Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fly me to the Moon: Astralis by Diamond Hotel

"Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on a - Jupiter and Mars..." - lines from a classic Frank Sinatra song that greatly defines one of the previous gastronomical experiences that I've had - so good it was like a flight to the astral bodies and back! I am talking about a restaurant called Astralis, located at the Rockwell Strip in Powerplant Mall, Makati. Managed by the Diamond Hotel Group, this restaurant will surely entice you with its cozy and sophisticated ambiance aside from their high-quality continental dishes and excellent service.

It was truly a night to remember and let me start to share it with their delicious appetizer - Pan Fried Chicken Quesadilla with Salsa, Guacamole and Sour Cream. This platter is such a big hit, with its fine, cheesy goodness combined with the perfectly toasted pita bread and an array of fantastic flavors from the three different dips, everyone can have their own way of eating it and will surely be craving for more after every bite.

Pan Fried Chicken Quesadilla with Salsa, Guacamole and Sour Cream

I grew up loving soups of different kinds, I can still recall those moments that just by mere having a good bowl of creamy chicken soup, I was able to recover from an illness; so the moment I was asked what to have next for the appetizer, I've decided to try their best selling soups: the Double-baked Mushroom Soup and the Lobster Bisque. The first one was my personal choice, and lucky enough my dear friend, Yedy, had the latter, that way we can taste both types. The Double-baked Mushroom Soup was warm, rich and tasty and unlike the usual mushroom soups that I've tried, this one tasted really creamy without that powdery and milky taste. By having a spoonful of it makes me really smile, seems like its perfect consistency combined with bits of mushroom and some of the croutons had really made its way into my heart.

Double-baked Mushroom Soup

The Lobster Bisque had the most amazing sea flavors I've tasted. The lobster-like taste is very dominant in this smooth and highly-seasoned soup, strong yet very tasty and delicious. I liked that it tasted fresh and its flavors lingers in my mouth at every spoonful. This is a perfect comfort food for all the seafood lovers out there.

Lobster Bisque

After getting some warmth from those great tasting soup dishes, salad greens are then served. They offered us two of their best-selling salads namely, The Caesar Salad and The General Manager's or GM's Salad. The first one is such a classic hit for in its simplicity hides an array of flavors and textures mainly from the delicious Caesar dressing, fresh lettuce greens, croutons and grated cheese. 

 Caesar Salad

The GM's Salad, which is actually the hotel's general manager's favorite, is beautiful and scrumptious at the same time. The aesthetics of this dish is truly enticing and pretty to look at. A bowl of baked Parmesan cheese with fresh greens topped with cheese and mushrooms dressed with balsamic vinaigrette - the flavors amazingly blends well together giving your mouth such a feast. The saltiness from the baked cheese bowl added an extra layer of texture and flavor to this palatable salad dish. Also, you'll love how the balsamic vinaigrette wraps up all the flavors giving you a one-of-a-kind healthy treat!

GM's Salad

The night got even more exciting when they served us the main courses of our choice. Instead of me getting meat (lamb or beef) steak, since I am really craving for some fish that night, I decided to try their Roasted Norwegian Salmon - and it didn't fail me. Just by the mere sight of its luscious pink color, my tastebuds got very excited and after a single bite of it, my heart just jumped out of pure happiness. The freshness of the well-seasoned fish lying on a bed of creamy dill sauce is truly remarkable. The flavors of the fish, highlighted by its tasty Mediterranean crust (made out of black peppercorns, pecans and other kinds of nuts, herbs and spices) marries with the gentle flavors of the creamy dill sauce. Consume it with mushroom and garlic rice alongside with buttered carrots and beans and make it one heck of a delicious meal!

Roasted Norwegian Salmon

Another two seafood dishes that got my attention is their Seafood Risotto (Risotto Ai Frutti Di Mare)  and Prawn Napolitana. Packed with fresh squids slices, prawns, clams and mussels embedded on a creamy risotto, no one could ever resist its inviting aroma and impeccable delicious taste. The risotto was perfectly cooked and has absorbed the seafood flavors very well; it was so good you can actually eat it on its own. The freshness of the seafood used in this dish is undeniably awesome.

Seafood Risotto

The Prawn Napolitana, on the other hand, is also such a feat. Fresh prawns on a bed of warm and creamy mashed potatoes smothered with napolitana sauce - another great way to enjoy and satisfy your seafood cravings.

Prawn Napolitana

The steaks that my foodie friends ordered looked mouthwatering, delicious and ambrosial. I might not be able to try them all out but then through my lens I can guarantee that these dishes are truly to die for. I am sure every meat lovers would agree.

Cross-hatched U.S. Choice Rib Eye Steak

U.S. Choice Rib Eye Steak

Cooked from medium-rare to well done, these steaks are truly phenomenal. Simple as it may seem but the meat says it all - fresh, tender, tasty and juicy - all the yummy characteristics that a delicious steak should have. Paired it with some buttery mashed potatoes or dipped with a little of Mornay sauce (a kind of Bechamel sauce), these steaks are undeniably gastronomical. 

 Lamb Chops

U.S. Choice Porterhouse Steak

A meaty dish that as for me, is quite different from the rest is their Lamb Shank Caldereta. Inspired from the classic Filipino dish, this is another proof of Diamond Hotel's superb creativity when it comes to coming up with dishes that would greatly appeal to the Pinoy palate. 

Lamb Shank Caldereta

No great foodie night will be complete without an array of delightful desserts. I am known for being a dessert and pastry lover, so this is actually my much-awaited part. Since I have this great passion for French-inspired desserts, I decided to get their Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, though I was really frayed between it and the Chocolate Lava Cake. Luckily, Yedy opted to have the chocolate cake and the others the Trio Sorbet. 

The Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee is such a darling. I deeply fell in love with its subtle and creamy consistency. The sweetness and richness of its vanilla-bean-flavored custard base is just right and its unbelievably complementing with its hard caramel top. The fresh fruits, most especially the peaches added another layer of flavor into this stellar dessert.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Everybody loves chocolates and I must say that with this treat, I have made my affinity into it even more stronger. The Chocolate Lava Cake is a moist, warm chocolate cake that has a surprising core. Dig into it and watch as some melted chocolate oozes from the center. This sweet surprise is heightened even more by Astralis - dig until you reach the bottom to find chunks of chocolate that would really make your chocolate cake experience worthwhile. Topped with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, the combination of hot and cold in this dessert is really a must try.

Chocolate Lava Cake

Lastly, the Trio Sorbet, as what its colors suggests, is very refreshing and is a good palate cleanser after having those savory and meaty dishes. You'll definitely enjoy it three revitalizing flavors: Coconut, Mango and Strawberry, yummy! 

Trio Sorbet

It was indeed a great night. Aside from the most appetizing food, we also enjoyed Astralis' elegant and sophisticated interiors - perfect place for a romantic dinner for two, a family quality time or catching ups with friends closest to your heart. As for me, being with these amazing foodies (Spanky, Jane, Yedy, Richard, Jonel, Melanie and Lian)  is such a great opportunity that I will be forever thankful for. 

Experience luxury, amazing food and good life only at the Astralis by Diamond Hotel.


R1/Lvl. Power Plant Mall,
Rockwell Dr. cor. Estrella St.
Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines
(02) 890-7124

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Recipes: A Food Review and A Flashback

Everything that happened is it still very clear in my mind. As much as I would like to forget those memoirs that really brought me to tears, I can't... I cannot do so for these things somehow had made an impact of who I am now; of what I believe in and how I see life in a much better light. Yes, I can say that I have been through a lot - heartaches, frustrations, disappointments, sorrows - it may seem that I am overreacting for these are nothing compared to what others have been through, but as for me, they're not. Each is a heavy load that I have learned to carry and eventually gave me wisdom to live life everyday. Surpassing all those things, I learned how to love and be loved, to move on, to forgive and at the same time ask for forgiveness, to see the people around me who lifted my spirits up and most importantly to pray and ask for some guidance. All throughout this process, special aspects which I call "F3" has always been there to keep me smiling - Family, Friends and Food.

Thank heavens I am blessed with loving friends, a supportive family and a big appetite. Everytime that the rain will fall down on me, I eat with the people I love. It effectively allows me to reflect on the things happening in my life and it is also a way for me to lighten my heart out. With that, let me share with you different dining moments happened at one of my favorite restaurants - RECIPES By Cafe Metro.

Recipes By Cafe Metro, founded by Mickee and Ria de Guzman, traces its roots from Mickee's grandmother, Lola Impression and her traditional family and Filipino home cooking. As what I have also learned, most of the entrees and bestsellers on the restaurant's menu was Lola Impression's original recipe - a fact that made every dish in this restaurant a part of their family's heritage. Over the years, they have made interesting twists to these traditional Filipino fares which made them known as a fusion restaurant as well. This is the reason why most families and group of friends keep on coming back in this restaurant; for it doesn't only offer food in to-share servings but at the same time serve the best-tasting and family-oriented meals you could ever find.

I have first encountered Recipes after attending my French classes in Alliance Francais de Manille in Makati. As what I can remember, I was walking around Greenbelt looking for a place to eat and at the same time lounge before heading home. That time, I badly wanted to reward myself with something good for dinner, something filling but still within my budget. Then, with its concrete walls, minimalist interiors, bright lighting and modern appeal, I found myself comfortably waiting for my dinner - the very same dish that me and my friends agreed to order - their version of Korean Beef Stew.

Recipes really got the right taste to its Korean Beef Stew - the push and pull of sweet, savory and spicy flavors greatly complements the tender beef making it such an amazing tandem with steaming hot white rice. I also got so hooked with how the soft meat absorbed those flavors from the sauce, a feat that makes this dish par excellence. The sauce and the amazingly soft beef makes the whole dish really stand out; it was something that you would crave and would prefer to have everytime you give their resto a visit.

Korean Beef Stew

this is how I usually eat my Korean Beef Stew -
I drizzle most of the sauce over rice, mix it and then
eat it with the delicious beef and sweet carrots.

Another equally scrumptious dish that you can only find at Recipes is the General's Chicken. The name might sound quite intimidating but you'll fall for its savory goodness and appetizing flavors. Imagine crispy chunks of breaded chicken and sliced eggplants covered with their rich, sweet and savory general's sauce - a dish that will truly capture and confine your taste buds. The chicken tasted extra special with its combination with the sauce, so as to the eggplants. I love how the sauce didn't overpower the mild flavors of the chicken but instead brought it to a higher notch of impeccable taste. Also, I am not a big aubergine fan but I was able to enjoy every bit of it in this one of a kind palatable dish. For those who prefer a lighter version, the Fried Tofu in General's Sauce is a must try. Perfectly fried tofu made more tasty and exquisite with the general's sauce, same delicious taste without the guilt!

General's Chicken

Fried Tofu in General's Sauce

I was first introduced to Lechon Kawali with Adobong KangKong when my best friend invited me to join his family for lunch in Trinoma. From that moment on, I have learned that deep fried pork meat and kangkong soaked in a soy sauce, vinegar and some spices base goes well together. It is very unique compared to how other restaurants serve it. As for my opinion, it's actually better compared to the usual liver-based lechon that we are all familiar with. The base adobo sauce interestingly rounds up the meaty taste of the pork and the freshness of the leafy greens. Also, the meat retained its crispiness and has absorbed some of the sauce making it such a feast to the mouth when you eat it. You can also enjoy this dish like a salad or make it a complete meal with a cup of rice. This is one true Filipino dish that will definitely become one of your personal favorites.

Lechon Kawali with Adobong KangKong

Another dish that was initially introduced to me during my bestfriend's family lunch at Recipes is the Gising-Gising. I am not a big fan of the veggie in this dish but it's team up with some rich coconut milk and its amazingly good spiciness left me in awe with eyes wide open, hence, truly standing to its very Filipino nature and name. The veggies remained crunchy with a certain bite into it and its flavors blended really well with the creamy texture and taste of the coconut milk. I am very particular with meals cooked with gata but this dish really captured my heart and is truly worth raving about.


I love anything from the sea. Although I am much of a carnivore, from time to time I prefer to devour bounties from the great ocean. That is why my heart jumped out of pure happiness when my friends decided to order some of their best selling fish dishes. First on our list is their Crispy Tilapia and its other two variants namely: Crispy Tilapia Escabeche and Crispy Tilapia in Tamarind Sauce. What I love about these dishes is that you need not to worry about the fish bones anymore, all that you have to do is pick it up, put it in your mouth and enjoy. The escabeche greatly appeals to the Filipino palate with its combination of sweet and salty flavors that deliciously highlights the freshness of the fish.

Crispy Tilapia Escabeche

The Crispy Tilapia in Tamarind Sauce is a more subtle version that behind its simplicity hides layers of flavors that will surely tease and tickle your tastebuds. Its mild and the tangy tamarind sauce impressively brings out the goodness of the fried freshwater fish. Also, the hint of lemony taste from the lemon grass adds a certain freshness to the dish making it even more interesting. It is another new twist to the regular crispy fried tilapia that everyone will surely fall for.

Crispy Tilapia in Tamarind Sauce

One more reason to visit Recipes is for their hefty serving of Kare-Kare. Since we are a group of hungry foodies, this dish is undeniably a perfect catch - with its deliciously nutty sauce, crunchy veggies and succulent meat - everyone will surely be happy. The consistency and taste of the sauce is just perfect, even without their equally tasty shrimp paste (bagoong alamang). Add some of the bagoong and it will surely leave you speechless and asking for some extra rice!


An unusual yet a yummy partner to their Kare-Kare is the Crispy Bangus. The crunchiness of the fried milkfish not only adds some texture but also a depth of flavor that harmoniously blends with the distinct taste of the sauce. On its own, it is a gastronomic finger food that you might not stop eating, especially when dipped into their signature vinegar and soy sauce.

Crispy Bangus

Speaking of finger foods, another dish that you shouldn't miss is their Chicharong Bulaklak. Recipes' version tasted really clean and has put this regular Filipino street food to the next level. I actually enjoy eating it alone as well as dipping it into their special chicharon vinegar - a true perfect pair that no foodie could ever resist.

Chicharong Bulaklak

Just like how I believe that at the end of the day, life still is as beautiful as ever and is the best gift given unto us, I always make sure to end special gatherings like this with something sweet and creamy, something more likely to be Recipes' Special Buko Pandan. This very Pinoy dessert reminds me of my mom a lot, for it was through her that I have learned how to make it (miss her big time!). What I love about this dessert is that instead of its usual ingredients, Recipes used more sophisticated elements to make this simple dessert very, very tempting. Imagine emerald-green pandan flavored gelatin adorned with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (in replacement of all purpose cream) and topped with shreds of macapuno to add just the right sweetness into it. Every sweet tooth will be amazed by the velvety texture of the vanilla ice cream and the macapuno, most especially how it mixes with the subtle flavors of the gelatin which gives its signature taste as a whole. Also, it's remarkable how my teeth sinks in to the gelatin that has an interesting bite into its core. Indeed, having this dessert is such a sweet and lovely ending to a hefty and savory meal.

Special Buko Pandan

While on the road, after indulging into those great-tasting dishes, reminiscing what I have been through and spending some fantastic time with my foodie friends, one thing suddenly came into my mind, an idea that made me nearly teary-eyed - "I am blessed and I will always be, so as to the people around me". Life conspires lessons that we need to learn and I believe that I have already understood some of mine. It will be a tough journey for sure but I know that in every storm that I am in, a person or could be a group of people will also be there to join me and help me get through it. Being blessed is not only getting what you want nor having a smooth-sailing life, it is still about sharing a smile and love to others, having wonderful friends and being able to see life in a better light. All in all, it was another memorable gastronomical experience that will be forever a part of me, an amazing food trip only at Recipes.

Recipes By Cafe Metro


Alabang Town Center
2nd Level, Corte delas Palmas, Alabang Town Center
Alabang-Zapote Road, Alabang Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 2) 772-2216

Shangri-la Plaza Mall
5th Level, Shangri-la Plaza Mall
Shaw Blvd. cor. EDSA Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 2) 637-4050

Trinoma Mall
EDSA cor. North Ave. Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 2) 901-3686

Greenbelt 3
Greenbelt 3
Greenbelt Paseo de Roxas cor. Legaspi St., Ayala Center Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 2) 728-0917, (63 2) 728-0920

Robinsons Midtown
Midtown Wing, Robinsons Place Manila
Pedro Gil cor. Adriatico Sts., Ermita Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 2) 567-1912

***Will be opening soon in Newport Mall in Resorts World, Manila***

Credits: Special thanks to my friend, Chris Carreon for some of the food shots