I always wanted to try something different when dining out with my girl friends every week for our “All-Female” session. It’s not only to collect ideas for my blogging, but to make each session spent with them as special as our conversations and bonding moments. And in my online quest for a unique place, I came across Balkan Yugoslavian Home Cooking in BGC – one that matches my preference for a new spot, interesting cuisine and good food.
Foreign-sounding menu always provokes my curiosity, but it keeps me eager to learn anew and experiment. Behind those hard-to-pronounce names in the menu book, is a challenge to discover a dish that’s worth your bucks especially when you have to rely alone on photos or suggestive tips from the server. But it’s fun, and must I say a true test of intuition and adaptability. And sometimes you fail, sometimes you win. With my dining experience with Balkan, it’s definitely a win.
My friend and I ordered for number #18 – Stuffed Pljeskavica (see, that was too hard to pronounce that we either had to point it on the menu or dictate the item number ), a huge slab of grounded beef stuffed with mozzarella cheese and can be paired with either rice, fries or mashed potatoes. It’s also served with cabbage salad as a side dish.
I heavily indulge in mashed potatoes, and this one is an addition to the ones I deem worthy coming back to. Its silky smooth texture makes it hard to forget. Most of its entrees can be partnered with potatoes, so that is a big deal for me, a huge potato-lover.
The grilled meat was juicy and tender, flavorful on its own. The oozing mozzarella cheese inside is a notably good combination for the perfectly- made meat delicacy, with mayonnaise and ketchup as simple side sauces. I was kind of expecting for a more “exotic” kind of sauce, something that is rarely served in restaurants for this type of cuisine, but I am settled that it’s already good as it is.
Our other friend ordered Dzigerica or Grilled Pork Liver steak, topped with garlic to enhance that smoky flavor and paired with crisp potato fries and cabbage salad. The liver was cooked well, not leaving any bitter taste. I am not big on pork liver but this one is a good rendition.
Aside from its impressive line of dishes, Balkan can be praised for its sleek and modern interiors. The display of green wine bottles on the wall is cool to the eyes.
The slightly semi-formal dining set-up, with cozy couches make it a nice place to hang-out with friends. But what I find really extraordinary in the place is the quaint hanging bulb-shaped lamps. It is understandable that since it is located at Fort, they have adapted the casual bar-type of setting for weekend diners. We went to Starbucks after for extended conversations because it gets too noisy with party music on a late Friday night.
My satisfactory experience with Balkan is a good indication that there is a high possibility of more favorable dishes to explore in their menu, but not really to the point that I am madly raving about it. The lack of strong spices and flavors was not really a downgrade for me although I am looking for something that kicks in my meal. It can be presumed that the simplicity in is preparation is more of a strong quality of the restaurant.
So there, that was fine introduction to Serbian cuisine. The hefty servings are definitely worth it and would fill your appetite to the brim. Next to be tried are their burgers!
My recent visit to Bag O’ Shrimps was a long overdue plan in my bucket list. Perhaps I was waiting for the right companions and timing, even if it is just near my office. Having the chance to share this moment with a friend who shares the same ultimate love for seafood, is but a perfect timing to fulfill that wish.
In a blog post, I confessed my strong love affair with shrimps. I love it as one of my comfort foods, since childhood. Thankfully, I have no allergic reactions to seafood, or else I would really feel totally deprived of enjoying one of the finest things on earth. Discovering a restaurant that is particularly devoted to shrimps, is perhaps one of the best things to enjoy as a seafood lover. And so to cut-off that anticipation, I dragged one of my best friends to Bag O’ Shrimps in Tuscany, McKinley Hill!
The interiors are simple, but cute. It’s nautical theme fills every nook and cranny with objects and signages related to a fisherman’s wharf, or those of seafood shacks in California.
The sailor theme was carefully executed in the ornaments such as nets, paddles and bouy, anchors, and even in a famous saying.
When we finally decided what our orders would be, a white paper sheet was laid in front of us. That would serve as our dining plate so we all had the space to get messy with our boodle fight. We’re also given a steel bucket to throw in the shrimp peelings, plastic gloves and bibs to get geared for the huge mess we’re both ready to face ahead. I was not able to take photos of it since I immediately suited my hands with gloves.
For our appetizer, we ordered onion rings. We were supposed to take Dynamite Sticks but it was unavailable at that time. I liked the batter of the onion rings, it was seasoned right and not too salty. The consistency of the crispness in every onion ring prods you to munch some more after the first bite. It was also a good side dish to complement our shrimps, giving us a variation and preventing us to get bored with the huge serving of shrimps in our lunch.
And the main star of the day arrived, 500g of Shrimps in Bag O’ Momma sauce. Aside from the fact that the spiciness level is set to mild ( I have low tolerance for spicy foods), I also heard it is one of the signature creations of the owner, herself. And it did not disappoint. The serving size was actually good for 2-3 people but since we’re both fans of shrimps, that was enough to satisfy the two of us. The fusion of spices, sweetness and other savory flavors drove us mad, craving for more cups of rice. (Okay, diet ruined here.) I even dripped the sauce to my heap of rice, mashed it my hands and that was an instant meal itself.
There are also available sides to match your bag of shrimps, according to your preference. You may choose from corn and local and imported sausage. For us, corn was a good option. It added hint of sweetness to the spiciness overload.
With the party of spices and flavors in our mouth, it was best to cap off that loaded afternoon with cans of cold soda.
So that was my first #BOSexperience. We’d definitely go back here, to try their other seafood offerings in the menu, and perhaps to dare ourselves step up from the spiciness level!
Bag O’ Shrimps
Ground Floor, Tuscany, Upper McKinley Rd, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila
Nanbantei of Tokyo holds a special spot in my heart for many reasons and good memories.Visiting it again is like seeing an old friend in the past after ages. Now that it has a branch near my place, I have no excuse anymore to miss it. Rekindling the old friendship would make you wonder if things were still the same, or it just has gotten better. Apparently, with Nanbantei, it’s a combination of both and I couldn’t get more excited.Nanbantei roughly translates to a place where guests can stay and unwind after a long day at work. Nanban means foreigner, and Tei means rest house or teahouse. It is a restaurant dedicated in grilled and skewered dishes called Yakitori, and other Japanese specialties.
I only know a few restaurants specializing in Yakitori, and Nanbantei seems to be on top of its game for showcasing the best Yakitori dishes in the metro. Yakitori originally means grilled chicken, but Nanbantei has an expansive range from beef, pork, seafood and vegetables so its diverse selection won’t leave you empty-handed at all.
Nanbantei’s ambiance is similar to the type of modern Japanese restaurants today, furnished with wooden tables and chairs and oriental lamps. Its simple, clean interiors is visually relaxing in the sense that you’d focus more on the food experience with the laid back setting. The tables are not so close to each other, space isn’t cramped up if you’re wanting some privacy.
As a frequent customer before, I used to order the platter consisting of all types of Yakitori. But the number of sticks (21 pieces) is quite overbearing and tiring to finish in the end. Good thing about Nanbantei, they already have included the Teishoku (meal sets) on the menu which is easy on the pocket, but equally satisfying and heavy on the tummy too. At the price of Php 350 you’d have soup, appetizers, Yakitori and rice.
We ordered the Best Seller Set, Yakitori Lunch Set and Maki Set. Each meal has four Yakitori sticks of your choice, two pieces California Maki, two pieces Ebi Tempura, Miso soup and a full cup of steamed Japanese rice.
While waiting, we munched on crunchy vegetable sticks with sweetened shrimp paste. If you’re not used to it, you’d find it a bit odd- tasting, but as you go along you’ll enjoy the vegetables dipped in this sweet paste. It’s like stirring up your taste buds in preparation for the big feast that is ahead.
We also had complimentary tea to warm us up after a long, tiring day at work. Tea was nice.
The Miso soup was flavored right, not too salty. I even asked my friend’s soup for my second serving since I am really into it.
Then the Ebi Tempura came, followed by the California Maki. Oh boy, the shrimp batter was great that I could hear the crisp crackle when I had my first bite at those plump shrimps. It was not too oily and airy. And when you finally doused the shrimp to the tempura sauce, you’d instantly crave for a hot bowl of steamed rice.
I love how they prepared their Maki. Its noticeable freshness can be seen in the vivid colors – no hint of staleness. You’d know the difference of that which was stored in the fridge for a long time, and that which was prepared on the spot. Theirs can be categorized in the latter, undeniably.
A friend, who’s a fan of greens ordered Kani Salad. Undoubtedly, Nanbantei banks on the freshness of its ingredients- from the crisp lettuce, crab sticks, and mangoes. The colors are just so alive. From now on, I will make sure to include this as a starter each time I’d dine in a Japanese restaurant.
And just as the waiting time is prolonged, our anticipation is heightened for the real deal. I was thinking at the back of my head that delaying the serving of Yakitori was part of their scheme to increase our excitement. We were all ready then to devour the meat feast like hungry lions all set to pounce on its carnivore meal.
And it was all worth the wait, as they would say. The meat was grilled just right, not burnt. Of all the Yakitori, I had big fondness for the Poteto Meki (potato wrapped in bacon) – two of my favorites rolled into one. I also liked the Aspara Meki (asparagus wrapped with pork). Basically, I’d like my meat paired with veggies to get a balance of taste and nutrition.
As our huge appetites toned down, we lost the battle. We weren’t able to finish everything on our abundant table spread. Rice had no room for our tummies anymore.
The service was absolutely excellent too. Our assigned server kept checking on us to see if we all had all the orders right, and if there was something missing. She also asked how well we enjoyed the food.
And just the the old days, Nanbantei has not failed my expectations of what a high- quality Japanese restaurant ought to be. Not only does it take pride in innovating Yakitori specialties and other Japanese dishes but also in upholding good customer service. It was nostalgia, really. The food unfolded good memories in the past, that which are worth keeping. I shall continue to mark it as one of my all-time favorite Japanese restaurants.