Japan is convenience store heaven. There’s literally a shop in every corner. The hotel I’m in is surrounded by Family Marts – there are two here indirectly across each other at just 20 paces apart. When I travel, I like digging through groceries and convenience shops just to look around and sample the wares.

Japan Convenience Store
The Haagen Dazs Caramel Classic Crispy Sandwich is something I look for every time I’m in Japan.

Japan Convenience Store
My mom says it reminds her of sansrival. The wafer is really light and airy, the sides are coated in what tastes like caramel flavored white chocolate and the ice cream in the center is Haagen Dazs caramel – which is my fave.

Japan Convenience Store
Saw this on the shelf and I thought – Laughing Cow x Royce – not at all a bad idea.

Japan Convenience Store
Packaging is spot on Laughing Cow.

Japan Convenience Store
But the taste? Oh, man it tastes really effin’ weird – like chocolate flavored cream cheese. Not my thing.

Japan Convenience Store
I’ve been having a hard time finding Bikkle around here – this actually was not from a convenience shop but from the vendo. It’s a yogurt drink that’s a lot like Yakult but isn’t very sweet which is why I like it so much. Been searching far and wide, inside every Family Mart, Lawson and 7-11 only to find no Bikkle – so to the overpriced vendo it is – look for Suntory. Strange times we live in.

Ikinari Steak

We found Ikinari Steak accidentally as we were walking through the streets of America-mura. Here in Osaka, it’s a pretty young area to be in – lots of little interesting shops, most of the American fast food chains are here, vintage shops, specialty bike shops, record stores, etc. Anything with the word STEAK in it appeals to me. I’m a carnivore through and through even if I’m not necessarily proud of it.

Ikinari Steak

We stopped by the door to read the signboards – it somehow looked a lot like Pepper Lunch. Meh, we thought, dismissing it at first since the thought of eating in a chain-type restaurant didn’t appeal to us. Mayabang. We walked around s’more and couldn’t get the steak out of our minds so we found our way back.

Ikinari Steak
The restaurant was smokey as hell! And we were surprised to find that there weren’t any chairs!

Ikinari Steak
When we got there, we found out that we had to order our steaks at the counter. I was surprised to find that the ribeye was the cheapest cut. That’s usually what I get so I was thrilled at this fact.

Ikinari Steak
The minimum order for a ribeye steak was 300 grams so this great butcher-chef man cut me a perfect piece.

Ikinari Steak
Weighing 305 grams, I was informed that I’d be charged ¥1,977 (Php 711) which is kind of a bargain for this beautiful cut. Just look at the marbling on that thing, jeez!

Ikinari Steak
We waited patiently as the steaks were grilled. I think it took about 10-15 minutes to get our orders out. Or longer I don’t know. I felt tired standing around.

Ikinari Steak
And then it was ready! The steak was evenly grilled, seasoned to perfection (just salt and pepper), topped with garlic butter and toasted garlic chips and served on a bed of buttered corn and onions.

Ikinari Steak
I ordered some garlic rice (¥200/Php 72) on the side and found that their version tasted just like Pepper Lunch’s beef pepper rice. So good.

Ikinari Steak
As requested, the steak was cooked to a perfect medium – just the way I like it. It’s really so tender and because of all that marbling it literally melts in your mouth. This was cooked so well – it’d pass Masterchef standards.

Ikinari Steak
The aftermath. They also have this soy-based steak sauce in a pitcher that you can slather your meat with – chose not to use it cause it made the dish too salty for my taste. I took the big fat bits off and chose not to eat them because I’ve been literally eating everything in sight so this kind of lessens the guilt?

The ribeye at Ikinari Steak is surprisingly one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. I never imagined that a fast-food high quality steak restaurant could ever exist but here it is and it’s strange and perfect. Can you believe they have a wine menu in there? Somehow, not having a place to sit didn’t bother me as much once I started eating. If you ever find yourself in Japan and you don’t care about smelling like grilled beef, give it a shot and tell me your thoughts.

Ikinari Steak
Stage 9 Building,
1-8-15 Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Phone: 06-6120-9129
Subway: Shinsaibashi
Opening Hours:
11am-11pm (Lunch 11am-3pm on Weekdays only)
Click for Directions

Mecha Uma

Seabiscuit Films produced a video for Chef Bruce‘s presentation for Madrid Fusion last month so he thought it’d be nice to treat us with 10 seats in Mecha Uma’s chef’s table. My business partner Nicky directed the video so he decided to treat Carina, Dan, Anton and myself and gave the other 5 seats to his siblings.

Mecha Uma

Here’s a list of some things I knew about Mecha Uma before finally getting the chance to try it:
1. Reservations for the tasting course are difficult to get and should be booked way ahead. They do their tasting course from Friday to Monday every week in batches of 10 twice a night.
2. They only use the freshest ingredients – mostly flown in from Japan.
3. Bruce Ricketts is brilliant.

Mecha Uma

I honestly didn’t know what to expect but because there was a ton of hype to begin with, I set the bar pretty high in my head. So yeah, I walked in there expecting to get my mind blown and it did not disappoint.

Mecha Uma
Plate 1. This was an assortment of seasonal sashimi flown fresh from Japan. He told us to eat the fish in a particular order – sea bream then hamachi then bonito and then the otoro. I think I could eat like 10 plates of this or something, realistically.

Mecha Uma
Plate 2. Freshly shucked oyster wrapped in potato and then fried. Two sauces: White is from all the juices they got from shucking an oyster mixed in with buttermilk. Green sauce is made from snap peas and edamame, juiced and seasoned with soy sauce and butter. This was really yummy I feel like I drank the sauce afterwards. The oyster bit I got just seemed small. Wish it were bigger or that I could eat more of this.

Mecha Uma
Plate 3. Some kind of seafood taho. Firefly squid is in season this time of year in Japan and they’re called that because they’re absolutely tiny and they glow. The dish consists of firefly squid mixed with a bit of aioli, sago balls cooked in squid ink with a bit of radish and some seaweed, underneath is a chawanmushi made from corn juice. There was also a generous bit of uni on top which is something so good it’s absolutely sinful. I really loved the creativity of this dish.

Mecha Uma
Plate 4. Raw white scallop meat marinated in sake and soy sauce. Liver, abductor muscle and remaining scallop parts are blended mixed with some squid ink and puffed into a kropek. The scallop meat on top was paired with guava, papaya and some avocado. SARAP. Everything about this dish was bright and so fresh.

Mecha Uma
Plate 5. This is a Japanese tanigue fish aka Sawara which is marinated in sake kasu (which is leftovers from sake production) paired with a salad of crispy pork belly, carrots, singkamas, on a bed of monggo puree dressed with coconut vinegar (made from burning coconuts, pouring vinegar and squeezing it out).

Mecha Uma
This dish made its debut in Madrid Fusion and it was a big hit in our table. Loved the huge Filipino influence in this dish. It’s funny cause Carina’s never had monggo in her life and this fancy one was her first encounter.

Mecha Uma
Plate 6. Unagi Kimo aka Eel Liver. Usually, it’s just salted and grilled but that leaves it really bitter. To take the bitterness out, Chef Bruce decided to stew it and caramelize it to get it aromatic. Paired with rice slow-cooked in dashi with some mushroom and butter seasoned with sansho pepper and topped with kinome.

Chef Bruce asks this guy who brings them ingredients from Japan to sometimes just bring him new, weird stuff to stimulate creativity – this time around they got fish guts. Valuable fish guts though since I remember this to be pricey.

I tried eel liver 2 years ago in Osaka because a friend mistakenly ordered it and hated it so I was pretty scared of this dish. I wanted to pass on this but I gave it a shot and did not regret it. It did not taste anything like what I had back in Nishiki. It’s actually good, the bitter bad taste was masked and the rice was creamy and rich just like risotto.

Mecha Uma
Plate 7. Man, I did not get to record the description of this thing but it’s predominantly watermelon and it had this green jello made of Chartreuse liqueur which was pretty cool. It was good but the yellow stuff was mayo-like which I found a bit off. I think mostly I was sad about this part because I wanted it to be ice cream so badly but it wasn’t.

Mecha Uma
Plate 8. Roasted lamb topped with foie gras paired with cauliflower and curry-seasoned eggplant. Sauce is made from the lamb bones, port wine and beet juice with floral notes of Earl Grey tea.

Lamb is probably my favorite protein of all time. I can’t get enough of its gamey flavor. I kept eyeing Carina’s piece in this round cause it looked bigger. Really loved this and thought the plating was totally art. Beautiful, beautiful dish. Didn’t notice the Earl Grey bits though I wonder if the rest of the people I ate with did. Hmm…

Mecha Uma
Plate 9. Taking a minimalist approach, they served this beauty, a slice of Grade A5 Matsusaka Wagyu tenderloin. They told us to season it whatever way we’d like. It was served with nori salt and a lovely sake, onion juice sauce made with Cabrales cheese (which is like this Spanish blue cheese) to give it funk and aroma. They also topped the beef with some radish and wasabi which I junked.

I’m crazy about that sake/onion/Cabrales sauce. I wiped my plate clean of that stuff. I thought the way they decided to serve the beef this way – just really pure and on its own was splendid. Matsusaka wagyu is the best beef I’ve had in terms of flavor and fat to meat ratio. It practically melts in your mouth. I wish I could buy a bottle of that sauce and eat this all day.

Mecha Uma
Plate 10. Dessert! I was sad when it was time for dessert cause then it meant that the meal was over.

He had us eat the small bit of green mango on top seasoned with sugar, as a palate cleanser. This was basically a mango in curd form served really cold. The rest of the components are just a variety of stuff that go well with the curd – pili nuts, black sesame short bread cookie, meringue made from sesame leaf and coconut pannacotta.

Also wiped the plate clean with this one, it was really refreshing and I thought the black sesame shortbread cookie was spot-on. Never imagined it’d go well with our local mango but it just hit the spot.

Mecha Uma

I loved seeing Chef Bruce and the entire team work as they put this meal together. There’s something about him and how he is with food, you really see him in his element and there’s just a lot of creativity and imagination on the plate. He’s the perfect example of someone who’s meant to be exactly where he is – creating, exploring, opening up other people’s senses just with food. I can’t explain the feeling so much but it was really so great to be there to watch and to listen. I wondered how he imagines and crafts his dishes, how and why he puts certain things together. It’s like magic or something. Mecha Uma really went way above and beyond my expectations.

Mecha Uma

What I thought about Mecha Uma after finally getting the chance to try it:

1. I loved it all. Nothing about the meal was disappointing. OK – maybe I was a bit sad the portions were bird small but it was expected. I mean, it’s a tasting course. Everything is like 3-4 bites worth of food. Also, I have a bear-like appetite.
2. If you’re crazy about food the way I’m crazy about food and want to eat this kind of thing on a weekly basis, Chef Bruce suggests coming to the restaurant once every 3-4 weeks to ensure that you get to try entirely new plates.
3. The whole meal in itself was Php 3600++ but it’s well worth it. Obviously.
4. Bruce Ricketts is brilliant. Really.

Mecha Uma
RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Tower,
25th Corner 26th Street,
Bonifacio Global City
(There’s Php 45 parking on the 7th floor)

Sweet X Manila
I’ve been meaning to try Sweet X for a while now. I’d see photos their food on my instagram feed, hear rave reviews about onion rings when I’d bump into random friends but I never did get the chance to swing by until Aldous invited me to sample the wares at a blogger dinner.

Sweet X Manila
I really like how straight-forward the place is. It’s open, pay as you order and pretty much self-service. There’s a whole lot of parking space which is great – by my standards and the menu isn’t cluttered. They serve burgers, wings, sides and milkshakes and that’s pretty much it. Price point’s pretty good just between Php 140 – Php 230 for everything on the menu.

Sweet X Manila
The fries came first and these were made of real potatoes. I could tell by the skins. These were fried to perfection, crisp outside with a wet hot center. Found these to be a tad salty so I asked the staff for garlic aioli to eat with it. Yummy.

Sweet X Manila
The wings come in 4 flavors and I was lucky to sample 3/4. They all cost Php 220, whatever you get. That’s Soy Honey on the right and Buffalo on the left with some garlic aioli in between. Didn’t try the Soy Honey cause there was one order for 9 people. The Buffalo was great, had a nice spicy kick to it and they were crispy even with the sauce. I hate when wings get soggy after getting sauced up. Served with garlic aioli, it was nice but it’d be even better if they had blue cheese to keep it classic.

Sweet X Manila
Honey BBQ was nothing special. The chicken was fried perfectly but the sauce is the typical American BBQ you’d prefer to taste when chowing on baby back ribs. Take my word for it.

Sweet X Manila
Saving the best for last, their Sriracha Lime Wings are absolutely awesome. This is a taste I want in my mouth forever. Just imagine the combination: SRIRACHA + LIME. It’s spicy, tangy, crispy and juicy all in one unforgettable combo. I know I’ll order this every time I’m at Sweet X.

Sweet X Manila
I’m usually a sucker for onion rings but I kid you not when I say these ones rank pretty high on the charts. The batter is light yet crispy, it’s lightly seasoned and combined with their garlic aioli it’s an absolute knockout. Ordering this always.

Sweet X Manila
I’m not gonna lie. When they served us the Cheeseburger (Php 170), looks-wise it wasn’t mouthwatering attractive. I’m not much of a burger person but I thought this was pretty good. I had the sandwich open faced and I generally enjoyed the taste and quality of their beef. It’s your basic cheeseburger but it’s done just right.

Sweet X Manila
For dessert, I got a Strawberry Shake (Php 160) because they were all out of Green Tea which I was curious to try. Most of their milkshake options were rich, chocolate-based flavors so I wanted to stay away from that. Based on the shake I had, the consistency was nice. It wasn’t fat and thick like melted ice cream and it wasn’t sickeningly sweet.

Sweet X Manila
If you’re craving for some really good chicken wings, a decent burger and kickass onion rings, I suggest you head on over to Sweet Ecstacy. It’s really worth the visit. I’ll definitely be back for those wings.

Sweet Ecstacy
10 Jupiter St. cor. Asteroid St.,
Barangay Bel-Air
Makati

Universe Gastrolounge
I haven’t been too present in the blogosphere but once in a while, I get to sneak out of work and try new places with fellow blog-folk. When Aldous invited me to join and sample the dishes Universe Gastrolounge, I just had to be there.

Universe Gastrolounge
I learned that Universe was Opus re-branded, owned and managed by the same group. Never went to Opus so I have absolutely no point of reference BUT I did know that Chef Aracama handled food so I had great expectations. (This is because of the time I had a shoot at Republiq and they fed us Korean Steak Tacos which were awesome. So I asked the waiter who the chef was and he said Aracama and I was loyal forever.)

Universe Gastrolounge
When I stepped in I thought Universe looked pretty cool. It had a comfortable lounge vibe with exposed brick walls, those neon scripty lights and a huge chalk wall. We were about 6 bloggers there so it was an intimate event with a whole lot of food. I didn’t get to try everything and since there was just so much but so I’ll write about the stuff I particularly enjoyed in more detail.

Universe Gastrolounge
I don’t particularly enjoy white bread but I liked the Black Bikini. It’s a grilled sandwich with prosciutto, truffle jam and cheese. This is something I’d want to recreate at home.

Universe Gastrolounge
We were served other sandwiches too like the Patty Melt and the Monte Cristo Benedict. But since my bread quota was up, I just had the potato chips and garlic aioli.

Universe Gastrolounge

Universe Gastrolounge
For starters, we also had Chicken Cobb Salad, Mixed Mushroom Dip and Patatas Bravas.

Universe Gastrolounge
I was surprised to find that they served sushi! First non-Japanese place I tried that dished out sushi.

Universe Gastrolounge

Universe Gastrolounge
Featuring the Electric Eel, Futo Wacky and the Crunchy Caterpillar.

Universe Gastrolounge
When it comes to pizza, I feel that the ones with the fewest ingredients work best. The Italian Sausage pizza they served was topped with just crumbly Italian sausage and roasted garlic – all soft and paste-y.

Universe Gastrolounge
If you’re into more American flavors, the BBQ Chicken pizza was alright as well.

Universe Gastrolounge

Universe Gastrolounge
We had the BLT (Bacon, Linguine & Truffle) Pasta as well as the Linguine Vongole. I don’t know why but I honestly don’t enjoy linguine noodles so I thought that the pasta was just OK.

Universe Gastrolounge
For mains, I thought the best thing they had was the Café Rep’s Crispy Bagnet Pork Belly which was served on a bed of kimchi rice with lechon sauce. I could eat kimchi rice with anything but honestly, the bagnet was a winner. Easily the best dish on the menu.

Universe Gastrolounge
Hesitant to try the Meatloaf and Gravy at first, my curiosity got the best of me. It wasn’t half bad. Paired with the mashed potatoes and gravy, it felt like eating a block shaped burger steak.

Universe Gastrolounge
The Boneless Beef Riblets tasted exactly like the chicken on the BBQ Chicken Pizza so like I said, if you’re really into the American BBQ taste – go for it.

Universe Gastrolounge
Dessert was a favorite for everyone, I think. The Trailer Park Monte Cristo is a deep fried, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This doesn’t look like much but it was so good I had to stop myself from devouring the entire plate.

Universe Gastrolounge
They served us the Banana Foster Sundae as well which I didn’t get to try cause I was already guilty for having the Monte Cristo. Looked good though!

Universe Gastrolounge
If I found myself back at Universe or in the midst of friends who just want to go out and party, I’d take comfort sitting out and eating. They don’t call it a Gastrolounge for nothing.

TAMBAI
I love BBQ. The simplicity of cooking raw meat over fire and eating off a stick just appeals to me and it’s precisely why I think Tambai is pure genius – the perfect marriage between yakitori and Pinoy barbecue. It was my first time there tonight and I’m definitely going back.

TAMBAI
First thing’s first, I spent about Php 700 without even noticing and that’s a lot for a meal I ate on the street. I eat a lot though so sue me. The menu is as straightforward as it gets. There’s the regular yakitori and its jumbo brother, the laki-tori. Meat prices range from Php 20-40 for the smaller sticks and Php 120-180 for the bigger ones.

TAMBAI
Ventured out with my grade school buddies Gia and Mikee (she took all the photos here) to catch up. It was everyone’s first time which was great cause we all got to experience it together.

TAMBAI
Thought a cold beer would go well with the sticks so I had a bottle of Brew Kettle (Php 45) which is reputed to be the Filipino Hoegarden. I found this to be true. Someone once told me they sold bottles of this in 7-11. They’re not on display so you need to ask for them specifically. Under the table kinda thing.

The first thing I tried when I got there was the US Beef Isaw Yakitori (Php 40). I don’t really like isaw so this was kind of a daring move on my end. Taste-wise it was good but I really couldn’t get over the texture so I had a bite and moved on.

TAMBAI
Since I got back from Korea, I’ve been obsessed with kimchi rice so I order this every chance I get. Tambai’s Kimchi Rice (Php 50) is too good for words. It just hits the spot and that’s all I can say.

TAMBAI
It’s also best paired with the US Beef Short Rib Lakitori (Php 180). When I go back, this is all I’m ordering. This and the kimchi rice. The meat’s tender and well seasoned and it just made me love beef more than I already did. One wasn’t enough so I had two and I don’t regret it one bit.

TAMBAI
I got two more lakitori sticks – the US Chicken Leg (Php 120) and the US Pork (Php 120). Yakitori’s typically chicken so I enjoyed this, being on the more traditional side with the teriyaki glaze. The pork was bland and on the tough side so it’s not something I’d recommend.

It was a random Thursday night when I visited but the place was packed. Head over early or just prepare to eat standing up. Have the US Beef Short Rib paired with the Kimchi Rice and tell me what you think.

Tambai
5779 Felipe Street,
Poblacion, Makati
(Across El Chupacabra, right next to H&J)

Feels weird to write about anything else but food on this space but I’m going to give this a shot. I’ve been wanting to expand the blog a bit more and write about other things (not limited to stuffing my face) so here’s me writing about something else I really love: shoes.

SHOES
If you’ve known me a while or if we’re close, you’d figure out shoes are really my weak spot. I used to be terrible and just mindlessly splurge until I gave myself some rules (I’m only allowed to buy when I’m abroad now). I’m a boring shopper to be honest but I’m probably any marketer’s dream. I’m the kind of person that buys the same thing in different colors. I sure hope writing about this will help me curb my consumerist greed.

SHOES
I only used to wear Adidas for football when I was playing varsity back in college. I’ve always gravitated toward classic styles so I thought the Adidas Gazelle OG would be perfect. I wear gray pants a lot so I don’t know why I bought gray shoes. Either way, I am happy with how this fits and how slim the silhouette is.

SHOES
Gazelle’s are surprisingly comfy despite being thin along the sole. They look good with absolutely anything. You could pair them with pants, shorts, a dress, a suit, whatever and they’d still look cool. That’s why classics are the best pieces – you can dress them up and dress them down.

SHOES
I’ve been preparing for a tennis tournament so apologies to everyone around me but I’ve been really obsessed. Of course I found a way to sneak this in. I went through a lot of tennis shoes, I would just get Nike before but found that they’d break easily. Adidas looked cool – I had the Barricade – but they were just way too heavy. So when I went to Japan, I thought to try on some Asics for a change. Now, I use the Asics PRESTIGELYTE AC and they’re the best tennis shoes I’ve ever owned.

They’re lightweight yet well-padded and the Gel technology makes me feel like I’m walking on clouds even while in the court. AC stands for ALL COURT by the way so whether you play on grass, clay, shell or hard courts, you can use these. There was no break-in period for these guys so I highly recommend Asics to everybody. They have great running shoes too.

If you’re looking for Asics, I know Zalora’s pretty well stocked. They don’t have tennis shoes but for running, futsal or volleyball they have a wide range of different sneaker styles. I’ve got my eye on the Onitsuka Tokuten but it’s a shame they ran out of my size.

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