Monday, February 26, 2007

SCHWARZWALDER - February 26, 2007

"Schwarzwalder" is German for "black forests." The history of this restaurant is fuzzy but I remember (I think) it was at the back of the old Ayala Museum in Greenbelt of the 80s and was owned by the former GM of the Hyatt Manila, Mr. Jentes. When the old Ayala Museum was torn down, Schwarzwalder moved to the Atrium on Makati Avenue, where it continued to serve good old German meals like crispy pata (with a German accent and sauerkraut of course, but with optional rice for the Pinoy market) and sausages galore. There is a new Schwarzwalder in Greenbelt 2, where it occupies half of the space of the original Gloria Maris Greenbelt.

It follows the modern yet subdued decor (no reference to any black forests though) and familiar dishes prepared in the same way. This is not to say that the food is boring, but that Schwarzwalder has managed to maintain its quality through the years. As my friend Dickie Tan commented, he would rather pay top price for good food than go to a restaurant that scrimps on quality to maintain its pricing. True, most Schwarzwalder entrees are expensive for the average diner (around P500++) but the servings are fit for a Teutonic lumberjack. Its knockout knuckles are true to its name, giving the diner a one-two punch in terms of serving size and cholesterol count. But the restaurant is not without far healthier options by way of salads but why go to a German restaurant when you're on a diet? Try the veal (its version of osso buco), which is tender to the bone with a savory sauce and their variety of sausages. The service is friendly and prompt (we were three diners and we were all served at the same time without compromising food temperature and presentation). Parking is adequate all througout Greenbelt and reservations are not a must. When we ate, there was only one other table that was occupied. Which is a pity because Schwarzwalder truly does satisfy.

A "not-to-be-missed" item is the apfelstrudel (apple strudel).


“A la pobre” – Philippine contribution to the world of culinary terms. Loosely based on the term “au poivre” which literally means “peppered with pepper,” this term denotes food encrusted in pepper then grilled or pan-fried, most popularly used, as in “steak au poivre.” We have adapted this term to “a la pobre” which is not to say that food is cooked the way jologs cook their bangus or steak (HELLO!) but rather, food that is peppered with toasted garlic. Hooray for Pinoy ingenuity!

CONSPIRACY CAFÉ - October 30, 2006

One of the best things about going out in Manila is that there is something for every one. As someone who’s eaten in all kinds of places, from dives to fancies, from holes-in-the-wall to established restaurants, I’m happy for the choices that Manila has to offer.

Recently, my friend the musician Rica Arambulo texted me that she was having a show in Conspiracy Café in Quezon City. On a Monday. So I suggested to Monday Club SecGen Knox Coeli that we try this place out. When I gave the address, I could hear him groan in his faux Chinese accent: madayo yannah! Surpisingly, nine of us went: Knox, Philip Lim, Lawrence See, Stephen Choa, Supremo CJ Tan, Johannson Cheng, Chris Ty, Edison Gong and myself.

Conspiracy Café is about 4 years old, fashioned out of an old house with high ceilings and decorated with empty green wine bottles and art work for sale by artists who are friends of the artists who own the place. Conspiracy has a laid-back ambience and anyone in shorts, sando and slippers will be as welcome as a congresswoman in her shift and scarf. It has a very homey air about it, and patrons appear to know each other and/or the owners. There is no sign to that effect but it seems like everyone checked their insecurities and hang-ups at the door.

Conspiracy is a great venue for musicians of such diverse colors, from Akafellas to Makiling Ensemble, from Rica to Cynthia Alexander. They even have poetry nights, open mike nights and LGTB evenings.

The food isn’t all that bad either. The Indian eggplant salad is a good and refreshing accompaniment to the crispy pata (thoughtfully pre-sliced from the bone) and the chicken curry is both savory and filling one serving can actually be split by two barakos). We also tried the liempo and bangus ala pobre*, which we all liked. Bar chow standards like sisig and 3kinds of fishball in 3 kinds of sawsawan were also devoured with gusto.

The price is fair (add P100/person if dining/drinking/watching in the music room), the men’s room clean, the music fantastic. If you like music, ask the waiter for their selection of CDs for sale that may not be available in Odyssey of M1. Credit cards are accepted. Minus points though for insufficient parking space.

Conspiracy Café, 59 Visayas Avenue, Quezon City. Call 4532170 for reservations and show schedule.

ABÉ - November 3, 2006

When family or friends come visiting from the States, we always take them to go to the mall, visit other family and friends, host reunions for them and make them gorge on good ole’ Pinoy food. Tiendesitas and Market Market are good shopping destinations because each mall feature pasalubong from all over the Philippines. There is of course the added bonus of the availability of many food choices in both malls.

My brother-in-law recently visited and we were going to bring him to the Ortigas dampa but decided to try out the two-week old ABÉ in Serendra, which is just across Market Market, instead. My Kuya had read a feature about it and foodie friends had tried it on its second day of operations. Both feature and foodie feedback gave ABÉ raves. My friend said it was not a fussy restaurant that served good Pinoy food, describing the dining experience as akin to one would have at home, if one had a matriarch or cook who churned out excellent home-cooked meals.

ABÉ is one of the first few restaurants operating in Serendra. It is run by the LJC Group, which has had some hits (Café Adriatico – the café that started the Malate trend, and the now-defunct Bistro Burgos, which served the best kare-kare I’ve tasted) and a few misses (Café Havana – about whose alarming cockroach infestation I wrote in May 2005, and Bollywood – nice place, icky Bumbay food). ABÉ is named after owner Larry J. Cruz’ father, who was a diplomat who loved good food.

The restaurant itself looks like a hodge-podge of several restaurants: its furniture is an eclectic mix of old, new and funky (check out the 60s molded chairs). The dining room is brightly lit, features a pianist (reminiscent of Bistro Burgos) and alternately, piped in Pinoy fiesta music. The over-all earth tones of the dining room are complemented by the sepia photographs of Cruz gatherings bordering the ceiling. This halo-halo look is mirrored by the halo-halo menu, with some new items and a good number culled from old LJC menus. There is a good mix of Pinoy home-cooking, old Binondo favorites and recipes brought home by Abé from his foreign trips. Since we were a big group, we could afford to indulge: sisig (thankfully devoid of chicharon or utak or mayonnaise – culinary affectations of the gustatorily retarded), kinilaw (freshly prepared but lacking the ginger and lime familiar to my Bisaya taste buds), battered squid (delicately sweet), morcon (too salty for my taste and swimming in sauce), pata tim (EXCELENTE! But the accompanying cuapao could have been bigger and fluffier), knock out knuckles (Chieftain, while I swear by Honey’s, this one comes a close second), pastel de lengua (perfect crust encasing a perfect stew), chicken supreme (this must have been cooked in pork lard! It tasted just like what my Lola Inday used to prepare), and the Bistro Burgos kare-kare: ox tail perfection on a plate! My taste buds are still orgasmic from that dish…

Sadly, the dessert selection is sparse and uninspired: a mediocre leche flan, a generic-tasting ube jam with macapuno, both of which were somewhat redeemed by old-fashioned maja blanca topped with toasted pinipig. Still and all, the main meal was a real treat that got me making mental notes to try ABÉ again and again and again.

ABÉ is a perfect family dining place, not quite so for romantic dates. It was full to the last table last Friday, so you best be making reservations, especially if you’re a big group.

Surprisingly, for the quality of ABÉ’s fare, plus its premium location, prices are very affordable and servings are generous. The men’s room is immaculate, parking is plentiful and free (for now) and the fiesta music is appropriate and in fact fun, even if you hate listening to Bayanihan selections.

ABÉ, G/F Serendra, Global City, Taguig City. Call 8560526 for reservations.


If you like to eat well, live well, listen well and have the patience to go through my kilometric but hopefully entertaining blogs, then this is the page for you. I chose EATERSHIP because it sounds like "leadership," and because if you jumble it up, it could also read "hip eaters." Eat and read on!