EAT's a treat at Ayala Malls!

- Julie Cabatit-Alegre () - September 4, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - We love to eat. We eat not only when we’re hungry but also to celebrate.

Through good times and bad, we eat. Filipinos eat at least six times a day. Besides regular meals, we must have our snacks in between, our morning merienda and our afternoon teatime.

North Park calls them Tea Treats.  North Park is one of the popular restaurants in the Ayala Malls and BPI selected by The Philippine STAR to participate in the EAT Dining Festival to celebrate the newspaper’s 25th anniversary.

For its Star dish, North Park chose their popular crispy lechon wrap and christened it the “Star Wrap.”

“It is North Park’s version of a sandwich in a wrap,” Nhoe Napaton, North Park marketing assistant, explained. “Peking doilies are filled with chopped, crispy lechon Macau with special dressing, cucumber and onion leeks to balance the taste, and served with wonton chips and dip.”

Lechon Macau happens to be one of North Park’s all-time bestsellers. “It is the way lechon Macau should be,” Germaine Salvador, North Park marketing consultant, remarked. The pork is not deep-fried, as others do it, but roasted. “It’s a slow-roasting process,” Salvador explained. “We choose pork that has a good blend of meat and fat. The skin must be thin, so it turns out nice and crispy.” The roast specialty dish was so popular that they decided to develop a snack version of it also.

“It is one of Sir Paeng’s favorites,” Salvador reveals, referring to North Park owner Rafael Soon. “He likes to experiment with new dishes in the kitchen, which was built right inside his office,” Salvador relates. “It’s his own private kingdom.” North Park has long been known and loved for their Chinoy comfort food: dim sum, congee, noodles, hotpot dishes, and a wide selection of Chinese specialties.

For the Star EAT dining festival, North Park also chose its popular Nai Cha with Jelly and christened it “Newscha Jelly.” It is North Park’s version of milk tea served as a shake with strips of herb jelly. “It’s a perfect partner for your teatime meal,” Napaton said. The thing is, North Park’s Tea Treats can be enjoyed not only during teatime. In fact, the Star Wrap is filling enough to serve as your brunch. “Sulit-busog meal” is how Napaton likes to describe it.

Tony Roma’s, the casual dining restaurant best known for their baby back ribs, chose their “Star-Studded Sampler” as the Star dish for the EAT dining festival. They’ve always had it on their menu, so there was no need to give it a new name. “This is the choice if you can’t decide which of our great ribs to try,” Tony Roma’s general manager, Rosa Eugenio, remarked.

“Our Star-Studded Sampler comes in four different sauces. When served, the ribs are arranged in a way so the flavors do not mix and the guests would know which is which, ” Tony Roma’s manager, Francisco Bonifacio, explained. “The ones with the orange wedge are the Carolina Honeys, while the one on top of it is the Original Baby Back with BBQ sauce. On the other side of the platter are the ribs with the Red Hot sauce, and on top are the Blue Ridge Smokies.” The rib entrees are served with cole slaw and a choice of baked potato, French fries, ranch-style beans, rice, roasted garlic, green beans, mixed vegetables or corn on the cob.

Although Tony Roma’s is best known for their ribs, they also serve seafood, salads, chicken, and steaks. “We have the best pumpkin soup in town,” Eugenio says.

A satisfied guest went as far as to say that, having tried it in restaurants all the way up to Antipolo, he still found the one served at Tony Roma’s in Makati the best pumpkin soup he’s ever tasted. “You should also try our onion loaf,” Eugenio insists. Giant hand-cut onions are breaded, deep-fried and served with a BBQ mayo dipping sauce. A new dessert item is the green mango pie.

“We give our guests a ‘menu tour,’ a quick run-through of the items on the menu, and we give suggestions,” Bonifacio relates. “Often, they ask for our specialties.” They have many repeat and loyal customers. “With Tony Roma’s privilege card, a member can enjoy lots of special benefits not only here in Manila but also in Tony Roma’s restaurants in Singapore, Jakarta, Taipei, Bangkok, Shanghai, Berlin, Sydney, and Bandung,” Eugenio says. They also introduced the Friends of Tony Roma’s card. “It’s a free corporate card where employees of your company can enjoy up to a 20-percent discount and lots of special benefits,” Eugenio explains.

The restaurant can also serve as a venue for special functions and events. “Tony Roma’s is an ideal place to host your child’s birthday party,” Bonifacio says. But whether there’s a special occasion or not, the good food at Tony Roma’s is enough reason to celebrate.

For The Philippine Star’s 25th-anniversary EAT dining festival, CPK chose its pepperoni pizza as its Star dish and named it “Fresh off the Press.” It is straightforward, with the traditional mozzarella and tomato sauce topped with pepperoni. “We use high-quality pepperoni imported from the US,” says CPK senior operations director, Gina Salazar. “It makes all the difference. It’s not oily, unlike some others.”

“Although our name is California Pizza Kitchen, we would like people to know that we serve not only pizzas,” Salazar says. “We offer a menu adventure that is like a trip around the globe.”

There are a number of new items. The Karaage Chicken is Japanese-style fried chicken served with a side of ponzu citrus-soy dipping sauce. The Korean BBQ Steak Tacos is served with Napa cabbage, romaine, onions, scallions and cilantro on flour tortillas topped with spicy chili sauce; while the Moroccan chicken salad is a generous serving of Moroccan-spiced chicken, romaine, roasted squash, dates, avocado, toasted almonds, beets, chopped egg, carrots, dried cranberries and bell peppers, tossed with a honey-Dijon vinaigrette.

The pizzas also have some new, interesting flavors such as the roasted artichoke and spinach pizza, the roasted duck pizza, and the smoked salmon pizza. “We also have personal-sized pizzas and pastas,” says Ellen Bernales, CPK marketing manager, “so you can try more flavors.”

And how about having your pizza with wine? “We are introducing some new pairings,” Salazar says. We enjoyed our “Fresh off the Press” pepperoni pizza with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. That should qualify as a food adventure, especially since it was late in the afternoon. We thought nothing else would top that, until we tried the S’mores Pizza, CPK’s newest dessert pizza offering. Made with their classic pizza dough thinly pressed and topped with butter, dark Belgian chocolate and marshmallows, it is baked to a perfect crisp and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a touch of whipped cream. Need we say more?

You will not find the “Star Ravioli” on Bistro Ravioli’s menu, at least for now, since it was made especially for The Philippine STAR’s EAT dining festival. “It is a chorizo and tomato ravioli,” managing director Princess Pilarta, explains.

While many Filipinos are big pasta lovers, until now not too many are familiar with ravioli, Pilarta observes. It was during a trip to Italy that she was introduced to the traditional type of Italian filled pasta. She saw the opportunity to popularize it here.

“The ravioli pasta is always freshly made,” she says. She takes pride in the open-kitchen layout at Bistro Ravioli, “so the customers can see for themselves how it is done,” she says.

There are other items on the menu — nine kinds of pasta dishes including the more familiar meatball spaghetti; brick oven-baked pizzas; chicken and Italian-style ribs; salads, salsas and dips; and three kinds of desserts — choco lava, panna cotta, and tiramisu, naturally. And of course, there’s the ravioli. There are six kinds listed, but the Star Ravioli will definitely be added as a permanent item on the menu, Pilarta said.

That’s the good news!

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