Anton Diaz

#Restaurants, Food

Cha Gio Vietnamese – Old Time Favorite

Manila has a lot of good restaurants and you need to discover them. I admit, it is sometimes easy to go to the many Jollibee and Mcdonald's out there, specially when these are the restaurants that have a good name recall from the kids. Cha Gio (pronounced as Cha-yo) vietnamese restaurant is one of those special quaint hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Malate. Cha Gio refers to the popular Vietnamese spring rolls. It opened in 2003, in its original store located near the Diamond hotel, along J. Quintos St. Carlos Celdran was the one who introduced me to its delicious pho-noodle dishes and I made a mental note to blog about Cha Gio.

They tried to project an aura that they are a cafe rather than the noodle house so the pho dishes assortment were toned down. But they cannot readily compete with the nice figaro cafe along that street, so I would have thought that they should market themselves as an authentic vietnamese noodle house instead. This is where you can try a vietnamese coffee called ca phe su which is a Vietnamese brewed coffee dripped from a perculator mixed with condensed milk. They carry a vietnamese brand of coffee called, Trung Nguyen. Have anyone tried this coffee?

Best Vietnamese Restaurants in the Philippines:


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#Restaurants, Food

Som’s Noodle House

Read First:
Som’s Noodle House – cheap authentic version of SukhoThai (October 25, 2005)

Living Room Area in Som’s Noodle House

I first blog about Som’s when it created a buzz in Rockwell area around October of 2005 (Som’s Noodle House – cheap authentic version of SukhoThai). Ever since then our verdict was the thai food comes close to Sukho Thai except the Pad Thai. Also, after our first trip to Som’s in Rockwell, we never went back because the mosquitoes and flies were annoying us. Their full pledge restaurant along N. Garcia is still down to earth and serves the same quality of food. I liked their idea of having a living/dining room area with TV that you can rent for P100/ hour. It was perfect for us especially since we have kids and we are a big group of 8. Also, this is good if you want to watch a much awaited telenovela with your officemates or simply watching NBA with your friends.

Overall, Som’s is highly recommended for the Sukho-Thai taste of Thai Food except for the Pad Thai.

Check out the Som’s Noodle House Menu

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Batungbakal Zambales Mangoes

One of our awesome indulgences unique to the Philippines, is to eat as much mangoes as you want! Not just any mangoes, but you need to try out these super delicious Batungbakal Zambales Mangoes! They are in season this summer and we are loving them now. This is also the best time to indulge in Dulcelin’s Mango Torte because they would be using mangoes from Zambales.

At first, we were kinda disappointed to receive our box of zambales mangoes because when we opened it, the mangoes were green. But we now understand that it was necessary to prolong your indulgence for two+ weeks. Because once these mangoes ripen and becomes golden, oh man, we can’t stop eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can even make my own mango torte or my own mango dessert. We bought two boxes of the Large Batungbakal Mangoes which cost us about P350/ box.

Personally, I love my mango green with a mix of yellow to give it a sweet and sour taste. My wife loves the ripe ones and it is perfect for the lihi period. Check out the email that we got from watergirl below… (Thanks so much!!)

BTW, I’m also looking for other zambales mangoes sources, please please let us know…

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#Restaurants, Food, Tagaytay


Aidan meets the Taj Buddha.

I must admit that the Taj banners along the national highway was quite cheesy in a sense that it turns people off and makes one wonder if their marketing claims are true. It shows photos of the food branded as "Not Your Usual Tagaytay Food", or "Exotic Vegetarian Food". For me, I was hungry for something new in Tagaytay so the moment I saw it, we decided to check out this less than a month old Indian restaurant in Tagaytay.

Leonard and Grace (hope I did get it right), friends of OAP, were right. The Mutton Biryani and Mutton Masala were the best seller of the house. My mom immediately concluded that most of the food would increase her cholesterol level, mother's knows best! While I liked the flavorful dishes, my wife didn't at this stage of her pregnancy. The place was not ready for prime time since the glass for the railings were not yet complete (they should have installed it because this is for safety of the kids! There were many kids at this time already!) and they have yet to complete the 6 rooms beneath the restaurant. You could see that they had to open up to catch on the Holy Week crowd and there are obvious glitches in the kitchen operation. Try visiting this in a month or two maybe they've stabilized their operations and rooms will be ready for occupancy.

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Jewel Box, Mount Faber, Singapore

Mount Faber View — The Highest Point in Singapore.

“An Extraordinary hideaway which stands out with its pleasing sense of rustic sophistication. The Jewel Box offers an ethereal ambiance in which you will enjoy the privacy and tranquility of nature, as well as the exquisite variety of bars & restaurant. In the midst of an enormous wealth of flora and fauna, of colorful sunsets, and songs of birds, this exuberant architectonic combination offers the most spectacular scenery of the city and harbour and is perfect for after-work drinks, intimate dinners and serious partying”

(Left to Right) Apurva (Indian), Siriwan (Thailand), Mui – The boss (Singaporean), Donald (Australian), Alex (Singaporean), Birthday Boy Steven (Malaysian), Calvin (Chinese), and Mark (Australian).

Usually, our regional team meets twice a year and I always look forward to the group dinner. It is the only time I’m able to go to “bloggable” places, otherwise, we spend most of the time between the hotel and our Novena office. I was excited because I’ve never been to Mount Faber which is allegedly the highest point in Singapore. We went to Jewel box, Singapore’s Iconic Hilltop Destination, which serves a 4 course set menu of salad, soup, entree and dessert. Despite the fantastic 180 degrees view of Sentosa, the lush forrest, and nearby islands, it was not enough to compensate for its uninspired ambiance and cuisine. They also have a very nice and enticing website but I have a hard time to even say that the food was OK.

In any case, it is always a nice experience and more learnings about Singapore. Thanks Alex for arranging this!

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Desert Safari Arabian Night

Authentic Arabian Belly Dancers

The Dubai’s Desert Safari organized by Dubai’s biggest operator Arabian Adventures is one of my coolest adventures to date! It is an exciting experience from the late afternoon start at 3.30 pm until it ends at night at around 10pm. It starts with Dune Bashing where you are inside a 4×4 vehicle and you drive through the sand dunes of the Arabian Desert for almost an hour in the Al Maha Desert reserve. It is guaranteed that this is even better than a roller coaster ride, and guaranteed to make you shriek and laugh with excitement. After the desert drive, the tour stops over in a Camel farm where I came in close encounter with a camel for the first time in my life. Before heading to the camp site, it is a must to see the orange sun sets in the arabian desert horizon. This is a great backdrop for fun shots and group photos while on top of the Arabian Desert sand dunes.

Finally, the group heads over to the Arabian Desert camp site where you are greeted with a free camel ride and an Arabian BBQ Buffet dinner. We decided to stay in the majlis (low cushions) in the Shee Sha area instead of the traditional Bedouin tents area. After satisfying your craving of hummous, arabian bread, arabian BBQ and mousaka for dessert; the gracious belly dancer seduces the audience. The best belly dancer makes you fall in love with her via the hypnotic gyration of her hips and graceful playfulness of her hands. At this point, we are all enjoying smoking the strawberry flavored Shee Shas while enjoying the open bar of wine and beer. But the best part of the night happens when they close all the lights in the campsite to have pitch black effect where you can only see the stars and if you stare long enough, the satellite slowly orbiting the earth. At this point, you don’t want to leave but the entire surreal experience is only enjoyed for a few minutes before you head back to your hotel.

This is a must experience when you are in Dubai! The safari costs Dhs. 250 (US$ 68) for adults and Dhs. 180 (US$ 49) for children between 3 and 10. Since we booked via our hotel, it costs us 295 Dirhams about $80. The good thing is it is all inclusive and generally you don’t need to pay anything extra during the entire tour (except for minimal tips to some).

Definitely an Awesome Experience you shouldn’t miss in your lifetime!

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The Great Pyramids of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Khufu or Cheops ) 146m high, the oldest and largest pyramid in Egypt!

I never understood the word, surreal until I saw the Great Pyramids of Giza. It is like watching a dream of seeing the sole survivor of the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World. It is like being transported 2,500 years before the birth of Christ when these great Pyramids where build by three generations of Pharaohs –the father, Khufu (Cheops); the son Khafre (Chephren) and the grandson, Menkaure (Mycerinus). I even hesitated to use the word, awesome, because it felt like these pyramids were built by aliens and it was an out of this world experience. Until now, I still look back at the pictures, and I can’t believe that I saw, I touched and I even entered the Great Pyramid of Khufu — the oldest and largest pyramid in Egypt!

This is my humble attempt to share the experience with you, and I feel that there are no words to describe accurately the experience. I immediately went over to to vote for The Great Pyramids of Egypt as part of the new 7 wonders of the world which will be announced on July 7, 2007. Thanks to papa Procter for making this surreal experience with the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt a reality!

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#Restaurants, Food

Jatujak in Mall of Asia!

Jatujak Menu: Click for a bigger Version

Before heading off to watch the Chinese Acrobats, Korean Paper Doll Lanterns, and the Italian Light Display, I would recommend to eat in this no-non sense Thai place called Jatujak in Mall of Asia. It is located in the second floor , entertainment mall near the center. It is named after the famous Chatuchak weekend market in Thailand and owned by a Filipino. This is what a filipino thai food should taste like and you can order your sukho thai favorites and fulfill your thai craving. We think that it is decently priced and the food is good.

Notsolillulu actually raved about Jatujak in her foodie review:

“Up until yesterday, I could only think of Muang Thai in QC to recommend…but now I’ve found another satisfying resto in Jatujak. Named after the world’s biggest weekend market, found outside Bangkok, this restaurant presents old Thai reliables in a modern setting. Prices are reasonable and servings are more than adequate. We started with the shrimp tom yum. Although we asked for spicy (mild and medium being the other choices), we found it not unbearably hot. What we liked about the soup was that it didn’t heavily rely on the spicy tom yum paste to flavor it, so you could still taste the other aromatics like galanggal and coriander. This is probably the best tom yum around here, according to my hubby, the tom yum connoisseur. We also had their fried spring rolls filled with sotanghon noodles (“glass noodles”), wood ear mushrooms and meat; they were substantial and not too oily. The pad thai boasted of nicely cooked al dente noodles, topped with loads of peanuts, beansprouts, spring onions and a couple of prawns.”

Overall, Pinoy Thai Food at its bests! A little on the sweet side and you need to put kalamansi to balance it out. That is the way we like it sometimes…

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Manila Life

Binondo Chinese New Year

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Happy New Year to all of You!

This is the first time I really felt the Chinese New Year Celebrations. My wife’s family celebrates it and this is the only time that I appreciate it. We treated it like the Jan. 1 New Year and celebrating it in Binondo makes it more special. It was my first time in Binondo during this celebration and I avoided it in the past because I don’t know what to do in Binondo or what to expect. There is that occasional fear of pick pockets and feeling of being an outsider trying-hard-to-celebrate-the-New-Year that prevented me from experiencing the Binondo Chinese New Year!

We had fun chasing the dragons/lions all around China Town. The photo opportunity is quite different because there is no organized schedules and the happenings are organized by the shop owners. What happens is, each store prepares something for the lions — it could be candies or lucky coins to eat and sometimes beer to drink. They court the lions to dance and bring good luck to the store. The end of the dance is usually culminated by fireworks. Before the lion leaves, they get the angpao containing cash usually hooked high above the store’s entrance. It is quite an experience to see these dragons and lions do this ritual all over China Town.

Tips in celebrating Chinese New Year in Binondo. (I’m putting this as a mental note for next year)

1. Bring Ear Plugs! The fireworks are so loud that it can damage your ear drums specially if you are near taking the photos.
2. Follow the dragons/lions. There is no set schedule on when the dragons/lions appear so the best way to find out is to follow the group of dragons/lions.
3. 10am and 4pm festivities on the eve of Chinese New Year. Usually most of the lions appear during this time. I’m glad that this year’s CNY falls on a saturday.
4. Go on a Food Trip. You should bring someone with you who would know where to eat in Binondo. After joining Ivan’s Big Binondo Food Wok, somehow I can say that I know my way around Binondo’s culinary secrets.
5. Celebrate it with friends and family. Binondo will remain a mystery to most of us and it is quite an experience to explore it with family and friends. I’ll try to organize something next year.

It was nice bumping into Sidney of Sari Sari Store, Ivan Henares of IvanAboutTown, and SenorEnrique of WishYouWereHere. Check out their post on the Chinese New Year @ Binondo:

Here are some postcards from the Binondo Chinese New Year…

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Avenue Q is coming to Manila

Avenue Q – Final Run June 2008. 5 Reasons Why You Should Not Miss the Opening Night of Avenue Q’s Final Run!

Yehey!! Avenue Q is coming to town! I tried to watch this in London’s West End but it was fully booked and Standing Room Only. This is hilarious and you should never miss this puppet show. Finally, I can watch it in Manila; AVENUE Q runs in August/September 2007. Good luck to Bobby Garcia and Atlantis productions!

I want to watch the premier of Avenue Q in Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC!


” Life may suck on Avenue Q, but for a bright-eyed college graduate called Princeton, this is his new neighborhood. A tiny bank balance and a variety of weird and wonderful friends and neighbors lead Princeton on a hilarious journey of self-discovery. Performed by an unholy comedic alliance of humans and puppets(!), AVENUE Q was the winner of the 2004 TONY AWARDS® for BEST NEW MUSICAL, BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL and BEST ORIGINAL SCORE! It continues to run on Broadway and in London’s West End to SRO crowds. “


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