Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Most of the food that you’ll see here have either already been touched on in previous reviews, and/or recipes, so I may not write much about the food only because it’s nothing quite so special. Kamayan sa Palaisdaan has both a Hotel & Resort, as well as a restaurant, both carrying the same menu but differ in ambience. It is the ambience of the restaurant just down the road from the Hotel & Resort that made me want to write a review and share this place with you – floating bahay kubos on bamboo rafts!

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Other than the ambience, I couldn’t really pick out anything special from their menu that really made me want to say, “I’m coming back here for this particular dish!” Though they say it’s an ideal getaway restaurant for seafood lovers, the seafood did not really impress – well I mean, we barely ordered any seafood to be honest.

I don’t know why I am so negative when it comes to reviewing Filipino food. The only reason I can think of is that most of the food that you get dining out, you can easily cook it up yourself at home and it tastes exactly the same. From the dishes that you will see below, I can definitely cook up all the dishes. I guess it’s because I know how to cook these dishes, that I comment the way I do. I’m not saying that these are terrible dishes; if anything, they are my favourite dishes to have when eating at home. It’s just that when I dine out, I want to eat something that I can’t cook myself (or I guess in my case, haven’t attempted to cook yet).

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SINIGANG atbp: Sinigang na Sugpo
SINIGANG atbp: Sinigang na Sugpo (₱320.00)

Sugpo, as you can already tell from the photograph above is prawn (or shrimp if you’re from that part of the world that calls them that despite being huge-ass prawns). Sinigang is a soup that is characterised by its sour and savoury taste that is most often associated with tamarind. This is a dish that my mom would make a few times a month, varying between different meats such as beef and pork, and seafood like prawns and fish, accompanied by all sorts of vegetables from daikon, water spinach, okra, taro corms, etc. This is a dish I love especially when the weather is quite chilly.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SINIGANG atbp: Tinolang Manok
SINIGANG atbp: Tinolang Manok (₱255.00)

This is another dish that my mom would always make, and also great for cold and rainy days. Tinola is a ginger and onion based soup with manok (chicken) as the usual main ingredient, best complimented with green papaya wedges (an alternative is chayote/chokos) and chili leaves. Again, a dish that I love, but very close to the way that I’d make it at home.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SIZZLERS: Sisig Pork
SIZZLERS: Sisig Pork (₱205.00)

Of course, a meal in the Philippines would not be complete without sisig! I was actually quite disappointed with this sisig dish though – it came to the table, not only without a freshly cracked egg on top of it, but it also wasn’t sizzling and was very dry.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - IHAW: Inihaw na Spareribs
IHAW: Inihaw na Spareribs (₱310.00)

I love ihaw, and I love spareribs. Sadly, these ribs were dry and weren’t very tender.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - IHAW: Inihaw na Pork Chop
IHAW: Inihaw na Pork Chop (₱320.00)

The pork chop option was much better than the spareribs; juicy, tender, and full of that lovely char-grilled flavour.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - VEGETABLES: Chopsuey Chicken
VEGETABLES: Chopsuey Chicken (₱185.00)

Whenever we dine out, we try to avoid dishes like chopsuey, but because we couldn’t decide on any other vegetable dishes (I know there’s chicken in it but it was somehow placed under the ‘vegetables’ section on the menu). Why we try to avoid this dish is simply because it’s basically just stir-fried vegetables and nothing more exciting to that.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - PRITO: Daing na Bangus
PRITO: Daing na Bangus (₱160.00)

Bangus (milkfish) is the national fish of the Philippines and can be prepared and cooked in various ways. ‘Daing’ refers to dried fish from the Philippines. Fish prepared as daing is usually split open, gutted, salted liberally, and then sun and air-dried. I love eating fried bangus with a bit of pickled green papaya on the side with plain rice. But honestly speaking though, why order fried fish at a restaurant? In my case, because I love it and I couldn’t find anything else in the menu that attracted me to it.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - SALADS: Ensaladang Pako
SALADS: Ensaladang Pako (₱125.00)

Quite possibly the worst dish from this place based on my taste buds and opinion. For starters, the taste of what seemed to be raw pako (an edible Fiddlehead fern) did not sit too well with me; it tasted bitter. What made it worse for me were the raw onions and the obvious canned sardines in tomato sauce. Why did I order this? Well I didn’t, my uncle did. I don’t think I even touched this dish after a small bite of just the pako.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan - JUICES: Buko FreshJUICES: Buko Fresh (₱60.00)

Fresh coconut juice straight from the shell, need I say more?

Overall, as I have already mentioned above, the menu is pretty average and can honestly be found in many other restaurants (and homes no matter rich or poor) across the Philippines. I guess it’s safe to say that if you are going to the restaurant for the food, it’s not worth the trip to this place seeing as it is also quite hard to find. However, if you want to dine in a bamboo hut on a bamboo raft floating over water, then you may want to make the trip here just for that experience. Dining at the Hotel & Resort isn’t bad as well as it provides a lot more recreational activities that you can enjoy aside from dining, and it also overlooks Mount Banahaw. So ambience and dining experience is a sure 10 for me. Service probably an 8 as even though there were quite a few staff members, it was pretty hard to flag one down whenever we needed something. Food – probably a 5; 6 if I’m feeling generous, but nothing more.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

Barangay. Dapdap
Tayabas, Quezon
Philippines

– Ally xx

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Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Tilapia

Mesa Filipino Moderne

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! I’ve got three more places from the Philippines that I want to touch on before I start reviewing a couple of places here in Brunei. I’ve actually visited quite a number of places in the Philippines, but I feel like I haven’t had the full dining experience yet in terms of what their menu has to offer. Then there are some other places that I was thinking of writing about, but when I look back at their food, it was all too similar and nothing special really.

Anyway, what I realised when dining out in the Philippines, food is always the same no matter where I go. For example, dishes like sisig, crispy pata, kare-kare, sinigang, laing, buko pandan, leche flan, and many other classic and famous Filipino dishes, though I imagine cooked slightly different to separate themselves from others, all taste quite similar no matter where we have it. In tagalog, I would normally say “nakakasawa”, if you eat the same food over and over you will say or have that feeling nakakasawa, but maybe its because I’ve been eating in the wrong places.

Mesa caught my eye as I was roaming around SM North Edsa with my sisters while my Mom was somewhere along Quezon Avenue doing medical checkups. We were looking for new places to eat, and when a saw ‘new’ I just mean nothing like Barrio Fiesta or Gerry’s Grill – not places that we have been to over and over again every time we visit the Philippines. I had never heard or encountered Mesa in my pervious trips, and what intrigued me was the modernity and interpretation of classic traditional Filipino dishes. I was definitely intrigued when I saw Ostrich on their menu even though I didn’t have any.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - SISIG: Sisig in a pouch
SISIG: Sisig in a pouch
Savoury pork sisig wrapped in a pouch (₱190.00)

As mentioned probably in a previous review, sisig is a dish that I never fail to have whenever I visit the Philippines. I was attracted to this dish because I’ve never had sisig this way before. It was a perfect way to start out our lunch at Mesa; the pouches had a very nice golden brown finish to them, and it gave each bite a nice crunch to the sisig filling inside. It was paired nicely with a side of spicy vinegar as well.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - SOUP: Sinigang na baboy in guava and pineapple
SOUP: Sinigang na baboy in guava and pineapple
Pork simmered in broth with guava and fresh pineapple; serves 4-5 (₱290.00)

What caught my eye with this dish as I was browsing the menu was the guava and pineapple part. I’ve never had sinigang with these two fruits before so I was indeed very intrigued to know how the strong flavours would blend together. It actually worked quite well to an extent. I say ‘extent’ because there was one time I had a whole heap of guava flavour in my spoon of soup and the taste overkilled. Nevertheless, an enjoyable dish.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Hito
FRESH CATCH: Hito
Crispy boneless with mangga salad (₱340.00)

The only thing that concerned me about this dish was where’s the mango salad? If you’re going to make mention “with” mango salad, I expect it to be of reasonable portioning as a side dish and not just “topped” over the fried fish. Slightly disappointing.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - FRESH CATCH: Tilapia
FRESH CATCH: Tilapia
Crispy boneless served with four sauces (₱340.00)

Well, just like the crispy boneless hito, nothing quite special about the four sauces that went with fried fish that in my opinion had not much flavour in the flesh itself. Verging on being overcooked? Quite possibly.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - VEGETABLES: Laing 2 ways
VEGETABLES: Laing 2 ways
Taro leaves, pork, shrimp paste, and coconut cream topped with adobo flakes, served original and crispy (₱170.00)

The taro, or also known as gabi in the Philippines, is low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and in contrast, high in dietary fibre, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. The leaves, stems, and corms are all consumed and form part of the local cuisine, a dish known as Laing. Laing originated from the Bicol region, and no matter where you have it at, and no matter the way it is cooked, it always ends up looking like a pile of… 🙂 I’ve had my fair share from many eateries, and even home-cooked laing, and it always looks like this. But I assure you that it tastes so much better than it looks. I like how Mesa served this dish two ways – basically one with sauce and the other without. Both tasted pretty good and the adobo flakes on top added that extra flavour and crunch to the dish.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - MEAT: Pinatayong Manok
MEAT: Pinatayong Manok
“Standing” whole chicken carved right at your table (₱415.00)

Quite possibly one of the reasons why I stopped in front of the restaurant and had a look at their menu; I saw a picture of this dish and I immediately knew I wanted to eat that. It was basically a whole roasted chicken that didn’t particularly have any special taste to it in my opinion, but what I enjoyed was the way it was served to us. It was brought to our table “standing” and carved for us at our table. The chicken was cooked well and was very tender.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - MEAT: Pork Binagoongan
MEAT: Pork Binagoongan
Pan fried pork belly sautéed in shrimp paste (₱190.00)

This dish I enjoyed because I love the pairing of a well-cooked pork belly, shrimp paste, and grilled eggplant. This dish did not disappoint at all unlike the others.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - DESSERT: Pandan Macapuno Rumble
DESSERT: Pandan Macapuno Rumble (₱75.00)

I was intrigued to know what modern twist they would put on a classic buko pandan dessert. Nothing special to be honest except the fact that the coconut meat was set with the jelly? That’s all that I could point out that seemed different to the classic ones I’ve had multiple times. Other than that, flavour was good.

Mesa Filipino Moderne - DESSERT: Crispy Leche Flan
DESSERT: Crispy Leche Flan (₱70.00)

This was the dessert that I was most looking forward to only to be disappointed in the end – small, not so crispy rolls of flan that didn’t quite taste like flan in my opinion and more like steamed egg. I was disappointed only because I had a much better first experience with crispy leche flan when I was travelling the city of Lucena just a couple of days before I visited Mesa again.

Mesa Filipino Moderne is definitely a place to visit if you want to experience modern Filipino cooking at an affordable price. I say that it is affordable because the pricing of their dishes are quite reasonable for the portions you get, so definitely a good value for money indeed. But as I have mentioned in another review before, these prices are not very affordable for the average Filipino, so I guess the value for money on a more general scale wouldn’t be so good. The food I would rate no more than a 6 to be honest – at first glance I was very excited to experience modern Filipino cuisine, but after having dined and looked back at the dishes that I’ve had, I can’t say I was left excited to go back for more. The only dish that I really enjoyed was the pork sisig in a pouch. Everything else was mediocre. Service 8 out of 10; it was exceptional nor was it bad, and the ambience is a sure 10 for me.

Now that I look back at all the dishes that I’ve had and my small disappointments with each of the dishes I ordered, I wonder how they were able to achieve the Best Food Retailer award. I may be jumping into conclusions a bit early as I’ve only tried probably an eighth of the dishes they have on offer, but if I am off to a non-promising start with their menu, I can’t be sure on how the rest will unfold if I visited a few more times and trying other dishes. Anyway, my opinion is my opinion; it may be biased, it may be not. You may agree with me, you may not, that is, if you’ve dined at Mesa.

I’m not sure if there are other restaurants that are much better at modern Filipino cuisine, but this is the first step of my journey to finding out how far we can modernise classic dishes. There is one place I have yet to visit, but have been closely following their Instagram page, and it’s called Sarsá Kitchen+Bar. I must say that their Sinigang Fried Chicken looks very enticing. Maybe on my next adventure to the Philippines I’ll be able to drag some family members over to have some eats.

Mesa Filipino Moderne
3/F SM City North EDSA, Main Building
EDSA corner North Avenue
Quezon City, Metro Manila
Philippines

– Ally xx

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Kalderitik

BR Nina’s Itikan & Restaurant

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Today’s post is on a restaurant that can be found along the Sta. Clara Bypass Road in Sta. Maria, Bulacan. My cousin first introduced me to this place when we were visiting the Philippines last month. I told her that I wanted to dine at local eateries that are natively special to Bulacan and this is where she took my family and I. If I am not mistaken, itik is quite popular in Bulacan as there are also many balut hatcheries in the area. For those of you who do not know what a balut is, it is basically a developing duck embryo (fertilised duck egg) that is boiled and eaten in the shell.

Anyway, I could not appreciate the atmosphere at the time that we went with my cousin for it was during dinner and although the place was well lit, it felt dark to me. So my mother, my two sisters, and myself decided to come back to this place for lunch and the ambience had a bigger impact on me than it did the first night we dined at BR Nina’s Itikan. I think the fact that we were the only table there as well made a difference for it was less noisy (I mean, excluding the traffic along the bypass) and we had the whole place to ourselves. The place is an outdoor restaurant with a main dining area upon entering, and a few bahay kubos at the back where you could also dine. A bahay cubo is known as the national shelter, native house of the Philippines and is made from using indigenous building materials like bamboo and nipa. Its name is said to have originated from the Spanish word, cubo, which means “cube” because of the bahay kubo‘s rectangular/cubic shape. Nowadays you’ll see many eateries adapting the bahay kubo into small, private eating huts, big enough to seat between 4-8 people.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - BR NINA’S FIESTA: Crispy Kare-Kare Liempo
BR NINA’S FIESTA: Crispy Kare-Kare Liempo (₱250.00)

When I first had dinner at this place, I was very much intrigued by the ‘crispy’ part of the name of this dish, only because I’ve never had kare-kare before with crispy meat. The sauce, even though for me it felt like it was straying away from a traditional kare-kare, was nice and flavourful. The sauce tasted like it had coconut milk in it and didn’t taste so much like the peanut buttery goodness that I love; it was still creamy though. The vegetables were cooked to perfection, as in it wasn’t overcooked, and though some of the cuts of pork meat was cooked well, some were a bit hard and overdone.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Fried Itik
SPECIALITIES: Fried Itik (₱160.00)

The first time we came here we had the fried itik as recommended by my cousin. For me it was just okay, nothing much special to it other than the fact that it’s an itik and that it definitely tastes different than any normal fried chicken. The meat was quite dry and because there was no sauce to go with it either, besides the very basic condiment of soy sauce and calamansi, the overall dish was very dry. If we didn’t have the bulalo soup to pair with it, it would’ve been a very dry meal.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Kalderitik
SPECIALITIES: Kalderitik (₱170.00)

Since itik is their speciality here in this restaurant, we decided to order at least more than just one on their specials menu and experience itik cooked in many different ways. The itik was really tender and flavourful. It was so tender that it was fall-off-the-bone perfection. It also had a little bit of spice to it as well. This dish is one that I very much like from their specials, even though it doesn’t look very well presented – but this is pretty much home-style cooking.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Adobong Itik
SPECIALITIES: Adobong Itik (₱170.00)

Though it doesn’t look as appetising (let’s face it, pretty much everything you’ll see here doesn’t look appetising), it tastes better than it looks. However, compared to the kalderitik, this dish was quite dry. The sauce came as a side with the dish, but because the itik was deep fried, it was quite dry. Also, I felt that there was a little bit too much garlic on the dish. It did have that adobo flavour to the itik though!

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - SPECIALITIES: Sisig Itik
SPECIALITIES: Sisig Itik (₱170.00)

Sisig is a Filipino dish traditionally made from parts of a pig’s head and liver, seasoned with calamansi and chilli peppers. I love me a good sisig dish. I never fail to have a flavourful sizzling plate of sisig whenever I visit the Philippines. I was drawn to this dish only because I’ve never had itik sisig before, I’ve always and only have ever had pork sisig. This sisg dish is by far my favourite of all sisigs I’ve ever had in the past. The flavour was on point and the addition of fresh chillies on top added that extra kick of heat that the dish, in my opinion, needed.

BR Nina's Itikan & Restaurant - FRIED: Crispy Tawilis with Salted Egg
FRIED: Crispy Tawilis with Salted Egg (₱150.00)

Sardinella tawilis, or known by Filipinos as just tawilis for short, is a small freshwater sardine, reaching up to 15cm and weighing less than 30g. On its own, it doesn’t actually have much flavour to it. But all your really need is the salted egg and tomatoes on the side to go with it and you have a match made it heaven. Even with just a little bit of achara to go with the crispy fried tawilis and you’re pretty much hooked on it. You can eat the fish whole as well, yes, including its head, tail, and bones!


SOUPS: Bulalo (₱220.00)

Besides their specialities, this bulalo soup is by far the tastiest of all bulalo soups I’ve had in the past. The broth is harboured all the flavours from the meat, and what’s good about it also is that the broth doesn’t have a lot of oil in it and isn’t very fatty at all. The meat was very tender and the vegetables still had a bit of crunch to them. It was definitely much better in terms of flavour than the bulalo soup that I cooked myself.

BR Nina’s Itikan have quite a lot to offer on their menu beside their specialities of various itik dishes; many also praise their crispy kare-kares from Facebook comments and reviews that I’ve have seen. Overall, I thought that the food that we’ve had at this place were generally quite good. I haven’t had any major issues with any of the dishes only that the fried itik and the adobong itik itself are quite dry, but other than that, everything else were pretty much on point for me. I love love love their duck sisig, and for that I’d say that their food is a sure 7 out of 10 for me. Ambience 8 out of 10 and service is variable between 7 to 9 out of 10. I say this because there are only two waiters running the floor and serving probably a total of 10 tables. So when the place is packed, it’s quite hard to flag down a waiter when you’re ready to order or wanting to request for more water or tissue for your table – that’s the downside. Otherwise, they’re friendly and always quick on their feet. You’ll see then running around trying to get to every table and fulfilling every customer’s requests. It’s also relatively cheap so therefore a good value for money, where their specialities of itik only costs about AUD$5.00 – a whole duck for just $5.00? Quite impossible ain’t it? That is, if it were sold in Australia.

BR Nina’s Itikan & Restaurant
Bypass Road Sta. Clara
Sta. Maria, Bulacan
Philippines, 3022

– Ally xx

Pastabella - PRIMI (PASTA): CARBONARA

Pastabella

Hello Everyone and hello to an all new Review Sunday! I’ve visited Pastabella twice now; the first time was for Marissa’s birthday dinner at the beginning of this month, and the second time was two nights ago when I caught up with my friend Rowena from back home. Both times did not disappoint; the food was absolutely amazing and the dining experience was taken to the next level with great company.

Pastabella is an Italian restaurant that is all about fresh house-made pasta and wood fired pizza. Now it may not have the best looking ambience in comparison to the other cafés and restaurants on the same street, but it had a homely feel to it. The inside space was like sitting down in your own dining room, while the outside space felt like your backyard or patio area.

There is this man, a cheerful guy he is, who I believe may quite possibly be the owner of Pastabella, greeted us with a smile, a cheeky joke and a laugh, which I thought was quite pleasant because it set the mood for us. I absolutely hate it when you’re greeted with snotty and unpleasant waiters/waitresses, but no, none at Pastabella! You could easily joke around with this man as well and he even returned the favour. When he served us, he asked “who ordered the spachatella?” I raised my hand and he placed the dish in front of me. He then asked “and who ordered the gamberi?” I mean, I was with one other person at that time so it was obviously Rowena’s dish. Nonetheless I responded by saying “I think someone inside ordered this” while I tried to point through the glass windows at a table inside. He the responded by saying “oh okay” and took about two steps away from our table, then quickly turned around, laughed, placed the dish in front of Rowena, and said “she’s a cheeky one isn’t she?” Golden. There were many other funny encounters but I’ll end up writing a whole paragraph or two more about that!

Pastabella - PRIMI (PASTA): BOSCAIOLA
PRIMI (PASTA): BOSCAIOLA
House-made fettuccine pasta with mushroom, bacon, and shallots in a fresh creamy sauce ($18.00)

This dish was quite similar to their carbonara, minus the mushrooms of course and add the egg. I had a little taste of this from my friend’s plate and I quite enjoyed how the cream sauce was nice and relatively thin, but still very flavoursome.

Pastabella - PRIMI (PASTA): CARBONARA
PRIMI (PASTA): CARBONARA
Famous Italian dish of house-made spaghetti pasta with bacon, shallots, egg, and cream ($18.00)

Carbonara is like a classic favourite of mine, but I always try to stray away from ordering it for two reasons mainly. The first is because I can make my own carbonara and secondly, for me I find that carbonara anywhere is the same. When this came to our table though, I have never seen anything like it! When I say that, I am actually referring to it’s presentation. I’ve had my fair share of carbonara’s and never have I seen it being served with a raw egg yolk sitting on a bed of pasta. It tasted amazing! The sauce was rich and absolutely divine, but I probably would struggle to eat a whole plate of it just because the richness and creaminess gets to you at a certain point.

Pastabella - PRIMI (PASTA): CHILLI CON GAMBERI
PRIMI (PASTA): CHILLI CON GAMBERI
House-made fettuccine pasta with tiger prawns, rocket, garlic, and olive oil, cooked in a white wine sauce with a dash of chilli ($22.00)

I had a little taste of this off Rowena’s plate – the tiger prawns were cooked to perfection. Plump, juicy, and soft; nothing of that rubbery texture that I’ve had at a fair share of other places. This dish here was perfection. The pasta was cooked well and I remember Rowena saying that she gets skeptical when dishes say ‘chilli’ but they don’t live up to that level of spice that she expects. This dish did not disappoint her tough! To quote her, “they used legit chillies”. I felt though that those who cannot take the heat will complain about the ‘dash’ of chilli – did not feel like dash! But I’m not complaining; I love the spicy kick!

Pastabella - PASTABELLA SPECIALS: RISOTTO MARINARA
PASTABELLA SPECIALS: RISOTTO MARINARA
Traditionally cooked risotto with mixed seafood in our traditional napolitana sauce garnished with fresh parsley ($26.00)

This for me tasted really good; the seafood was cooked to perfection and flavours were on point. But like other marinara dishes that I’ve had, I feel like they all taste the same.

Pastabella - PASTABELLA SPECIALS: SPACHATELLA, PISTACHIO E PANA
PASTABELLA SPECIALS: SPACHATELLA, PISTACHIO E PANA
A traditional Sicilian style pasta cooked with fresh cream, sprinkled with roasted pistachio nuts, and topped with pecorino cheese ($25.00)

I was intrigued by this one because never have I ever had a pasta-pistachio combination before. I love pistachios, and I know they have a very distinct taste to them as well. This pasta tasted so great! The pistachios really enhanced the flavour of the dish and was finished off nicely with pecorino on top. It was something that I’ve never tasted before, and I couldn’t even compare it to any other dish in terms of flavour.

In my opinion, the pizzas that we ordered were nothing really special that would make me want to go all the way back here for more. Don’t get me wrong, the pizzas were good, but it’s more like there are other pizza places that are nearer to where I live that are just as good.

Pastabella - PIZZA: ITALIANA
PIZZA: ITALIANA
Napolitana & mozzarella cheese base with eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, artichokes, olives, and garlic ($23.00)

Pastabella - PIZZA: PASTABELLA
PIZZA: PASTABELLA
Signature Pastabella sauce, grilled chicken, mushrooms, and olives ($20.00)

Pastabella - DOLCI (DESSERTS): PIZZA ALLA BANANA
DOLCI (DESSERTS): PIZZA ALLA BANANA
Banana and custard pizza, drizzled with a delicious caramel sauce and lightly sprinkled with icing sugar ($14.00)

After a filling feast, we just had to have dessert, and we definitely made the right choice. Wood fired dessert pizza with a custard-base sauce, fresh bananas, and caramel sauce – what a combination! Though I love the taste of fresh bananas, I probably would’ve loved them to be fired in the pizza oven for a few minutes to caramelise. I bet that would be AMAZING.

Pastabella - DOLCI (DESSERTS): PASSIONE DI FRUTTI
DOLCI (DESSERTS): PASSIONE DI FRUTTI
Banana, passionfruit and custard pizza, sprinkled with icing sugar ($15.00)

I know, you’re probably thinking that this is exactly the same as above but with passionfruit instead of a caramel sauce. Well you are totally right! But this was supposed to be a dessert pizza with peaches and passionfruit instead of banana. To my dismay, they had run out of peaches that night, and they asked if banana was okay. Well, I couldn’t do anything about it, so I just agreed to it. Not disappointed on the taste though because it was just as good as the last time I had their pizza alla banana dessert!

I definitely recommend this place if you want to spend a quiet date night with friends or even your special someone. There’s just something about ambience that makes you feel right at home, and eating great traditional pasta and pizza with good company that makes Pastabella a great dining place.

So based on all that, I’d say that this place is a definite 9.5 for food (just a slight disappointment that they didn’t have peaches for the passione di frutti dessert pizza we ordered), ambience probably 8, and service an easy 10. Value? I’d probably give it an 8.5? The portions were decent for the price in my opinion!

Pastabella
89 Glebe Point Road,
Glebe, NSW
Australia, 2037

– Ally xx

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Ampersand Café & Bookstore is one that I am very fond of mainly because of the memories and conversations shared over food. I have been going to Ampersand on a frequent basis over the past 4 years; it was the go-to brunch/lunch spot before or after classes at the then-COFA (now known as UNSW Art & Design). I remember popping by the café with Bec many times before our 9am classes; I would always get a regular latte, and she would always get a regular flat white. Then there are many times we’d visit for a quick brunch/lunch in between classes. Most recently, it was an after photography class lunch date for Anastasia, Jess, Jialing, and myself. We would sit and talk about the most random things for 2 hours, and even quote from White Chicks all throughout lunch.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

What I also love about this café is that it is also a bookstore! It has a rustic, or as one would use the term, ‘hipster’ feel to it which makes it even that more inviting for the suburb that it is in. The café and bookstore has three amazing floors of dining areas surrounded with an adjoining library and bookstore with many books to choose from. A great place for those who just want to sit and immerse themselves in a book over a cup of coffee, or with friends over food.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

Besides all the fond memories I have of this café, and the cozy ambience, the coffee and food are also quite excellent! The menu that you are about to see in this post is some of the dishes that my friends and I have indulged in. I have had many more dishes from this café but I think that during first two years of visiting this café I wasn’t taking any photos or I just can’t seem to find where the photographs are if I did take any. I have indulged in the Ampersandian, the Morning After Breakfast, and their Club Sandwich from their counter items. Nonetheless, I feel like the dishes on this post are quite a good range of the food that Ampersand has to offer. Also, I should make mention that they also have another café known as Ampersand on Crown | Café, Bar & Bookstore. I actually didn’t know that this existed until I went and had brunch with some friends at  Rustic Pearl. Ampersand on Crown was just right next to it! 413 Crown Street, Surry Hills for those who want to know where!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - HOT DRINKS: CAPPUCCINO
HOT DRINKS: CAPPUCCINO
brewed using Allpress Beans (Regular $3.30, Large $3.80)

Their coffee art amazes me every time. I have yet to come across an ampersand on the drink as I have seen in many Facebook/Instagram posts by others.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - HOT DRINKS: LULLABY NIGHTCAP
HOT DRINKS: LULLABY NIGHTCAP
Nutmeg, malt, cinnamon, and honey served with hot milk ($4.80)

What really struck me about this drink was that, on their blackboard menu, it said ‘seahorse eggs’. Being naive and gullible at that time, I legitimately thought that the drink actually had seahorse eggs it in. Only then did I come to a realisation that the seahorse eggs referred to the frothy, fizzing bubbles in the drink. I was not disappointed though; the drink was absolutely amazing! However, probably not a great idea to have before a boring lecture (which was what I did at the time). It’s all in the name of the drink!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: RISOTTO
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: RISOTTO
Arborio & barley risotto, confit cherry tomatoes, garlic, halloumi, and pesto ($15.90)

What attracted me to this dish was the fact that it was originally ‘arborio & barley risotto, tiger prawns, lemon butter, and crumbed pancetta’ on their blackboard menu. The combination sounded so great in my head that I had no second thoughts of wanting to order it. However, for a reason that I cannot remember, the lady at the cashier told me that their risotto for that day was confit cherry tomatoes, garlic, halloumi, and pesto. At first I was hesitating whether or not I should have that or order something else off their menu, but at that time there wasn’t anything else that tickled my fancy. So I decided to go for this, and absolutely no regrets. It tasted amazing! But I secretly think that the tiger prawns, lemon butter, and crumbed pancetta would’ve been amazing-er!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: THE HASH
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: THE HASH
Braised beef cheeks (slow-cooked), seasonal veggies, potato rösti, and poached egg ($16.90)

This dish, that Jialing ordered and we shared with Annie, was again to die for! The only criticism I have with this dish that it said ‘poached egg’ and the egg we for that day was what you would get between a soft boiled egg and a hard boiled egg. No runny yolk! Disappointed. Other than that, the beef cheeks where tender and full of flavour; verging on the dry side which is why it was important that we had that runny yolk!

Ampersand Café & Bookstore

I mean, if these empty plates of the first two dishes mentioned above does not convince you of their deliciousness, then you sir are not my friend (the other empty plate is of the stuffed red capsicum which is the very last photograph on this post).

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: SWEET POTATO CRISPS
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: SWEET POTATO CRISPS
served with aïoli ($6.00)

This is a winner side dish for me. I never fail to order these babies each time I visit Ampersand. But sadly over the past month in late October, early November last year, I did not get to have any. Why? Because their deep fryer had been broken during those times. But for a month? Pure torture. I have not been back since our last photography class which was in early November. Maybe it’s time I paid another visit – hopefully their deep fryer is fixed by now! I just love the thin crispy sweet potato sliced paired with garlic-y and tangy aïoli.

Besides their blackboard menu, they also have a selection of pre-cooked counter items. Possibly an easier and quick option for those who have their breakfast/lunch/brunch to go, but that never stopped us from trying them ourselves over a two hour lunch session. You can probably tell that we have a thing for their arancini as it appears in almost every counter item on this post, but are paired with a different salad each time. This is because no salad is ever the same whenever we visit the café. One thing that I do love about their salads is that they aren’t your regular Joe that you see in almost every café; they are pretty exotic to your taste buds! Black sticky rice? Miso chic pea? Cracked wheat? I mean, who would’ve thought these combinations would work so well?! Yum! So what you can do is order an arancini, sandwich, wrap, or whatever hot dish they have at the counter, and then add $5.00 on top for a salad on the side.

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CHIC PEA SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CHIC PEA SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Chic pea salad with miso and red wine dressing, enoki, kale, and raw zucchini (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CRACKED WHEAT SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CRACKED WHEAT SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Cracked wheat salad with mixed beans, feta, grilled sweet potato, asparagus, and sweet & sour paprika dressing (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & ROASTED EGGPLANT AND WHEAT SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & ROASTED EGGPLANT AND WHEAT SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Roasted eggplant and cracked wheat salad with green peas, red pepper, and balsamic reduction (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: BREAKFAST WRAP & BLACK STICKY RICE SALAD
COUNTER ITEMS: BREAKFAST WRAP & BLACK STICKY RICE SALAD
Poached egg, crispy bacon, spinach, tomato, cheese, and hollandaise ($9.50) & Black sticky rice salad with cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, rocket, and balsamic reduction (+$5.00)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore - COUNTER ITEMS: STUFFED RED CAPSICUM
COUNTER ITEMS: STUFFED RED CAPSICUM
with pearl barley, pumpkin, feta, and spinach purée ($5.90)

Ampersand Café & Bookstore
78 Oxford Street
Paddington, New South Wales
Australia, 2021

– Ally xx

Rustic Pearl

Rustic Pearl

Hello Everyone! Here is another brunch turned late lunch review of this lovely café in Surry Hills that my housemate/friend recommended for a Sunday Brunch treat before the beginning of Semester 2 (last semester for me, but many more semesters for her). We’ve also been planning this brunch outing for a while now as our friend Daniel was on a month-long, or even more, holiday and we wanted to have our first brunch-turned-late-lunch get together. I also invited along my new housemate Lydia for our delicious eats.

I keep saying brunch-turned-late-lunch, and for those of you who have read my previous post, I am very particular about the timing when it comes to ‘brunch’ and ‘lunch’. Well hats off to Marissa for wanted to get to Rustic Pearl at 10am, at least she understood the concept of time when it comes to brunch, but what happened was that we ended up leaving a little bit later than planned. We only left home at about 10:45AM and probably reached the place at around 11:15AM. At least it wasn’t quite lunch yet, but nearly pushing it. The place was hectic though, we had to wait in line for a table and I was told by one of the waiters that it would be about a 45-minute to an hour wait. I was just like OH MY GOD, but we waited anyway.

They were pretty spot on with the predicted waiting time as I didn’t get a call for a free table until about an hour later. By the time we sat down and ordered it was probably already quarter to one, and food probably came out about another 15-20 minutes later. Man I was starving because as usual I skipped out on breakfast thinking that I would be having brunch. I think from the past two ‘brunch’ outings I have learnt my lesson – that I will NEVER be able to actually have brunch at the time I perceive it to be at, and that I should ALWAYS have breakfast before going out for a brunch-turned-late-lunch outing.

But enough babble, I shall get onto what I loved about Rustic Pearl. Now, I’m not one to order drinks at cafés just because it usually fills me up a bit even before the food arrives. But Marissa told me that they have some pretty awesome smoothies, and other drinks of course on their menu – and she was right! It was to die for! I had something called a Chocomolé which was basically Avocado and Chocolate, something I’ve never had before, combined that is, and I was just blown away by how amazing it tasted. The other smoothies were delicious as well (yes, we all doubled dipped and shared a sip from each drink that we ordered amongst the four of us).

Rustic Pearl - Avocado SmoothieAvocado Smoothie topped with pistachio & pomegranate seeds ($7.00)

Rustic Pearl - Banana Cinnamon SmoothieBanana Cinnamon Smoothie ($7.00)

Rustic Pearl - Chocomolé SmoothieChocomolé Smoothie with avocado, cocoa & honey, topped with pistachio & pomegranate seeds ($7.00)

Rustic Pearl - 'Yum Yeshil' (dairy free) Blended Fruit Juice‘Yum Yeshil’ (dairy free) Blended Fruit Juice with spirulina, topped with seeds, goji berries & bee pollen ($7.00)

Daniel wasn’t too fond of this drink. I only had a little sip so I couldn’t really judge the taste of it based on that. But this was the only smoothie that was dairy-free which is why he ordered it.

Now onto the food, we of course decided to order something different so that we could all each have at least one bite from everyones plate. The food was amazing! I could not fault the dishes at all, and neither could my friends.

Rustic Pearl - Breakfast Special: Smoked Wagyu Omelette
Breakfast Special: Smoked Wagyu Omelette with buffalo mozzarella, spinach, skordalia, bacon dust, tomato relish & toast ($17.00)

Marissa’s dish; she absolutely loved about the omelette was silky smooth and juicy. She is not a big fan of cherry tomatoes, but with this dish in particular, she almost forgot that she ate them! It was that good. She said that it looked a little bit small on the plate (in comparison to our dishes) but it was filling enough for her.

Rustic Pearl - Lunch Special: Fish of the Day (Swordfish)
Lunch Special: Fish of the Day (Swordfish) with spinach, tomato concasse, capers, avocado, cucumber & witlof, dressed with apple vinaigrette ($19.50)

Daniel’s dish; he absolutely loved how his fish was cooked to perfection. Yummy and juicy. He also loved his greens so this was the perfect, healthy dish for him.

Rustic Pearl - LUNCH for the soul: Char grilled Mediterranean Lamb Burger
LUNCH for the soul: Char grilled Mediterranean Lamb Burger with red onion jam, smoky eggplant purée, fresh tomato, cos lettuce & yoghurt dressing ($18.00)

Lydia’s dish; another stellar dish that did not upset. The meat patty was cooked to perfection – moist and juicy.

Rustic Pearl - BREAKFAST for the soul: Bosphorus Benedict
BREAKFAST for the soul: Bosphorus Benedict, char grilled bay lobster flesh, crushed avocado & 2 poached organic eggs, topped with homemade hollandaise, fresh chives, coriander & chilli ($24.00)

In my opinion, the best dish of the 4 (just because it was mine and I got to eat most of it) no but seriously, this dish was just so delicious. Runny egg yolk with char grilled lobster, who would’ve thought? Another stellar dish to my list of mind-blowing eggs benny (my top one is still Devon’s Eggs Blini – I will do a review on them when I have the chance to go back with more friends that that I have an array of dishes to show and write about and not just the one).

Now this is one worth mentioning (but hopefully no one from the café will see this, just incase it was a mistake and they will get in trouble with this), however I assume that it was intentional and I will state why… So, when the bill came, it was folded in half, had the total amount written on the back of the order sheet, and had a ‘Thank You!’ note written just below it. Now of course because we all knew that we needed to split the bill according to what we ordered, I opened the bill to see that we were undercharged in two of the dishes. Each dish, except Daniel’s was $17. Which meant that Lydia’s Lamb Burger was undercharged by $1 and my lobster Eggs Benny was undercharged by $7… Now being a nice and honest person, I was actually going to ask them if they had made a mistake on the bill, because I find being undercharged $7 is quite significant.

But instead I didn’t – not because I wanted to cheat but because I analysed they way the bill was given to us. It was folded in half, the total was written on the back of the order sheet, and I’m pretty sure that if they had totalled it, they would’ve spotted the mistake on the bill. Also, the two dishes that were undercharged came from their regular menu so I’m pretty sure they have been serving the dishes for a while and they would’ve remembered how much it costed. So I just wondered… Why? I probably should’ve asked why we were undercharged so that I at least knew why… A part of me also thought that it might be because we waited just a little bit over an hour for a table? Just maybe.

Nonetheless, it was a great day of warmth and sunshine (off for it is the middle of ‘winter’ here down under), laughs shared between old and new friends accompanied by delicious drinks and lip-smacking food. A must visit café for those in the Sydney region!

Rustic Pearl
415 Crown Street
Surry Hills, New South Wales
Australia, 2010

– Ally xx