Street food na pina-sosyal.

Macy contacted me and asked for a tarot reading last Friday. We finished around midnight and she offered to drive Bern and I home. I suggested we have a night cap first at Lime 88, which was really near our apartment.

I’ve heard of Lime 88 from another friend, Alvin. He also heard of it from his cousin, who said it featured street food presented in fancy ways. The restaurant’s logo describes it plainly: Street Food na Pina-Sosyal. It turned out Macy was also familiar with the place, and had been there before.

A few days before, Bern and I saw Lime 88 when we went to China Bank which was at the same street the restaurant was in. Lime 88 open at 6pm, so we could only see the restaurant from the outside back then. It was really just a house converted into an eating place.

There was a bar outside, an airconditioned section, and several outside table for smokers. When we got there, the speakers were playing various minor “alternative” hits from the 90s and 00s. The playlist sounded like it came from a mid-twenties corporate type who fancied himself as a rocker.

I contacted Leo to bring Ed and Markee over from the apartment and join us. While waiting for them, we tried some of the food and the cocktails.

Lime 88 sells decent cocktails at rather cheap prices (P60-P85 a glass). The Chocnut martini Bern got was pretty good. I forgot the name of what I ordered (was it Dare to Chill?) but it was decent: vodka, pineapple juice and melon liquer. Macy had a Jack Coke, except that she found it tasted of Bacardi rather than Jack Daniels.

We ordered their version of kwek-kwek: quail’s eggs dipped in orange-colored batter and deep-fried. Lime 88 kwek-kwek removed the food color, used tempura batter to wrap the eggs and served it vinegar and tempura dip. The eggs came in a martini glass with an orchid. Cute.

Kwek-kwek from Lime 88 Kwek-kwek from Lime 88

When the other three arrived, they also ordered several drinks and a few dishes, including a fried street food sampler, which was fish balls, squid balls and kikiam fried on bamboo sticks; the sticks were arranged radially on a large plate, decorated by teriyaki sauce (I think).

I also ordered fresh oysters soaked in youghurt and vinegar, which chopped onions and green mangoes. Those were served in small shot glasses. The dish makes for a good appetizer, except it turns out only Bern and I are willing to try raw oysters. You can’t really eat the thing from a shot glass in one go; kinilaw is too sour to be gulped suddenly.

But the point of the place is the presentation. The kinilaw would have been excellent if served on a plate to accompany pork barbecue and steamed rice, but it wouldn’t look as fancy.

The dish we all enjoyed was the tinapa pasta: tinapa flakes were sauteed in oil with garlic and onion. It was coated to penne and served with a little pesto sauce. Markee and I decided to remember how the dish was made so we could replicate it at home.

Food in Lime 88 are relatively inexpensive, though you’re actually paying more for the fancy plating more than the dish itself. The staff were a little lousy (sending Leo and Ed’s drinks to a different table causing them to repeatedly follow up the order), but friendly and accommodating (having Markee as the client will test a restaurant staff’s patience sometimes definitely).

In the end, we went there for the novelty of it all. We might go back with other friends, just so they could also be impressed with kwek-kwek in martini glasses, but it wasn’t the first place I would go to if I was looking for something more substantial.

Kuya, that is NOT shrimp! (Or, the creepy-crawly noodle incident.)

Thursday night found me at the Ayala-Buedia area meeting Bern for dinner. We decided to go to 101 Hawker Food House, an Asian/Singaporean restaurant near Burgundy and PeopleSupport Center. Bern heard about Hawkers from an online review commending the place’s good-tasting food at inexpensive prices.

There were several diners when we arrived. A waiter quickly approached us, handing a menu and asking what we would like to order. We humored the guy, asking what he would recommend; he told us to try the toppings. Bern and I decided we’ll but noodles; I ordered Singaporean curry bihon while Bern got for himself Hokkien fried noodles. We also ordered some sharksfin siomai and two glasses of dalandan juice.

Here is a photo of the Singapore curry noodles:

Singapore curry bihon from 101 Hawker Food House

Both dishes smelled wonderful and I decided to photograph them before we eat. Bern noticed a small piece of what he thought was noodle fall off the plate.

The small piece of what he thought was noodle started to move. Bern, knowing my digust of small worms, tried to cover my eyes and said, “Hunny, don’t look.”

It was a maggot. The plate had several maggots crawling between the noodles.

While I enjoy the occasional exotic dish whenever I travel (I don’t consider frog that exotic and I’ve eaten — and enjoyed — bugs), one food rule that I still observe is this: Food that is served should not move on its own.

Bern took the plate and approached the cashier counter to complain.

“Kuya,” he told one of the waiters, “what’s this?” He was referring to the little crawlers in the noodle. I assumed the waiter did not notice them because he answered it was shrimp which was part of the dish.

Bern pointed out to the maggots and said, “Kuya, that is NOT shrimp.”

Bern told me about that conversation later because I stayed in our table. Worried about the other dish, I looked at the fried noodles closely and, sure enough, I also found some maggots crawling between the noodles. I took the plate, approached the counter and presented the dish to the waiters.

Now, if it was just one contaminated dish out of several, I might accept the restaurants offer to server the same dish or maybe order a new one. Which is what the waiters offered. Thing is, two different dishes had maggots in them, which makes me suspect that the restaurant’s noodles were contaminated by them.

“No,” I told the waiters, “we’re not ordering anything anymore.” I asked that we get a receipt for the dalandan juice we have in our table. However, I told Bern maybe it’s not a good idea to drink those either.

To be fair to Hawkers, they did not let us pay for the drinks anymore. Bern and I quietly walked out of the restaurant, deciding whether we would still want to eat dinner.

It’s a good thing we’re both hearty eaters, although I told Bern I don’t feel like eating Chinese food anymore when we passed by North Park in Convergys One. We settled for Brothers Burgers. “After all,” I joked, “if maggots ever get their way into the patty, they’ll be roasted by the time they are served to us.”

“Settle” made it sound like I was not at all eager to eat in Brothers. I like Brothers and I’ve always enjoyed their chicken sandwich with pesto sauce. This time, though, I decided to order something different.

Bern chose fried chicken strips over rice while I ordered their Santa Fe burger.

Santa Fe burger from Brothers Burger

The chicken was good, though a little dry for me, but the burger was yummy. The patty was topped with chili con carne and jalapeno slices. The burger’s accompanying fries also had a lovely cheese dip that went well with Bern’s fried chicken.

Bern told me a story of how during Good Friday, when nearly all restaurants in the Ayala were closed, Brothers was one of the few that remained open. They were in fact still serving beef burgers, despite how most Catholic people in the country were observing meat abstinence. Awesome.

Making Bern and I enjoy our dinner despite the horrific experience in that other restaurant is no small miracle.

Pulpy Orange.

Minute Maid now has this in their bottles: No Preservatives Added.

Minute Maid

Bern told me how, one time he and Leo were out grocery shopping, they approached a Minute Maid promo girl who was offering free juice samples. The girl explained it was the “new and improved” Minute Maid.

“What’s new and improved in it?” asked Bern.

The girl stepped into his trap. “Sir,” she proudly answered, “this time Minute Maid has no preservatives. So it’s good for you.”

“You mean,” Bern rebutted, moving in for the kill, “it used to have preservatives that are not good for us?”

I don’t know how the girl got out of that; only that she stammered her way out of embarrassment.

Maybe two or three years ago, I was quite ill so I mostly stayed home for a day. One of my housemates back then came home with 2 large bottles of Minute Maid. It was a sweet gesture, although I thought he expected me to drink all 2 liters in one go.

Apparently, he saw me drinking a from a one-liter bottle of Minute Maid several days before. When I asked him why he bought quite a lot for one sick person to finish.

“But you love Minute Maid,” he said with a smile, “don’t you?” Of course, I couldn’t contradict him after that caring gesture.

At another time, in the same apartment: Some friends were staying over for drinks. I didn’t feel like drinking much so I got another empty glass and made a manmosa: half orange juice (Minute Maid), half beer (Red Horse, in that instance).

One friend stared at me in quiet outrage. I told him he should try it. “Not bad,” he said. Said friend proceeded to empty my manmosa glass.

Bread from Shangri-la.

Bread from Bakersfresh

Bern and I were following Leo to the lighter store yesterday afternoon when the three of us passed in front of a bakery. At once and without discussion, the inviting smell of fresh bread made us stop, head back, and step into the store. Next thing we knew, Bern was holding a tray and tongs and we were deciding which bread we should be buying.

I haven’t passed by that area of the Shangri-la Mall in some time and did not notice Bakersfresh before. I’m not that much of a fan of fancy bread, really. Most of the time, I’m happy with pan de sal and whole wheat loaf from Pan de Manila. Often, bread for me is merely that thing that wraps a sandwich.

Bread from Bakersfresh

Obviously, I don’t know how to bake.

But sometimes, really good bread will catch my attention. Or in this instance, our attention.

I picked some garlic and butter sticks (which I though would go well with pasta and could be eaten fine on their own). I also picked what was labeled yema bread, because it reminded me of a similarly-named bread I once had in Laguna. Leo got himself a ham and pineapple wrap, while Bern choose a bread topped with pork floss. We joking at how we’re going to store the bread at home; actually, we already ate nearly have of what we bought within 30 minutes of us arriving at the apartment.

The yema bread actually looked homely compared with the others. It was a bit pale and round, built like a dome on a flat base. It could remind someone of a really huge, really nasty boil. It was also surprisingly good.

The dome used normal bread floor with some yummy custard as filling; that, I suppose, was the “yema” bit. The base, however, was sweet and used cake flour; it tasted like pacencia.

The other kinds of bread were good, in a rather uniform and generic kind of way. Of good quality, but no surprises. Next time I pass by Bakersfresh, I’ll pick another random bread and see if it will wow me.

Bread from Bakersfresh

Soaked feet and instant noodles.

Right now is the proper Manila rainy season: torrential rains, sudden floods and horrible traffic. Oh wait. Horrible traffic doesn’t really pick any season; it just happens.

But the flood. Dear god, the flood.

Even places where one might think it’s illogical to find floods are flooded with a few inches of water. Sometimes I suspect this city’s building philosophy is to make every exposed surface one could walk on shaped slightly like a basin.

People complain about the flooding during rainy season, forget about it during the dry months, then get surprised about flooding the following rainy season as if the same thing has not happened the year before. Sometimes I suspect Filipinos have a collective memory comparable to that of a goldfish.

Even before I reached the office, my shoes and socks were thoroughly soaked. Good thing I keep a pair of flip-flops at work which I could wear instead of walking around barefoot. I passed by a drug store and bought a bottle of ethyl alcohol to disinfect my feet.

There wasn’t a dipper in the office toilets so I had to use an empty mineral water bottle to collect water so I could wash my feet. I then rinsed my socks and Bern’s sneaker so they won’t end up smelly because of the floodwater.

The thing about rainy weather that I don’t like, however, isn’t the hassle of cleaning after flood-soaked shoes. It’s the fact that I can’t enjoy it while wrapped in blankets at home, sipping hot soup.

I did buy instant noodles from the drug store. Maybe later during my break, I’ll sit next to the pantry’s windows, looking at the rain-drenched street while sipping bulalo-flavored instant noodles.