Category Archives: Dining

Restaurant reviews and anything gustatory.

Russia: Out and About in Yekaterinburg

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Since our event in Yekaterinburg was still in the evening, we had some free time to go around the city on Day 02.

As we already did a quick tour the day before, we had no itinerary that day and decided to just walk around.  We stayed at Novotel, which was really convenient because it’s just walking distance from the bank, the mall, and Yekaterinburg’s attractions.

This is our view of Vysotsky Skyscraper from our room.  Vysotsky is the tallest building in Russia outside of Moscow.  Technically, it is not the tallest structure in Yekaterinburg as an unfinished TV tower that I shared on my previous post holds this distinction.

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After changing some USD into rubble, we decided to look for a mall because my colleague, Olga, needed stockings.  Thankfully, she’s Russian so I needn’t worry about asking for directions and just had to follow her lead.

We passed by the unfinished TV tower that I mentioned earlier on our way to the mall.

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The weather was dreary, so the skyline looked bleak.  And boy, was it cold, but not too cold, so it was okay (it’s actually a nice experience for me as I have always lived in a tropical country where it’s always hot).

We also passed by this river, which I think is the same river that flows into the Weir.

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As I was working on this post, I noticed that if only we went straight ahead, I would have been directed to the same locations we visited a day prior. I can tell by the river and the dome-shaped architecture; by the way, the dome-shaped building is Yekaterinburg Circus, one of the city’s landmarks (the unfinished TV tower is beside it and both are visible from the main photo from this post).

Walking around Yekaterinburg was actually relaxing because of the cold weather.  That, and because of views like the river and these colorful trees.

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I don’t know what this building is, but Olga said it’s some sort of government building.

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This is just another random shot taken while waiting for the stoplight to turn green.

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In a way, Yekaterinburg reminded me of our province.  It’s obviously still not as urbanized as Moscow or St. Petersburg. And yes, my hometown also has some electrical wires that are evident in the above photo.

Aaand finally, we reached our destination, which was Yekaterinburg Greenwich Mall.  It’s right at the city center and at its entrance was this sculpture.

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Inside the mall were other statues like the ones below, though I was more interested in its ceiling of gifts.

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After Olga bought her stockings (I couldn’t believe I forgot my hair ties so I had to buy a pack at almost USD 5!), we had lunch.

We ate at the mall’s food court where we got to pick among their already prepared food.  I really had no idea about what I was putting on my tray, but I did my best to choose what seemed familiar to me: some sort of chicken pie, lasagna, salad, and of course, dessert.

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Thankfully, my meal was really good, especially the chicken pie and the dessert.  Russia’s sweets actually became my favorite during this trip.

On our way back, we passed by the same route and these were just some of my views.

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I also got to see these old wooden houses. Too bad the views were ruined by the many electrical wires.

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Come Day 03, we had an early flight to St. Petersburg so we didn’t get to see more of Yekaterinburg, but I did get to take photos from my bus’ window seat.

The clouds were looking so defined that day.

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And I don’t know what these trees are, but they sure looked pretty.

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A typical view at the still rustic Yekaterinburg.

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And lastly, one of my favorites from this set:

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Isla Naburot: A Foodie’s Haven

As shared in my previous post, our dining experience in Isla Naburot was so satisfying it requires a separate post.

my Continental breakfast

my Continental breakfast

Isla Naburot’s room rate is at Php 12,000 per night and inclusive of 3 meals.  It’s expensive, yes, but the experience is definitely worth splurging on and the food is so good it in itself is worth coming back to.

Food is served buffet-style in the main hall.  Once it’s ready a staff would ring a bell to remind their guests that it’s meal time.

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the main hall, with its lovely views of the beach and islets

Note that drinks are not included in the room rates, but you can charge it in your room (at the main hall is a board where they tally your drinks expense).

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Day 1, Lunch

What makes Isla Naburot’s food special is its home-cooked style of cooking.  Our lunch consisted of grilled fish and squid, green mango and tomato salad, and blanched kangkong (swamp cabbage, Ipomoea aquatica).  Ginataang tahong with kalabasa and malunggay (mussels cooked in coconut milk, with pumpkin and moringa leaves) was our soup while dessert were the sweetest and freshest mangoes.  This was also the first time that I tasted the very fleshy Managat fish, which according to the owners, is one of the most expensive type of fish in Iloilo.

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Our lunch was really good.  I’m not a fan of unriped mangoes, but their mango and tomato salad wasn’t as sour as I thought.  The grilled chicken was tasty and cooked just right, and so was the squid.  The kangkong was also perfectly blanched.  The soup was new to me because we usually don’t cook our mussels in coconut milk, but it was surprisingly good.

Day 1, Merienda (PM Snacks)
Come mid-afternoon, after our swim, the owners approached us to ask if we want some bitso-bitso.  It is a kakanin (delicacy) made from glutinous rice, coated in sugar then deep fried, so it’s crunchy and chewy at the same time.

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I haven’t eaten bitso-bitso since I was a child, so I really enjoyed this treat.

Day 1, Dinner
Dinner was miso soup, salad, grilled pork and shrimp, pancit, and turon ( turrón de banana) for dessert.  I’m not really a fan of miso soup so I took only a few spoonfuls.  I’m not a veggie person too so I just picked hard boiled eggs, carrots, lettuce, and avocado for my salad ingredients.  The grilled pork was good while the shrimp was a little overcooked.  The dessert was very delicious.  I loved how they wrapped each turon so thinly so it was very crunchy.

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Pardon the photo quality.  It was too dark so I had to use flash.  Still, it was a memorable experience to dine underneath a crescent moon, with tropical views like this.

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Day 2. Breakfast
Breakfast was mostly fruits.  The main photo of this post is of my breakfast, which consisted of fruits and bread.  Papaya is one of my least favorite fruits, but the papaya in Isla Naburot was sweet and not overripe.  The mangoes as usual were sweet and the banana was also not overripe.

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Later, they served omelette.  The other thing I appreciate about the food here was the presentation, say the fresh flowers like this hibiscus.

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So pretty.  The omelette, though needed more salt.

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It’s also interesting how in a secluded island like Isla Naburot, they have a steady supply of fruits, which made me think that their price isn’t that expensive considering they had to bring everything, including drinking water to the island).  At the main hall were fruits in season like mangoes, indian mangoes, banana, pineapple, papaya, and santol (cottonfruit, Sandoricum koetjape).

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I chose indian mangoes for our morning snacks.  This is my favorite mango variety since it’s always sweet and perfect when dipped in bagoong alamang (shrimp paste).

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Yummy.  And again, looked at how the staff presented this nicely.

Day 2. Lunch
While our one-night stay was inclusive of only 3 meals, the owners asked us to again join them for lunch before heading back to Iloilo (I thought it’s because my friend and they have common friends).

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They served kadyos (Pigeon pea) soup, which really pleased my friend because she’s been craving for one since we landed in Iloilo (kadyos is a favorite Ilonggo dish), pork barbecue, bean sprouts, salad, and to my delight, the flavorful and fleshy Managat fish.

We had fresh crabs too and it was really good.

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And thus was our dining experience in Isla Naburot, the island with a soul, which is also a foodie’s haven.

Iloilo: Breakthrough Restaurant

Scallops, anyone?

Scallops, anyone?

After our tour of Iloilo, we decided to have dinner at Breakthrough Restaurant, which is one of the most famous seafood restaurants in Iloilo. My friend remembered it from her previous visit, sharing that the food was really good.

Ambiance
The place was spacious, but was thankfully not full when we arrived.

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It’s known for their seafood and patrons have the option to have live seafood like crabs and fishes cooked according to what they want. This was a treat from my friend so she was the one who ordered for us.

While waiting for our food, I decided to check out the place. The restaurant is by the beach.  I felt lucky that we were able to dine here right when the sun was about to set so we had prime spot for sunset-viewing.

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Note the island over the horizon, which is Guimaras Island, our destination the following day.

Food
First to be served were the scallops, the main photo of this post. I loved it. It was fresh, buttery and garlicky, just the way I liked it.

We had grilled oysters too. In our dialect, we call it Talaba. Sadly, it wasn’t as fleshy and tasty as the ones we would prepare at home.

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Pardon the photo quality.  We were already so hungry so I just snapped all these photos in a hurry.

We had fish sinigang too. I loved it. It wasn’t too sour, the fish was fresh and the vegetables weren’t overcooked.

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While their lechon was good, it wasn’t as tasty as the ones here in Cebu or in Aklan. It was mostly fat too.  But the skin was really good, very crunchy and cooked just right.

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And here’s my ultimate favorite: crab, which was so huuuge it filled the whole plate, fleshy, and really yummy.  Just look at that aligue!

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Breakthrough Restaurant’s Aligue (Crab Fat) Rice is also a must. It was very delicious. Unlike in many restaurants, the sprinkling of crab fat on their Rice Aligue was very generous.

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I don’t know what this is called, but it’s quite a treat. It tasted like salted dried fish, but it wasn’t as salty.

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It was one very good meal. I even told my friend it was my best meal in months!

Service
While the food is good, service is slow considering that there were very few diners. The staff were also not very attentive. We had to keep waving our hands to ask for water, condiments, and whatnot.

Breakthrough Restaurant is located in Santo Niño Sur, Villa Arevalo District, Iloilo City, Iloilo. Contact them via +63 33 337-3027.

Camiguin: Secret Cove Beach Resort

While researching about Camiguin, I also considered staying at this resort but was put off by the resort owner’s rude replies on TripAdvisor (I’m fine with an owner setting the record straight, but not with one insulting a reviewer).  Nevertheless, I decided to give its restaurant a try since it’s supposed to be one of the best in the island.

I came here for lunch.  I made an effort of going here because on my 2 days at Action Geckos, I did not like the food I had for my dinner and breakfast as mentioned on my review of Action Geckos’ restaurant.

Secret Cove’s restaurant is on its main building.  It is right by the beach.

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Though the restaurant was small, its bar is well-stocked and they claimed on their website that they have the best-stocked bar in the whole province.

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I was the only diner when I came here, though I did meet some Caucasian guests on their way to dive when I arrived.

Here’s what I ordered:

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Php 290
Date Square Php 70
Bottled Water Php 35

The staff asked me if I was willing to wait since cooking time for the Chicken Cordon Bleu is an hour.  I said yes.

Despite the one hour wait, I found it undercooked.  Well, the chicken was already cooked but when I cut it up, the center was very cold.  It obviously came straight from the freezer and was not thawed properly.  Too bad as it tasted good.  Good thing the potatoes were well-seasoned and cooked just right.

On Secret Cove’s website, they proudly shared an Inflight Magazine writer’s praise for their triple decker mango cheesecake.  I ordered this upon arrival but when it was time to serve the food, the staff told me that it wasn’t available.  She recommended their Date Squares, which was good but not extraordinary.

For those interested in checking in here, here’s how its accommodations look like (lower left photo in the following collage).  This is to the right of the main building/restaurant.  It looked freshly painted and with new roofing, but it still looked bleak to me.

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In front of the main buildings are bamboo cottages, hammocks, and plastic chairs.  Though the loungers and chairs looked new, the hammocks, bamboos, and the cottages’ thatched roofs were in dire need of an upgrade.

Like Action Geckos’ beachfront, Secret Cove’s also has black sand.  Too bad it was such a cloudy day when I was there.

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Secret Cove Beach Resort is in Yumbing, Mambajao, Camiguin.  Visit their official website for more information.

Camiguin: Camiguin Action Geckos Dive and Adventure Resort

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stunning sunset at Camiguin Action Geckos

This was where I spent my third and fourth night in Camiguin.  As I had already toured the island’s attractions on my first two (2) days in the province, my stay at the Action Geckos was purely for leisure.  That is, I spent my 3 days here doing nothing but sleep in my room, or read a book while listening to the crashing waves, walk along its beachfront, or just laze at one of its hammocks without a care in the world.

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the entrance and the resort’s main building that serves as its front desk and restaurant

Accommodations
I booked via Agoda, since the rates I got here were cheaper than what I saw on Action Geckos’ website.   I specifically chose their Beach Bungalow because of its beachfront location.  It’s expensive at Php 2,150 per night for a solo traveler, but it was worth it.

I especially appreciated their warm welcome.  I was charmed when I opened the door and saw the bed canopied with an intricately-made mosquito net.

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I was even more charmed when I saw the welcome note with flowers.  Such a sweet and thoughtful gesture.

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And I loved my room’s furnishing too!  Who knew you could make beautiful ceiling lamps from a bulb and strainer?

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And the bathroom was beautiful!  I loved the mosaic of colorful tiles on the vanity and the floor.

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And yes, after making do with just cold water and using dipper at Enigmata, it was nice to finally have access to a shower with strong water pressure and hot water.

My room was called Ardent, which is named after one of Camiguin’s hot springs as featured on this blog.  It has a hammock and wooden loungers right at its doorstep, which offers me a good view of the sea.

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I loved that my room was right by the beach.  Even when I chose to stay in my room as it was too hot outside, I could hear the waves crashing against the shore.

Aside from the hammock right in front of my room, there were hammocks too beside the bungalow where my room was located.

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Dining
The resort’s restaurant is called Tuko (Gecko) and serves local and international cuisine.  I loved its very native ambience.

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My first meal here was the dinner I had on my first night.  I ordered their specials for the day, which was Meatballs with potato chips and garlic mayo and mango shake (sorry I forgot to take its photo).  I did not like it.  The garlic mayo was too garlicky and the mango shake was bland.

The following day, I had Filipino breakfast, which consisted of tocino, egg, and tea.  Yikes!  It was the worst tocino I’ve ever had.  It was too salty.  I told one of the staff and they said it’s homemade.

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Since the food I had so far were not good, I opted to go out for lunch but come dinner, I had no choice but to again dine at Tuko as there were no other resorts or restaurants near Action Geckos.  I had  Spaghetti Action Geckos, which was described as Asian style spaghetti with chicken and vegetables.  It sounded interesting, but I found it weird.  It’s like pancit, but with pasta.  And it’s again too salty.  By this time, I was convinced of the resort having expensive but so-so food.

The next morning, I ordered Helvetia for breakfast, which is a combination of grated potato fried with onion, topped with melted cheese and bacon bits.  Tuko’s menu specifically mentioned that it had a 20-minute preparation time and the staff who took my order said so too, but added that it’s a specialty so I took her word and was not disappointed as it was the only food I liked here.  For my drinks, I upgraded my regular coffee to Latte Machiato.

Beachfront

Unlike White Island’s white-sand beach, the beach here has black sand.  Though this is something not new to me as we also had black-sand beaches in Aklan (I’ve even blogged about one of them HERE), I found the black sand here to be the finest.


It was nice to walk barefoot on it and watch my feet create footprints, or just sit and watch the horizon while squishing the fine sand between my toes.

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On Action Geckos’ photo gallery, they had photos of their beachfront with volcanoes (or mountain range?) as its backdrop, but I did not see such a view.  Instead, I chanced on these sights, but the volcanoes/mountain range were not right in front of the resort, but about a dozen meters from it.

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Too bad the towering coconut trees were blocking the views (or perhaps when the photos were taken, the coconuts were still not that tall so the mountain range was very visible from the beachfront).

While walking along the beachfront, I also chanced upon these fishermen.

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You may have noticed that my beach photos so far had overcast skies, and that’s because the weather was pretty bad on my second day here.  Thankfully, the weather improved on my third and last day.

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Note the bluer sky and the sea.

Garden
Action Geckos’ garden is beautiful and most of the flowers were in full bloom when I was there.  My favorites were the colorful cosmos that came in yellow or pink, or a combination of both.

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There were white and pink vica plants (top photos in the succeeding collage) too, as well as sampaguita (lower left), which is the national flower of the Philippines.  I don’t know what the other two flowers are though, but I’ve seen them before.

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There was hibiscus too, and more flowers that I’m familiar with, but cannot specifically identify.

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Sunset

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Action Geckos’ location is perfect for sunset-watching .  On my first afternoon here, it was cloudy so the sunset was not that colorful.

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On my second and last afternoon though, the sunset was mesmerizing.  It came in vivid hues of red and orange.  I must have spent a quarter of an hour watching the sky change colors while the sun was sinking beyond the horizon.

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The main photo on this post was from the same set.

In closing, Camiguin Action Geckos is one good accommodation option when in Camiguin.  It’s more expensive that other resorts but because its newer and well-thought-of design-wise, it’s worth the splurge.  Their restaurant though, is an altogether different story.

For more information about Camiguin Action Geckos Dive and Adventure Resort, visit their official website.