A panoramic view of the new SM Fashion Hall. Check the long lines for Ippudo Ramen. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
They've got it all, indeed!
The SM Group has turned the popular SM Megamall into a foodie destination as it teamed up with the Mercato Centrale group, led by blogger Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet and celebrity RJ Ledesma, to conduct a special culinary tour that is guaranteed to satisfy even the largest appetites.
Here's what to expect at the Mega Food Tour 2.0 on September 29 and 30.
One of the new restaurants at the SM Fashion Hall is Linguini Fini. Chef Vinny Lauria gives diners a playful and modern take on the much interpreted Italian cuisine.
Papardelle Ragu. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
An international franchise with its original branch in Hong Kong, the menu has all the usuals with an emphasis on using the whole of the pig from snout to hoof, as was apparent in one of its bestsellers, the Papardelle “Nose to Tail” Bolo. I’ve never had papardelle done so thin but holding its own against the rich Bolognese.
Porchetta Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
Meat lovers can also try their Porchetta, slow roasted pork belly that can be had two ways -- a whole slice with caramelized onions, or chopped with chilli mostarda, fennel and focaccia. I prefer the latter, a well-balanced bite with rich pork, some sour components from the mustard, crispy focaccia and the brilliant onion relish. A great place for family-style eating.
Opened only a week before the tour and named after a famous Japanese potter known not only for his artwork but also for his food, Rosanjin is a Japanese restaurant with beautifully done interiors and surprisingly affordable food sets.
Set meal at Rosanjin. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
A basic set meal of perfectly grilled Norwegian mackarel, tempura, miso soup, chirashi sushi (free form sushi, wherein sushi rice is topped with various sushi components), four kinds of side dishes, and unlimited Japanese rice costs only P450. The menu has the basics from ramen, maki rolls, sushi and more.
What is there to say about the newest ramen player in the Philippines? Getting in late in the game with all the ramen places already abounding in Manila seemingly is not a problem. Just look at the blockbuster lines, which isn’t surprising as Ippudo has been held to be one of the best, if not the best, ramen in Japan.
Shiromaru Motoaji ramen from Ippudo. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
People line up to taste their ramen, but non-ramen lovers can also enjoy Ippudo for its rice dishes like the Hakata Meshi (rice topped with chasu, mentaiko, and egg), gyoza, or the Nikumiso Tofu Salad with avocado, pineapple, cherry tomatoes and nikumiso, a spicy meat concoction.
The Filipino branch offers three kinds of ramen – Shiromaru Motoaji (white), Akamaru Shinaji (red) and Karaka-men (spicy). The most “basic” is the Shiromaru, with the Akamaru getting the addition of miso. Both have thin noodles that can be customized in terms of hardness. The Karaka-men differs from the first two not only in spice but with wavy noodles that nicely pick-up the ramen’s spicy minced meat.
Cupcakes by Sonja
Eight years ago, Cupcakes by Sonja opened its first store in Serendra. Fast forward to 2014, the chain has more than 10 stores and remains undeniably the go-to place for gourmet cupcakes. In this food tour, we were served not only well-known favorites like the red velvet cupcake and the vanilla cupcake, but also lesser known offerings such as milkshakes and cake cups.
Red velvet and vanilla cupcakes. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
Interestingly enough, even the milkshakes have a “pastry” component to them like the Bacon and Waffle Milkshake. We tried the Birthday Cake Milkshake, which has a vanilla base with birthday cake crumbs blended in, finished with sprinkles and more crumbs. This is recommended for those with the sweet tooth.
Tim Ho Wan
Yet another restaurant that people line up for in SM Megamall is Tim Ho Wan. The cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in Hongkong is still drawing a crowd months after its opening.
The famous pork buns of Tim Ho Wan. File photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Among the must-try dishes are Tim Ho Wan's "Heavenly Kings" – pan-fried carrot cake, steamed egg cake, vermicelli roll with pig’s liver and the ever-popular sweet-salty treat pork buns with BBQ pork. Eat when it’s off hours and you don’t have to line up longer than five minutes. (Tip: Couples get seated faster.)
Triple O's by White Spot
Proudly Canadian, the burgers are made of 100% Canadian beef, with its trademark special Triple O sauce with a dill pickle on top of the burger. Side dishes include crispy onion rings, French fries, sweet potato fries and dipping chicken, enjoyed with three sauces – honey mustard, a fiery chipotle mayo, and a tangy tartar sauce.
A sampler plate from Triple O's. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
What really blew my mind though was the milkshakes. Triple O's found the golden ratio of taste/flavor, sweetness and creaminess and each type of milkshake seemed better than the next. Said to be Justin Bieber’s favorite restaurant, Triple O's is set to open another store at SM Mall of Asia in October.
The food tour had a lot of Japanese stops but each stop had its own unique thing, like Eri Curry, which specializes in Japanese comfort food.
Shrimp curry. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
As the name suggests, the signature dish is their curry plate. You can choose your rice portion, the spice level between “just right” and “spicy,” and you can customize toppings as per your liking -- chicken, shrimp, pork or even vegetables. The curry sauce is rich and with the addition of cheese when mixed with the rice is a filling, truly homey dish, perfect for this cold weather.
It’s an ice cream shop with a molecular gastronomy twist. Kool Kids uses liquid nitrogen to churn their bases into ice cream right in front of the diner’s eyes -- gastronomical magic! They also have the FroDough, a warm toasty donut with ice cream inside, melty and a great play on textures and temperatures. From Nuts 4 Nutella to Madagascar Vanilla to a really light Yuzu ice cream, Kool Kids delivers on great flavor besides the presentation wow factor.
Madagascar vanilla ice cream from Kool Kids. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
My favorite is the Camp K, an ice cream of toasted marshmallows, chocolate sauce, and graham cracker crumble, while adventurous ice cream aficionados can try the Pina Koolada, the ice cream version of the popular alcoholic cocktail. Minors beware: they ask for ID.
The tour ended in the Mochicream Café. Mochi, the delightful Japanese rice cake, has found a following in the Philippines, and Mochicream Café can fulfill all of one’s mocha cravings with a variety of mochi flavors from red sweet potato to black sesame to sakura (flowers) to chocolate banana to the specialty, green tea mochi.
Matcha mochi. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for ABS-CBNnews.com
Using Domatcha tea, one of the oldest and finest matchas from Japan, the café serves matcha creations like matcha ice cream, matcha latte espresso served hot and cold, or pastry like the matcha financier, a dense rich cake, or my new matcha favorite --the matcha dacquoise with its delightful layers of meringue, almonds and matcha cream.
Do you want to be part of this gastronomic walking tour? Follow @smmegamall on Instagram. Take your best foodie pics in any SM Megamall restaurant then post on Instagram and tag @smmegamall with the hashtag #MegaFoodTour2.0 until Saturday, September 27. SM Megamall will select the photos and will notify the photographers via their Instagram accounts.The winners will be invited to join the tour.