Spend a cook-it-yourself Valentine’s at Dohtonbori

There are three things you need to know before deciding to eat at Dohtonbori: First is you have to be ready to fall in line. Secondly, it’s inevitable that you will exit the restaurant smelling heavily like food. Lastly, you’d better be prepared to get your okonomiyaki fix, because this place will give that to you in a multitude of ways. This is also a pretty unique place to take your dates out for Valentine’s, in my opinion. It could also be an awesome place for a barkada or girls’ night out. 😉

As one of the new kids on the block, it’s rather normal that a lot of people are looking to dine here. Even queuing up at an early dinner hour of 6, we had to wait in line for a bit. I think Dohtonbori SM North EDSA is the first restaurant I’ve come across in Manila that tries to specialize on the Japanese okonomiyaki; and it gets cooked right in front of you too, whether by yourself or their staff.

Inside, the restaurant successfully captures as authentic a Japanese atmosphere as it can. The moment you walk through the hanging noren (暖簾) or Japanese curtains at the entrance, lively staff they call “buddies” greet you in a chorus of ‘PONPOKOPON!’ between flitting from table to table with trays of orders. Up on the wooden beams hang red Japanese lanterns; and on the walls are all sorts of Japanese calligraphy and painted posters that give the place a very retro vibe. (I have to admit it made me miss Japan…)

I don’t normally take videos of the local places I dine in, but I though it was fitting in this case to do just that since this restaurant banks a lot on hands-on customer participation rather than just the experience of eating. This is NOT sponsored in ANY way, just to be clear. I decided to film about Dohtonbori just because I think restaurants like these are interesting. I honestly had a fun time cooking okonomiyaki, as well as watching our orders come together in front of our eyes.

You’ll have to excuse some awkward angles and shakiness though as the lens I brought with me isn’t the best for tight spaces, but I hope the video gives a general idea about Dohtonbori SM North EDSA nonetheless.

All right, now let’s get into more detail about the food, and my general experience eating here!
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Celebrating with these Lunar New Year Almond Cookies

Ahh Lunar New Year, the time of lanterns, red dragons, and all things round! Right now, I’m pretty sure there are dragon dances occurring simultaneously in different parts of Chinatown. In fact, some of them will probably be passing by our office street today, to keep things loud and festive with the beat of the drums and all the dancing.

I’m happy I live in a country that celebrates both Lunar and Western New Year. My family is of Chinese descent so my parents pretty much keep track of the lunar calendar, but we don’t celebrate the new year like they do in other Chinese countries where they take the whole week off. We actually follow the Western calendar as our country does, so when the Lunar New Year comes around we just partake in small simple traditions that my grandmother has been practising since as far as anyone remembers.

Anyway, as many of you might know, the Chinese are a very superstitious lot. I’m seeing a lot of people reading feng shui and horoscope books lately in anticipation of their fortune for the year, but in general there are a couple of “universal” superstitions practised during the new year to help keep the household in the most favourable condition.

They say that on New Year’s you’re not supposed to clean or sweep inside the house for fear of sweeping away good luck. Wearing red is also encouraged to draw in positive and auspicious tidings, and that one’s easy enough to get behind. (I am indeed wearing red today.) There’s also this superstition about putting away sharp objects and displaying only round ones around the home; like coins and ponkan [椪柑] or Chinese honey oranges. Lots of people display money trees as well with the smaller round Mandarin oranges hanging from its branches.

The recipe I’m going to talk about today falls into that last superstition. These New Year Almond Cookies are common around this time of the year, especially because they’re shaped kind of like a coin. And if it’s true that these kinds of objects attract good energy, then this is definitely the type of sweet treat you’ll want to be gobbling up in hopes that the more you eat, the more financial success it’ll bring. And I can guarantee you’ll want to eat lots of them anyway. They’re delicious!
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Muffins with a crown of Nutella for World Nutella Day this year

Well what do you know, I’m actually posting something Nutella-related on World Nutella Day!

I know a lot of other food bloggers are probably celebrating with more fancy Nutella goodies today, so perhaps my humble muffins could be a breath of fresh air. I always thought that this recipe was a great way to kind of highlight how Nutella can change something from simple to special, so yes, while this recipe is exceedingly simple, it’s so homey and yummy I think you’d still find it hard to resist.

This recipe isn’t really anything new or ground-breaking– in fact it’s mostly just banana bread– but when you add that marble of Nutella on top, these muffins just go from good to great. I think anybody who has ever eaten bananas with Nutella, on their own or in a sandwich (my fave!), would know how well these two go together.

The fact that I went out of my way to film a video about these Banana Muffins with Nutella Swirl says a lot about how much I enjoy it, doesn’t it?
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A taste of Latin America with Mantaro Original Peruvian Cuisine

Nestled along Scout Tobias in Quezon City is a small unassuming hole-in-the-wall style restaurant called Mantaro Original Peruvian Cuisine. If you don’t know where to look, the place is almost difficult to find, especially in the dark. (In fact we drove right past it and had to double back.) Now although the menu at Mantaro is as small as the restaurant itself, don’t let that fool you– All the food being served up is full of heart and big on flavour.

At the restaurant the veranda can seat ten, and inside is another ten seats but the space is shared with the open kitchen. When we arrived at half past seven we were the only ones there, but after a few minutes the place got packed real quick. I highly advise calling in a reservation if you plan to dine here during those hours. (Also they’re closed on Mondays.)

The mouth-watering scent of rotisserie chicken greets you like a gentle wave the moment you enter. The walls are lined with simple picture frames containing quotes, and being inside almost feels like sitting at your dining table awaiting your home-cooked meal. The owner Chef Luis Higa himself is hands on in the kitchen preparing orders. And yes, in case you’re wondering he is originally from Peru.

I don’t know about you but I’m not the type of restaurant-goer who judges by the number of items on the menu. Heck a food joint could sell only one brilliantly delicious thing and I’d still go and buy it! It all boils down to the food after all. I had the feeling that Mantaro is the same way in the sense that you won’t be disappointed whichever dish you pick off their one-page menu, and boy was I right.

Everything we ate was deeeelicious.
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