Anton Diaz and RJ Ledesma of the Mercato Centrale Group have done it again, hosting a memorable degustation tour at SM Megamall with the Mega Food Tour 2.0. The tour showcases nine of the newest and hippest restaurants including Linguini Fini, Rosanjin, Ippudo, Cupcakes by Sonja, Tim Ho Wan, Triple O’s, Eri Curry, Kool Kids, and Mochicream Café.
Hungry gourmands meet at one of the featured restaurants before being broken off into smaller groups, ready to tour and eat their way around some of the hottest up-and-coming restaurants in Metro Manila.
Linguini Fini is an Italian-American Restaurant in based in Hong Kong with a New York attitude, brought to the Philippine shores by the Moment Group. The restaurants has a nose-to-tail philosophy and proudly uses every bit of the carefully selected pigs they use to make their stews, pastas, main dishes, and entrées. We were lucky to catch chef and owner, Vinny Lauria, just before he hopped on a plane back to Hong Kong, and he proudly explained what went into each of the dishes presented for the tour.
A delightfully better take on carpaccio is Linguini Fini’s Straccetti Di Manzo (Php 495). Tender pieces of seared rare beef slices are sprinkled with pieces of gorgonzola and drizzled with anchovy aioli with roasted artichokes on the side. Another dish that’s not to be missed is the rustic Parpadelle “Nose To Tail” Bolo (Php 430), pork testa, veal, and oxtail ragu is strewn over homemade parpadelle and finished off with shaving of Parmigiano Reggiano.
The Porchetta – slow-roasted, fennel rubbed pork belly – will give travelers a comforting taste Little Italy or Brooklyn. It is served two ways, sliced with caramelized onion marmalata (Php 595) or chopped with chili mostarda on Foccacia bread (Php 485).
Named after Japanese artist Rosanjin Kitaoji, Rosanjin boasts of well-chosen ingredients, and good food at reasonable prices. Presenting their set menus, guests have five options to choose from: such as the sukiyaki, grilled saba, and assorted sashimi, together with portions of fresh vegetables, miso soup, pickles and unlimited servings of their special Japanese rice.
Gourmands of the Mega Food Tour 2.0 were treated to Rosanjin’s Japanese Set 2 (Php 450), a healthy yet filling meal comprised of tempura, grilled mackerel, sushi, miso soup, four other side dishes, and unlimited Japanese rice.
The Japanese mackerel was perfectly done, leaving char marks on the delicate nickel and champagne gold skin, leaving the porcelain meat firm yet flaky. The mix of ebi and vegetable tempura.
Chef Lee Jose with Yota Shiiba, the Operations Manager for Ippudo Philippines, welcomed hungry gourmands into the popular ramen house. Loosely translated as “One Wind Hall,” Ippudo was inspired by the vision “to continuously innovate to remain true.” Consistent with this single-minded and focused philosophy, Ippudo has gained a reputation for traditional ramen with a modern twist, combining international concepts, ingredients, and cooking techniques with the classic bowl of noodles.
The ramen dishes are obviously the highlight of this restaurant, but what most people don’t know is that they serve a lot of non-noodle dishes, too. Take for instance the Oroshi Ponzu Gyoza (Php 195), topped with grated radish and spring onions, giving a refreshing clean taste to the light potstickers.
Hungry gourmands also get a taste of all three of Ippudo’s popular ramen flavors – the delicately light, white pork tonkatsu Shiromaru Motoaji, the flavorful Akamaru Shinaji, and the spicy Karaka-Men tantanmen. Each bowl of ramen had their own different personalities, leaving one to their own personal preference.
For those who aren’t partial to ramen, you can opt for Ippudo’s Teppan Rice Bowls instead. The Garlic Teppan Tonkotsu Rice (Php 290) is portioned out quite generously, with thick chunks of tender pork on a fluffy bed of white rice.
Cupcakes by Sonja is celebrating their 8th Anniversary, and with that they are #spreadingthesweetness with their addicting Red Velvet Vixen cupcakes. Owner, Sonja Ocampo, stopped by to say hello to the good folks of the Mega Food Tour 2.0 and talked a little more about the new items they were introducing to the market, like their gob-smacking milkshakes. The Birthday Cake Milkshake can be described as happiness in a cup, while the Bacon and Waffles Milkshake almost seems like something out of an episode of Adventure Time – way better than bacon pancakes!
Spreading her sunshine, Sonja also gave away Vanilla Sunshine with Butter Cream cupcakes to guests of te walking degustation. This is the closest thing in Manila to the Magnolia Bakery cupcakes in the West Village, as that was were Sonja learned her trade. Other cupcake favorites include Choco Surprise, Lemon Drop, PBJ, and Peppermint Patty.
Tim Ho Wan
With the popular Hong Kong Michelin star dimsum franchise, Tim Ho Wan, always being full up, guests of the Mega Food Tour 2.0 were given their Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (Php 149 for 3 pieces) to take home instead. A little sweeter than the ones found along the Central neighborhood in HK, the delicate bun and sweet pork filling makes one nostalgic, appreciating simple food done exceptionally well. This is also probably the cheapest Michelin star restaurant one will ever go to.
For any Filipino who has ever spent some time in Great White North, Triple O’s by White Spot will surely be a familiar name. Triple O’s offers innovative burger combinations in a dizzying array of styles and variations, which can come a la carte or in combo meals of fries and a drink. Enthusiastic customers can even overload their burgers with extra toppings, from a grand selection of cheeses, bacon, and grilled mushrooms. Triple O’s also caters to the popular local preference for fish or chicken burgers, perfectly grilling these patties to a crunchy, juicy, and flavorful delight.
Guests of the Mega Food Tour 2.0 are treated to a Triple-O Original Burger with everything on it (including the distinct dill pickle on top of the bun), with a sampling of French fries, onion rings, sweet potato fries, and a creamy Triple-O Milkshake. The hand-scooped Triple O’s milkshake really is the icing on the cake at this restaurant. Made with premium vanilla ice cream in the classic flavors – chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla – their milkshake and sundaes end one’s Triple O’s experience on a sweet note.
Eri Curry, located at the Atrium of SM Megamall, is named after its chef, Erica Bagang, whose pretty face also graces the logo as well as the how-to video being played on loop inside the restaurant. Erica grew up in Japan and has a passion for Japanese food, but she makes her dishes her own by infusing fruits to her Japanese-style curry sauce to slight sweetness, as well as Mozzarella cheese to give each plate that extra creaminess.
The special curry sauce stands out in the Omelette with Beef Curry, with tender slices of beef happily strewn in between the goopy sauce. Diners can customize their curry sauce to taste in terms of spice level – Just Right, Spicy, or Fiery.
The Omelette with Pork Katsu is a good dish to try when settling in to curry territory. The tender pork has a crisp layer of Panko breading, leaving the cutlet tender on the inside yet crunchy on the outside.
It was in a small corner in London that co-owner Miguel Aranaz first encountered liquid nitrogen ice cream a few years back. Ever since that life changing experience, he has been working on setting up a concept that revolved around fresh ice cream. Kool Kids Ice Cream and Co. is about being meticulous with the process starting all the way from the Kow up until they start to Kool the infused cream with liquid nitrogen. Et voilà, ice cream!
The flavors of the ice cream made with liquid nitrogen is a lot more prominent than the kind you get at other ice creameries, but they also melt faster than the regular kind. White Crookies (Regular – Php 130, Large – Php 200) use white chocolate topped with nuts and a cookie that also could pass for a blondie – something they make in-house as well. For ice cream purists, the Mad Vanilla (Regular – Php 120, Large – Php 190) made with premium Madagascar vanilla is sure to put a smile on your face.
For the lactose intolerant or vegans who still want to enjoy a cold treat, the Piña Koolada (Regular – Php 150, Large – Php 230) is highly recommended, made with a combination of pineapple, coconut milk, and a splash of rum. Another interesting take on their ice cream is the Frodough (Php 90), a warm doughnut type of invention filled with an ice cream flavor of your choice – this being Nuts 4 Nutella – shaped to look like a hand pie.
Saving the best for last, one must make space for all the goodies the Mochicream Café has in store for the last leg of the Mega Food Tour 2.0. Known for their wide selection of mochi flavors, most guests do not know that the restaurants only uses premium ingredients flown in from Japan for authentic flavors.
Unbeknownst to most, the Mochicream Café also makes the most amazing desserts made from matcha, like their DōMatcha Dacquoise (Php 170), which uses an almond meringue and cream, balancing the earthy matcha taste with the nutty sansrival-like base.
The Baumkuchen Ichigo to Kurimo (Php 250) uses the fluffiest Baumkuchen cake simply topped with sliced strawberries, light cream, almond slivers, and matcha ice cream that they also make in-house.
Their delicate Green Tea Cakes are perfectly paired with a cup of Hot Matcha Cappuccino, a befitting end for a whole day of walking and eating.
The Mega Food Tour 2 .0 was quite the success, with participants leaving with full bellies, happy tummies, and good memories. Foodie Travelers to Manila should definitely keep their eyes peeled for the next one, giving them a taste of the best restaurants in and around Southeast Asia.