Monday, July 21, 2014

Dinner at Your Doorsteps: Foodpanda Online Food Ordering Marketplace sets foot in the Philippines

Eating out in a good restaurant can be an adventurous experience and cooking is a fulfilling activity, but these eat up a lot of time. And with our increasingly hectic schedules, time has become a luxury. We have to relegate dining out and cooking to, say, weekends or whenever we can spare some time. Yet we have to eat everyday. If there is no time to cook or eat out, or you are too lazy to, there is one solution—have food delivered to you.
In this increasingly connected world, food delivery can be made by logging in the Internet and by using the mobile phone. This is the service offered by Foodpanda, the online and mobile food ordering service recently introduced in the Philippines.
Foodpanda is part of the German e-commerce venture capital firm Rocket Internet. The company is already active in the Philippines, having launched the brands Zalora and Lazada online retailers. This time, Rocket Internet is trying to capture the online food delivery market with Foodpanda, which began in May 2012.
Together with its affiliated brand Hellofood, which is present in 19 countries in Latin America, Middle East and Africa, Foodpanda is headquartered in Berlin, Germany, with operations in 42 countries. Hellofood and Foodpanda, which are present in 23 countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, have partnerships with more than 22,000 restaurants. Here in the Philippines, Foodpanda has about 500 partnerships with restaurants in the National Capital Region. It is aggressively working to increase that number, as well as expand its presence outside Metro Manila.
“The Philippines has a vibrant food culture, and we are thrilled to be part of it,” said Ralf Wenzel, the global chief executive officer and co-founder of Foodpanda. “We have big plans and look forward to providing our customers with the best food ordering service.”
On the other hand, Jasper Heyden, the managing director of operations in the Philippines, said, “With all this enthusiasm for food here, I am excited to start Foodpanda in the Philippines. The feedback we received from partner restaurants and first clients really shows the huge opportunities in this country.”
Foodpanda’s chief operating officer Felix Plog, who flew in the country in early June for the launch, explained Foodpanda is “basically a restaurant listing site. We try to aggregate the best restaurants in your city. We make transparent what users are really experiencing in those restaurants. Is he having a good experience? Is the food delivered on time? All these you will be able to see in the review section… So if you make up your minds on what to order tonight, you can precisely see what restaurants in your area are delivering to your doorstep.”
Many Filipinos still order food via landline telephone, and it will take some time before they switch to ordering food online. According to Plog, they are trying to wean them away from the telephone.
“It's all about fighting the telephone. The telephone is our enemy,” he said. “So some of you, guys, may be ordering by the phone. It's something from the Stone Age. So please move to the mobile app. Please move to the Web site and order. It's much more convenient. It's much more techie. It's much nicer. It's like trying to win customers from phone ordering but I think by the end of the day we can offer them much better user experience. For example, you can reorder with a click of a button. You don't have to hang in the line, waiting for the restaurant to pick up. You just open the app, push the buttons and then you're done. It's much easier.”
Foodpanda can be accessed through and the mobile application, which available for free on iPhone, Android, Nokia and Blackberry. It boasts of the easy-to-navigate online menus and the intuitive design. After entering one’s address or letting GPS determine one's position, all the delivering restaurants and cuisines in the area are displayed. Customers can select the dishes they want, and Foodpanda will relay the information to the restaurants, which will then deliver the food to the customers. The site can remember a customer's address, even multiple ones, so there will be no need to retype it every time one orders food. Orders can also be saved online if one wants to order the same foods. The mobile app can filter restaurants by location. Foodpanda also has a review section, where one can read comments of other customers.

Visit for more information about services and complete list of partner restaurants. Follow Foodpanda on Instagram (foodpanda_ph) and Facebook for updates and deals.

The Foodpanda Web site

Step 1: Chose your location
Step 2: Chose your favorite restaurant
Step 3: Chose your favorite item on the menu

Step 4: Chose your favorite item on the menu
Step 5: Finalize your order

Step 6: Check out

Friday, July 18, 2014

Is Tim Ho Wan Worth Lining Up For?

The Tim Ho Wan restaurant at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City
 It is better to go in the mid-afternoon, about three to four o’clock, advises the waitress. This is to avoid the long line of diners trying to get into the newest dining sensation in the country—Tim Ho Wan. Since it opened in May 20 this year, queues still haven’t shown signs of abating especially during lunch and dinner times.
Because of the demand, its owners are imposing strict rules. For example, all members of a dining group must be present all throughout the queue to be seated and served. They don’t accept reservations. You can only order as much for yourself, especially for the baked bun with barbecue pork, their most acclaimed item. You cannot order 20 pieces all for yourself. You are allowed one order, which has three pieces for P145, I was told. You can’t order to go but you can have what you didn’t finish wrapped. Yes, they don’t have a delivery service.
The first Philippine branch at the first floor of the SM Mega Fashion Hall of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City can accommodate about 200 people, but the dining area can get cramped quickly and the seats are not really comfortable. These may be a way of telling you not to linger and lounge too much because there are still people waiting. The place is for quick bites and then you must be on your way. We haven’t seen this demand and strictures on dining before, and arguably it is deserved.
Tim Ho Wan, which began as a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Hong Kong, is the world’s most affordable Michelin-star restaurant. It was established by Hong Kong chef Mak Kwai Pui, who started at the age of 15 as an apprentice for his uncle at a small Hong Kong restaurant, where he learned to make dim sum. After working in hotels such as Le Meridian and Four Seasons, he set up his first restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, a humble place with 15 seats, in 2009, on Kwong Wa Street in Mong Kok. The name literally means “add good luck.” Soon, it saw long lines of diners. Within the year it started, his restaurant earned a Michelin star in the 2010 Hong Kong and Macau Michelin guide, alongside expensive fine-dining restaurants. 

Tim Ho Wan founder, chef Mak Kwai Pui (left), visits the SM Megamall branch with chef Leung
 Tim Ho Wan is praised for its dim sums, made with high quality but sold at affordable prices. The success of the restaurant led to three more outlets: at North Point, IFC Mall and Sham Shui Po. The original outlet in Mong Kok has been relocated to Olympian City. In 2013, the first overseas outlet was opened in Singapore—at the ground floor of The Atrium@Orchard, Plaza Singapura, a popular shopping mall—in partnership with brand manager and service provider Hersing Corporation. Three more branches were opened: at Bedok Mall on New Upper Changi Road, Westgate in Jurong East, and Toa Payoh Hersing Centre.
With the Singaporean master franchise owner, Tim Ho Wan was brought to the Philippines through a partnership between Rikki Dee and Felix Ang of Cats Motors. Dee already owns a string of restaurants such as Mesa Filipino Moderne, Ebun, Mangan, Chin’s Express, Inihaw Express, Cerveceria, Isogi and Kai. Recently, he brought the Todd English Food Hall to the country.
Together with Singaporean master franchise owners Peggy Chua, Robert Chua and Brian Chua, founder Chef Mak visited the Philippine branch on June 17 and was overwhelmed by the warm reception.
Dee is eyeing to open four restaurants within the year. Already, the outlets at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, and at the Glorietta Mall in Makati City are under construction. The menu is the same as those in Hong Kong and Singapore. Soon, the Philippine branch will also be serving bimonthly specials, new dishes featured every two months. To ensure the restaurant’s quality and standards are kept, Hong Kong chefs were brought in and are training Filipino chefs.
The menu basically has 25 short-order dishes, mostly dim sums. The specialties are called the Big 4 Heavenly Kings, which consist of the baked bun with barbecue pork, pan-friend carrot cake (P145), steamed egg cake (P85) and vermicelli roll with pig’s liver (P150).

The baked buns with barbecued pork are their most popular and acclaimed item—saucy, crumbly, sweet
The glutinous rice in lotus leaf, which we commonly call machang, is a complete meal in itself.
The pork dumplings are compact and tasty
The delicious prawn dumplings with plump and juicy pieces of prawns inside
The dumplings Teochew style contain crunchy vegetables
The delightful and crunchy wasabi salad prawn dumpling
Vermicelli roll with pig’s liver
Pan fried Carrot cake
Steamed egg cake
Tonic medlar and osmanthus cake
The reputation of its savory pork buns is well deserved. The golden yellow buns have crumbly and fragile pastry shells that break open to reveal savory-sweet and saucy barbecued pork. It is recommended that it should be consumed within 10 minutes or else the buns loses about 50 percent of its deliciousness, according to Chef Mak. The buns may be too sweet for some.
The steamed egg cake is soft custard with a crunchy caramel coating, while the pan-fried carrot cake tastes like the regular radish cake. Liver lovers will revel over the vermicelli roll with pig’s liver, with a slice of liver wrapped in silky vermicelli. The vermicelli roll also comes with other fillings—barbecued pork, beef and shrimp—and one doused in sweet sesame sauce.
Steamed dim sums include prawn dumplings (P160), pork dumplings (P150), pork rib with black bean sauce (P120), beef ball with bean curd skin (P120), bean curd skin roll with pork and shrimp (P120), dumpling Teochew style (P120) and spinach dumpling with shrimp (P120), all served in bamboo steamers.
These are very enjoyable and tasty, even without the sauce. The prawns are plump and juicy, wrapped in silky glutinous rice, and the pork dumpling is compact and flavorful. The last time I had dim sum this good was at the crowded original restaurant of Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan, a must for every visitor in the island state. While their much acclaimed xiao long bao, soup dumpling, is incomparable, Tim Ho Wan’s meat-filled dumplings are better.
Tim Ho Wan also serves fried dim sums—bean curd skin roll with shrimp (P140), spring roll with egg white (P120), and wasabi salad prawn dumpling (P140). The last one is most recommended—a crunchy delight spiked by a drizzle of wasabi mayo.
Rice dishes include rice with beef and fried egg (P180); rice with chicken, sausage and mushroom (P170); and glutinous rice in lotus leaf (P190), which we commonly call machang. The glutinous rice is meaty and saucy, a complete meal in itself.
Though it looks simple, the congee with lean pork, century egg and salted egg is surprisingly likable, a comfort food that is so egg-y and with a perfect texture. It leaves a memory of flavors that stays far long after you have dined, making you realize how delicious they were. If you have the patience to queue, yes, you should try Tim Ho Wan. 
Rikki Dee, Chef Leung, Chef Mak, Peggy Chua, Robert Chua and Brian Chua
Kelvin Khoo, Johnson Chan, Chef Mak, Brian Chua, Rikki Dee, Peggy Chua and Robert Chua
Chef Leung, Chef Mak, Chef Leung and Chef Fung
Robert Chua, Chef Leung, Chef Mak, Rikki Dee, Chef Leung, Chef Fung and Brian Chua
Chef Teddy, Chef Leung, Chef Mak, Chef Leung, Chef Fung and Chef Yip
From left: Felix Ang, Brian Chua, Chef Mak, Chef Leung, Hirubalan, Carol Sy, Chef Fung, Chef Leung and Robert Chua
Felix Ang, Grace Ang, Mrs. Leung, Arlene Chan, Johnson Chan, Chef Teddy, Chef Yip, Robert Chua, Chef Leung, Chef Mak, Mrs. Mak, Peggy Chua, Beng Dee, Chef Fung, Chef Leung, Kelvin Khoo, Bryan Lim, Brian Chua and Rikki Dee

Monday, July 07, 2014

Staying in Quezon City: Luxent Hotel Stands Out with Classy Service and Affordable Rates

Luxent Hotel's Garden Cafe is a dining destination
Once a quiet neighborhood, the area of Tomas Morato and Timog avenues in the barangay of South Triangle, Quezon City, has become a dynamic night strip peppered with interesting food joints and a burgeoning business hub punctuated by two giant television networks. The sprouting of hotels, ranging from budget to four-star, is not surprising.
Aside from the bars and restaurants encrusting the area, these hotels offer easy access to several government offices; malls such as TriNoma and SM City North Edsa; the UP Techno Hub; sites such as the La Mesa Eco Park and La Mesa Nature Reserve, the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center and the Quezon Memorial Circle; and major schools such as the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University.
Among the hotels such as Tune Hotel, Sequoia Hotel, Imperial Palace Suites, Hotel Rembrandt, La Breza Hotel, Palm Plaza Hotel, Torre Venezia and Cocoon Hotel that dot the area, the 16-story Luxent Hotel, along Timog Avenue, near the 11th World Scout Jamboree Memorial, stand out with an elegant and modern façade. At night, it sparkles like a jewel. The hotel opened in July 2012 and is fast becoming a favored place not only for events, but to stay, dine and relax.

Comfy Stay
For a hotel of its kind, Luxent has 117 well-appointed guestrooms that are refreshingly spacious with bathrooms that are equally roomy. The Deluxe King (with one king bed) and Superior Queen (with two queen beds) rooms have a floor space of about 39 square meters each. A host of amenities LCD flat-screen television with cable and DVD player, Wi-Fi Internet connection, in-room safety deposit box, mini bar, complimentary coffee or tea, complimentary bottled water, complimentary daily newspaper, individual climate control air-conditioner, hair dryer and vanity mirror assure a pleasant stay.
Additionally, Luxent has seven Executive Suites. With 50 square meters, each has a separate living room and pantry, and provided with an espresso machine. For a luxurious stay, the hotel proffers the Luxent Suite with a total floor space of 161 square meters, boasting of a complete dining space, two masters bedrooms and a Jacuzzi, among others. At the topmost floor, the suite is luxurious with a panoramic view of the city, according to general manager Melanie Siy-Pagkalinawan.

Luxent Hotel's room

Business and leisure
Luxent Hotel has a range of business and recreational facilities, making it advantageous for business travelers. A newly-opened business center caters to numerous needs. Two conference rooms are available for meetings and small seminars. The bigger Seasons Ballroom, which is high-ceilinged and pillar-less, can be divided into four function rooms. Actually, the hotel is a favorite venue for wedding receptions and other big celebrations, which make use of the ballroom that can accommodate about 300 to 400 people.
Aside from business people, Pagkalinawan reveals that they also get families, especially during the weekends. Most relax and bond at the hotels infinity and kiddie pool at the sixth level, which has a beautiful view of the city.
Additionally, near the pool is the AquaTrim Fitness Center for the fitness needs of guests. On the other hand, Reluxe Spa, a concessionaire, at the second floor has an array of pampering services. Luxent sales and marketing director Mayette Sagales-Delfin says that the hotel does not limit itself to serving a corporate clientele, but also to a market seeking a place for leisure and relaxation. With the proximity of hospitals and beauty centers, the hotel is also tapping the medical tourism market.
Sagales-Delfin adds that the hotel enjoys robust business all year round, with 70 percent occupancy being their lowest mark. Half of their clientele is foreign, while the other half is domestic.
Infinity pool at the sixth floor
AquaTrim Fitness Center
A Dining Destination
Despite the number of good restaurants in the area, Luxent Hotels dining outlets are gearing to be stiff competitions. At the high-ceilinged lobby, one is greeted by the Lush Bar and Lobby Lounge, where a satisfying array of snacks and pastries, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are being offered. Bread lovers will be delighted by the Bread Indulgence corner, open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., where freshly baked breads are made available everyday. At night, the lounge, which can seat about 30 people, turns into a bar with a live band during weekends, where one can unwind after a busy day.
Next to be lobby lounge is the hotels all-day dining restaurant, Garden Café, under the helm of executive chef Christian Martinez. The restaurant, which can accommodate 94 people, offers Continental and Asian comfort food, with ample choices of salads, soups, sandwiches, flatbreads, entrees, desserts and beverages. Steaks, ribs, chicken, lamb and fish are freshly prepared.
According Sagales-Delfin, the bestsellers are the pancit palabok and the kurobuta belly. But numerous items in the menu are worth a try. The flatbreads are delectable, as well as the pasta dishes. Must-tries are the Filipino dishes, given sophisticated twists but retaining the flavors that we love.
Luxents buffet, which is competitively priced, presents a good spread of international fare. Pagkalinawan admits that the lunch buffet is not as comprehensive as other hotels, but it is well selected, keeping in mind the quality of the foods. The breakfast buffet, however, is rather sumptuous, priced at P999, but they are always on promo offering half that price. The other buffets are priced at about P799. 
Pagkalinawan reveals the restaurant attracts a lot of diners from around the area. The place is usually bustling during weekends. Sagales-Delfin says they receive a lot of positive feedback, others comparing their food with those in five-star hotels.
Aside from the main dining area, Garden Café has two private rooms for meetings and small gatheringsthe VIP 1, which can accommodate 20 people, and the VIP 2, which can hold 50 people.
Ambiance, the quality of the food and the service, according to Pagkalinawan, are what set them apart of other dining places and accommodations in Quezon City.


Bagoong rice

Sinigang ang bulalo

Kurobuta pork belly

Luxent Hotel's Garden Cafe

Luxent Hotel staff with sales and marketing director Mayette Sagales-Delfin, executive chef Christian Martinez and
general manager Melanie Siy-Pagkalinawan.

The Luxent Hotel is located at 51 Timog Avenue, South Triangle, Quezon City. For more information or reservations, call (632) 922-8888, fax at (632) 411-3030, e-mail or visit