Rainy Day Retreat: Seoul Train Korean BBQ

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It’s been raining like crazy here in Manila recently because of the Southwest Monsoon, and, as much as I love the cozy feeling of staying home on stormy nights, it’s kind of impossible to love the rain when you’re outside. Just last Friday, we found ourselves in UP campus when it suddenly started pouring down heavily.

We could barely see the road because of the strong winds, and the chilly atmosphere left us in dire need of the warmest comfort food possible. In that moment, the thought of spicy noodles and freshly-grilled meats sounded like the perfect solution. So we left campus and headed on over to Seoul Train Korean BBQ along Sgt. Esguerra Ave. near Tomas Morato.

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Seoul Train is an immersive locomotive Korean BBQ that specializes in top quality meats and authentic Korean dishes designed to win over even the pickiest of palates. This train-themed restaurant is owned by concert promoters Vernon and Happee Go, who see the place as a product of their shared love for food, travel, and music.

The Interiors

When I first saw photos of Seoul Train online, I immediately fell in love with its fun theme and quirky, one-of-a-kind interiors. The entire place is designed to look like a train station – complete with graffiti walls, station signs, and a dining area reminiscent of the inside of an actual train!

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To the left of the entrance is the dining area, whose exteriors look like a real life train. Once you step inside, you’ll instantly be greeted by train sounds playing in the hallway.

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The station signs, tiled walls, and automated sliding doors add to the whole “train station” feel.

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The dining area. For private gatherings, you can also rent the restaurant’s VIP room for a minimum consumable charge of P5,000.

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Station and map signs on the walls

The Food

Looking through Seoul Train’s menu was such a delight for me since there were plenty of different BBQ meat options and a nice selection of soups, rice and noodle dishes, and snacks. They also offer other dishes like Beef Bulgogi, Dubu Jeon (tofu), and Haemul Pajeon (Korean seafood pancake). The restaurant is still in its soft opening stage though, so they might add more menu items in the future.

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front: Woo Samgyup (P400)

One of the favorites among Seoul Train’s beef BBQ options, each piece of Woo Samgyup is cut almost paper-thin. This delectable meat tastes even better when dipped in sesame oil and the restaurant’s special house sauce. I loved how each slice was light but packed with that rich beef flavor. It’s currently my favorite BBQ option on their menu!

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right: Samgyeopsal (P350)

Since we also wanted some pork, we tried out their Samgyeopsal. According to the menu, it is the certified “King of the Korean grill” when prepared and cooked properly. It provided a nice contrast to our thinner beef cuts, since each slice of pork was thick and juicy.

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Seoul Train Ssamjang (P100)

Both cuts of meat tasted even more amazing when dipped into Seoul Train’s Ssamjang, the special house sauce I mentioned earlier. This “magic sauce” creates an explosion of flavors in your mouth – spicy, slightly sweet, with a hint of sesame and other ingredients I can’t even pinpoint right now! I honestly love this sauce to bits. ☺

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Tteokbokki with Cheese and Noodles (P360)

A much heartier take on the classic Tteokbokki, this dish adds cheese and noodles to the classic Korean street food staple. It comes in three options: sweet, mild, and spicy. Since I wasn’t sure if I could handle the extremely spicy one, we went with the mild option. This was perfect for the rainy weather since the heat and spice warmed us up a lot.

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Spicy broth, chewy rice cakes, and stringy cheese – yum!

I remember how welcoming the dish looked when it arrived on our table. The warm colors, coupled with the steam rising from the piping hot dish, just made us want to dig in instantly!

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Complimentary salad

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Rainy day comfort food!

Crane Games!

Believe it or not, Seoul Train has also got plenty of arcade crane machines where guests can try their luck at snatching up cute toys and K-pop related goodies! Each try costs just two P10 coins, and you can have your bills exchanged for coins at the cash register.

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Me trying desperately to win a prize

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My only Seoul Train souvenir: Darth Tater ☺

I named this one Darth Tater since he looks like a tater tot. ♥

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Gudetama toys!

I spent way too much money on this particular crane game because the Gudetama toys were all too adorable! Too bad I wasn’t able to get any. They were all too close to the edges so the crane couldn’t really reach them that well.

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So if you’re craving some good Korean food I highly recommend that you visit Seoul Train. The place makes you feel like you’re actually in Seoul, not just through the food but the overall experience as well. I’ve been here a few times already and I just can’t seem to get enough of the place! ☺

Seoul Train Korean BBQ
#28 Sgt. Esguerra Ave., South Triangle, Quezon City (near Tomas Morato)

Contact: 287-2446, 09177722203


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Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11:00am – 2:00pm & 5:30pm – 10:00pm
Budget: around P1,500 – P2,000 for two (or more if you get soju, makgeolli, or wine)

 

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Twenty-two: Blackbird Makati

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Hello again, blog! I know I’ve been on hiatus for far too long already so I’m finally working on the huge backlog of posts I’ve got lined up. So many wonderful and exciting things have happened in the past few months and I promise I’ll write about all of them soon! But to get this blog back on track I’m starting off with a fairly recent one: my 22nd birthday celebration at Blackbird Makati. ☺

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Blackbird is an aviation-themed contemporary European and Asian restaurant owned by Chef Colin Mackay, the culinary genius behind Manila’s famed Sala and People’s Palace restaurants. Named after the world’s fastest air-breathing manned aircraft, it is located at the Nielson Tower in Ayala Triangle.

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Built in 1937, the Nielson Tower was once a part of the old Manila International Airport – the first airport ever built in the country. Its Art Deco elements and status as a heritage site proved very useful to Chef Mackay, who was able to transform Ayala’s only pre-WW2 structure into a sophisticated and contemporary international dining space.

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In case you want to relax and have a few drinks first before your meal, the restaurant has a wonderful al fresco bar area at the back. There’s also a lounge inside the building inspired by airport waiting rooms and Art Deco.

At the top of the restaurant’s spiral staircase you’ll find the historic Airport Terminal Tower, where the first news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor was heard. I was hoping we’d be seated somewhere with a good view so I couldn’t be happier when I found out that my companion had gotten us a table at the top of the tower itself.

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Chef’s special for the night: Duck Breast Salad (P640 + 10% service charge)

Instead of choosing our appetizers from the menu, we decided to give the chef’s specials for that night a try. This one was definitely our favorite. The duck was cooked perfectly and its rich taste blended so well with the sweetness of the marinated apples, the slight tang from the cheese, and the crunch from the pistachio crumble.

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Dry Rubbed Wagyu Hangar Steak, Mustard Butter, Fries (P980 + 10% service charge)

Always my favorite main. The medium rare steak was rich, buttery, and extremely tender – just the way Wagyu beef should be. ♥

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Lamb Rendang, Fried Egg, Pickles, Rice (P760 + 10% service charge)

I’m also a huge fan of lamb and I really enjoyed the dish’s medley of spices and textures. ☺

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Burnt Butter & Vanilla Seed Ice Creams, Chocolate Brownie, Candied Popcorn, Salted Caramel (P380 + 10% service charge)

You can probably see it from the photo but this was one indulgent dessert. We had to share since there was a lot (and we were full na haha)! I loved how the burnt butter ice cream carried such a rich buttery taste, and the fact that the dessert wasn’t too cloying thanks to the salty caramel and popcorn.

We didn’t take photos of our drinks but the Blackbird Iced Tea and Salty Lime Soda (I honestly can’t remember what it’s called, will check. Sorry!) were both good. They have a nice selection of wines too but we’re not too fond of wines (we’ll learn how to /adult/ some other time hahaha).

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Dining here is always such a feast for the eyes and the palate. The elegant, contemporary design coupled with the place’s historical significance gives Blackbird an undeniable and timeless charm. If you want to celebrate, go on a date, or just enjoy good food with friends and loved ones, this is the ideal place. It’ll always be one of our favorite restos for sure. ☺

BLACKBIRD by Chef Colin Mackay
Nielson Tower, Ayala Triangle, Makati City 
Telephone: 828-4888
Operating Hours: Open Daily 11.00am to 12.00mn
Budget: Around 2500-3000 per head (or more depending on the wine)

P.S. I promise I’ll work on all my other overdue ones soon! ☺

Sabine at The Manila Major 2016

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Just less than two months after ESL One came to Manila, we were already back in MOA Arena for another huge international tournament – The Manila Major! I already felt so lucky thanks to my ESL One Manila experience, but this tournament just spoiled me even further.

The incredible crowd, production value, matches, and food just made me wish that we’d see tournaments of this caliber in the Philippines more often! Read more about my behind-the-scenes experience at The Manila Major below. ♥

At Center Stage

In the days leading up to the event, I’d see constant updates on my Facebook feed from friends who were already setting up the stage in MOA Arena. Following the progress online was already pretty exciting, so I was just blown away when I walked into the arena myself for the first time. Everything about the setup was incredible. It looked exactly like the stages I’d always see online during live streams of international Dota 2 tournaments.

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The stage area took up the entire floor, including what was used as the VIP section during ESL One Manila. They needed a lot of space for the numerous host and caster tables as well.

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Seeing the screen up close for the first time was a breathtaking moment for me. It was MASSIVE. And the fact that it was suspended above the stage just made it even more cool.

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I love how they put screens on the booths so that the audience could see which heroes the players were using for each match.

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It didn’t just end with the screen and the stage – even the way they programmed the lights was amazing. My favorite would probably be how the lights would suddenly halt and slowly spiral upwards in sync with the sound of Roshan’s death.

Inside the VIP Lounge

This was easily my favorite spot in the entire arena. It offered the most amazing view of the tournament stage and the crowd, and we could enjoy all the games while spoiling ourselves silly with the sumptuous buffet food.

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Where we sat as we (and our rumbling tummies) waited for the lunch buffet to open.

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Definitely the best view of the stage (and the crowd) for me.

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Me attempting to take mirror selfies

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We got there too early so it was still pretty empty. But during the matches, the seats facing the screen would fill up instantly.

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The stuff they served at the lounge wasn’t just your regular buffet food. Their Herb Crusted Salmon and Veal Shank dishes were soooo good!

Hype hype hype!

It’s no secret that Pinoys love Dota 2. They’re some of the most passionate, dedicated, and (sometimes) notorious players you could ever encounter online, so seeing all these local Dota 2 fans gather in person was quite the experience.

They braved long lines just to meet their favorite teams, stayed way past most of their curfew hours to finish watching all the games, and roared with excitement during each and every match. Love it or hate it, this community really is something else, and I couldn’t have been happier to share this experience with everyone there.

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Hundreds of fans lining up to see Na’Vi.

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The fans were nice enough to smile whenever I’d point my camera in their direction.

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One of the biggest surprises on the last night was when Hodor from Game of Thrones suddenly walked onto the stage!

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He actually held the door for the two teams that would be competing in the finals!

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Do what you love, love what you do. ☺♥

What else is there to say? I hope we’ll get to enjoy more majors here in the Philippines soon!

THE MANILA MAJOR: ICYMI
Mineski.net coverage hub

 

Sabine at ESL One Manila 2016

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Pinoy Dota 2 fans have long been famous online (for a number of reasons), but their incredible passion for esports took the whole world by surprise after the country hosted ESL One Manila. It was the first international event of its scale to ever land on Philippine shores, and I remember how ecstatic I felt when I first heard the news. I’ve already seen plenty of amazing events already in my years of working in esports, but the kind of experience this one offered was on a whole different level.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into it. The mere thought of working with some of the most renowned personalities and teams in the international Dota 2 scene, was pretty overwhelming at first. But then again, I’ve always loved the exhilaration I’d feel from jumping into these events. I enjoyed treating them as challenges since they’d always become the most rewarding experiences.

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The dream team, Mineski.net!

One of the most exciting things about the entire event was the fact that I’d be surrounded by a whole lot of friends and familiar faces. Mineski is the local partner of ESL here in the Philippines, so the entire Mineski crew was there – including the Mineski.net team of course! I’ve been through so many e-sports events with this team already, so it’s always so wonderful when we all get to cover an event together. A lot of the writers work online so events like these are also mini-reunions for us and the Mineski office peeps. ♥

From Where We Stood

The non-stop action from all the matches was already insane, but watching from the stage area itself just made the experience even more incredible.

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The stage area.

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Of course, we had to be extra careful since there was a lot of equipment (+ wires. SO MANY wires) near the stage.

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Casters’ table.

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We also got a pretty good view of the teams, which was great since it allowed us to see and capture all the raw emotions they showed while playing.

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Break time in between matches.

Inside the Media Room

One of my favorite spots was definitely the media room, where all the media teams could set up their laptops and watch the matches without any unnecessary disturbances. Aside from working (and goofing off with the team) in here, I also got to meet up with e-sports writers from other media organizations. I’d already met some of them personally before, but it was nice to finally meet the ones that added me online. I also felt pretty kilig when some writers I didn’t know recognized me and introduced themselves. ☺

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The Mineski.net coverage hub (table) haha.

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When the ESL Dota 2 match and the ongoing Presidential Debate are both too juicy (and lit af) that you can’t afford to miss out on either!

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Coffee, laptops, coffee, laptops… coffee.

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We also had access to the buffet room next door – the same one where the pro teams would eat! I actually ran into the members of Team Secret there while they were on break. ☺

Snaps On the Ground

When I wasn’t taking breaks or watching matches in the press room, I was usually on the ground with my cam on roaming duty. No coverage article would be complete without photos. I also personally enjoy snapping as many event and behind-the-scenes pics as possible since it gives me something to look back on afterwards. I’d usually capture at least 200 photos during events like this, but I picked out a few of my favorite sights for the blog.

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View from the VIP seating area, my second favorite spot after the Press/Stage area. ☺

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TBH I felt like I was drowning in confetti while taking these victory photos.

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Fellow media peeps scrambling to capture all the excitement during Wings Gaming’s victory.

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Pinoy fans going wild as the members of Wings Gaming finally got their hands on the coveted ESL One Manila championship trophy.

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The merch booth made my wallet cry. Plus, they didn’t even have the shirts in my size!

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Time to pack up! I honestly enjoy the cleaning up part too during e-sports events since it’s the time when everyone gets to celebrate, mingle, and have fun (minus the stress).

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Overall, ESL One Manila was one heck of an experience. The event’s production value was unlike anything I’d ever seen in a local event before, and it was pretty amazing to see (and mingle with) some of the world’s best Dota 2 players. The tournament was incredibly intense – so intense that the crowd would roar to no end during each match. I also appreciated how well they treated those from the media.

Due to the immense success of this event and the Manila Major (I’ll post about this too!), international organizations and communities are now taking notice. The players, casters, and organizers were incredibly delighted with all the love and excitement they felt from the Pinoy crowd. So, who knows, we might  just see even more international events of this scale in the Philippines very soon! Let’s all keep our fingers crossed! ☺

ESL ONE MANILA: ICYMI
Check out my Flipgeeks PH recap, my article on Wings Gaming,
and the coverage articles on Mineski.net!

Dear Orange

Orange #cat #GardenCats

A post shared by Cindy Cruz-Cabrera (@cindycatz) on

I still remember the day I first met you.

Mom and I were walking to the store when we suddenly heard this very loud, squeaky meowing outside of the house. It was really dark then, around 8 in the evening I think, and after carefully scanning the area we came across you – a tiny orange creature all alone in the middle of the road.

At first we were hesitant about picking you up. We knew that if we did, we would never be able to let you go alone again. Still, Mom picked you up in her hands and we brought you back home. A scared little kitten who kept trying to wander outside of the blanketed shoe box we had you rest in, meowing endlessly and ceasing only when one of us would let you sleep on our laps.

It’s funny how quickly you transformed into a very warm, adventurous, and plump kitten after only a few weeks. You learned to wander around the front and backyard gardens, beg to come into the house to sleep, and even climb the grills on our windows (I don’t know what that was all about but it was so silly and entertaining).

We thought up a million different names for you, ranging from fairly normal names to some ridiculously outrageous ones. Whenever we looked at you though, somehow all the names we thought of never seemed to fit you perfectly.

So we just always called you “Orange” – a name that, in my opinion, came to suit you better than all the other silly options we came up with.

When any of us would be working at the computer by the window you’d always stare from outside and climb up the window near us to nap or lounge about. It felt nice, knowing that our company comforted you so much that you’d always sit at the window of any room we happened to occupy at any given time.

I also noticed how you’d always sleep and hang out on top of this pile of boxes outside the window behind the living room couch, and how you’d keep watching and meowing at us whenever we were in the living room.

All these memories happened only within a few months, and yet they hold so much meaning. It hurts that we had to say goodbye to you so suddenly, and so sadly.

Sometimes I regret not letting you in the house all the time even though you’d keep following me whenever I was outside. You were too rowdy in the house to keep an eye on sometimes, but in retrospect maybe we could’ve managed anyway.

I came home tonight to a pile of boxes with no lump of orange fluff sleeping on top. No wide-eyed stare to greet me and beg to come in as I opened the door to the house. It was heartbreaking to realize that I may never see that again.

It’s a shame that you had to leave so early. Of course I can always think that you’re in a better place now but I know in my heart that you were perfectly happy with us.

Still, maybe I’ll get to see you again someday. But for now I hope we were at least able to make your short stay with us worthwhile, and I hope right now you’re happy, wherever you are.

I still can’t help but smile while writing this, especially because I always go back to this one wonderful memory I have of you. Simple, but it’s one I’ll never forget.

I was leaving for school last Saturday, and as the car began to exit the front of the house I caught a glimpse of you through the window – walking in the garden, your bright orange and white fur standing out like a ball of sunshine against the grey stone path and thick, bright green grass.

You stopped right in the middle of my view from the window, staring at us and then back at the garden – with eyes full of wonder and curiosity, as always. I don’t know how else to describe it. A fleeting moment, yes, but it made me smile. It was beautiful, and I thank you for that.

We love you, Orange. I love you. Thanks for all the fun. 🙂