Saturday, April 21, 2012
I sent our errand boy out to the nearest Burger Machine. Since my brother said the sandwich wasn't available yet at all branches, I had a backup plan. Plan B was banana-Q, but I was hoping against hope that I didn't have to eat plan B. What the errand boy came back with brought a smile to my face.
I opened the plastic wrapper and had a whiff before biting into the sandwich. It brought back memories of my childhood. The roast beef tasted exactly as I remember it - tender, juicy, tasty. As I ate, I recalled how when we were younger, the sandwich was always generously filled with roast beef. We would buy pandesal and put some of the excess filling into it. Voila, an extra mini roast beef sandwich! Talk about frugality haha.
I'm so glad Burger Machine's roast beef sandwich made a comeback. I have a feeling it's going to be my go-to snack on basketball Fridays. Or even on other days :D
Saturday, July 2, 2011
As with any purchase, online or not, there's a saying that goes caveat emptor. Buyer beware. The same applies to group deals. The consumer must practice caution when buying these online deals.
Although details and descriptions of the deals may take up an entire page, that doesn't make them complete or clear. I've come across angry comments accusing certain group buying sites and/or merchants of deliberately using misleading titles and ambiguous details. To give them the benefit of the doubt, there probably is no bad intent, just negligence in details. But when numerous questions arise and still no effort is made by either the site or the merchant to clarify, it becomes really frustrating and annoying.
I blogged about a recent dining experience at Secret Recipe using vouchers bought from Ensogo without going into the details of the deal so as not to digress from the topic. I was terribly disappointed at how Ensogo handled questions. I don't know if it happens on a regular basis due to the number of simultaneous active deals it has but that's still not an excuse.
How exactly did Ensogo answer questions? Here is the discussions page of the Secret Recipe deal. The question of the number of vouchers that may be shared was asked several times, owing to the fact that the deal only indicated that "Unlimited voucher purchase per person" is allowed and that "vouchers may be combined for group use". As the questions multiplied, answers from Ensogo got more confusing.
To highlight some questions from potential buyers and responses from Ensogo Team: (Q - Question, E - Answer from Ensogo Team, S - Answer from Secret Recipe)
Q: hi. i would like to ask. if i buy 4 vouchers, that means 2400php worth of food at secret recipe?
E: Hi Catherine :) You may use the voucher to any dish from Secret Recipe’s Western and Asian selections that is worth P600 which you can only pay as low as P280 by presenting the voucher. ! voucher is for 1 dish.
Q: if 1 voucher is only for 1 dish, and I ordered a dish worth 280 only, how will my voucher use the excess amount? say 600 is voucher minus 280 worth of dish, then where can i use the 320 worth excess in voucher?
E: Hi Julie Ann :) The dish in Secret Recipe that is worth P600 you will only get as low as P280
At this point, Secret Recipe made some clarifications:
S: Hi Joana, it does not limit to 1 Asian and 1 Western only but until you reach P600 or less. Thank you and see you in the outlets! To see our complete menu, http://www.secretrecipe.com.ph/manila.html
S: Hi Catherine, that is correct! Your 4 vouchers will give you P2400 worth of food! Please don't forget to call ahead and confirm your visit dates. Thank you and see you in the outlets!
Q: hello, to clarify PHP600 is consummable right (I can order a meal, a drink, a dessert, etc. as long as it will total to PHP600)? Can more than 1 person use 1 voucher (as long as the orders are equivalent to PHP600)? Can I use unlimited number of vouchers per visit at Secret Recipe? thanks!
E: Hi Denise :) Yes there is no number of voucher that can be used per visit. Just contact Secret Recipe for reservation and advise them on how many are you. 1 voucher is for 1 person only you can order meal, drinks or dessert as long as you consume the P600.
I have highlighted the questionable reply from Ensogo above, which raised even more questions and inquiries about refund. It is interesting to note that the Ensogo Team gave conflicting answers, and obviously incorrect ones despite a clarification already made by Secret Recipe. I've included the timeline available from the discussions page to illustrate my point.
Shortly after, we ordered Penang Fried Kuey Teow to be shared, Pan-grilled Dory in Lobster Sauce for me, Grilled Black Pepper Chicken for my sister S, and Irish Lamb Shank for my sister J. It was a toss-up between the kuey teow or pad thai, but we went with the former as it came highly recommended by the waiter. Sister J's first option was NZ Stewed Lamb but it was unavailable so she chose the waiter's recommendation of Irish Lamb Shank.
Our food total amounted to P1,355 by this time. We told the waiter we would be using only 2 vouchers and pay the excess P155 in cash. But apparently that wasn't how it worked. According to him, only P100 in excess of the voucher value was allowed. If the excess was more than 100, we need to pay the whole amount of the least-priced item in the bill. Hearing this did not surprise me because I remembered reading someone report a similar situation in Ensogo's discussions page. It was really absurd. I recalled another reply from the Ensogo Team clarifying this and I quote, "If ever you exceed the P600 that will be the time that you will pay an additonal." The waiter insisted that it was the head office's directive. We argued that what he's claiming isn't consistent with what Ensogo said. He finally relented and said they would allow it and just note that the customer insisted. It was just the beginning of our annoyances.
Our food arrived, the kuey teow first, followed by the other dishes soon after. Our soups were absent. And to think that we ordered the soups first. We did not realize when we were shown the running total that they were not included. Here was the exchange between the waiter and us.
Us: Hindi ba sabi pa namin unahin nalang order-in yung soup?
Waiter: Hindi po pala na-punch.
No apology was given. And when we said never mind the soup, he even seemed relieved. When this sort of thing happens at a place like Secret Recipe, one would think that the proper response would be to apologize first, ask the customers if they still want to push through with the order and maybe say that it would be served asap, unless of course, it was impossible, which should not have been the case since soups don't normally take too long.
The kuey teow, to the waiter's credit (because he recommended it), was actually good - flavorful and not oily. Unfortunately, I can not say the same for my pan-grilled dory, nor can sister J about her lamb. The lobster sauce was bland and doesn't seem to add anything to the dory, except make it nakakaumay. Sister J regretted ordering the lamb shank and did not even finish it. To quote her words, "Nabusog sa walang katuturan." Sister S, on the other hand, seemed satisfied with her order. I had a taste of the chicken, it was just okay in my opinion.
As we were finishing our food, I declared that I didn't want to come back to use my last voucher so we might as well use up the remaining P445 ( 3 vouchers worth P1,800 less our running bill P1,355). We settled on cakes for dessert.
Sister J had the carrot slice, sister S had the caramel cream cheese, I chose chocolate fudge and cappuccino cheese. We requested that the slices be put in takeout containers, in case we couldn't finish everything. True enough, only sister S polished off her cake. The chocolate fudge was a bit dry, but it seemed less so the following day, after taking it out of the fridge and letting it sit. The cappuccino cheese was the best of the 4. Then again, I never did like carrot cake. Not a fan of caramel either. My preference for plain chocolate, no nuts, no frills, translates to the kind of cakes I like.
Upon paying the P50 excess in our bill, we waited for the receipt to be returned. Minutes went by, none came. We followed it up with a waitress. She returned to get the signature of the voucher owner, with the receipt stapled to the vouchers. But we still didn't get a copy. Some more time passed, we repeated our request for the receipt. The same waitress who just asked for the signature turned to the waitress manning the cash register to check if we had settled our bill, which we already did. I told her we were just waiting for our receipt. The answer we got was just incredulous. We were told that we wouldn't be given a receipt because it has to be turned over to the head office, that if we wanted a copy, we would have to request directly from Ensogo. It was clear that arguing would get us nowhere. No manager was in sight from the moment we entered the restaurant. We left the restaurant in utter disbelief of what we just experienced at Secret Recipe, wishing we had eaten somewhere else.
Monday, January 24, 2011
We were curious about the noodles as well but we were already full. We'll save it for our next visit. While Shi Lin did not quite meet our expectations, we would probably be back, if we get a hankering for chicken chop.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I’m an addict. A pearl milk tea addict, that is. It started way back in the late 90s, when Easy Way first arrived on our shores from Taiwan. I had all Easy Way branches memorized and my favorite was the one along Granada, San Juan. But much like the Zagu clones, Easy Way branches closed one by one until none was left. I desperately searched for a replacement. Quickly wasn’t an option. I never did like their milk tea. Didn't like the Taro Taro either that was, and still is, so popular.
Ersao was the other option. The first time I tasted their milk tea, I found it an unsuitable replacement. But years later, probably from not being able to taste Easy Way for so long, I started to like it. I would have it two times a week, sometimes even three. It served as my pick-me-up drink. The fact that it was so near was an advantage, or was it a disadvantage? I suddenly grew tired of it and found it too “milky” for my taste. In hindsight, their milk tea seemed diluted compared to others. I couldn't have enough of it for several years and then just like that, I didn't want it anymore.
Then Happy Lemon opened. My sister heard of Happy Lemon through friends who were patrons when they were in Shanghai. I remember how we used to drop by the Promenade last October to check if the place had opened. When it finally did, we wasted no time going there.
I can still recall that day. My sister went ahead while I bought some stuff from Unimart. She immediately sent me a text message, saying something like “this is it! parang Easy Way”. I hastened there. I saw the lighted sign of Happy Lemon, literally a lemon drawn with a face, and I felt myself smiling already. I looked at the numerous drinks on the menu while waiting for my turn but I already knew what I wanted. I placed my order – a large Milk Tea with Black Pearl Sago (P85). I was handed a lemon-shaped acrylic piece, with Happy Lemon’s face on one side, a number on the other. (During succeeding visits, I noticed that they no longer hand out numbers. Perhaps some customers just "forgot" to surrender them.) After what seemed like ages, but actually just a short wait, I exchanged the number for my drink. I took one sip. I almost let out an audible “Aaahhh…” The search is over.
I thought of doing a roundup of the milk teas I've tried locally. The places offering milk tea are sprouting like mushrooms all over the metro. In the Banawe area alone, there's Ersao, Serenitea, Tea Cup and Fun Tea. I've already mentioned Quickly, which is probably the oldest. One place also worth mentioning is Bubble Tea, which is different from Bubble Tea Boy inside the Promenade food court, being sold by Coco Asian Bistro. I think Bubble Tea has quite a following. I used to like this as well, though not as much as Ersao. However, I was turned off by the outrageous price increase last year, when their large Royal Milk Tea went from P85 to P125! For milk tea, P125 seems a bit much.
For all these places, consistency is oftentimes an issue, esp. with the sago or pearl and sweetness of the milk tea. I've had quite a number of experiences with getting undercooked sago in the past. At Happy Lemon, I haven't had undercooked sago so far, but there were instances when the sago had an aftertaste. And two occasions when they seemed to have forgotten the sugar, despite the 100% sugar instruction. But since it's still on soft opening, maybe consistency will improve.
I will happily monitor consistency, by performing regular taste tests, provided the sun is still out. My sister and I observed that drinking Happy Lemon's milk tea during late hours led to trouble sleeping at night. The tea seemed to be pretty strong stuff or was it just a coincidence? But it happened without fail over several more tries. Definitely not a coincidence. We warned friends who were first-timers at Happy Lemon after we had dinner recently. They went ahead and had milk tea, while I chose Lemon Yakult, a refreshing drink that reminded me of lemon slush, but with a hint of Yakult. Two out of the four milk tea drinkers (my sister included) had a sleepless night. As for the other two, the first never had trouble sleeping even when she drinks coffee. The other was so exhausted that day she couldn't stay up even if she tried.
I therefore conclude that I should limit my milk tea consumption to daytime. Haha. Perhaps Happy Lemon can come up with a decaf version. Then it can be my happy place even at night.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Many people would be shocked to hear me say that the food I had during my previous trips to Hong Kong were not very memorable. It’s not only because they know how much I love to eat, but because Hong Kong is a place known for the good eats. So for this year’s trip, my sister and I were determined to experience Hong Kong gastronomically. And I am happy to say that we did just that.
Upon arrival in Hong Kong, we checked in at the hotel and made a beeline for the nearby Cafe de Coral. Our stomachs grumbling, we needed food and fast. Cafe de Coral is always a safe choice. With its many selections, and a different menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you won’t run out of choices. The branches of Cafe de Coral I’ve seen are always filled during lunch and dinnertime. But turnover is fast and as is customary in HK, people share tables so finding seats isn’t hard. We were spread out across different tables, which wasn’t conducive to taking pictures of everybody’s food. That, and the fact that we were so hungry we scarfed down our food within minutes, equal no pictures.
Dinner that night was at Pho24 in New Town Plaza, where Snoopy's World is located. The waiting list at Crystal Jade was too long and so we ended up eating at Pho24. (Imagine my surprise when a few months later Crystal Jade would open a branch here in Manila.)
We ordered Beef Brisket and Tendon Pho, Lemongrass Pork Chop, and Vietnamese Pork Chop.
The noodles were served al dente, unlike Pho Hoa's, the Vietnamese restaurant we frequent in Manila. I don’t know if the quality at the Pho24 branch here is the same since I haven’t tried it yet.
The pork chops were good, but I found them nakakaumay.
For lunch the next day, we tried a small noodle place near our hotel. Previous experience with similar places elsewhere in HK has led me to believe that you can't go wrong with them. We had Beef Noodles, Pork Chops, Fishball and Shrimp Dumpling Congee, and Shrimp Dumpling Noodles. The pork chops were good. (Pork chop is a noticably recurring theme in this post.) We even had thirds (not seconds, because the initial order was already two). They were definitely more enjoyable than the ones at Pho24. The congee, however, was bland. When ordering congee in Manila, we always order a fresh egg along with it, and mix it in. Due to a misunderstanding, we were given fried egg instead, cooked sunny-side up style. Since nobody wanted to eat the fried egg, we just mixed it in with the congee anyway, but it did not really add much flavor. The noodles were much better. And I wished I ordered noodles instead of congee.
(Photos of the food at this noodle place courtesy of my sister)
A short distance from our hotel in Nathan Road was Macau Restaurant, which we were amused to find, had 2 other branches located on the same street. Our dinner consisted of Fried Squid, Fried Noodles, Fried Chicken, Honey Glazed Ribs. We didn't realize that almost every dish we chose was fried until after we had ordered. We polished everything quickly, owing to our hunger due to the late hour. The food was ok, though not particularly memorable. I liked the fried noodles best, combining flat and thin noodles, and seafood bits. It was flavorful, and did not have the oily feel like other fried noodles.
Also within the vicinity of Nathan Road was the newer branch of Delicious Kitchen, where we had lunch on our 4th day. Delicious Kitchen, according to my sister's friends, was supposedly the inspiration behind Eat Well! Delicious Kitchen here in Manila. My sister has been raving about Eat Well's pork chop when she first tried it a year ago. After trying it myself, I must say though that I was not wowed. Delicious Kitchen's however, was in a different league altogether. I have to agree with my friend who said that there really is no comparison.
We were intrigued by the Double-boiled Chicken Soup with wanton and unanimously agreed to order it. When the pot arrived and the cover removed, the aroma was so delicious we knew the taste would be even more so. It did not disappoint. The soup had a cloudy hue, lending to the color of the chicken. The taste was pure chicken. It's quite unlike anything I've had before.
The recommended vegetable dish turned out to be an excellent choice. The colors were vibrant, the zucchini had the crunch of really fresh and adequately cooked vegetables, and the beef, tender. It made me see zucchini in a new light.
The Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet was also a winner. The fish was fresh and tender. The veggies in the dish were fresh and crunchy as well. The sweet and sour flavors were well-balanced. Even my sister who doesn't particularly like sweet and sour dishes enjoyed this one. I will surely come back to this restaurant on my next HK trip.
For dinner that night, we tried another restaurant in the Nathan Road area. The place didn't have an English name, or none that I saw in any sign. We had Lemon Chicken, Celery, Suckling Pig, and Roast Goose. I'm not really a fan of Lemon Chicken, but I had a taste just the same. My opinion of the dish didn't change, not that I expected it to. The rest of the dishes were quite enjoyable. In fact, my mom enjoyed the roast goose so much she declared that she would bring a whole roast goose back to the Philippines. On our last day, she went back to the restaurant to get her roast goose, which the entire family promptly feasted on upon our return.
There was one other restaurant I wanted to try before we flew back, and that was Tsui Wah, which seems to be a common recommendation across several local blogs. Luckily, there's a branch within walking distance from our hotel, and we were able to have our last lunch there.
The menu was a mix of Western and Chinese dishes. Lamb chops came with a choice of soup (tomato or creamed something) and drink (coffee or tea), and crispy bun. So did the Grilled Chicken and Scallops. Both entrees were served with rice and veggies. The rice was the Asian touch in an otherwise Western dish. I didn't try the lamb as I don't like lamb meat. But the rest of the group seemed to enjoy it. The grilled chicken and scallops was good too.
The Hainanese Chicken Rice was okay. My sister felt that Sweet Dynasty's was better. I can't say that I can appreciate a good Hainanese Chicken but I agree with her on that. I'm not as fond of it as some people are. Give me so-so hainanese chicken and good ginger sauce and I'll eat it. Some would probably argue that it's because I haven't tasted a truly great hainanese chicken. In my friend's opinion, one place offering such was Wee Nam Kee in Singapore. (Frankly, I was disappointed with the branch that opened here in Manila. But since I wasn't able to taste the one in Singapore, I can't really compare.)
Out of all the dishes we ordered, the Crispy Noodles with Prawns in Szechuan Sauce was my favorite. I have always liked crispy noodles but it's always paired with some salty sauce, never with sweet and spicy flavors. Bringing together crispy noodles and szechuan sauce was something new for me. And I totally loved it, esp. with prawns added to the mix. The peppers, which at first glance looked like prunes, I can do without. This is one dish I would definitely go back to Tsui Wah for.
After this experience, I'm confident we'll be better armed for succeeding HK trips. And I'm sure we'll enjoy the food even more.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
It’s been said that “Cash is King”. But sometimes settling for the queen isn't so bad. The queen that I speak of is credit cards. Promos are being offered by credit card companies left and right. Today’s consumer is always after the best deal. Here are just some of the best deals I’ve recently enjoyed:
1. Free movie tickets – I’ve watched 9 movies (in cinemas of course) in the past 4 months alone, more movies than I’ve seen in years, thanks to the Free Movie Ticket promo of Citibank. A charge slip worth P1,500 is equivalent to a P100 credit. Combine two (2) P1,500 charge slips and your ticket is literally free.
Promo period: Year-round. For complete promo details, visit the official Citibank site.
2. Free Tall Starbucks drink plus add-on – Present an HSBC charge slip worth P2,000 and get ANY Tall Starbucks drink plus your choice of add-on.
Promo period April 1-June 30, 2010. Complete mechanics here.
Prior to the free Starbucks drink, we also got a FREE Tori Teppanyaki at Tempura when I charged our lunch using my HSBC credit card. That’s 2 freebies for a single swipe. Sweet!
Another reason to make me happy about having an HSBC card was during a purchase at Fully Booked. I presented my default credit card (not HSBC) and was told by the Fully Booked staff that HSBC cardholders get a 5% discount. Pleasant surprise since I hadn't received the promo flyer from HSBC, which arrived a few days later. Special mention to the cashier who informed me about the discount. For other HSBC promos, click here.
3. Free Greenwich food items c/o Metrobank - I know it's a little late because the promotion started in Feb. But the good news is that it's extended until the end of May. So what are these treats Metrobank is giving away?
- FREE Greenwich Beefy Baked Macaroni or Meaty Spaghetti for a Metrobank charge slip worth P2,000
- FREE Greenwich Solo Pizza or Lasagna Supreme for a charge slip worth P3,000
- FREE Greenwich Family Thin Crust Pizza for ACCUMULATED CHARGE SLIPS of at least P10,000
Click this link for more info.
Now wouldn't you agree that having credit cards can be rewarding?