Friday, March 9, 2012

Hungry for Football: The Azkals Sports Bar


Azkals Sports bar by Jenina Gonzales

Kick some balls, score a goal and get a taste of Misagh-lpicao with a Dan-dy Shandy! Now that’s something you can expect to say after a visit to the Azkals Sports Bar at The Fort Strip.

How about pairing a Chieffy Southwest Jalapeno Burger with an Alexander the Shake and Carlie-Mari on the side, while staring at a greater than life-sized Chieffy Caligdong striking a pose on the wall?

Azkals Sports Bar by J.Anne Gonzales

A haven for the hungry and home of the Azkals and football fans, aficionados or just families brooding in the area, the Azkals Sports Bar combines the vibrant bar atmosphere with fantastic food—topped with that football vibe that has been sweeping the country stronger than any Premier League move. No doubt the Philippine National Football Team has captured a goal in every Filipino’s heart, and the sports bar just provides a common venue for futboleros and families to dine, chill, shoot goals, and of course, watch the games on screen.

“It’s a place for families to bond. Dad can have a beer, while the kids can have an Azkals Sundae,” explains Mel Macasaquit, owner and CEO of the Azkals Sports Bar. Otherwise known as Melmac, proprietor of the famous Toyz Bar chain, we can certainly expect innovative and grand ideas to start pouring in this place faster than a referee can raise a red card.

The menu on its own is a smorgasbord of familiar names and appetizing dish monikers, from the Rafa-jita Roll-ups, Dan’s Mushroom Burger to the Phil-ly Cheese Steak Sandwich and that perfect sounding Cobb Gier Salad. With the latter named aptly, ordering salad has never been this exciting, Rob Gier-inspired! Having suggested Bana-Nate Split may be met with raised brows, but won’t fans have a kick out of this fabulous sounding dessert? I surely would.

Even the Azkaleros have found a big time portion in the menu: the Ultimate Azkalero Club Sandwich. Join the club, why not? It is, after all, a fantastic serving, guaranteed to help you perfect that bicycle kick.

AZkals Sports Bar by J.Anne

Having recently raided a soccer field (or someone’s secret garden), the sports bar is adorned with nets, a ton of soccer balls that would make any striker cry with envy and bean bags (with soccer ball designs) that will make you wish you could move in the place. Don’t think that the goalkeepers have all the fun. Shoot goals on the net, while having a drinking spree with your buds, blokes or new acquaintances. This is the spirit of the Azkals Sports Bar—as we root for the same team, thus we have the right to kick some balls.

If you find the net in your nearest field missing, you know where it is. I must say though, it’s being put to good use, so please don’t take it back.

Instead, have some Classic Wingers and a Miji's (the drink, not my hermano) at the bar. Welcome home, mate!

 I certainly am.

- Jenina Gonzales

*The Azkals Sports Bar was officially launched last February 29, to celebrate Leap Year and coincide with the Azkals vs Malaysia game where we ended in a draw. Already in operation, the sports bar is in its soft opening phase and reservations are very much welcome, no corner kick required. You can check out their Twitter (@azkalsportsbar) and Facebook (Azkals Sports Bar) pages for more details. Time to start practicing your headers, blokes.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Conquest of the Vikings Buffet

[caption id="attachment_1542" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="Welcome to Vikings"][/caption]


If you are under the impression that when one is at Vikings Luxury Buffet (SM Mall of Asia), a barbaric appetite is necessitated—to be consistent with the overall restaurant theme—then go ahead. Liberate your Nordic roots and partake on the feast of the sea.

[caption id="attachment_1531" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="They say fight, I say EAT!"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1530" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="The early bird gets the good table."][/caption]

If you are not of Nordic origin though, which I’m guessing might be the case, then I suggest savoring the Celtic-inspired d├ęcor and interiors, and dining with the level of standards that you are most comfortable with. I do not care if you eat your hands or dump shellfish on your plate so high, you could cause scallop extinction—do as you wish—so long as you don’t vehemently stare at my salad.

That salad, my masterpiece, has elicited a number of stares that I can only expect from pickpockets and crooks, which I don’t suppose make up the patrons of Vikings.

Which brings me to the unspoken rule of the buffet: No sharing; no staring. I’m pretty sure everyone would agree to this.

After all, the buffet line, being the powerhouse of gastronomic fabrication and independent design, is best left alone to fuel our creative juices. The result may not be the most pleasing composition, but effort rewards the diner who is aesthetically blessed and intensely starved.

[caption id="attachment_1532" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Meet my Griller"][/caption]

Having said that—you probably know what’s coming—I showcase my Vikings Weeknight Dinner, platters abound and forks in perpetual motion.

 I warn you in advance not to expect barbecues piled high or a makeshift cheesesteak sandwich (which is easily feasible given the abundance of the raw materials present) since 1) I’m part vegetarian, and 2) I had a sandwich less than 2 hours before Vikings, hence a partial lack of appetite that is no one’s fault.  Other than that, I managed to preserve what seems to be my monstrous appetite.

[caption id="attachment_1534" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="Appetizer Showdown"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1543" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Athena's Appetizer Sampler"][/caption]

This is my Athena appetizer sampler: cheese, almonds and olives.  You can also refer to it as your pet rabbit’s supper, but I prefer the reference to Athena who is the Goddess of Wisdom, and would likely be tempted by this gorgeous, mental platter.

[caption id="attachment_1536" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="Salad Bar, all mine!"][/caption]

Back to the salad. It has always been my dream to create my own Greek salad, but with a fridge devoid of food, this was far from becoming a kitchen reality. With salad and toppings spread luxuriously in Vikings, in an area barely visited by the hungry, I found my spot and finally embarked on my lifelong dream. 

[caption id="attachment_1554" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Salad a la Lazy Black Cat"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1549" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Salad a la Lazy Black Cat II"][/caption]

I present to you Salad a la Lazy Black Cat: Greek Salad for the ravaged and hungry topped with broccoli, anchovies, boiled egg white, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes and olives. Drizzled with balsamic vinegar with a scoop of pesto. Perfect for the forlorn, sinful and stubborn vegetarians.

Here are other servings that I deemed crucial to my existence:  Ares Goes Pescatorian and Mediterranean Mash-up.

[caption id="attachment_1555" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Mediterranean Mash-up"][/caption]

I will never get tired of Hummus, as I believe that I will never have the opportunity to make this on my own. Ever. Unless I move to Greece, which is a long shot.

[caption id="attachment_1523" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Rich Man's Island aka Caviar Territory"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1550" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Feast on Fish"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1556" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Ares Goes Pescatorian"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1552" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Ares Goes Pescatorian II"][/caption]

Ares, being the God of War ought to bring “spice” to this dish as I inadvertently splashed chili and wasabi on all sauces. This inadvertent catastrophe was rather well taken by my taste buds and so Ares Goes Pescatorian was born. If I could live on one shrimp dish, it would be Hakaw. These steamed shrimp dumplings carry that soft, chewy comfort food goodness that can bask in the glory of chili.

[caption id="attachment_1538" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="All Aboard the Sushi Boat"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1539" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="This is one boat that ain't gonna sink."][/caption]

While other buffets bombard us with sashimi and sushi, this one met the challenge with matching boats and formation. I enjoyed my minimal serving as the tuna and kani sashimi I got seem to be on the plump and fresh side. While I spied an assortment of innovatively named sushi—squid ink rice a part of the roster—I had to shy away from this array to make space for the highlight of my meal. You got that right: Dessert!

[caption id="attachment_1535" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="Don't ever ditch Dessert."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1553" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Sweets on Repeat"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1529" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Everyone deserves a second chance."][/caption]

Lastly, Sweets on Repeat holds my dearest and darkest dessert. “Repeat” because I ate those I enjoyed twice (like that moist and decadent chocolate square topped with a cherry). The mango pudding was a second favorite, but apparently someone liked it too and hoarded the hidden bowls for the rest of the evening, leaving me with pandan tapioca, which was repelling enough with its mint green hue. Fruits are likewise abound, from the common watermelon and oranges to mangoes and that illustrious dragonfruit.

[caption id="attachment_1528" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Dragonfruit Cup"][/caption]

Cookie jars are scattered in the dessert area too, but make no mistake of being the thief who sole the crinkles from the cookie jar. Not only will you be committing a crime, you’ll be sentencing your tooth to early retirement as well. You’ll thank me for this warning.

Missing in action were the feta cheese (for my salad) and fish curry which I gloriously splattered on my plate during an earlier (lunch) visit. However with the abundance of shellfish and seafood, which would please not only the fisherfolk, the Vikings Dinner All-You-Can-Eat is one masterpiece of a buffet that Poseidon would not mind leaving the sea for.

[caption id="attachment_1533" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="The Grill Pill"][/caption]

Food items I sadly missed but intend to sample and savor for future visits: Crabs, Grilled Tuna Belly, Scallops, Frozen Yogurt and Pizza. Yes, they have a Vikings Pizza but as grievous as it may sound (for me), it has bacon.

Here are stolen shots from my neighbors’ plates, which I managed to take while I distracted them with the old “Hey, is that tempura flying on your head?" trick. Strangely effective.


[caption id="attachment_1548" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Fresh Catch"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1541" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Squid and Chips"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1545" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Perfect Combination: Broccoli Soup and Sago't Gulaman"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1526" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Side trip to China"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1522" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Not for the PETA-hearted: Lamb in the house"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1537" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Drink Up"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1540" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Hmph, that's just Caviar"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1544" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="Sake!"][/caption]

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wednesday Midnight Snack @ Mercato

Being a day person, I never quite appreciated the notion of the Midnight Market and found nighttime snacking a rather pesky calorie loading experience. All these negative sentiments have been wiped off my consciousness as last Wednesday, bearing an evening hunger not even Jamba Juice could solve, we were left stranded in this remote place we call Bonifacio High Street.

[caption id="attachment_1516" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Nocturnal Snackers at Mercato Centrale"][/caption]

Good thing free wifi led one thing to another and finally we found ourselves at the launch of the Wednesday Midnight Mercato. It will probably be hard to believe, but this accidental journey marked the climax of the day (or night), hands down.

While I’ve maxed out on my daily sugar, written off my list, in the meantime, were Mochiko, Med Chef, and a host of cakes, sweets and shakes that would just do nothing but infuriate my raging insomnia.

I spied deep dish pizza with all sorts of meat, all-cheese and what seemed to be shrimp toppings. Unfortunately smacked in the center were ham and pepperoni, so off I went to search for the anti-thesis of animal fat or my inner PETA might have exploded in front of the poor vendor.

Spotted was a rather appetizing Mexican joint (pardon my lack of name recall, it was past my bedtime), but we found the quesadilla serving a bit pequeno for my appetite. Another spot had shabu-shabu and balls, but then I felt like dining on cheesy-salty, not Oriental-salty. Burgers and bagnet were also abound, but my carnivore of a father did not feel like dining amidst the smoky atmosphere.

[caption id="attachment_1513" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Panzarotti"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1514" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Panzarottis in a Row"][/caption]

Finally, drawn to the Italian flag which most likely signaled—what else but—Italian food, we ventured to the Panzarotti stall with the hope of finding pesto, ravioli or anything that remotely rhymed with cannelloni. What we unearthed was tat strangely named foot item, the Panzarotti, a calzone-like fried pizza that was craftily shaped to resemble an empanada. Too long for words, it was best to just leave its name as it was.

[caption id="attachment_1515" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Margherita"][/caption]

Four flavors were offered but only one made it to my vegetarian cut, the Margherita. Fried on the spot and topped with Arugula and alfalfa sprouts, it was a cousin to the panizza, dipped win tomato sauce and enjoyed with toothpicks. Like a picnic at the park, or more or in a hazy tent, it was an enjoyable and filling P100 that I enjoyed eating with tissue; well, the toothpicks broke upon contact. Filling yet not that disastrously doughy, it made a reasonably good pretext to have pizza as a pre-midnight snack.

While returning to Wednesday Mercato may not be likely in the near future, I savored the moment it saved me from starvation and provided a light at the end of the road (literally) that evening.

Should I get stranded in the BGC area again, I will make sure it happens on a Wednesday evening. And yes, I will surely  get a green tea mochi this time.