focaccia

I didn’t expect that there are quite a number of good restaurants at A.Venue, because I don’t think a lot of people go there… During a meeting I had, a co-model suggested that we transfer to focaccia. I actually didn’t eat since I was heading to Tsumura after for dinner, but I told myself I was going to come back because the food looked promising. So after spending the day with my son in Makati, I decided to take him there.

The following photos though, were not taken at their branch at A.Venue, but were taken at their branch at The Fort Strip. This was when we availed of their promo at MetroDeal.

First of all, I would like to commend their branch at The Fort Strip for allowing us to use our vouchers there, even if my boyfriend mistakenly selected A. Venue, as to where we will use our vouchers.

For starters,

 

Complimentary Focaccia Bread

We were given a complimentary basket of focaccia bread, with EVOO+balsamic vinegar. It was a good thing that a restaurant named focaccia has good focaccia bread! 😀 It was definitely something to boast about. Their focaccia bread was soft and had a nice crunchy crust, evident of a freshly baked focaccia bread.

 

Prosciutto Tartufo (P460)

Truffled cream sauce with prosciutto & mushroom slices.

I originally wanted to order their Cannelloni al Funghi, but because the waitress said it was not available, we settled for this instead. As soon as our order arrived, we immediately distinguished the lingering scent of truffle. And because of that, I was happy to know that they did not scrimp out on the truffle oil and made the P460 price worth it. The pasta was al dente, the sauce was very rich. In fact, we thought it was too rich because there was too much cream.. I don’t remember if they used fresh button mushrooms, but basing from the photo, I think they didn’t. I wish they could have used more prosciutto too, to cut the richness of the dish. But this was not bad 🙂 There was just too much cream.

Pazza Rollio Maranello (P399)

shrimp, sundried tomato, salami & cheese sauce

What actually piqued my interest to eat here was their Pazzo Rollio–their thinner version of Yellow Cab’s Dear Darla Pizza. It was literally paper thin! And like Yellow Cab’s Dear Darla Pizza, this also came with

Arugula & Alfalfa Sprouts

The pizza was very good 🙂 And though it was paper thin, it was very filling. The stuffing and rolling added that fun factor too 😉

Chicken Pancetta (P280)

Pancetta slices & cheese wrapped in chicken roasted in olive oil served on farfalle noodles.

The breading they used on the chicken was the same breading they use on their Mozzarella Fritta, which I got to try at their A. Venue branch. I prefer crispy breadings, so this didn’t completely satisfy me. However, the boyfriend loved it. Like they say, “Different folks, different strokes.” The portion was generous. The components made the whole dish well-balanced. The farfalle noodles, in itself, were delicious.

I like the ambiance at The Fort Strip better. However, the service at A. Venue was much better.

We had to wait for a looong time at The Fort Strip before our food finally came. I was watching the chefs/ cooks from my seat, and they were moving soooo slow! If Chef Ramsey was there, he probably would’ve whooped their asses 😀 We also didn’t like how the waitress (there were only 2 of them: 1 waiter & 1 waitress) (what to us felt like she) disregarded us when she was chatting loudly with (we assumed to be) her co-workers who were on a day off. Their children were everywhere too! Walking with those squeaky shoes that were ANNOYING AS HELL. That, for me, was what made our experience traumatizing.

Despite the good food, I can’t help but take into consideration the extremely slow service and the inconsiderate staff. And for that, I sadly give focaccia at The Fort Strip a 3 out 5 spoons. However, their branch at A. Venue definitely deserves a 5 out of 5.

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Lusso

A friend of mine sent me this link to Spot.ph’s “Battle Burger”, & I remember seeing Lusso’s Demi-pound Foie Gras Burger ranked as #1. I’m not really a burger person, but when I saw that it had foie gras in it, I just had to try it. So on my & the hubby’s 33rd monthsary, we decided to have dinner there. I had very high expectations on this one, especially after seeing different, rave reviews about it. It was surprising to see that it was just beside Myron’s because I never really noticed it there since it doesn’t have a visible sign.

The place is really small & can only fit a few people, which is probably why they have more seats outside. But then again, with the humidity or hard rains we have in Manila, people would obviously choose to dine inside, unless you:

a. Are a smoker

b. Just want to be seen

c. All of the above.

Pardon me for not being able to take a lot of photos, again :-/ Feel free to drop by Lusso though, if ever you’re at Greenbelt 😉

Their menu was not very extensive, so it was easier for me to pick what I wanted–although we obviously went their for their famous Demi (which means half) Pound Foie Gras Burger.

Let me just start (although I started already ;p) by saying that the place was very elegant. t was well-suited to be placed among the roster of expensive restaurants on the ground floor of the most posh mall in Makati.

Lusso, as you may not know, comes from the word luxe. Everything in that place is screaming luxury! From the rich & tasteful interior, to its impeccable service & outstanding meal price tags. Best to dine there on the 15th or 30th of the month ;p Wink! 😉

 

Check out the chandelier 😉

For our starters, I ordered:

Lusso Truffle Potato Chips (P150)

This really was a no-brainer for me, after seeing “truffle” on the menu 😛 Haha! Me & my addiction to truffle. If they came out with a bag of this commercially, I’d hoard a bunch of it! 😀

For the main event, I ordered:

Lusso Foie Gras Burger (P595)

I like how they placed the fries on top of that spoon-looking container 😛 It made me realize how I didn’t want to share my fries with Dard anymore because of its measley portion! Can you count how many fries there are? 1… 2… 3… 4… 5 🙂 I thought the side salad that came with the burger was irrelevant. It didn’t really enhance the dish as a whole nor did it do anything gastronomically satisfying. I wish they just replaced the salad with more fries. I know, me & my fries. I’m not really a fries person (here I go again…), but that Cambozola (cheese) bath just made it so darn good! I’d like to swim in that bath please 😀 Decadent, dreamy, delightful. The cambozola bath added A LOT to this dish.

Now on to the burger. I was surprised that the bread was crisp. Not your typical burger bun. I prefer my buns to be soft. Lol ;p That didn’t sound right 😀 So I took my first bite & well… Expectations failed. I thought to myself, it was yet another overrated restaurant, who’s reputation spread like wildfire, commended for its luxurious food. But is it really the food that’s worth all the buzz? Or just the glass chandeliers, Malachite mirror & slipper chairs? So what was this much-talked about half-pound burger like? Well, it had a hefty portion, it was perfectly cooked & juicy (literally juice oozing out when you press on it), BUT I thought it could have been more savory. The taste, for me, was mild. The portion of the foie gras encapsulated inside the patty was generous, though I appreciate eating foie gras better by itself or atop something like a slab of steak or a salad.

On the other hand, this is what I regretfully ordered for the hubby:

Luxe Mac and Cheese (P495)

What caught my attention that consequently made me order this was that it really isn’t your ordinary mac n’ cheese. This luxe mac n’ cheese is packed with pancetta & formaggio trio (3 kinds of cheese). I also had high expectations on this one, but unfortunately, it was such a rip-off. The pasta they used wasn’t exactly macaroni, though it tasted like macaroni. As Dard said, this tasted like those instant mac n’ cheese that you buy in the States. OMG, for P495! Though I would understand, because the ingredients are expensive, but with the taste? It just wasn’t worth it.

So how was our experience at Lusso? You can say I felt embarrassed for even asking Dard to take me there. Yes, the food was luxurious, & so was the ambiance, not to mention the price. But are we going back? Probably not.

I give Lusso a 4 out of 5 stars, just because of the luxury & everything else I’ve mentioned about positively.


Amoroma

This is one of those dining establishments, that everyone raved about, but ironically, didn’t quite make it to my roster of well applauded restaurants. It was a relief to know that a couple of my friends didn’t think otherwise.

The Ambiance

 

Restaurant interior

The interior is typical of Italian restaurants housing a line of square wooden tables dressed in plaid. There is vino on every table, enticing guests to consume a bottle of red–a perfect consolation to the cool climate in Tagaytay.

Brick Oven

They have a brick oven, where they bake their complimentary breads, pizza & Pizzaiola.

Display

Here is a sample display of some of the items they serve in their restaurant, such as fresh pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano, gorgonzola, portobello mushrooms, truffle sausages, etc.

The Food

Complimentary foccacia bread & pita with EVOO-balsamic-parmesan cheese dip

Their bread was delicious! The foccacia bread was perfect! It was crusty & crispy on the outside, yet exuded a creamy texture when I bit & chewed into it. The pita was also delish, enhanced with a generous topping of sesame seeds & oregano.

3rd Choice Pizzaiola (clockwise from top): Tartufo, salami & onions, 4 cheese, prosciutto, marinara

We actually had this October of last year, so I will have to base my review from memory. The only thing I remember was that I was only happy with the 4-cheese pizzaiola. The rest were not as memorable, & seemed ordinary to me, even with the play on sophisticated ingredients, such as truffle & prosciutto.

Tartufo Nero with Fresh Tagliatelle

Another dish we had back in October of last year. It was my first time to try fresh pasta & unfortunately, Amoroma’s was hard to chew. The thickness of the tagliatelle dampened the taste of the truffles, which made me realize, had I known about what Ehmz of Va Bene told me, that oil-based pasta dishes usually go best with dried pasta. Being the truffle addict that I am, this dish was far from from getting a standing ovation 😦

Ravioli with Spinach & Ricotta Cheese in Meat Sauce

This dish was just okay. I thought the ravioli only had spinach in it, as I missed the ricotta cheese :-/ Reminded me of Empanada Mas’ Empanada with Spinach & Cream Cheese, which also lacked the cheese I was longing for. The meat sauce, on the other hand, was typical.

Veal with Truffled Black Mushrooms (P540)

This was the best one out of all the dishes we ordered. I’m not sure if this was really veal though, because the meat wasn’t exactly very tender, but the taste was exploding with truffle! Made even more decadent with fresh black truffle shavings! Ahhh… It was truly heaven on a platter 🙂 Unfortunately, this was only good for 1 person 😦 Quite expensive considering the measley portion.

Risotto with Saffron & Bone Marrow

You can already tell how this dish tastes, just by the appearance of it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this is worth one–BLAND. The saffron, was completely irrelevant (if there was even any). The bone marrow was there, but lacking in flavor wouldn’t appeal even to hospitalized patients, who are used to eating lugaw.

Tiramisu

At last! Something to rave about! 😀 Authentic, memorable & satisfying. Their tiramisu encompassed it all 🙂 From its firm & steady form to the creamy mascarpone cheese mixture, sandwiched in between layers of Lady Fingers soaked in coffee (& sometimes, coffee liqueur), sprinkled with freshly, grated chocolate. It creates a melodious symphony, whilst devouring this happy ending.

It’s hard to distinguish nowadays which restaurants are actually worth going to based from people’s reviews. Some of them kasi tend to join the bandwagon with regard to their personal opinion about certain restaurants, that it become overrated, like this one. Overall, I give Amoroma 3 out 5 stars. It wasn’t really bad, but it wasn’t exceptional either.


Va Bene Pasta Deli

As I was browsing through Anton Diaz’ blog on where to eat next, I decided to try Va Bene Pasta Deli, after seeing his blog about it. Two things that caught my interest & influenced my decision to eat there were: 1. It is a hole-in-the-wall type of restaurant, situated at Petron, Dasmariñas Village. 2. It serves authentic Italian food–those were enough to convince me that it was worth going to. So the next day, I went there for lunch & didn’t expect ALL the tables to have been reserved already! 😦 Despite that, Va Bene was kind enough to accommodate me, since most of their guests who reserved a table weren’t there yet. Unfortunately, during my 1st visit, I wasn’t able to bring my camera, so I wasn’t able to take photos 😦 After a very satisfying lunch, I told myself I would go back very soon, so I could try their other offerings & take photos of it for this blog 🙂 The following week, I went back for lunch, without any reservations, AGAIN 😀 It was a good thing I went there around 11:30, because there were only 6 vacant chairs left (6 out of 40–Imagine that!)! The waitress was kind enough to let me switch places with the one of the reserved tables, which had long, cushioned chairs.

Interior

The restaurant is relatively small, with a seating capacity of 38 to 40 pax. It would be better if the chairs & tables were all like the ones on the left. I particularly don’t like the peach, weaved chairs on the right, which leave nasty marks on your legs, if you’re wearing a skirt or a pair of shorts.

As soon as you enter the door, you will immediately see this book shelf on your right, which showcases an array of different celebrity & specialty cookbooks! From Gordon Ramsay to Mario Batali to Jamie Oliver. It is truly a treat for culinarians & foodies alike! 😉

Next to the book shelf are these shelves, which display items that are for sale 🙂 They have canned peeled tomatoes, wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, bottled pasta sauces, carrot juice, sparkling water & more [I will take a look at their items next time, when that lady isn’t sitting there anymore ;p Lol!–And yes, I plan to frequent this place from now on ;)]

They also sell an interesting variety of fresh pasta, of which they make everyday 🙂

Va Bene houses Paradis Natural Ice Cream, which offers Signature, Soybet & Traditional ice cream flavors 🙂 It’s too bad I wasn’t able to try this, because my son & I already ordered 2 different desserts. I will be sure to try this the next time I come back, & order the Thai Milk Tea variant 🙂

Menu

Prices are quite expensive. They obviously cater to the upscale market, especially those who live around the area, like at Dasmariñas Village & Forbes Park.

They can also make other Italian pasta sauces, not found in the menu, such as bolognese, carbonara, arrabiata, puttanesca, etc. 🙂 The appearance of the menu could be better, instead of a laminated sheet of paper.

Food

Complimentary toasts with salsa

I liked how it was presented atop a small, wooden board 🙂 The bread was perfect! I now understand how all the bloggers who have a post about Va Bene raved so much about this complimentary antipasto. The bread was crispy on the outside, yet perfectly soft on the inside 🙂 The salsa, which I’m guessing was a melange of diced tomatoes, white onions, basil, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper & olive oil, was also delizioso.


Fresh Orange Juice

Despite precautionary pieces of advice, I started giving my 5-year old fresh orange juice even before he started eating solids. So I am not surprised how he has developed a fondness for it now. Unfortunately, most of the fresh orange juices in the restaurants we have had in the past tended to be sour.  Va Bene assured us that their’s wasn’t. And they were right! This wasn’t sour at all. It was definitely fresh & you could taste the sweetness from the ripe oranges.

Salamino Pizza Al Taglio (P90/slice)

Chef Massimo, owner & Executive Chef of Va Bene Pasta Deli, was hospitable enough to approach me & explain how their pizza was different from the usual ones we have here. He said their square pizza is what you can typically find in the streets of Italy, where they are made beforehand, & then reheated for selling–thus the stale-like (makunat) texture of the bread. Nevertheless, it was interesting & unusual, in a good way 🙂 Though, I prefer the freshly-baked ones.

Organic Eggs Tagliolini with Portobello Mushrooms, White Wine Cream Sauce & Truffle Oil (P360)

The best tartufo pasta for me was that of La Nuova Pasteleria‘s, which is located at San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park. But just a few days ago, a couple of days to be exact, it was easily overthrown by Va Bene‘s Organic Eggs Tagliolini with Portobello Mushrooms, White Wine Cream Sauce & Truffle Oil! 🙂 It was truly VA BENE! Which means very good in Italian 🙂 The tagliolini alone, which was made with organic eggs, was absolutely delicious. It was perfectly al dente, which reminded me of the somewhat similar texture to Japanese soba. This dish was enveloped with the seducing scent of truffles, beautifully married with the creaminess of its sauce made with white wine & cream, topped with slivers of portobello mushrooms. This was absolutely DIVINE. A definite best-seller & favorite of food fanatics like me 😛

Potato Gnocchi with Four Cheeses Sauce, Fresh Arugula & Wild Nuts (P310)

It was my first time to try gnocchi (pronounced as /nyoki/) & Va Bene‘s was soft & creamy. The wild nuts gave a beautiful contrasting texture to the creaminess of the Four Cheeses Sauce. However, I found the sauce a bit bland. The strips of arugula gave a freshness factor to this seemingly simple, yet comforting dish.

Panna Cotta Pudding Topped with Marinated Mangoes (P140)

Va Bene‘s panna cotta made me forget about my former favorite panna cotta from Aubergine. The sweetness & creaminess of this typical Italian dessert was perfectly well-balanced and was complimented well with the sweet & slight sourness from the marinated mangoes. Another definite addition to my top 1 favorites! 😀

Marinated Strawberries in Balsamico with Vanilla Ice Cream (P180)

This was an interesting dessert, wherein all the components surprisingly went well together. The slight sourness from the strawberries, which were bathed in balsamic syrup, was toned down & balanced out with the sweetness & creaminess of the vanilla ice cream.

Just to include the pasta I had during my first visit, I had their Ricotta Pumpkin Ravioli with sage, lemon & Italian sausage with veal reduction. It was really good. You get to appreciate the dish all the more because of the perfect tenderness of the fresh pasta. The ricotta pumpkin filling was creamy, which tasted even better with the accompaniment of the Italian sausage, thinly doused with the veal reduction sauce. You could also taste a hint of lemon, which I liked.

Service

During my first visit, I must say, the service was terrible. The waiters & waitress were not attentive enough & the food, including the bill, took forever to come. I understand though, because the place was really packed then. On my next visit, it was the complete opposite, & perhaps this was because there were only 4 customers at that time (me & my son, included). One of the waiters, I’m not sure if his name is Ehmz, took the liberty to suggest & explain to me what their Specials were, & even made a couple of recommendations with regard to the food items that are not included in their menu 🙂 He was very accommodating, & his knowledge was truly impressive! Unfortunately, one of the other male waiters was the complete opposite.

Overall, I had another happy & satisfying lunch at Va Bene 🙂 And for that, I give them 5 out 5 stars! 🙂

To ensure a table, make reservations ahead of time by calling:

Va Bene Pasta Deli
2/F, Petron Gas Station, Edsa Corner Pasay Road,
Dasmarinas Village, Makati City

Telephone: (02) 556-9442/ 904-6063
Mobile: (0917) 3456869
Email: vabenepastadeli@yahoo.com

Operating Hours:
Tuesdays-Saturdays only
11:30AM-3PM & 6-9:30PM

(Late-night dinners after 9.30 are possible with prior reservation.)

Parking is available at Petron.


Chelsea

I never thought of eating at Chelsea until a couple of friends raved on how good the food there was. If I remember it correctly, it used to be situated at a different & smaller location at Serendra, right? So when I finally went there for the first time, I was happy to see how much bigger the place was & was even happier to see that it was also a “market”, selling imported spices, etc.! 😀

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take photos of the restaurant, but the interior gave off a chic vibe that was visually pleasant.

For starters, we were given a:

Complimentary Cheesy Herbed Foccacia Bread with Pesto Vinaigrette & Roasted Garlic

I was glad to see a complimentary starter that was a notch higher than the others. I loved everything here! 🙂 Everything was perfect! The foccacia bread was perfectly baked. It was warm & delicious. The garlic was perfectly roasted too. I thought all the components went well together.

I didn’t have a lot of time to choose through their extensive menu, so I easily chose something that contained something that I love–what else? Truffle! 😛

Truffled 3 Mushroom Cream Fettucine

with double-smoked bacon ‘lardons’, fresh basil & parmesan shavings

I’m very particular about my truffle pasta. It has to smell AND taste like truffle. Otherwise, if it only smells like it, it’s no good for me. Chelsea’s version didn’t quite reach the passing mark when it comes to tasting like truffle, though it smelled like it. Nevertheless, the taste of the pasta dish as a whole well-compensated for its lack in tasting like truffle, pulling its score three notches higher. It was very creamy–the kind of creamy that’s velvety. I loooved the freshness of the mushrooms. It was succulent & mouth-watering. The slight saltiness of the lardons matched the creaminess of the sauce beautifully.

Another entree we had was their:

Burger with Truffled Mushroom and Gruyere

with Home Fries and House Salad

As if my craving for anything with truffle wasn’t enough, I ordered another entree that had truffle in it 😛 I was so excited to try this! 😀 I noticed that everytime my expectations were high though, I tend to get disappointed 😦 So, needless to say, this was just okay for us… My friend thought it was ‘ordinary’, though a burger with truffle is never ordinary. I guess it was because the patty dried up a bit.. I had it cooked medium well, remembering what my cousin, who’s a chef in Vancouver, said that it is illegal to cook burger patties that are not well done, in where she’s from, due to health precautions. I opted to have it cooked medium well hoping it wouldn’t dry up, but unfortunately, the opposite happened.

With what I have previously mentioned in my post about Parmigiano, I would automatically order this if I see this in the menu:

Strawberry Lemonade

This was quite distinct compared to the ones I’ve had from other dining establishments. It wasn’t too sweet and had just the right balance of sweet and sour.

To cap off our meal, we ordered their “Best Seller”:

Chelsea’s “Famous” Choc-Nut Valrhona Cake

Chelsea has an array of different cakes that made it hard for me to choose. In the end, one of the waiters recommended their best-seller–their “Famous” Choc-Nut Valrhona Cake. It’s always a delight to see new ideas incorporated & made into successful culinary collaborations. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Choc-Nut & Valrhona chocolate. It is a genius contradiction of inexpensive & luxurious. And having a penchant for sweets such as chocolates, the waiter’s recommendation was at the top of my list. Well, how should I describe this? It was very chocolatey. It wasn’t sweet & unfortunately, I didn’t taste so much of the Choc-Nut in the cake. I then realized, I should have just ordered the Four Layer Toblerone Torte instead! 😀

I had a wonderful dining experience at Chelsea 🙂 I loved the ambiance, the service was impeccable, the prices were a bit high though, but the food was good. Overall, I give Chelsea a 4 out 5 stars! I’m looking forward to dining there again, hopefully soon! 🙂


Truffle Cream Tagliatelle with Black Truffle Carpaccio

This is definitely my favorite pasta dish. So simple yet so decadent!

For the recipe, kindly e-mail me at inez_bernardo@yahoo.com 🙂 Cheers!