Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Paradise Dynasty: Legend of Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Pork Dumplings) is a type of soup dumpling that originated from Jiangnan, China. I've tried several versions in the past which were all kinda the same until I traveled to Taipei and tried the world-famous Din Tai Fung's Xiao Long Bao. Their signature dumplings consist of juicy meat filling wrapped in melt-in-your-mouth skin made from a minimum 18 exquisite folds. My first DTF experience certainly changed the way I look at Xiao Long Baos and also opened my eyes on how these dumplings must taste like -- nothing more, nothing less.

CS knows I love DTF's Xiao Long Bao so when he saw Paradise Dynasty in S Maison, he immediately pointed it out to me. Paradise Dynasty is a franchise from Singapore and is known for its Rainbow Xiao Long Bao with 8 different and colorful flavors such as Original, Garlic, Ginseng, Foie Gras, Szechuan, Cheese, Crab Roe and Black Truffle. The branch in S Maison is their first in the Philippines and I'm glad I was able to try it in its first month of operation.

Of all the restaurants in S Maison, Paradise Dynasty is one of the few that is consistently busy, most times full with diners, excitedly awaiting for their delicious Shanghainese orders.

What we ordered

Signature Original Xiao Long Bao - Php298.00 (10pcs.)

I have yet to try other flavors of their Xiao Long Bao because whenever we go visit, I always crave for the original ones! After sipping the soup off the plump dimsum, I dip it back in black vinegar and put as much ginger strips as the spoon can fit because I like it sour and hot. On usual days, I can eat about 4 pieces but I think I can finish an entire basket of 10 of these meaty and flavorful treats all to myself. If only the other offerings in the menu are not alluring enough to try.

Stir-fried Shredded Pork in Black Bean Sauce with Chinese Crepes - Php288.00

The sauce was too salty for my taste so after finishing the crepes it came with, the cup of rice on the side is a great balance to downplay its strong flavors. A must-order nonetheless.

La Mian with Vegetable Pork Wanton - Php280.00

I'm not a fan of noodles except if you serve it cold. The servings was big enough for 2 hungry people but if given an option, I'd pass on this and move on to the next page of the menu.

I've been to Paradise Dynasty at least 6 times after my first dining experience and I must say that I love it even more than the last. Aside from the Xiao Long Bao, I look forward to the Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet and Mango Pudding - the best I've ever tasted in Manila!


Paradise Dynasty
2/F S Maison (below Conrad Manila)
Seaside Blvd. corner Coral Way
Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City
Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel.: (632) 828-8333

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wat Pho: Temple of the Reclining Buddha

A must-do for any visitor in Bangkok, a trip to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha toppled my favorite activity in Thailand's capital - shopping in Chatuchak Weekend Market. Located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Pho is the largest and oldest wat in Bangkok and is home to more than 1,000 Buddha images. It is also famous for housing the largest reclining Buddha that measures 46 meters long and 15 meters high covered in gold leaf. Entrance to the temple is THB100 (Php140.00) per person and the complex is open everyday from 0800H to 1700H.

Built as part of Rama III's restoration between 1824-1851, The Reclining Buddha's body is gold plated and decorated with mother of pearl inlay on his eyes and soles of his feet. The Buddha's feet are also intricately embellished with 108 auspicious scenes in Chinese and Indian styles.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Executive Hotel Lounge Review: Midas Hotel Manila

Executive hotel lounges are not created equal. More often than not, the room rates tend to double or triple whenever I book or upgrade to an executive room or a suite. As with most things, I do a thorough research if the additional fee is worth it or not because trust me, some boutique accommodations have better club lounges than 5-star and international hotel chains. I have been to several executive hotel lounges in the past year and these features are what I value the most before swiping the credit card to pay for that additional fee:

Ambiance and Amenities.

The Sunset Lounge is located on the 8th floor of Midas Hotel and facing Roxas Boulevard.

With its Italian leather sofas and chairs, the lounge evokes elegance and comfort. For smoking guests, you can opt to sit by the open-air balcony with a better view of the sunset.

Variety and Abundance of Snack Choices.

Afternoon tea was a simple spread of pastries and canapes while the hors d'oeuvres had a wider and heavier selection of salad, pizza and hot meals such as lumpia, grilled liempo and adobong tahong as your mains and fresh fruits, cakes, tarts and other sweets for dessert.

I was this close to ordering rice if not for the sweet fruit skewers that's hard to resist!

CS and I were the only guests during cocktails so we had the staff's full attention during our stay. They were also quick to replenish the plates even if we're just getting a thing or two off the buffet.

Unlimited alcoholic & non-alcoholic beverages.

All drinks are complimentary - both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. But since I don't drink anything with alcohol in it, I can't say much about the cocktails and liquors that they serve except for the TWG Tea (Emperor Sencha is my favorite) that I really enjoyed, the unlimited glasses of mango shake and other fresh fruit juices and the free flowing coffee that you can order.

Operating Hours.

  • Afternoon tea - 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
  • Evening cocktails - 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
  • Breakfast - 6:00AM to 10:30 AM

All day snacks are also available from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM only - their cookies are to die for!

Full Breakfast Buffet.

Although the choices are less and limited to a table-long buffet only, we still chose to have our breakfast at the lounge rather than go along with the bulk of the guests at the Midas Cafe.

The selection include basic breakfast essentials such as breads, cheese, cold cuts, salad, hash brown, bacon, cereals and fruits. If not for the crispy bacon and hash browns, I would have tagged this as the lamest buffet in any hotel that I've been to (and this is an executive lounge mind you).

Other Perks & Services Offered.

  • Personalized check-in and check-out at the Sunset Lounge
  • Complimentary in-room local calls
  • Complimentary one (1) set per day of clothes for washing and pressing
  • Complimentary one-hour use of a meeting room per stay

Overall Service.

Staycations have been our favorite activity in between trips and after staying in several hotels around Metro Manila in the past years, I've came to an honest and upsetting conclusion that service really differs depending on your booked room and sometimes, your looks. Oftentimes, the employees' approach toward the guests suddenly become friendlier, more accommodating and indulgent to requests when they realize that you booked a club room or a suite.

Our experiences made me wish that I am paying more for the upgraded amenities and not in the shift in treatment because all guests should be treated fair and square. My initial contact with a Midas Hotel staff was disappointing but changed drastically the moment we stepped foot at the Sunset Lounge where all the employees were genuinely happy to see and serve its guests. A smile and a simple hello goes a long way and it definitely changed my first impression of Midas Hotel.


Midas Hotel and Casino
2702 Roxas Boulevard
Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel.: (632) 902-0100

Monday, January 16, 2017

Where NOT to Stay in Legaspi: Hotel Venezia

After years of traveling, I still get tricked by hotel marketing photos once in a while. Such was the case when I realized how different the room was in the photos when we arrived in Hotel Venezia Legaspi. Located just a mere 5-minute ride away from the airport, the hotel's location was the only saving grace from calling it our worst vacation after our Misibis Bay boo boo a day before.

The lobby was spacious and had enough chairs to accommodate guests waiting for their tours and transfers. CS and I were brought in by the Misibis Bay service and the moment we got off the vehicle, the staff immediately told the driver that some of their guests have been waiting for hours for their pick up going to the resort. I guess Misibis Bay really does have a problem not only with the maintenance of the property but with coordination as well. I hope that management will look into these things and do proper adjustments because Misibis Bay has a lot of potential (or what it used to be) in becoming a world-class destination resort in this side of the country.

Check in was fast and after getting our keys, we brought our luggage one floor up via stairs as the hotel does not have an elevator. Nobody approached us to help us move our luggage but I hope the staff will lend a hand to elderly guests and those traveling with kids.

The standard room seemed like it was meant for one person only. The bed was just a tad bit bigger than a single bed becoming it impossible to sleep comfortably when you're sharing it with another.

It may look good on photos but the room smelled old and was poorly maintained. For Php3500/night, it was one of the most regretful decisions I ever made in hotel booking.

The shower enclosure and flooring needs serious scrubbing. The hot water was on and off as well.

Buffet breakfast was included in the rate but rather limited to Filipino breakfast with toast, butter and jam, garlic rice, corned beef, fried dilis, omelette and chicken adobo.

Verdict: The hotel is overpriced and overrated - we're definitely not coming back!


Hotel Venezia
Renaissance Gardens, Washington Drive
Cruzada, Legaspi City
Albay, Philippines
Tel.: (6352) 481-0888
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