The Belle and Dragon

My college friend, K, has been after me over the past five months to try out the restaurant he works in. On a whim last week, M and I decided to finally make the effort, but not after K got super dramatic about it over Facebook. lol So it was off to The Belle & Dragon in Makati for an east-meets-west dining experience.

The Belle & Dragon

What’s so interesting about The Belle & Dragon is how it was constructed from the ground up. Literally. Apparently, the area it stands on used to be a parking lot before this old-timey gastropub was dreamed up from scratch. At first, M and I were afraid our cab would miss the building, but we needn’t worry. The structure is so unique that it immediately draws your eye, especially since it’s the smaller, painted building in that block that’s kind of hard to miss.

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Cowrie Grill

When was the last time you enjoyed a sit-down feast? There are posh buffets opening left and right in Manila, but there’s always going to be an allure in a sumptuous N-course meal. For one, it makes you feel like a king or queen with the level of service you’re getting. If you’re seeking that luxurious experience in the Greenhills area, look no further than Cowrie Grill.

Skeptics, you may be wondering why my time there was so marvelous. It isn’t such a mystery, once you find out that Cowrie Grill is managed by The Manila Hotel. In fact, this fine-dining restaurant used to be inside the hotel before transferring to its current, more accessible location. Fun fact: The original cowrie shells that were displayed at the Manila Hotel dining room are now at Greenhills.

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Enderun Colleges Restaurant 101: Sampling The Market Menu

Enderun Colleges never ceases to amaze me. Every time I find myself in the McKinley Hill Campus, there’s something new brewing. Be it the renovation of classrooms, construction of a new building, addition of new courses to the college offerings, or conception of a new menu at Restaurant 101, the ever-evolving process of Enderun makes me want to come back and check whenever I’m in the Taguig area. Lucky for me, I got an invite from my Alma mater to sample their latest restaurant creations, 101’s Market Menu as prepared and served by members of the alumni.

Restaurant 101; photo courtesy of Kimo Villanueva

The press and blogger event started with a demo for those who want to see how three of the dishes to be served to us later are prepared. (Well, for me it actually started about an hour earlier with a self-guided walking tour of the campus to see the new Titans Hall and other developments.) Alumni chefs, some of whom were batch mates, headed the demo in the Culinary Amphitheater with Enderun Chef Instructor Thomas Wenger doing the introductions and inserting his notes on certain processes.

Making soup

Chef Justin Baradas whipping up the Salmon

Demo Salmon

Afterwards, we were led downstairs to Restaurant 101 for the dinner proper. Funny thing is… that was actually my first time to sit and dine inside Restaurant 101, McKinley Hill. I used to eat at 101 back when the newly opened Enderun Colleges still had a place in Ortigas. When the school moved to Taguig, I always found myself either rushing to start the looong commute home or too busy with classes that I didn’t even get to treat myself to a lunch or dinner there! At least I got to experience the meal with a fresh perspective, just like some of the other first-timers in attendance. Onto the meal, then:

Scotch Egg — Bacon crust, glazed asparagus, smoked cream, truffle dressing

It’s quail egg unlike what you’ve ever experienced before. They took an ingredient that’s commonly associated in the Philippines with street food or Chinese Birthday Noodles and transformed it into a dish that brings together so many flavors and textures—sweet-crunchy asparagus, savory-crunchy-soft egg, earthy-tart truffle dressing, and rich cream. The Scotch Egg is a tempting teaser of what’s to follow.

Pan-Fried Goose Liver — Mesclun greens, cranberry dressing

Am I biased in saying I love this salad? Yes, because I have a deep appreciation for pan-fried goose liver. No terrines or pâtés for me, please. Pan-searing brings out the crispy, caramelized outer part of the goose liver that’s half of the experience. (The other half, of course, is the taste!) Serving it in a salad was a way to balance the richness out as some people find the liver itself umay-inducing (resulting in a tired palate). You’ve got your fresh greens, tart strawberry slices, and the naturally sweet/tart cranberry dressing that instantly refresh the palate with each bite.

Ceremonial pouring of the soup

Cream of White Bean Soup — With prawn and chorizo galette

I’ve tried a lot of ‘Cream Ofs’ before, but not with beans. If you like the texture of beans, then this is beans galore. The prawn and chorizo galette adds a salty, savory factor to the soup. Plus points for showmanship, since they pour the soup over the garnished bowl in front of the diner.

Beetroot Marinated Salmon — Pickled cucumbers, horseradish mashed potatoes, “chicharon” of salmon skin

Attractive colors on the plate. That’s the first impression I got from this dish. I love mashed potatoes and I love salmon, so the pairing is one I enjoy immensely. They added the pickled cucumbers to make it interesting, but I like how it didn’t turn out too sour. Not so much pickle as it still possesses that fresh cucumber flavor. The salmon skin chicharon is just plain fun to eat, while the salmon meat itself is tender and earthy from the beetroot marinade.

Oven-roasted Magret of Duck — With apple hazelnut chutney, celeriac puree, port reduction

The duck was as tender as dark meat gets, and the aromatic taste of celeriac was distinctive. The only thing I didn’t like about this dish was how the hazelnut in the apple hazelnut chutney seemed past its prime.

Layered White and Dark Chocolate Mousse — With butter-mint ice cream

This dessert was as much a treat to the eye as it was a delightful meal-ender. The harmonious combination of dark and white chocolate was countered by the raspberry jelly on the top, and who doesn’t like chocolate discs to chew on? I’m more of a peppermint gal myself, but the butter-mint ice cream did refresh the palate after the luxurious six-course meal.

The Alumni Chefs introduced to us after the meal

In addition to the Alain Ducasse level of quality in the food, there’s the students training for F&B service class working in the restaurant. Remember to be patient with them, because it’s their chance to put into practice all the techniques they’ve been taught.

Thanks, Enderun, for having me over!

Enderun Colleges and the newly installed flags; photo courtesy of Kimo Villanueva

For more information on Restaurant 101, visit their website HERE.

Restaurant 101 / Enderun Colleges

1100 Campus Avenue
McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio
Taguig City 1634 Philippines

*The event/meal was done by Enderun Colleges free-of-charge for members of the Press/Media, but all opinions are my own.

Charlie’s Grind and Grill Snap Dawgs

While my usual date, M, was MIA (on a super-delayed vacation), my crazy college friend, Y, became my Satur-date instead. He had just come back from Tokyo and had a billion photos and stories to share, so we went to Charlie’s Grind and Grill (Ronac Art Center branch)  for dinner. We’ve always ordered burgers, so this time we opted for Snap Dawgs! Here’s what we had:

Chili Cheese Fries

LOVE these Chili Cheese Fries! IMHO, just the right amount of heat, sauce, and cheese. I’m kinda biased because I love anything swimming in sauce.

Kitchen Sink Snap Dawg (PHP 480+ for the double order)

Thank goodness I was with someone who wanted to EAT! Y spared no expense in getting the hotdog that had all the trimmings. We ended up asking for the same thing, so we got a double order. Double just means two separate hotdogs with all the same toppings. At first I thought it was going to be something ridiculously long. (Haha!) And if this doesn’t fill you up, I don’t know what will. Toppings galore!

House Fries (PHP 195)

Y and I were sitting beside a wall that had a big photo of the House Fries. He started craving, so we also got the House Fries. As you can see, it’s mostly melted cheese with a smattering of bacon and some spices. I would’ve felt guilt-ridden with all of this, but I had been on a low-sodium, veggie-rich diet all week. Ha! Cheat weekend it is!

Vanilla Milkshake (PHP 180)

What a bummer that the only shake flavor they had at the time was vanilla. I would’ve gone for something out of the ordinary, like peanut butter. But it wasn’t so bad.  The shakes were thick.

It was my first time going to Ronac, so I got to have a tour of the modern building. I couldn’t stop staring at the flooring and the spiral staircase! Drool-worthy design. Have you been to Ronac Art Center yet?