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May 29, 2015

Neil Writes About Ramen Iroha's Tokyo Ramen Show winning Ramen Offerings Toyama Black Soy Sauce Ramen

With more people immersing more of their time into social media, Facebook added the ability for merchants to promote their business through the Facebook feed. Marketing is never a bad thing especially when competition is fierce like the huge hype for Japanese Ramen. With all those establishments like Ippudo, Ramen Santouka, Ukokei Ramen Ron and the like, any advantage adds up, and it was here on Facebook that I found out about it.

Neil Writes About Ramen Iroha Signage Review
Modern, Simple and Elegant!

Years ago when we went to Tokyo, we had a long list of things to do but weren't able to because because the date of visit was a little far from the event's date. One of the things on the list is the Tokyo Ramen Show, a yearly event to showcase the different Ramen from the different provinces which happens during the end of October to early November.

As I was browsing the Facebook page of Ramen Iroha, it was clear that they were marketing that they've won the Tokyo Ramen Show for several years now. Consequently, I became interested in trying the dish that won over the wide variety of Ramen from the different Japanese provinces.

Neil Writes About Ramen Iroha's Tokyo Ramen Show winning Ramen Offerings Ambiance

The Ambiance

Ramen Iroha can be found in the W Global Center along 30th St. corner 9th Ave at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig. It is between IHOP and P.F. Chang's China Bistro. It is the usual modern building with a lot of steel and glass panels that makes you think whether or not the glass will reflect sunlight and bother the people passing by.

Once inside, you notice the ceramic tiles, the wooden structures and the elegant uniform patterns that are architectural signatures of its Feudal eras. You will also find a selection of majestic Japanese landscape photographs that add to the aesthetics. The design is more tamed than the opulent design language of Ippudo's Megamall restaurant and even so I find it elegant in its own way.

Neil Writes About Ramen Iroha's Tokyo Ramen Show winning Ramen Offerings Pork Niku Soba
The Pork Niku Soba (Tonkotsu Ramen)

The Food

Ramen Iroha's ramen offerings are diverse to cater to each preference but no matter which dish I tasted it was that there was one theme which is that in each bowl you will encounter a variety of flavors that blend well together, and there will be that one prominent ingredient that shines just enough that it never over powers the other flavor. In fact, not one flavor over powers the other. It is true balance.

Each ramen is named for their main ingredient like the Toyama Black Soy-Sauce Ramen, Spicy Miso Tantan-Men and the Pork Niku-Soba and in each dish the soy-sauce and the pork meat respectively shines just enough to never over power the other ingredients that give you the relaxed satisfied feeling of balance.

Neil Writes About Ramen Iroha's Tokyo Ramen Show winning Ramen Offerings Spicy Miso Tantan Men
Spicy Miso Tantan Men

The effect is that there is no initial wow factor which means that you never get sick of any flavor may it be the salt, meat or earthy which results to you unconsciously eating more and more of the dish.

Ramen Iroha's dishes seem to have not been made to wow you, but rather to introduce to you a form of balance that will mysteriously captivate you. No, they are not the best in terms of flavor or intensity but they are the best at balancing all, a Jack of All trades the master of none.

Neil Writes About Ramen Iroha's Tokyo Ramen Show winning Ramen Tsukemen
Served separately with Strong Broth and Cold Noodles with Condiments!

The last Ramen we got was the Tsukemen which is Japanese for dipping noodles where the soup and the noodles and condiments are served separately. Their version comes with cold noodles that perfectly clash with the strong broth. It was different but in a good way to what I was used to from Mitsuyado Sei-men.

I noticed that in some other ramen establishments some of my siblings would not finish their bowl, either noodles, soup or any other ingredient would be left behind, but here we finished all of it.

We finished all of it! No single ingredient was left!

The Service

When we arrived at the door we were greeted warmly by the signature 'Irasshaimase!' and were asked if we had a reservation. We said that we reserved a table for five and promptly lead to our table. They gave us our menu and recommended their best dishes while serving us tea.

The dishes we ordered came ten (10) minutes afterwards. We dug in and they stood their and did their job to wait and see if we need any special service. They really pay attention whenever our drinks run out and they fill it up again.

Their service is the standard polite and customer centric Japanese signature hospitality. Up until now, I have no complaints.

Neil Writes About Ramen Iroha's Tokyo Ramen Show winning Ramen Green Tea Ice Cream
A huge Scoop of Green Tea Ice Cream!

The Price

Ramen Iroha offers their Ramen in two ways the small which starts at Php 250.00 and the regular sized at Php 395.00 with a generous serving of noodles compared to the other establishments I've been to. They have add-ons and side dishes that starts at Php 50.00 and max out at Php 330.00.

The Verdict

Overall Verdict: B+
Food Quality: A-
Food Service: B+
Bang for your Buck: A-

Do you want to Contact 'Ramen Iroha?'
Address: G/F W Global Center, 30th st. cor. 9th Ave. Fort Bonifactio, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines
Telephone number: (02) 808-9517
Facebook: Ramen Iroha's Facebook Page

Operating Hours: Mon-Sun: 11AM to 11PM

May 24, 2015

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Balut Ala Procopio

I was born and raised in the streets of Metro Manila for as long as I can remember and in those years I was blessed with family who worked hard and made a life for themselves but never forgot their roots, especially the family recipes of Filipino cuisine passed on from every generation. You could say that I was raised up to this point with Filipino food which to my taste is best filipino cuisine I've had and will ever have. Nothing beats home cooking. So you could see my reluctance to ever be excited at eating at any Filipino restaurant. 

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Signage
Revolutionary Cuisine is a play on two (2) meanings!

Among the busy street of Chino Roces Avenue is a hidden restaurant called Andres, a revolutionary Filipino Cuisine.  The Revolutionary Cuisine is play on two (2) meanings. The first is they aim to revolutionise or give a twist to the classic Filipino dishes and the second is a play on the Philippine revolution. From Andres itself, it is a homage to Andres Bonifacio. In fact if you read their extensive Menu, it is Katipunan inspired. Feel free to eat it patriotic pride.

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Bar
Free from the Bamboo and wooden upholstery design Language!

The Ambiance

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Facade
with high ceiling and huge glass window
Chino Roces Avenue (Formerly Pasong Tamo) is a long road with several establishment and the nearest landmarks for the restaurant are Don Bosco Makati and Mitsubishi Pasong Tamo Dealership which are right across Andres. The facade of the restaurant is covered by tall palm trees so it is easy to miss which is a sad thing. 
On the outside it would seem to be one of those high ceiling with huge glass windows type of establishments. There are numerable tables on the outside, the ground floor and the second floor.

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Ambiance
Interiors carry Filipino Modern Aesthetics!

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Facade
The facade is covered by palm trees

When I first heard of this place, I was plagued by thoughts of  Filipino restaurant stereotypes. You know, like buffet lunch with the usual kare-kare with krispy pata, the not so bright lighting and ambiance, and  the interior design inspired by bamboo and wooden upholstery.  Not that those are awful, it is just there are a lot of those restaurants. 

I am happy to tell you that Andres' interiors carry Filipino Modern Aesthetics. One of my favorites is the Sun and Star shaped Lighting fixture sitting above you yet it easily catches your eye as you first wonder in.

At the edge of the bar is a stairwell that leads to the second floor where along the way they feature several Paintings from an Artist of the month. Once you reach the end of the hall way you will find two VIP Rooms that can hold eight (8) to twelve (12) people. The Price for the VIP is consumable so eat and drink to your hearts content.

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Garlic Rice

The Food

As mentioned earlier, they are inspired by the Philippine revolution specifically, the Katipunan and they strive to revolutionize classic dishes by adding different twists to them. For example, the classic tinola is known to have clear flavorful broth that warms your tummy. Their take on it is that they made the soup thick and and creamy which may sound weird but It works really well! In fact it is one of their most sought for dish which they call the Tinolang Katipunero.

As you read through their menu, it becomes apparent that their creativity is something to take note. You will find dishes like the Broccoli Y Tuyo and the Tapa Y Pasta. All of their dishes have different takes and sometimes the combinations sound counter intuitive but I encourage you to try them. It usually is the unique dishes that are the best and are the most gratifying.

The Balut Ala Procopio arrived first. We couldn't not notice because as soon as the sauce hit the sizzling plate, the aroma just reached our noises. I took an egg and sliced it with my knife and stabbed it with my fork. I then took a bite and my gosh. The well seasoned garlic brought out the flavors of the oyster sauce which was apparent all the way deep inside the egg yolk and the chick itself. I was blown away.

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Kalderetang Kambing
Kalderatang Kambing Topped with Cheese and peppered vegtables!

Their take on the Kalderetang Kambing is an interesting one. At first glance you see the normal brown and oranges of the classic Kaldereta but with more vegetables like bell pepper, carrots and potatoes and it is topped with cheese! As you take that first bite, you feel each strand explode with flavor from the marinade individually and all come together like fireworks where smaller fire cracker pellets explode together to form an even bigger explosion of flavour that leaves your mouth in awe. The saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the carrots and potatoes then follow to balance the spiciness of the Kaldereta. It was like a school dance of flavors in your mouth. 

The only gripe I had with the Kaldereta is the sweetness tends to aggregate over time and gives you that 'nakakasuya' feeling. If you will have it for a few bites it  isn't apparent but If you are eating with friends and plan to stay and talk for a while with bursts of digestion then the sweetness may take its toll.

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Brocolli Y Tuyo
It becomes apparent that their creativity is something to take note.

The Broccoli Y Tuyo was quite a pleasant surprise because I never thought that the saltiness of the 'Tuyo' would be a nice mix to the broccoli flower.

What I usually hate when I eat vegetables is when it isn't fresh and it isn't prepared properly. On dishes like the Broccoli Y Tuyo and the Sizzling Calamarez, the vegetables did not taste like grass nor was it soggy. It was crunchy and well seasoned that the flavors were brought out wonderfully, distinctly when they touched my tongue.

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review Sizzling Calamarez
 Crunchy and well seasoned that the flavors were brought out wonderfully!

The Service

When I arrived I was greeted warmly, asked promptly if I had a reservation and if I would have company. Victor, our waiter lead us to our seats and gave us each a menu in one smooth motion. he must have had a lot of practice.

I asked them of the details of Andres. What followed was me reaching for the menu and exchanged questions with Victor regarding the finer details of the different dishes. He was able to describe and recommend based on my personal specifications. It was a long exchange as it was my first time there. He recommended that we at least order an appetizer first so they can prepare it while we pick the main course and damn, can he sell it. Good Job for their team. 

Neil Writes About Andres Restaurant Philippines Review VIP Room
VIP rooms have their own Karaoke System

The Price

The price range of the dishes start at Php 180.00 and can get up to Php 550.00 depending on the ingredients used. They have several Promotions like a Lunch Buffett for Php 250.00 per person and DRINK ALL YOU CAN for Php 250.00 from SMB products and select cocktails. They even have a Happy Hour promotion from 5PM to 10PM where you can buy six (6) bottles of San Miguel Beer Products and get a free side dish (Pulutan) from a list. 

If you love live music, they have Acoustic Nights happen every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The VIP Rooms have their own Karaoke system, and their own air conditioning units and they cost only Php 6000.00, consumable. 

The Verdict

Overall Verdict: B+
Food Quality: B+
Food Service: A
Bang for your Buck: B+

Do you want to Contact 'Andres Philippines?'
Address: G/F Patriach Bldg., 2224 Chino Roses Ave. Corner Don Bosco Street, Bangkal Makati City
Telephone number: (02) 403-9525
Instagram: @Andresrestaurantph
Operating Hours: Mon-Sun: 11.30AM to 12MN

May 21, 2015


Mental Floss, a Youtube channel that aims to cleanse your brain and disprove misconceived ideas with their evidence based approach!

There are a total of 10 misconceptions they wish to challenge in this episodes and they are the following:

1. People who only eat Raw Food Have Better digestion
2. Dark breads is healthier than light bread
3. Artificial sweeteners promote weight loss
4. If it says all natural it is healthy
5. Agave nectar is better than sugar
6. Margarine is better than butter
7. Brown Eggs are more nutritious than white eggs
8. Brown Sugar is healthier than white sugar
9. Local means organic
10. Organic foods has more nutrients

After watching, you will find some interesting facts and these are the four (4) noteworthy ones:
1. When you are looking for that healthier bread it is best to look for "whole wheat" or "whole Grain wheat." Dark breads are not necessarily healthier.
2. Margarine is healthier than Butter because it lowers Low Density Lipoproteins or Bad Cholesterol!
3. Brown Sugar and White Sugar is the same just with the molasses removed.
4. Organic foods have the same amount of nutrients but they have more anti-oxidants than non-organics!

[Source: Mental Floss on YouTube]

May 16, 2015

Tony Ahn who at the start weighs over One-hundred twenty (120) Kilograms, plans to loose fourteen (14) lbs in ONE (1) week! In the video, he starts to take different measurements to help create a list of baselines to see his progress. After that, he showed off his wardrobe and we get to glimpse his motivation for doing this: He says that if you end up getting bigger and you decide to just buy even bigger clothes then that is giving in. It means that you are giving up on yourself and not even trying to fight for YOU! I agree. If you didn't fight for you then who will? I admire his determination.

He decided to lessen his intake with fasting. His rationale is based on the fact that whenever we eat carbohydrates it will turn into sugar and is used for fuel. When we run out of carbohydrates for fuel it is only then that the body uses other sources like body fat. So in theory, you could lose weight by letting your body burn more fat by lessening your carbohydrates! In addition, he cited a study he found that during his weight loss it is estimated that he would lose three (3) grams of muscle per one (1) Kilogram of fat lost! THAT IS A WORTHY TRADE OFF!

A week after, we see him weigh in and he lost a little over Six (6) Kilograms. He also redid the measurements and compared it to his baseline and he lost significant inches off. Although he knows he has a long way to go it would seem that he is pretty determined to maintain losing the Six (6) Kilograms for the coming weeks.

My gripes are that I wish we could see more of his routine for the week that helped him shave off that fourteen (14) Pounds and that I would also like a little more insight to inside his body. I wish that we could see a medical exam and medical laboratory work up for a better insight into what is happening inside his body. 

I personally struggled with my weight for years. I would succeed in losing weight then I would be complacent and gain it all again. I would then go into a vicious cycle over the years. We call this rubber banding. It was then that I decided that I would lose it and ever gain it again. I would have to work harder and lessen the pleasure from indulging into too much food.

I salute Tony and I hope this inspires more people to do something about their own struggles!

May 08, 2015

Neil Writes About Back Alley Barbershop Slider

Two-thousand fourteen (2014) was the year where the disconnected undercut with a modern twist to the Pompadour hit the Men Hairstyle trend like Football Fever during FIFA season. At the time, I didn't know what it was called that. Apparently, It was the haircut that Justin Timberlake, David Beckham, and several other celebrities wore that inspired Men and some Women to do the same.

Around May of that year, I was frustrated because the haircuts I was seeing on the street wasn't up to par to the online images I saw. One of my Best friends, Jed who was residing in Canada showed pictures of him with that style of haircut. He told me that you need a skilled barber and a good product to keep that hairstyle. It was then that I was introduced to the 'Pomade.' Specifically, the water-based one where it can be restyled just by wetting your hair again; moreover, it would easily come off with a simple rinse with shampoo and conditioner.

I made it my mission to look for that pomade brand my friend told me about. So like any start of a   journey today, I Googled it, and to my surprise, a local barbershop carried it which is conveniently laid out for me on Google Maps. 'Back Alley Barbershop' was the name and it is located near the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Salcedo Village, Makati. 

I texted them with the number posted on their Facebook page and asked to reserve a canister of the hair product. They replied promptly and did so as I requested.

This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with being a better man and the beginning of a relapse of a dysfunctional relationship with my wallet since STEAM sales were created. (Steams sales are the PC Gamer's dream sales where games can get discounts of up to 80% off in huge batches) My wallet never truly forgave me for all those Sales I plowed through. I kept telling myself that at least I would look good. Oh, well.

Neil Writes About Back Alley Barbershop Ambiance
A Wonderful Semi-Industrial turned New York Apartment Style Aesthetic

The Ambiance

So I followed the map and found this lovely place with a wonderful semi-industrial turned New York Apartment style aesthetic. It was a scene to behold.  Right away you see the reception desk with all the products they carry, a lounge area where you can sit down and enjoy a drink and listen to high quality Vinyl on their turntable and right across are the Barber chairs and the Mirrors above the desk full of metal and leather utensils.

The dashing young man at the reception desk welcomed me warmly and asked me if it was my first time there. Yes it was. I mentioned my reservation for a canister of the pomade. They showed it to me and I paid for it. 

He then decided to show us around and tell me about their services. They offer the old school style of haircut and shave. The third thing is the hungover treatment. I then decided to have my haircut here.

Neil Writes About Back Alley Barbershop Haircut
Observe the myriad of ways the barber snips your hair strands to achieve your desired style

The Haircut

For as long as I can remember, I was having my haircut at neighbourhood barbershops that were hole in the walls where a haircut was priced from Php 30.00 in the nineties and went up to Php 50.00 in recent years. In contrast, there are barbershops in Beverly Hills, California that offer haircuts that could cost up to a USD 1000.00 and I could never comprehend how this is so.

What I had known for years where in I go in, sit down, instruct the barber of the cut I so desired and then wait and let the magic happen wasn't the complete barbershop experience. Apparently, aside from the haircut itself, there would be a massage, multiple applications of several hair products at different points of the cut. In addition, after your cut you are given a complimentary beverage of choice of either fresh brewed coffee from an AeroPress or a bottle of the Craft Beer. (which is different every month)

The haircut process itself is more tamed and more elegant

The haircut process itself is more tamed and more elegant than what I was accustomed to. If you decide to try Back Alley's Haircut, I encourage you to watch how your barber strokes the clippers/trimmers (the white and black handheld machine they use to shave your hair) and the myriad of ways and angles the barber snips your hair strands. Of course, at any time, you can talk to him and converse about adjustments to the style you asked prior. At the near end of it, you will be given a simple but effective massage on your upper body and extremities coupled with a warm towel to give you your much deserved relaxation. Before he does the final combing of your hairstyle, you are given an option to try out one of their hair products to keep your hairstyle in place even through the most active lifestyle.

Here is a video that will show you the typical haircut (some parts are sped-up because I know your time is precious) you will enjoy at Back Alley:

The result is not just a haircut but a labor of love! The labor where the little details matter! In fact, as you look closely, you will marvel at how the strands of hair blend together especially the ones with different lengths and at how finer this is than your normal haircut. The over all experience is why I have this service every month. (Yes, even the beer.)

Neil Writes About Back Alley Barbershop Haircut Finished
The result is not just a haircut but a labor of love!

The Shave

After coming back to this place for months, I decided to try their shave. I specifically stopped shaving for two weeks before to time it with my next haircut. At the end of the cut, I could feel that that time has come as the tension rises slowly as the barbers chair started to recline. A towel was placed on my upper body and I started to grin from ear to ear even though I was trying so hard to keep calm and be cool. Alas, I failed.

he started with an application of cream on your face

My barber at the time was 'Edwin' and he started with an application of cream on my face, followed by a relaxing face massage that ends with a warm towel that wraps your whole head. He continued with the shaving cream itself and starts to precisely and carefully shave the facial hairs that I asked to be shaven. He repeats the massage and the towel wrap but adding several after shave creams in between and finishes of with a final towel wipe.

"he starts to precisely and carefully shave the facial hairs I asked to be shaven" 

 The Hungover Treatment

The Hungover treatment is a little more complex.  It is a sequence of hot and cold towel applications with facial scrub, clay mask, moisturizer and other creams. I could never really understood when it was explained for the first time but I highly recommend having it! It is one of those things that is best experienced than spoken of.

In fact, a lot of their patrons come for this service alone even though this is the service with the most premium. Let it be; I mean all you have to do is lie down and let the magic happen.
    with different creams in between every application

    In fact, the owners tested it themselves. They got themselves hungover and had this treatment on themselves. The list of creams is a long one and it is best explained by gentleman at the reception desk. In fact when he explained it in theory, I could only grasp it by so much.

    with the barber massaging you more extensively than in the one in the haircut

    As I was experiencing it first hand, I was confused because the barber was just doing the same thing over and over, with only the temperature of the towel and the cream changing each time, yet slowly with each sequence I felt my relaxation rising significantly. Near the end of it I just wanted to sleep while I was being massaged because it was just so good that when I was awaken I could only scream 'ANG SARAP!' Even after a couple of hours after the treatment I noticed that my skin was glowing and that it had softer and better texture to it!

    Ang Sarap!

    Here is the video of the typical Shave and Hungover Treatment (Again, some parts are sped-up for your convenience):

    The Price

    Haircut starts at Php 250.00 - Php 400.00 but is priced at Php 700.00 together with the shave. The shave itself is Php 450.00. while the Hungover Treatment (HT) is priced at Php 750.00 individually but is priced at Php 950.00 with the haircut. If you want an HT and a shave, it will set you back Php 1000.00, and You can have all three for the price of Php 1200.00.

    I personally tip my barber of the day and it is up to you if you would and how much you will be willing to give these fine gentlemen. 

    The Conclusion

    It was because of the whole top-notch experience did I truly understand women and their salon time. In fact, I come back here every month for my haircut. I will reserve the hungover treatment for special occasions or when I really need a better pick-me-up than brewed coffee.

    The premium price for their service may not be justified to some but I think you should at least try it once to see if this type of thing is for you. I for one love the experience and of course the beer.
    It is also a good place to bond with your buddies and children.

    After coming here for a while, you may develop a preferred barber and I have personally tried the services of JR, Edwin and Jonas. They each add their own personal style and flare to their haircuts and it will show as they start snipping your hair down, yet they are all the best at what they do. I encourage you to support their profession and let us all work together to bring old school back!

    Do you want to Contact 'Back Alley Barbershop?'
    Address: Unit 1D, Alpha Salcedo Condominium, Bautista St. corner Sanchez St., Salcedo Village, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines
    Contact number: (+63) 947 518 5736
    Operating Hours: Mon-Fri: 11AM to 9PM
    Sat-Sun: 10AM to 9PM

    Special Thank You Kenzo Ortiz and the team of Red Models and Talents !

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