21 July 2015

A B-Kyu Week in Manila Part 3/4 - Reality vs Hipsters vs Jollibee

As we leave the sanitised world of Rockwell down a mystery alley we felt like we were heading out of bounds, like Jim Carey hitting the edge of the world in the Truman Show.

A a taxi driver said, Rockwell is like another country, quite true. If you want to feel super safe in a first world environment, stay here (we reckon we'll stay around the Greenbelt Mall area next time we visit. There's a bit more going on and the CBD area is very walkable).

Rockwell is boring but cross Estrella Road and you'll find those narrow lanes open up into a traditional Filipino neighbourhood, complete with cats, dogs, chickens and smiley kiddies. We think the area is called Guadalupe Viejo. The contrast between the two adjoining neighbourhoods could not be more stark. That's Manila for ya.

We wonder if this colourful neighbourly area will be mowed down for fancy condos next time we're here.

There's a bunch of little restos in this neighbourhood. We picked the place with the most folks around it for breakfast. The boss lady, a gorgeous auntie with a scarf tied up on top of her head, looked surprised to see a couple daggy white trash Aussies materialise at her counter. She was unsure at first but seemed happy when we smiled like idiots. Works every time. Almost.

As we waited our turn to pick'n'point our dishes, more and more locals appeared, grown men were excited as kiddies in a lolly shop as they checked out the food. We picked our dishes and sat down in a tiny dining room and watched a karaoke game show on tv.

Jackfruit in a creamy coconut sauce which is rich, sweet and lardy and a little bit fishy funky.

Pork in a sweet and sauce with a smidgeon of chili, and more sweet than sour, a tad Kantong.

Green beans with some glass noodles and tiny specks of meat which give it more oomf.

The corker was an eggplant stuffed with mince, probably pork mince. It tasted like rissole, Shawn's secret favourite food. We were lucky to snag the last one.

The whole lot was only 120 pesos, around three to four dollars. Amazing to think this mini-feast cost less than a single dish at the Wooden Spoon restaurant we visited the night before.  A fellow diner bought a single dish then pulled out a large container of rice which we we suspect he brought from home, his feed probably cost him twenty or thirty cents. That's how cheap you can eat in Manila.

After breakfast we tried to hail a ride from this trishaw but the driver was on a pat break. So we decided to walk to the Greenbelt Mall which is close on the map. The walk starts off nice but quickly turns into major road gritty: loud, boring and dangerous.  So we get a taxi instead.

Greenbelt Mall is amazing: huge yet packed with people, most impressive are the tree lined outdoor walking and eating areas.

Our favourite part of Greenbelt Mall was the duck.

Greenbelt has a couple of fairly fancy looking places along the walkway. There's some upmarket Filipino joints and some international restos as well. We'd like to give Chateau 1771 a whirl to see what Filipo French food is all about, we reckon it would be worth a crack.

From Greenbelt we get on the MRT, the view brings us back to reality.

From the Araneta-Cubao MRT station at Quezon City, we walk through another three malls, then cross a road to get Cubao Expo. Cubao Expo is Manila's Hipsterville.

Cubao Expo is a little U shaped groovy early 1970s building formerly devoted to shoes. It now overrun with little hipster bars and restaurants, plus a ukulele shop, a record shop and couple of book and collectible shops, It's beautifully run down and shabby, we love it. We arrive at the wrong time of the day and most of it is shut. Dang it.

Shoes are still to be had.

Binge for Jesus. Hallelujah!

We're lucky that one humdinger of a restaurant is open, Alan's Grill, a Filipino BBQ type joint.
We order the special, a couple of beers, and a couple more beers.

Cooking is done in an enclosed hut on the footpath. See menu here and here.

The inahaw special is grilled everything: prawns, squid, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, catfish, pippies and mussels. There's a salad of onion, green mango and tomato, and a super salty, super fishy sauce based on shrimp paste we think. The sauce is was un-sexy grey in colour but it gave a nice salty kick to the simple grilled flesh favours. The meal is 540 pesos, around fifteen Australian dollars, and is more than enough for two big eaters like us.

Fortunately there's two pussycats to help with the leftovers. They were shy at first but were our bffs from the first pippy.

More pippy.

We traipse around three shopping centres in Quezon City trying to find halo halo, Philippines' classic slushy dessert/drink. How can we not find a a halo halo in Manila? We give up and head back to the MRT station.

We find the MRT is a relief after getting so many taxis. We've heard a few stories of folks getting mugged in taxis and a couple of times we felt a bit vulnerable in the back of some stranger's cab, completely lost in some dirt poor neighbourhood. On the MRT we felt safe and in control, and even made the odd friend. Once we got to understand the Jeepney routes we felt fine in those too, safety in numbers.

We get the MRT back to Greenbelt and finally find a halo halo at a chain store called Razon's which originated in Pampagna. The leche flan (creme caramel) on top is worth it alone. The fine crushed ice is laced with evaporated milk, underneath are some lovely sweet beans and banana with the burnt sugar flavours we love so much. Mix it all together and its way more than the sum of its parts. It was so worth the effort of tracking this baby down. Google 'Razon's halo halo' and you'll find it's well lauded.

Random menu at a midrange\upmarket Filipino restaurant in Greenbelt.

For din dins we head back to Jollibee. We love Jollibee. We shouldn't, but we do. We have an unhealthy obsession with it.

Alison's Jollibee bacon and mushroom cheeseburger has super crispy bacon, tops quality junk food. We'd take Jollibee over McDonalds in a flash.

Shawn's spaghetti was ordered in the name of irony, it was surprisingly edible skeddi with a good dollop of tomato sauce and a few specks of chorizo-ish sausage, a little grated cheese on top. Spaghetti is as popular here as any country.

Dessert is Magnolia supermarket ice cream, the Filipino classic flavour of taro and cheese. Anything creamy or milky with taro is awesome. The flecks of cheese add a slight question mark to the flavour. Why cheese? It's a fun novelty but the taro overrides it. We think there may be way more cheesy versions out there, we hope to find them. You can get this in Filipino shops in Sydney if you hunt around.

We love Manila.

1 comment:

  1. That inahaw special looks incredible! Jolliebee looks like my kinda junk food too =D



Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).