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Daily Dish! #2: Katsudon at Mashitta


A magazine-quality picture.

Mashitta is a newly-opened Japanese-Korean hybrid restaurant located on the second floor of the University Mall. They specialize in popular Korean food favorites, like Bibimbap and Jap Chae, as well as Japanese culinary mainstays, like Ramen and Sushi. The average price for a meal at Mashitta is about P110, but the servings, especially soups, can easily serve two moderately hungry individuals. Today, however, we take a look at one of Mashitta’s Japanese rice meals, which is one of the most popular Japanese combos in the Philippines: Katsudon.

Perfectly cooked pork.

Katsudon generally consists of a bowl of rice topped with a deep-fried pork cutlet, known as Tonkatsu, an egg, and some form of sauce. As you can see in the slideshow, all of the elements are present in Mashitta’s take on the dish, with a sprinkle of sauteed vegetables on the side. The vegetables are done well; they are crisp, fresh, and taste like vegetables. That may be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. The sauce is sweet-and-sour, and very flavorful, accompanying the rice just as well as the Tonkatsu. However, I was slightly disappointed with the hint of egg that seemed to drown helplessly in the sauce, as opposed to sucking it up and standing out. A powerful presence of egg in Katsudon usually takes the dish up a level in flavor and texture range. Still, Mashitta was able to make up for the want of egg with a perfectly done Tonkatsu. The pork was coated all over in what looked to be a panko crust, which helped protect the pork from drying out as it cooked, and was perfectly crispy the entire time I ate it, even as it soaked up the sauce. This is something that’s generally difficult to accomplish, and was the deciding factor as to my opinion on the dish. The opinion: Nom nom nom.

The Verdict

Price – P105. With the elevated price levels at the University Mall, I’d say this is a very reasonable amount to pay for a tasty bowl of katsudon. The free iced tea really makes the value here.

Taste – Although it doesn’t necessarily match the Katsudon that the more established Japanese restaurants in the Philippines would serve, it doesn’t fail to satisfy either. The slightly less eggy katsudon sauce is a bit of a downer, but the extra crispy pork strips definitely make this meal worth trying.

Katsudon at Mashitta – MUST TRY!

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Introducing the Daily Dish! #1: Chap Chae at Bon Chon Chicken


AAAaaaaand we’re back! With a new type of review too!

Due to the clear and ever-present danger that is schoolwork, we at Extra Rice have come to realize that making the long, winding reviews that we love to do will not be possible on a regular basis. That being said, we will still try to do full-scale restaurant reviews about once or twice a month.

To compensate for that loss, however, and since we wanted to get back to writing so badly, we are introducing a new, more regular review theme: The Daily Dish!

The Daily Dish will work as follows:

  • It will not be daily! It’ll just come about more often 🙂
  • One dish from one restaurant will be reviewed.
  • Only the value and flavor of the dish will be judged.
  • No restaurant features will come in play.
  • The review will be as short as possible (quite the challenge, but we’re ready 🙂 )
  • Using the “Like” style of voting for a final grade.
  • It’s either TRY IT or DIET!

So, without further ado, let’s get on with our first Daily Dish!

Chap Chae @ Bon Chon Chicken

Bon Chon Chicken is a Korean-inspired restaurant known for it’s extra crispy, double deep-fried chicken and their unique soy garlic wing sauce. However, one of their dark horses on the menu is the Chap Chae, a traditional Korean noodle dish. It is not one of the highly promoted menu items that you would see on their overhead, but to the budget-minded eater, it can easily be spotted. That’s because it’s one of the (if not THE) cheapest items on the entire menu, and it definitely gives you a bang for your buck.

Chap Chae generally consists of dark, glassy rice noodles mixed with thinly sliced vegetables, scrambled egg slices and sesame seeds, and is finished off with a generous drizzle of sesame oil. If that is the exact definition that a Korean would have for Chap Chae, then Bon Chon does it spot on. The noodles give an incredibly smooth mouth feel, and are the perfect al dente that you would demand from a high-quality Italian pasta. The vegetables are thin, but lend a nice, slightly crunchy variation to each chew. The egg gets a bit lost in the fray, but it’s an egg, and I’m not expecting miracles. And the sesame seeds and oil are just the right amount and top the dish better than anything I could think of. It’s like the olive oil and Parmesan cheese that would garnish the previously mentioned Italian pasta. It is probably the best Chap Chae I’ve ever had, and possibly even one of the top noodle dishes as well. A definite taste treat.

The Verdict

Price – P75. I think I might jinx it by saying it’s priced too low, but this is definitely a steal, especially among the other Bon Chon favorites.

Taste – Read above paragraph. Repeat.

Chap Chae at Bon Chon Chicken – MUST TRY!

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Goodles: The Good Noodles


No, the meal doesn't come with an iPhone

Finding myself hanging around an empty campus on a lazy first Saturday of the schoolyear, I decided to head over to the University Mall, hoping that the lack of populace would widen my choices. Thankfuly, I was right, finding a blank canvas of culinary options, with no queues as far as the eye could see. With this new found freedom, I  discovered Goodles, a pasta store that was reviewed to me by a fellow classmate who couldn’t get enough of the place. It was time to see if my first recommendation would be as good as it seemed.

Dishes Ordered

  • Goodles Classic – P125
  • Sausage Arrabiata – P140
  • 7-Layer Lasagna™ – P150
  • Moroccan Beef Nachos – P65

The Restaurant

I should use this as my life motto.

Tell me that doesn't look like a Red Mango or something like it

Goodles is located near the back of the second floor of the University Mall. It seats 40-50 students with 12 four-top tables. Although its gastronomic specialty lies in pasta and noodles, it looks like it would be more suited serving frozen yogurts and the like. The atmosphere in the restaurant is very light and colorful, much like you would find at a Golden Spoon or a California Berry. This is a plus for me, as it gives me the happy demeanor of getting dessert, but the savory satisfaction of eating lunch.

Other features of the restaurant include fast Wi-Fi access for 2 hours with each receipt, and a playfully designed bathroom door that leads (or misleads) to a less than playful looking bathroom. I guess, though, that if you’re playing in the bathroom, you might be the one with problems.

Overall, I enjoyed just being in the restaurant, as it makes me feel a bit uppity, like I’m in the fancy fro-yo store in a strip mall.

The Food

In line with their “yogurt store” look and feel, Goodles serves their meals in tall, slightly narrow bowls, much like any of the aforementioned fro-yo places would do. Although it seems like you could be ripped off by that, as it is easy to make a narrow bowl of pasta look full, the servings are still pretty substantial. They may not give you the Italian feast that they advertise on their fliers, but

Expectations.

it’s enough. For each order made (save the side of nachos), one person with a regular appetite could be satisfied for one meal. If it’s just merienda, two people sharing one bowl isn’t out of the question either.

Reality.

As an appetizer, I ordered what seemed to be their only appetizer on the menu: the Moroccan Beef Nachos. At first, it seemed like a lazy dish put together out of necessity for an appetizer. The fact that they had a Moroccan Beef Pasta only heightened my suspicions. When I tried it, though, I felt like they had actually done a bit of homework on the nachos. The nachos came with a Middle Eastern-spiced ground beef, a dark tomato sauce in place of salsa, and a light sour cream sauce instead of cheese. It tasted like a shawarma and a plate of nachos got together and had a baby. I don’t know exactly how appetizing that sounds to you, but I like both shawarmas and nachos, so I wouldn’t turn down any of their children’s wishes to get in my belly.

After the Moroccan Nachos, I moved on to our first pasta dish: the “Goodles Classic”. Seems like it got the name by being the bestseller, right? I beg to differ. The classic seems to be nothing more than an inexpensive order of simply pasta, prepared in a basic manner. That’s not a knock on it though; classic fresh pastas are delicious, with plenty of garlic, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and white cheese, each of which tasted fresh and unpretentious. The cheese on this one is especially good.

White Cheese. That is all.

When a shawarma and a tortilla love each other very much...

Sausage Arrabiata was the next on the chopping board, offering a spicy serving of spaghetti noodles with a light tomato-based sauce and small pieces of eggplant and Hungarian sausages dispersed throughout the dish. Or bowl, if you will. This dish was very pleasant on the palate, giving a rich, meaty flavor, with savory tomatoes, and a small kick of spice as it goes down. My only complaint, however, would be more sausage, as I found myself excavating the bowl for porky treasure more than actually eating.

Last on the menu, but not least, was Goodles’ trademark 7-Layer Lasagna™. Now, I’m not sure how high 7 layers should look, but their claims seemed a bit spurious. It only reached about halfway up the bowl. But if that’s 7 layers already, then I guess I can’t really complain. The lasagna was still quite an experience, as it was exactly the flavors you’d expect from Italy: rich tomatoes, gooey cheese, and well-browned beef. My only issue with it was that it was a tad too salty. Still, it tasted good enough to copyright.

Arteries go CLOG!

On a side note, each pasta dish was served with a thick slice of garlic bread, which had enough butter and garlic flavor to make it a viable side dish on its own. We didn’t buy any drinks, either, as the only ones they advertised were expensive bottles of VitaminWater and imported iced teas. No doubt it would be to make the upscale vibe of the place be felt, but it didn’t agree with my wallet. Instead, I got a cup of water in a container that looked just like the one you would see when you’re sitting in a dentist’s chair. But I guess that’s what’s cool with the kids these days.

The Staff

"There's a sausage in here, we promise" - Goodles staff (not actual quote)

In line with Goodles’ attempt to emulate a Fro-Yo restaurant or a Starbuck’s, the staff operated similarly to what you could expect from either of the two businesses. The staff on hand at Goodles is sparse, and all of them are located behind the counter. Instead of actually bringing the food to your table, they will instead shout out “Customer name: Jeremy!” (that is, if your name is Jeremy), forcing you to get off your comfy chair and do some exercise before you get to eat. This would usually be a demerit in my book, as I hate to move or exercise if I can help it. However, the “servers” at Goodles are amiable enough, both at the cashier and at the service counter, so it’s a pleasant enough experience approaching and talking to them. They are also quick to move when a customer leaves to bus tables, which lets me know that they know how to move when they need to. Or maybe they were just Saturday bored.

The Verdict

Restaurant: If I had no idea what Goodles was and what was being served the first time I stepped into the restaurant, I would’ve thought I was getting a frozen yogurt. The noodle house does a great job of making a spacious area with wide tables, easy-on-the-bottom seats, a 2 hour Wi-Fi pass, and a restroom. Rating for the restaurant: 8.5/10.

Food: The noodles were al dente, the sauces were well-seasoned (overseasoned in some cases), and the servings were on par for their price. However, Goodles seems to lact that X-Factor that some foods have that reels you into the store everytime you’re in the area. They did everything pretty well, but didn’t astound as much as I would have liked. Still, with their interesting range of choices, I would definitely go back to try something new. Rating for the food: 8/10.

Staff: As nice and casual as the staff were, they couldn’t save themselves from the wrath that builds up inside me when my buttocks has just built a deep groove in my chair and I have to stand to get to my food. Still, aside from that, I had no complaints. Maybe if I weren’t so lazy, they could’ve moved up the points ladder. Rating for the staff: 7.5/10.

Overall: 8/10.

For a first recommendation of where to blog, I’d say that it was pretty successful. I got a good meal at a semi-reasonable price, at a great location with fun company. If you’re a fan of noodles (and good ones. hehe), then Goodles is a must-try destination for you. Even if you’re not a pastahead, it’s a fun place to order an inexpensive bowl of nachos, kick back in a comfy couch, and spend two hours exploiting their wireless fidelity.

Until next time, stay hungry!

Freska: Fresharap Everyday


Freska flaunts its top rated Chicken Inasal

Today I paid a visit to Freska, located on the second floor of the University Mall. Known for its Chicken Inasal, Freska has been voted one of the Top 10 restaurants in the country serving the Ilonggo favorite. I decided to round up my food troop and see how true these claims were.

Dishes Ordered

  • Spicy Chicken Inasal – P99
  • 1960’s Original Chicken Inasal – P99
  • Inihaw na Pusit – P150
  • Liempo – P125
  • Pork Barbecue – P75

The Restaurant

As I stepped into the restaurant, the smell of the grill greeted me at the door. Located strategically next to the front counter, the grillmaster was working at full force, put everything out on display: fresh bangus fillets, plump squid, and their famous chicken inasal. If the smell hadn’t awoken my carnivorous instincts enough, the meaty inferno that I had my eyes glued to certainly did.

If carnivores have a heaven, it may look like this. If chickens have a hell, it may also look like this.

After placing my order of proteins, proteins, and unlimited rice, I found myself a seat and began to take note of my surroundings. Even for a Wednesday, Freska was still well populated. The area was not lacking in size, but the booths that lined the walls were immediately suffocated by a row of tables that cramped up the entire space. However, I can’t really complain too much since it was my group that was seated at these tables 🙂

One of the perks that Freska had advertised on the walls was free Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, I was unable to find their carrier, even when I had asked the waitstaff personally, making me question the honesty of their internet 😦 Boo.

To keep the customers from getting restless, a wide-screen TV was showing a football game, and pop music served as the ambient sound. As good as their intentions were, I still found myself having to raise my voice to get the attention of the person next to me, since the staff had decided that their music was more important than what I had to say. The Fools.

The area was tidy and well-lit, and as clean as I could hope for a busy place. An incident occurred where a baby cockroach went on our table, which is minus points as far as I’m concerned. Still, it was as clean as you would expect, no more, no less.

Fortunately, none of us had to wait more than 10 minutes for our orders to arrive, which made me forget about the Internet lies and the audio beatdown for the speakers. Because when there’s food in front of you, there’s only one thing on your mind, right?

The Food

With two plates of chicken at my disposal, I was ready to see for myself if Freska’s claims rang true: were they really among the elite in inasal?

If you can't take the heat, just order the original.

Before I get to the main course, I usually like to finish the sides. Each order came with a small helping of atsara and some green beans, the latter of which was a P10 add-on to the meal. Although the beans were fresh, firm, and ranked very high with my tastebuds, I was a little disappointed with the atsara, which was both too sweet and too sour at the same time. With mixed results on the sides, I was unsure what to expect with the chicken.

It's too bad these are only sides.

In terms of size, the spicy chicken inasal was just about as big as it cost. It had a great aroma, smelling of the grill and a semi-sweet marinade. However, when I bit into it, it had a taste similar to roasted ketchup. I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. Moreover, it was dry in the thicker side and crispy at the wing tip, an obvious sign that it had been overcooked. However, the chicken lived up to its name and provided enough heat to make the spicy chicken inasal worth eating.

Although the spicy chicken inasal was not necessarily a success, the original inasal was able to save the day. I think it’s obvious why it’s been around since 1960. It was more pleasing in both flavor and moisture, and had a more savory flavor that tasted simply like a juicy grilled chicken. The inasal marinade was light, but still noticeable, complementing the taste of the chicken rather than masking it.

Why is it always two sticks? Who came up with that serving standard?

The three other dishes, which were barbecue, liempo, and squid, were nothing to write home about, but were still tasty enough. If you could imagine tasting grilled pork or grilled squid anytime in your life, that’s exactly what it tasted like. The three dishes were served on much smaller plates than the inasal, no doubt to make the servings look bigger. However, all it did was make the experience of eating the food much like the experience of sitting in the restaurant: cramped.

Squid. Taste so good for such an unusual word. Squid.

Overall, you got what you paid for in terms of the food: nothing transcendent, but still a good lunch to have with friends.

Nom

The Staff

The waitstaff were above average, to say the least. Overall, they were courteous, quick to act, easy to call, and generous with the extra rice. As more and more restaurants boast the rice-all-you-can, this is key.

The Verdict

Restaurant: Freska’s restaurant was an average size, with average perks, and average hygiene. Each of them were tarnished, though, with a high table-to-space ratio, nonexistent Wi-Fi, and an insect intruder after our meal. Rating for the restaurant: 6/10.

Food: The fare at Freska’s failed to send me into a new dimension of foodgasm, but I got what I ordered at an affordable price. The sides evened each other out, some of them good, some of them bad. An average taste experience. Rating for the food: 7/10.

Staff: The staff gave me no headaches when I was there. I did not have to wait long for my food or for service, and the waiters were able to do what you asked, even when they were packed. Rating for the staff: 8/10.

Overall: 7/10.

The people at Freska’s may be voted as one of the top inasal servers in the country, but they didn’t prove it to me today. It was nothing memorable, but I got to eat some meat, and sometimes, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.