So I went ahead and stopped by the Valero Eat Street on March 11 and actually had a blast, mainly because I was doing something I liked: eating, and eating by the load. The event started at 11 and I didn’t get to go until after office hours, but the place was still abuzz when I got there.
As soon as I arrived, I cased the place and took some pictures. As promised, on site were restaurants offering a multitude of menu items and various cuisines catering to diners of all kinds. I was going to hold off until my co-worker met with me, but the smells of food floating from the booths soon rendered me famished (I skipped my afternoon snack for this) and I started going at every serving tray, cup, plate, and spoon I could reach. Here’s a rundown of the things I managed to scarf down before my stomach waved its white flag. (Just to warn you, it’s going to be a pretty long post, so bear with me.)
In all honesty, this was the booth I was looking forward to the most, being a dessert lover. I’d been hearing about and seeing a lot of their Japanese cotton cheesecake from different sources and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I asked for a Triple Chocolate Fudge because they’d just run out of the Oreo and because chocolate. The cheesecake itself was, as promised, cottony soft. You’re supposed to keep the cheesecake chilled, so I thought the crust would be mushy, but it was pleasantly crisp as I bit into it. It supported the cheesecake well and offered a nice contrasting texture to its softness. Plus with a name like “triple chocolate,” you’d think it’ll be sickly sweet, but it wasn’t.
Takao by Resultado Gourmet
Here, I sampled their version of kare-kare. I was mildly surprised and suspicious when I realized the server had spooned aligue onto my plate in place of bagoong, but I was up for something new. Interestingly enough, it worked. For a while, anyway. Combining the aligue with the peanutty flavor of the kare-kare‘s sauce was definitely appealing, but it got too rich too quickly for me, especially when I started on the bagnet which, for their credit, was nice and crunchy. I probably would’ve had a better experience if I had a bit of rice to go with it. Go ahead and give it a shot, but fair warning: it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. Literally.
I wouldn’t put siopao or any of its relatives in my top 10 list of comfort foods, but I had to try this when I saw people after people walking away from the booth with buns piled with porky, saucy goodness. I ordered Bao’s On Crack: a concoction composed of pork belly, barbecue sauce, sriracha mayo, and some greens on top of a steamed bun. I have to say, that was one mighty tasty bao. The pork had a nice, crunchy skin, although the meat was a tad overcooked. The creamy, slightly spicy sriracha mayo, which I had never experienced on a siopao before, was a very nice touch. And just when you think the bao will be too rich, the greens (cabbage and leeks, I think) interjected with some much-needed freshness.
(My co-worker Nivelle joined me soon enough. I told her about the event and she agreed to meet me there after work since I get off work earlier than she does. And the culinary journey continued.)
Cannoli & Co.
Run by husband-and-wife team Jim and Steph Trinidad, their specialty is, of course, the Italian dessert, and one I’d never sampled before. The shell, which I thought would be as tough as those waffle cones for ice cream, was crisp but not too hard. Speaking of which, the mascarpone wasn’t too sweet, as was the chocolate they drizzled all over the dessert. And the chopped pistachios they sprinkled on top lent another level of flavor to it to keep the umay factor at bay. I read that ricotta is usually the cheese of choice for this dessert, but hey, this one works for me.
On the menu was battered and deep-fried cauliflower and eggplant, which Niv and I eagerly attacked after consuming those rich dishes earlier. I loved the crunchy batter and how the cauliflower still had a bit of a bite to it even after hitting the hot oil. It was drizzled in some sort of sauce (I’m not sure what it was), that actually made it seem like I was eating meat, which wasn’t a bad thing at all. Niv, who isn’t a fan of eggplant, tried one and actually liked it, which should tell you something.
Pink Panda Southeast Asian Diner
As soon as I opened the takeout box the servers handed to me, I could smell goodness coming from the noodles. It kind of resembled Tim Ho Wan’s chow mien, so I kind of set myself up for disappointment when one forkful confirmed it was nothing like it. Unfortunately, it was just too sweet for my taste, and the subtle hint of spice didn’t really change my mind. I turned to say this to Niv, who was then too busy polishing off the last few strands. To each his own, I guess.
If you’re a fan of simple, street-type barbecue (you know, the kind that’s usually marinated in soy sauce, calamansi, and a few spices), you’ll like this one. We got to sample some pork barbecue, liempo, and chicken, the latter of which was my favorite. It was tender, and the flavor wasn’t overpowered by whatever marinade they used. Same thing with the pork barbecue. Niv said it tasted like something you’d expect from the province or at home, and I didn’t disagree. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; in fact, I wish I had a beer on hand while we were chomping on these.
True to the name, Serbesa Manila’s best known for serving craft beer, but they do offer dishes that should pair well with their choice brews. We got pica-pica, a pile of kamote fries drizzled with habañero sauce, plus a couple of squash blossom and jalapeño poppers. It’s not a combo I’m used to seeing but it all works well together somehow. I’m more of a French fries person who usually frowns upon restaurants and dishes that try to pass off kamote as such, but in this case, I actually liked how nicely its sweetness mingled with the spice of the habañero. As for the poppers, I honestly couldn’t distinguish the squash blossom, but as a jalapeño popper, it was tasty enough with the amount of heat that accentuates flavor but doesn’t punch you in the mouth. It was indeed the type of food you’d love to wolf down with a cold bottle, one of which found its way to me courtesy of Niv.
We were actually ready to skip this one because of the constantly heavy crowd gathered around the booth and we were almost ready to go, but I figured, that’s exactly why we shouldn’t skip it. That, and the amazing smells coming from their grill. From their menu, we settled for the Pepi Cubano, a sandwich composed of pork loin, ham, pickles and a bunch of other stuff I was too full and disoriented to remember. We asked them to wrap it up to go; we figured we’d wait a couple of hours before having another bite of food. At home, I realized the bun stayed crisp (not hard, though) even after traveling from the grill to my home (about 30-45 minutes). I thought the use of mustard and pickles was a smart idea, considering all the pork they had in there; the sour component helped keep the sandwich from being either too rich or too salty. With everything they stuffed in there, it was both tasty and filling, and it was a good thing Niv and I only asked for one to share since a single sandwich was actually enough for both of us.
Ice Pops Manila
Niv and I had these while waiting for our Cubanos (I know I said we were full, but leave us alone). The way Ice Pops Manila does it is they use an ice vat they manually spin to freeze the pops on the spot. It was actually kind of mesmerizing to watch, but I snapped out of it when they handed us our Strawberry-Nutella and Mango Milkshake ice pops. I could hardly taste the strawberry (it seemed to have a hard time fighting its way through the milk), and the Nutella tasted more like Chuckie in the first pop. On the other hand, the mango milkshake pop, which I thought would be too sweet and creamy, had a light, tangy flavor that I found to be a nice end to all the feasting we did. If I ever cross paths with these ladies, I’m going to try the Tropical Vodka variety.
Crisp on 28th
I got a pack of chocolate chip cookies and brownies, which I ended up eating the next day. While I applaud the chewiness of the cookie and the fact that they used dark chocolate to lend a bittersweet edge to the cookie, the dough itself was a little too sweet and milky for my taste. The brownie was soft and chewy too, and the melted marshmallow on top was a nice touch, but I though the peanut butter flavor kind of drowned out the chocolate.
As expected, I did come home way before 10, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun. Only good food can coax me out of hibernation like that, and I can’t wait for the next one. That’s right; I just said “I can’t wait.”
Disclosure: This event was organized by the restaurants’ management teams in cooperation with Zomato Philippines and various other sponsors. The opinions expressed in this post are based on my own experience and were in no way influenced by said groups.
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