Paul Boulangerie, SM Aura

My husband and I were in SM Aura before even the Mall was open due to an early morning appointment. We haven’t had breakfast, which meant I didn’t have my morning coffee, a bad combination considering I had been awake roughly around 6:30 am to rush through my morning chores to be on time. Needless to say, I was not in the best of moods and sought solace in the one shining beacon in that deserted mall that early weekend morning: Paul Boulangerie.

The interiors are decidedly French cafe chic with comfortable chairs, sturdy wooden tables and wonderful accent lamps, as you are greeted by the scent of freshly baked bread. If you are alone and desired privacy, you can ask the wait staff to seat you off to the side where the tables for two with the cushioned and super comfy chairs can be found. I find this spot much more quiet than the main room which can get fairly noisy once the usual mid-morning crowds arrive. The très chic setting, gentle lighting and barely there muzak all contribute to create a relaxing atmosphere that makes it a perfect place for brunch or for afternoon tea.

Paul interiors

A view of the bakers baking.

Paul's breakfast menu

Paul’s breakfast menu

I’ll be honest, this isn’t my first time here. I’ve been trying to blog this place since my first visit, but I never get the chance to take photos and notes, only remembering them when I am usually halfway through my pastry (or several) or when the meal was over. I plan to rectify this.

 

The Food

The breakfast menu at this hour at Paul’s tends to be fairly straightforward: crepes, eggs, croque-monsieur (or madame if you like it with egg on top) and coffee is standard fare. For that morning, the husband and I had the “Omelette Complete” which is essentially an omelette with all the trimmings: cheese, farmer’s ham, some potato hash and button mushrooms. It came with a lovely side salad that helped refresh the palate.

Omelette and Coffee

Omelette and Coffee

The omelette was rather filling. The farmer’s ham was obviously not the sweet ham often used here, and the mushrooms were cooked in butter (swoon) and the potato mash provided the additional weight in the meal. We paired this with a Cafe au Lait. The coffee was quite nice, much better than Starbucks and comparable to many of those indie coffee places. The coffee was good enough that adding any sort of sugar felt like sacrilege.

I actually ordered an additional Pain au Chocolat, that I forgot to take pictures of. It’s basically a chocolate croissant. It’s delightful, and absolutely buttery. I loved every bite. I’ve had it before when the husband bought it as a bribe coming home late, but having one fresh from the oven was still a hundred times better.

Unfortunately, the pastries at that time were not yet available–they were still setting it up. But we did come back late in the afternoon, for some bit of well deserved afternoon tea-my appointment had gaily informed us he was going to be late–for five hours.

The madness of the weekend crowd compounded with my ill temper for that delayed appointment sent us back here to at least partake on their pastry delights.

Unfortunately I didn’t have photos. I will most likely dedicate a separate article on their pastries next time. I just feel like this has to be mentioned because their pastries are absolutely to murder for.

 

The Service

The wait staff are very professional. The uniform is clean and pressed. For the women waitstaff, their hair is pulled away neatly in a bun (it helps if you want to avoid hair falling into your food). They are confident and accommodating, and are well informed of the items in their menu.

Unlike most places, they will not just dump all the food on your table in one go. If you have an entree, they will serve your pastry last, your hot drink first without coaching. Unless you mention it otherwise, this is the norm.

I’ve watched them help out customers who were in wheelchairs and the elderly, without prompting. Young children are easily accommodated as well, as they offer the high chair automatically to the parent if they need it.

The only one problem I’ve found is that they tend to get easily flustered when there’s a line of multiple customers, especially if they’re foreigners. Though I think, that can be easily fixed with enough exposure.

 

Over All Experience

It was a very pleasant time, and almost guarantees that I’ll visit Paul at least once if I’m ever in SM Aura. Given the prices they ask for, is fairly worth the food and service I received. It’s not a place I can afford to go to every day, but it is a place I would see myself visiting often enough.

 

Scores

  • Atmosphere: 4/5
  • Food: 5/5
  • Service: 4/5
  • Prices: Entree’s start at Php 250 – 650
    Pastries: Php 150 – 260

Ratings Key:

1 = Abysmal, 2= Poor, 3 = Fair, 4 = Excellent, 5 = Extraordinary

 

Greeka Kouzina, SM Aura

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Last weekend, the Wife and I decided to try out Greeka Kouzina, a Greek restaurant located in SM Aura. We arrived a little past the usual lunchtime, and we were able to find seats after a short wait.

The restaurant interiors were dimly lit and relaxing, with Greek-style patterns in the floor tiles and in the couches lining either side. Colorful glass lamps hung from the ceiling, lending an interesting visual element to an otherwise dark restaurant. The seats were comfortable, and the noise level was acceptable even with a full dining area.

Upon being seated, we were informed by our server that the restaurant’s specialty is lamb, and with lamb being one of the Wife’s favorite proteins, we placed our orders with this firmly in mind.

Little did we know that we, like the Spartans in Thermopylae, were not going to come out of this experience with a happy ending.

The Food

We were already hungry at this point so we decided to go for two entrees. We opted for an order of Arni Lemonato, which is a roast lamb dish that was hailed as the restaurants “bestseller” in the menu and which came with a side of Salad Horiatiki and an order of Kalamari Tiganito, an appetizer course of battered fried squid.

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It’s like Calamari, but with a K!

The Kalamari Tiganito was a rather pedestrian version of calamares fritos. The squid inside the batter was soft and a little rubbery, rather than giving at a bite. The batter was tasty, but the dish didn’t seem to have anything to distinguish it from an order of Calamares anywhere else, except perhaps for being served with a bit of tatziki as a dip.

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We don’t really say what cut this is, but here’s two sauces you can use to give it flavor.

The Arni Lemonato on the other hand, was a dish that deserves a little more attention to. As far as the cooking technique went, a lamb roasted for five hours definitely comes off as fork tender, and the meat came off from the bone with nothing more than a nudge.

We should have known however that there was something more to this dish when it came with not one, but two different sauces. One was a gravy, while the other was some sort of cream sauce. Upon tasting the Arni Lemonato, it became clear that there wasn’t much flavor in this dish. We also noted that the cut of lamb used in the dish seemed to be that of the spine or neck, with what looked like vertebrae and some of what we could only assume was spinal cord tissue running through them.

A quick look at recipes in the net confirmed that most Arni Lemonato was prepared using a leg of lamb, so this choice of cut for the dish was an interesting puzzle for us.

Overall, the Arni Lemonato feels like that one kid who did really well in his expensive private school education, only to become a deadbeat bum who lives in his parent’s house because he couldn’t be bothered to try his hand at a real job. It had promise, and the beginnings to be a truly spectacular dish, but somehow, somewhere, it got lost and never got back on track.

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All you need are knife skills and ratios

The Salad Horiatiki that accompanied the Arni Lemonato was perhaps the only redeeming item in the meal. The salad was pleasant, with the simple, homey flavors of the mediterranean classic. Given the simplicity of the salad it would have been nothing short of incredible if they somehow managed to get this wrong.

This was one of those meals where you would leave a restaurant feeling sadder than you did walking in. Greeka Kouzina might have been having an off day during our visit, but at this point I suspect that you would have difficulty convincing either of us to come back and give them a try given how much we spent on a meal that taught us that food can indeed cause depression.

The Service

Much like the Arni Lemonato the service in the restaurant feels like they were trained properly, and then left to their own devices. Some of the wait staff were attentive enough, but we did notice that some were too busy with horseplay and chatter to be paying attention to the diners, and despite having appetizers, everything just arrived at our table at the same time again.

Scores

  • Atmosphere: 4/5
  • Food: 2/5
  • Service: 3/5
  • Prices: Expensive

Ratings Key:

1 = Abysmal, 2 = Poor, 3 = Fair, 4 = Excellent, 5 = Extraordinary

Like the legend of the Phoenix…

The Husband and Wife team of High Expectation Eaters are back on the prowl! We’re evaluating our methodology and will be updating the blog at least once a week with our latest culinary experiences, and maybe toss in an article or two about our thoughts of restaurant service and food trends as well to keep things interesting.

Poco Deli, Ayala Triangle Makati

Due to the rain storm warnings, and the fact this was ‘Pay Day Friday’, we had decided to cancel our dinner to Sofitel and find somewhere near by for dinner. Preferably some place new for a change.

This was how we arrived at Poco Deli at the Ayala Triangle in the early evening, just before the usual dinner crowd arrived. The restaurant sported clear windows allowing you a view of the interiors. The yellow mustard paint complimented brick walls nicely. Matching with the wooden table and benches, alongside the shelves with vintage displays gave the restaurant that delightful rustic charm. The restaurant also had an impressive display of wines on one wall, and boasted of home made ice cream.

Pocco Deli

Being as we were early, the waitstaff easily led us to a table and were given the menu. It had quite spread of choices but it being one of those cold wet days made us decide on something hearty and warm.

The Food

For our starters, we decided to order a solo plate German Sausage and Cheese Platter (Php 340) You can apparently choose the sausages but you’re limited to only picking three sausages (2 small sausages, and 1 big sausages, a fact that was absent from the menu). We decided on ordering the Nuemburger, Chicken Sausage and the Kielbasa. For the cheeses, we chose the Manchego, Pecorino and Gorgonzola.

The platter arrived and it was noted with some disappointment the rather paltry servings of the cheese. The sausages were not bad, but it wasn’t good either. If anything it was surprisingly mild (as was the sauerkraut) to the point I felt like the food was trying to apologize to me for having flavor.

poco deli 002

This was the size of a dessert plate. 

For the mains, I ordered the Bacon Slab (Php 320), it came with a serving heaping serving of bacon rice (plain rice topped with bacon bits) and two fried eggs sunny side up. As a carnivore, I can’t help but feel a little surprised at how…one note the bacon was. It wasn’t bad, it was just…unremarkable and as apologetic as the sausages. It is worth noting that the bacon slabs were sizable, three chunky slabs of pork belly did make quite the impression when the dish first hit the table, but the flavors were very muted.

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The most boring bacon ever

The husband ordered the Jamon de Oro (Php 320), and also came with the same heaping serving of bacon rice and two fried eggs sunny side up. The best way to describe this meal was like having left over Christmas Ham as your baon for school on the first day of class after New Year because Yaya was lazy. Nostalgic, but not in a good way.

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I am the Ham of Christmas Past, come to haunt you

Both mains were served with so much oil that we could probably run our car with the drippings alone. I’m glad the husband and I had the foresight to order some drinks to cut through the grease.

pocco drinks

They had good tea selection at tea at least. Mine was Harney & Sons’ Egyptian Chamomile

Over all, we were not really happy with the food to price ratio considering this is all just a dressed-up, yet mundane ‘silog meal that did not justify the price we had to pay for. We were better off crossing over the park and going to the Old Swiss Inn instead, or going for the silog breakfast meals in Mary Grace.

The Service

The staff are neat, friendly but unfortunately also practice the ““Dump everything in whatever order on the table and be done with it” school of service, which I’m noting is becoming the standard service in every restaurant we’ve ever been to.

Scores

  • Atmosphere: 3/5
  • Food: 2/5
  • Service: 3/5
  • Prices: Expensive

Ratings Key:

1 = Abysmal, 2= Poor, 3 = Fair, 4 = Excellent, 5 = Extraordinary

Modern Shanghai, Glorietta 2 Review

For our first foray into the world of food blogging, we decided to try out Modern Shanghai in Glorietta 2, which just opened a month or so ago. Makati has some rather slim pickings when it comes to good Chinese Restaurants, so we decided to give this one a shot, hoping it would finally be the one that would satisfy our cravings.

Modern ShanghaiWe arrived in the early evening, just before the dinner crowd. The restaurant sported a window showing off the Chefs at work, usually making their signature xiao long pao. The restaurant receptionist promptly greeted us, and led us to our table. We were seated in a small booth off to one side of the restaurant, giving us a good view of the place.

modernshanghai_002The interiors of Modern Shanghai were quite tasteful with furniture and decor in a classy palette of blacks, gold and browns under yellow lighting. This was all grounded by the use of jade green floor tiles that lent subtle contrast to the rest of the interiors. The choice of cutlery also reflects the amount of attention to detail that the designers had. The chopsticks were textured with little cloud designs and allowed for an easier grip, while the dishware resembled old-style pottery that you’d expect to see in a museum. The serving staff uniforms were also well thought out, with outfits that were clearly inspired by kung-fu uniforms, complete with black pants and black cloth shoes.

While deciding on our orders, it quickly became apparent to us that the music was just a touch too loud, making it difficult to speak to each other and even communicate with the wait staff. We had to repeat ourselves a few times while placing an order because even the waitress we were speaking to couldn’t make out our order over the music. Furthermore, the music was also out of place, taking away from the overall classy vibe of the interiors. A shame as perhaps a touch less volume or a more serene selection of music would have been perfect.

The Food

For starters, we opted to go for variety, and ordered the Cold Dish Platter. According to the menu this was composed of a few cuts of Smoked Fish, some slices of Marinated Beef Shank, Bamboo Shoots and Braised Glutens. When our order arrived, it turned out that the Bamboo Shoots were replaced by Smoked Beancurd Wraps with Assorted Vegetables and Mushrooms instead. We were never really informed of why this substitution took place. Nevertheless, we decided to try each one in turn and discovered much to our dismay that all of the four were incredibly sweet.

modernshanghai_cold_dish_platter

Cold Dish Platter

The Smoked Fish was smothered in some sort of sweet glaze, and the cut of the fish was terribly bony. Not exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from a starter course. The Marinated Beef Shank was your usual run-of-the mill cold cut beef from any Chinese Restaurant, inoffensive and ultimately not memorable. The Smoked Beancurd Wraps were also unremarkable save for the sweetness. Finally, the Braised Glutens were a cold bowl of gluten meat-substitutes in sweet Anise-infused sauce.

“The biggest disservice to the already innocent cold cut beef, was being caught between two already sweet dishes whose sauces ran to meet the beef. “

~The Wife

For our mains, we went for the Xiao Long Pao. The xiao long pao was pretty good, with flavorful broth inside the dumplings, and skin that was just slightly resistant, making it more able to resist being handled with chopsticks without breaking and spilling out.

Xiao Long Pao

Xiao Long Pao

We also decided to split a bowl of Soup Noodles with Braised Beef in Brown Sauce, which sadly proved to be something of a disappointment. We’ve been very big fans of all kinds of noodle soups, and were hoping that the dishes here would somehow match those from say, Feng Wei Wee in Banawe. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The noodles were overcooked to the point that they no longer had any bite and were more reminiscent of misua. The beef on the other hand, was cooked to proper tenderness, giving way at the slightest bite, but was marred only by the fact that it too, was a bit too sweet. The broth was also good, with just the right amount of flavor without being cloying.

Soup Noodles with Braised Beef in Brown Sauce (split order)

Soup Noodles with Braised Beef in Brown Sauce (split order)

The greatest disappointment of the evening would be our order of Deep Fried Scallion Pancakes. We had expected that these would be a savory compliment to our meal, but what arrived was nothing that we expected. The scallion pancakes were actually a deep fried stuffed bun made out of the same dough as mantou. Sesame seeds littered the top of the bun, giving it the appearance of some bizarre, overly large Mcdonald’s burger bun that had decided to take a dive in the deep fryer. Whatever flavor the scallions were supposed to have were strangely absent, leaving us with nothing but a golden brown disc of empty promises. What’s worse, as the dish cooled, the oils began to seep into the bread, making it soggy and imparting an unpleasant used frying oil taste in your mouth.

Deep Fried Scallion Pancakes, aka Deep Fried Disappointment

Deep Fried Scallion Pancakes, aka Deep Fried Disappointment

Which leads us to the tea. In order to clear our palates between bites and courses, we opted to go for the restaurant’s house tea. What arrived was warm water with the barest hint of tea in it. Served in a black cup that made it impossible to determine its color or impurities in the drink, we forged ahead on faith alone. Sadly faith proved to be insufficient in this regard as the weak tea failed to save our anguished palates from the atrocities of the Deep Fried Scallion Pancake’s used frying oil flavors.

The Service

Much like the the decor and concept of the restaurant, much thought was put into making certain that the serving staff was attentive and friendly. They were also more than eager to attend to our requests and were honest enough about the sizes of their food, having suggested that we split the Soup Noodles as a single order was enough for two people. The warning was very much appreciated.

Unfortunately, like many restaurants in the Philippines, Modern Shanghai also practices the “Dump everything in whatever order on the table and be done with it” school of service. What happens is that food just arrives without any regard to whether or not it’s a starter or a main course, leaving the poor diners to struggle and keep up before their food grows cold. This is a disservice to their food, as food that has gone cold will not be able to impart the true nature of the dish.

Scores

  • Atmosphere: 4/5
  • Food: 2/5
  • Service: 3/5
  • Prices: Moderate (Starters begin at Php 150.00, Mains at Php 200.00)

Ratings Key:

1 = Abysmal, 2= Poor, 3 = Fair, 4 = Excellent, 5 = Extraordinary