Iloilo: Bauhinia Filipino Cuisine

26 March 2012

When I asked my sister if we were going to do any sightseeing, she replied, "What sightseeing?" Yup, we were in town mostly to eat.

Our first stop was right across the street from our hotel (which I mentioned in the previous post). Bauhinia Filipino Cuisine is mentioned in Linamnam for their Sinigang na Lechon Kawali (soup/stew that is traditionally tamarind based with deep-fried pork), but before we get to that, I'll start off with the our first course.

Crispy Adobo Salad - Php 165

I liked this salad - it was light and the honey-soy dressing had just the right amount of sweetness. I was wishing that there had been a little more adobo flakes though because it barely registered among the greens.

Sinigang na Lechon Kawali - Php 225

Now my family loves sinigang, but everyone thought that the soup was biting in its sourness. The lechon kawali was really nice though and the broth gave it an interesting flavor - we definitely had to eat this with rice! Speaking of which, their rice serving is a little bigger than other restaurants so if you're not a heavy rice eater, you can share this with someone else.

Mga Rebusado - Php 325

Basically fried shirmps, squid, and fish fillet with sweet chili sauce, vinegar and soy dip, cucumber and tomato slaw. This wasn't bad but not something I'd get again given a choice.

Crispy Sisig - Php 275

We ordered this just to go with our left-over rice and we're sure glad we did! Usually made of pig’s head and liver and seasoned with calamansi (used locally as a lemon substitute) and chili peppers, I often add a bit of soy sauce and more calamansi juice once it's served. But this one was great by itself and it made us all conclude that Bauhinia does fried meat really well.

Turon Trio - Php 65

Ube (purple yam), langka (jackfruit) and banana fritters stuffed together and fried in sugar. This was a bargain at the price we paid and it's good for six people (one is more than enough per person especially after a heavy meal).

All in all, our very late lunch was worth the wait and we were so stuffed that we skipped dinner! If we're ever in the area again, I'd definitely stop by and try the rest of their menu.

Iloilo: Smallville 21 Hotel

19 March 2012

Ever since I read Food magazine's cover story on Iloilo (March 2008), I have always wanted to visit. What really got to me was the picture of very fat crabs from Tatoy's Manokan and Seafoods Restaurant. Let's just say that photo has been stuck in my head these past few years.

So when Airphil Express had a seat sale (Php 1894 including airline taxes), we finally booked our tickets and I've had visions of food dancing in my head ever since.

Smallville 21 Hotel

Due to the many good reviews on Trip Advisor, my sister made a reservation for two rooms. She booked a De Luxe Matrimonial for our parents and a Standard Twin for the both of us. Apparently, there are no Standard Matrimonial rooms that are next to or near a Standard Twin so we got the De Luxe instead. We also opted for the no breakfast rate since we wanted flexibility on where we were going to eat.

We liked our rooms - basically clean and spacious with just a few mold spots in the shower area. There's no fridge but that didn't matter much to us. The air conditioning (A/C) units in the rooms are manually operated which was okay except it had one of us getting up every so often just to adjust the temperature. Though in my parent's room, the A/C had a funny smell when it was in the warmer temperature range. I'm thinking that the filter needed to be cleaned.

We asked for rooms on the top floor (the hotel is eight storeys high) as we read about the music level coming from the bars next door. If you're sensitive to noise and will be staying during the weekend, get a room facing the Iloilo-Ayala Technohub. Our room was on the side of The Avenue and I could hear the music blaring loudly way past midnight. My parents were across the hall and did not hear a thing.

A surprising touch was that the hotel provided two (2) umbrellas in each room for the guests to borrow during their stay (you'll have to return it though as it's not complimentary).

So what didn't we appreciate about the hotel?

1. They charge Php 35 per night for the second extra blanket.

Let me explain. Having worked in hotels both locally and in the U.S., I know that the thick top blanket is not washed regularly so I always ask for another flat sheet (the thin sheet underneath). The front desk agent informed me that only the first is free but the second will cost us.

I could understand if there had only been one bed in the room, but since there were two (2) beds and two (2) guests, this was not logical to me.

2. The hotel charges Php 200 for every hour you use the room past the 12 Noon check-out time.

This would have been fine if the hotel were at maximum capacity, but when my parents asked if anyone else would be checking into the room after us, the agent said no and that the hotel was not full. Note that we were only asking for an hour's extension (until 1 PM) since our flight was at 3:35 PM and we were thinking of having lunch first before leaving.

We've been to many places and stayed at all sorts of hotels both here and abroad and I must say this is the first time we've ever encountered this type of charging. Take note that we are budget travellers so we hardly use ritzy hotels, thus I can only conclude that they're not into going the extra mile for their customers.

3. Our electronic keys (VingCards) were deactivated at around 10 AM on the day of our departure.

Since we still had time to kill, we decided to make a quick visit to SM City Iloilo which was less than five (5) minutes away from the hotel. On our way out, I forgot something in the room and when I tried to open the door it would not budge. I knew immediately that the key had been deactivated, but when I went downstairs to complain the front desk agent told me that the card was just "faulty." I didn't believe her since it was fine just 30 minutes earlier when we went back up after having breakfast at the lobby.

When we returned from the mall at around 11 AM, my parents tried to open their door but it would not budge either. Good thing there was a housekeeper nearby who opened the door for us using his card, so we were saved from making yet another trip to the ground floor.

I then called the agent from our room and told her that it's too much of a coincidence for both cards to be "faulty" right before check-out time considering that they had been working perfectly until 9 AM that morning.

Based on my understanding, the keys are usually disabled after the official check-out time has passed and the guests have yet to show up to pay for their bill.

A few minutes later, the front desk agent phoned us back asking what time we were checking-out. I questioned her as to why she was asking since my parents had already inquired earlier about extending. She replied that she just wanted to inform us that they were allowing the extension and that we can check-out at 1 PM.

After putting down the phone, I rang her back to ask why she didn't just tell us about the extension to begin with instead of asking what time we were leaving the hotel. If they really wanted to give us the extension, then that should have been her opening line. I told her that the only time a hotel should call to confirm a guest's check-out time is if the clock has struck 12 Noon and we have yet to show up to pay the bill.

Now this may sound trivial to many, but at that point we were already so disgruntled with the hotel that it felt like one irritating thing on top of the other. Also, it seemed as as though they were way too keen to ensure we're still around to pay. The thing is, our rooms had already been paid for in full the day we checked-in.

What WAS nice was the location since it's inside the Smallville Business Park. Across the street from the hotel you'll find The Avenue on your right and the Iloilo-Ayala Technohub on your left. Both have a lot of dining options so you'll never go hungry with a lot of restaurants just a few steps away - literally! Take note though that the Kopi Roti branch here opens at 4 PM so breakfast is out of the question.

Most places were also just a short taxi ride away - the central market, pier to Guimaras, etc. But if this will be your main mode of transportation, bring a lot of cash as there's quite a bit of traffic. To give you an idea, the trip from the airport to the hotel (around 20-30 mins) was Php 250, going to the area of Breakthough Restaurant and Tatoy's was over Php 200 from the hotel.

And if you're planning to take a taxi to go back to the airport, the cab drivers will not use their meters and charge a fixed rate of Php 400 instead. Their reason for this is because they won't be able to get passengers on their way back to the city and they'll be wasting gas. Considering petrol in their area was Php 61.80 per liter at the time of our visit (compared to Manila at Php 56.00 per liter), I don't blame them. What we did instead was get the airport shuttle at SM City Iloilo where it will only cost Php 70 per passenger. The mall also has a Traveller's Lounge where you can take a shower or leave your bags while going around the city.


10 March 2012

Short for "Kainan sa Kalye Kanluran" (or "eatery at west road" in English), it's a restaurant specializing in Filipino cuisine that started in West Avenue, Quezon City. We've often passed by their branch in SM Mall of Asia, but never thought of trying them out.

This all changed when I read Linamnam, the latest book by Claude Tayag and his wife Mary Ann Quioc (owners of the locally celebrated Bale Dutung), in which they featured K.K.K. as one of the places to go to in Metro Manila.

We decided to try a few of the dishes mentioned in the book - makes sense considering that's what got us in the door to begin with.

Krispy Kangkong Salad - Php 100

Basically water spinach fried in tempura-like batter, this is usually served with mayonnaise as an appetizer at parties. Here they used vinaigrette instead and added tomatoes, onions, jícama (singkamas) and chopped nuts. Both Earl and I liked this version better and we agreed it was our favorite part of the meal. Earl wanted to order it twice, but I convinced him we should try something else.

Inihaw na Liempo, Bacon Cut - Php 250

This was featured in the book so I was excited to try it. It's grilled pork belly cut bacon style and marinated in barbeque sauce. Our verdict? Definitely tasty especially when eaten together with the green papaya salad, but not spectacular. Or maybe we expected too much?

Also, there were only three slices so we found the serving size rather small considering we were told this was good for at least two to three people. Probably if there were just three of you and you're ordering other things. But by itself, it's just good for one person.

Maquezong Scallops - Php 195

Since I was still hungry, we ordered what we thought would be a light dish. We were mistaken - overloaded with cheese, garlic and what seemed to be mayonnaise, this is best shared with others as you can only eat so much of it.

              Buko Shake - Php 78                       Dalandan Juice - Php 75

We loved our drinks! It's rather difficult to find a restaurant that has coconut shake on the menu (unless you're in the province) so we were quite happy to find that they served it. And the dalandan (local orange) juice had just the right amount of sweetness - not too tangy unlike some I've had before.

All in all, the food was good, service was prompt, and we'll definitely be back especially for the shake and the salad.

Logos Hope

04 March 2012

The world's largest floating book fair docked into Manila recently so we decided to pay the MV Logos Hope a visit.

They carry over 5000 book titles with subjects ranging from cookbooks, home improvement, fiction, health, etc. But the minute you enter, you'll notice that it's geared more towards children.

What got me excited was that there were hardbound books for kids which cost Php 100 each! I rarely see prices that low in regular bookshops so I wanted to do our Christmas shopping already (gifts for various nieces and nephews), but Earl told me it was way too early...

Located at Pier 15 of the Manila South Harbor, the ship will be open to the public until March 13 and they will sail to Subic Bay the following day. For more details, please click here.

Opening Hours:
Monday - Closed
Tuesday to Saturday - 10 AM to 9:30 PM
Sunday - 1 PM to 9:30 PM

Ticket Prices:
Children under 12 - Free
Everyone else - Php 20

4th Thailand Trade Exhibition

03 March 2012

We chanced upon this today while at the SM Mall of Asia. It was rather interesting as they had all sorts of things - food, clothes, cookware, jewelry, etc.

My main reason for going though was to see if there were any food and drink samples. I was not disappointed. I think almost all the food stalls were on sale.

The powdered flavor packets on the first two shelves are selling at three for Php 100. The flavor paste jars on the third shelf are priced at Php 90 each.

At the time we arrived, they were showcasing three sets of traditional dance and as we were leaving, there was an announcement for a scheduled cooking demonstration.

Entrance to the exhibition is free and will run until tomorrow.