Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cyma Estiatorio

Cyma Estiatorio
Location : Trinoma, Quezon City
Cuisine : Greek / Mediterranean
Menu Price Range :
Php 100.00 - Php 800.00
Service Charge: 10%
Rating :

It's very difficult to find good Mediterranean food here in the Philippines. Somehow, this cuisine has somehow been pigeon-holed into stalls or side-street eateries that offer nothing more than a bastardized version of the Gyro. There are, of course, casual dining establishments like Cafe Mediterranean, but these places are few and far between.

You can imagine my disbelief then when I was told there was a great Mediterranean restaurant that offered authentic Greek cuisine in a fine dining setting. I've managed to catch a glimpse of their branch at Greenbelt 3 once in a while, but often found it packed with people. Several acquaintances have also praised the establishment, claiming that their authentic Greek cuisine is nothing less than Olympian.

Fortunately, there definitely is something to all the hype. Cyma has a very charming and classic simplicity to it, echoing the cuisine contained within. The interior resembles a Greek taverna complete with simulated period lamps and furnishings, but with a modern twist. Cyma goes to great lengths to assure a great dining experience from the friendly staff to the authentic cuisine. Of course, great Mediterranean cuisine doesn't come cheap, but, in this case, it's well-worth your money.

Pikilia Mezedes Combination
Price: Php 420.00
Rating: A -

Fans of dips and spreads will find this sampler a treat. You get to sample all of their available dips, the Tzatziki (cucumber, garlic and Greek yoghurt), Melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant, garlic, tomatoes lemon and evoo (short for extra virgin olive oil)), Htipiti (creamed feta cheese, roasted peppers and evoo), Taramosalata (greek caviar, salted fish roe) and the more familiar Hummous (chickpea, tahini and garlic).

Each dip had its unique taste and texture. The Tzatziki reminded me of the Filipino dish called Ensalada which has similar ingredients minus the overpowering onion flavor. The Htipiti had a mildly spicy aftertaste while the Tzatziki and Taramosalata were somewhat tart. Served with warm pita bread, this appetizer is best when eating with a large group (four or more). I personally felt the serving of the pita bread was inadequate - a good portion of the dips remained even after we finished our bread. Additional pita bread can be ordered, however, for Php. 40.00.

Roka Salata
Price: Php 295.00 (solo), Php 390 (to share), Php 580.00 (family)
Rating: A

This monster of a salad was composed of fresh roka (arugula), lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts and parmesan tossed in traditional Greek vinaigrette. The explosion of various flavors all in one salad was simply amazing - the sweetness of the candied walnuts, the sourness of the vinaigrette, the salty taste of the cheese, and the peppery-mustard flavor of arugula - all in very generous servings. I thought the waiter had mistaken that I asked for family, but I confirmed that this really was their "to share" size. I highly recommend this salad.

Baby Clams Angel Hair
CYMA Original
Price: Php. 260.00 (solo), Php. 390.00 (to share), Php. 520.00 (family)
Rating: B

Another light dish, this pasta had a hefty serving of pacific baby clams over pasta bathed in wine, lemon, garlic evoo, parsley and parmesan cheese. The very light sauce complimented the taste of the clams. As an option, you may squeeze lemon onto it to add more flavor. Anyone who is used to strong flavors in their pasta might find this dish quite plain-tasting. Again, their very generous "to share" serving may well serve up to four people.

Paidakia Lamb Chops
Price: Php 550.00
Rating: B -

Recommended by the server, this Cyma specialty of char-grilled lamb ribs was served with pepper stuffed with rice (or you can change it to Greek roasted potatoes) and a slice of lemon. In addition, they served a warm washing bowl since the dish is meant to be eaten using your hands. Though the lamb is tender, some had tendons that make them harder for the meat to be bitten and chewed. The rice inside the bell pepper was boiled with tomatoes and spices and tasted sweet. It was on separate plate that had a lot of oil which makes a person think twice about finishing the siding.

Pistachio Pagoto (Ice Cream)
Other Available Flavors: Cyma's Cheese cake Sorbet and Mint Chocolate Dip
Price: Php 145.00
Rating: C

The ice cream was a refreshing dessert to finish your Mediterranean meal. Served with a sprinkle of various nuts, it complimented the light but tasty ice cream. I was informed it was only a scoop, but it was a big scoop that may be shared by two. Still, for a scoop of ice cream, it was pretty expensive.


Food: Cyma epitomizes authentic Greek cuisine by serving foods fresh and light. Though we might have ordered too much for four people, we didn't feel bloated afterwards. Unlike most cuisines that cover their ingredients with too much sauce or breading, the natural flavor of the food shines in every dish, simply complimented by lemon, cheese or extra virgin olive oil.

Ambiance: Like the cuisine, the place was simple yet elegant. Most tables had comfy chairs and there were a few couches tucked up in the restaurant's corner. The place was predominantly in calming white and blue. Though most its branches of are notably full with patrons, this new branch was comparatively silent and cozy. Visiting the establishment also during lunchtime might be a reason for the difference.

Value: Cyma is a place to eat with friends and groups. Though close to the Php. 500.00 range, their bigger servings are good enough to feed three people or more. Their appetizers and salads were a very good value. The drink and the desserts were a bit pricey.

Service: The servers were very knowledgeable with the food and were quick to make suggestions from their popular and original dishes. The service was excellent. Upon learning it was my companion's birthday, they surprised us with a complimentary, candle-lit vanilla ice cream and sang to the celebrant. They even shouted their signature "Opa!" (an exclamatory Greek word for jubilation / celebration) as the celebrant blew out her candle.

Overall: If you are tired of other cuisines and want to try something different and healthy, Greek cuisine at Cyma is definitely a must try. With their unique dishes and huge servings, it is an ideal place to eat out with friends. Greek food names should not discourage you from trying them out with the help of friendly servers. Reconsider ordering desserts though, for they are a bit pricey.

© 2008 Tanya Obedoza
Edited by Pablo Bairan

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Big Apple Pizza Co.

Big Apple Pizza Co.
Location :
Allegro Center, Pasong Tamo Ext. , Makati City
Cuisine :
Tel #: +63 (2) 757-888
Menu Price Range
: Php 64.00 - Php 168.00 (Php 512.00 to Php 784.00 for whole pizzas)
Service Charge:
Rating : C+

Recently, the number of New York-style pizzerias has been on the rise in Metro Manila. From the old favorite, Yellow Cab Pizza, to the more recent Brooklyn Pizza, these establishments thrive on delivering mammoth, hand-tossed pizzas to an eager public. Big Apple Pizza Co. is poised to be yet another contender, offering not only New York-style pizzas, but also salads, pastas, fried chicken, and even Strombolis to their clientèle.

Unlike Yellow Cab and Brooklyn, however, Big Apple Pizza Co. has an attractive and spacious dining area where patrons can enjoy their cuisine. The tables and chairs are stylish although somewhat hard and uncomfortable. There are also additional tables and chairs located just outside their store, allowing customers to smoke while dining.

Orders are taken at the counter, but, once they're made, they're delivered to you promptly by their courteous staff. Pizzas only come in one size: a gigantic 20-inch thin-crust New York pizza. The slices are so big, in fact, that you might want to ask them to divide it into more slices, eat it with a fork and knife, or simply fold it in half as the large surface area makes it a bit unwieldy to eat traditionally.

Mexican Taco Pizza
Price: Php 89.00/ Php 712.00 (whole)
Rating: B

A very large slice of pizza layered with tomato sauce then smothered with beef, tomato salsa, shredded lettuce and finally topped with cheddar cheese. This pizza was actually quite unique and creative, combining some of the best elements of Italian and Mexican cuisine. The lettuce was crunchy and the ground beef and salsa went well together, providing a tasty and filling meal in itself.

The pizza dough wasn't very crunchy, however, due to the fact that the dish was simply reheated instead of made from scratch. I was told that in order for them to make one, I would have to order at least half a pizza - in other words, four large slices.

Another word of warning: the Mexican Taco Pizza was quite messy to eat. If you cut it with a knife and fork, it would just fall apart and if you tried to lift the slice, the toppings would fall off. It didn't help either that it was served on a piece of cardboard rather than a plate.

Grilled Chicken Ceasar
Price: Php 168.00
Rating: C-

This dish is comprised of several slices of grilled chicken strips on a bed of lettuce garnished with some tomato slices and peppered with parmesan cheese. A stick of garlic bread was included as well as a small plastic cup containing their Caesar dressing.

The salad was plentiful, but lacked variety, it was basically just lettuce and two slices of tomatoes with some grilled chicken slices on top. There were no onions, mushrooms, peppers, olives, radishes, or even red cabbage included, making the salad taste a bit monotonous. The grilled chicken wasn't very flavorful either, tasting dry and reheated. In contrast, the home-made dressing was full of flavor, but a bit too salty.

Stromboli (Beef & Mushroom)
Price: Php 125.00
Rating: B+

A burrito-sized dough stuffed with either Bacon, Chicken, and Mushroom, Sausage and Pepperoni, or Beef and Mushroom. It is also served with a cup of Pomodoro Sauce on the side as a dip.

During my visit, I decided on the Beef and Mushroom, and found it quite flavorful. The warm dough blended well with the mozzarella cheese and the beef and mushroom stuffing. The Pomodoro Sauce also provided a zesty flavor and made this dish quite appetizing.

Unfortunately, this dish was obviously reheated as well and, if they don't have it on the warmer, they weren't willing to make another one for you from scratch. It was also served on a paper plate that made it feel more like the pre-packaged, toaster oven fare you take home from the supermarket.


Despite the very big servings, most of their cuisine is made earlier in the day, which may be alright if you're going to eat lunch, but isn't quite as good when you're having dinner. The food is left on display in a large warmer then heated in the oven once an order is made. If you visit their establishment during dinner time and the menu item isn't on the warmer, your pretty much out of luck as they won't make one just for you.

They're willing to make one from scratch if you buy an entire pizza or at least half a pizza, but for everything else, which includes all of the pizza slices and the Strombolli, it's either on the warmer or you won't get it, period. Combined with some miscommunication with the kitchen, this can be really frustrating as the cashier may claim that a slice is available only to later tell you that it isn't. During our stay, we witnessed a patron storm out in exasperation after waiting fifteen minutes for a pizza slice that never materialized.

Ambiance: Everything had a classic pizzeria look down to the murals on the wall to the wooden chairs and tables. A glass window behind the counter allowed you a glimpse the cooks at work as they hand-tossed the pizza dough and put it in the oven. The establishment was also very spacious and brightly lit with extra chairs and tables available right outside.

The air conditioning was a bit cold, but this could be due to the fact that we were the only people dining. We also noticed some lights turned off, probably to save on electricity as the establishment was rather vacant at the time of our visit.

Value: The servings were plentiful considering their prices. Compared to Yellow Cab or even Brooklyn, you will get comparatively more food, but the practice of simply reheating most of their food degrades their value quite a bit. Also, some of the other dishes are quite expensive considering what they offer (the Grilled Chicken Salad, for instance.)

Service: The staff was courteous and the service was very fast - after all they only needed to reheat their dishes. They didn't seem that knowledgeable when it came to the menu, however, and often made miscues as to the availability of certain items.

Delivery is also available with a minimum delivery value of Php 250.00. They don't charge for this service and are quite prompt with their deliveries on average. If you're looking for a whole New York-style pizza, Big Apple is a good choice, as they will make the pizza from scratch and deliver it to you promptly.

Overall: Despite their spacious and stylish interiors, Big Apple Pizza Co. falls somewhere in between a fast food establishment and a casual diner. Their prices are reasonable and the portions generous, but the food is mostly reheated. Some dishes also feel pre-packaged and pre-made - giving you the impression that you could've gotten the same item at the frozen food section of the supermarket.

If you're with a big group, Big Apple is a good option as they provide fresh, hand-tossed pizzas at a very reasonable price, but if you're alone or with a date, expect to dine on reheated fare that's been in a warmer for god knows how long.

© 2008 Pablo Bairan

Monday, February 4, 2008

Secret Recipe

Secret Recipe
Location :
5th Avenue corner 32nd Street, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City
Tel #: +63 (2) 856-2953
Menu Price Range : Php 120.00 - Php 430.00
Service Charge:
Rating : B+

At first glance, Secret Recipe appears to be just another cafe riding on the coattails of Starbucks and Seattle's Best. After all, the branding, stylish interiors, and even the friendly staff are hallmarks of these franchises. Where Secret Recipe deviates from this formula, however, is that, rather than concentrating on their teas and coffees, the focus of this Malaysian-based lifestyle cafe chain is their menu - especially their desserts.

In fact, you will soon learn that Secret Recipe has several award-winning dishes under their belt ranging from their Irish Lamb Stew to their Marble Cheesecake. With branches in several countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and China, you begin to wonder if perhaps the secret recipes of Secret Recipe has been somehow lost in translation. Fortunately, as I would soon learn, this is definitely not the case.

Although there are some similarities between Secret Recipe and other franchise cafes, its interior was actually quite spacious and brightly lit. Their furnishings were minimalistic but elegant with aluminum and plastic chairs contrasting with the iron-wrought chandeliers. The artwork of their cuisine on the wall reminded me quite a bit of UCC Cafe, but, fortunately, the menu isn't nearly as exorbitant.

Grilled Mushroom Chicken
Price: Php 190.00
Rating: C

Consisting of a chicken breast smothered in a mushroom gravy, this dish was accompanied by a healthy side salad and seasoned rice. First of all, serving the salad with the chicken breast was a bad idea. The thousand island dressing mixed with the gravy, resulting in a combination that wasn't very appetizing.

The chicken breast was also quite bony and sinewy, making it somewhat bothersome to eat. The rice, however, was a good match for the gravy. Portions were pretty generous and quite filling.

Lasagne (Chicken)
Price: Php 135.00 (choice of beef or chicken)
Rating: B+

A meaty and filling lasagna smothered with a rich marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and a very healthy amount of ground chicken. This dish was baked and served in a deep dish. I enjoyed this dish far more than the Grilled Mushroom Chicken. It was served pipping hot, but once it cooled down, it made for a very hearty meal. Although the taste of the chicken was faint, the large serving size and reasonable price garnered it a B+.

Green Apple Kasturi

Price: Php 110.00
Rating: A-

I admit being hesitant about this drink initially. I'm not really that much of a fan of green apples and, when it was first served, it appeared a bit coagulated.

Fortunately, it tastes a lot better than it looks. The tart green apple flavor is quite refreshing and the taste is actually very addictive. It tastes a bit like Italian soda, but is a bit more exotic. I'd recommend that you try this refreshment at least once.

Marble Cheesecake
Price: Php 110.00 (slice) Php 1,200.00 (whole)
Rating: A

I can understand how this cheesecake managed to win accolades. It is the quintessential cheesecake: simple, tasty, and silky smooth. It wasn't too sweet or tart like some of the lesser cheesecakes on the market, achieving a great balance and astounding flavor. The crunchy oat nut base compliments the creamy cheesecake tremendously, making this dessert devilishly addictive.

Chocolate Mud Cake
Price: Php 110.00 (slice) Php 1,200.00 (whole)
Rating: A

First of all, let me state for the record that I'm not a fan of chocolate cakes. I find most of them sickeningly sweet, but, despite this, I found myself enjoying this award-winning concoction. Filled with semi-sweet chocolate fudge, it was creamy, silky and smooth without being overly sweet. In many ways, it was similar to a chocolate mousse in texture, but, all in all, it's an amazing dessert that you simply have to experience.


The dishes were a bit of a mixed bag. Some were good while others were somewhat below par. Food portions were generous, but I really didn't like mixing the salad dressing and the main dish on the same plate. Secret Recipe is known for its desserts, however, and this is where it truly shines. The cakes were very scrumptious and addictive although the slices were fairly petite.

Ambiance: Secret Recipe does a good job of emulating the trendy cafe, giving the impression of class while at the same time remaining simple and classic. The establishment was very spacious and comfortable although it could've used more couches as the plastic and aluminum chairs weren't very comfortable. Surprisingly, there was no outdoor area and smoking isn't permitted in the premises.

Value: Some dishes were very affordable while others were quite pricey. The salads and some of the Italian pastas were a very good value (from Php 100.00 to Php 135.00) while other dishes such as the Singapore Laksa and Fish and Chips were expensive (around Php 300.00 and above.) Teas and coffees were affordable, but juices and smoothies can be a bit steep. Their desserts were excellent, but also quite expensive considering the portions.

Service: Overall, their service was excellent. The servers were very friendly and quite knowledgeable - eager to make suggestions as to which dish we should sample. We were served our food promptly and without any hassles.

Overall: Whether you're out on a date or on an outing with friends, Secret Recipe provides a comfortable and relatively affordable dining experience. A wide assortment of food, drinks, and desserts adorn their menu with dishes that range from traditional salads and pastas to spicy soups and laksa.

Secret Recipe allows you to sample dishes from a variety of cultures as well as signature desserts that are simply mouth-watering. All in all, it is a haven for adventurous diners willing to sample the different flavors of the orient and beyond.

© 2008 Pablo Bairan

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Location :
Block 9, Rockwell Center , Makati City
Cuisine :
Menu Price Range : Php 250.00 - Php 1,900.00
Service Charge:
Rating : A-

Nestled amongst the various upscale eateries just outside the Powerplant Mall at Rockwell, Cantinetta is hard to miss. The towering structure surrounded with glass walls is simply immense, giving you a sense of the grandeur and opulence that resides within. It's not that Cantinetta is necessarily sprawling, but the glass walls and the high ceiling create the illusion of a vast space that is simply enchanting.

Once inside, you get a sense that you are feasting in a posh greenhouse. Great pains were made to make the establishment as stylish and elegant as possible, from the lush greenery just outside the glass walls to the rustic stone that stood in the back to the majestic chandeliers that hovered above. Lighting was dramatic and soothing at the same time, providing a great backdrop for a romantic banquet.

Their menu was equally extravagant, filled with an almost-unending list of original and authentic Italian dishes that ranged from the regular pastas and pizzas to the more exotic Italian steaks and authentic desserts. The staff was dressed appropriately in finery, making it almost appear as if you were dining in a five-star hotel rather than a restaurant.

A quick glance at the bar quickly confirmed the fact that they carried a vast assortment of wines and I even caught a glimpse of a food cart with a leg of parma ham and a block of cheese. It definitely had all the accouterments of a fine dining restaurant you could ask for and more.

Breads and Spreads
Price: Complimentary
Rating: B

Good staples of a fine dining establishment are the complimentary breads and spreads. In this case, they consisted of various sliced Italian breads and a choice of either liverwurst spread or diced tomatoes in olive oil.

The Italian bread slices were toasted well and served in a bread basket while the liverwurst and diced tomatoes were served in miniature saucers. I was expecting butter or margarine to be served with the two spreads and a greater variety of breads, but overall, the fare was sufficient.

Cesare (Caesar's Salad)
Price: Php 250.00
Rating: B

The Caesar Salad was served with fresh, crispy greens, and the bacon bits and parmesan cheese were flavorful without being overpowering. The caesar dressing was a bit light for my taste, but the croutons had a very strong taste - perhaps indicative of being soaked in vinegar and olive oil.

This was unusual as it conflicted with the rest of the dish. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it was a bit overpowering and distracted from the rest of the ingredients. The serving size was adequate, being able to serve one or two at the most.

Prosciutto Crudo Pizza
Price: Php 420.00
Rating: B+

An authentic Italian pizza, the Prosciutto Crudo consisted entirely of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and parma ham. The parma ham was delectable and the mozzarella cheese was wonderful. The crust was also crisp and cooked to perfection.

The problem I had with this dish, however, was the tomato sauce which was a bit too salty and overwhelmed the dish a bit. Perhaps they were a bit too overzealous with this ingredient. Otherwise, the pizza was heavenly. The pizza was quite big, about the size the of large-sized pizza and could feed two to three people.

Lasagna all Bolongnese
Price: Php 380.00
Rating: A

Perhaps one of the best lasagna I've tasted in a while, this dish consisted of home-made pasta layers filled with a tender and meaty bolongnese sauce. Unlike the pizza, the tomatoes weren't overpowering, blending well with the rest of the dish. The ground beef was hearty and tender and prepared well, without the fatty or hard bits that often plague this dish when it's produced in lesser establishments. Smothered in bachamel sauce, it was an absolute delight.

Cannelloni Ricotta e Spinaci
Price: Php 420.00
Rating: A

I was curious how this dish would rate when compared to Amici's. Aside from the Ricotta cheese, it was basically identical to my favorite dish at Amici except for the fact that the cannelloni pasta was crisp rather than soggy, giving it a better texture. The spinach was also less dry and the bechamel sauce provided with it was a tad bit more generous.

The Ricotta cheese, however, was very faint and didn't make as much of an impact. All in all, it's a slightly better dish than the one at Amici's at a little less than three times the price.

Price: Php 190.00 for two scoops
Rating: B

I really enjoyed their version of this dessert but, despite several testimonials, I don't believe it's better than Amici's. It's creamier and definitely sweeter and you can tell that home-made ingredients were used, but I'd give Amici a slight lead in taste. Also, they only had a few varieties to choose from: Cappuccino, Chocolate, Pistachio, and Vanilla. This limited selection and the fact that the price is actually quite high, drops the score for this desert to about a B.

Also, you are required to purchase a minimum of two scoops of gelato. Of course, the two scoops could consist of different flavors, but the portions are quite large and two scoops is definitely too much for one person to consume.

Price: Php 230.00
Rating: C+

This dessert intrigued me mostly because I've never heard of it before. Also, its ingredients were exotic: whipped egg yolk with marsala wine. We felt adventurous and decided to try this dessert despite the exorbitant price, and found ourselves puzzled by the strange taste.

The Zabaglione had a similar taste to eggnog except for a much stronger liqueur flavor. It also had a very thick consistency that required a spoon to consume. Personally, I felt the liqueur taste was a bit overwhelming although I felt it might be better when combined with a pastry dish of some kind to help disperse the strong taste.


Food: Most of the ingredients used in their cuisine is top-notch and home-made, creating an authentic taste that is a simply delightful. A great deal of effort was made in the presentation down to the cutlery that accompanied each dish. All in all, Cantinetta's cuisine exuded class and elegance akin to that of the best fine dining restaurants.

Ambiance: This is where Cantinetta truly excels. Their venue appears almost palatial, with wonderful chandeliers, lush greenery, and fabulous glass windows that blended the indoors with the outdoors. The high ceilings also contributed to a feeling of opulence that cannot be achieved in cramped quarters.

It seems no expense was spared in creating a kind of urban oasis in the heart of the city, and it shows the kind of elegance and style that most eateries often overlook. The lighting is also very dramatic especially at night, creating a beautiful atmosphere for those wishing to impress a date.

Value: Of course, all this elegance comes at a price. Most of Cantinetta's dishes are quite exorbitant, with their most expensive steaks tethering on the Php 2,000.00 range. On average, however, you can expect to pay about Php 300.00 to Php 600.00 per person - not including the service charge. If you're planning to take a significant other to this place, be sure that he or she is pretty darn significant because the dent in your budget definitely will be.

Service: As you can expect from this kind of establishment, the service is top-notch. Food was delivered very promptly, and the servers were very responsive and exceedingly friendly. The owner of Cantinetta was also at hand and was personally involved in the operations - definitely a big plus. All in all, they made sure your stay was as memorable as that hole in your pocket that was once your wallet.

Overall: Cantinetta is definitely a refreshing sojourn into Italian cuisine that has all the bells and whistles of a fine dining establishment and more.

Unfortunately, this also includes the high prices. If you're in the mood for authentic Italian cuisine and price is no object, Cantinetta is definitely a very good choice, but for the rest of us, budgetary constraints might force us to look elsewhere.

© 2008 Pablo Bairan