Monday, September 30, 2013

Mooon Cafe at Centrio Mall. Yes, their name has 3 O's.

Mooon Cafe. The Mexican inspired restaurant  that brought the taste of Latin North America to Cagayan de Oro. For a while, it was the the go-to place to satisfy the craving for tacos, burritos and chimichangas. It originally was located at the ground floor of Robinson's Mall in Limketkai Center. It has since moved to the second floor of the brand spanking new Centrio Mall. It also appeared that in the intervening years since my last visit, Mooon Cafe made some interesting changes to the menu. The Mexican entrees were still there, but there was a marked shift towards more standard Filipino fare like Crispy Pata.

The family (i.e. my dad) had a hankering for some Mexican that we finally had to try Mooon Cafe for the first time. We initially went to their location at Robinson's, but they have already transferred their operation to the second floor in Centrio. With what we ordered, it was pretty obvious that we were going for a Mexican theme. Except for mom, who had the Mooon Steak, most of the meal pretty much featured corn flour.

What We Ordered:
Chimichanga. This was once my favorite dish to order at Mooon. I couldn't find any other restaurant in Cagayan de Oro that had this on the menu. It's essentially a deep-fried burrito slathered with sour cream. I could eat two in one sitting.

This Beef Taco actually looked pretty inviting,
 but I wouldn't trade my chimichanga for it.

Beef Taco. My dad had the Beef Taco and it really looked appetizing at first but it eventually underwhelmed him because he expected more lettuce filling. It actually looked good but I wouldn't trade my chimichanga for it.
Quesadilla Veracruz

Quesadilla Veracruz. I actually enjoyed their version of the quesadilla, very cheesy.

Nachos. Now this was underwhelming. No melted cheese sauce and a very tepid salsa. It had what looked like store bought chips and it was plated uninterestingly. It was so uninteresting that I didn't take a photo of it.
Moon Steak

Mooon Steak. My mom had this as her main course. It was pretty much a ordinary steak flooded with gravy added with extra starch for thickening. It was passable but it was nothing spectacular.

My dad won't be coming back any time soon but I probably would just for some chimichangas. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Shakey's and Cagayan de Oro

There has been four incarnations of the Shakey's restaurant chain in the city this past 3 decades and I have visited all of them one or another. In that limited range of qualifications, I could say it is one of the more important metro Manila based stores that have established a brand identity here in Cagayan de 

The first attempt in the eighties was a bit of a bust, folding before it could took off. It opened in Pabayo Street, a short walk from my mom's bank on J.R. Borja Street. My dad took me there once when we fetched mom and waited there until she got off work. It was the second attempt in the early nineties when it became known as the go-to restaurant for casual dining and family celebrations. I should know, I worked a weekend there, when I was a lad in grade school for a school project. It was one of main draws for a new concept for the city at that time: a mini mall concept with a bowling alley as it's centerpiece.

The third Shakey's came at a time when the second branch at the Ororama Megacenter started to fall into a bit of neglect and protracted decline. A fire ended its misery but not Shakey's presence. The third branch in Limketkai Mall continued the tradition of its excellent thin crust pizza and other fare for families dining out.

The new Shakey's at Limketkai Center
This year, a free standing Shakey's restaurant opened a few months back while the third one still continued inside mall. The new branch was located outside the mall but still within the larger Limketkai commercial complex. I ate there twice already. Once for a Team 6 comrade's birthday celebration, and my most recent was a graduate school classmate's despidida. I have pictures and thoughts of the more recent meal here.

A despidida or a farewell to one of my grad school classmates who just got into her bank's officer training program. An event like, though generally sad, is a good reason to eat out. Shakey's carbonara happened to be her favorite, so we had that and garlic bread for our first course.

Carbonara Supereme

The Carbonara Supreme and its creamy cheese was okay. I'm not a really a fan of cream pasta though I used to love them. I prefer my pasta to be on the herby side. The Garlic Bread was excellent though. I wish I could make my garlic bread like it. I loved the garlicky butter spread spirinkled with bits of parsley on the crumb of the bread, which remained soft while its toasted outside. It's perfect. I could eat a whole basket all by myself.

Garlic Bread

The second main course was a basket of Chicken 'n' Mojos. The chicken was done fine, I have no complaints but it's the Mojos that's the true star of this course. Potato slice coated in batter and deep fried to perfection. I prefer the individual Mojos order because they come with different dips and not just the gravy that came with the chicken. Still, they taste great even without the dip and plain ketchup works fine too.

Chicken 'n' Mojos

The best reason to go to Shakey's was still their thin crust pizza. Their competitors have tried to imitate that crispy thin crust but they couldn't get it right. We had their Manager's Choice, and this is just how I imagine eating thin crust pizza would be. I've had this same flavor in all incarnations of Shakey's in Cagayan de Oro and biting into the slice brought back all those fond memories.

a large Manager's Choice thin crust pizza.

What's your fondest Shakey's memory?

Directions by Google Maps to the resaturant reviewed are here:

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Enjoying Pesto Pasta

When I was younger I liked my spaghetti heavy in tomato sauce done Filipino style, meaning heavy on the sugar for the sweet taste. But as my taste buds matured and my preferences became more urbane, I found myself looking for more authentic Italian flavors.
I still enjoy spaghetti and thankfully my family has the same preference now for the sour Italian blend and al dente noodles. But I realized that the best pasta are often the simple ones, like the herby taste of pesto.

Pesto is a sauce comes from rendering basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. It actually shares the Latin origin of the kitchen implement used to render the raw herbs into sauce, the pestle of mortar and pestle. So that is how basically it is prepared, through the pounding and grounding of said raw materials.

Pesto pasta as prepared by my sister.
I had this for my birthday a coupe of years back.
There are variations of the dish and one includes using cream in lieu of olive oil, but I prefer the original one. I like the dish so much that I often request it from my sister for my birthday, which she makes from the basil we grow in our garden.

Spaghetti Al Pesto at Pizza Hut. Served with a wedge of garlic bread.
In my opinion, the best pesto pasta available commercially in Cagayan de Oro, can be had at Pizza Hut. I just love it. They use liberal amounts of olive oil, mixed in some chopped olives and topped it with almonds. It is a guilty pleasure worth spending a cheat day on. I usually would like to have a lot of cheese in my pasta, but this dish transcends my need to drown pasta in cheese. It is so good that it has become my default setting for pesto pasta. If any I've tried at any restaurant does not approach it's greatness, I would be terribly disappointed.

The pesto pasta at Italianni's.
The photo is a little puny,
 but it is the only one I had rights to.
The only other pesto dish that passed muster would be the one from Italianni's. It is also at the Italianni's in Centrio that I've had true al dente pasta on a regular basis. They also used the freshest ingredients and it makes their version of pesto pasta stand out. Plus, they have refillable complimentary bread which useful in sopping every drop of the sauce clean off the plate.

I love pesto so much that my sister always stashes a little extra away when she's doing pasta. It's a great idea to add  pesto to mayonnaise for gourmet style sandwiches and that where we often use the extra pesto we've kept com our pasta meal. It gives ordinary sandwiches a little bite and a whiff of sophistication.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lunch with Friends at Barkadahan Grill

Barkadahan Grill in Divisoria
In my second year of my MBA, I decided to shake things up a little. I usually take my meals and snacks  alone, but for this school year, I wanted to spend more time with my grad school classmates. That is, if they invite me. Fortunately, offers did come and I've blogged a few of those too. Recently, two of my friends brought me to Barkadahan Grill.

Barkadahan Grill is a local chain and as its name suggests specialize in grilled food. Their repertoire is not limited to the grill; they have the usual Filipino fare that is not prepared by grilling. They have four branches and the one we went is their Divisoria store.

It is "pay as you order"

Their original location was in Divisoria and though they currently have a store in the exact same place, that is not the original. The original burned down a few years back. When a new building was erected from the ashes, Barkadahan returned to establish a new branch.

We went there for lunch and ordered four courses. Now would be a good time to declare that our meal was sponsored by Quilin who was just appointed as municipal accountant of his hometown. The guy was really intent in sharing his blessings. We ordered Calamares, Sisig, Lomi and Sinuglao, and this was how our meal fared.

Hot soup during a rainy day will always hit the spot.

Lomi was our first course. It was a rainy morning and some soup would hit the spot. Lomi is an egg noodle soup with a lot of toppings. It has a thick broth in which flour was added and a raw egg to help thicken it. I was especially pleased that the vegetables in it were particularly fresh as I could actually taste the freshness. I believe I had four servings of the noodle soup, it was quite good.

This wasn't the calamares that I expected.

The entrees came after we had our fill of the Lomi and the Calamares came first. Calamares are squid rings wrapped in batter and deep fried, but it seemed that this version of the seafood dish had a lot more batter, at least two and a half more than the actual squid meat. Although I could still taste the squid, this was not how I imagined Calamares to be.

Their sisig might not have been spectacular but I still ate it.

Sisig came next and their version of the thrice cooked finely chopped meat bits from a pig's head was surprisingly good. Not the best in the city but I liked how they differentiated their dish. It was served in a sizzling plate and topped with fried garlic bits. I think they added some pork liver to it as well.

More fresh ingredients in their dishes.

Sinuglao was the final dish to complete our four courser. Sinuglao is a portmanteu of Singuba and Kinilaw. Singuba is grill roasted pork flesh and Kinilaw is fresh fish fillets pickled in vinegar. Sinuglao is Kinilaw mixed with the roasted pork slices. It is a dish with a lot of regional variations. Barkadahan's version is hit or miss. The Kinilaw component I have no compliants but the pork was undercooked.

It was a filling meal and was reasonably priced. It's a good place to have lunch or dinner, especially if you have company. The food wasn't spectacular, well most of it anyway. The Lomi was really good.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tea Time at Happy Lemon

Happy Lemon in Centrio with all seats occupied.
Cagayan de Oro has experienced a mushrooming of tea shops as of late. Similar to coffee shops several years back, tea shops have become the business du jour. Initially, it was the homegrown brands that established their tea drinking beachhead. I've done a post on one of the best tea shop here in Chingkeetea. Now it seems that the out of town franchises are making their presence felt. The latest is Happy Lemon and they have their store at a prime space in Centrio Mall.

Before I tried it for myself, I really thought that Happy Lemon served lemonade. A quick visit to their website immediately dispelled that erroneous notion. Happy Lemon is a Hong Kong brand and I already know that they have branches in Metro Manila. I never was able to try it then, it was only when it opened in Centrio that I was able to try brewed sweet tea done as how Hong Kongers enjoyed theirs.

Patrons placing their orders for Happy Lemon's concotions.

To help me research this article, I brought along fellow foodie Iris to help me try out this new premium tea shop. Their store is well lighted and the people behind the counter are all accommodating and courteous. They all had the air that they could competently prepare our drinks as specified. While it was prepared we had to wait but the few tables and chairs they had were already occupied by mall rats still in their school uniforms. I wished that they had a few more seats to allow their other patrons to wait comfortably while their drinks are prepared.

Iris' Green tea with Rock Salt and Cheese on the left
 and my Cocoa with Rock Salt and Cheese on the right.

I ordered Cocoa with Rock Salt and Cheese and Iris had Green Tea with Rock Salt and Cheese. It was awesome drinkable with a straw. Now I know that rock salt and cheese are a great drink enhancer, especially with cocoa. The cheese added a creamy texture and I think I could use that knowledge in the future. Iris also enjoyed hers apparently. I'm usually a hot tea drinker but for Happy Lemon's concoction, I would gladly make an exception.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cronuts: The Jon Snow of Pastries

Missy Bon Bon's Strawberry Frost Cronut
The Cronut is the Jon Snow of pastries, a bastard offspring of a croissant and a doughnut. The term cronut  itself being a portmanteau of croissant and doughnut. It is essentially a croissant shaped like a doughnut with frosting and either a cream of jelly filling.

Origins of the Cronut
The cronut originally came from New York, an invention of chef Dominique Ansel for his bakery. In fact, the term "cronut" has been trademarked by the bakery. Much of its appeal came from the limited quantities Ansel produces daily, only 200 to 250 pieces and limits 2 cronuts to a customer This created a demand for the pastry that could not be sated even as copycat versions arose all over the United States and has also opened a thriving black market for it.

The first cronut in the Philippines came from Wildflour, and said to have originated from a reversed engineered piece of the original New York cronut. Since cronut is a trademarked name, they sell it as "croissant donuts."  I actually asked for some from my folks who had business in Manila a few weeks back, but the inclement weather made it impossible for them to secure fresh cronuts for me. Luckily, at around the same time, Missy Bon Bon Breadshop in Cagayan de Oro introduced their own version of the cronut.

Cronuts in Cagayan de Oro
Missy Bon Bon markets their version as Cronut and its Strawberry Frost was the first I tasted and though I loved the texture of it, but I'm not really a big fan of jelly filled pastries.I wished it had more frosting and I'd rather that the first cronut I tasted was cream filled and not jelly, but that's just me.

It wasn't until the last Trivia Night of August, when Team 6 won first place that I had another chance to try a cronut. Team 6's prize box had a few cronuts and I think it included all the flavors Missy Bon Bon had. I had this custard filled cronut which they called the Sweet Missy. It was when I was biting into the flaky croissant like crust and tasting the custard explosion when I realized the basis of the hype behind this current craze has some substance. I enjoyed it and would like to try another one soon.

Team 6's prize box has some cronuts!

Team 6 enjoying the spoils of victories and cronuts.