Front and Sentro

2 02 2011

Unexpected star – Sentro's Fresh Smoked Fish Spring Roll

WE WENT (there) for the corned beef but left singing the spring rolls praises on our way to get cupcakes.

One thing about hosting visiting family over is that you want to take them to places that you yourself love.  In my case, my list was full of restaurant choices – I left the sightseeing to the others.  Hahaha!  And oh, a little shopping was on my list too.

I say I had a “list” because the “visiting family” happen to have been away for exactly a decade already.  And the places to take them to did a list make.  At the top of the roster were the Serendra Piazza, Bonifacio High Street, Greenbelt 5, and Cupcakes by Sonja.

By way of restaurants, I saw it fitting to kick things off with my own Miele Guide retrospective that starts with Sentro, the one at the Serendra Piazza.

“We’re here for the ‘Corned Beef Sinigang’!”

“Corned beef in sinigang?!”

“Yes, you heard it right.  Corned beef in sinigang!”  I told my brother, enunciating ‘corrrned beef’ like it was Chateaubriand, but quick to add, “Though don’t you go back home to Chicago and empty a can of corned beef into a soured broth just to make this dish!”

Corned Beef Sinigang


That's a hunk of meat. As always, quite flavorful as it is quite tender.

I knew that by dropping the name of the restaurant’s specialty dish, I would elicit curious “oohs” and “ahs” from the guests.  I could tell that their excitement was building up to a raging crescendo, tempered only by the crackling of salted dried watermelon seeds (butong pakwan) that was the restaurant’s complimentary starter.

Being the self-appointed orderer that I am (“I’m an excellent orderer.  You may want to eat with me for the rest of your life.”), I built a spread ‘round the Corned Beef Sinigang (corned beef short ribs and boneless shanks in tamarind broth with native vegetables, Php 595.00) as the focal dish.  The Crispy Boneless Trotter (“Hinimay na crispy pata”, Php 550.00) was a necessary reminder that we’re having a full-on Filipino meal in honor of my brother’s family.  My nephew’s eyes opened wide as they passed around the platter of deep-fried tender morsels of trotter meat, not missing out to crown the pile they served themselves with with shards of the skin, fried to a perfect, deliciously crackly crisp.

The huge serving of the Kare-Kare (Stew of oxtail and beef tripe in a rice flour-thickened annatto peanut sauce with native vegetables, Php 820.00) brought us back to my mother’s kitchen where this dish would be whipped whenever we were in a celebratory mood.  Yes, the almost cramped seating at Sentro’s Serendra branch had already taken care of making the dinner cozy – I couldn’t turn without hitting someone or something with my elbow, not that I’m complaining – but it was the Kare-Kare that gave the get-together a really homey feel.  Familiar.  Warm.  Comfortable.

As if apologizing –almost, but not quite – for the undeniable richness of the meat dishes, we had to ask for the Rated GG (Deep fried fillets of galunggong (hard-tail mackerel or round scad) served in oil and generously sprinkled with fried garlic, Php 445.00), the Green Mango Salad (Php 100.00), and the Sitaw Express (String beans in coconut cream sauce, flavored with lemongrass, Php 160.00).

Rated GG


A fillet of Rated GG


Sitaw Express

The pièce de résistance turned out to be the Fresh Smoked Fish Spring Rolls (however paradoxical that sounds – “fresh” but “smoked”?).  We didn’t ask for it at first.  But my sister-in-law caught the description posted on the wall and eventually had her curiosity piqued.  I translate, “Fresh egg roll of smoked milkfish, salted duck egg, mustard greens, onions, and tomatoes.”

Fresh Smoked Fish Spring Roll

I do remember heaping praises on the corned beef sinigang still – even when nothing was left in the terracotta to tell that corned beef was even in there – but everybody else was bowled over by the ingenuity of the milkfish spring rolls.  I knew it when the look in my mother’s eyes told me she’d have my share if she could.  And she did.

I love love L-O-V-E Sentro's cutlery!


I wanted to take this home!


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

A feast that pleased the eyes and the belly

9 08 2010

Kanin Club Turon a la mode

OUR VISITORS had ribs at Racks the night before.  So when they go home to Singapore, it would be quite hard to claim that they have had authentic Filipino cuisine.  Definitely, they couldn’t put a check mark yet by “eat local food” on their to-do list.

Our renowned Filipino hospitality would be all for naught if we were not to solve this seeming conundrum for our first-time visitors.

Fortunately, they were billeted at the best hotel south of Manila – also the house of my favorite ube ensaymada – that it was quite easy to decide where we’d host them for dinner.  And it didn’t hurt that our restaurant choice made it to the first ever edition of the Miele Guide, launched in Singapore in the 2008/2009 season – Kanin Club at Westgate in Alabang.  (Now on its third year, the Miele Guide has established itself, in its creator’s own words, to be the most credible, independent and respected system through which restaurants are evaluated across Asia.  Before a restaurant makes it to the list, it goes through four rounds of gruelling evaluation and voting.  More details are available at

I didn’t have my trusty Canon IXUS 860IS with me that evening.  That explains the lack of food photos on this post.  My colleague Lester did have his Nikon D3000, but I didn’t want to impose my shoot-first-eat-later policy (hahaha!).  But by dessert time, I was able to oblige him to snap a couple of shots of the fabulous KC Turon a la Mode.  I found myself having to describe it on-the-spot to one of our guests.  I called it a dessert of banana slices stuffed with a strip of ripe jackfruit, purple yam jam, sweetened young coconut strips and red mung beans, dusted with dark brown sugar, rolled in rice paper and deep-fried.  The caramelization on the wrapper was achieved by adding more brown sugar while frying.  Kanin Club added a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds as a finishing touch.

Yet another Kanin Club Turon a la mode!

Kanin Club, while unmistakably a casual dining place, boasts interiors replete with the upper class, almost elitist air of Filipino houses during Spain’s 333-year occupation of the Philippines.  The walls intersperse modern glass and old stained glass windows.  The dining table has the shadow box treatment as the top glass protects underneath wood-and-capiz-shells window panels that appear to have actually been taken from old houses.  And save for the booth cushions and some of the chairs, there are a lot of the wrought iron chairs that my grandmother had at home when I was a kid.  A couple of those have survived to this day – one actually “sits” by my brother’s bed, doubling as the night table.

After the interiors had provided the initial feast for the eyes – and opening conversational pieces – it was the food that eventually had our guests and ourselves talking.  As we explained to our three guests, while there still remains very distinguishable and characteristic Filipino dishes, Filipino food has also evolved, imbibing the best influences of Chinese, Indian, American, and Spanish cuisine, among others.

This was how our check looked like (all descriptions, mine).  For our appetizers – Squid in Salt & Pepper (fresh tender squid dredged in a light batter and deep-fried, served with a sweet spicy sauce), Kinilaw na Blue Marlin (chunks of fresh blue marlin “cooked” in vinegar and citrus juices, with minced shallots, ginger and chilies), Tokwa’t Baboy (cubes of deep-fried tofu with slivers of tender pork in a dressing of vinegar, soy sauce and chopped onions), and Gambas con Kabute (fresh jumbo shrimps and mushrooms sautéed in a spicy sauce).

For our salad – Ensaladang Talong (grilled eggplant, peeled and chopped, served with tomatoes and onions in a vinegar sauce).  For our main dishes – Tapa ni Ana (cured and air-dried stips of beef, deep-fried), Chicken Curry, Sinigang na Hipon (fresh jumbo shrimps in a tamarind-soured broth with lots of vegetables), Binukadkad na Tilapia (a whole tilapia, filleted, and deep-fried to a crisp), and Pinakbet (a stew of local vegetables, flavored with fermented shrimp paste, and served with crispy-fried pork).  We enjoyed all these together with Tinapa Rice (garlic fried rice flavored with smoked fish).  Drinks were either the Iced Lemon Tea or Iced Green Tea.

Only the best restaurant's in Asia make it to the Miele Guide! (From the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, 16 November 2008. This is from my personal collection of newspaper clippings.)


Kanin Club makes it to the first edition of the Miele Guide.


Filipino culinary icon, and my favorite, Margarita Araneta Fores said, "At least we have one restaurant in the Top 20!" I say, not bad at all!


What I wore to dinner


Copyright © 2010 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.