Category Archives: Featured Review

SleepEatGolf Guest Author Post on AirportsMadeSimple

The Wet Markets of Thailand

I recently had the opportunity to write a guest post for the website AirportsMadeSimple.  I found Deb’s site on WordPress. Her site focused on travel related posts and articles. I really like the info she provided and contacted her when I noticed she was looking for guest authors in 2014.

After a couple of email exchanges we both agreed that  SleepEatGolf would be slotted in to her schedule for 2014. I then suggested that since I was traveling to Thailand, an article on a wet market in Thailand might make an interesting post for her readers. She agreed and I then had my first assignment for a guest post article.

I really love seeing the wet markets in countries I visit. I find the environment incredibly exciting and interesting. All my life I grew up going to Western style supermarkets, which don’t really give you any idea of where your food source comes from. Wet markets in Asian countries are the complete polar opposite of this type of experience. I guarantee you’ll have a new appreciation of where your food comes from if you visit a wet market.

Don’t just do the touristy night markets. Take an early morning visit to the wet markets and get an eye opening view of something truly unique and culturally different from what you see everyday.

Be sure to check out the complete article at Deb’s great site AirportsMadeSimple! And check out some of the other great posts on this site!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery

Sign

OPEN: Monday to Saturday 12:00pm until 9:00pm, Closed Sundays
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking, Seating for Approximately 30 People
TAKE AWAY: Encouraged, All Menu Items Available for Take Out
DELIVERY: Available for Local Area, Additional 50 Pesos Outside 3km
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 888-5805
CATERING & SPECIAL EVENTS Available, Contact Rex Soriano at Above # for Details
MENU: See Attached PDF, Prices and Menu as of Feb. 19, 2014
LOCATION: See Map Below


View Banh Mi Saigon in a larger map

The Lost Art of Sandwich Making in the Philippines

I recently returned from a quick trip to Thailand. One of the first meals I ate was at a place I’d typically avoid at all costs while on vacation. I ate at Subway. In fact I ate at Subway probably three or four times during the course of my week long visit.

You’re probably saying to yourself: “Chris, why are you talking about Subway when your whole concept for SleepEatGolf is about eating where the locals eat, street food and hole in the wall types of places?”

Why was I eating at Subway for $5 to $8 (sandwich only!) when the local foods in Thailand (particularly the street foods and small cafes) are incredibly fresh, delectable and only about $2 to $3 for an entire meal? I’ll tell you why.

It is near impossible to find a delicious sandwich here in Angeles City. Once upon a time there was a place called Subdelicious that allegedly put out a decent sandwich. That place is long gone and was replaced by Phillies which according to many people is very hit and miss. I personally haven’t been there in a few years due to a poor experience.

Don’t get the wrong idea, there’s plenty of places in Angeles to get a sandwich. Almost every hotel has a version of the highly overrated (yet very popular with Filipinos) Club sandwich. There’s also a couple of deli type stores/restaurants that will piece together a mediocre Subway-like sandwich for you. But for some reason those have never hit the spot for me and were always underwhelming. I was craving a sandwich that wasn’t boring.

The Banh Mi Sandwich Invasion

While there are always rumors of a Subway franchise opening in Angeles City none have ever come to fruition. Hopes were high with the opening of Marquee Mall and the SM Clark extension but they never materialized.

Subway’s absence and the lack of a quality sandwich available has opened up the market to one of the best sandwiches in the world: The Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich. As reported on SleepEatGolf previously there are now several Vietnamese style restaurants that have staked a claim in Angeles and each one does their own version or versions of the world famous sandwich.

BBQ Pork

Thankfully, each restaurant has their own spin on how to create this masterpiece that balances the subtle and unique flavors that comes only from Vietnamese cuisine. I can honestly report that there are finally establishments in Angeles City to experience a proper, high quality sandwich that will make you forget your wishes of seeing a Subway franchise open here.

Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery

I found Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery completely by accident. I was traveling to Angeles City Proper looking for a company to have business cards printed. Fortunately I made a wrong turn and found myself staring at a small cafe with a sign simply reading “Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery.” I had just finished lunch but the place immediately struck me as a place I needed to return to very soon. Nothing made sense.

  1. I was far away from where most tourists ever visit in Angeles.
  2. I didn’t see any other foreigners nearby.
  3. There were no other restaurants in the adjacent vicinity.

These three things signaled to me that I may have stumbled upon a great find. In my experience these are usually the places serving up the best food.

Vietnamese Food

Some workers were outside painting words on a brick wall that looked eerily similar to what one would see at a modern American style cafe. I could barely see into the eatery as the shades were drawn due to the hot afternoon sun. What I could make out was an interior that looked clean, urban and modern. All of this struck me as very American in style and design. I decided that I would be back very soon to explore what quality of food this previously unknown, unheard of place was serving up.

Inside

Kitchen

The Return to Banh Mi

A few days later I was driving back to Angeles City Proper to pick up my business cards and planned on stopping by Banh Mi to sample their sandwich and get a better look at the place.  When I walked in the place was packed with 30 well dressed Filipinos. Time seemed to stand still and the festive environment changed to complete silence as I walked in and everyone stared at me.  I immediately sensed that I had dropped in uninvited on a private lunch.

This faux pas didn’t stop me and no one was asking me to leave so I walked up to the counter and ordered the BBQ Pork Banh Mi sandwich for 95 pesos (about $2.16). The luncheon seemed to be wrapping up anyway and I found a seat to dig in to the sandwich. I was immediately blown away at the high quality and deliciousness that danced around in my mouth and taste buds. I had finally found the elusive sandwich I’d been searching and hoping for in Angeles City.

Inside

The Next Day

I was so impressed with the sandwich at Banh Mi that I went back with my girlfriend the next day for lunch. I couldn’t wait to share this new find with her and I now had an excuse to try additional things on the menu.  We ordered:

  • Fresh Spring Rolls
  • Fried Spring Rolls
  • BBQ  Pork Banh Mi
  • Chicken Banh Mi

I also had a chance to speak with owner and Filipino American Rex Soriano. Rex has an impressive and extensive background in the restaurant business working and living in the United States for half his life. He’s worked for well known restaurants  and chefs like Nobu, Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck. He opened Banh Mi about 2 years ago in Angeles  City Proper after finding a common love of Vietnamese cuisine and culture with his half-Vietnamese, half Filipina wife and full Vietnamese mother-in-law. He has future plans to open a branch in Manila and will occasionally add specialty items of his own creation to the current menu. More info on Rex can be found at the end of this article in a sit down video interview.

Employees

Menu & Food Review

The menu at Banh Mi is refreshingly small. Too many restaurants here give you a menu the size of a Bible. I usually take this as sign that they do everything pretty average and nothing is spectacular. Many times there are several items that are not even available.  Banh Mi specializes in 10 simple and authentic Vietnamese dishes and each item that I’ve tried so far have exceeded my expectations. They also have authentic Vietnamese style iced coffee available.

Fresh Spring Rolls – This delicious 2 piece item for 99 pesos (around $2.25)  comes with your choice of a peanut sauce or a pineapple alubebe (fermented fish sauce with pineapple) sauce. A well made, fresh spring roll is a healthy and filing option that is a great change of pace from your typical fried  variety.

Light Snack

The filling consists of Vietnamese noodles, crisp and fresh cucumbers, lettuce and basil along with shrimp and pork wrapped in rice paper. I went with the peanut sauce which was just sweet enough and complemented the rolls nicely. All in all the fresh spring rolls were spectacular.

Fried Spring Rolls – An order of 7 pieces comes with fresh lettuce, cilantro and a Vietnamese dipping sauce for 95 pesos (around $2.16). These were fried to perfection and nicely filled on the inside with a ground pork, noodles and carrot mixture. They were crisp and not oily. The sauce was vinegary and slightly sweet with a hint of garlic. While fried foods aren’t the healthiest option, wrapping these up in the lettuce and cilantro takes a lot of the guilt away and makes you feel like it’s a healthy snack.

Crispy

Meaty

BBQ Pork & Chicken Banh Mi – As the name suggests this establishment specializes in the Banh Mi sandwiche. This is the jewel in the crown of this cafe. The owner Rex Soriano has a deep rooted love for the Banh Mi sandwich and has created his own 3 versions with the help and guidance of his Vietnamese mother-in-law. His cold cut sandwich is made using pork belly and Vietnamese ham both of which he cures and processes in house. The sandwiches are priced from 90 to 99 pesos each (around $2.05 to $2.25).

The BBQ pork has a unique taste and texture. The bread is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. There’s a subtle pate spread which lifts the sandwich to another level, but most people (including myself) who despise liver will never realize what the unique flavor is. The meaty filling is topped with a dash of soy sauce, fresh cucumber, pickled carrots, pickled daikon radish and fresh cilantro.

Roasted Foul

Each layer of the sandwich is expressed in each bite and the flavors that mix together are heavenly. For those who want an added punch a siracha sauce is available table-side and with take out orders. There is also chili garlic sauce available that goes great with the sandwich.

For those less adventurous the chicken sandwich is the way to go. It’s depth of flavor is not nearly as exciting and complex as the BBQ pork or cold cuts, but it’s still a tasty sandwich nonetheless.

The Search is Over — Angeles City Now Has Bona Fide Sandwich Eateries

After years and years of searching for a sandwich that was on par with Subway the Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich and cuisine has arrived in Angeles City in force. There are now several restaurants that serve this distinctive, appetizing sandwich. Each place has their own spin or twist on how they prepare the sandwich and each restaurant is serving up a viable option for meeting my sandwich eating needs.

Flavor Nation

I’m looking forward to trying the rest of Rex’s dishes on frequent future visits. Tourists and expats alike should see another side of Angeles and check out the creations of Rex Soriano who is likely one of the best chefs in town you don’t know about. He’s focusing on food he loves, keeps the menu small to maintain authentic tastes and has a cozy cafe that foreigners will find warm, familiar and welcoming. If you’ve lived here for any number of years you owe it to yourself to get your hands on a proper sandwich at Banh Mi Vietnamese Eatery.

Below is an interview with Rex Soriano, owner of Banh Mi Vietnamese Eatery. Check out and subscribe to our SleepEatGolf YouTube Channel for additional videos coming soon.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.8/10 (4 votes cast)

The Cruise Buffet Restaurant

Sign

OPEN: Daily 6:00pm to 11:00pm
PAYMENT: Cash & Credit Card
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 322-7944
MENU: All You Can Eat International Dinner Buffet with Nightly Standards and Variations Including Soft Drinks
PRICE: PhP599 (Approximately $13.31) Per Person, Discount for Children Available Based on Height. Prices as of Jan. 24, 2014.
LOCATION: See Map Below


View The Cruise Buffet Restaurant in a larger map

Las Vegas Style International Buffet in Angeles City

December 2013 saw the opening of a new Las Vegas style international buffet called The Cruise. The restaurant is located in Balibago, conveniently located near Fields Avenue Walking Street.

I first noticed this new establishment while driving on MacArthur Highway, but due to heavy construction was unable to explore it in more detail until Christmas. My cousin had mentioned how he stopped by for a meal and thought it was really good. He suggested we head there for Christmas dinner.  I was skeptical as I hadn’t heard anything about the place and he tends to be more interested in quantity over quality when it comes to food.

Christmas dinner was excellent and the restaurant itself was remarkable. I made plans to meet at a later date with Texan, Korean-American and Front of House Manager Jeff Choi, who with his family owns and runs The Cruise Buffet Restaurant.

Impressive & Opulent Decor

The Cruise is unlike any restaurant currently in Angeles City. It’s design, layout and decor immediately reminded me of a Las Vegas buffet. The long entryway is a marble lined floor with wood lined pillars.

Entrance Hall

The first buffet station is shaped like the bow of a ship and that part of the room opens up with a dramatic mural painting of a cruise ship perched high atop overlooking the middle buffet sections.

Buffet Station

The entire restaurant is well themed. No details have been overlooked and no shortcuts have been taken in the interior decorations. Ceilings and lighting in the restaurant are modern and add to the unique ambiance of your dining experience. It’s truly an extraordinary, awe-inspiring atmosphere from the moment you walk in.

The dining rooms are massive and can seat 180 to 200 people; an ideal and available setting for large parties, groups, receptions, private luncheons and events (contact Ms. Jherty for information). Each table is set with a cloth napkin and silverware set while plates are neatly tucked away inside buffet station compartments. The seats and booths are soft and comfortable with a white faux-leather covering. Every detail from lighting, background music, seating and buffet structure has been well thought out from every angle.

Seating

The Cruise Docks in Angeles via Texas & Korea

I finally made plans with Jeff to stop by again for dinner and an in depth review. I was greeted immediately by a waitress when I walked in and soon after that I was introduced to a Filipino Floor Manager named John who guided me around the imposing buffet providing finer details of the dishes while I took photos and video of the cornucopia laid out before me.

Front Desk

After I filled my plate with a few items from the over 40 delectable choices in front of me,  I was joined at my table by the friendly, outgoing and affable Front of House Manager/Co-Owner Jeff Choi. Jeff is a wonderful host and truly understands as an American (and a Texan) what Westerners expect at a buffet dining experience.

Plates and Items

We spoke about how The Cruise Buffet Restaurant concept came to be, why Angeles City and what future changes we could expect from this new and exciting eating establishment.

Jeff came to Angeles City to visit his brother who has lived here for over 10 years. After visiting some buffet restaurants in Manila and seeing a lack of large, Las Vegas style buffets in Angeles, the idea of The Cruise was spawned. Jeff quit his job managing 6 sushi restaurants in Texas and moved to Angeles City with a concept, background in restaurant management and a family with roots in the community familiar with running businesses and ventures here.

The concept of The Cruise is to take you on a culinary journey of various cuisines from around the world. Each night you can find a variety of foods of different styles that give you a “best of” taste from numerous Asian cultures and international dishes with over 40 items to choose from.

Some highlights of the dishes include:

  • Japanese sushi

Rolls

  • Korean dishes

Korean Food

  • Chinese dim sum

Dumplings

Homemade Recipe

  • Filipino dishes

Filipino Food

  • Classic American selections

American

There is also a carving station and grill station with plans for an ice cream machine in the future, daily lunch, as well as possibly having some special themed nights and special dishes.

This is certain: Jeff intends on keeping The Cruise interesting and not settling on putting out the same food night after night or sacrificing quality.

Embarking The Cruise Buffet

The Cruise has only been open a few months. Like most new restaurants tweaks and changes have been made as they navigate the diverse clientele of Angeles City. The dinner buffet currently costs 599 pesos (approximately $13.31) and includes soft drinks.

Jeff also assured me he will not be changing the quality and tastes of the foods that comes out of his kitchen.  His multi-cultural background, attention to detail and work in the restaurant business ensures that all items being served are up to his high standards and tastes.

The main dishes are made each day using mostly fresh, local ingredients in small quantities to ensure freshness. You will be hard-pressed to find a dish or item that is pre-made. If an item runs out, you may have to wait a few minutes as dishes are not stock-piled in warmers. In my opinion this is more than acceptable. I’d much rather have delicious, hot and fresh food served on a buffet rather than something that’s been sitting in a warmer for a few hours.

The buffet stations seem to go on forever. It is a vast spread of ice filled troughs for the plated cold dishes and individual warming plates for hot main dishes. The video below shows a walk-through of the buffet’s extensive size:


Each dish is tastefully garnished with carrot, cucumber, tomato flowers or parsley which is a small, yet brilliant touch that adds to the overall dining aesthetic.

Ice Trough

The choices are endless and each dish I sampled was delicious. I went out of my way to try unfamiliar dishes and dishes I thought for sure wouldn’t be up to par such as the Chicken Casserole and Pork Meatballs. To my surprise these turned out to be more delicious than I could have imagined! It’s nearly impossible to taste over 20 hot dishes and just as many cold items, but I did my best to sample a little taste from each cuisine.

Grade A Pork

The Sushi Bar

Rolls Galore

The sushi bar is a maki roll lovers dream come true. On my visit there were 10 maki rolls and a limited selection of nigiri sushi. There was also some shrimp and vegetable tempura off to the side. The roll selections were very tasty and well presented. This is not a sushi restaurant and with so many other choices I was content with the selection presented.

MakiFried Goodness

The Carving Station

Another highlight on the buffet is the carving station. I passed on the delicious looking pork roast due to many other dishes having pork. I’m hopeful that Jeff can find some quality U.S. or Australian beef or perhaps a turkey to add to the carving station’s rotation.

Pork Roast

The Grill Station

The grill station was tempting with fresh squid, shrimp and pork but I was more interested in trying additional dishes on the buffet. These items are cooked to order and served table side.

Squid, Shrimp & Pork

Even More Hot Dishes

While many buffets try to entice you to fill up on carbohydrate filled side dishes, bread and pastas, The Cruise offers an extensive mix of protein based items featuring fish, pork, shellfish and chicken. Beef seems to be lacking, but this is to be expected since quality beef is cost prohibitive and often difficult to come by in this part of the world.

Spicy PrawnsSeafood

The Salad, Fruit & Desert Bar

A section of the buffet is dedicated to a salad bar with make your own and pre-made salad and fresh fruit selections.

Salad BarWatermelon, Mango & Pineapple

There is also a small selection of breads and sweets for desert if you possibly have room.

Cookies and Cakes

Yet Even More Items

There are many, many other items like soups, fried rice, mini-Clubhouse sandwiches, canapes, pizza, Korean noodle dishes, vegetable sides, made to order carbonara, won-tons, lumpia and other finger foods that I simply didn’t have room to try on this visit.

Finger FoodsKorean Noddle

Thankfully many of these items are permanent fixtures on the buffet so I’ll have an opportunity to try them on the next visit.

Extraordinay Service

One other point worth mentioning is the service. From the moment you walk in to the moment you walk out the wait staff is very attentive, but not overbearing. Not once did dirty plates stack up on the table on this visit or my previous Christmas visit after numerous visits for refills. While there is a walk-up drink station, I never needed to use it as there was always an attentive server ready to refill my water or beverage glass before I needed it.

Cold Beverages

The staff does their best to ensure that dishes on the buffet stay fresh and filled, but can become slightly flustered if a large group of 20 enter at one time. These are normal growing pains that I suspect will be rectified in the near future as the kitchen and wait staffs become more accustomed to runs and rushes that can occur at any buffet.

Set Sail For A Fantastic Culinary Voyage

The Cruise has dropped anchor in Balibago, Angeles City and have set a new standard on what customers can expect for buffet dining. The limited buffet competition in town should take note of the quality, atmosphere and pricing structure that The Cruise has instituted. The maiden voyage has already shown they are by far the best value for the money and they have successfully navigated through the stormy roll and turbulent first month of business .

The price at 599 pesos (approximately $13.31) is extremely competitive, the food is high quality and the taste is excellent. The atmosphere rivals and in many ways equals or surpasses VariAsia in ABC Hotel. The Cruise is strategically located in an area that is easily accessible by tourists just a few hundred meters away from Walking Street. Other buffets are much further away, much more expensive and often missed by visitors unless it happens to be in the hotel where they are staying.

Street View

Jeff Choi and his family have finally brought an affordable, high quality, Las Vegas style buffet to Angeles City that will appeal to local families, single persons, small groups, large groups and couples. They’ve incorporated great service and delicious food choices at the right price and provide an incredible dining atmosphere. They have reset the standard on what a buffet restaurant experience should be like in Angeles City and expats will feel as if they’re back at a world famous Las Vegas casino buffet. All aboard for The Cruise Buffet Restaurant and be prepared to enjoy the culinary voyage you’re about to embark on!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.1/10 (8 votes cast)

Blue Rock Beach Resort, Part II of II — Bars, Restaurant & Dive Shop

OPEN: Restaurant/Bar — 24hrs., Floating Bar — Seasonal (Late Nov. to April/May), Mid-Afternoon until 11:00pm’ish Depending on Weather
PAYMENT: Cash/Credit Cards
SEATING: Open-Air, Semi-Enclosed Outdoor Seating (Smoking)
LOCAL PHONE #: See Part I
LOCATION: See Part I

Eating and Drinking at Blue Rock Beach Resort

I was looking forward to eating and drinking at Blue Rock Beach Resort during my stay. Blue Rock Beach Resort advertises extensively in a local magazine called the Blue Book in Angeles City.

My girlfriend and I ate just about every meal here for a couple of reasons.

  1. There’s not much else around without traveling off the property other than Wild Orchid which is also in Angeles City and has a similar menu.
  2. The food is relatively well reviewed, particularly their steakhouse and seafood choices.

I was also looking forward to visiting their floating bar which is situated just off shore during the dry season (typically late November through April/May) for some drinking and relaxing.

Food Experiences

We were hungry upon our arrival at around lunch time, so we dropped off our bags in our room and headed to the restaurant. The restaurant  and bar overlooks the beach and there are a bunch of great seats in the dining room.

We ordered Thai Style Shrimp Fried Rice and BBQ Chicken Wings. The fried rice was good but I was expecting some large, plump shrimp based on the reputation for seafood at Blue Rock and in Subic. Unfortunately this was not the case and it was just a basic fried rice. I swear there’s some small shrimps somewhere in there. Tasty, but nothing spectacular.

Average Taste

The BBQ Chicken Wings were as bad as they looked. I’m used to oddly cut chicken in the Philippines, but this was primarily bones, fat and skin with very little meat. Overall a slightly disappointing experience for our first meal and fairly pricey which is to be expected at a hotel/resort.

Disgusting

I had faith that future meals would be much better with the extensive menu and perhaps we just caught a bad meal which can definitely happen on occasion.

Dinner time was fast approaching and since it was our first night we decided to splurge. Blue Rock Beach Resort has a steak and fish grilling area where you can pick from daily specials and it will be cooked up in front of your eyes.

Steakhouse

I like this concept, but the prices were a little too expensive for my tastes and the side dish choices weren’t that appealing to me. We opted for the Seafood Platter for 2, Caesar Salad and French Fries instead.

The salad was good, but portion-wise it was small. I liked the dressing and the fact that they put real anchovies and cheese on the side.

Small Portion

For around $30.00 I thought the Seafood Platter  for 2 was extremely overpriced (especially since I know what it would cost me to piece this together buying the items in the market locally). There was a salty, MSG filled gravy on the crab, shrimps and mussels. This is totally unnecessary for fresh seafood unless you’re trying to cover up the natural flavor for some reason. The shrimps were small and were peel-yourself style. The fried squid, fish and imitation crab sticks (Really? Imitation crab sticks?!) were all just your basic fried variety. Tough to screw these up and at least they weren’t overcooked.

Overpriced

Since it was a special occasion being a 1 year anniversary and I had a few drinks in me I wasn’t complaining and did enjoy this meal. Including a 1/2 dozen oysters on this item without changing the price would have made me feel much, much better about it. So far my meals at Blue Rock Beach Resort were under achieving considering all the hype I’d heard and read about.

The next morning for breakfast I went with the North to South breakfast for around $8.00 which I would classify as an Australian type of breakfast. The sausage, bacon and eggs were good, but the canned mushrooms were a drag as were the generic frozen hash browns. I’m really not a big breakfast guy in the first place, but English and Aussie breakfasts are just confusing to an American like me. What’s with the grilled tomatoes and sometimes beans?

Confusing Aussie Breakfast

My girlfriend went with the Club Sandwich. I don’t know why she thinks this is a great sandwich and wants to order it at every opportunity. I’ve tried to explain to her that she’s not even a member and therefore can’t order this sandwich. For what it’s worth, here it is.

Members Only

A little later for lunch we ordered some nachos and a BLT Sandwich. Again, these were very average and pricey for what you got. The nachos were greasy, the meat was full of gristle and the cheese was Filipino style. In other words, my girlfriend loved this!

Greasy

This was the attempt at the BLT. At this point all the sandwiches were the same to me.

Sad Attempt

At some other point I also tried the Reuben sandwich. It was uninspiring. The picture below should give you a good idea on the quality. If I didn’t see the corned beef I’d swear a tryke driver ran over the bread before it was served to me. No that is not Swiss cheese and yes there is some sort of sauerkraut in it.

Uninspired

Again, not what I’m expecting at a “beach resort” for the prices paid, portion sizes and overall taste and quality. I had much higher expectations. Fortunately, I was in possession of discount card that gave me 10% off all meals and drinks which helped ease my disappointment with the food experiences.

My opinion is that the food at Blue Rock Beach Resort is overrated, pricey and average to fair at best. Good for a quick snack if you’re there or if you just want some bar snacks. We ventured next door to the Wild Orchid for dinner later that evening which was much better overall for food services.

Libations

So the food wasn’t the highlight of Blue Rock Beach Resort, but if you plan on just relaxing by or on the water there are great opportunities to get your drink on here.

During the dry season (late Nov. through April/May) the floating bar is positioned about 200 feet offshore and is open from mid-afternoon until late night. It’s a fun and unique spot to spend an afternoon or evening and the drinks are priced fairly.

Drink on the Water

Yes you can jump off the bar and swim, yes there are bathrooms on board. Operations are subject to weather conditions as are operating times.

The bar inside Blue Rock Beach Resort is also a great spot to have some drinks and spend some time. You can sit at the bar itself or grab one of the many seats in the restaurant dining room.

Drinks

Every night there was also a small live band consisting of a keyboardist, singer and guitarist singing popular favorites. Sitting on the water in the floating bar or at the bar or restaurant having some cocktails taking in the exceptional beach and view is always a great way to spend the day or night.

Live Band

Diving

Blue Rock Beach Resort also has on onsite dive shop. If you’re an experienced or first time diver or snorkeler the staff can help arrange some great dives at shipwrecks and other popular sites in the Subic Bay area.

Snorkeling

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Viet Garden Vietnamese Restaurant

Signage

OPEN: Daily 11:00am — 2:00am
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking, Outdoor/Smoking
MENU: See Attached PDF, prices and menu as of Nov. 12, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below


View Viet Garden Restaurant in a larger map

New Vietnamese Restaurants Continue to Open in Angeles

It seems like only yesterday that the only way to sample authentic Vietnamese style foods in Angeles City was to book a flight direct to Vietnam. This, like most things in South East Asia, has changed dramatically and rapidly since our review of Pho Hanoi on September 25, 2013.

There have been three additional Vietnamese restaurants that have opened in Angeles City in just a couple of months. It seems Vietnamese cuisine is quickly catching on and adding its unique taste sensation to the diverse culinary city which was lacking in these types of food establishments previously. One of them is Viet Garden.

Vietnamese Cuisine

Quaint and Cozy Cafe with a Diverse Menu

Viet Garden is a small cafe that recently opened in the new stalls along M.A. Roxas HWY near an area locally referred to as Checkpoint. The venue is small but nicely and simply decorated and branded. Wood carved chairs and plates are emblazoned with logos. There is outdoor seating for smokers and plenty of seats inside.  Parking is not an issue as this newly built complex has plenty of spaces available.

Non-Smoking

The cafe has a unexpectedly large and diverse menu for the size of the restaurant providing you ample opportunity to grab a light snack if you’re new to the cuisine or a full meal for those familiar with this type of food. Some interesting items on the menu include:

  • Goi Da Ca (Viet salad with stingray skin)
  • Ca Kho (catfish simmered in Viet sauce)
  • Cua-Um (crab cooked Viet style)
  • Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepe)

The menu also includes more familiar favorites like:

  • Goi Cuon (fresh spring rolls)
  • Cha Gio (fried spring rolls)
  • Banh Mi (sandwich)
  • Pho Bo (beef noodle soup)

A few items were marked “Unavailable” on my visit, but there were plenty of items to choose from on the menu.

Additional Seating

Vietnamese Cuisine for a Small Snack or Full Meal

My visit to Viet Garden was a bit too early for lunch and all I really wanted was a small snack to share with my girlfriend. Stopping by Viet Garden was an ideal choice as I knew I could grab something quick, light and fairly inexpensive.

Our order was Cha Gio (friend spring rolls) and two Banh Mi sandwiches. Typically I prefer to order several items on a first time visit in order to get a real feel for the food at an establishment, but due to the timing I really only wanted a small snack.

In cases like this I have a small checklist of criteria and find it best to order the common foolproof items that should be prepared perfectly and still gives me a good idea about the taste and quality of the foods.  My checklist in cases like this is:

  1. Visual authenticity — Does it look like the pictures in the menu or what it should look like?
  2. Taste and texture authenticity — Does it taste authentic? Are the textures right?
  3. Pricing — Are the items prices fairly for what is served?
  4. Overall satisfaction — Am I satisfied overall with everything about the items?

First up were the Cha Gio (fried spring rolls). Six plump, golden brown, ground pork and vegetable filled rolls served with a sweet and sour sauce, cucumber sticks, basil leaves and lettuce.

Fried Spring Rolls

It’s almost impossible to mess up fried spring rolls. The rolls were filled adequately with a seasoned pork and vegetable medley. They were crisp on the outside and steaming hot on the inside. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed with a fried spring roll and that streak still stands. These were delicious.

The raw vegetables on the side gave me an opportunity to be slightly inventive. I put a spring roll on a piece of lettuce, added some of the cucumber sticks, basil leaves and then dunked them in the sauce. Now I was eating “healthy” fried spring rolls. 

I like the presentation, the tastes and textures were right and at 145 pesos (approximately $3.37) for 6 pieces seemed very fair. All boxes on my checklist were covered and this dish was a great snack by itself. Fortunately my girlfriend was with me so I was able to sample one more item.

The Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich has many variations but some standards do exist. First, it should be served on a light and airy french style baguette which may be slightly sweet or not. Second, it should have some sort of Vietnamese sauce in lieu of mayonnaise or mustard. Typically the sauce will be a fish, siracha, hoisin, a sweet vinegary sauce or any combination of these. Third, the filling will be a seasoned, grilled chicken or pork. Fourth, it will be topped with various fresh herbs and vegetables which can vary greatly. Sometimes additional sauces will be served on the side.

Vietnamese Sandwich

Viet Garden’s Banh Mi is served with seasoned, grilled chicken. The sandwich was of decent size (particularly for the price) and the bread was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. It appeared to be freshly baked. There was a decent amount of filling and it had a similar sweet and vinegary sauce to what was served with the spring rolls. The sandwich was topped with cucumber spears, shredded daikon radish, carrots and fresh cilantro.

Banh Mi

At 75 pesos (approximately $1.74) this sandwich is a steal. Something similar at a Subway sandwich shop would run you $4.00 to $5.00. The Banh Mi is a light and flavorful sandwich due to the use of various array of herbs and vegetables on the crusty flakey bread. It’s a completely unique style and flavor that is truly Vietnamese at its heart. There are a lot of complaints that there’s no where in Angeles City to get a decent submarine sandwich but this is no longer true with the addition of Vietnamese restaurants.

Overall my total bill for 2 Banh Mi sandwiches, 1 order of fried spring rolls, 2 ice teas and tip came to 385 peso (approximately $8.95). I thought this was a tremendous value for the money and a fantastic snack that left me fully satisfied.

I look forward to visiting Viet Garden again soon to try some of their other items. If they’re as good as the two staples I sampled on my first visit I’m sure I won’t be disappointed with the rest of the menu. It will be interesting to see how many more Vietnamese restaurants open up in Angeles City and how the competition determines who will reign supreme in this cuisine.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.7/10 (7 votes cast)

Iguana’s Cantina Mexicana

Outdoor Painting

OPEN: Tuesday to Sunday 11:00am — 10:00pm, Closed Mondays
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 405-0449
MENU: See Attached PDF and À La Carte Menu Attached PDF, prices and menus as of October 19, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below


View Iguana’s Cantina Mexicana in a larger map

Before Iguana’s There Was Zapata’s

I lived in Los Angeles, California for over a decade and some of the tastiest Mexican food can be found all over Southern California. Many would argue that you can get better tasting Mexican food in this part of the U.S. than you can in Mexico. When I first arrived in the Philippines I imagined that Mexican food would be easily accessible and adequate in quality and taste. Sadly, this turned out to be untrue.

Many years ago I was taken to what was at the time the only Mexican restaurant in Angeles City called Zapata’s. Having just arrived from Southern California and eating the best Mexican food in the world for over 10 years I was incredibly disappointed. I found the foods bland and unappetizing compared to what I was used to eating.

I caught the tail end of Zapata’s restaurant which was very popular among expats and locals as it was the only choice for Mexican food in town. It closed down a few months later and relocated further down on Perimeter RD near Korea Town under the new name Iguana’s (yet Zapata’s remained on signage). Like many things in the Philippines, this business decision seemed strange and added to branding confusion. I stayed away once it reopened since a couple of other Mexican restaurants had opened up recently and were very good in my opinion.

Street View

About a year ago I ventured back to Iguana’s after hearing from several people that it was better than the other Mexican restaurants I’d been frequenting regularly who had some alleged food poisoning cases.

Once I stepped through Iguana’s big wooden doors I could tell that big changes had been made at the new location and I looked forward to giving them another chance to win over my patronage again. Gone were the references to Zapata’s (except for one tiny street sign reading “Formerly Zapata’s”).

Mexican Food Haven

Fiesta Type Atmosphere

Iguana’s is one of the best themed restaurants in Angeles City. It screams Mexico from the outside building design, murals and colors. Once you walk inside it’s like you’ve stepped straight into a Mexican Cantina.

Trinkets

The entryway welcomes you with an onslaught of pictures of festive patrons wearing sombreros, eating and drinking along with a cabinet filled with trinkets.

Seating Area

The inside is painted in bright colors, colorful artwork and traditional tile work. Pictures, sombreros and decorations adorn almost every inch of wall space available. Even the restrooms are filled with Pancho Villa pictures and colorful tile work. Your server will even be decked out in traditional Mexican style dress with a tiny sombrero hat.

Plush Seats

The large, colorful and spacious dining room is filled with regular tables, booths and high tables. There’s also a nicely stocked bar area with seating for those stopping by to sample some of the many authentic, imported tequilas or margaritas.

Belly Up to the Bar

They also serve liquor, beers, wines, Sangria from Spain and some delectable sounding deserts.

Additional Beverages

Unique Sweets

If I needed a large restaurant/bar for a private party or event Iguana’s would be my first phone call as the space is ideal, already decorated for a party atmosphere and has party food and drink readily available.

South of the Border Flavors in South East Asia

The food at Iguana’s is excellent, of high quality and fairly authentic from a Mexican-American food standpoint with no noticeable shortcuts being taken. More importantly the flavors of the food are much, much better than I remember on my first visit to Zapata’s many years ago.

Nothing is overly spicy and most dishes are very mild. The owners have obviously fine tuned recipes, portions and prices to suit local tastes. While it is still a far cry away from Southern California Mexican food, it is arguably one of the best Mexican restaurants in Angeles City where the cuisine never really has taken off in popularity as it has in the U.S.

The menu consists of your typical Mexican food standards along with other items. Some typical foods they serve include:

  • Hard and Soft Shell Tacos (ground beef, shredded chicken, shredded beef and fish)
  • Burittos
  • Quesadillas
  • Nachos
  • Fajitas
  • Enchiladas

There is also an à la carte menu that you have to request which has some hidden gems not included on the regular menu. I highly recommend asking your server for this menu to save some money and try some dishes you’re not sure about.

More Food

Mexican Foods Feast

I like a variety of Mexican foods at a meal, but I’ve never been a big fan of the combo plates that include rice and beans. I’ve now introduced my girlfriend to Mexican food and she is loving the new flavors and dishes that she’s not accustomed to.

We ordered:

  1. Chicken Qesadilla Supreme
  2. Shredded Beef Taco
  3. Cheese Enchiladas
  4. Nachos with Ground Beef

The Chicken Quesadilla Supreme with onions and jalepeño peppers for 220 pesos (approximately $5.12) is great and classic appetizer.

Appetizer or Meal

The real flour tortillas are filled with plenty of gooey, melted cheese, shredded chicken and optional jalepeño peppers and onions.  An order of these are great to share or for a meal for one person.

Nicely Filled

Next up is 1 Shredded Beef Taco from the à la carte menu for 90 pesos (approximately $2.09) which comes with lettuce, tomato and real cheddar cheese along with a side of salsa. My girlfriend likes the hard shell but soft shell is available.

Beef

As you can see there’s no skimping on the shredded beef or toppings. This is your standard sized taco and the shell is crispy. It’s mildly spiced and great for those who don’t want anything too intense.

There's the beef

Back to the à la carte menu for an order of 2 Cheese Enchiladas for 100 pesos (approximately $2.33).

Disappointing dish

Basically this is melted cheese between 2 corn tortillas with enchilada sauce on top. I was slightly disappointed with this dish. The corn tortillas just weren’t right and the cheese was barely melted with shreds still visible. The enchilada sauce was ok, but I could have done without the cheese sauce and sour cream which were more for decoration than flavor.

Finally, we ordered Nachos with Ground Beef from the à la carte menu again for 200 pesos (approximately $4.65).

Awesome, crispy and cheesey

I had low expectations for this dish and expected soggy chips bathed in a bland cheese sauce with ground beef dumped on top of the chips. To my surprise the cheese sauce was slightly spicy, piping hot and served on the side.

The chips were crispy and absorbed just enough of the sauce from the ground beef. As a bonus it even included jalepeño peppers and black olives (though I would have preferred onions).

Stuffed Like a Piñata at a Mexican Child’s Birthday

With drinks and tip our Mexican foods feast bill came to 740 pesos (approximately $17.21) for 2 people. I was completely stuffed and overall very happy with the meal, minus the enchiladas. While there’s no free, all you can eat chips and salsa that most expats are likely used to, Iguana’s is a great place for Mexican food and the atmosphere you eat in makes the experience an engaging and fun dining experience.

The unique Mexican tastes will impress those who haven’t experienced Mexican foods before and it’s a great change of pace when you’re craving it.  While I’d classify Iguana’s as more of a Mexican-American type of food rather than truly authentic, it’s still Mexican food. And even when Mexican food isn’t that great it’s still pretty good!

Night Sign

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.8/10 (5 votes cast)

Yu Ganne Cal Guksoo Korean Restaurant

Korean Restaurant

OPEN: Daily, 24 Hours
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Smoking
DELIVERY: Local Friendship HWY Area Only
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 323-4400
MENU: See Attached PDF, prices and menu as of October 12, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below


View Yu Ganne Cal Guksoo Korean Restaurant in a larger map

Korea Town in the Philippines

The Friendship HWY area of Angeles City is known as Korea Town. This area is located West of the entertainment area off of Perimeter RD. Along this stretch there are literally dozens of Korean Restaurants and by many accounts some of the best Korean food outside of Seoul can be found here.

While many tourists and visitors never make it this far down Perimeter RD, those that do find themselves in a culturally diverse, food lovers paradise area of Angeles City that has many delicious restaurants from several ethnic backgrounds including:

While Korean restaurants do dominate this part of town, those who tell you Korea Town is for Koreans only are sadly misinformed and missing out on some truly tasty culinary delights that locals and expats living in the surrounding area certainly know about.

The Best Samgyupsal in Korea Town

Yu Ganne Cal Guksoo Korean Restaurant, also known as “Samgyupsal Galbi,” “Yu, Gane Cal Guksoo,” and “Yuganne Calguksoo” is THE place to go if you want to enjoy the very popular fried pork belly dish samgyupsal.

Korean Food

Skip all the other places who offer you “all you can eat samgyupsal” for 250 pesos (approximately $5.81). All you’re going to get is thin slices of fatty cuts of pork belly that are similar to bacon. These other places pale in comparison to the samgyupsal feast for 2 that you get at Yu Ganne Cal Guksoo for 460 pesos (approximately $10.70). Yu Ganne Cal Guksoo serves up thick cut, meaty, slabs of pork belly with just the right amount of delicious pork fat.

The Feast

First Course — Side Dishes

After placing your order for samgyupsal your server will start bringing numerous side dishes and various dipping sauces to the table. Usually there are 5 side dishes of which a few change daily, kimchi, a cold soup with a vinegar base, leafy greens, onions and chili peppers. Traditional accompaniments like lettuce leaves, raw garlic, green chili peppers, gochujang (red chilli paste), another salty fermented bean paste with a nutty flavor and sesame oil with salt are also included.

Appetizers

Each Korean restaurant typically makes their own kimchi and is a staple in just about every Korean meal. If you like garlic and kimchi, then the kimchi at Yu Ganne Cal Guksoo will be enough to bring you back time and time again. This is by far my favorite kimchi I’ve ever had anywhere. It’s salty, spicy, garlicy with hints of onion and a touch of sweetness. Just when you are enjoying all of the delicious side dishes and kimchi your server will be bring you out more.

Spicy and Garlicy

Second Course — Soups

First, your order of thick, meaty and fatty samgyupsal cuts will then be brought to the table for inspection and table side cooking by the server as you continue to enjoy the side dishes and kimchi.

One Order Raw

Fried Pork Belly

Next, two steaming bowls of soup will be brought to the table. The first soup is called Egg Chim and is more like a scrambled egg with green onions poached in a light, salty broth that evaporates quickly in the hot clay bowl. It’s strangely simple and delicious.

Simpe and Delicious Egg Soup

The second bowl is Doenjang Jjigae and it is a hearty and spicy fish based, seafood, vegetable and tofu soup. In this steaming bowl are dried fish pieces, squid, tahong (local green lipped mussels), spring onions, garlic, zucchini slices, fermented beans, potato slices, red and green chilies and tofu.

Seafood Based Soup

Usually one of the side dishes in the first course is raw squid or oysters in a spicy red pepper sauce. While I don’t have an issue with raw seafood,  I always toss it into the bubbling mixture instead of wasting it and find that it adds a spicy complex flavor. I highly recommend this method.

Main Course

Shortly after you’ve filled yourself up on soups, kimchi and side dishes the cooked samgyupsal will be served as your main course. It’s typically served with fried onion and garlic, but I like to keep half the garlic raw for the samgyupsal lettuce wraps I make.

The samgyupsal should be cooked, but not overly crispy. Feel free to advise your server on the level doneness you prefer as some people refuse to eat pork unless it’s well done. I personally find this absurd.

Cooked Pork Belly

Eating Samgyupsal

I’m not an expert on the proper Korean way of eating samgyupsal. Some people suggest that dipping it in the sesame seed oil with salt and wrapping it in a lettuce leaf with some rice is the correct way. This sounds boring to me. I like to experience all the flavors in one bite-sized lettuce wrapped ball of goodness.

Here’s how I eat mine:

  1. Put a small amount of rice on a lettuce leaf
  2. Add a touch of sesame oil and salt
  3. Add a touch of the fermented, nutty flavored bean paste
  4. 1 piece sliced, raw garlic
  5. A few pieces of samgyupsal
  6. Small piece of fried onion and garlic
  7. Top with small amount of kimchi

I wrap it all up in the lettuce leaf and try and keep it to one bite-sized piece (if possible) and pop it into my mouth. Finally, I take a green chili and dip it into the gochujang and take a big bite.

The flavors of all of the ingredients together in my mouth is overwhelming and like no other. It is a fantastic combination of saltiness, pork and pork fat, spiciness and garlicy bliss with several different textures and temperatures from the mixture of hot and cold toppings. Each time you chew a new flavor expresses itself in a unique way mixing with the other flavors and it’s truly a taste sensation unlike any other.

On occasion there is also a shredded green onion salad served with garlic and chili pepper flakes in a light sesame dressing that I like to throw in as well, but it hasn’t been served every time. Also two glasses of iced tea are usually served, but I find this can be hit or miss as well. An individual side order of rice will set you back an additional 50 pesos (approximately $1.16).

Final Analysis

I knew from the minute I first walked in and saw only Koreans chain smoking and eating that I was in for a special meal. The value for the money cannot be beat considering everything you get with 1 order of samgyupsal for 460 pesos (approximately $10.70). This is a full meal for 2 people and almost impossible to eat by yourself. My total bill with a side order of rice and tip is 530 pesos (approximately $12.33). I’m totally happy when I can get out of any restaurant here for under 600 pesos for 2 people and be completely full and satisfied each and every time.

Yu Ganne Cal Guksoo Korean Restaurant is easily my favorite Korean restaurant in Angeles City and it has been for a while. Considering how many options there are for Korean food that is saying a lot. I find myself visiting this place at least once a week for the past 2 years.

Inside Restaurant

If you’re new to Korean food or have only tried the Korean restaurants in the Entertainment District then you should make your way to Friendship HWY and Korea Town to try some of the best tasting Korean food outside of Seoul, South Korea right here in the Philippines. 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)

AFC – Angeles Fried Chicken

Menu Front

OPEN: Daily 9:00am — 12:00am
PAYMENT: Cash and Credit Card (Dine In Only, No Surcharge, No Minimum, Must Have ID)
SEATING: Indoor/Smoking (Enclosed Patio), Indoor/Non-Smoking (Main Dining Room)
DELIVERY: Available Until 10:00pm — Cash Only
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 322-4448, (045) 625-7644
MENU: See Attached PDF, prices and menu as of Sept. 23, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below


View AFC (Angeles Fried Chicken) Restaurant in a larger map

Fried Chicken In Asia

When most people of the Western world think about fried chicken they typically associate it with Southern cooking or the larger fast food chains like KFC or Popeye’s. But fried chicken in Asia is ubiquitous and pervasive in just about every restaurant. KFC is one of the largest and most popular fast food chains in all of Asia. McDonald’s and every other fast food chain in this part of the world has bone-in, fried chicken on their menus and in some areas it outsells their burger items. It’s common to see street vendors on bicycles or motorbikes with a side car of scalding hot oil and battered pieces of chicken ready for frying. Fried chicken dishes thrive in the Asian market and are far more common than beef or hamburger dishes as a main meal.

One of the Oldest Restaurants In Angeles City

Locals have been eating at AFC (Angeles Fried Chicken) for over 40 years, yet many foreigners and tourists miss out on some of the best fried chicken dinners Angeles City has to offer which is less than 5 minutes drive from the main hotel/restaurant and entertainment area. Some of the keys to its long-term success has been keeping a core group of cooks and servers together for over 40 years, which is almost unheard of in the food service business. Prices and quality are also far superior to other establishments and finally, AFC focuses on doing one thing great…fried chicken dinners. This is without a doubt the quintessential, sit down style, fried chicken restaurant of yesteryear and walking inside feels like stepping backwards in time.

Angeles Fried Chicken Building

Running the Colonel Out of Town

AFC started out as the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in Pampanga, Philippines. Romeo, who has been working at AFC for 42 years, is a warm, knowledgeable and attentive server who can regale you with grandiose stories about how the Filipinos stole Col. Sanders “11 secret herbs and spices recipe,” his Kentucky bow tie and sent him back to the United States under threats of death. With secret recipe in hand, they changed the letter “K” to an “A” on the sign and began operating as AFC.

42 Year Employee

I’m not entirely sure how true this story is, but there are signs that suggest that at least some of the legendary tale is accurate. Consider:

  • Serving staff wear uniforms exactly like the old Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants (Pre-KFC re-brand days)
  • The chicken breading tastes exactly how I remember KFC chicken in the 1980s
  • Breast pieces are cut into two pieces exactly like Kentucky Fried Chicken used to serve
  • Red and white checkered table clothes adorn the tables
  • Other menu items like gravy, mashed potatoes and coleslaw resemble old KFC flavors

Taking A Trip Back In Time

When you step into AFC’s dimly lit, windowless dining room it’s like stepping through a vortex that takes you back in time 30 years. Once your eyes adjust to the light, you’ll likely find yourself the only foreigner in a restaurant filled with Filipinos at lunch or dinner. This should be your first clue that you’re on to something special and about to enjoy a delicious fried chicken meal. Filipinos know their fried chicken and the place is often packed with businessmen, families and local city officials chowing down on lunch, dinner or celebrating special events.

AFC Bar Area

If you’re lucky, Romeo will be your server and will welcome you at the door. Ask him to give you the history of place as he is one of the original workers. If you’re a purist like me, tell him you want to sit at one of the tables with the original seats which are much more comfortable and add an historic aspect to your dining experience.

Original Wood Chairs

What To Order?

While there are other options on the menu I would recommend a Western style, old school KFC-like meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw and roll. Sit back, take in the historic atmosphere and get ready to sink your teeth into some juicy fried chicken that will bring back childhood memories of what Kentucky Fried Chicken used to taste like before it became fast food and over commercialized. 

Your server will bring you a small complimentary bowl of fish crackers which are crispy, not too fishy tasting and delicious.  I always order the Lunch, Crispy with roll and a side order of mashed potatoes.  This meal for 220 pesos (approximately $5.00) consists of 3 pieces of fried chicken (Crispy has slightly more breading than Regular), coleslaw, gravy and your choice of rice or roll. A side order of mashed potatoes is an additional 75 pesos (approximately $1.72).

Complimentary Snack

I find 3 pieces to be enough for a meal, but additional breast pieces are available for 70 pesos (approximately $1.60) each as well as additional side items. Keep in mind these two things:

  1. These are not hormone injected, giant chicken pieces and may appear small compared to what your are used to consuming.
  2. There are 2 types of chicken breast pieces like KFC formerly served. One section with breast meat and ribs, the other piece with breast meat sections only. Be sure to specify which pieces you prefer. 

Your girlfriend or date is likely going to only eat 1 or 2 pieces of chicken. Do yourself and her a favor: Order her the 3 piece Lunch (with rice of course instead of the roll), then swap out the pieces you want. Trust me, she doesn’t want the breast pieces and prefers the wings, thighs and legs. In this scenario you’re likely to get  2 or 3 breast portions for yourself without ordering additional pieces.

Crispy and Juicy Comfort Food You’ll Be Back For Again and Again

With two Lunch, Crispy with roll orders, side of mashed potatoes and an order of AFC Fried Rice placed I sit back and await my meal while sipping on an ice cold Mountain Dew as my girlfriend rambles on about something I’m not even listening to. My mind is pre-occupied with the forthcoming, hot, juicy and crispy chicken that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.

Finally Romeo brings out our food. I quickly switch out the breast pieces and leave my girlfriend with 2 wing pieces. I bite into the crispy outside breading and hot chicken juice burns my mouth. A fork full of mashed potatoes with gravy, coleslaw and a sip of Mountain Dew subsides the burning sensations. I’m instantly taken back to my childhood days of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken as I remember it.

Delicious

The mashed potatoes are as good as you’re going to get in Asia, meaning acceptable, but nothing like the light and fluffy U.S. style I’m used to. Still much better than most anything anyone else has to offer and a must with a fried chicken dinner. A dash of salt, pepper and hot sauce enhances their flavor. The homemade gravy for the fried chicken and mashed potatoes is tasty and nice accompaniment.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

The roll is surprisingly delicious and something I always look forward to with this meal at AFC, don’t miss out on it. The AFC Fried Rice is a combination fried rice with chunks of chicken, shrimp, egg and vegetables. I rarely order it unless I’m with my girlfriend, but enjoy it when I do. It’s total carb overkill with the mashed potatoes and roll.

Carb Overload

The small serving of coleslaw is enough for me but I should have never convinced the girlfriend to try it and the roll which she now eats and won’t give me. At least I’m still getting one over on her with the chicken breasts, but it was much better and cheaper for me when she was just fried chicken and white rice.

The Never Ending Trip Down Memory Lane

I’m completely happy and full every time I eat at AFC. It’s one of my favorite places in all of Angeles City to eat or have delivered. It’s a total throw back to what fried chicken places used to be about in taste and atmosphere. The bill total with drinks and tip came to 611 pesos (approximately $14.15) for two of us, but you can easily spend less than $5.00 alone and enjoy a hearty , comfort food meal that will send you down memory lane of what KFC used to be and taste like.

I hope AFC never changes a thing and that their staff stays another 20 years and teaches the younger servers and cooks everything they know. In a place where restaurants change drastically  and frequently with staff and cook turnover, AFC has maintained a competent staff, a high quality standard, fair price and continues to serve a simple, immaculately prepared fried chicken dinner that transcends all cultural barriers and is truly heavenly in taste.

Cartoon Chicken

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (5 votes cast)

Pho Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant

Outdoor Sign

OPEN: Daily 10:00am — 10:00pm
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking, Outdoor/Smoking
MENU: See Attached PDF, prices and menu as of Sept. 22, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below


View Pho Hanoi Restaurant in a larger map

The Mystique of Vietnamese Cuisine

Those who have traveled extensively in South East Asia and have made trips to Vietnam usually come back to the Philippines and tell their friends how great the food is. They’ll dazzle you mythical tales of elusive street food carts and restaurants that serve some of the finest delicacies ever produced for less than a dollar…if you can find them. Names, exact locations and what they actually ate elude them as their eyes glaze over and they continue their story gazing in the distance as if in some sort of memory induced food trance.

Once you snap them out of their tranquil dream state you can usually get some basic information and descriptions, but it’s always the same items repeated time and time again:

  • Fried and fresh spring rolls
  • Pho
  • Some unidentified meat on a stick
  • A delicious sandwich with some bar-b-qued meat and vegetables
  • Salad that had noodles and meat with a sweet, salty and vinegary taste

You may recognize a few of these items and think you’re making progress, then the person will snap back to their teary eyed dream state of reminiscing and tell you that you just don’t understand…you just don’t understand. These people have been to ‘Nam and have been forever changed.

The Vietnamese Have Arrived in the Philippines

A headline like this in the 60′s and 70′s would have had an entirely different reaction than it does today. On July 19, 2013 Pho Hanoi opened it’s doors in the Korea Town area of Friendship Highway in Angeles City. I ate there two weeks after opening and found it to be a welcome dining addition to this part of town which mostly has Korean restaurants. It was better than I expected for a new restaurant.

My friend Zack and I were out and about one late night searching for a place to get a bite to eat. As we were driving aimlessly trying to decide between Jollibee fast food or driving to the Fields area I casually mentioned that there was a newer Vietnamese place that had opened a few months back. He slammed on the brakes and immediately turned around. Our choice had been made.

Pho Hanoi Food Experience

Outdoor Street Signage

Pho Hanoi restaurant is a small place with indoor non-smoking and outdoor smoking sections. Their menu is small compared to other places in town, but it has a good selection of appetizers, vermicelli (Bun), noodles, rice and sandwich choices. Our servers brought us out a complimentary sweet, hot , lime flavored tea while we looked through the concise menu. The server told us the restaurant is owned by a Vietnamese person and assured us that everything was authentically prepared.

Complimentary Tea ServiceNon-Smoking Dining RoomSmoking Seating

 We ordered:

  1. Cha Gio — Fried spring rolls
  2. Bun Ga Nuong Cha Gio — Vermicelli noodle salad with spring roll
  3. Pho Hanoi — Combination pho
  4. Banh Mi Sandwich — Bar-b-que chicken sanwich

The Cha Gio arrived first. Six pieces of tightly wrapped, stout, pork filled rolls with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. The rice paper gives the spring roll a crisp outside and slightly chewy inside. I’ve had spring rolls with thinner wrappers, but I liked the thicker texture of these.

Fried Spring Rolls

Our main courses arrived soon after and I thought the presentation of my Bun Ga Nuong Cha Gio was beautiful and I couldn’t wait to dig into this unique dish. I hardly knew where to start. I wondered if  I should add some of the chili sauces that were on the table, mix the whole thing up or eat a little portion of noodle, lettuce, spring roll and meat separately. I ended up giving everything a light toss and then got a little of each ingredient on my fork.

The taste of this dish was incredible! It was crunchy, savory, spicy, salty and sweet all at the same time and all the different textures were unique. I knew immediately that I’d found my go-to Vietnamese food dish. Near the end I added some of the chili sauces just to see how they would affect the taste. My conclusion was that this dish is great without any additional sauces unless you love your food super spicy.

Bar-b-que Pork Noodle Salad

Quick note — Pho Hanoi is selling their homemade chili oil sauce. Our lovely and friendly waitress models with a jar that I believe is available for 250 Peso.

Waitress and Chili Sauce

Zack’s Pho Hanoi looked a little underwhelming. I had tried a small bowl of the pho on my first visit and felt the same way then. For the large portion at $6.00 it looked small. It was nothing like the large, overflowing, steaming bowls of noodle pho I’d eaten in Los Angeles Vietnamese restaurants and his side vegetables looked wilted and sparse. Zack also felt that there wasn’t nearly enough noodles (an extra portion is available for an additional charge of approximately $1.35). It did have several meat ingredients that looked appetizing and Zack had no problem eating it all. Overall he felt the broth, meats and noodles were very tasty. Unfortunately pho does not appear to be the star dish at Pho Hanoi.

Noodle Soup

But all was not lost! We still had the Banh Mi bar-b-que chicken sandwich which I graciously offered to share. Fortunately for me, Zack declined. Having only heard of the famous Banh Mi sandwich I was anxious to sink my teeth into it. I was not disappointed. The crusty yet soft bread had soaked up the various unfamiliar sauces they put on it and all of the vegetables were very crisp. The bar-b-qued chicken was the perfect amount for the size of the sandwich and was spicy and delicious. For $3.40 I thought this was a fantastic value for the money and one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in the Philippines. When I’m dying for a sandwich and the nearest Subway is 30 to 45 minutes drive away, I’m heading to Pho Hanoi for this sandwich.

Crispy Bread and Spicy Chicken

Overall I was extremely pleased with my meal as a whole. I enjoyed every dish I ordered and would order all of them again. Zack was slightly disappointed, but not enough to nix the place on a go back. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t order the pho again and we both agreed that it’s not up to the high standard that we expected for the price. But the menu has enough other items that are reasonably priced. My suggestion is to start off with an appetizer and order 2 or 3 (depending on the number in your party) other items to get a taste of everything and share them family style.

Our total bill came in at 775 Peso (approximately $17.75) with tip. Zack’s Pho Hanoi pho was the most expensive and most disappointing of the items we ordered. If you took that out of the equation I think there is good value for your money here and it’s a unique cuisine that (surprisingly) isn’t easily found in the Philippines. But that is changing fast.

More New Arrivals

Pho Hanoi now has some competition in Angeles City as another Vietnamese (allegedly owned by a different Vietnamese person) has opened in the new shopping complex across the street from Jollibee in an area commonly called Checkpoint. We’ll be checking them out soon for a full review. I’ve also heard rumors of yet another Vietnamese restaurant soon to open but don’t have any other details as of this writing. Finally I’ve also heard whispers of a Vietnamese restaurant located somewhere in Angeles City Proper that has been open for years. It seems as though the Vietnamese are finally gaining some ground on the culinary battlefield here in Angeles City.

View From Friendship Highway

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.8/10 (6 votes cast)

Amoremio Italian Restaurant

Unlit Sign Above Entrance

OPEN: Daily 10:00am — 11:00pm
PAYMENT: Cash Only
SEATING: Indoor/Non-Smoking, Outdoor/Smoking
DELIVERY: Available
LOCAL PHONE #: (045) 304-0328
MENU: See Attached PDF, prices and menu as of Sept. 21, 2013
LOCATION: See Map Below

View Amoremio Restaurant in a larger map

Battle Italian Food In Angeles City, Philippines

Amoremio opened in Angeles City a little over a year ago right next door to the world famous C’ Italian Dining, the premier Italian restaurant in the area. Many people thought Amoremio was destined for failure as C’ has had a lock on fine Italian dining in Angeles City for many, many years and is a favorite among locals, expats and tourists alike.

On paper there were several disadvantages:

  • C’ was a large stand alone restaurant
  • Amoremio was small and nestled in a building housing other businesses
  • C’ was established with locals, expats and tourists
  • Amoremio was new to a town who already has several Italian restaurants
  • C’ was branded as “Italian Dining”
  • Amoremio’s signage refers to it as “Mediterranean Cuisine”

While C’ still maintained a steady, busy business, Chef Tiziano of Amoremio stayed the course and word quickly got around town that a new Italian place with a chef who owned a restaurant in Manila for decades was now here. The word on the street was that the food was much cheaper and of equal or better quality to the competition. 

My first experience eating here in November 2012 proved the rumors to be true. I was never a regular C’ customer. I went there a few times when friends came to town or for a truly special date, but price always kept me away even though the quality was superior to most other places in town. On the other hand, I frequented Amoremio several times. The quality and prices were more than in line and you could easily eat there for well under $10.00.

The Tide Turns

In April of 2013 C’ experienced an electrical fire in the upper portion of their building. By all accounts, damage was minimal and confined to an upper storeroom. A quick re-opening was expected. The damaged area was fixed up rather quickly and they re-opened a few weeks later only to be shut down almost immediately by City Officials. This location of C’ has never re-opened again. The word around town is that it will never re-open and as of this writing the building has a sign posted re-directing your to their small location in the Petron gas station on Clark.

Fortunately, the best Italian restaurant is right next door and dishing up some of the most authentic and delicious Italian food outside of Italy at reasonable prices. I recently dined here again as the internet buzz from locals were calling it the best place in town.

Streetview entrance

Indoor/Outdoor Dining In A Quaint and Quiet Envrionment

Dining Room

Upon entering the well lit, Italian decorated Amoremio dining room you will find sturdy wooden tables and chairs painted gold. Various Italian wines and ingredients are used for decoration and all the tables are fully set awaiting your arrival. 

Just through a door in the back is the open-air outdoor bar and patio dining area where smoking is permitted.

Bar

The outdoor patio is covered seating and a bit more romantic with Italian style candles in bottles with was dripping down it serving as your light. The wait staff provides an LED light for you to peruse the menu.  The staff is also very knowledgeable and well dressed providing you with excellent service.

Amoremio Outdoor Dining Patio

Pizza and Pasta Straight of Italy

A small, complimentary bread basket with olive oil and tomato dipping sauce was brought to the table with our place settings and menus. There were two different types of soft, fresh bread and homemade bread sticks. This was a nice start to a meal and gave us something to munch on as we looked through the vast menu of appetizers, salads, pastas, risottos, paellas, pizzas and main courses to choose from.

Fresh Bread Basket

We ordered the small Caesar salad which was had crisp lettuce, crunchy bacon, homemade croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese tossed in the classic creamy dressing. For my personal tastes I thought the salad was over-dressed and it’s not the first time I’ve had this salad here and felt this way. My suggestion would be to order it with the dressing on the side or ask your server to have them go easy on the dressing.

Small Ceasar Salad

A pizza from Amoremio is always a good idea. They have several flavors to choose from with familiar and not so familiar toppings. You can’t go wrong with the classic Margherita for the price and its simple yet delicious flavor. On this visit we went with Italian sausage and mushrooms; I wasn’t crazy about the Italian sausage as I felt like it tasted more like pepperoni. The thin crust and flavorful toppings re-heat up great the next day.

Pizza

For our main courses I went with Spaghetti Aglio Olio Gamberetti, or spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and shrimps. While this dish sounds simple it had a great flavor and was spectacular. As an added bonus, the wait staff asked me if I wanted the pasta cooked al dente or regular. I choose al dente and it was perfectly prepared.

Spaghetti with Olive Oil, Garlic and Shrimps

My date went with the Beef Lasagna in Porcini Mushroom Sauce that she noticed on the chalk board on our way in. This creamy dish was rich and deep in flavor. The plentiful and fresh mushrooms were bathed in the creamy béchamel sauce with a hint of  cheese, beef and tomato flavor from the lasagna all baked into pasta. 

Chef Special

While this dish may not appear to be the most appetizing, my date had no problem eating the entire portion and mopping up the rest of the sauce with the side of garlic bread. She may never eat my regular old lasagna again!

Amoremio Chef Specials

Finest Italian Restaurant for the Money

While Angeles City has several Italian restaurants to choose from Amoremio is certainly leading the pack and may be the best value for the money in town. My bill with tip was 1215 Philippines Pesos (roughly $27.50 as of this writing) and in any other country I would have paid a lot more. I took home half the pizza and enjoyed it the next day for lunch.

Amoremio seems to have completely arrived and is definitely one of the top Italian places in town. This is due to the expert chef and management running the business. They have trained the cooks and wait staff extremely well and make sure that you receive a delicious and authentic meal at an affordable price in a beautiful atmosphere. We hope to add to their story soon by interviewing Chef Tiziano and visit them again to experience more of their spectacular dishes.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (6 votes cast)