Thursday, October 27, 2016

S Maison Food Guide: Carnivale

When I told CS of this new place I wanted to try in S Maison, he was a bit hesitant at first when I told him what Carnivale's specialty is -- BURGERS! But being the ever supportive partner when it comes to my food cravings, he gave in and we found ourselves sitting inside the restaurant's playful interiors. From the same brilliant talent behind Locavore's well-loved Filipino food with a twist, Chef Mikel Zaguirre's latest venture takes these fast food favorite to a whole new level and a complicated marriage of flavors you can only appreciate once you get a taste of it.

What we ordered

Fries - Php120.00

Because burgers are best enjoyed with fries on the side! I love that its crispy, thick, not greasy or soggy and well seasoned -- if only if it was cheaper, we'd definitely order more because one is not meant to be shared. Good thing I'm dining with a health buff so more fries for me!

Their menu is by far the most complicated burgers I have ever seen! It took us a long 10 minutes to decide which ones to order out of the 8 burgers that Carnivale is offering. And why not? The descriptions are not your everyday ingredients that I had to google and see what's in each burger.

Gravlax - Php370.00

Carnivale's Gravlax Burger is a stack of house cured salmon gravlax with cream cheese, smoked salmon mousse, fresh rocket leaves, pickled red onion, honey mustard glaze and onion tuile in butter toasted squid ink brioche bun. I love bagel with smoked salmon but this is the first time I tried salmon as a star of a burger. One bite led me to an exciting fusion of flavors that I just kept going and going until there's a little piece left to share. The bun may have a strong dark color but the squid ink's flavor was as subtle as it can be to avoid overpowering the other ingredients. A must order if want to venture out of the ordinary but wants to play it safe.

Lamb - Php420.00

Sous-vide ground lamb shoulder patty with yogurt, mint and garlic dressing, fresh rocket leaves, compressed watermelon, fattoush salsa and feta cheese was Carnivale's take on the French method of cooking. Sous-vide refers to the vacuum-sealing of food and cooking it in a temperature-controlled water bath to retain its moisture and ensuring that all parts are cooked evenly. It was also our first time to order a dish cooked in this method that we initially thought that the lamb patty was under cooked. It was an acquired taste and not my type, at least for this type of dish.

Carnivale may specialize in burgers but its nothing close to any fast food meal out there. Worth a try if you fancy a burger but be prepared to spend more because it doesn't come cheap!


2/F S Maison (below Conrad Manila)
Seaside Blvd. corner Coral Way
Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City
Metro Manila, Philippines

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Summit Magnolia: Boutique Hotel in the Heart of QC

In the Philippines where people regard the word "mall" (i.e. malling) as a verb, its no surprise that majority of these shopping centers have hotels nearby or better yet, attached to the building itself. Even for Filipinos who are traveling abroad, one of the main factors in their search for an accommodation is the hotel's proximity to a shopping mall. I should know because that's what I always get from friends and colleagues asking for my help with their itineraries.

So it came as no shock that we got the last standard room at Summit Hotel Magnolia when I booked a week prior to our stay. Hotel parking is complimentary for one vehicle per room and is located in the mall parking as well. While they have a cordoned area for hotel guests near the entrance, you are also free to park your car anywhere you want. From the parking, a hallway leads to the elevator that will bring you to the lobby on the ground level. Check-in was efficient and after the mandatory spiel of the hotel policies, we made our way to our room for the weekend.

Summit Hotel Magnolia does not have a pool or a gym but it never really bothered us because as soon as we entered the room, all prior plans on checking out the hotel facilities flew out of the window. As long as the bed is comfy as a cloud, there's air-conditioning and our favorite TV shows are on, there's very little possibility that you can drag either of us out. To make it up for the absence of a physical spa, the hotel offers an in-room spa and nail services.

Other room amenities of the Super King room include:
  • Spacious room with 34sqm floor size
  • Optimal reading lights on each side
  •  A king-size bed with high quality linens and duvet covers
  • Non-allergenic pillows
  • 42-inch LED television with cable channels
  • Instant coffee and Twinings tea
  • Fully-stocked mini refrigerator
  • In-room safe
  • Writing desk with built-in reading light
  • Separate toilet and bath with hot/cold shower
  • Premium bath toiletries
  • Hair dryer 
  • WiFi router per room to ensure fast internet connectivity

The hotel also offers baby cribs, ironing facilities and connecting rooms available upon request.

Summit Hotel Magnolia is one of the three operational hotels of the upscale brand from the JG Summit Holdings conglomerate, while its sister brand Go Hotels has about 11 properties scattered all over the Philippines. The room is tidy and equipped with everything we needed and more, Summit's assertion of aiming for distinct aesthetics yet functional design.

With the upcoming 4-day long weekend, there's no need to travel far and stress yourself with the horrendous traffic out of and back to the city. You can just opt to stay in the Metro and book a room in the Summit Hotel Magnolia where you can enjoy its convenient location, ample parking space, accommodating staff and well-kept rooms. And as for the ladies, how about treating yourselves with a shopping spree from the opening until the mall's closing? Sounds like fun, right?!


Summit Hotel Magnolia
Dona Hemady St. corner Aurora Blvd.
New Manila, Quezon City
Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel.: (632) 705-6300

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Where to Stay in Maldives: Kaani Village and Spa

A year and 2 months. That's how long it took us to prepare for our Maldives vacation from the moment we purchased our Kuala Lumpur - Male tickets from Air Asia's online promo. After booking the flight, the next main consideration was the accommodation whether we can afford to stay in an island resort or in one of the local islands. While the true Maldivian experience I have in mind is waking up in a stilt cottage in the middle of the blue ocean, my bank account simply cannot afford shelling out at least Php92,500 (Usd1,915) per night on a Fabulous Lagoon Oasis room at the W Maldives - the no. 2 destination on my crème de la crème bucket list!

Going back to reality, my friends let me decide which hotel to book with the following conditions: it must not cost an arm and a leg, must be clean and well maintained, offers complimentary breakfast, can accommodate the three of us comfortably and the hotel must have an in-house pool. Tripadvisor and Agoda narrowed down my options to several hotels and resorts in Maafushi, a local inhabited island in the South Male Atoll. Browsing through blogs and forums finally led me to Kaani Village and Spa, one of the more popular hotels in Maafushi.

The hotel derived its name from Kaani, a flower abundant in the Maldives that somewhat resembles a hibiscus. The vibrant color of the logo transcends to the friendly ambiance and lively smiles of the hotel's all-Maldivian staff. To date, there are 2 Kaani hotels that are currently operational in Maafushi with the third one due to open by end of the year. Once up, the newest Kaani Hotel will be the biggest and guaranteed to provide the best view in the whole island.

Kaani Village and Spa may not be the ideal beachfront stay but their hospitality and excellent service certainly lives up to the high ratings the hotel earned from various travel sites.

One of the considerations why I chose Kaani Village & Spa was because it offered a family room that can accommodate our group of 3 at a reasonable rate. Thru Agoda, we were able to book the room at a discounted price of about Php18,000 (Usd370) for 3 nights with extra bed and inclusive of buffet breakfast. I know that there are cheaper hotels available in Maafushi but paying extra for a comfortable accommodation with full hotel amenities is certainly worth every penny.

The family room has a single and 2 semi-double beds, an air-conditioning unit and ceiling fan, an LCD television with English cable channels, a mini bar with complimentary bottled water every day, a safety deposit box, a separate toilet and bath with basic toiletries and a balcony with a partial view of the ocean. Complimentary wireless internet is also provided but the farther you are from the lobby, the weaker the signal tends to get. It also drops out when your device is on standby but as long as it's free, inputting the 4-digit code will never bother me.

Breakfast is served at the hotel restaurant on the lobby's second floor. It's open daily from 6am to 10am and thankfully, menu is changed every day with a few fixed items such as breads, eggs, butter and jam, cheese and fresh fruits. They say that a traditional Maldivian breakfast isn't complete without a serving of Mas Huni and Roshi on your plate! Mas Huni is a simple mix of coconut, canned tuna and loads of onions that is best paired with freshly baked Roshi flat bread.

Day 1 - Roshi, Mas Huni, Sausage and Cheese

Day 2 - Roshi and Fish Curry

Day 3 - Cheese, Grilled Eggplant and Mushrooms

Pros: The only hotel in Maafushi with a pool and in-house spa, value for money room rates, spacious and modern rooms, well-maintained facilities, reasonably priced excursions and excellent customer service. I can't emphasize enough how hospitable and polite the staff and management of Kaani Village are -- the genuine smiles, their eagerness to help and going the extra mile even beyond their duty time, these are the things that you can never put a price tag on.

Cons: Non-beachfront property and WiFi that kept dropping out but both are non-issue for me

Before I booked our ticket to Male, I had this misconception that Maldives is an expensive destination that I can only dream of. It may not be as cheap as going to Hongkong or Singapore but it is definitely attainable with proper planning and perfect timing. A lot of friends have asked me how much I spent for my entire trip and were all shocked whenever I say that my 4-day Maldives trip cost me about Php35,000 (Usd700) including airfare, hotel, excursions and meals. So yes, I am a living proof that Maldives on a budget is possible and I can't wait to share it with you soon!


Kaani Village & Spa
Mirihi Magu
Maafushi, Maldives
Tel.: (960) 911-3626 / 796-1060
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