Tag Archives: Alabang

food + drinks by Alyssa Castillo

Alabang’s #SecretSecret Japanese house excites local palates

Mr. Roboto’s array of contemporary flavors puts a twist on a well-loved cuisine

When the man behind Neil’s Kitchen is your dad, you’d obviously grow up being exposed to food. That’s how it was for Daniella Ramos, a pastry graduate from Le Cordon Bleu who unexpectedly didn’t go the dessert route. After she and business partner David Mendoza went on an extensive food trip to Tokyo and Osaka, they decided to start Mr. Roboto out of her love for cooking and his appetite.roboto-5Mr. Roboto is all about modern Japanese cuisine, but without that Westerner tendency of overwhelming you with flavors. Here, they highlight the taste of the fish by using a star ingredient as well as complementing sauces for every dish on the menu. The latter is an impressive list that includes pink salmon and roasted beet sauce, tuna sesame, unagi, teriyaki, spicy mayo, herb mayo, and uni butter. If you’re a fan of that kind of variety, you’ll most likely enjoy their sashimi sample platter, with salmon that is soy sauce brushed, one that is spicy, and one with cream cheese. “We make everything from scratch,” the young chef proudly says. “We want to know exactly what we serve to you.”roboto-4Among their many rolls, the Mr. Roboto maki is the quiet hero and comes with tuna in three ways—spicy, negi, and oburi—with cucumber or radish and furatake rice. “Everyone’s doing crazy things with rolls these days. They stuff everything in,” Daniella explains. “What we do is we build them up from the base to the top. This way, you see how much you’re getting.” Meanwhile, the not-so-hush-hush components of their Secret Secret roll are unagi, pickled radish, caviar, and ebiko.roboto-2The chirashi bowls offer salmon or tuna in five different ways, one of which has soy truffle. On the side are poached, pickled, and torched prawns and Japanese ceviche made of sake, ginger, and lemon. There’s also the bestselling lamb katsu bowl where you can choose between homemade sauces of curry or gravy.roboto-1They play up their nigiris as well, with their Ika version coming in black squid ink rice with torched and pickled squid on top as well as negi, teriyaki sauce, and ebiko. Their Shake’s rice is pink from the salmon beet sauce, which is topped with the negi cream cheese and soy truffle salmon.roboto-7As the food pleases the palate, Mr. Roboto’s design concept appeals to the eyesight. The duo’s fondness for the Styx song that their restaurant is named after made them decide on the 80s retro Japanese theme, adding old anime like of Voltes V and Mazinger Z to their aesthetic. They even named some their dishes after these cartoon characters. All these to the beat of cool 80s music.roboto-3One other secret of the restaurant lies behind the open counter: an all-female sushi rolling team Daniella and David believe that a woman belongs in an authentic Japanese restaurant and that female hands aren’t too warm to preserve the quality of fish. “Having female sushi chefs is kind of our way of breaking the mold,” Daniella says, and continues that she is fueled by making people happy with her food. “I’m really blessed that I can make a business out of doing what I love.”

Photography by Renzo Navarro
Production assisted by Kris Cuaresma

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset
Alyssa Castillo
Alyssa Castillo is a freelance writer and is concurrently Rogue Media's Editorial Assistant for The NBHD. She reads for fun, writes for a living, and wastes too much time entertaining the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Find her on Instagram as @alyssakcastillo.
food + drinks by Juli Suazo

How Llucia is Changing the Churros Game

The south’s one-stop shop for all things sugary and sweet is elevating this Spanish staple.

“It’s the merriment of churros plus the sweetness of soft serve,” Kim, one of Llucia’s owners, reflects on the popularity of their unique dessert combos.

Ever since the churro craze found its way back to Manila, there’s been an undeniable and constant stream of demand for this timeless Spanish treat. After taking up culinary studies in New Zealand, Kim and her partner took note of this trend, and returned with the necessary skills to take these sugar-rolled, deep fried sticks of dough to the next level. Already fans of their deliciously oily and sweet charms, Llucia was born out of the desire to elevate the humble churro by serving it alongside a little something extra—soft serve ice cream.DSCF0900“The menu consists of all of our favorite things in the form of churros. We just jotted down everything that we loved individually, and the resulting flavors on the menu reflect that,” she happily explains. The classic spiral-shaped treats are named after Llucia’s owners and display each of their personal tastes. The Abrille, for example, is co-owner April’s personal fruit loop-coated take on the pastry.DSC_0380First-time visitors are invited to try the Lorenzo, an unbaked Oreo cheesecake version; while the Julia, churros drizzled with caramel and premium popcorn, is the biggest temptation for customers with a knack for mixing the sweet with the salty. For those looking to satisfy their caffeine-addled needs, the Andres is topped with an energizing drizzle of coffee syrup and toasted oatmeal. Matcha-lovers might be drawn to the Catalina, whose sweet green tea powder meets the chewiness of mochi. And you can’t go wrong with the Marco, a comfortingly satisfying blend of bananas and Nutella.DSCF0904-2With such a wide variety of churro choices, I find myself asking what Kim believes is the dark horse of their establishment. “Definitely the Esperanza,” she replies without hesitation. With just the right amount of sweetness, the Esperanza will leave your mouth watering with its refined pairing of dark chocolate shavings and toasted coconut. “Plus, it’s the best choice if you’re counting calories,” she adds with a laugh.llucia 1Unsurprisingly, despite the array of unique flavors on display, the classic chocolate churro remains their best-seller. Just one bite of its Cinnamon Toast Crunch goodness paired with their specialty chocolate dip leaves no room for second guesses as to why this classic is still the recipe to beat.

“I would definitely recommend coming here on an empty stomach…” Kim trails off as I dip the last bite of my churro sprinkled with Oreo shavings into the remains of my almost completely melted cheesecake soft-serve. “Or with someone else.”DSCF0970For those stuck in the north but already drooling over the churros and soft serve goodness, get ready because Llucia is about to make its way to UP Town Center very soon.

Photos by Chio Gonzalez

Juli Suazo
With a soul awakened only by coffee, Juli spends most of her days trying out new skincare trends and writing about people, places, and food. Follow her on Instagram at @julisuazo.  
food + drinks by Maia Puyat

The Anatomy of a Poke Bowl

In a world saturated with fat and junk food, the humble poke bowl makes a refreshing case.

Poke, which is spelled like the action but pronounced like a dance (poh-key), is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine. The word, which means to cut crosswise into pieces, was originally composed of the easiest ingredients the native islanders could get their hands on—namely, scraps of raw fish mixed with limu (seaweed) and garnished with crushed kukui nuts and sea salt. Since then, this Hawaiian pupu (snack) has evolved and adapted to more modern palates.

Most recipes have begun to incorporate shoyu or Japanese soy sauce into their poke bowls, as well as a heaping serving of fresh, white rice. Though it’s become commonplace to think of a poke bowl as a kind of deconstructed sushi (especially since many Japanese joints feature their own version of this by way of chirashi), the essence is still uniquely and undeniably Hawaiian.

So, what exactly goes into making this authentic Hawaiian dish? The basic poke bowl consists of a serving of white rice blanketed with a thick layer of cubed raw fish. While ahi tuna has become the most common, traditional poke bowls also use octopus, tofu, and salmon, as well as other types of tuna. The bowl is seasoned with a mix of shoyu and sesame oil with a dash of layu or chili oil, and then topped with chopped onions. Every bite is a dynamic dance. In each spoonful, the delicate cuts of raw fish blend with touches of tangy and crunchy, all brought together by a soft spoonful of rice.

Everything that goes into a poke bowl is fresh, light, and accessible, especially for those by the seaside (or surrounded by the sea, in our case). Unlike other rice bowls laden with fried meats and heavy sauces, poke bowls keep you full sans that intense food coma. In fact, that’s the main reason why this Hawaiian treat is gaining traction internationally among health buffs.

In Manila, one of the best places to get your hands on a classic Hawaiian poke bowl is at the bustling, food-laden street of Maginhawa. Ahi Hawaii, identifiable through its pastel colored sign hanging high above the sidewalk, boasts its affordable yet delicious selection of on-the-go poke bowls (though you can also choose to dine in). The first thing you see upon entering is a small check-out window decorated like a surfer’s paradise. The restaurant itself belongs beside a beach, with wooden interiors covered head-to-foot in charming Hawaiian décor. Ahi Hawaii adds their own special touches to the poke bowl by mixing in fresh fruits and a line of chili sauce streaked on top, which creates a beautiful balance of strong and refreshing flavors. Their best seller, the Ahi Bowl, mixes together tuna and salmon with fresh melon, which does a great job of cleansing the palate after a mouth full of chili sauce.

DIY Poke, which is a new addition to Madison Galleries’ wide selection of restaurants, allows their customers to assemble their own poke bowls. They offer different kinds of raw fish, along with a motley crew of sauces and toppings. There is also an option to go for brown rice, making the dish even healthier than it already is. For those who can’t decide, DIY Poke has a list of pre-selected bowls to choose from. The restaurant, which is quaint and quiet, with walls painted with ocean-colored abstract art, is targeted toward the busy bees looking for the perfect snack to go.

A general rule of thumb when it comes to poke bowls is that they’re best eaten as soon as they’re served. Storing it in the fridge for later will alter the taste and texture of the dish. The longer it sits out, the higher the chance of it going bad—especially since the main ingredient is raw fish.

For busy bees and health buffs looking for something filling, delicious, and health-friendly, a poke bowl is definitely the next big thing.

Maia Puyat
Maia is a psych major who is constantly hungry, so she channels that hunger by writing about it. She is obsessed with ice cream and her pet pug, Biggie-Smalls. Follow her on Twitter at @marompu and on Instagram at @marompu_.