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


Facebook | Instagram

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! ☺

Tea for Two: TWG Tea, Greenbelt 5

Tea time has always held a very special place in my heart. When I was younger, I even used to host little tea and dessert parties for my siblings and cousins. I’d pull out all the stops too – borrowing my grandmother’s prettiest teapots and asking for the nicest tea and biscuits in the house.

Until now, it’s those simple afternoon tea time memories that I yearn for every time I want to relax and de-stress. And one of my favorite places to go to for that is TWG Tea.

© TWG Philippines Facebook Page

© TWG Philippines Facebook Page

TWG Tea is the luxury tea brand of Singapore’s The Wellness Group, which currently possesses the largest collection of fine tea harvests from various tea-producing regions and exclusively hand-crafted tea blends from their very own tea masters. TWG brought its entire collection of 800 – 1000 teas to Manila – with around 450 available in each store at any given time.

My eternal foodie companion (who tested his new camera by taking most of the shots here!) and I decided to have a mini tea and dessert break at TWG in Greenbelt 5 after my Flipgeeks Guardians of the Galaxy fan screening.

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I absolutely love TWG’s beautiful interiors – they give off a very elegant vibe and make the guests’ tea time experience all the more authentic.

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Their signature tea cups are designed to allow guests to smell the full aroma of their tea before drinking, and are made thin to accommodate the subtle, sometimes delicate flavor of the tea.

Each cup bears the number 1837, commemorating the year in which Singapore’s Chamber of Commerce was created and official tea trade began in the country.

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Across the room you’ll find the TWG Tea Boutique, where they sell boxes and canisters of their luxury tea blends sourced from all over the world (their signature yellow artisan tea tins line the walls)!

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TWG’s tea list is over four pages long, housing over 400 teas with prices ranging from P195 all the way up to around P1595. They have a separate menu for their food offerings, which include tea pastries, desserts, appetizers, and main course dishes.

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  • T6710 Number 10 Tea (P195 + 10% service charge)

I ended up ordering the Number 10 Tea, since I was looking for something that had floral notes to it. The tea was light and delicate in flavor, and its wonderful harmony of floral flavors hit me with every sip. It’s best to order one pot of tea per person to fully savor the flavor of the tea, since each pot can fill around five cups.

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My original plan was to get the Earl Grey Chocolate Tea, but it wasn’t available at the time. I’m very thankful that the server recommended the Number 10 Tea instead, because after just one sip it instantly became my new favorite!

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  • Normandy Apple Tart – “Delicate flaky pastry filled with stewed apples served with a scoop of homemade Singapore Breakfast Tea ice cream and topped with an unctuous caramel coulis infused with Pomme Prestige Tea” (P220 + 10% service charge)

 

 

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  • Salted Caramel Cheesecake – By this time I was enjoying too much that I forgot to take note of the dessert’s name and description. Sorry, I’ll update this once I find out (it’s not on any of the online menus, so it might be new)! (P220 + 10% service charge)

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We loved their idea of enveloping a rich, creamy cheesecake in a thick layer of salted caramel and nuts! While the cheesecake was very thick and sweet, the tiny hint of bitterness in the caramel and cocoa truffle along with the crisp, lightly flavored nuts made sure the dessert as a whole wasn’t too cloying.

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Two tips for tea time:

  • When drinking tea, the best practice is to let it touch your lips first, taste it throughout your mouth, and then swallow it. Usually one tea pot is ordered for the main course, while an optional one may be added for dessert.
  • These exquisite teas are not meant to be drunk too hot. Let the tea stand for a while after steeping so that the palate can better enjoy its subtle fragrances.

Now, if only they’d open a branch closer to school, you’d probably see me there very often! Here’s to hoping UP Town Center will have its very own TWG branch soon! *crosses fingers* 😉

TWG Tea Salon & Boutiques
Level 1, Greenbelt 5 mall, Legaspi Village, Makati
Open Sundays – Saturdays, 11am – 9pm (10pm on Fridays & Saturdays)
Peak hours – Lunch (11am–1pm), Tea Time (3–5pm), Dinner (6–8pm)
Keep in mind that they don’t accept reservations
Budget – at least 1000 would be good
Website | Facebook

Cozy Afternoons at LUNA Specialty Coffee (BGC)

You can never go wrong with artisan coffee in quaint cafes – beautiful interiors, the most relaxing atmosphere, and the gentle hum of people chatting around you. Any fan of these simple, caffeine-related joys should definitely check out Luna, a small cafe specializing in Filipino breakfast meals and specialty coffee.

I was looking for a place to hang out after attending a Viber press conference two weeks ago at TGI Friday’s in BGC (yes there was free food and it was DELICIOUS!), and I remembered hearing about this new “all-day breakfast cafe” in the area, so I decided to check it out.

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Luna is currently in its soft opening, but rest assured their offerings will leave you feeling very satisfied and ready to take on the world – just like any good breakfast should! The cafe is owned by Taguig Rep. Lino Cayetano, and is located in the NAC Tower in Bonifacio Global City (one of my favorite places to hang out!). 🙂

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I loved sitting by the bar, especially since I could watch each and every step of their coffee and food preparation (thanks to their open kitchen). Darn, those bar stools are gorgeous.

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Luna’s interiors – very cozy and minimalist, with wooden furniture and brick walls that reminded me of jokes my UP friends made up once involving #IlustradoProblems! But seriously, the cafe’s beautiful design might actually make you feel like one. 😛

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This is where the coffee magic happens if you order the Luna brew. The cups on top aren’t just decorations, the baristas pour the coffee first into these to filter and then allow the coffee to drip into a second cup below.

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Definitely coming back often for their breakfast + coffee + dessert specials.

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Pretty hanging lamps and Luna mugs on display!

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  • Longganisa Pan de Sal (served on their original “flat pan de sal”) – longganisa strips with red egg aioli, tomatoes, longganisa bits, & salted kesong puti (P160)

I’m not really a big fan of pandesal but my oh my, did I fall in love with their version! The bread is light and a bit toasty on top, and is topped with a breakfast combo we all know and love – longganisa and tomatoes! They tasted like regular longganisa & tomatoes (nothing too extraordinary, just good breakfast food). But add to that the salty, mildly pungent flavor of kesong puti and you’ve got a yummy, familiar comfort dish to start the day. 🙂

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  • Luna Brew  – Luna’s original blend, hand-dripped by trained baristas for a mild & smooth black coffee (P110)

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There are many other interesting dishes I’d love to check out during my future visits, like the Cappuccino served with hopia (P160), Binagoongan Omelette served with hilaw na mangga (P180), and the White Rabbit Candyccino (P140).

Luna’s wonderful atmosphere and comforting food make it one of the place’s I’ll be frequenting whenever I’m in the area. I’ll have to admit, my journalist side got the best of me and urged me to write this, despite my desire to keep the hype on this place minimal (so it’ll be my little secret, muhahaha!).

This place will surely please cafe and coffee lovers, and I highly recommend that you try it out. Just a warning though, the place can get pretty packed in the afternoon and evening, so make sure to come early or be ready to wait for seats.

Luna Specialty Coffee
G/F NAC Tower, 32nd Street, Bonifacio Global City
Open Mondays – Saturdays, 7am – 8pm (9pm on Saturdays)
Budget – around 600 – 700 for breakfast + coffee + dessert
Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Best Toast in Town! | Cafe Shibuya at UP Town Center

Artisan toast is one of the latest food crazes to sweep the world, and fortunately, we’ve got our own little slice of that delectable craze here in the country, thanks to Café Shibuya at the UP Town Center.

Famous for its homemade “high toast”, Cafe Shibuya is one of the many top quality dining establishments in Ayala Malls’ new student mall and dining hub along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.

I had been hearing about this place’s heavenly toast dishes from my UP and Ateneo friends a lot, and so I was very excited to try it out for myself. Luckily, I was able to visit the cafe with my friend last Saturday, after attending the SMM Philippines gaming tournament at SM North.

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The entrance to Café Shibuya, with murals painted on the glass walls.

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The cafe gives off a very warm and relaxing atmosphere. An assortment of dark & light brown chairs added to its rustic and homey charm.

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Chalkboards adorned with typography, art, and sayings are scattered all around the cafe.

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If you look closely, some shelves have decorative flour bags with the Café Shibuya logo on them.

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A chalkboard mural behind their counter, inviting guests to try out their toasts.

I must say, their toast dishes are the stuff of every bread lover’s dream. Batches of soft white bread are baked fresh daily in the cafe, cut into slices of toast 2.5 inches thick, and served with a variety of toppings.

The cafe specializes in savory and dessert toasts. They’re more famous for their dessert toasts (honey toast with matcha and strawberries/ Nutella and almonds/ toffee and vanilla ice cream, etc), but I was in the mood for savory toast at the time. So, here’s what I ordered!

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  • Smoked Salmon Benedict – smoked salmon, arugula, crispy poached egg, & Hollandaise sauce | served with potato chips & Japanese mayo (P375)

Their bread is probably some of the best I have ever had – soft, buttery, and chewy but with a thin toasty outer crust. Once you cut into the crispy poached egg, the runny yolk mixes in beautifully with the sauce and bread. Combined with the smoky salmon and crisp arugula, it makes for one very satisfying and filling dish!

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Now isn’t that one THICK (and extremely mouthwatering) slice of toast? 😉

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For the chocolate lovers out there: Café Shibuya also offers a few frappes and lattes made with premium Ghirardelli chocolate!

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  • Triple Dark Chocolate Frappe – Belgian chocolate ganache, Ghirardelli cocoa, & sweetened cocoa powder (P165)

What I love about this drink is how, while it’s very decadent and rich, it’s not overly sweet. The taste of the cocoa takes the spotlight, and so it’s perfect for fans of that authentic cocoa flavor.

Oh, and if you’re like me and you eat the whipped cream on top of frappes then you’re in for a real treat, because the whipped cream on this one’s dusted with cocoa powder!

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Our little corner of relaxation. I love sitting by the window, it’s nice to see the sky and the outdoors. Plus, it’s more comfortable instead of sitting in between other busy tables.

Overall, the cafe’s got a real cozy atmosphere, scrumptious offerings, and great service. Their toast dishes and rich chocolate drinks are the perfect comfort food for when you just want to relax or end a busy day with a happy tummy. The place is perfect for dates and for bonding with friends or family.

I can’t wait to come back and try their dessert toasts and crepes! I’ll definitely be hanging out here a lot once the school year starts this August! 🙂

Café Shibuya
G/F UP Town Center, Katipunan, Quezon City
Open daily from 10am – 10pm (12am on Fridays & Saturdays)
Budget – around 600 (basic meal & drink). 800 or more if you plan to hang around and try more than one toast dish
Facebook – Cafe Shibuya