MANILA – While fashionistas are still waiting for the opening of international clothing brands H&M and Pull & Bear at the recently opened Mega Fashion Hall of SM Megamall, foodies already have several restaurants to choose from at the new mall extension, including the latest branches of Lugang Café and Vikings, both of which opened last Friday.
Staff members work hours ahead of the opening of Vikings buffet restaurant at SM Megamall last Friday. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
The newest branch of the popular buffet restaurant Vikings features more than 260 dishes with a more stylish “Art Museum” interior to its stations. It is currently offering a 20% discount for those who "like" its official Facebook page for Vikings SM Megamall. This promo runs until March 20, 2014.
The fifth branch of the LJC Group’s popular Abe chain was among the first restaurants to open at the high-end wing of the mall. Abe is known for its Kapampangan dishes, such as Binukadkad na Plapla with balo-balo and mustasa, Sinuteng Baby Pusit, Sinigang na Bangus sa Bayabas, and Knockout Knuckles, the LJC Group’s version of crispy pata.
There is also the Spanish eatery Boqueria, which serves favorites such as cochinillo, but is becoming more known for its chocolate churros, chocolate dips and hot chocolate drink, as well as other sweet treats.
Apart from restaurants, the Mega Fashion Hall also has several specialty food stalls selling hybrid pastries like cronuts and custaroons, as well as branches of Dolcelatte and Chez Karine.
Soon to open are the much-awaited branch of Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan, St. Marc's of Tokyo Café and Ippudo Ramen.
Here are some of the goodies we have tried at the new extension of this sprawling mall.
Gyozas are the specialty at Osaka Oshko. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
The same group that brought the Singaporean chain Wee Nam Kee to the Philippines hopes to achieve the same success with its latest import: Osaka Oshko, which was established in Japan back in 1969 as a gyoza specialist. It now has over 300 outlets in Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, Singapore and now Manila.
The restaurant’s name supposedly translates to “King of Gyoza in Osaka” and diners can peek at the kitchen were the dumplings are made by hand before they are cooked in a special machine made specifically for gyoza. This explains how the dumplings are perfectly crispy on one side but oh-so-tender inside.
Gyozas are prepared by hand at the kitchen. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Apart from the original gyoza, Osaka Oshko also came out with two flavored variants – cheese and nori (seaweed) – which certainly added an interesting dimension to this popular Japanese snack.
But there’s more to Osaka Oshko than just gyozas, which are also available for takeout. Among the popular orders here are the set meals, which already include three pieces of gyoza, miso soup, unlimited Japanese rice and fruits. Among the set meals, diners seem to have a strong liking for the stir-fried Black Vinegar Chicken, which is reminiscent to the taste of the Chinese sweet and sour pork. Another option is the Pork Cutlet in Miso Sauce.
Black Vinegar Chicken. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Osaka Oshko is also proud of its Fuwatoro Tenshin Han, another Japanese favorite. This dish is actually a soft omelette filled with imported Koshikari rice and generously drizzled with gravy. This is definitely comfort food, Japanese style.
For thirst-quenchers, one shouldn’t miss the Mango Yakult drink or the Matcha Smoothie, while the desserts include a giant Japanese parfait with homemade ice cream or the Banana Tempura, also with homemade ice cream.
Cappuccino at Lucca Bakery. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
This small café is located near the always busy ice skating rink, an ideal spot for adults to have light meals and coffee while waiting for the kids to tire from skating.
While Lucca will eventually serve heftier meals like pizzas and pastas, it offers several breads and pastries, as well as cakes and baked desserts to go with coffee concoctions.
Watch this video of "Kris TV" host Kris Aquino and guest co-hosts Erich Gonzales and Iza Calzado when they recently visited the restaurant.
The Q-Daddy Burger. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
This specialty burger joint, which opened its first brand at the U.P. Town Center, is actually the “little brother” of Greenbelt’s popular Burger Bar.
Most items on its menu are also offered at Burger Bar, including the Skinny Fries and the designer milkshakes (think Speculoos and Salted Caramel, to name two flavors). Even the hipster-like desserts served inside jars are available here.
But there are a couple of “originals” that you can’t find at Burger Bar, such as the top-of-the-line Q-Daddy. The quarter-pound patty is made from a blend of three cuts and piled with bacon strips and onion rings. Amazing!
Lugang Cafe's famous xiao long bao. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Known as Bellagio Café in Shanghai, China, where it originated, this chain of Chinese restaurants have developed a strong following among local diners since it opened its free-standing, multi-story restaurant in Greenhills in 2010.
It has since opened branches at the SM Mall of Asia, SM City North EDSA, Glorietta 2, SM Aura and last Friday, Lugang Café opened its sixth restaurant at SM Megamall.
Despite the narrow frontage, Lugang still added a show kitchen, which allows passers-by to watch the chefs create the restaurant’s famous xiao long bao or Chinese soup dumplings. Its xiao long bao is filled with minced pork and jellified stock, which eventually melts and becomes soup. Lugang prides itself on its “18 pleats” style of folding the xiao long bao.
Mallgoers can watch the xiao long bao being made. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Inside, Lugang uses mirrors to visually expand the narrow dining space. If you can, try and get a table at the restaurant’s “patio,” which feels airy and spacious thanks to the large glass windows offering views of EDSA.
Although Lugang is popular for the xiao long bao, the restaurant has a wide menu of both traditional and modern Chinese dishes, such as the recommended Vegetable And Pork Dumplings.
Beijing Shredded Pork. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
The Beijing Shredded Pork is a lighter alternative to the Peking duck, with a staff member on hand to make mini-pancakes using the pork as filling. (The owners proudly shared that this kind of personalized service is unique to the Philippine branches.) The Chicken topped with Scallion and Ginger Oil is also a tasty starter.
For those who like a little heat, the Szechuan Dan-Dan Noodles with Peanut Sauce can spice up your taste buds.