Who would have imagined that living in a condo would be such a gustatory adventure? Claire Agbayani walks us through her smorgasbord of yummy options..
Time was when I used to rush home to prepare dinner or sample my son’s exotic cooking (read: with mysterious ingredients); or wake up earlier to prepare the simplest of meals to break our fast each morning. Nowadays, all we have to do is prepare for work and school, and take a pick from items in the menu of any of the five restaurants in our condo.
Our favorite place for breakfast is Muffinmall which, I heard, started out as a store of baked goodies. Mufinmall exemplifies the favorite mantra of real estate agents and business people: “Location. Location. Location.” By virtue of its strategic site – which is right next to the main entrance of the condo – the joint appears to get the lion’s share of customers, attracting even the building’s non-residents.
We usually start the day with a banana, which costs only P6 a piece. It’s always two orders of siomai and a cup of plain rice for my siomai monster of a son, and very crispy ayungin (somewhat like danggit), or bacarra longganisa with half a cup of rice and tomatoes on the side for me. We swore off fried or scrambled egg months ago to keep off “cholesterol damage” – although egg is always part of the breakfast package that includes either coffee or hot tea.
Other times, we take breakfast at the restaurant called Chicken and Spice, whose edge over Muffinmall is its homey/cozy interiors proudly done by its proprietor, 24 year-old Kate Conda, with the help of her friend Vincent Reyes. Our favorite breakfast fares there are Spanish sardines and Hungarian sausage (P50 each). We’re glad that this restaurant knows “mustard” and serves it whenever we ask for it. While very tempting brewed coffee goes with the meal, I usually opt for an extra order of a pot of “forest fruit” hot tea. My son prefers earl grey. Diners should be happy to know that whatever is served to them at Chicken and Spice was bought and cooked on the same day.
Throughout the day, both Muffinmall and Chicken and Spice serve mostly lutong bahay Filipino dishes, which include paksiw na bangus, sinigang na hipon, tilapia sa gata, as well as a whole range of meat, chicken and seafood dishes. Both establishments serve salads, sandwiches, noodles, fruits and desserts.
Since the clientele of both are mostly students and professionals, Muffinmall regulars always share (more like beat each other to reading) the sole copy of the issue of Philippine Star for the day; while Chicken and Spice regulars get to read back issues of both local and foreign magazines. What’s so strange is these people could actually afford to buy their own newspapers. Maybe the owner should think of getting other newspapers as well?
Lunch and dinner for us is usually at Kor Canteen – a Korean restaurant which serves (what else but) Korean dishes such as Beef Gimbap (somewhat like beef sushi), RaBokgi, Odentang (fish paste) which come with several side dishes such as seaweed soup (hot or cold), kimchi, radish, odeng, etc.
The bulk of the clientele of this restaurant are Korean tourists who normally arrive in the country from November to January, and from May- July, says Kor Canteen owner Mechella Maeng, 29, a tour guide. Since the cost of the food items (P100-P200) could be quite prohibitive for students on allowance, most of the Pinoys who eat at the restaurant now also have the option to order from a limited Filipino menu: menudo, pinakbet and hotsilog costing only P60, and are served with two side dishes. What makes it a joy to go to the Kor Canteen is the very friendly Pinoy staff.
It takes extraordinary patience, and you have to be armed with a cellphone, a wireless landline, a book, or lots of magazines, but the dishes are well worth the wait at Café Venia, a restaurant that serves an a la carte menu personally prepared – from scratch – by pilot turned-chef Venice Ramirez.
The amazing range of food includes Filipino, Cantonese, Japanese, Continental and even Mediterranean cuisines – definitely international for a reasonable P65-P85 per dish, and shakes costing P35. Since the food is prepared as it is ordered, expect to smell like the dish you ordered. Make sure that you are not going anywhere else after dining here. All restaurants serve lunch and dinner, and Muffinmall even has an executive meal, which includes a small dessert (usually a brownie), a side dish (like veggies) and iced tea. Of course, after a while, you tire of the food if you keep eating the same dishes over and over. Good thing we have some more options.
If and when we want even more variety, and our hunger pangs cannot be satisfied with just siomai, noodles or hotdogs from the 7-11 downstairs, there’s always a mall nearby with restaurants like Ning Yam, Hap Chang, Nena’s and Ten Noodles. There’s also an inexpensive deli at a hotel nearby, where we can buy a loaf of French or rye bread or several croissants, and assorted sausages, and get to eat the bread and sausages right there at the deli. If money is tight, the student or young professional could always buy goods at Shopwise. There are also a lot of options right outside the condo from street hawkers: fresh buko, shawarma, fishballs/ squid balls / quekiam, guapples, watermelon, plus a whole range of fruits.
We still dream of someday moving to a bigger condo unit – preferably with two or three bedrooms (a rarity, we found out only of late, as these are few and hard to come by this side of town), so we could go back to whipping up our favorite “exotic” dishes
– and sprinkle spices liberally on our concoctions. But for now, the non-existence of a real kitchen has made us “gourmands”
– thrilled at the prospect of tasting masterpieces – culinary delights prepared by other “masters.”