Monday, March 5, 2007

ENOTECA GALILEO – latest visit: March 4, 2007

“Everything happens for a reason” is among my favorite sayings. In 1999, I bought a condominium unit on Libertad St. in Mandaluyong City. This took a long time to finish and about 3 years ago, I was finally shown the apartment for inspection. It was an upsetting experience on many levels, mostly because the apartment did not turn out according to my expectations, and this after a two-year delay in its delivery. After the inspection, I got so hungry and saw this small shop at the back of the Reyes Gym on Libertad cor. Calbayog. It was odd seeing the sign ENOTECA GALILEO right beside a shop that sells UBE PUTO. I went inside and saw a charming bodega-type setup, with the walls of the small area lined with different Italian wines and goodies, and a deli chiller with all kinds of cheese and cured meat. There were tables, but the server informed me that they only had simple panini, savory grilled Italian sandwiches, cheese and cold cuts. ONLY???!!! Bring it on! And so began my discovery of the delights offered by Galileo.

On subsequent visits, we discovered that Galileo had expanded to include a bigger dining area and more items on the menu. The fare is simple but good and the prices attractive. Moreover, the ambience is just so conducive to great conversation. If booking a party for 10, ask for the innermost sala, where a repro of Botticelli’s Venus Rising From The Sea presides over the dining table.

What I miss is the Sunday brunch, which was introduced to me by my regular Sunday brunch buddy Jennifer Dee. For only P250, one got mortadella, pancetta, assorted cheese, a simple salad and assorted Panini, with bottomless cups of hot chocolate so thick it will blow the eh out of all the hot chocolate you have ever had.

On our latest outing, we went for the brunch but were informed that they no longer served it. Instead, they had their set lunch and dinner menu, also a steal at P400 which will give you a soup or a salad, a meat and cheese platter, pasta, coffee and a glass of wine. The soup was thin but the platter generous, and the pasta all interesting: choose from mushroom, 3-cheese and asparagus. And the hot chocolate is still available at P100 per cup. Sadly, no dessert, but the deli has some cakes which you can order for service.

The deli in itself is impressive, with fresh buffalo mozzarella and parmigiano regiano shipped in weekly, along with other cheese varieties and cured meats. If you’re into Italian food, Galileo is the shop for you.

The service is friendly and prompt, but there is only one, albeit clean, restroom. Our sala’s aircon was busted when we were there but we had so much fun that it didn’t seem to matter. Parking may be difficult during weekdays and getting there may be confusing for those who do not know the twists and turns of EDSA and Mandaluyong’s interior roads.

GALILEO in Mandaluyong is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. but is closed on Mondays. They take Visa and Mastercard. Call 5320482 for reservations. GALILEO recently opened a bigger branch on Pasong Tamo in the La Fuerza Building.

Friday, March 2, 2007

SOMS – 2 previous visits, last visit on February 28, 2007

My friend Chari Arespacochaga loves SOMS. What’s not to love? When it was still just a hole in the wall near Rockwell, it attracted a loyal following, despite the fact that at peak hours you’d either have to dine al fresco – and by al fresco we mean subjected to vehicular fumes and the elements while sitting at a makeshift dining area propped against a perimeter fence – or take food out. SOMS serves Thai food at a very low price. It became so popular that it was able to open a branch in more hospitable environs not a kilometer away from its old home. Located in the corner of Reposo (Nicanor Garcia) and Milagros Street in Makati, the new SOMS features the same no-nonsense Thai food served in a far bigger space. The food is ok (don’t order any beef dish – the meat is invariably tough), the prices cheap and the servings generous. Their typical curry (pork, beef, chicken or shrimp in red, green or yellow varieties) costs P89 (with enough sauce to serve four but meat enough for just one), plain rice is P10 and a C2 is P30. Order a regular Coke, which comes in the hard-to-find and charming 200ml size.

My first visit to SOMS was a birthday dinner treat and the convivial company afforded me the luxury of enjoying its fare whole-heartedly. My second was an early lunch where I ordered the tom yum and bagoong rice. After being made to wait for 10 minutes, I was told that they were not yet ready to serve the tom yum. I ordered the green beef curry. Tough decision. On my third visit, I ordered the tom yum and phad Thai, which had too little sahog and at P125 a plate, there should be more sahog.

Thai food purists will balk at the sweetish flavor in most of SOMS dishes, rendering the curry an almost panghimagas character. Remove the meat, replace with sago, temper the salt, add crushed ice and voilà: guinomis!

Lamentably, the dining room reeks of cheap pomade and even cheaper cleanser. The decor is fantastically eccentric to the point of irritation and the men’s room was iffy (the urinals had moth balls to “freshen” the air and the wash bowl featured a soap dish in which a sorry-looking bar of Safeguard was swimming in used water). The air-conditioning is weakly provided by yellowing wall units and there are only 2 parking slots out front. The lunch crowd is advised to bring a chauffeur or commute by cab or jeep or trike. At night, cars may be parked on the side streets or even on Reposo.

SOMS’ fast and friendly service is its only redeeming asset. Manila is short on really good Thai restaurants and I wish SOMS were one of them. Sadly, it is not.


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!