Travelogue Manila: Explore Filipino History At Ayala Museum, Makati

As someone who loves history and culture, there’s one thing I really like about Manila – the museums! Not only are they full of interesting exhibits, they’re also pretty well maintained (well, at least the ones I’ve been to).  On my most recent visit, N and I visited Ayala Museum, located close to the Greenbelt shopping area in Makati.

Photo: ayalamuseum.org

Established in 1967, the museum is privately run by the Ayala Foundation, under the Ayala Group which is the oldest conglomerate in the Philippines. The museum was moved from a heritage building to its current location in the early 2000s. The impressive six-storey structure is made from glass, granite and steel and boasts a modern look.

There are four floors of galleries to explore. Photos are only allowed on the 2nd floor (dioramas), so please excuse the lack of pix.

Image: KINNARI. Surigao. Ca. 10th-13th century. 7.4 x 4.6 x 12.1 cm. 179 grams. Cat. No. 81.5189. Ayala Museum Collection, Photo by Neal Oshima, for Ayala Museum. 

We began our visit on the fourth floor, as advised. This level houses a permanent exhibition called Gold of Ancestors, which has over 1,000 gold objects from the pre-colonial Spanish era, on display.

Spanish influence plays a big part in Filipino history – and we can see that in the form of churches, religious artefacts and artworks – but I think that many people, Filipinos included, have not really delved into the rich indigenous culture that existed before the Spaniards came.

The GoA is a good place to start, as it not only highlights the advanced technology local cultures used in gold smithing, but also the sophisticated social systems they adopted.  The exhibition features precious objects recovered from the 10th to 13th centuries, from sashes and necklaces to bracelets and earrings. These were worn by the elite, and the more complicated the pieces, the more elite the person wearing it was in social standing. There is also a collection of funerary gold masks.

Also on the same floor is A Millennium Of Contact, home to an extensive collection of 500+ Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics found in the Philippines  – proving that trade and social ties existed in the past between these nations.

Image details: BLUE AND WHITE TWIN BIRD WATER DROPPER. Ca. 14th to 15th century. Ming Dynasty. Roberto T. Villanueva Collection. 

Moving on, we made our way to the Fernando Zobel gallery, where a collection of his artwork in the 1960s are on display. A member of the prominent Zobel de Ayala family (of which the museum is named after), the works were done in his mid-thirties after Zobel decided to retire from the family business. Visitors can observe the change in his artistic style through the years, most of which were done in abstract form.

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Aside from the Gold of Ancestors exhibit, my favourite part of the museum was the Dioramas section, which chronicled important events throughout Philippine history, from the stone age right up til modern times. Photos are allowed here, so enjoy!

(Above) A group of stone age men hunting a predecessor of the modern elephant.

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Building rice terraces on the hill slopes.

I was really impressed by the effort put into constructing the dioramas. Even though the exhibits were static, it was fun picking out small details. Each set was arranged in chronological order around the hall (60 in total).

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Arrival of Arab traders, which propagated the spread of Islam in the Philippines.

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Construction of the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university in the Philippines / Asia.

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The Spanish invasion of the Muslim-dominated southern region.

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Town scenes of early Manila

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Malacanang Palace, which was built by the Spanish to house the Governor General of the Philippines as a summer home. Lavish balls ala Europe would be held here.

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The Katipunan (also known as the KKK) was a group of revolutionaries opposed against Spanish rule. They have little in common with the American racist organisation KKK, although in this diorama the face masks look eerily similar.

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The revolution spread through towns, hamlets and small villages.

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The execution of Jose Rizal.

I’ve always felt that Rizal was a man beyond his time; a gifted polyglot who could speak 22 (!) languages and who excelled both in arts, math and the sciences. His death was a dark moment in history, but his is a story that proves that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Although he was never part of the violent revolution, his ideas and work ignited a fire in the hearts of the Filipino people that could not be subdued.

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There were loads of other sets depicting the American occupation, Philippine independence, Japanese invasion and more. You can view the full set of dioramas here.

Ayala Museum is a definite must visit for fans of arts, culture and history. Entry is PHP425 (USD8 / RM32) for adults. PS: Teachers enter for free!

AYALA MUSEUM 

Avenue corner De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

Operating hours: 9AM – 6PM (closed Mondays)

Travelogue: Saturdays At Salcedo Market, Makati

Hey guys!

So it’s my fourth time visiting Manilayou’d think I’d be bored and running out of things to do by now – but this city has a way of surprising me.

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Morning was overcast, but the Boy and I decided there was enough sun to go visit Salcedo Market – an open-air artisan/organic/food market located in the heart of Makati.

Held every Saturday at Salcedo Village, which is a nice green plot surrounded by condominiums, the market hosts dozens of stalls peddling everything from fresh seafood and handicrafts to flowers and organic local produce. It isn’t very large, but there’s plenty to see and experience (and eat!).

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Different kinds of fresh seafood: shrimp, catfish, milkfish, squid, crab, eel, even tuna eggs.

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You can also find ‘exotic’ dishes like fried pigeon!

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Tropical fruits – pomelo, jackfruit, rambutan, lychee and longan, mangoes – and not so tropical fruits, like strawberries and cherries.

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Stall selling honey and honey-related products. They even had a honeycomb panel with live bees in it.

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Traditional ice cream cart, complete with brightly painted exterior and carriage-style wheels.

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You’ll also find fancy stuff at the market, like Lobster Rolls. At PHP500++ per roll, this is for those who want to splurge but still get that ‘street’ food vibe.

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Cheeses, spreads, dips and pate. Interesting flavours!

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My mom had this running joke about how I’m actually European in my past life because I like bread > rice

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All that walking around and smelling the food got me hungry, so we stopped at this stall selling lechon wrap with plum sauce. The wrap was ala Chinese – thin and filled with spring onions and vegetables – and then there was the tender, moist juiciness of the meat and the crisp of the skin. Explosion of flavours and textures in the mouth.

Only qualm was it cost PHP85 which is quite expensive, and the wrap was gone in a bite 😀

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You’ll find different kinds of cuisine here! We saw a lot of Spanish-influenced dishes, traditional Filipino items, even a Malaysian (!) stall selling curry –  alongside Japanese takoyaki, pizza, grilled sausages, etc.

I had chicken isaw (intestines), cooked on the grill to order. Unfortunately no picture :/

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Stuffed fish. These are also cooked to order on the grill.

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Boy and I got a taho (silky tofu dessert) to share. This is very similar to the Malaysian-Chinese tau foo far, although the Filipino version is much sweeter and adds sago pearls. Vendors usually scoop the soft tofu out of a large metal bucket, and ladles the syrup from another.

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I really enjoyed my time at Salcedo Market ! It’s reminiscent of the farmers markets/organic markets in Western countries, but with a local touch. We don’t have too many markets of this kind in Malaysia: there’s usually pasar pagi (morning wet markets) and pasar malam (night markets selling food or cheap clothing). There were many expats doing the rounds during our visit. I can see myself coming here every weekend if I stayed in the area.

SALCEDO MARKET 

Jaime C. Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati, Kalakhang Maynila, Philippines

Open: 7AM til 2PM Saturdays

 

 

I Survived A Flash Flood In Metro Manila

… that makes me practically a Manilan, right?

Hey guys! Just arrived back in KL, but I thought I’d share my experience of a flash flood in Manila while it’s still fresh in my mind lol.

Owning and driving a car in the Phils is a privilege – something a lot of Malaysians take for granted (Malaysia has the third highest car ownership in the world at 93%, according to a Nielsens report). Since the Boy didn’t drive, we did a lot of commuting while travelling around the city. Filipinos will agree with me that this isn’t always pleasant (being squashed like sardines into a van/train, smoke and diesel fumes, jeepneys loading and unloading all along the road, etc) and can be very time consuming.

Add heavy rain to that equation and what do you get? Utter chaos.

We had just finished visiting a museum near Rizal Park at 5PM on a weekday, when it started to rain. Wasn’t just the mild English summer kind, mind you – this was a full-blown, torrential downpour of the tropics. We managed to get shelter by the sidewalk, but the rain was relentless, and we ended up spending an hour at a Chinese restaurant sipping tea while waiting for it to cease. It didn’t.

By 6.30PM, the rain was still going strong and our repeated attempts to flag down taxis / get a Grab came to nothing. I suggested that we walk to a mall nearby (it was 800 metres away) to see if we had better luck there. After much hemming and hawing (he was reluctant to walk in the rain), the man finally agreed. Bought an umbrella and started down the street. Initially it went well, but we underestimated how bad the drainage was, and soon found ourselves wading into puddles of water that rose higher and higher.

The roads were literally flooded everywhere we turned and people were walking in the middle of the street (in between moving vehicles!) in an attempt to avoid the water.

It got to a point where the street was not cross-able, unless you were willing to wade into it, so we stopped at a hospital area. Moving vehicles passing by caused the water to slosh up the ramp in waves. The rain had stopped by then but the flood waters didn’t seem like they’d recede anytime soon. After much hesitation on the boy’s part (he’s a hypochondriac) we decided to brave the flood waters. Of course, this was after considering that we had no open wounds on our legs, and we had to be very careful not to step into a hole and hurt ourselves, since visibility in the water was limited.  The water level came up to the middle of my calves. Good thing there wasn’t any shit floating around because I think the boy would have lost his shit xD

After wading through for about 10 minutes (?) we finally got to ‘dry’ land.  Still no taxis or Grab – traffic was at a standstill at this point – but we managed to get a shuttle bus heading to the airport, which was close to our hotel. I think our decision to brave the route to the mall was a good one, because originally, the boy wanted to try the train station at Taft Avenue (pic above) lol.

The entire ordeal took us five hours, before we were safe and snug back in the hotel.

So there you have it – I survived a flash flood in Manila! I’m practically a local now, lol.

PS: Flash floods can be dangerous. People have been swept away in cases and drowned. In our case, the rain had stopped and the water wasn’t deep, so we made a calculated decision to walk through the streets. 

And finally….

**I laughed way too hard at that last orange barrier hitting the van.

 

Photos from Manila Bulletin

Review: Buffalo Wild Wings, Conrad Manila

Yeah, yeah… I know I just had wings at Frankie’s a few days prior, but when I saw that there was a Buffalo Wild Wings, I just couldn’t resist. The first (and only time) I had it was during my trip to Los Angeles several years ago. The sports-themed bar/resto left a really good impression, so I walked in to their branch in Manila with some expectations. They did not disappoint.

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Located just next to the lobby of Conrad Manila, the interior has been modeled to look like the American ones, with the same cheerful bright yellow walls paired with brick deco, booth-style seating, mini bar and lots of sport paraphernalia, from posters to signed shirts. Large screen TVs playing sports channels dominate every corner of the ceiling. We were there early so the resto was quite empty, but service was quick, friendly and efficient nonetheless.

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The best combo. Tho I don’t drink beer. 😀

N and I got two flavours to share. They go from mild to moderate to spicy to you-will-cry spicy. You can also choose to have the regular wings or boneless.

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Buffalo dry rub. Wings were lightly coated, so the skin was thin, crisp and made crackling noises with each bite. Meat inside was tender, moist and juicy. The rub had just the right balance of savoury with a hint of sour. Dip was creamy without being cloying. Good stuff!

Asian Zing was a delectable, finger-licking combination of sweet, savoury,and tangy. The ranch dip helped to take the edge off the spiciness.

The wings were top notch, and we enjoyed munching on them as we watched some matches on the big screen TVs up above. It’s easy to polish off a dozen in one go! Prices are slightly above average but as expected of its location/setting. They also have branches in BGC and Makati.

BUFFALO WILD WINGS 

Conrad Hotel Manila, Seaside Blvd, Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines

Opening hours: 11AM – 11PM (Sun-Thurs), 11AM – 12AM (Fri-Sat)

Phone: (02) 777-2905

buffalowildwings.ph

 

The Best Sunset In Manila – Bay Area Amusement Park @ SM Mall of Asia

Manila is touted for its sunsets, and one of the best places to catch it is at the Bay Area Amusement Park, just across the road from SM Mall of Asia. Reminiscent of Santa Monica Beach in LA, the area has a carnival-esque atmosphere, with a giant ferris wheel overlooking the bay, rides and game stalls.

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N and I arrived just in time for sunset, when the sky was a fluffy cotton-candy pink and blue. Crowds were gathered all along the stretch, which is lined with quaint cafes, bars, pubs and eateries.

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Found a good spot to watch the fiery orb sinking into the horizon. Waters around the bay are a polluted, inky black, but it creates a vivid, starking contrast with the sky and clouds.

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Instead of American-style corndogs, you can get corn in cups instead.

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I’m a kid at heart, so while I enjoy a fancy dinner once in awhile, I’m not averse to a fun, casual date just strolling along the pier, playing carnival/arcade games and eating cotton candy.

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Fountain and Christmas decorations across one of the entrances to Mall of Asia.

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Walking over to the mall via the pedestrian bridge. The roads here are much better planned and less congested than downtown Manila.

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MOA deserves its title as one of the largest malls in Asia. Spanning across several interconnected buildings and smaller outdoor strips, it would take hours to explore the whole place on foot. You can find everything under one roof here, from food to clothing and furniture, entertainment and more. The shops are a good mix of affordable and mid-end with a selection of luxury stores.

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Hotel Review: Discovery Suites Manila, Ortigas Centre Pasig

For most of my trip to Manila, I stayed over at the boyfie’s house, but we also spent a night with his fam on a staycation at Discovery Suites Manila in Ortigas Centre, Pasig. This was one of the places I looked up while searching for hotels but decided to skimp on to save money.

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Located at the heart of the Ortigas business/commercial district and just steps away from SM Megamall, the 4-star serviced suites cuts an impressive figure and spans more than a dozen floors, with various facilities such as a swimming pool and a coffee house. The whole place exudes a cosy ambience, thanks to the warm yellow lighting. Since it was Christmas, the lobby boasted a giant Christmas tree and decorations which gave it a festive atmosphere.

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There are different configurations to suit your needs, from junior (studio) to three-room configurations. Since N has a big family, we stayed at the three-room suite, which measures 140 square metres. I was impressed. Spacious and nicely furnished, it looked like an expensive but homely apartment. Polished wooden floors, soft fluffy rugs and sofas, TV and a large study desk made up the living room, while a huge wooden dining table with matching chairs were placed near the entrance.

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More yellow ambient lighting with elegant touches of decor.

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DIning area for six.

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Kitchen, complete with fridge, microwave, utensils and cabinets for those who want to prepare their own meals.

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Master bed room had a king-sized bed with a grand bed stand and traditional work station. Also its own bathroom and bathtub!

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N and I took the third room which had two super-single beds. The duvets were soooo fluffy and soft, I literally sank into them. ❤ They also gave us plenty of pillows. Also in the room was a closet and our very own TV. The adjoining bathroom didn’t have a bathtub but came with a shower and glass partition. I think the overall setup is ideal for families and business travelers who want the feel of a private residence coupled with hotel amenities.

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Welcome cookies/cakes!

N and I went to the swimming pool (no pix though). It wasn’t that big but sufficient to have a dip. Also enjoyed the jacuzzi pool although it was small and people kept hogging it. .__.

All in all I enjoyed my stay! I loved the unit we stayed in. I hope to have a nice apartment like that some day 😛

discoverysuites.com

 

Review: Niu by Vikings @ SM Aura, Taguig

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Located on the 6th (rooftop) floor of SM Aura in Taguig, Niu is the slightly more upscale/classier version of Vikings, the popular buffet chain in the Philippines. I’ve read alot of good things about the place on blogs and review websites like Zomato and Tripadvisor, and since birthday babies get a free meal, we thought of celebrating N’s 31st birthday there. We arrived around 6.15pm according to the booking, and were ushered in straightaway, skipping the long queue.

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The hall was long and spacious. I’m guessing at least 200 covers! Decor was classy and elegant, with grey chairs and tables with marble tops. A pianist played Christmas tunes, filling the air with a warm and cheerful ambience.

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The buffet spread was really long! Stretching from one end of the restaurant to the other, it was divided according to stations that served Japanese, local, Western, Italian fare and more. At the ‘live’ cooking station, diners could watch their meal being prepared right before their eyes.

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Noodle station where you can customise your bowl of noodles with various ingredients, different types of noodles, soup paste and sauces.

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Shabu-shabu corner.

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Roasting station with a selection of meats like duck, chicken and pork.

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Seafood tossed in dressings.

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Live grill station.

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The popular roast station with gigantic slabs of beef and lamb.

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After reading the reviews (N himself has been here before and said the food was good), we were both disappointed with how mediocre the quality was. Despite the huge selection , everything we tried was really meh. The beef and lamb from the carvery was dry and overcooked, with none of that lovely pink juiciness on the inside. I didn’t take pictures of the rest of the food I ate, but most of it was an equal let-down. The Chinese dimsum station lacked luster and fried items were overly greasy. Sushi was okay but I’ve had better at buffets. The only thing I really liked was the cheese and cold cuts station which had a decent choice of cheeses. I mean, if you mess cheese up then you’re really fked, amirite ?

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Greasssay.

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Okay sushi.

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The wine station. Am not a big fan of wine, but N is and he was disappointed with the variety as well.

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Bread station.

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We were done with savouries, so moving on to the desserts. The desserts helped redeem the experience by a teeeeensy bit.

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Chocolate fondue station helped redeem some brownie points.

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Ended the meal on a cold sweet note with ice-cream. These were nice, creamy and well balanced.

I’m really not sure if we just came at a bad time, or if this is how the much-hyped about food at Niu is supposed to be. Wasn’t impressed. For its price @ PHP1500++, I was expecting better. This pales in comparison to the value-for-money and tastiness I got at Dad’s @ SM Megamall, which is a fraction of the price.

Will I be coming back? Nah. But then again, taste buds always differ and many people (and locals – it might just be my Malaysian tastebuds) have vouched for the experience + food, so maybe you will have a better dining experience.

NIU BY VIKINGS 

6th floor, SM Aura Premier, McKinley Parkway, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila, Philippines
Business hours; 11AM – 10PM
Phone: +63 2 478 3888

Review: Osaka Ohsho, SM Megamall – Good Gyoza, Terrible “Flying Noodles”

On my last night in Manila, N and I went to SM Megamall in Ortigas for some shopping and dinner. I was craving for some soba, but the first Japanese resto we went to didn’t serve any, so ended up at this place called Osaka Ohsho.

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Founded in the Osaka region of Japan (hence the name), the franchise is popular in its native Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea and Singapore, and has since added the Philippines to its repertoire. It boasts a warm, casual dining ambience and cosy Japanese-themed decor.

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Despite being only moderately packed, our orders took more than half an hour to arrive. Improvements can be done with the service.

Now, there’s a reason for my blog title, lol. Let’s start with the good stuff – their gyoza, also their specialty. There are several types on offer, including traditional ones and flavours with a twist such as bacon/cheese and truffle. We opted for the latter, which came in a serving of six for PHP280 (RM22).

It was good. I’d give it an 8/10. Crisp, slightly translucent skin enveloped a generous amount of filling within, topped with a distinct aroma of truffle. It embodied what good gyoza should be: Crunchy on the outside, juicy and succulent on the inside. Now, if I had only been eating this, I would have no complaints, but my grouse is with the two mains.

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They were having a promotion with seasonal dishes called ‘Flying Noodles’, and since I was craving soba, I ordered one with black squid ink and fried ebi tempura. I specifically asked the server if there was a chilled light broth for dipping. And he said yes. He must not have understood me because what came was an inky black concoction made of squid ink. I was under the impression that only the noodles were made from squid ink, and not the sauce. That would have been fine if it tasted good, but it was not so, as I would find out shortly.

Do not be fooled by its beautiful presentation. I’d give this a -100. That’s how bad it was. There was basically nothing good about the dish, other than the tempura, its only saving grace.

Since soba is tasteless, what really makes or breaks the dish is the dipping sauce. The squid ink sauce was TERIBBLE. It was like drinking salt. Pointed it out to the server and she told me it was like that (??) pls don’t give me that. I’ve eaten plenty of squid ink pastas before and nothing comes close to how bad it was. I ate two bites of the soba and left the sauce untouched after that first dip. It was extremely frustrating as a paying customer to shell out this much money for substandard, sub par food.

PS: I looked up reviews by bloggers on the Internet, singing praises about the noodles. I’m just like ??? Is it me? Maybe it’s me? But then I’ve eaten at a relatively modest number of nice Japanese establishments in my life and I’ve never come across something as bad as this before. So maybe it isn’t me? 

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At least N’s “Special Fuwatoro Tenshin Han” was merely underwhelming rather than being outright terrible. Egg was okay but again, sauce was its downfall – watery, starchy, tasteless. I guess all the salt went into the squid ink soba dip lol. Not worth the price we paid one iota.

I was disappointed that my last meal in Manila ended on such a sour note. Would I come back here again? Maybe, but purely for the gyoza and nothing else. If you’re planning on trying the Flying Noodles anyway, perhaps you will have better luck with their other variants like bacon and cheese and matcha teriyaki.

The monstrosity that is the Squid Ink Flying Noodles will only be available until January 15, so if you’re feeling brave and you distrust a Malaysian who might not have the same taste buds, then yeah. Feel free to shell out PHP350++.

PS: This is not a paid review. But a spade is a spade, even if it is. Opinions are entirely my own.

  • Food: Gyoza 8/10. That squid ink abomination, -100.
  • Service: 6/10.
  • Ambience: 7/10
  • Price: Expect everything to be upwards of PHP300 for mains.

OSAKA OHSHO 

Building D SM Megamall, EDSA Cor Julia Vargas Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong, 1550 Metro Manila, Philippines

Phone number: +63 9178285011

Opening hours: 10AM- 10PM (daily)