Getting Lost In The Right Direction

Your unexpected detour could lead to unexpected moments of beauty that otherwise you would have missed” 

This is how I would summarize my thought after I and my friend-colleagues has gone to Laiya, San Juan in the province of Batangas to scout for a venue for our upcoming company’s post-summer outing.

We basically checked-out, visited and inquired almost all of the major sea-side vacation lands in the area but in each of the resorts we visited there seem to be something lacking.  We have gone to seven leading resorts yet we still were not one in deciding which to choose.  This until, we decided to get lost and do a little detour before heading back to Manila.

And here is what we found!      

It really feels good to be lost in the right direction…

Ameysing!

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Tastes of Asahikawa

One unusual thing that I and my colleagues did in our most recent trip to Japan is that we decided to stay in a minimally advertised destination in Hokkaido.  Instead of staying in a more popular Sapporo or Furano, we decided to stay for 2 nights in a remote place called Asahikawa. 

And since there are limited tourist spots to go to (aside from going to a mall and a zoo), I and my colleagues decided to explore Asahikawa through its food.  Our first destination was the ramen house our hotel has recommended, the Ichikura Raman. 

with the asahikawa gang just outside ichikura raman (edwin, malou, gie and dominic) 
surprisingly clear to the palate yet with a distinct flavor of a ramen

 Since Isahikawa seem to be popular with shoyu-based ramen (shoyu: Japanese soy sauce), I settled and ordered the Okhotsk Shoyu Ramen.  This ramen according to the menu is composed with unique Hokkaido ingredients like Namuro dried salmon flakes, Esashi dried herring and Rishiri kelp from Oumu.  I was really happy that Ichikura Raman was the ramen place our hotel has recommended.  And aside from their ramen, one surprising dish in this joint was their Gyoza.  It was one of the best gyozas that I have tasted!

A lot of people say that it would be a sin for a tourist in Hokkaido if he/she failed or refuse to try the Hokkaido ice cream.  This soft frozen dairy is one plain ice cream that is simply made of milk.  It has no fancy flavor, no fancy add-ons and no fancy flairs for an ice cream.  For me, its plainness makes Hokkaido ice cream remarkably exquisite and amazingly elegant. 

happy crew handing me my creamy ice cream 
savoring every moment of yummy-ness!

Then, one of the highlights of our Asahikawa stay was the dinner at Jingisukan Daikokuya.  This restaurant is the top rated local-cuisine restaurant in Asahikawa as per Tripadvisor.  It is so popular people would have to wait and queue outside before they be given a table.  Specialty of the house was Hokkaido’s grill icon called Genghis Khan (also termed Jingisukan).

Like their sophisticated ice cream, Jingisukan is a must try in Hokkaido.  It is a unique style of yakiniku in which mutton and lamb are grilled on a convex skillet shaped like an upside-down bowl.  Since the meat are grilled over charcoal, we were surprised to see and experience the amount of smoke inside the popular restaurant.  We nevertheless did not complain because the smoke actually added up to the character and atmosphere of the establishment. 

outside the resto, waiting for our turn

 

an asahikawa highlight

I personally prefer beef over lamb, but the marinated flavor and the stunning taste of the meat served to us gave me some second thought if I really do prefer beef over lamb. Genghis Khan was strikingly delicious!

Asahikawa may not be of the same level as that of Osaka, Tokyo or Sapporo where there are tons to see and marvel at.  Asahikawa nevertheless has loads of gustatory surprises that tourists can taste and talk about.

Para maiba naman!

Farm Tomita in Furano

Last week was my second visit to the beautiful Hokkaido, the second largest island in Japan.  I never recognized this place as compared to how it looked when I was here the first time.  The beauty, appeal and character of Hokkaido is totally different during the winter season.  Since it is summer, my second visit felt like it was my first.

I personally prefer Hokkaido during the winter months.  Maybe it is because I have so much summer here in the Philippines.  It is basically like 365 days of summer in my tropical country. 

And since it is summer, I and my companions took the opportunity to visit the Farm Tomita’s lavender fields in Furano.  Try smelling the flowers in these photos…       

Ambango…

Fast Fantastic Food at Estero

Last Sunday, I woke up wanting to go to Ongpin, the Chinese Capital of the Philippines.  As soon as I opened my eyes after a long and quiet sleep, my katawang lupa (flesh and corporeal being) just suddenly crave for the look, the noise and the smell of Ongpin. 

Thanks to super friend Willie, he accompanied me and made my silly craving a reality.  My longing was really plain and unchallenging.  I just wanted to walk the super busy street of Ongpin, buy a snack and then leave.  But thank goodness I was with itinerant Willie because he knows a very good eatery in this old and hoary part of Manila.

We dined at what is known as Estero.  It is a non-air-conditioned diner that is right beside a creek and a tidal channel used as drainage canal in the overly populated area of Manila. I was at first so tentative and doubtful about the place.  But when the gentle lady manning the eatery approached us and handed the menu, I knew that I was into some exciting gastronomic adventure. 

estero (if I was the owner, i would call it “estuary” para sosyal)
classic yang chow rice and the surprisingly good hototay soup!
joyous version of their mung bean sprouts
buttered chicken is love
happy tummy!

Estero is tagged as a fast food on the internet but it is unlike the usual fast food that items were pre-prepared and placed on a heater display.  Estero food are only cooked upon ordering.  Maybe the reason why it is called fast food is because the kitchen is equipped with high pressure burners and the cooks prepare their dishes so fast.  In a haste, the server was already serving our freshly cooked Hototay and the surprisingly crunchy Stir-Fried Mung Bean Sprouts.

Aside from the very good food, Estero’s price was surprisingly cheap.  Total bill of all the fantastic dishes we ordered was roughly around 8 (US) dollars.

Yam yam!

The Food at Apartment 1B

A friend learned that I dined at Apartment 1B of The Henry Hotel and suspected that the food must have been no good that is why I did not write or post about it in this blog.  But since now that I am writing about it, it only means that I indeed enjoyed the food that they served us.

The selfish in me actually wanted the restaurant of The Henry Hotel to be a secret, but since friends learned that I dined there with Nengkoy and family, might as well spill the sumptuous beans! 

apartment 1b got some delicious secret…
beef burger with australian cheddar cheese and bacon
whole wheat spaghetti with grilled veggies (my personal favorite)
baby back ribs with honey bourbon sauce
croque madame! 
main course number 1: white toblerone cheesecake with rapberry coulis
main course number 2: carrot cake 
with nengkoy (of course)

I have nothing bad to say about the warm service, the appealing food and the relaxing ambiance.  The food at Henry Hotel actually was a big positive surprise!  I never expected it to be so good.  Their well-presented dishes were amazingly fine and delicious.

I have nothing but alluring and charming praises for the food served at Apartment 1B.  I will surely be back!

Angcharap!

A Rare Retail Experience in Pasay

I grew up in one of the most notorious and crime infested cities of the world, Pasay City.  The gang-infested town of New York, the dynamic human trafficking in Belize and the exploits of crime at the favelas of Brazil seem all so tame and subdued if to be compared to the felonies and transgressions that occur in my home city.

That is why I was so surprised to find out that right in the middle of dangerous Pasay, runs a rare and unusual Honesty Shop.  Honesty stores and shops (unmanned establishments in which the stores cash sales are relied upon the honesty of its patrons) thrives in some of the most nonviolent, remote and/or progressive spots in the world.  In fairness, there are actually 2 stores that I know that runs an honesty shop here in the Philippines, one is at the remote and peaceful province of Batanes while the other one is at the high-end and affluent university here in the Philippines. 

henry hotel

Enough with the topic diversion!  The store in Pasay that I am talking about is Honest Henry, an  honesty shop inside a compound where Henry Hotel is located.  I found this place when I and my family was about to have a hearty lunch inside Henry Hotel. 

nephew luis checking out the stuff inside the store 
proudly philippine made! 
stuff for sale!
this is how you do it!

The even rarer fact about this store is that it is not just selling cheap snacks and knickknacks.  It is selling locally-made pricey-looking crafts and souvenirs.  I was so surprised when I was checking all the merchandise!  Those were not cheap, shoddy and substandard! 

Honesty Shop at Henry Hotel was something so pleasing and refreshing for Pasay City.  It gives me the positive feeling and perspective that there still exists some glimmer of hope to the city where I grew up.

Anesti is the best palisi…

A Vlogging Suggestion: Try Knock Out Kare Kare

Vloggers and bloggers living comfy life outside the Philippines but has been here in my country seem so fascinated with Jollibee, the number one fast food chain here in the Philippines. Every foreigner who’s been here in the Philippines never seem to fail to chronicle their first Jollibee Chickenjoy or Yumburger experience. Youtube videos of vloggers trying Jollibee for the first time are so plenty, it makes me bored.

the true and not so happy chickenjoy


Every foreigner seem so entranced as if their visit, adventure and experience here in the Philippines would not be complete if they fail to dine at Jollibee. These foreigners don’t realize (I guess until they have tasted Chickenjoy) that there really is nothing unique and extraordinary with the palatal offering of this fastfood staple. Kudos to the powers of Jollibee’s advertising campaign and marketing team.

knockout kare-kare!

I really have nothing against the giant Jollibee, except for the worst form of spaghetti that they sell, but for me foreign bloggers and vloggers alike who plans to come and visit, should instead try for themselves a dish that is truly Filipino. It is named Knock-Out Kare-Kare.
Why then am I suggesting it?
First is because Knock-Out Kare-Kare is a fusion of two popular and authentic Filipino dishes, the Krispy Pata (deep fried pig trotters and knuckles) and the Kare-Kare (Philippine oxtail and ox tripe stew in thick savory peanut sauce). Therefore, having this dish is like experiencing two Filipino gastronomic experiences rolled into one.
Second is because Knock-Out Kare-Kare is not as creepy as that of the popular Balut or Dinuguan. A lot of foreigners have considered Filipino cuisine to be so fierce and ferocious. This is because of the scary Balut and the vicious looking Dinuguan. But in Knock-Out Kare-Kare, there really is nothing to be terrified about. The golden-brown crispy skin of the Crispy Pata teases you with the promise of juicy meat within. While the aroma and smoothness of the peanut sauce and vegetables of the Kare-Kare adds up to the anticipation that there is nothing to be scared about regarding the usually vicious Filipino cuisine.
Third, this amazing fusion and mingling of 2 Filipino dishes can be found in Abe, the leading Filipino restaurant here in the Philippines. I know Jollibee is all around the Philippines in which there really is no challenge at all on locating one, but the travel experience of trying to locate and finding your way to the best local restaurant of a country really adds up to some travel adventure in a foreign country. The experience is like being an Australian trying to locate the best Turkish restaurant in Turkey or a Japanese tourist trying to trace the location of the best Italian restaurant in Italy.
As of now, let me message all foreign tourists, vloggers and bloggers that chronicling your Jollibee experience is a tired format and exhausted routine. Try something more interesting and really more Pinoy. Try Knock Out Kare Kare for it will surely knock your wits off!
Aba’y deserbing!