4.270 The Original - Verena

-Cycle 4, Item 270-
2 (Wed) October 2013

The Original - Verena


at My Kitchen by Chef Chris (The Oasis / Paco Park Hotel)

-Ermita, Manila-


WHO Research Trip: Day 6 (see previously 4.269 Mango).

More often than not these days, the term "boutique hotel" seems to mean that the establishment is small,  three stories at most, elevatorless, with randomly configured rooms, some of the structures look as though they weren't originally designed to be a hotel, perhaps a mansion or restaurant (see for example 3.270 Fried Water Buffalo with Snow Peas)--no 24-hr room service or laundry or shuttle or business center or other service amenities, but cheap.  Which is why I like them.

Relatively superior.

I chose The Oasis / Paco Park Hotel--a so-called boutique hotel--as my home in Manila for the duration of the trip because it's cheap.  Last week, at around USD 33 per night, cheap even by Manila standards, I'd booked a "standard" room, which turned out to be a hole in the wall (see generally 4.262 Chickenjoy...), making me regret the attempt at frugality.  I mean, I'm being paid very well to be here, so saving a few bucks on accommodations--literally, a few bucks--is kinda silly.  This week, after my return from Singapore (see most recently 4.267 Chicken Rice), I upgraded to a "superior" room for around USD 38, totally worth the extra Lincoln, making me feel like a million pesos.

The front entrance to the restaurant, the rear entrance to the hotel.

The restaurant.

The rear entrance to the restaurant, via the hotel's atrium.

Despite the promise of free wifi in the rooms, the atrium is really the only location where wifi works--being Manila, wifi is sketchy even in WHO.

The view from the 3rd floor overlooking the atrium.

Another factor was the hotel's walking distance to WHO, about 10 minutes.  Last time in Manila, I stayed in a similarly cheap place even closer, within 5 minutes, but that hadn't been a boutique hotel (see generally 3.244 Steamed Crab in Chili Sauce).

The dip of olive oil + basil + parmesan cheese + seasonings was excellent.

The Artichokes à la Milanese (2.5) was, in essence, artichoke jeon in tomato sauce--not bad per se, but, really, it was just jeon.

My Kitchen by Chef Chris is an Italian restaurant.  It's located in the hotel, in fact the hotel's only restaurant/bar.  As of this writing, it's listed #2 on TripAdvisor for the city.  Whenever I tell someone where I'm staying, they all respond with some comment about the place.

Although Italian food in Manila wouldn't be my first choice, I had to see what all the fuss was about.

The restaurant's signature item is a pizza called "The Original."  It's a thin-crust pizza in rectangular form that's cut into strips, each of which may be rolled with rucola and sprouts, and a drizzle of chili oil, at the customer's discretion.  The pizza toppings vary.  I have no idea whether this is an existing dish--I've never seen/heard of anything like it, and a quick internet search doesn't reveal anything similar--or it's the brainchild of the chef.

The pizza in full form...

...cut into strips...

...topped with rucola and sprouts...

...rolled into perfection.

If perfection weren't enough, this chili oil made it even better.

In any case, it was the best pizza that I've ever had.  The crust was thin, moist and chewy, crispy without being dry/crunchy/flaky like a cracker.  The cheese and tomato sauce were okay, not spectacular but good enough.  The "Verena" featured shrimp and scallops as toppings, also okay, also not spectacular but good enough, somewhat skimpy in amount.  However, rolled with the fresh rucola and sprouts, plus the chili oil, the experience was elevated to another level entirely--synergy--in the way that, say, rice with various namul as individual banchan is different than bibimbab with gochujang.  Rucola has long been my favorite pizza topping (see for example 3.169 Pizza Insalata), though it's leafiness makes it somewhat difficult to manage, but this rolled format is the perfect solution.  Who would've thought that I'd find my ideal pizza in the slums of Manila?

At PHP 790 (about USD 18.50), the second most expensive dish that I've ever personally paid for in Manila (see for comparison 3.244 Steamed Crab in Chili Sauce), but totally worth it.

Back in my room, along with the leftover artichokes--White Castle, a locally produced whisky, 34.5% alcohol by volume, PHP 60 (about USD 1.40) for a 375-ml bottle; tastes like crap, but I can see myself drinking the stuff if I were to live here long term.


  1. yes, "arugula" is what it's usually called in the US, "rocket" in UK, and "rucola" in Italy. i tend to use them interchangeably.

  2. "tastes like crap, but I can see myself drinking the stuff if I were to live here long term"
    Spoken like a true expat.

    Pizza sounds interesting, and yeah, kind of ssam-like. Never heard of it before, but gives me some ideas to try at home.

  3. now that u mention it, i can totally imagine expats here in korea saying that about the local beer or soju. that's funny. just 10 days in manila, and i started getting real comfy.

    i can definitely see the roll as a solution to homemade tortilla pizza, which is fine in a pinch, but the floppiness makes it unwieldy and not very amenable to lots of toppings. but just doing the tortilla + sauce + cheese, and rolling the rest after the fact would work. that could also be fun in a party situation. good idea.