Monday, November 26, 2012

Bon Chon - Cebu Invasion

Weeks before Bon Chon's scheduled opening, banners and streamers already hung around Ayala. There is something about its name that already sounds very marketable. It must be the rhyme or maybe because it sounds like a merging of two names "Bon" and "Chon". You say it aloud twice or thrice and it will surely stick in your memory like glue.

Their streamers were also effective, neatly and simplistically designed to captivate onlookers gaze to its name and the delectable fried chicken picture in it. Its background ---- White: clean and staightforward.

Because I work near Ayala Center, I can't help but grow anticipation for its grand opening day with excitement. When it finally did, I wasted no time and headed straight to its location.

Upon arrival, I was informed that they were still doing simulation activities to train their crew the drill. The staff was apologetic and instead of showing disappointment, I engaged her to a chat. It was in the conversation where I knew that Bon Chon is a Korean establishment and although they have fried chicken in their banner and ads, they actually offer also other dishes. I asked her when their next opening date for the public was and she said, 2 days after. I left informing her that I will be taking along some colleagues so we will be one of the first customers to try their offerings.

Faithful to my word, I brought along 4 more friends to join me at their promised opening day. Sadly, the staff said guiltily that they have not fully trained their crew yet. They had to extend yet another day. I had to brush the minor embarrassment and took my colleagues to Mesa instead.

These disappointments left me downcast for days but I moved on thinking that the series of unfortunate events didn't really speak of how their food tasted. It took me weeks until one afternoon at work, I and 2 other friends made our minds up to pay it one more visit. Finally, we got in.

It took us no less than 5 minutes to make the order:
  1 - Ko-Yo Mini (P35.00)
  1 - Small Spicy Thigh (small bucket of 3 pcs) - P185.00
  3 - Plain rice - P45.00
  2 - 7-Up cans - P56.00
  1 - Rootbeer - P28.00

At a total of 349 pesos, 3 of us already ate 1-pc fried Bon Chon chicken with sodas.

Ko-Yo (Korean Yoghurt) mini I would say is the best frozen yoghurt I have tasted in Cebu. Although I would have preferred the fresh yoghurt over it, but there is something about the texture of Ko-Yo that felt so smooth in the tongue and its sourness that was just right for my taste.

Bon Chon is also popular for putting in flavors of Korean and American cuisine together. If this is true, I would credit the sweet spicy honey marinade of their chicken as Korean contribution and the crisp to American influence. The mix of flavors make Bon Chon fried chicken the best variation for me so far. Nothing has come close to its tasty marinade-- not McDonalds' seasonal Buffalo chicken nor Greenwich's version.

 Despite the order arriving after close to half an hour, I can still say that their food is quite worth one's occasional visits. I'd be excited to sample their other food in the coming days.

Bon Chon is said to have about 28 branches in Metro Manila, 1 in Davao and 1 in Ayala Center, Cebu.

Visit Bon Chon's Facebook page and other blog sites for further details and reviews.
  Pinoy Cravings

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Noteworthy Wakamatsu Experience

It was payback time for me, Patrick, and Hermie. We decided to pig-out big time at the expense of our 4 other Team Gusla members' (Donna, Sittie, Kteil, and Charles) savings. Initially, we thought of hitting YUGO for lunch. Luckily, however, since most of us have already lunched at the place, we agreed to pay its closest competition, Wakamatsu Yakiniku, a visit.

Wakamatsu is one of the few Japanese restaurants in Cebu that offers an all-you-can-eat option. It has been around town for several years already, feared not to last long, but stayed anyhow. I remember visiting the place a couple of times in the past but only to check their menu out and for simple reasons of curiosity.

Four years back, F. Cabahug Street was only interesting because of a few landmarks: Jazz n Blues, Pacific Square, and Castle Peak Hotel. Pacific Square looks like a cozy hotel that fronts a unique architecture. It catches attention also because it sits on an elevation at the roadside, accessible only by patiently climbing its significantly long stairway. I would cuss (if it wasn't a bad thing to do) if I was to run an errand that will require me to climb those steps at midday. The street stretch provides no solace of shelter nor shade unless you actually enter in one of the shops at the street side which weren't too many then. To top that, jeepneys are quite scarce in that part of Cebu. Only Route #03A and 03B jeepneys pass through F. Cabahug Street and mind you, they do not travel around Lahug, Capitol, and Cebu Business Park. In other words, it is unlikely for townsmen to frequent the place unless there are reasons for one to really be there. And when you do get there, you can't help but wonder whether the Japanese restaurant adjacent the hotel can save you from thirst and hunger or not. But I did take a look once only to cower from the price of the menu, strangeness of its meals, and its dimly lit interior. I didn't go back since then.

Things changed, however, when an office mate argued with tremendous conviction that Wakamatsu remains the better Japanese restaurant against YUGO. That and some hard to find internet reviews, seem to awaken the curiosity I have so long tamed to silence. When Team Gusla sought my suggestion for a new resto trip, I cunningly brought them into it.

All 7 of us readied for a feast. Armed with nothing but our hungry stomachs, we raided the place. Greeted then ushered into what looked like a quarter with a center table and missing chairs, we took our footwear off to dine the Japanese way. Just a few seconds after sitting, we were handed the menu. Unlike most all-you-can-eat restaurants, the food in Wakamatsu are not served in a ready-to-eat buffet. One has to order what he wants to eat from the menu but keeping in mind that any leftovers can likely be charged on him. Our orders consisted of:

- Beef strips
- Pork strips
- Steamed Shrimp
- Squid Sashimi
- Kimchi
- Ramen Noodles
- Japanese Chop Suey
- California Maki
- Tuna
- Rice, and Fried Rice
- Oolong, iced tea, green tea
- Ice cream for desert

If there were lessons to learn in this experience, it will be the following:
 1. The all-you-can-eat price entitles the diner one glass of any drinks from Oolong, regular iced tea, and green tea options. If uncertain of the taste of the other strange-sounding drinks, choose what is familiar.
 2. When grilling, avoid waving your food in forceps near the smoke suction pipe above the grilling pan. The pressure is a little strong that it can suction any object near its opening. I reached over to grill a shrimp and was surprised that nothing dropped on the pan. I thought that gravity shifted position all of a sudden.The pipe took my food away.
 3. Order lots of raw food early. Cooking time is fleeting and expensive when your doing lunch in between work hours.
 4. Learn to be in the rhythm of cooking and eating at the same time. You cannot wait for what you put on the pan to get cooked before you start eating. What you put on it can be gone in seconds especially if your friends dig in the same pan you dig on.
 5. If you are into maki or sushi, skip rice. They are mainly of the same ingredient with the former being more flavorful than the latter.
 6. Wear comfortable clothes. The place can get really warm when everybody's grilling.
 7. Make conversation fun while eating with friends. Just like you are on a picnic.
 8. Eat and care less whether you fumble using chop sticks or you smudge your face with sauce. Enjoy the unlimited supply or at least while it is available.

I personally had fun. It may have run short of variety in comparison with YUGO's but there is something good also about sitting and just identifying the food you want rather than taking the time away from the comfort of your table to keep coming back to the buffet minding what others might have to say about the frequency of your return. Besides, it was a treat and 3 of us only had to worry about taxi fare.

I left Wakamatsu with a changed notion. The stairs weren't actually too much to climb. The midday sun was not even that bad. These retrospect weren't quite as noteworthy as the Wakamatsu experience.

Budget Range: P400 - P500
Overall Experience: Recommended

Wakamatsu, Yakiniku
Pacific Square Bldg, 
F. Cabahug St Cebu City, Cebu  
Tel. No. (032) 232-5897


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Monday, November 19, 2012

Headache and Runny Nose

I say don't pour, but you would
I say stop, but you keep flowing
Like river passes through the canal
Your warm stream flows through my nasal.

I can't help but spray droplets in the air
Everytime my nose itches, oh I can't bear.
Your persistence is pestilence
Your stubbornness overpowers resistance.

I tried to just sleep the pain over
But my head seem to throb faster
The weather is not cooperating either
It's hot and I feel even sicker.

Oh God, where does my help come from?
It comes from You Lord,
Creator of all things,
Lord of everything.

And so I cry in despair
Hoping you would hear
God take me out from this misery.
Free me from the pain I feel physically.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Finding DFA - Cebu

I had the chance to pay the Department of Foreign Affairs a visit today at its new location as "chaperon" to my sister and my mom who were renewing their passport. Finding it required a great amount of patience due to the following reasons:
   - Firstly, at present, it is rare to find a Google match that actually details its new whereabouts. Most search results still post the old address near Plaza Independencia of Cebu City. Even Google maps still record the old site.
    - Secondly, it is now located at the 4th floor of Pacific Mall, formerly and more popularly known as Mandaue Metro Gaisano. Rebranding or totally renaming a business can be quite confusing for regular customers. Even the driver of the taxi we rode in either didn’t really know where Pacific Mall was or he faked his ignorance. And since I wasn’t sure myself about its exact location, he seemed happy to make detours until I blurt out Metro Gaisano with conviction.
     - Lastly, the place is really far for people living near the Cebu downtown area, therefore, getting to the new DFA office is also expensive as it is time consuming.

   But it wasn’t all bad. The new location is far bigger than the old. They seem to have occupied the entire 4th floor of the mall. The process is now quite straightforward and they appear to have applied a strategy. They have a specific point by which all applicants enter and they have an exit door at the other end of the office where all whose business and intentions got served go out. They kind of placed the departmental sections according to the sequence of the entire application process. Only applicants were allowed to enter in the office. Their respective companions were provided sufficient waiting benches. Space, obviously was one improvement DFA nailed in this transfer and it is very heartwarming and hope-stoking to see our government offices get some good administrative / management strategies implemented. In this connection, my congratulations go to the head officer of DFA, Secretary Albert F. del Rosario.
   Pictures below show glimpses of DFA’s current facility in Cebu:

Department of Foreign Affairs at Cebu's Pacific Mall in Mandaue.
Applicants at the Entrance of the Office in the 4th Floor of Pacific Mall.
Waiting area for non-applicants. Far right - applicant is filling out a form.
  Note for all passport applicants coming from local provinces especially those who are applying through third party agencies, buzzes lately say that travel agency passport processing services will be stopped as soon as DFA’s plan to get more of their offices moved into major malls in key provinces nationwide takes place. I am not quite sure how this plan can conveniently work out for all, though.

Passport requirements? Click here.
Complete list of DFA Office Locations in this page.

Department of Foreign Affairs- Cebu
  4th Level Pacific Mall-Metro Mandaue, 
  UN Ave. cor. MC Briones St., 
  Brgy. Estancia, Mandaue City
Telephone Nos:
  (032) 520-5898
  (032) 520-6193
  (032) 520-6550
Fax No.
  (032) 520-6551

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Pajeros" and "Trucks" for Lunch

The clock struck 11am and the office mood slowly shifted to serious. The 6th floor of the Pioneer Building is normally busy at this hour. You see, a lot of work gets done at 11am because everybody crams and for some reason most us really do. If it's not Filipino culture, I don't know what it is - probably love for last hour challenge or something else. It's not even the last hour of a working day, but, it was prior lunch break. We got excited and so we sweat out the last minutes just to feel productive before taking the so-called "well deserved" lunches.

Amidst intent pounding of keyboards, a pregnant colleague breaks into a loud invitation. "Mike, are you eating Pochero for lunch?" Seriously, that would probably be the last of my options for that mealtime. It wasn't too long ago since I ate at Marjo's Pochero. Nevertheless, commotion slowly built up.  A lot of our co-workers who heard the invitation took interest. Soon, friends of friends gathered outside Pioneer building's main entrance and we found ourselves hiring cabs to go to Ekits.

Fame for Ekit FoodHaus had spread for sometime already through word of mouth. It is known to be "barkadas" (a group of friends) food stop after a grueling basketball match or simply a destination for food trippers. Their specialty? Pochero.
Ekit Foodhaus' latest signage

Located behind Sarrosa International Hotel and accessible only through junctions, taxis make your most appropriate public transportation. However, if you have plenty of time to waste, it can be fun walking your way to the restaurant after stopping a 3B or 3A Mabolo-Cebu route jeepney at the junction before Sarrosa Hotel. Walk straight until you reach the first crossing to the right (Landmark: Cucinerah Restaurant). A few meters onward, you'll see the newest signage for Ekit nailed on a light yellow concrete wall. Turn just 3 or 4 meters to the left until you find the entrance of the food house.

The entrance to the dining area

The entrance was indeed nothing cozy. In fact, if the owner would remove the huge signage above it, you would think that it is just a little doorway leading towards the interior of a house. However, do not be dismayed. It may look uninteresting from the outside but you will be surprised to see how a lot lively and fun it is inside. We were greeted by the sight of hungry and noisy crowd of people from all walks of life and the smell of cooked food filled the air. The simple and the sophisticated few, acquaintances and strangers, flock together around long wooden tables that are narrow but engaging for close distance conversations.

The crowd
 After getting seated for about 10 mins, our Pocheros arrived. A bowl for each. I caught site of a plate of cooked corn grits and thought it best to match it with the hot tasty beef soup. The meat was cooked to tender and I was lucky to get the portion that looked fresh and inviting colored light pinkish red. The soup had just the right salty sweet taste and not sour like Marjo's. Pretty much like the way it is cooked in our hometown in Negros. Like most, I took the slice of corn for the finish.
The famed "Pajero" (pochero)

Each serve of pochero costs P50 pesos - a far cry from the ones you get from restaurants priced between 200-300 pesos. Admittedly, however, the beef cuts at Ekits are plain meat without the flavorful bone marrows stuck in the hollows of beef shanks. Nevertheless, if you prefer a less oily and likely healthier beef soup, you'd definitely hit Ekit's like I will a second, third, fourth and God knows how many times more
whenever I get the chance.

Nowadays, the food house is known for the funny names customers label their pocheros and coca-cola drink: "pajero" and "truck", respectively. As for the reason behind the labels, I, like a few others, do not know.

For more articles on Ekit Food House, take time to read blogs by DeadToeNails and Senyorita.

Ekits FoodHaus is located at Tandang Sora, Kasambagan, Mabolo, Cebu City.

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