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5.268 TEITY 8 Highlight : Beancurd Roll with Superior Sauce

-Cycle 5, Item 268-
30 (Tue) September 2014

-Chinese-
Beancurd Roll with Superior Sauce

3.5

at Tao Yuan

-Malate, Manila-

solo

TEITY.  Try Every Item at Tao Yuan* (see previously 5.264 Seaweed with Minced Shrimp Thick Soup).  Attempting to eat my way through the restaurant, all 222 items (excluding shark's fin and desserts).  From what I've seen so far, it would seem to be one of the best in the neighborhood, solid on all counts: taste, quality, variety, service, vibe, proximity, maybe price.  Once I've tried everything, I'll know exactly what to get, depending on the circumstances, whether it's for a quick bite on my own, a casual night out with friends/colleagues/family, or a formal occasion hosting bosses/VIPs.  That kind of certainty, in the unpredictable culinary landscape of Manila, will be invaluable.

*The domain has recently expired, but I leave the link in case it comes back up.

Something of a sequel to TERRP (Try Every Restaurant in Robinsons Place), which had me eating my way through an entire mall, all 85 restaurants (see generally 5.247 Original Recipe Fried Chicken...), much to my eternal regret and shame.

5 dishes sampled tonight, total 34 down, 188 remaining; 8th visit so far, averaging 4.25 items per visit, on pace to finish at TEITY 55.

BLUE: highly recommended / GREEN: respectable / YELLOW: mediocre / ORANGE: better avoided / RED: never again / GREY: off-limits due to ethical concerns


Boiled Peanuts (3.25)--on the house, excellent.

Fried Spareribs with Garlic (2.0)--okay, if one likes deep-fried pork...


...or loads of garlic, but the two components didn't seem to interact in the least.

Braised Sea Cucumber with Dried Shrimp Roe in Abalone Sauce (0.5)--indescribable, inedible.

Hainanese Rice (1.5)--too much ginger.

Singaporean Kam Hiong Clams (2.5)--interesting flavor, somewhere between XO and sambal.


By far, the highlight of the meal was the Beancurd Roll with Superior Sauce.  The sauce was actually a chicken-stock broth, lightly flavored with soy sauce and other seasonings, simple yet satisfying.  The beancurd rolls were chewy and tasty.  Within, a mix of minced pork and shrimp, tender and savory.  The dish could work as dimsum appetizer or starting soup or palate cleanser in between heavier stir-fried dishes later on.  A definitive contender for the permanent rotation.


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ADDENDUM

10 (Fri) April 2015

Finished (see generally 6.095 Done).

5.267 Ddeokbokki + Sundae

-Cycle 5, Item 267-
29 (Mon) September 2014

-Korean-
Ddeokbokki + Sundae

3.0

at Sinsa

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with DJ + IZ

The Prodigal Son Returns to Pay His Respects, Day 3 (see previously 5.266 Gold).

In town to take care of a few random personal matters, such as (i) setting up a tarp to make everyone comfortable at the cemetery, (ii) opening a new bank account to receive the lease money on our apartment in Oksu, and (iii) picking up winter clothes for my duty travel to Russia in a couple weeks.  Neither the cemetery nor the bank account was entirely necessary/urgent, but I would desperately be needing warm duds, at least an overcoat, which would've cost about as much as a plane ticket, so I came.

At our favorite food stall (see generally 4.363 Ddeokbokki + Sundae), soon to be a neighborhood joint, once we move into an apartment across the street.

And then I left.

I don't anticipate being back for at least another month.

5.266 Gold

-Cycle 5, Item 266-
28 (Sun) September 2014

-Japanese-
Gold

3.5

at Aoyama

-Cheongdam, Seoul-

with the wife & kids, Lee HS + Yun YH

The Prodigal Son Returns to Pay His Respects, Day 2 (see previously 5.265 Happy Medium).

Aoyama is a Japanese restaurant.  Located in Cheongdam.  Somewhat high end, private rooms only.  While the menu does offer some à la carte items, the emphasis is on various full course sets, more or less the same in structure, starting with small appetizers, followed by sashimi and other delicacies, ending with tempura and noodles/rice, the main difference between sets being the premium of ingredients (e.g., cut of fish) involved.  On weekends, the restaurant offers the lunch course for dinner, all the goodies at half the price.  Something of an institution, the establishment has been doing steady business in the same unassuming back alley location for over 20 years.


My family has been acquainted with the owner for nearly 30 years.  At first, we got to know him back in the late 80s when he was the head sushi chef of a restaurant that we used to frequent.  Eventually, he opened Aoyama on his own in the mid-90s.  By coincidence, soon thereafter, my parents moved into a house a couple blocks away, where they lived for several years, during which time they were regulars at the restaurant, me too whenever I was in town.  Since they moved out of the neighborhood over ten years ago, I can recall visiting Aoyama just once, prior to this evening--no reason beyond distance.

Hirame Sashimi with Shredded Salad in Mustard Sauce

Assorted Sashimi

The food remains excellent.  The owner was so happy to see me, and even happier to learn that my son, who hadn't yet existed at the time of my prior visit, had grown up to develop a fondness for Japanese cuisine, that he went out of his way to prepare a special course meal for all of us.  He even sprinkled gold flakes on a piece of sushi.  Good to be back.  

As mentioned in a recent post, Manila lacks good Japanese cuisine, especially sushi/sashimi (5.250 Assorted Sushi), so I should remember to visit Aoyama more often, whenever my short schedule in Seoul permits.

One of Mo's favorite pastimes, especially in restaurants, is cleaning.

 That's my boy!

The primary purpose of this trip home was to facilitate shamanistic memorial rituals.  Every year, the paternal-side family takes a trip to the cemetery where my grandparents are interred.  Usually sometime during the fall, around Chuseok.  Previously, we'd go through the motions and get out of there as quickly as reasonably respectable, unable/unwilling as most Koreans are to sit out in the sunlight for very long, even under the not-so-blistering rays of autumn.  But in recent years, after I started camping, the setup has involved pitching a tarp, which allows us to enjoy a leisurely lunch in the shade among the spirits.  Although I hadn't really planned on going back to Korea this weekend, my mother begged me to come, if only for my tarp-pitching expertise.

Traditionally, Korean cemeteries are built into carved out mountainsides; each monument represents an individual grave, though the bodies are below ground.

The plot of land includes spots for my grandparents, my parents, and my father's younger brother and wife (the other siblings, sorry, no room).

That's food in his mouth, which he refused to swallow or spit out.

The ceremony and food are the same as that of the jesa (see generally 4.117 Jesa Spread).

After laying out the spread on the offering table and inviting the spirits to nibble briefly...

 ...the food is brought in for the living to enjoy.

A traditional Korean spread of rice, bulgogi, jeon, kimchi, and other side dishes.

5.265 Happy Medium

-Cycle 5, Item 265-
27 (Sat) September 2014

-Korean-
Happy Medium

3.0

at Sawoleh Boribap

-Sinsa, Seoul-

with my family + S's family

The Prodigal Son Returns to Pay His Respects, Day 1.

In town for the weekend to care of a few random personal matters (more details to follow).

Happens that S* is here (for work, something not concerning me).  Accompanied by husband and baby.

So, I invited them to dinner.

Choosing an appropriate venue was a struggle, however, because S is a fake vegetarian.  As a sworn crusader against fake vegetarianism (see most recently 5.209 Animal Assault), I couldn't accommodate her lifestyle choice by vegging out.  Then again, we are in Korea, where the cuisine is largely based on vegetable dishes, so avoiding vegetables out of spite--e.g., by going to a barbecue restaurant--would've been silly, especially as I was playing host.  I had to come up with a place that would make us all happy, in both principle and practice.


Sawoleh Boribap (사월에 보리밥) is a Korean restaurant chain.  Currently 8 locations around Korea.  With a name meaning "barley rice (boribap) in April (sawoleh)," its signature item comprises a bowl of steamed barley rice surrounding by various vegetables, all mixed together prior to eating.  Essentially the same thing as bibimbap (see most recently 5.231 Bibimbap), the main differences being the inclusion of barley and other components coming separately (see for example 2.200 Deul Bap).  The menu also offers dishes that include meat and seafood.  Though never a sensation, the restaurant has quietly built a solid reputation through the years with simple and traditional dishes, healthful and high quality ingredients, reasonable prices..

Part of the Dining Story group, which owns several brands/establishments, including Yoree in the Philippines (see generally 5.040 Course Dinner); rumor has it that Yoree is run by the founder's mistress.

*When launching the blog nearly five years ago, I'd given scant consideration about the consequences of posting certain information here, such as names of people, activities, organizations that I was involved with.  Having kept a low profile, both professionally and personally, I didn't anticipate that anyone would search me out.  Even if they had, most of the subject matter was local and relatively insignificant.  But now with my work at WHO, I've been finding myself increasingly the subject of googling, inevitably leading to the blog, which now often touches on bigger issues with international ramifications.  I have to be more careful.  For starters, I've decided to stop using people's full names.


The food was quite good. Some veg here, some meat there.  Nothing flashy, everything reliably tasty.  Everyone seemed happy.  S remarked that it was the best food that they'd had in Korea thus far--whether true or not, we did clear the table.  Good times.  

Side dishes (2.5)

Dotori muk (acorn jelly) (3.0)

Nakji bokkeum (stir-fried octopus) (2.5)

Nokdu jeon (bean pancake) (3.0)

When I see a cleared table, I wonder whether the food was that good or whether there hadn't been enough.

5.264 TEITY 6+7 Highlight : Seaweed with Minced Shrimp Thick Soup

-Cycle 5, Item 264-
26 (Fri) September 2014

-Chinese-
Seaweed with Minced Shrimp Thick Soup

3.5

at Tao Yuan

-Malate, Manila-

with various WHO WPRO staff

TEITY.  Try Every Item at Tao Yuan* (see previously 5.263 Braised Beancurd with Dried Scallop).  Attempting to eat my way through the restaurant, all 222 items (excluding shark's fin and desserts).  From what I've seen so far, it would seem to be one of the best in the neighborhood, solid on all counts: taste, quality, variety, service, vibe, proximity, maybe price.  Once I've tried everything, I'll know exactly what to get, depending on the circumstances, whether it's for a quick bite on my own, a casual night out with friends/colleagues/family, or a formal occasion hosting bosses/VIPs.  That kind of certainty, in the unpredictable culinary landscape of Manila, will be invaluable.

*The domain has recently expired, but I leave the link in case it comes back up.

Something of a sequel to TERRP (Try Every Restaurant in Robinsons Place), which had me eating my way through an entire mall, all 85 restaurants (see generally 5.247 Original Recipe Fried Chicken...), much to my eternal regret and shame.

9 new on-menu items sampled throughout the day, total 29 down, 193 remaining; 6th and 7th visits so far, averaging 4.83 items per visit, on pace to finish at TEITY 56.

BLUE: highly recommended / GREEN: respectable / YELLOW: mediocre / ORANGE: better avoided / RED: never again / GREY: off-limits due to ethical concerns

Two meals at Tao Yuan today, lunch and dinner, the second and third consecutive meals at the restaurant following dinner last night (I didn't eat breakfast).

First, I treated a few of the girls from HSD to lunch.  The occasion was a quasi-farewell for Daisy, who's transferring to the WHO Philippines country office down the street, not too far away.  As I've know Daisy since my very first visit to WPRO way back when, she'll be missed.

The food was largely disappointing.  In retrospect, the problem was that none of the dishes had any sauce.  Oh well.


Fresh Shrimp Rolls with Beancurd Skin (1.25)--skins were deep-fried, which made them kinda greasy.


Sambal Prawns (1.5)--beyond a slight kick from the sambal, not much there.

Sauteed String Beans with Pork Belly & Dried Tofu (1.5)--not bad in terms of taste, but every component in this dish felt rubbery.

Tao Yuan Special Seafood Fried Rice (1.0)--orange flakes were some kind of dried fish, which were fishy in flavor and pasty in texture.

Later that evening, a few Korean staff obliged to join me for dinner.  No special occasion.  

The food was great.  This time, I was careful to ensure that at least a few of the dishes had sauce.  

Of the 9 new dishes sampled throughout the day, 3 rating blue, the highlight was the soup from lunch.  Otherwise like any typical Chinese soup, it included dried laver, making it taste immediately familiar to a Korean palate*--just remove the corn starch, it could pass for an authentic if nontraditional Korean dish.  Good stuff.

Barbecued Pork (2.5)--spongy texture suggested that the meat had been frozen and then too quickly thawed, but otherwise not too bad.

Dried Scallop with Two Kinds Vegetable (3.5)--in contrast to the previous dried scallop dish, the shredded scallops here provided good flavor, playing well with the delicate oyster sauce, complementing the asparagus and bokchoy.

Braised Imported Whole Abalone in Brown Sauce (2.0)--luxuriously soft and squishy, if that's a good thing, not dissimilar from the accompanying shiitake mushroom, but the brown sauce was almost entirely flavorless. 

Fried Rice in "Fujian" Style (3.5)--fried rice with seafood in gravy, what's not to like? 


*Incidentally, if I can develop a full course menu of surefire dishes, I may propose that one of the more formal gatherings with the senior Korean staff be held at Tao Yuan in lieu of Seafood Market (see most recently 5.249 Deep-Fried Tofu with Vegetables in Oyster Sauce), so the project has an objective beyond itself.  

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ADDENDUM

10 (Fri) April 2015

Finished (see generally 6.095 Done).