, even on a date. After all these years, I’m pretty much the same, although I’ve already learned to just be appreciative of and grateful for other people’s inherent generosity. My husband Caloy is one of the most generous creatures I know. When he’s not too busy, he always takes me out to lunch for no special reason because he knows how much I love food and dining out. He really does take very good care of my heart and my tummy. That’s one of the million tiny reasons why I love him so much.
Caloy knows that every serious “foodie” should experience Ambos Mundos — said to be one of the two oldest restaurants in Manila (the other being Toho Restaurant Antigua, which is our family’s favorite). Established in 1888, Ambos Mundos translates as “both worlds” because it serves both Spanish and Filipino cuisines.
My husband grew up in the City of Manila and is gripped by fond memories of many meals past in this ancient restaurant. And so we ordered his old favorites like Langoniza (Filipino-style pork sausage), Lengua Estufado and Tortang Hipon, among others.
The Langoniza was kind of sweet, very fatty and delicious! Definitely the perfect match for sinangag (garlic fried rice) and fried egg!
The Tortang Hipon (Shrimp Omelet) was such a delight because the restaurant did not scrimp on the shrimp (oh, yes!). And the taste was really, really good. How I wish I could replicate this seemingly simple dish in my own kitchen.
Out of sheer force of habit, my husband ordered Lengua Estufado (Ox Tongue in Red Sauce) because it’s one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. We both agreed after our meal that the dish was quite disappointing because it only had two meager slices of lengua and a few thin slices of potato. At P345 per serving, it’s admittedly very expensive. In fact, considering its location, the prices are kind of very unreasonable, which probably explains why we were the only diners there that day. Oh well, at least I got to try Ambos Mundos and got a first-hand experience of what it’s all about.
The Century Seafood Restaurant
A few weeks ago, Caloy treated me to lunch at The Century Seafood Restaurant located in Century Park Hotel Manila. It’s a popular place among Chinese people, and is also a favorite venue for wedding receptions, birthdays and christening banquets. Come to think of it, it was the venue of Caloy’s “stag party” hosted by some of his male friends just days before we got married. For our lunch date, we chose Fresh Spinach Puree with Assorted Seafood Soup, Japanese Scallop Fried Rice in Egg White, Sauteed Celery with Prawns, Beef with Green and Red Pepper in Black Bean Sauce, and Masachi for dessert.
The fried rice was such a pleasant discovery that we polished it off the plate up to the last little grain. The scallops, egg white and bits of green asparagus lent subtle flavors that went really well with our viands. Thumbs-up!
A Chinese restaurant dining experience for us will not be complete without a shrimp or prawn dish, so we didn’t pass up the chance to order the Sauteed Celery with Prawns. When it first came to our table, it didn’t have the candied walnuts that were shown in the photo on the menu. So I politely pointed it out, and the waiters were quick to send the dish back to the kitchen. This is how it’s supposed to look:
The Beef with Green and Red Peppers in Black Bean Sauce was simple but palatable as well. Caloy and I both wiped our plates clean. Enough said.
I still had room for dessert and opted for Masachi — sticky rice dumpling rolled in ground peanuts and filled with black sesame paste. It was still warm and surprisingly light, the perfectly sweet ending to a highly satisfying Chinese food lunch.
Because Caloy frequently has business meetings with his clients at this Spanish restaurant in Serendra, he’s been telling me about its Chuleton Villagodio, and been wanting to take me to lunch at Gaudi for the longest time. The perfect opportunity came at last, and I found myself savoring the rich flavors of Spain at this restaurant named after the world-renowned Spanish architect of the Sagrada Familia.
For starters, I ordered the Surtido de 8 Pintxos Calientes or a selection of 8 hot tapas that included, among others, croquettas and chorizo rollitos. It looked like an artist’s palette of different colors; a tantalizing platter of appetizing treats that really set the mood for a marvelous meal.
We also had Gambas al Ajillo, a staple item whenever we are in a Spanish restaurant. Have I mentioned that my husband Caloy is a shrimphead? He absolutely loves shrimp, shrimp, shrimp.
Of course, we had paella — that irresistible rice dish that’s one of the symbols of great Spanish cooking. We chose the Arroz con Marisco (or Fish and Seafood Paella) and it didn’t disappoint. Está delicioso!
But the highlight of our lunch, the real reason why we dined at Gaudi, was clearly the Chuleton Villagodio. At P2,750 per kilogram, the “certified Angus beef prime rib grilled according to the methods of Villagodio” was a spectacular slab of beautifully marbled beef, seared on the outside and then sliced thinly, to be cooked on a ceramic plate on our table right before our very eyes.
With only rock salt as seasoning, the steak was naturally juicy and very tender — just pure beefy goodness. Easily one of the best steaks in town. It’s that good.
Unlike me, Caloy is not an adventurous eater. I could never drag him with me to try a Greek or a Vietnamese restaurant. We don’t always have the same taste in food. But still, I love that he’s always excited to share with me some of his dining experiences and food discoveries. And if they’re exceptionally good, he makes sure that I get to taste and experience them, too.