Of in-laws, durian and foie gras (Luzviminda buffet, F All Day Dining, F1 Hotel Manila)

I’ve said this before, and I say it again, it’s difficult for me to be impressed with Filipino food, the primary culprits being my Kapampangan heritage and the amaaazing home cooks I grew up with. Ask Kite what my default answer is when faced with the question “Where do you want to eat?“. Yep, you guessed it right. Most of the times, it’s going to be “Anywhere but Pinoy cuisine please.“.

Now haters, don’t get me wrong. The Philippines offers some of the best cooking in the world, and a lot of great press (from international sources at that) have been accorded to it of late. I looove Filipino food, but, and this is a big BUT, it has to be at a level beyond how my mom or my lolas cooked it. That, or it has to be something new to my palate. If someone I know can make it better than the plated ones you serve before me, well, you can forget about it. (Boom! Such a snob!)

At times though, I encounter restaurants that offer dishes like the one pictured below that make me re-consider:

Repeat after me: foie gras sisig. Deeeeeym.

Foie gras? In sisigIt makes so much sense and is so spot on that you’d ask yourself why you didn’t think of it before. I know I did.

The restaurant behind the genius creation? F All Day Dining at F1 Hotel Manila. Newly revamped and with its offerings overhauled, it is now under the helm of Chef Sau Del Rosario. O ha, huma-high profile. Haha! Kite, fourteen other family members (Talk about being a part of a Filipino family eh? Sooo Pinoy talaga.) and I had dinner there one fine Sunday night to celebrate the mother-in-law’s birthday. Below’s how my second buffet (and the in-laws’ first) of the year fared.

The Interiors

Expectations were high before setting foot at F1, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a relatively new hotel after all and everything was still in tip-top shape. There were even some attention grabbing pieces at the lobby fronting F. As for the restaurant itself, I really dig the good use of space. I believe it’s the first hotel buffet I came across with where I didn’t feel I have to weave in and out to navigate the different stations. There was ample room to move around without bumping into fellow diners too. Seating wise, the window-side tables are the best of the house what with its good view, comfortable shared couches and beautiful solo seats. I recommend staying away from the side farthest the entrance – the bland space looked sad to me.

This grabbed almost everyone’s attention. For me, it was interesting primarily because I don’t think I’ve seen something like it before. But then again, I’m not the furniture connoisseur in the first place.

While most will see this as “Ahh, limited offerings…”, my take on this is “Yey! Space!”

Do yourself a favor and reserve the tables by the windows. If you come in during the time we did, you’d have terrific, romantic, soft lighting. The skyline view at night isn’t that shabby too.

The Spread

Compare the variety of food that F serves to that of Heat or Spiral, and one would easily be disappointed. I’d go out on a limb and say that it is unfair as comparisons go, though. First, F’s is significantly waaay cheaper (by price, that is) compared to the bigger, more established hotel buffets. Second, the quality outweighs and makes up for the lack in quantity, as we soon found out. I’d be screaming my head off (well, not really, but you get the point) if I heard people around me say “Kaunti na nga, di pa masarap“. Fortunately, there was none of that. :-)

Oh! One thing that needs to be mentioned is we feasted on the Luzviminda buffet they have running for the whole of June, the month when the country celebrates its independence from Spain. (That’s today by the way! Happy Independence Day Pilipinas!). The theme carries over from the appetizers, to the mains, and up to the desserts and celebrates Filipino cuisine from the three major regions of the country – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. That being said, I assume the menu will vary come July, so heads up. :-)

A humongous yellow fin (I think) tuna commanding the centerpiece of the salads and appetizers stations. Nice touch!

This one triggered nostalgia. Haven’t seen this dish in a long while! Steamed fish like this, replete with its colorful toppings, used to be a staple in celebrations of the past. Coolio.

Now here’s something you don’t see often (or at all!) at hotel restos: Pinoy candies! I didn’t touch any of this, but it was an inspired addition to the themed buffet.

This too! When’s the last time you saw rambutan and dalanghita served in a restaurant? Never? I thought so too. :-P

The LuzViMin theme carries over to the cheeses as well. Happy to see these varieties which I read have been flown from a cheese farm in Davao.

The Food

Finally, without further ado, presenting the five plates I had that night. I won’t even apologize this time. Long-time readers would know I’ve got the skills to handle buffets like this one, and a cooperative tummy to boot. :-P

Plate 1: Salmon, tuna, mussels, and shrimps

Plate 2: Baked mussels, embutido, and cheese (blue, goat, chevre and puti)

Plate 3: Shrimp and brocolli, bagnet, and foie gras sisig

Plate 4: Kambing sa langka, mahi mahi with tausi, BBQ ribs, and habechuelas

Plate 5: Durian panna cotta and leche flan

The verdict? Congratulations! Way more hits than misses!

1. Foie gras sisig, hands-down, is the star of the night. It is the best sisig I have ever eaten. So sinful, so rich, so umami-filled (minus the MSG I hope), I really fell in love with this dish. A close second would be the habechuelas – the love child of mashed potatoes (for its texture) and pork and beans (well, because it is made of white beans and bacon). Other stand-outs were the fat and juicy mussels (both the steamed and baked ones), plump shrimps (again, both boiled and those mixed in with brocolli) and the tender kambing sa langka (goat stew). Loved all of it!

2. The thumbs down for me came from the bagnet. I think what can be faulted though is the cut I got, and the time the meat has been sitting around. Another thing we sorely missed was the lechon. The buffet would’ve really rocked if that was present.

3. The desserts were a bit polarizing. The leche flan (please stop calling it creme brulee if it doesn’t have a crackly caramel top!) was perfect: thick custard with a lovely mouthfeel and an appropriate level of sweetness that even seniors in the group liked. The durian panna cotta, on the other hand, was a different case. Only Kite and I liked it.  Truth be told, they should’ve called it shooters or shots instead of panna cotta. It was too liquid to be called the latter.

4. Service was fantastic. Two dishes got alternated at one point (chicken inasal and barbecued ribs) and I asked if there were still some left for the one I preferred. The lovely lady not only asked people from the kitchen, she even went out of her way to get some for me on a plate instead of just telling me that yes, it’s sill going to be served later. Good stuff. :-)

Do I think it’s worth the price tag? Considering the novelty of key dishes, the general flavorful-ness (wow, did I just invent a word?) of the food and the fabulous service, I’d say yes. It helps that the in-laws gave their seal of approval as well. Woot! If you’re not sold on the idea of paying for ~1,400.00 PHP for this though (No judgment, I’m stingy too. :-P), you might want to check out Deal Grocer ASAP. They’re offering it at ~900.00 PHP and I am telling you, that is a steal.

***

F1 Hotel Manila
32nd Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Telephone: +632 928 9888, +632 908 7888
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/f1hotelmanila
Twitter: https://twitter.com/F1HotelManila

Taipei, Taiwan: Of lanterns, strawberries and stinky tofu

Not so fresh from a not so successful Yangmingshan undertaking, Ish, Jan, Alex and I took a bus and endured more than an hour of heavy traffic going back to the city. We weren’t even shocked of the traffic jam as that was a Saturday night after all and people were flocking to the event we were targeting as well: the Taipei Lantern Festival at the Taipei Expo Park.

Nose to nose ba kamo? :-P

But first, we ate “dinner” from the many food stalls that lined the streets of the nearby Yuangshan station. It was 7 P.M. then and our tummies had already decided they wanted to be filled. Earlier, Ish had also pumped us up about the quality of  street food Taipei has so we already had really high expectations.

The verdict? LEGIT. None of that high-society eats pretending to be fare for the masses. (Pinoy foodies would know what I’m talking about. ;-)) Just honest-to-goodness kanto-worthy goodies all the way. Our favorites? The plump, tender and flavorful fried calamari and the perfectly sweet candied strawberries, memories of which are enough to make my mouth water.

Good food means good crowd. And there were a couple of cars who attempted to pass by this alley ah! Wild!

I have never seen such a rich assortment of dim sum ever. Ansabe ng Master Siomai?

Winner! Photo credit: Alex Acapulco.

Is Taiwan Is Chocolate! Hahahaha! Photo credit: Alex Acapulco

All that jazz did not prepare me for my bizarre foods episode at Taiwan though. I wasn’t planning on one until my nose picked up on a scent that shouldn’t be present in a place where food is served – a whiff of a smell similar to the gunk that oozes off of wet garbage. Gross right? That’s what I was reminded of. I looked left and right and finally saw the sign: stinky tofu. The smell threw me off but I knew very well that I couldn’t resist. I bought one and after some snaps took a bite.

Oh I can clearly remember how these smell… as much as I want to forget about it. Never has food been so aptly named.

Taste-wise, it’s like your average deep-fried tofu slathered in some sort of barbecue-ish sauce. But as we all know, a huge part of flavor comes from the aroma.  That being said, I wasn’t able to go beyond two bites. (I don’t remember any of the three trying it, by the way.) It was just… too much. Gaaaaah. The worst part? The smell lingers in the mouth for a long time. I think the reason why I had one too many candied strawberries was to wash off that aftertaste. Double gaaaaah. Anyway, achievement unlocked naman, so keri na! :-)

I hate food wastage but I threw away more that half of this. Eek. Experience points for the win, though. :-)

It took us an hour to be satiated and we quickly moved towards the lantern festival which was just across the street. First things first: no entry fees! Woot! Taipei Expo Park was expansive and provided more than ample space for all the lanterns in display. The crowd turnout was equally massive, with most of the people obviously locals. There were some spots where we had to huddle close while walking lest we lose each other among the mob. :-P

At the center of it all (and bursting to the seams, actually) were the obvious main attraction – colorful and jovial lanterns of all shapes and sizes. The variety was just awe-inspiring, and this coming from a UP alum ah! We were all amazed at how much fun we had considering we were just looking at things and not actually doing anything. Lookie lookie below and even some more here.  Good clean fun, I tell you. :-D

I think this was Ish’s favorite lantern…

…and this was mine. Well, actually, all four of us loooooved this. Wagas lang ang tawa ni kuya. Kyooot!

This one too! How can you not smile after seeing this? :-P

We took a closer look and found out this centerstage piece was made of pet bottles. Amazing. We also saw one tower made of Yakult bottles. Way cool.

Just look at all those people…

…which led to some doing this. Smart!

Our first Taipei 101 sighting! So colorful yes?

We exhausted everything that can be seen (or at least we would like to think we tried) at the festival after almost an hour and a half.  Surprisingly, we still had some fuel left and our feet were not feeling sore at all so we decided to milk more out of that night. We found ourselves thirty minutes later having hot drinks at A Cup of Coffee in the Shilin district, just a couple of stations away from Yuangshan.

It was almost eleven in the evening so we made do with the shops that were open around the famed night market area. In the half hour we spent there, I remember that Ish and Jan shopped, while Alex and I quickly downed baked pork buns. Haha! Girls being girls and boys being boys. :-P We eventually called it a night and hailed a cab back home,  everyone in agreement that we wouldn’t fly home to Manila without coming back to the streets of Shilin. It was almost midnight.

Bokeh lovin’ at the counter of A Cup of Coffee. Me likey.

Exhibit number two of eating at where the locals line up…

…and of course, the masses were right. It’s a fragrant baked bun brimming with a herb-y and very moist ball of ground meat. I’d like to think of this as Asian burger. :-P Yum-o!

***

Up next: Done with stationary lanterns, we go for the floating ones. :-)

Taipei, Taiwan: Of oysters, cherry blossoms, and hardcore drivers

You know your adventure’s off to a great start when you land on your airport destination at 12:40 AM, and the last bus out to the city is at 1. Man, these Amazing Race moments never fail me…

Jan and I took the same flight out of Manila and, quickly after landing, hopped on the final bus to TRA East Exit. That hour-long trip was pretty straightforward, but the cab ride to Wanghua District was a bit tricky (hint: No English! No English!). Good thing I was with a seasoned traveler who remembered to print graphic directions and maps both in English and Mandarin. (That’s a pro-tip right there. ;-))

We arrived at our hostel, the interestingly named Mango53 Inn, unscathed and were welcomed by a sleepy Ish who had already spent a good day exploring the city and Xinbeitou by herself. Because of the ungodly hour, Jan and I decided to sleep it off until the last member of our group, Alex, arrived. Funny thing is that when he did at around six in the morning, he asked for some time to recuperate too. Haha! The girls and I, not wanting to waste any more precious time, just wandered around the adjacent Bangka area. Fortunately, there were a lot to see:

Just a couple of blocks from the hostel, and adjacent to its namesake station, Longshan gave us our expected dose of Asian temples. A first for me: one that mixes worship for Buddhism, Taoism and folk gods and goddesses. Talk about being inclusive.

Didn’t capture it quite successfully here but those were some beautiful pillars, columns and ceiling details. Love!

Beautiful as it was, I’m not sure what this peacock stood for though.

Another block away is the old street of Bo Pi Liao. I believe it has some level of significance in Taiwanese pop culture apparent from the effort being taken to restore it. Seen here is one of the street’s many interesting artsy installations.

This time, with Ultraman. :-P More on Bo Pi Liao on succeeding posts. (We went back here with Alex the day after…)

Cannot be missed! The wet market at the back alleys of the area was an experience on its own. Black chicken, cooked dishes, dry goods (undies! gasp!), exotic fruits and vegetables, and what have you’s right next to each other was fun to see.

We went back to check on Alex, and true to form, he was still asleep. :-P We woke him up, and freshened up ourselves as it was nearing lunch time already. We had no idea where to eat, so we hunted down a place along Heping West Road recommended by an uncle from the hostel. If my memory serves me right, we didn’t know what the place was called, just the name of the street and the food that was served.

As we would soon realize, Anglicization isn’t a norm in the city, so we relied heavily on visual cues (read: memorizing the shape of the characters :-P), gestures from people we encountered along the way and our sniffing skills.  Only now after some Googling am I made aware that the roadside resto’s name is Chen’s, and that it is actually pretty popular for its oyster noodles. For 50.0 TWD (~69.00 PHP, ~1.65 USD), we got our first taste of Taiwanese cuisine, and it didn’t disappoint.

Another proof that lining up where the locals do is always a good idea.

Al fresco, Taipei style. Seats and tables are limited so one has to be quick both on spotting the next one available, and on finishing one’s bowl so others may eat theirs.

#cute

Voila! The famed oyster noodles: rice noodles (or as Pinoys refer to it, misua), pork intestines (isaw baboy) and oysters (OH EM! TALABA!), swimming in a relatively viscous broth spiked with chili oil. The serving lady asks “Small, medium or large?” and “Chili? Chili?” so there is a level of customization here. We chose small with chili, because it was *drumroll please* chilly… Hahaha!

Up close and personal. This is not as scary as it looks. The dish is filling, flavorful and perfect for a cool morning. Can’t pinpoint a similar dish to compare, but it was salty (but not too much) and savory, characteristic of Asian cuisine. I personally loved this.

After lunch, we continued our “we have no plans whatsoever so let’s see where the roads will lead us” journey. Ish shared having read some free brochures and leaflets earlier and the words “cherry blossoms” popped out. We really didn’t need any more prodding. :-D

An art installation at the Main Station. Did you notice the pencil? #creepy

Candid shot while deciphering the bus routes of Taipei. I trust them about anything travel-related; the mileage these two girls have are crazy!

Unfortunately, we were welcomed with rain and friggin cold wind. We were wet AND freezing! I think I was wearing slippers then. Haha! The only thing that held me back from going all nuts and screaming “We should’ve gone to the hot springs instead!” was the  fact that I was with the three people I was with. Seriously, I needed the company and the humor to see the positive side of travelling by bus for over an hour, spending around moolah (30.00 TWD one-way bus from Main Station to Yangmingshan, ~12.50 TWD for each bus ride within the mountains) and seeing, well, fog. :-P Now I’m sure the place is gorgeous on any other fine day, but deym, just our luck…

What frustrates me about this photo was I was the only one not in it. No photo with the cherry blossoms. Buti pa sila… Huhu! :-(

BEST. DRIVER. EVER. Zero visibility, zigzaging, wet roads AND still at top speed? We were literally gripping our seats. Haha!

Our reward? Buy one, take one coffee. Woot, Venti all the way! Sorry na, but we really needed the warmth, and the caffeine.

Photo care of the Panda. :-p Hay, what a first day. Fortunately, that was the first and last misstep of our Taipei trip. Major good vibes coming up!

We hailed another shuttle to go back to the foot of the park, comforted ourselves with the warmth of coffee (I don’t recall having been THAT happy seeing Starbucks) and shared an hour of so of stories, laughter, and teaching Ish Candy Crush. :-P It was four in the afternoon when we decided to bid goodbye to the mini-heartbreak that was Yangmingshan and head back to the city.

***

Up next: “Ish, can you move closer to the light please?:-P

Tacloban, Leyte: Epilogue

“Where will I meet you?” || Good coffee and pseudo-kaya toast at The Coffee Lounge, Robinson’s Place Tacloban. I have to say, that was one nice provincial mall.

It may not have been the most exciting of destinations (keepin’ it real y’all…) but Tacloban surely has left its mark on our hearts, largely due to the special couple we went there for and the foodie surprises we encountered along the way. Would we have a reason to come back? Probably. I am still bummed that we didn’t get to experience Libro Atbp., and the supposedly gorgeous beaches of Leyte, so yeah, maybe some day. That and I have to re-do my MacArthur photo because my idol uncle sent over his, and it clearly topped mine. RAWR!

This was Mona and Ode’s wedding souvenir, five months after it was given to me and Kite. Can you guess which is whose? ;-)

Just quickly, here’re this series’ posts. Damo nga salamat Tacloban! Ngada hit aton pagkita utro! (Special thanks to my Waray coach, Liisa. Haha!)

Downtown Tacloban: Of kisses, idols and photobombing kitties
Ocho Seafood and Grill: Of sarad, chance and coconut
San Juanico Bridge, Rafael Farms Garden Restaurant, and Gen. MacArthur Landing Memorial: Of postcard moments, diving ducks and “I shall return”
LeyChon Diner: Of lechon, lechon, and oh, did I mention lechon?

Tacloban, Leyte: Of lechon, lechon, and oh, did I mention lechon? (LeyChon Diner)

What is it with the Visayas islands and lechon?

Seriously.

Why do they have the most freakishly delicious roast pork? You know, the type that’s dripping with herby goodness and doesn’t need sarsa. The one that makes your mouth and tummy scream “Eat mooooore…” while your brain and heart goes “Noooooo!”.  The one that makes you down rice and cola, things you normally wouldn’t touch even with a ten-foot pole.

Gaaaah.

I hope you see only two pigs in this photo…

If you noticed (it’s perfectly fine if you didn’t) in the first sentence above, I used Visayas, instead of the province whose lechon is of international fame, Cebu. I’ve had multiple encounters with Cebu lechon before – the one in C. Padilla St. remains my all-time favorite  – and Kite and I came across something really close to it in Leyte (and saw heaps of lechon stalls scattered across the city, actually) that I feel merits the generalization.

LeyChon was our second unexpected food discovery in Tacloban, Ocho being the first. The day we found it, we were originally gunning for Café Lucia, but since the more popular resto was closed, we hunted down LeyChon instead. We had passed by the diner a couple of times while in transit on earlier occasions and already got intrigued by its clever play on names so we decided to go for it.

Kite and I were fortunate enough to be the first customers that day and we got all the benefits that came along with that distinction. We saw the place in its untouched glory (bright and cheery with interesting artwork on the walls), had the crew’s undivided attention (always a plus) AND got first dibs on the lechon served that day (read: no shortage of the much anticipated crackling skin). Triple win!

Yellow, sunny and bright, the UST graduate I was with couldn’t be any happier. :-P

After a rather quick discussion with the waiter, we decided to order half a kilo of lechon, and a plate each of pancit Leyte and rellenong talong. We also got buko pie with pandan ice cream for dessert. The end result?

Heart attack-inducing calorie heaven.

The lechon was everything we wanted it to be. The generous amount of skin served to us was still warm and was very much crisp. The meat was tender, had copious amounts of lovely rendered fat and exploded with that characteristic flavor of lemongrass mingling with a mix of other herbs and spices. Our moans and groans and oohs and aahs of pleasure with matching clenched fists and closed eyes were just too much, it was good that we were the only ones in the resto that time. :-P

Kite and I gobbled what could’ve fed four. It was that goood!

A macro shot to make you more envious. Permission to drool granted.

My heart probably wasn’t as happy as Spongebob and me…

You need this more to cut the fattiness of the pork rather than as a flavor enhancer. Forgot to ask what kind of vinegar this is though…

The other plates on the table fared equally as well. The pancit Leyte, which to me appeared to be just the province’s version of pancit canton, was loaded with a cornucopia of seafood and veggies. The noodles were wonderfully firm accompanied by a sauce that was perfectly seasoned and was rich but not too cloying. The same observations held for their rellenong talong, or tortang talong for us Tagalogs. The dish which if I’m not mistaken was made of three eggplants (!) was brimming with bits of tomatoes and other vegetables, and was fortunately not oily.

As for the dessert, I was a fan. While it will not win any awards for the creaminess of its ice cream component, the classic flavor combination was a homerun. I told Kite “Wow. Why didn’t I think about this?“.  The mini-coconut pie was pretty good, with a dollop of buko meat inside and a slightly cheesy and crumbly crust . The only thing I would probably change about it is that it could’ve been served a tad warmer. Other than that, it’s a beauty!

Can anyone confirm if Warays really serve pancit this way?

To offset the bad calories daw. Healthy daw kasi kami. Hahaha!

Major points for the presentation, yes? Didn’t expect this level of attention to detail when it was laid before us.

Tip: request for the pie to be warmed before being served. I feel that will elevate this already beautiful meal-ender to the next level.

We spoke to the staff and asked how long LeyChon has been around and they told us it opened only late last year. I figured that was why I haven’t read or heard anything about it online or from friends who hail from Tacloban. That being said, I hope LeyChon continues to prosper and attract a steady customer base. I would hate to see this diner go to waste, especially since I see that it potentially has the makings of being an iconic Leyte restaurant as much as CnT and/or Zubuchon are in Cebu. If every customer experiences the same quality of food and service Kite and I had, I say LeyChon has a chance. :-)

I haven’t tried enough lechons from Leyte for me to validate their claim of being “Leyte’s Best Lechon” but I can wholeheartedly say theirs is pretty darn good. :-)

***

LeyChon Diner
384 Richcom Bldg, Real & Kalipayan St.
Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines, 6500
Telephone: +6353 321 9865
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LeyChon-Diner/468327333188285

Tacloban, Leyte: Of sarad, chance and coconut (Ocho Seafood and Grill)

It is no secret that I’m borderline obsessive-compulsive. I’ve been known to be quite the perfectionist, control freak (the tolerable type, I hope), am a huge fan of careful planning and is madly, deeply in love with spreadsheets. Don’t get me wrong, I can be spontaneous if the situation calls for it (really, really impulsive, actually :-P), but most of the times, I prefer schedules and structure.

This is why I feel two of our Tacloban food finds (and the trip in general, now that I think about it) are a fluke. No plans. No destinations in mind. No preparation at all.

First case in point: Ocho Seafood and Grill.

Don’t be fooled by this facade…

Ocho was a serendipitous find. Kite and I were just aimlessly walking around (no, actually, we were looking for some hangout spots :-P) on our last night in town when we noticed our stomachs grumbling. We have already passed by several fast food chains and some nondescript roadside restaurants but, for reasons I cannot remember, we eventually only got interested in exploring Ocho. (I think I was craving for seafood then and I saw the sign?) Little did we know it’s a fairly popular restaurant in the city, and, after sharing a meal for two, we understood that it was for very good reasons.

We really didn’t expect what we saw when we stepped in. The outside of Ocho betrayed its inside to some degree; the interiors were almost too posh, what with its ceiling details and rows, upon rows of bottles of wine. Kite and I went “Oh. This is a surprise.“, and a nice one at that.

…as these will welcome you once you get in. Ambience ba kamo?

This one was right beside our table. Who would’ve thought?

After being assigned a table, we were led to a dampa-esque area at the back of the resto where diners pointed and picked among a wiiide range of fresh seafood. (It was unfortunate that they didn’t allow people to take photos of their spread, though. I found no reasons for them not to, but I didn’t bother asking why…) There, guests are asked how much by weight their order is and in what way they prefer it cooked: grilled, fried, adobo, you know, the works.

To help us down our food, we ordered fresh mango (mine) and guyabano (Kite’s) fruit shakes. The mango was good, but major points for the guyabano.

It was a gargantuan task choosing from the many options, so we left our dinner’s fate to the recommendations of the ladies who served us. They gladly (and quite honestly, I must say) gauged how much will do for a serving for two and what we ended up with are supposedly their bestsellers: a bivalve called shell sarad, adobo-style, shrimps fried in garlic and squid served on a sizzling plate doused in sweet spicy sauce.

We sat down, enjoyed the feast bestowed by the Philippine seas, and well, nothing else to say but craving very much satisfied. :-) The sarad (apparently pen shell in English) had an interesting chewiness, with a texture and taste reminiscent of kuhol or golden snails crossed with that of the familiar mussels or clams. The way the adobo was cooked was peculiar too, with a sauce that was a bit viscous. Don’t worry, it’s the good kind of peculiar. ;-)

Excellently prepared too were the squids and shrimps. While advertised as “fried“, the shrimps weren’t oily at all. Both it and the sizzling squid turned out tender and sweet, and the sauces were not cloying and kicked varying levels of heat. Kite, no doubt, loved it, and so did I. :-)

Our waitress was “Sir, I recommend adobong shell sarad.” and we were like “Sarad? What’s sarad?”. Ayan. Ayan ang sarad. Cheers to bizarre foods!

Fried. Sweet. Garlic. Shrimp. How can you go wrong with that?

The color was a bit off when we first saw it – too bright I think – but one bite and were won over by Ocho’s sweet spicy sizzling squid. Spicyyy!

Oh, they have a menu too, and we chose two items from it, again based from the staff’s suggestions: porbidang kangkong and chicken binakol. The vegetable dish we ordered to balance off the calories from all the seafood, but well, it failed on doing that. Haha! It was extra rich and creamy! Think laing, but less viscous.  So much for adding a healthy component to the meal. :-P

From the menu: “Porbidang kangkong is an Ilonggo vegetable dish made with kangkong leaves stewed in a spicy broth of coconut milk. This rich dish goes perfectly with a great heaping of warm rice and is one of our bestsellers.”. Hay. Rice.

Now the chicken binakol, oh the chicken binakol… As amazing as their marine fare was, Kite and I  were floored by this. Comfort food at its finest! The broth was to die for; naturally sweet, flavorful, heartwarming, the type of soup you’d like to sip whole night long. The person who invented this dish, adding coconut water and coconut meat to an otherwise average stock of boiled chicken, was a genius!

And this one at Ocho? I remember this was the day Pacquiao lost a match to Marquez. Chicken binakol made us forget about that. It was that goood…

And the award for best dish of the night goes to… a dish with no seafood! Haha! Can’t get over how awesome the flavors of this dish were. By the way, what other dishes are served on empty coconut shells like this one?

A closer look. See those white slivers? After we slurped all the soup away, we even scraped the leftover coconut meat on the inner sides of the shell. PG mode lang. :-P

Ocho may be onto something as they claim they are “Tacloban’s finest seafood restaurant”. While I have no basis of comparison, I would still highly recommend it to anyone going to Tacloban. I hear Liisa (a proud local) and Kebs (her very own Jay Durias :-P) loves it here too, so I guess Kite and I are not an isolated case. That being said, don’t skip their chicken binakol! Don’t even think about it, just order for one. Well, unless you’re allergic to coconut, or great food. :-P

And yeah. Goes to show some of the best things in life we come across with even on unplanned occasions. Woot! ;-)

Ocho Seafood and Grill: Tacloban’s finest seafood restaurant

***

Ocho Seafood and Grill
Senator Enage Street, Tacloban City
Leyte, Philippines, 6500
Telephone: +6353 325 4171, +6353 523 3220
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OchoGrill

Tokyo, Japan: Of skylines, innards and bacon

If you’ve read through the entire series so far, you may have noticed that as each day passes my cheeks seem to be slightly fuller, and that my clothes seem to look a bit tighter. :-P Story of my travelling life, really, but more so for this trip to Tokyo.

Truth be told, I’ve never been that huge of a Japanese food fan – you know, I just like it, not love it – but I became a convert thanks to the spectacular eats Kite and I shared on this vacation. From my first sushi experience, to those excellent okonomiyaki and yakisoba, to that bowl of good-to-the-last-drop tonkotsu ramen and finally that unforgettable whale encounter, everything (and I mean everything) was lovely, memorable and worth every Yen spent. :-)

What follows are our other finds that didn’t quite make an appearance in the earlier posts. All of them did not involve much walking and looking for since they have either been inside or around the vicinity of our home base, Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu. (Which reminds me, I wasn’t able to take photos of the hotel. Uuunnnnggghh. >.<) Oh! I decided not to include all food shots lest I want this post to look like a gallery, so just head on over here for some more. Cheers!

***

1. Japanese set breakfast, Shunsai

Shunsai is one of the two breakfast options for the hotel and Kite and I dined here once during our stay. That decision turned out to be a good one, at least for me. Can’t say the same for my dining companion because between the two of us, Kite is the less adventurous when it comes to culinary experiences.

Why do I say that? Well, just look at the tray below.

I assume what was served to us was far from traditional because of its opulence, but nonetheless, it felt 100% Japanese. However, while most were recognizable, I wasn’t able to successfully pinpoint which was what (i.e. there was a kiamoy looking thing under that spiral dish, and one of the pickled veggies looked like blue eggplant. >.<). I think of all the components there, Kite only finished the soup, the rice, and the salmon. :-P More for me! Haha! It was a no-brainer that I would love the fish but I was pleasantly surprised at how I liked the roe and the raw squid. The silken tofu, miso soup, mushroom sides and eggs were good too. Everything else was, well, interesting to say the least. ;-)

At the table were these laminated guides that tell diners what buildings they are looking at. Brilliant idea, as we busied ourselves with playing a matching game while waiting for the food.

Japanese breakfast set (clockwise from center): roe, smoked tofu, salmon, seaweed, mushrooms with eggs and veggies, small fry, palate cleanser (sweet wine, perhaps), tamago, pickled plum, miso soup, pickled veggies, nori sheets, rice, raw squid strips, and silken tofu. Some of the items in this tray I barely recognized. :-P

Save for those seaweed thingies, the centerpiece of this set was fabulous. Perfect play of contrasting textures and complementing flavors.

2. Intercontinental buffet breakfast, A Bientot

On the other side of the floor where the hotel’s two breakfast restos are is A Bientot. Obvious from its name, it’s a French restaurant, but come morning time, it serves an intercontinental smörgåsbord. That being said, we ate here twice, and was understandably more of Kite’s cup of tea than Shunsai.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: buffet breakfasts will be the end of me. My bottomless pit gets into overdrive every time there is one, and A Bientot wasn’t an exception. While the offerings are a bit limited compared to other hotels, like say Marriott, there were some standouts that carried the buffet through. I fell deeply in love with the buttery croissants and the very well-made scrambled eggs. The same can be said for the beautifully greasy chicken karaaage, brocolli and cauliflower. The spectacular sight of the Shibuya skyline and the impeccable service from the wait staff doesn’t hurt too.

How’s that for a breakfast view?

My kind of “I’m not on a diet” breakfast plate: milky scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, and gorgeous pastries.

Loved their karaage and fried broccoli and cauliflower, too.

Wala lang. I just found these sugar rocks cute. :-P

Before I forget, it is worth mentioning that there is a terrific view of the world-famous Shibuya Crossing at the waiting area of A Bientot. Actually, the entire floor gets a ton of natural light and offers a look at multiple points of interests because of the many windows that line the walls.

Intersection of all intersections, as seen from the floor where the restos are. Nice eh?

Rooftop football field. Your argument is invalid. :-P

3. Grilled innards, an unnamed yakitori place

This was one of the trip’s unexpected successes. A bit scary and shady at first, but definitely a success.

See Kite had been raving about a certain isawan place just a block behind the hotel but on the night we planned on eating there, the resto was closed. Almost defeated, we turned around and suddenly spotted this other place that seemed to offer the same menu because of the aroma and smoke emanating from it. Lo and behold, it indeed served the skewered delights we were looking for, and good ones at that. Not UP Diliman Mang Larry’s level, but delish enough. ;-)

From how we understood the lady who served us, diners (or beer drinkers, as we found everyone else drinking there and not really having proper dinner :-P) have the choice of having their chicken parts cooked with a soy sauce base, or simply with salt. The salted ones highlighted the natural flavors of the individual pieces more, but we ultimately preferred the savory and tastier marinated ones, so much so that we ordered two plates. The chicken skin and gizzards were to die for! Oh, by the way, since we were at a first world country, both Kite and I weren’t worried about the cleanliness and safety of the food. No tummy problems after the meal, too. :-)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to note down the name of this restaurant (or pub or beer house or whatever appropriate name this food spot should have). I guess just look for a yellow circle with three characters that look like an inverted “T“, four triangles within a triangle and a complicated Japanese one. Blogger fail. Sorry naaaaa

Ack. Too bad the photo wasn’t framed well. Now I can’t recall what the other set’s name was…

Scaaaared, just because this was the only place we had food that Kite hadn’t tried yet. Interestingly, the different floors of the resto are categorized by which level has crew members that can speak and understand English. Cool. :-D

From L-R: heart, intestines, meat, liver and tongue.

The salted version. Not sure why, but I found it odd that they pair this with mustard. I guess much like how we use vinegar, it’s what they prefer to cut the oiliness of the food?

We loved the soy sauce-d version so much, we got another plate. This time with wings, breast, gizzard, skin and liver.

4. Beef and salmon set, Yoshinoya

This was where I had my last breakfast before leaving for Manila. I included this in the list because of how different the Philippine franchise is from that of Tokyo. This one at Shibuya felt less fast food-ish and almost more like an air-conditioned carinderia. I also appreciated that it was open for 24 hours and that it was more generous with its servings. Oh yeah. They had salmon as part of their regular menu too. Salmon! :-P

Taken at four in the morning. I think it’s where people grab something to eat after a night out or for people like me who have really early morning flights.

Not bad for breakfast, yes? Beef, some unknown pink beans, miso soup and a very bony salmon.

Kite’s generous beef bowl. See how overflowing those toppings are?

5. Bacon Potato Pie, McDonald’s

Finally, another quirky find, but not so quirky Kite won’t eat it, Bacon Potato Pie. We hunted this down because it was a requested pasalubong by a good friend. It being a McDonald’s product, it proved to have held well even after 48 hours. Haha! To be fair, I bought some and had them frozen during my last night at Japan and it went straight to the freezer to when I got home. While it wasn’t a letdown (I, and the group of people I brought it back for, actually liked it), Kite and I argued this could possibly not fare well with the Manila masses, hence it’s non-appearance in our own McDonald’s. Rachel couldn’t be any sadder. :-P

You think this would sell well in Manila?

The mashed potato was extra creamy. In fairness, the smokiness of the cured meat was lent well.

The bacon was there alright, just don’t expect crisp bits.

Tokyo, Japan: Of tongues, culture, and emotional conflict (Kujiraya Whale Meat Restaurant)

Ok, confession time.

I initially thought this would be one of those stories that would be easy to write about. I was so prepared to just start with “OHEMGEE! I ATE WHALE!” (not that I actually speak like that in real life though :-P) and then fly with that intro. Some reading through while doing my pre-work mini-research and I started getting enmeshed in an interesting sea (pun intended) of information about the subject at hand. I didn’t realize I’ve already been reading for hours and in the end, I got confounded and stumped.

Google “whaling”, “whaling controversy”, “International Whaling Commission Politics”, or “whaling in Japan” and you’ll know what I mean. That wasn’t a suggestion. Do it. Now. Seriously, I wouldn’t mind if you leave this page for a while.

See? See?

I won’t even pretend that I can articulate even a teeny-weeny bit of all that but you reading through some of it should give some context. Anyway, the message I really wanted to drive across is how conflicted I was when I had this meal and truth be told, even after. I never imagined I could learn a lot from a three course lunch with a type of protein I don’t have on a typical day, too.

Obviously, I didn’t have time to mentally and emotionally prepare for this lunch.

Kujiraya Whale Meat Restaurant was almost too easy to miss. If Kite hadn’t led me there , I wouldn’t have stopped and taken a look. Intentionally being discreet, I thought. That, or I just didn’t know any Japanese.

Upon stepping in, I found the place unassuming, quiet, and oddly for lunch, dimly lit. The whale theme obviously carried through the entire space, with whale figurines and old-school whaling posters thrown all around. I recall seeing a flight of stairs, too, that could’ve meant they had an upstairs seating section, but I can’t confirm as I wasn’t able to explore. We passed by a couple of private dining areas and ended up in a small shared space. I was about to say it felt cramped, but it probably was just because of all the shopping bags I was carrying. :-P

The ambience of the place, especially the lighting, made the restaurant feel so… secretive.

How cute it this? Very. This was one of the stand-out figurines on display.

Tea was light and good. I think this helped calm me down a bit. :-P

We sat down and Kite ordered three dishes: sliced raw whale belly meat, steak of whale meat in Japanese sauce and barbecue of whale meat. The courteous staff, who I remember was the warm and welcoming maître d too, served the plates one after the other, and as each was put on the table, a conversation started running through my mind:

Will I really eat whale?
But I thought you were a gastronomic traveller?
It’s whale!
Haven’t you eaten snake, crocodile, and ostrich? How is this different?
But, but, but, Free Willy?
*imaginary facepalm*
Is this even legal?
Well, no one’s raiding us yet…
*second imaginary facepalm*

Yes, I’m crazy like that.

Sliced raw whale belly meat. It had the mouth-feel of tuna and tasted like it too. Fortunately, it didn’t reek off a fishy smell. I preferred this over the cooked ones.

This. Is. It.

Steak of whale meat in Japanese sauce. By Japanese I think they meant teriyaki sauce, because it tasted just like that. This was yum, the meat tender and the liquid it was doused with flavorful.

Well, we were already there, and Kite seemed really eager for me to try it, and so I did. Go sue me. (I kid, I kid. Don’t sue me.)

Here’s the low down: the raw ones tasted and felt like eating melt-in-your-mouth sashimi, a headier tuna to be specific, while the cooked ones were akin to gamier beef in both flavor and texture. How cool is that eh? I wasn’t able to wrap my head around that duality at once until I remembered whales are actually mammals. Cheers to biology. :-P

Barbecue of whale meat. Light pink = tongue, dark red = belly. I do remember one was a tad chewier than the other, but I forgot which was which.

Cooked properly, and not for a second too long, whale tongue and meat turns out to be really tender. And no, I’m not highlighting my lack of focusing skills here. :-P It’s just fun to see how it transitions from fish-like to beef-like state on top of the grill.

Now the big question is would I recommend it? I would, even just for the sake of trying something out of ones comfort zone.

If it would help, the resto has heaps of brochures comforting hesitant diners like me that they aren’t, in fact, doing anything wrong and illegal. One such entitled “Sea Unbalance” from the Japan Whaling Association and The Institute of Cetacean Research touches on how whales are increasing, fish are decreasing, and on Japan being a whale country. Understandably, it unabashedly defends their side of the argument with statements like (and I quote):

“Overprotection of a particular component of the ecosystem, especially whales which are the top predators in the food web, would upset the balance of the ecosystem and could lead to instability of the entire ecosystem.”

and

“Know the difference. Simply put, thoughtless conservation is not for the sake of whales. Some whale species do really need to be protected. And some whale species are abundant enough for human utilization. As a food resource.”

Did you mean you love dieting or you love to be part of someone’s diet? >.<

Now this is a debate I wouldn’t want to get myself into, as it is one that is riddled with complicated issues, conflicting opinions and extremely polar perspectives touching on ideologies as far-reaching as cultural differences and anthropomorphism, but to put it out there, I see merits to both the pro and anti camps. Again, this humble writer recommends for you dear reader to find out more about it and to formulate your own judgement.

As for me, I probably would eat it again if it was served in front of me, but I really wouldn’t go deliberately looking for it. Peace tayo Willy…

 ***

Kujiraya Whale Meat Restaurant
2-29-22 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
Telephone: 03 3461 9145, 0120 880 920
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gansokujiraya

Tokyo, Japan: Of Miyabi, getting robbed and blue cheese (Asakusa Shrine, Tokyo Skytree, Ginza, and Freshness Burger)

We haven’t even recovered from the cuteness that was Ueno when Kite and I decided to proceed to our next destination, Asakusa. (Read: No food break!) For a change, it was a place both of us had never been to so navigation was more a challenge than usual, but thankfully, we still got there unscathed.

Case in point: I don’t even have a decent photo of the shrine. :-P

Our first stop was the Asakusa Shrine, a short, but rather easy-to-get-lost walk from Asakusa Station (accessible via either the Asakusa or Ginza lines). Now that I think about it, I am a bit ashamed that we went there not to see the temple itself but to scout for pasalubong. :-P But (and this is a significant but!), at the end of the day, I’m glad we went there for that reason because that’s where we scored the best deals for items we brought for those waiting back home. Knickknacks and what-have-you’s are still pretty costly (we were in Tokyo, after all) but I reckon relatively speaking, Asakusa offered the cheapest prices.

Hunt this lady down. She was funnyyyyyyy. When I asked for a discount, or tried to haggle, she gave me origami swans. Haha!

To be fair, we did wander around the area and marveled at almost all that were in sight: the grand entrance to the temple, rows upon rows of Japanese lanterns, the hoof-ish shoes of locals that operate the jinrikisha or pulled rickshaws (we didn’t ride them because they were expensive) and stalls that sell, uhm, chocolate-dipped bananas. :-P All that amidst the drove of people, locals and tourists alike, that flood the area.

Overexposed kimono girls. #badphotography

Someone explain the fascination for chocolate dipped bananas…

Cliché tourist shot with matching hand pose. :-P

Getting creative this time around.

From Asakusa, we actually saw our next target already: the Tokyo Skytree. We’re suckers for towers (in hindsight, it appears all places we’ve been to outside the Philippines boasts of one), so Tokyo’s was definitely in our list. Interestingly, since it was already in plain sight, we thought of just walking towards the tower, instead of riding the train (via Hikifune of the Tobu Kameido Line or Oshiage of the Asakusa Line). Masochists much? :-D

Almost, but not quite. Gorgeous structure, yes?

It was a looong walk from Asakusa to Sumida (the ward where Tokyo Skytree is) but it was a rewarding one. Halfway through, we came across a river with a side street that gave us a spectacular view of the tower and took photos from there. Another half an hour later, we arrived at the area collectively known as Tokyo Skytree Town. The less than one year old tower holds the title “tallest tower in the world so yey to me and Kite. Tourist accomplishment! Haha! Wala lang. We actually tried to buy tickets to reach the observation decks from within but alas, all tickets were sold out and we had to make do with gazing at the structure from a worm’s eye view.

Apparently, this is the Miyabi lighting that we saw (as opposed to Iki). It supposedly “expresses the concept that ‘today’ is connected to ‘tomorrow’, and, beyond tomorrow expands the ‘future’.”. If you ask me, it looks like a spaceship taking off.

Tired from the earlier walk, we took the train and more than ten stations later, we landed at Ginza. (I guess by now you can already tell how we love optimizing every minute we have. Hehe…) In contrast to Asakusa, Ginza was posh, very urban, and epitomized glitz and glamour. It was at par with what we earlier saw at Akasaka, Omotesando, and Ebisu, if not a notch higher. I particularly liked passing through the sidewalks; I don’t know exactly why, but I really enjoyed it. This is where I was robbed by Uniqlo, too. Haha! My goodness! The amount I spent on that store, which may I add closed on us (!), was unfathomable for a guy like me who doesn’t even like like shopping. Looks like the lure of the largest and flagship store of the retail brand really got to me. ;-)

Loved this intersection and the almost symmetric arrangement of the buildings. I would’ve taken pictures of the sidewalks but I got shy na. Haha!

I wonder how the drivers of these cars felt. Imagine a tourist crossing a pedestrian lane, suddenly turning and pointing a camera at you. Must’ve been weird. Haha!

Ten floors of retail heaven. I heart you Uniqlo Ginza!

It was almost 9 PM when we remembered we haven’t eaten dinner yet so we headed back to Shibuya. In a blink of an eye, without me even realizing it, we were already at the doorsteps of Freshness Burger. I swear! We turned a corner and voila, fast-food! (Kite, where was this exactly nga?) My personal travel agent had been singing praises for the burger here so it was an opportune time for me to try it as well.

Halloween theme another. Wasn’t really expecting this “ambience” especially with the resto’s name.

My pa-cute attempt at “Boo!”.

We ordered a Blue Cheese Burger (Kite can’t wait for me to try this), the aptly called Mango Fruit Burger, FB Chicken (nuggets, really) and their house iced tea. Turns out the recommendations were legit!

First off, get over the fact that the place is named “Freshness”. Over it? Ok. Good. (I’m still giggling. :-P) The burgers were plain and simple: really good. Both patties were juicy and meaty, more than what one would expect from a fast-food chain, and all the pairings totally worked with it. The amount of blue cheese was obsceeeene yet it tasted just right: characteristically sharp but not overwhelming. The one with an entire mango cheek (gasp!) was a royal mess to eat, but taste-wise, was deliiish. Think California maki, but instead of rice and crabmeat, you have bread and beef. Hay. I love my life. :-D

Not a looker but this was one heck of a burger.

The mango slice was even bigger than the patty! In fairness, the fruit was sweet and not mushy. Freshness indeed.

Awesome karaage nuggets, too.

A closer shot…

and even closer. Gahd. I don’t care how they did that blue cheese spread-topping-thingamajig, but deym! It was yum-o!

We retired that night accomplished and happy. If you read through the entire thing, I guess there’s no reason for you to wonder why. :-)

***

Asakusa Shrine
2-26-1, Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo, Japan 111-0032
Telephone: 03 3844 1575

Tokyo Skytree
1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Freshness Burger
Multiple shops across Shibuya


Tokyo, Japan: Of lazy pandas, old giants and eating Winnie the Pooh (Ueno Zoological Gardens)

Kawaii

An adjective in Japanese meaning “pretty; cute; lovely; charming; dear; darling; pet” It’s (sic) stem is two kanji meaning “can love”. It is commonly used by anime and manga fans.

Pretty.
Cute.
Lovely.
Charming.
Dear.
Darling.
Pet.

Check on all items, and then some. Looks like we hit kawaii gold on day four of our Tokyo gig.

It was drizzling when we left the hotel and got to Ueno Park that Sunday morning and we were, understandably, a bit concerned. We had hoped for a sunny day at the park (it was summer, after all) and what we got was wet and chilly instead. Fortunately, it redeemed itself with heaps of photo op spots (hello Oblation pose!), playful installations and the cuuuuuuuuuuutest buns I’ve eaten. EVER. Still can’t believe I can honestly say this, but I did eat a panda, a pig, and, uhm, Winnie the Pooh, care of a serendipitous stumble with Cafe Hibiki. Haha! Deliverance from that Edo food fail, finally!

The weather gods favored us as the day went along and as we moved to the Ueno Zoo. Prior to this day, I had Singapore Zoo in my number one list but as awesome as it was, it was easily displaced by this one in Japan. The different areas featuring the different animals were well- and amply-spaced, and the map made navigating the wide expanse more manageable and engaging (it had tick boxes you can mark to indicate you’ve been to a place already, much like one for a treasure hunt-slash adventure trail).

Ueno Zoo gave us a lot of firsts too!

Fishy-smelling penguins.
Pandas laying on their natural beds looking like drunkards.
A sunbathing family of seals.
Flamingos as pink as they can get.
A polar bear (gasp!) that looked commanding albeit a bit irritated.
A shy but playful red panda.
And a ginormoooooous tortoise, so massive I thought it wasn’t real.

And as if all those were not enough, a petting zoo!

Oh, the petting zoo… I had such a blast at the petting zoo. I had a difficult time deciding which were more adorable: the babies or the sheep. Haha! Kidding aside, time spent there is pure, unadulterated fun. Needless to say, you have to be an animal lover to be able to appreciate this, but if you are (shame on you if you aren’t!), then never, and I say this with UTMOST CONVICTION, ever miss this one.

All that being said, the Ueno Zoological Gardens doesn’t show up that much in lists of places to go to in Japan but I reckon it should be. What follows are my favorite snaps from both the park and the zoo and I’ll let you be the judge why that’s my opinion. Even more photos here if you have time. ;-)

***

Malayong lupain, amin mang marating, di rin magbabago ang damdamin…

Bubble machine at the park! Cool eh?

How lovely would this have been if it was sunny?

Noticed just now how worried the panda’s face looked like. Well, I would be too if an eager kid was staring and was excited to down me.

Panda was red bean. Winnie the Pooh was pumpkin. Piggie was pork. :-)

WAHAHAHAHA! Wala lang. I love this photo. :-P

Right at the entrance of Ueno Park, I was thankful we stumble upon Cafe Hibiki.

Just before causing a delay at the self-service ticket booth because I didn’t know how to count Japanese coins…

Seeing these pandas sleeping in these positions was such a laughtrip! Parang lasing lang!

Heto pa isa inside a tree trunk! Haha!

And that is why I decide to hug this panda instead.

I initially thought this species was named as such because of their long legs. Apparently (and this is according to Wikipedia), it is because of the quills on their heads that make it appear like old-school secretaries that have pens behind their ears. O ha.

Sunbathing seals. Your argument is invalid.

Yey! Polar bear!

And the cutest red pandaaaaaaa! Well, the first I’ve seen, actually. :-P

What I really, really, really loved about Ueno Zoo is their petting farm. First of its kind that I’ve seen. The kids had a blast! And how cute was this bundle of joy? VERY!

Siyempre ako din. Haha! Do I look scared? If I do, it’s because I was. A bit lang. ;-)

“Whatchalookin’ at?” said one to the other.

Magnificent. Glorious. Exquisite. Everything I expected flamingos will be. Loved seeing these!

Di ba?!? What did I tell you?!? Unbelievably huge right?!? (Me is OA.)

But seriously, take a look at that one more time. Awe struck.

We didn’t get to ride this, but it was cool seeing a monorail to move around the zoo. They really thought of this very well.

On the way out of the park. A Sunday well spent and definitely one for the books. No LQ this time too! :-P

***

Ueno Zoological Gardens
9-83, Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan 110-8711
Telephone: 03 3828 5171

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