Manila- Friday morning after dropping my nephew off at school, my cousin and I headed to Megamall for the Forever 21 (50% off) Sale. It took us two hours to get there because of the traffic, normally we could have gotten there in a minimum of a half hour. It was mentally strengthening for me. When we got to the mall it was SOOO packed (there was also a mall wide 3-day sale) that my cousin got her car valet parked in order to avoid being infuriated while waiting for a parking spot. Once I got into the mall I was so struck. There were soo many people! It was like God dropped a cookie crumble (the sale) and a freaking truckload no maybe more like several dozen cruise ships full of ants (people) were clawing their way to a piece of cookie. I had to practice inhaling/exhaling meditational breathing tactics to avoid pushing people out of the way.
When we finally got to Forever 21 there was such a long line up! While we wandered to the end of that line I over heard people saying they had been waiting for two hours! My cousin and I decided to take turns leaving line for food/break/bathroom so I guess the line up went pretty fast. Once we were given the chance to go into the store it was like a freaking circus. Clothes, although some were still in good order, were thrown about everywhere! People were pushing and shoving and changing in every corner they could find because the line ups to the fitting rooms/ the cash registers were at least meters long. I picked up a couple of items but really I think I was dismayed by the clutter and the havoc. While I like to think I am a patient person, I am not a fan of aggressive crowds. I can never handle sample sales or crazy markets like Divisoria. It became more evident that my cousin and I are truly related because we left without a single purchase hahaha. I realize I can and do say this because of the privileged situation but one of the many lessons of the day: Sometimes, more often than not, sales are not worth it.
After braving that crowd we ate at Café Ysabel. After
finding out that Anthony Bourdain had hosted one of this episodes at this restaurant I made it one of my goals to eat there.
Located on a not so busy road Cafe Ysabel was attached to a culinary school in San Juan
City. It was decorated almost like an Spanish colonial house with pristine white pillars and a Koi pond and fountain. Inside was furnished like a quaint Spanish café while the inner dinning area (which I saw after our meal) boasted large chandeliers and elegant dining tables. I’m guessing that the restaurant was an old heritage house. I ordered Pan Seared Halibut and Four Cheese Mushroom Risotto. Before our meal came their house made bread with secretly made sauce (which I think was balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and maybe sugar or something sweet—it looked a tad bit more red than the usual). Anyways I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this bread. I actually loved it more than my meal itself. While the Four Cheese Mushroom Risotto was good it reminded me of my cousin's cheese and mushroom and truffle risotto. Ysabel’s risotto made me sad (I miss you!!) BUT my cousin's risotto was actually far better.
When my halibut came, I guess I elevated my expectations of how these dishes should taste. I think my most favorite seafood dish was from Market Market by Jean Georges at the Shangri-la in Vancouver. I still remember having perfect pan-seared scallops and the ArcticChar… soo freaking amazing. So I guess I went in what that expectation and sadly it was not at par. The Halibut was a bit dry, it was only towards the centre that it was moist. And the sauce, which I originally thought was pesto because of its appearance, was actually of some kind of lemony mixture AND was quite limited --- so while the halibut was okay there was really no sense of originality for me with the dish as it kinda lacked any specific flavor besides being halibut.
Dessert, however, was another issue. Their Jack Daniels Chocolate cake was sooo freaking good. It was so rich but not overbearingly sweet that I ate so much of it! I usually don’t have much of a chocolate sweet tooth but I ate all of my share of that one, taking turns with the strawberry shortcake we were treated with by one of the restaurant’s chef.