Tuesday, February 19, 2013



 I had heard some buzz of late regarding the newly-opened CALDERON Spanish tapas resto in San Juan, and was keen to check it out. Subsequently, i made dinner plans with immensely likeable JNY, and we decided to go here. 

The signage outside is bright, attractive, and you absolutely can't miss the place. The interiors were subdued, yet quite tastefully decorated; and i felt comfortable immediately inside.

 The menu of Calderon isn't as extensive as expected, and the two of us were unsure if we could finish the Paella Negra or Paella Valenciana, so we decided to stick to the small-sized dishes. 

First up was the Bacalao ala Vizcaina (PHP280.00). Being busy with our conversation, JNY and i temporarily forgot what we had ordered, and were rather unsure what it was.

Eventually, we figured out it was the bacalao. Mixed reviews for this dish - the flavor was good (for me), but we agreed the fish was rather "mushy" instead of being firm; and you had to sort of poke around with your fork to find the fish bits.

Next up were the Gambas al Ajillo (PHP280.00), which proved to be quite tasty and nicely cooked. The sauce was a bit spicy, but it was the type of spicy that we liked :D  

 I would suggest, though, that they consider having fewer pieces, but bigger-sized, shrimps for this dish. That would make it perfect!

Last up was the Bandeja de Jamon, Chorizo y Quezo (Assorted Ham, Chorizo & Cheese Platter) for PHP800.00, which they are having a promo on right now. Paired with a carafe of Red Sangria for only PHP999.00, not a bad deal at all.

   (Photo credit: Between Bites)

UPDATE (3/1/13): I've taken the liberty of grabbing the photo above from JNY's blog, which is much more popular and better than mine. The original photo i posted was off-center and pasty-white, and didn't do justice to how yummy the bandeja looked.

JNY and i loved the manchego and goat cheeses, and the Jamon Serrano, and ate it all. However, we didn't finish the round-shaped meat in the middle - it wasn't bad, but the texture seemed "crumbly".

Overall, for me, the good food + fun conversation made for one of my best nights out in a long while. And i'd definitely be interested to come back to Calderon with a larger group, so we can try out their paellas and Iberian Chicken (which has to be ordered one day in advance). And more tapas, of course!

 Calderon Cocina Tapas y Bebidas
403 F. Calderon St., Little Baguio, San Juan
Tel. No. 238-22-64
Open from 11a.m. to 11p.m., Tuesdays to Sundays

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Calderon/523587167668639

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


(This is the last post of this series. Why? Because i can't button my pants anymore with all this eating, and my belt buckle is. . .well, buckling under the weight of my belly :D)

Alas, all good things must come to an end. We decided to have lunch at Chaya, which bills itself as "Contemporary Japanese Cuisine". S. had raved about the presentation of their food, as well as the food itself, so off we went to have our last meal in Baguio before driving back to Manila.

Chaya can be a bit difficult to spot for first-time visitors, so look for a plain RED gate along Legarda Road and watch out for the sign above. There is sufficient parking space inside their compound. 

Interiors were quite charming, and made for a relaxed setting. There was a karaoke system at one side of the room, so we surmised there was an after-dinner crowd that sang to their hearts' content here at Chaya.

Onwards to the food! Amongst the stuff we ordered were:

Chirashi Sushi (Sushi rice topped with fresh variety of sashimi). This was essentially "roll your own sushi", which we proved to be rather UN-adept at! :D (Yes, that black thing on the lower portion of the photo is the dried seaweed)

Looked like a small portion, but believe me, we could hardly finish it. The sashimi (salmon, tuna and mackerel) was very fresh and tasty, and the rice was just the right degree of sticky. Thumbs up!!

I ordered the Salmon Sashimi, and got this plate. Whoa! It was (again) very fresh, and subtly sweet, and very delicately sliced. The portion was quite generous, too. (9 pieces). Really delicious! And healthy! I could feel my HDL cholesterol levels soaring already!


 Next up was the Nizakana (Fresh fish of the day, simmered in Sake and traditional Japanese ingredients). The meat of the fish was tender, and the sauce was on the rather sweetish side, not what you'd expect something from sake to taste like. Still good.


Then came the Ebi Fry (2 pieces Prawn Tempura with side dish of salad). The prawns were of a good size. It was a pity, though, that Chaya doesn't serve the typical 5 or 6 pieces Ebi Tempura that we are so familiar with in other Japanese restos. 

Those onion rings were pretty good, too!

Last up was the dessert - Green Tea ice cream with red beans. Nice way to finish our last meal (boo!).


  I heartily recommend this place!


72 Legarda Road
Tel: 074 424-4726
Website: www.chayabaguio.com


Ayy, wait! I realized i'm not quite finished yet. When this series started, i mentioned something about being "disappointed in one of our old favorites"; and i'd be remiss if i didn't mention it. 

I have fond memories of this place, having eaten here in my last 3 previous  trips to Baguio. For me, their food has always been good, above-average, but not really spectacular. Instead, it has been really their ambiance (oh, to sit in front of the fireplace!) which was their strong point.

So, on our first night here, we eagerly went to Forest House. Suffice to say that the food was not good, not average; it was sub-par, and in the case of R.T.'s main course (lamb ribs, if my memory serves me right), flat out terrible. 

Totally disappointing.  Sayang.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


 Hill Station is located at the Casa Vallejo, a restored hotel complex that also houses Mt. Cloud Bookshop (selling mainly Filipiniana books) and North Haven Spa (try their Strawberry body scrub!). This place is right in the middle of things, being literally below that monolith everyone loves to hate, SM Baguio.

It was a Friday night; and around 10:00 PM, we were looking for a place to have a very late dinner. S. made some calls (dear reader, by now you must have realized she is the tour guide par excellence in this neck of the woods ;-D). Pretty soon, we were ushering ourselves at the doorstep of Hill Station.

At first glance of the interiors, i inwardly mused that this place was rather intimidating. It gave off an Old World, fine dining vibe, where one had to be properly dressed (no slippers! no shorts! no headphones!) and be knowledgeable about which piece of cutlery to use for each course.

Turns out the owner of Hill Station is a relative of the iconic Mario's restaurant. S. whispered that this resto was where Baguio's creme de la creme gathered for special social occasions (where they're presumably dressed to the nines).

As we were famished, onwards to the food:


 The free bread was quite soft and chewy, and i ate a lot! The dips were flavorful. 

For the Beef Carpaccio (above), we all agreed it was top-rate: Good portion sizes for the beef, fresh crunchy lettuce, and the dressing was not heavy nor cloying. 


I liked that the Sizzling Sisig wasn't overly dry (like Gerry's Grill) nor wet/goopy. The consistency was just right, and it was a nice appetizer for all of us. 

R.T. particularly liked his Lamb Spareribs, pronouncing it "very tender".

My dish was rather grandiosely called the "Fish Fillet with Five Spice Chile Tea Rub" in Hoisin Lime Sauce. I had high expectations, which unfortunately were not met. Don't get me wrong, the fish wasn't bad - it was just rather average. And the so-called five spices were overpowered by the hoisin sauce. 

Ah, desserts. Here we come to the most interesting part: 

Clockwise (from top left:) 
Dark Chocolate ice cream with Cayenne (the one with orange-colored bits on top); Death by Chocolate cake (brownies with vanilla ice cream, similar to what is served at Chili's/TGIFridays/Italianni's); Flan de Sevilla (leche flan with ground orange rind bits); and Chocolate Lemon Tart (with whipped cream).

The cayenne provided a real jolt, but the dark chocolate ice cream, while tasting of real dark chocolate, had a rather "ice-y" mouth feel. It was just okay. 

Meanwhile, W.T. felt the dark chocolate and lemon didn't quite mesh, so thumbs down for this dish. 

On the plus side, Death by Chocolate was a winner! So gooey and rich! Perfectly fattening! :D

Flan de Sevilla was not just a winner, it was the BOMB!!! Molto fantastico! The texture of the flan was firm, the caramel sauce with just the right amount of sweetness, counterbalanced by the citrus tang of the orange rinds. I'd be willing to get on a bus to Baguio just to eat this dessert again. Right on top of my list for best leche flan!

Hill Station Tapas Bar & Restaurant
Casa Vallejo
Upper Session Road
Mobile : 0927 667-8553

Monday, February 11, 2013


Eve's Garden has been around for a long while, and i guess the best way to describe it is to say it is Baguio's version of Tagaytay's Sonia's Garden (minus the mini-bakery, B & B, and wedding reception area). 

This place is a home-restaurant, and they grow their own vegetables and herbs in their greenhouse. Here's how it works for Eve's Garden: One needs to make a reservation ahead of time, and specify ONE DAY IN ADVANCE which main course from their set menu one wishes to have. Each lunch set costs PHP650.00.

 It is quite a distance away from the Baguio city center; and the road going there, whilst in good paved condition, was virtually deserted (as in we didn't see any other cars), so i figure we would have been lost without our dependable navigator S. Thus, after 30 minutes or so, we were glad to see their entrance (above).

The resto itself is a fairly narrow, small space; and there is just a total of 5 tables. Paintings by local artists frame the walls, and there is a simple homey ambiance that makes one feel at ease. 


Ah, our table with a view, where our refreshing fresh juice drinks await. 

The set menu, as follows: Freshly squeezed pineapple juice with lemon mint and sage, sweetened with Muscovado sugar. This was way too sweet, and had to be diluted with lots and lots of water.

Refreshing, once diluted. :D

The soup was made with a base of onion and squash with seven herbs, garnished with parmesan cheese croutons and yogurt. Pretty nicely flavored with excellent consistency.  Portion size was just right. 

What i think of as Eve's piece de resistance, their Salad Platter. Made of 6 to 8 lettuce varieties, served with carrots, turnips, walnuts, raisins; and the salad dressing is Caesar-style, made with organic flax oil/olive oil/sunflower oil with seven fresh garden herbs.

Looks too pretty to eat, no? :D Or in R.T.'s inelegant words, "I feel so gay eating this". [no offense meant to our LGBT friends, okay? Peace, mon]

Upon the staff's instructions, we used our hands and put the raisins/walnuts/carrots/turnips onto the vegetable leaves and rolled them, and dipped into the sauce. Sort of like eating vegetarian-style Peking duck, i guess.

The salad was extremely good, so fresh and crunchy! Hard to eat so much, though, since it tends to make one feel full very quickly. (uh oh, is this the secret to losing weight? Eating leaves like a horse? Arggghhh!)

Check out my plate below (and compare it to the one on top). Obviously i ate not so much and just pushed the lettuce around the plate, hehe. 

Main course choices were: a) Grilled chicken breast with pesto fettuccini, served with whole-wheat butter fingers; b) Grilled tenderloin soaked in sake, strawberry wine, honey and herbs, served with organic red rice, corn and turnips; and c) Steamed Norwegian salmon with caper dressing, also with organic red rice, corn and turnips.

W.T., S. and i got the chicken breast, which was tender enough. The fettucini was extremely dry, though; and W.T. commented it could have used a dollop of oil.

R.T.'s tenderloin was similarly pretty, and he liked his dish.

Choice of coffee, or ginger ginseng with mint tea; plus homemade dessert made with flax meal, oatmeal flour, molasses, raisins, etc. (a healthy cereal bar). Funnily, the tea tasted like tamarind.

Afterwards, we climbed down to look around Eve's property. Check out her outdoor sala, with the nice wooden trunks.  Further down below on the mountain slopes were her greenhouse, as well as the house of her son.

I joked to R.T. that maybe he should buy the empty grassy lots beside Eve's Garden, relocate there, and start growing hogs, which he will eventually turn to organic, grass-fed, free-range, artisanal pork sausages!

Brilliant idea, eh?

EVE'S GARDEN - "Experience Healthy in your Meal"
132 Upper Lamtang Road, 
La Trinidad, Benguet
Mobile: 0917 506-6264



We were quite keen to try this restaurant, due to positive reviews in local blogs (notably, Our Awesome Planet); and S. raved about their Malaysian-Thai cuisine, particularly the tom yum soup. She also claimed to be a friend of the chef.

 For a bit of background, Chef Alvin Eumang and his wife started as a literal hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a ramshackle building  a few hundred meters away from their present location. With good word-of-mouth, they were able to relocate to their much nicer digs. Their present spot is simply superb, very near Wright Park and virtually a stone's throw away from the Mansion House.


 From the outside, the restaurant looks big, but this is deceptive. The house at their rear is private property, so Chef's Home is unexpectedly small, around 5 or 6 tables only inside. If the sun isn't shining too bright, i would recommend eating al fresco, as there seems to be a bit of problem with their exhaust fan; and eating inside would guarantee you come out of the restaurant smelling of their food.

  Check out their handwritten menu of the day on the white board:

Here are most of the dishes that we ordered, with S. leading the way in choosing. Lo and behold, Chef Eumang dropped by our table; it turns out S. was really a friend of his (due to her regular patronage)! Whoa! He smilingly suggested we leave room for dessert.

 First up, the Beef Murtabak, basically deep fried roti with beef omelette inside. The roti was very crunchy, and the filling a tad spicy.

Thai-style Grilled Pork, which was SUPER liked by all of us. Tasty!

The Tom Yum soup, which had the right level of sourness, but a bit too spicy for me. S. loved it though.

Chili King Prawns proved to be quite good. Perfectly cooked, and the sauce was sweet with a tinge of curry.

By this time, we were starting to get full. But undaunted, we soldiered on to eat more food. Below was the Black Pepper Squid, which proved to be perfectly cooked (not rubbery nor too soft), set off nicely by the peppers. 

 Just a weird observation: I thought that Chef Eumang's dishes tended to have the same presentation, i.e. they were all slathered with tomatoes and various greens and herbs. Not that it mattered. The food was delicious, period. 

The Fried Catfish (below) was tender and tasty and flavorful.


 At this point, we were all stuffed to the gills. Witness below the various dishes in different states of disarray :D 

But heeding Chef's advice, we had room for dessert, namely: Roti Ice Cream, with peaches and sesame seeds. (One can also opt to  have coffee sauce with this dish) The ice cream blended perfectly with the crunchy, sweet roti; and we happily finished it all.

My only disappointment with this resto is that their selection of drinks is not extensive, composed of softdrinks and iced tea only. It would be great if they could serve fresh iced lemongrass or pandan juices, etc.

All in all, a straightforward, albeit tasty, meal at reasonable prices. Definitely in the cards to visit again during the next visit to the City of Pines!

I suggest coming here early (11 AM for lunch, 6 PM for dinner), in order to get good seats. Likewise, be prepared to wait a bit for your food to arrive, as Chef Alvin does most (if not all) of the cooking himself.

Chef's Home: A Taste of Asia
30 Lualhati St. corner Romulo Drive,
Baguio City
Mobile: 0916 444-5756

**CLOSED on Sundays. CASH ONLY. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013


(Back to one of my favorite old haunts, Baguio City aka "The City of Pines". We tried new restos that we've heard good things about, discovered one or two by accident, and got disappointed in one of our old favorites.)

Our merry group (Baguio local S. and her brother Rb,  my friends R.T. and his wife W.T., and S.'s hapless suitor WHN) just had finished dinner at Le Chef inside Camp John Hay, definitely the swankiest (and most expensive) place to be on a Saturday night here in this part of the world.

Looking for a nice dessert place, S. recommended Everything Nice Cake Shop and Cafe. This is very conveniently right across the street from the Convergys call center building, part of the Baguio-Ayala TechnoHub inside CJH.

After much hem-and-hawing, we finally got down to ordering our desserts. The Special Cassava Cake (above) was flat out fantastic! So light and soft and melt-in-the-mouth flavorful! IMHO, this should make any Top 10 dessert list in the Philippines anytime.

In fact, we liked it so much that the next day, we made a special detour back to Everything Nice to buy a box or two of the cassava cake, before departing for Manila. Alas! Some things aren't meant to be (much to R.T.'s dismay), as they were still baking the cassava cakes and we had to wait for a few more hours. 

Back to the cafe. Unfortunately, the rest of the stuff we ordered (the mango cheesecake, in particular) was mediocre and forgettable. 

So, not everything's nice at Everything Nice