Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Are You Ready to Order?

My wife Lydia and I celebrated 39th wedding anniversary this past Saturday by treating ourselves to dinner at a fine dining establishment. Now as I mentioned in my original post ("An Expat's Perspective on Life in The Philippines" Part 2, Aug. 7, 2008) eating out can be a dicey proposition due to many restaurant owners' indifference to and lax enforcement of health regulations. Then there's also the 22% surcharge to the check (12% VAT and 10% service charge) to contend with.

Still, it's good to get out once in while and let someone else do the cooking, even if it's uncertain what's going on in the kitchen. Just patronize well known restaurants that appear clean and that value repeat business. Based on these criteria, here are a few establishments in the Metro-Manila area where we've have had positive experiences.

For all you meat lovers, there's Gulliver's Restaurant located in the Great Eastern Hotel, on Quezon Ave. in Quezon City : This establishment is part of a chain based in California, and there is another branch in Makati City. Gulliver's specialty is prime rib, a dinner for which is a prix fixe and includes several side dishes. For two people the tab for this selection including drinks, VAT and service charge is about Php2,200. For a table with a view, reservations are recommended; phone 371-8282 (Quezon City) and 898-2888 (Makati City).

A very popular fast food restaurant, also a chain operation is Jollibee, which is based in the Philippines with many branches throughout the country and a few in the U.S. as well. Jollibee has a wide selection of dishes, including the hamburgers, fries, chicken, as well as native dishes of course. I especially like their breakfasts, such as crispy bangus (fish), which comes with rice, egg, and a beverage of your choice (Php74). Another good morning order is pancakes with beverage included (Php 42).

No review of restaurants in the Philippines would be complete without mentioning at least one Chinese restaurant. One of my favorites is China Bistro located on C-5 across from Eastwood Ave in Quezon City. This place has an unusual setting: a section of an office building lobby. But don't let this anomaly interfere with your enjoyment of their large menu of tasty and authentic selections such as sweet and sour pork, beef with asparagus, and frog legs. One delicious beverage that that I had there and which I haven't found anywhere else is sugar cane juice. Dinner for two including three ala carte dishes and drinks: about Php 1,500. Reservations not required for a small group, but it's probably best best to do so for a party of 6 or more; phone 6310556

(Note: do not confuse China Bistro with nearby Shanghai Bistro in Eastwood City. The latter is more well known but their food is not nearly as good. Further, Shanghai Bistro is more expensive, and their service is lousy).

Back to our anniversary celebration: We dined at 22 Prime, located in the Discovery Suites Hotel in Pasig City. This restaurant which is located right across the street from the Podium takes its name from its location on the top (22nd) floor of the building, and its culinary emphasis on quality meat dishes. Our prix fixe prime rib dinners included potatoes and vegetables. The side dishes are soup, bread with three different dips, a salad bar, and dessert. A word about salad bars: Normally, that is something in which I have no interest as they are usually IMO very dull. However, the salad bar at 22 Prime is unique. It's really more of a selection of delicacies , including shrimps, grapes, egg plant, and dates, just to name a few. By themselves, the choices that I mentioned sound ordinary, but they're all prepared in a special way and are delicious. By the time our main course arrived, we were both already full and wound up taking half our meal home. The only blot on the experience is that it turns out our take home portion was missing the leftover potatoes, which we had specifically ordered to be included. Prime rib dinner for two including VAT and service charge (drinks excluded) totals about Php 2,200. For a table with a view, reservations recommended; phone 683-8222.

Some people eat to live; other live to eat. As I mentioned in "An Expat's Perspective, the latter choice is very much a part of Philippine culture, and there are restaurants in Metro-Manila to suit almost any taste and budget. I can't overemphasize the need to be prudent about dining out here, and what you see in the dining area aesthetics isn't always what you get in the kitchen. Still, if you're lucky enough to select a restaurant in your food choice and price range and that complies with proper food handling and preparation procedures, dining out in the Philippines here can be a rewarding experience.

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