|Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine along Bagtikan Street is one of the interesting eating places in San Antonio, Makati City|
The .89-square kilometer barangay is crisscrossed by streets named after native trees—kamagong, mayapis, bagtikan, malugay, talisay, dita, baticulin, tanguile, banuyo—and along these many apartments and townhouses are huddled close to each other. Small buildings house little businesses.
Though there are establishments that sell kitchen utensils and equipments for catering, San Antonio is not yet a burgeoning food spot like the barangay of Kapitolyo in Pasig City or Maginhawa Street in Quezon City, where exciting and noteworthy food joints have sprouted like exotic mushrooms to form food strips, but it has a smattering of restaurants and cafes that are interesting enough, even unique. The area is not too commercialized as to lose its neighborly vibe, which means many dining outlets are not as sophisticated as one might expect, and some are startups.
Titania Wine Cellar: Sip to the Good Life
Housed at the ground floor of a nondescript building along Yakal Street, Titania Wine Cellar is perhaps the most established and “the most sophisticated” food outlet in the area, and many is familiar with it being on a busy thoroughfare.
Named after the queen of the fairies in William Shakespeare’s famous play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania is carving a niche as one of the leading importer of wines in the metropolitan. It was established in 1982 by wine enthusiasts Tita Sugay-Trillo as a family corporation and now has more than 200 types of wines in its portfolio, imported from France, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, California and Australia and including esteemed brands such as Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Joseph Drouhin, Chapoutier, Felix Solis, Piccini, Kendall Jackson and Caliterra.
Upon entry, we were greeted by boxes of wine and then a deli counter. A glass door led to another room, transporting one to another world. Dimly lit and almost dreamy, Titania’s Grand Cellar is Asia’s first temperature-controlled area for fine wines like the underground cellars of France, complete with wine-tasting facilities and paraphernalia. It also acts as a fine-dining restaurant, surrounded by shelves heavy with bottles of wine. Here, they also conduct wine-tasting lessons, which can last up to three hours.
We got a succinct version, tasted Natalie Sweet Chardonnay, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Piccini Chianti Riserva, Hillcrest Grand Reserva, Great Trail Shiraz and Madame Therese, learning what grape variety they were made of, and tried to describe its color, smell and taste while nibbling on slices of different cheeses, olives, grapes, cold cuts and sausages.
Titania Wine Cellar is at Unit 8, Southway Condominium, 7435 Yakal Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City, with telephone numbers (+63 2) 894-1371, (+63 2) 894-1372, (+63 2) 894-1373 and (+63 2) 894-1374, and fax number (+63 2) 894-1378.
|The Titania Wine Cellar along Yakal Street|
|Its Grand Cellar is the first temperature-controlled cellar in Asia|
|Cheeses, cold cuts and other finger foods to go with the wine|
|Shelves well-stocked with wines from around the world|
|Natalie Sweet Chardonnay, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Piccini Chianti Riserva, Hillcrest Grand Reserva, Great Trail Shiraz and Madame Therese|
Bon Banhmi: The Best Sandwiches in the Metro
The Vietnamese sandwich using banh mi, the localized version of the French baguette, is the best street food in the world. It is the best kind of sandwich in my opinion. In the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, the itinerant vendors sell them in very humble carts on the streets, but these carts open to wonders. Different kinds of vegetables, herbs, meats and sauces go into the submarine sandwich. The Saigon-style sandwich has the most fillings. The banh mi itself is delicious, crusty and chewy. For a very low price, you have a hearty meal.
Whenever my Vietnamese mother went to Vietnam, she would ask me what I wanted for pasalubong. Always, it would be the banh mi sandwich! In the Philippines, you cannot get a decent banh mi sandwich. While it has become a rage in many parts of the world, it seems the Philippines hasn’t discovered the sandwich. Then I heard of a small eatery dedicated to banh mi sandwiches in one of the Makati suburbs. Recently, I got the chance to try Bon Bahnmi.
Bon Banhmi opened in September 9, 2013, by Thao Ngo and his wife Anh Le, who moved to the Philippines from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, about a year ago. The garage of their bungalow in a relatively quiet residential area of San Antonio, Makati, was transformed into a small but nice eatery, which almost look like a take-out counter. The couple, who speaks little English, named the restaurant after their son. Bon Banhmi is easily noticeable on Mayapis Street because of its yellow motif, Thao’s lucky color, the closest shade to bread.
They bake their own banh mi in an oven that looks like the ones used for baking pandesal. The nearby Titania Wine Bar and Café gets their baguettes from them. Spread out on the counter are the ingredients—the well-marinated meats and the garden-fresh vegetables and herbs that go in every sandwich such as carrots, white radish, scallions, jalapeño, cucumber and cilantro.
Their traditional banh mi sandwich has lean ham (cha lua), salted and shredded meat (cha bong), boiled meat (thit nguoi) and pig’s head paste (gio thu). Other banh mi sandwich varieties are chicken, grilled beef and roast pork. You can add a special pate, freshly homemade and delicious, to your sandwich. Sandwiches go for P79 for the medium size and P99 for the large ones, really inexpensive. They also offer authentic Vietnamese coffee and the intriguing artichoke tea from Da Lat, a new addition, both for P59.
The best banh mi sandwich I had so far was from a random, anonymous cart in a street in Ho Chi Minh City. An old lady laid out the sandwich in a swirl of bicycle—a combination of cured and freshly cooked meats; an assortment of leaves and herbs, those ready to be plucked from a backyard; slices of chilies; and a reddish dark sauce. I want it piquant, spicy and earthy. Bon Banhmi’s are richer with homemade mayonnaise and pate. Even the simplest banh mi sandwich is delectable. On a train from Da Nang to Hue once, my mother prepared the banh mi from the bag; sliced the Vietnamese pork sausage, gray and greenish from its banana leaf wrapping; and arranged the sweet basil, cilantro and sliced chilies. That was it and it was delightful while the train traversed a steep mountainside. They are messy to eat though. Always, the pieces of crust and crumbs fall on you like dirty snowflakes and the fillings always threaten to slip through and fall out. Nobody seems to mind; it is scrumptious. Wrap around your hands around it like you do the arms of a loved one.
While I was watching The Food Truck Race, the Nom Nom Truck seemed to deliver incredible and inventive banh mi sandwiches but they’re in California. Right now, I’ll go all the way from Manila or Pasig for Bon Banhmi’s sandwiches!
Bon Banhmi is at 8390 Mayapis Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City, with telephone number (+63 2) 808-7979, email address firstname.lastname@example.org and Web site www.bonbanhmi.net. They offer free delivery for a minimum purchase of P300. It is open everyday from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
|Bon Banhmi along Mayapis Street|
|Delicious banh mi sandwiches|
|Bon Banhmi owners Thao Ngo and his wife Anh Le|
8065 Bagnet: Pork in the City
The bagnet is one of the most beloved foods from the Ilocos Region. Bagnet is huge chunks of pork, commonly the belly part, boiled and deep fried. It can be stored and then refried when serving again. It is like lechon kawali (deep-fried pork chunks) but I think this is better.
Whenever I am in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, next to fresh Ilocano empanada by the Vigan cathedral and pinakbet at Café Florentina, I’ll have crunchy bagnet with steaming rice and, of course, the quintessential Ilocano siding of kamatis, bagoong and lasona or KBL, diced tomatoes and shallots with fermented fish sauce dressing. There are stores along the heritage street of Crisologo that sell bagnet and people throng around it, surrounded by souvenir T-shirts and knickknacks.
Bagnet seems to have been slowly penetrating Metro Manila, not surprising for pork-loving Philippines that drool over lechon (spit-roasted whole pig), lechon kawali, pork barbecue, longanisa (pork sausage) and inihaw na liempo (grilled pork belly). Little eateries serving bagnet, colloquially called bagnetan, can now be seen around the metropolis. Chef Ed Bugia creates interesting dishes out of bagnet for his restaurant Pino, along Jupiter Street. But on the relatively “low-end” side, there’s 8065 Bagnet, along Estrella Street, one of the best little bagnet eateries.
Owned by Alain Nadal, older brother of singer-songwriter Kitchie Nadal, and his business partner Jeff Tuason, and formerly called Mindo’s Bagnet House, 8065 Bagnet is deliberately rough around the edges and is a ragtag affair in one space of an apartment row, pulled together by paintings, graffiti and rudimentary mural, fomenting an artsy and Bohemian vibe. Moreover, the walls are punctuated by shelves and books. The tables and chairs are mismatched. It echoes The Collective, a cluster of artisanal, artsy and upstart stores, which is nearby. But enough of the atmosphere and on with the food.
Each serving of plain bagnet costs P185 and can satisfy two persons. The budget meal combo costs P115 and includes rice and soup. They serve sweet bagoong alamang sauce for the bagnet and rice, which is interesting but can be cloying. I usually dip bagnet in sukang Iloco or Ilocano sugar cane vinegar with chopped chilies and shallots. One can order a side dish of vegetables, and they have ensaladang talong or roast eggplant salad (P60), tortang talong or eggplant omelet (P60), okra with bagoong (P50) and ensaladang mangga or green mango salad (P50). They don’t have KBL, the perfect accompaniment to bagnet, to my disappointment. These are pure comfort foods and seldom can you go wrong.
Intriguing are their variations on the bagnet such as bagnet curry, bagnet binagoongan, bagnet pakbet, sinigang bagnet, bagnet sisig, bagnet in spicy gata, bagnet dinuguan and water spinach bagnet, that is, bagnet with water convolvulus or kangkong.
The bagnet kare-kare is chopped bagnet with peanut sauce drizzled on it. The sauce is rich, peanut-y and sweet, which reminds me of Lily’s Peanut Butter, but is likable. The others I swore I’ll be trying on other days.
There are other items for non-pork eaters such as the steamed fish (P185) with comes in curry, shrimp paste, spicy gata, or garlic-butter calamansi (Indian lemon) sauce, and fried chicken (P185 for plain and P195 for the curry). For desserts, they have pastillas (P50), cinnamon roll (P40) and frozen buko pandan (P55).
Banh mi sandwiches on Mayapis and bagnet on Estrella. Vietnamese-Ilocano me will be happy in San Antonio Village.
8065 Bagnet is at 8065 Estrella Street, San Antonio, Makati City, with telephone number (+63 2) 519-6511. The Manila branch is at 2463 Leon Guinto Street, Malate, Manila, with telephone number (+63 2) 516-7890.
|8065 Bagnet along Estrella Street|
|Plain bagnet with green mango slivers|
Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine: Regional Delights
Most Chinese restaurants in the Philippines offer Cantonese or Hokkien cuisines. Other Chinese regional cuisines are rarely encountered. Beside a Hong Kong-style tea house, Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine is a find, especially for the adventurous who want something different and the lover of spicy foods.
Mao Jia serves Hunan cuisine, which many may compare to or mistake it for Szechuan cuisine because of the copious use of chilies. Hunan cuisine, known also as Xiang cuisine, comprises the dishes of the Xiang River region, Dongting Lake and western Hunan province in China. It is said that it uses fresh chilies along with lots of shallots and garlic, while Szechuan cuisine uses dried chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, which has a numbing effect on the tongue. That is among other differences between the two such as methods of cooking, ingredients and seasonality.
Mao Jia though also uses lots of dried chilies. The restaurant used to be at the Ronac Art Center in San Juan City, but transferred to Bagtikan Street in San Antonio. The name means “Mao’s house.” There are several busts of Mao Tse Tung, the iconic Chinese leader and founder of Communist China, at one corner.
The ample menu is divided into “Special Dishes,” “Homely Dishes,” Soup,” “Cold Dishes,” “Dessert and Staple Foods,” and “Exquisite Foods,” which is a curious way of categorizing foods. It is a good thing the menu has large pictures and designed like a magazine, so first-timers can judge a dish by the way it looks. I got why some dishes are “homely” and the others “exquisite.” The “exquisite” dishes are more expensive and use ingredients that are harder to find, while the “homely” dishes are, well, cheaper and uses mostly common vegetables, but that doesn’t they are less delicious. In fact, the “homely” dish hot and sour cabbage (P120) I deemed the most delicious during our meal there. The cabbage was fresh and crunchy, sauteed in a blend of sauce that included vinegar with chopped chilies. It had a very likable smoky and barbecue-like flavor punctuated by the sourness of the vinegar.
Fried eggplant with ground pork (P180), spicy string beans (P180), bean curd with kutchay (P160), hot and sour potato strings (P120) and pepper with scrambled egg (P120) are the other “homely dishes.”
The bestseller is steamed chili fish head (P380), head of maya-maya (big-eye or Dory snapper) steamed in family-blended herbs and essences, and served in either mild spicy and ultra-spicy. It is generously topped with chopped dried chilies and scallions. It is in the “special cuisines” together with boiled chili pork with vegetables (P350), stir-fried spiced duck (P450), ginger duck (P480), braised beef with potato (P380) and beef stew vermicelli (P380)
Spicy fried chicken (P220), an “exquisite dish,” seemed to be simple—chicken chopped, fried and smothered with fried spices. It is categorized together with more exotic sounding dishes such as boiled spicy pig’s blood with beef and tripe (P450), spicy crab (P1,800), beef with cumin (P360), preserved pork with bean curd (P320), shredded pork with garlic sauce (P220), salt and pepper shrimp (P380) and stir-fried frog (P380).
Wong Lo Kat tea, a very popular tea on the mainland China, punctuated this meal.
Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine is at 7467 Bagtikan Street, San Antonio, Makati City, with telephone and mobile numbers 831-2271, 0917-6306196 and 0917-8855139.
|Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine along Bagtikan Street|
|Hot and sour cabbage|
|Steamed chili fish head|
|Spicy fried chicken|
Patisserie Bebe Rouge: The Sweetness of East and West
There are few places dedicated to desserts around Metro Manila. In San Antonio, the most prominent is Patisserie Bebe Rouge.
Patisserie Bebe Rouge used to be stall inside the New Hatchin, a Japanese grocery store at the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Sacred Heart Street. Now, it is a full-fledged patisserie opened in December 9, 2012, beside its former home, all white and pink and dainty like a cake.
One of San Antonio’s premier bakeshops, it is owned, managed and operated by 32-year-old Japanese Atsushi, who looks like a member of an Asian boy band, and his wife Jun, both trained as pastry chefs in France.
They have an impressive selection of pastries, mostly French with smattering of Japanese. They also sell breads, cookies and chocolates. There are some nerikiri, smooth ball of sweet bean paste, and mochi, most favorite among sweets.
The noticeable fusion effort is the matcha-flavored pastries like the matcha roll although there is no matcha-flavored Madeleine and macarons yet, which can be very interesting. And there is the daintiness or cuteness characteristic of many things Japanese.
The macarons surprise with fruit jelly in the middle but the bestseller is the heavenly strawberry shortcake with a fluffy icing and sweet strawberry filling. Strawberry shortcake with a sponge cake base is, by the way, popular in Japan, especially during Christmas. Coffee and special tea blends are also offered to go with your sweets.
Patisserie Bebe Rouge is at 7602 Sacred Heart Street corner Metropolitan Avenue, San Antonio, Makati City, with telephone number (+63 2) 897-7207, mobile number 0917-5607298 and fax number (+63 2) 897-7209.
|A sampler of strawberry shortcake, macarons, Opera Cake and matcha roll.|
The Avida Food Hunt
These restaurants are part of the Avida Food Hunt series, organized by Avida Land, Ayala Land’s mid-level real estate development brand, to promote its newest project Avida Towers Asten, which is located in the barangay of San Antonio.
Recently kicked off, the Avida Food Hunt is a food expedition series wherein participants get to sample dishes and other foods of interesting outlets around or near an Avida development. The included restaurants remain a secret, and the mystery and discovery are part of the fun.
Food writer and chef JJ Yulo leads this gastronomical adventure. Also an organizer of food event organizer, he previously hosted a similar event at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City called BGC Eats.
“I like this tour because it highlights places in cities that are neighborhoods, and those are what I want to champion these days,” Yulo remarks. “I want to champion neighborhood restaurants. Para maiba naman from the malls.”
Avida marketing head Tess Tatco explains this venture: “We are doing the Avida Food Hunt because we want people to realize that Avida developments provide comfort and convenience to their residents. They are communities where everything is near, access to good life and great food and restaurants are all in the vicinity of an Avida home.”
Avida Land’s third and newest project in Makati City, which has Avida Towers San Lorenzo and Avida Towers Makati West, Avida Towers Asten, a high-rise residential development along Yakal Street in San Antonio,is envisioned to have a mix of retail and dining options catering to mostly yuppies. Its name, Asten, which is Dutch for “to affect,” tells of its aspiration of providing residents “with a different zeal and zest for life.”
Launched in the third quarter of 2013, Avida Towers Asten’s target turnover for Tower 1, of the projected three residential condominium towers, is the third quarter of 2017. Prices of most units are P2.3 million for 22.54-square meter studio; P4.1 million for 38.54-square meter one-bedroom; P6.7 million for 61.84-square meter two-bedroom; about P11 million for 97.45-square meter two-bedroom bi-level; and about P12.8 million for 114.72-square meter two-bedroom bi-level.
To know about Avida Land and the Avida Food Hunt, visit Avida Land’s Facebook page (avidalandph) or Avida Showroom Glorietta at the second floor, Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati City.