Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Eats in the USA: Rattler's Bar B Que (CA)

Known as Santa Clarita's favorite barbeque place, Rattler's aims to be remain as a family-oriented restaurant serving delicious and affordable food for more than 25 years now. Discovering Rattler's was purely accidental as we were just dropping by the nearby Walmart store to replenish our food and toiletry supplies after visiting Cesar Millan's Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita, California. In case you're wondering, we did not meet Cesar himself but his staff were kind enough to accommodate us and gave us a quick tour even if the center was not open to public pala.

A staff graciously welcomed us as soon as we entered Rattler's and ushered us right in the middle of the restaurant. After handing us the hardbound menu, she excused herself and came back with a basket of these amazing garlic rolls. I would gladly buy some if these were up for sale.

What we ordered

BBQ Chopped Salad - $7.99

As with most servings in the US, Rattler's BBQ Chopped Salad can feed up to 2 - 3 people with generous servings of grilled barbeque chicken breast, mixed greens, shredded corn, black beans, onions, diced tomato, red cabbage, jack cheese and tortila chips tossed with light Ranch dressing. The bright colored vegetables gave the dish an appealing concept while the tortila chips gave it enough crunch to make you ask for more. It's the fun type of salad I don't mind eating everyday.

Baby Back Pork Ribs - $17.99 (whole)

Rattler's bestselling menu is their trip-tip steak but I was having serious cravings with baby back ribs so I convinced CS to order the latter. Quality and serving size is certainly one of the best and the barbeque sauce was seriously addicting! I also love that its not the overly fall-off-the-bone rib type but still tender and juicy with mouthwatering smokey flavors.

Apart from their delicious food, I think that its Rattler's commendable customer service that keeps its patrons even after all these years. Highly recommended if you're in the area!


Rattler's Bar B Que
26495 Golden Valley Road
Santa Clarita, California, USA
Tel.: (1661) 251-4195

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Okada Manila: New Gold Standard for 5-Star Luxury

The newest casino resort located in ParaƱaque's Entertainment City, Okada Manila (Manila Bay Resorts) is envisioned to compete with casinos in Macau as a premier international destination by Japanese mogul Kazuo Okada. The casino complex was set to open back in November 2016 but was delayed due to Manila's uncooperative weather conditions. Okada Manila commenced operations in December 30, 2016 while The Fountain was opened to the general public on April 1, 2017.

Okada Manila's signature gold color is said to represent the hue of Manila Bay sunset while its striking plum theme personifies boldness and sophistication as evident with the lavish interiors and the resort's fleet of Bentleys and Mercedes Benzes in the same stunning color. The entire complex occupies a vast 45 hectares with 993 hotel rooms, more than 3,000 electronic gaming machines and 500 table games, a shopping complex, the largest multi-color dancing fountain in the world, and an indoor night club and beach complex with a maximum capacity of 4,500 called The Cove.

Check-in was fast and efficient. From the basement parking, we were approached multiple times by the hotel staff who offered to help us with our luggage. We really didn't mind carrying our bags since it was just a short walk but the staff at the ground level insisted and ushered us to the lobby. With all counters manned, no queuing in sight even during peak hours.

I thought I've seen it all, the best staycation venue that Manila can offer, but the moment I stepped inside our deluxe room, I knew I haven't been to THE BEST YET. Not until today at least. The smallest and cheapest room in Okada Manila, our deluxe room commands an overnight stay rate of around Php15,000 per night with breakfast for 2. Probably the most expensive deluxe room in the entire country but wait until you see what the room looks like - extravagance at its finest.

Okada's state-of-the-art deluxe room features a spacious floor area of 60 to 74 sqm, ultra stylish furniture, king- or twin-sized beds with Sealy mattress, LED TV with cable channels and in-house movies (paid and complimentary), drip-top coffee and tea, its own jacuzzi with separate rain shower and Japanese washlet, plush robes and slippers, and Roberto Cavalli toiletries.

All Sealy mattresses are equipped with Posturepedic Technology that promises reinforced support where your body needs it the most. No wonder CS and I slept soundly and woke up well rested.

I love how each side table has its own socket and usb plugs for your charging needs.

Everything in the room is digital and can be managed using the iPad provided.

The softest and lightest robes ever - one of the many things I wanted to take home with me.

As with most modern hotels I've stayed in recently, minibars are now automated with sensors and built-in electronic scales so be careful with touching the items to avoid incidental charges. Happened to us in Aria Resort, Las Vegas where I accidentally removed a drink for a few seconds and was charged for it even if I returned it right away. The hotel did reversed the charges but it could have saved us a few minutes upon check out if not for the erroneous charges.

Just the sheer size of the bathroom with your own jacuzzi is a visible portrayal of Okada's grandiose and extravagance. Make sure you request for a room facing The Fountain so you can watch the show from the comfort of your room and better yet, while indulged in a bubble bath.

Japan is famous for its modern toilets and I'm amazed that Okada Manila has adapted the same advance toilet technology in each room. Even the toilet cover has its own sensor!

Pros: Tight security measures, complimentary shuttle service in key points of Metro Manila, free basement parking for private cars, various dining options, extravagant interiors that is comparable to casino hotels in Macau, free flowing bottled water for all hotel and non-hotel guests, well-trained staff with great customer service capabilities, spacious and high tech rooms with your own private jacuzzi and designer bathroom toiletries, fast and complimentary WiFi, and delicious buffet breakfast at Medley restaurant with international cuisine offerings.

Cons: As Okada Manila is still not fully operational, there are hotel amenities such as The Cove, fitness gym and spa that we were not able to enjoy during our stay. We were made aware of this upon booking so it wasn't really an issue for us as we knew what and what not to expect.

If not for its hefty price tag, I would book a room in Okada Manila every weekend! But for now, I'd be saving up for an overnight stay when all amenities are open because The Cove's massive 90,000ft² indoor night club and white sand beach with luxurious cabanas and bungalows, private jacuzzis, a swim-up bar and a butterfly-shaped swimming pool under one iconic glass dome sounds like the ultimate summer beach party experience minus the sunburn!


Okada Manila
New Seaside Drive, Entertainment City
Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel.: (632) 888-0777

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eats in the USA: Sam's Chowder House (CA)

Voted as the Best Seafood in the Bay Area for 2017, my good friend A and her family of 4 drove us all the way to Sam's Chowder House when when I told her that I wanted to eat lobster roll as my first meal in San Francisco. She's been raving about Sam's delicious food so we all agreed it was worth the long drive. Our initial plan was to go there for early dinner because I heard the view is amazing but we miscalculated our driving time from Los Angeles to Hotel Nikko San Francisco so dinner was pushed to a later time. It was already dark when we finally made it to Sam's.

If you don't mind the chilly winds, best seats in the house are the ones facing Pacific Ocean. I can only imagine how romantic and gorgeous this outdoor patio setting must be during sunset time.

What we ordered

For starters, A ordered New England Clam Chowder ($11.95 for a bowl) with little neck clams, Yukon gold potatoes and smoked bacon. Made with natural ingredients, Sam's chowder is light, creamy and really delicious! It was the perfect appetizer to warm us up on a chilly night.

Sam’s Lobster Roll - $26.50

Names as Half Moon Bay's Sandwich Sensation, Sam's Lobster Roll is also on the top 5 of America's Best Lobster Roll by the Today show. The simple yet delectable dish from New England consists of lobster meat on a grilled hotdog bun often served with lemon juice, mayonnaise and diced celery or scallions. Apart from the huge tender lobster claw meat, what I love about Sam's lobster roll is that it doesn't have mayonnaise, just light butter dressing and thinly sliced herbs to provide some extra flavors. Our order also comes with crispy potato chips and coleslaw. Just the mere photo of the sandwich brings back great happy memories and really good food from that night.

Crispy "Maryland Style" Lump Blue Crab Cake - $13.75

Another mouthwatering and unforgettable dish we tried in Sam's is their Maryland Style Crab Cake. It may look like a simple crispy browned mound with tartar sauce, fresh lemon and greens on the side, but wait until you get a taste of its succulent chunks with just pure crab meat and no fillers. The single-cake dish is by far the best crab cake we have ever tasted!

Crispy Polenta Fries - $6.00

Move over french fries! These Crispy Polenta Fries (basically baked cornmeal porridge made into huge fries) are crunchy on the outside and really really creamy on the inside. A unique and great alternative from your usual appetizer, side dish or as a savory snack on its own.

Great service and fantastic food, dining at Sam's is definitely one of the highlights of our US trip!


Sam's Chowder House
4210 N. Cabrillo Highway
Half Moon Bay, California, USA
Tel.: (1650) 712-0245

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Harry Potter and More at Universal Studios Hollywood

I consider myself a Harry Potter fanatic. When I traveled to Osaka back in 2014, I missed the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios by a month. I wanted to move my trip so bad but I was traveling with my friends then and we already booked our tickets and accommodation so it would be a waste to rebook our trip. Fast forward to 2017, I excitedly woke up on the 24th of April because it was our schedule to visit Universal Studios Hollywood! Depending on your date of visit, ticket prices can go as low as $105 for general admission and up to $349 for the VIP experience per person. We scheduled our trip to Universal Studios on a Monday and booked a front of line ticket for $199 each that included priority access to each ride and show.

Opened in April 7, 2016, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood will take you to a fully immersive and interactive locations recreated from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. From exploring the mysteries of Hogwarts, strolling and seeing familiar faces and shops at the village of Hogsmeade with butterbeer on hand, riding the fight-simulating Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and experiencing wand selection at Ollivanders Shop, I was on the verge of having to wipe tears of joy seeing my dream unfold right before my eyes. Was the more expensive front of line ticket worth it? Most definitely! Especially if you're traveling on a weekend, I suggest getting the same and heading to the Wizarding World as soon as you arrive at Universal Studios because VIP and front of line tickets have an hour early park admission than the general public.

Another attraction unique at Universal Studios Hollywood is the Backlot Tour. Built with creative consultation from THE Steven Spielberg himself, guests are able to visit 13 city blocks on four acres of historic studio lot aboard trams with comedian Jimmy Fallon on HD monitors as the tour narrator. The studio tour that runs for 60 minutes goes into working movie studios (Bates Motel), various film sets (Jaws and World War Z) and staged demonstrations (Earthquake: The Big One, King Kong 3D and Fast & Furious Supercharged) for guests viewing pleasure.

Other notable rides and attractions at the park include The Walking Dead Attraction, Waterworld, Springfield USA, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Transformers: The Ride 3D, Jurassic Park - The Ride, Shrek 4D, Revenge of the Mummy, Special Effects Show and Universal's Animal Actors.

If you ever get hungry, several dining options are available and scattered all over the park for your choosing. For lunch, we headed to Jurassic Cafe and got myself their world famous turkey legs!

Universal Studios Hollywood is open daily from 9am to 10pm (early park admission for VIP and front of line is 8am) while City Walk shops operate starting from 11am to 11pm. Ticket prices are:

  • One-day general admission: $105 - $116
  • Front of line: $179 - $254
  • VIP experience: from $349
  • 2-day general admission: $129- 159

Tip: Buy your tickets online from the Universal Studios website for discounted rates. Click here.
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