At the moment, one of the biggest pleasures I’ll allow myself is eating out once or twice a week in a (hopefully) good place. I’m going to recommend three recent spots to you and then a bit of a personal update perhaps.
The first is a Mexican place that’s some out door tables in a parking lot. I know, that doesn’t sound too appealing, but when I took my wife there last week, she couldn’t stop raving about the place. It’s called Lo De Alberto and owner/chef Balam Nazar is from Mexican City, so when this place advertises itself as the “only authentic taqueria in The Philippines,” it’s probably not worth it to argue.
This was two outdoor stalls in the parking lot at City Golf Plaza in Ortigas doing cheapo local style BBQ. It’s been spruced up quite a bit and it’s actually not a bad place to hang out at after dark. The food and the drinks are really tasty (as I recall, my second time there margaritas were like P150 each but they were running a 2-for-1 special that night). The first time there I had tacos and after the first bite basically just inhaled the rest; a little bit smaller than I expected and I probably could have had two more. My second time I had a burrito, slightly different from the SF Mission-style burritos I’m used to but I’d have no problem ordering that again either.
My first night there, Balam spotted me (I guess I stood out being the only gringo sitting there) and we had a long chat. Everything is made from scratch, including the tortillas. He’s only open from 4 PM to 1 AM because at the beginning when he opened earlier, it was just too hot (even for him!) and there wasn’t enough business to justify it. This being Manila, he has further branches planned and he promised me they’d be enclosed restaurants, open for lunch.
The second is called Makansutra and if you know anything about Singaporean food at all you won’t be surprised when I tell you this is a joint venture between K.F. Seetoh and some local entrepreneurs. It’s a large space inside the SM Mega-Mall, divided up into 12 “food stalls”. I tried the laksa there, with some roti and curry on the side, and I won’t say it’s completely authentic but it’s certainly the closest I’ve found in Manila so far.
The other restaurant to mention has two names – Chotto Matte and Izakaya Sensu. I’ve been to this place in the Net Park Building in BGC three times and plan to keep going back. Not only is everything really good but each time I’ve had a ridiculous amount of food and drink and then been stunned by the low price on the bill.
My last visit, I was there with my wife and her kid. Here’s a rundown of what we had, in no particular order:
aji namerou – a nice play on aji tataki, something I almost always invariably order when it’s available.
(all images are just screen shots from their online menu)
The very Instagram-friendly Sensu roll, which really looks exactly like this when they bring it to your table
Their “dragon roll”
Like the sensu roll, there’s not a lot of fish in this but the picture is accurate and it’s tasty as hell.
A yakitori sampler platter with 7 sticks, each one different
Ebi (shrimp) tempura
Chicken kara-age (sesame-coated fried chicken).
And, given that they pitch themselves as a “highball bar”, four highballs (one with my current fave Bulleit Bourbon) and a can of soda.
All of that for less than P3,600, which means under HK$600 – and our drinks alone would have probably cost that much in Hong Kong.
After we finished there, we walked around the block and grabbed some ice cream at Farmacy, which is owned by the same people behind Wildflour and Pink’s Hot Dogs, and then waited for Uber to come and bring us home.
That night (just five days ago) was an ocean of tranquility in what has otherwise been an extraordinarily stressful couple of weeks. My mother is barely eating, complains of constant pain (despite the fact that her doctor has tried changing her medication and dosage almost every other day) and sometimes just outright refuses to take her medicine. Her erratic sleep schedule means she has no idea of what time of day it is or what day of the week it is and, well, other stuff that I won’t go into.
Physically she will get better. All it will take will be bed rest. But if she was bored in Manila before this happened, now it’s really a crushing blow mentally. She has her good moments but after 16 days the terrible ones still far outnumber the good ones.
At least I can’t complain about the medical care in Manila. We’ve got a doctor who makes house calls. And next week there’s a crew coming to the house complete with some sort of portable x-ray machine so we can see how the healing is going.
I’ve got two helpers in the house now, in no small part because my mother will wake up almost every hour at night and call for the helper to help her. I’m sleeping just a few hours per night myself and rarely eating more than one real meal per day, even though I’m now handling most of the cooking for my mother since the helpers can’t make many things she would eat. They can do peanut butter on a cracker or mix some tuna and mayo; I’m not a great cook but I’ve got a small arsenal of dishes that she kind of enjoys. Roasted chicken breast with some sauteed onions and peppers, linguini with prawns, stir-fried beef with broccoli, things like that.
Also … okay I hadn’t written about this previously … my wife had moved back to Hong Kong two months ago to work, she was making literally ten times more than she would have made here from the jobs that turned her down due to her age (as in, ‘over 30’). She came back last week to see firsthand what was happening and the result was that she’s returned to Hong Kong, quit her job and is moving back here again to take charge of my mother’s recovery. Aside from me, she’s the only one who won’t take no for an answer from my mother when it’s time to take a pill or eat even a minimal amount of food. (Also she’s a much better cook – and she’ll get me back to a more normal eating and sleeping schedule.)
It’s well after 3 AM now. I should have been asleep long ago. I’m going to get in bed with the new Springsteen autobiography and hope that sleep finds me at some point.