August 12, 2010

Cebu is Sweeter the 4th Time Around

I don’t know what it is in Cebu that made Gin say that it’s her favorite city outside of Manila.  Maybe it’s because Cebu mirrors Manila, minus the latter’s imperfections.  Maybe it’s because everything still seems simple and laidback in this place despite the ever expanding urban landscape around the city.  Whatever her reasons might be, I’m one with her in regarding the queen city of the south as a place that I’ll never grow tired of visiting due to a very special reason – this is the place where Gin and I officially became a couple :)

I went to Gin’s home at around 5:00am (late as usual) so that we could go together to the airport for our 8:00 a.m. flight.  Going to the airport on a Sunday was a breeze.  We arrived at the NAIA Terminal 3 fifteen minutes before 6.  This was our first time to leave the car at the airport’s overnight parking area as we usually entrust it to the guys at Park N Fly.  We didn’t encounter any problem at the check-in desk and we left Manila on time.  I wanted to catch some sleep during the flight, but the one-inch legroom made that 40 winks elusive.  It’s either the plane shrunk or I just got bigger.
Honey, I shrunk the plane!
Good Cabbies

Upon arriving at Cebu, we proceeded to the Arrival’s area to line up at the taxi stand.  Unlike at the NAIA, getting an ordinary metered taxi in the Mactan-Cebu International Airport is easy and convenient.  Our previous encounters with the city’s taxi drivers were horrendous, though.  There were times when the meter shuffled digits so fast that it made me wonder whether the device was displaying the fare or the odometer.  In this particular visit, however, the drivers were honest and courteous.  They even went the extra mile in providing me with contact numbers or suggestions on how to get a cab in the area around Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

Answered Prayer!

Our first stop was the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño for the 11:30 a.m. mass.  This was the focal point of the day for me as it was here when Gin finally became my girlfriend! :)  I guess it is only fitting for me to receive her nod in this church.  Back in 2009 during our second visit to this basilica, we looked for a vacant pew where we could rest for a while.  After having caught our breath, Gin knelt down to pray.  As my knees are missing a few ligaments, I decided to remain seated.  In the middle of my silent conversation with God, my eyes shifted to Gin.  I looked at her for a long time.  It was at this point when I told The Big Boss of my hope and wish that the girl kneeling in front of me would become my partner in every crime that I intend to commit in this lifetime.  Nakulitan na siguro si Lord sa akin kaya He finally gave me His nod after 1 year and 8 months of trying to win Gin’s heart he he :)
Sto. Nino Church Altar
Bo’s Original

We then went to Ayala Center’s The Terraces for lunch at Mesa.  We were quite lucky to have the place virtually to ourselves as there were only about 5 persons having lunch in the place.  This doesn’t mean that Mesa’s dishes aren’t pleasing to the tongue, though.  Their sisig with egg tasted good, while the hito flakes with green mango was interesting to the pallet.
Mesa Restaurant
After our hearty meal, we strolled around for a few minutes to give our tummies a time to make some space for coffee :)  Gin and I have been craving for Bo’s coffee for quite some time now and it’s a delight to know that we’ll be satisfying our craving at the coffee shop’s city of origin!  I’m not exactly a fan of Bo’s Coffee since the ones that I’ve had in its Manila branches tasted quite bitter.  But the Mocha frap that we’ve had here tasted different.  It was sweet and blended very well.  Our first sip almost made us forget Starbucks!  Well, almost :)
Bo's Coffee Club Cebu
After a good and relaxing time at the Ayala Center, we went to SM North for CNT’s famed lechon.  We’ve been told that Alejo’s tastes better.  However, one of the taxi drivers that we were able to talk to said that we had to pre-order our lechon and that they’re only open from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Hence, we decided to opt for what seems to be the Cebu’s second best.

Marco Polo Plaza Cebu’s Blu Bar and Grill

With the sun already getting ready to hit the sack, we headed to Marco Polo Plaza Cebu for a quiet and relaxing dinner at the Blu Bar.  I was initially quite apprehensive in having our dinner date at the Marco Polo as it is quite far from the city center.  However, the hotel’s Blu Bar and Grill has a fantastic view of the city as it sits right at the top of the building.  Thinking that Gin would very likely enjoy the ambiance and the view, I decided to brave it out and stick to my original plan and choice.
Blu Bar and Grill
True enough, Marco Polo Hotel’s Blu Bar lived up to its billing.  Not only did it gave us a fantastic panorama of Cebu, we were also served by the restaurant’s warm and friendly staff.  It was truly a romantic evening, indeed :)  We wanted to stay longer, but we had a 10:40 p.m. flight to catch.
View from Marco Polo Cebu's Blu Bar and Grill
What an amazing and wonderful day it was!

August 2, 2010

Banana Leaf Asian Cafe

If you’re in the habit of taking a stroll in the restaurant rows of the numerous malls around the metro, you’ll notice that a good number of them are catering to a specific type of cuisine, most of which are Asian. Of course, Chinese restaurants dominate the gustatory landscape of Manila, just as Chinese goods are dominating the shopping landscape of just about every nook and cranny in the country. Coming in at a distant second are Thai dishes which many locals are starting to find grow fond of despite its spicy aftertaste. Dotting the rest of the dining areas are plates from neighboring Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, and even India.

Trying each and every menu that our neighbors in Southeast Asia have to offer may be a daunting (and expensive) task. Getting familiar with our local dishes alone can already be challenging. Heck, I can’t even remember the name of the last Filipino dish that I bought from a local eatery!

Having all the different menus in Southeast Asia brought and cooked in just one restaurant would definitely make our task of dipping our tongue around region easier. It’s therefore a delight to know that Banana Leaf Asian Café have all of these dishes in just one roof.

The Banana Leaf Asian Café’s branch that Gin and I went to for our usual Friday date was the one at Robinson’s Place Ermita. Most of the tables were already taken, but we were lucky to be seated at a cozy corner. The first thing that surprised me was the price. For a restaurant that made it to Philippine Tatler’s list of best restaurants in the Philippines, one would really be amazed to be able to order a dish that’s cheaper than a Big Mac meal. (Click here for Banana Leaf’s menu)

We ordered three of Banana Leaf’s bestsellers under the Appetizer section: Chicken Satay (P128), Deep Fried Pandan Chicken (P168), and Crispy Spring Rolls Thai Style (P118). Even though they’re denominated as “starters,” the dishes that we’ve ordered could already pass up for a main course. The serving was generous and unusually fast.

As expected and as attested to by Philippine Tatler, the food tasted great! Of the three, the Chicken Satay took my heart away. Gin picked the the Spring Rolls, but it didn’t get my mouth watering as it turned out that it was stuffed with veggies instead of meat! But it tasted good just the same. She was right on the Dalandan Juice, though, as it lived up to her billing as something that’s worth to try.

Overall, we were greatly satisfied with our time in Banana Leaf Asian Café. The food was great, and the ambiance was still cozy enough to warm our dinner date despite the fact that the place was almost packed. We give Banana Leaf a score of 8 out of 10 :)

The Scorecard:

Food: 8/10
Ambiance: 8/10
Value for money: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Cleanliness: 8/10
Toilet: N/A


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