Saté, new and the only Indonesian restaurant in Ilocos Norte

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Last night we were brought to Indonesia via Saté, an authentic, I repeat, a real deal Indonesian restaurant that opened in San Nicolas just a few days ago. Of course, nasi goreng and sate (satay) ring a bell, but on my latest gustatory adventure, my taste buds were treated to a higher level — a full course dinner prepared by Indonesian Chef Robby Satiawan, a former executive chef at Banyan Tree in Macau, who has also worked in other parts of the globe like Maldives, and Qatar, where he met his Filipina wife, Marie. Looks like they are loving their new home, as I feel the excitement radiating from them.

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How we found ourselves at Saté was by accident, utter serendipity, as my besties Marla and Louie and I planned to go to another resto, then we changed our minds in the car ‘coz someone said there’s a new Indian or Hindustani resto in the next town, then we were thinking yogurt-based, masala and so on, and then I realized Brandon told me about an Indonesian restaurant he saw last week, but couldn’t remember the exact location (he said he went to so many places that day, if that’s not premature Alzheimer’s).

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The diverse menu says a description of every dish, so ordering is easy. Found Ilocano gado (gado-gado/salad), but desired all traditional. We started with brief dishes (a la banchan) of veggie appetizers. Our fave was the pickled Ilocos ampalaya (bittermelon). By the way, Chef Robby buys everything from the tiendaan (public market). Another appetizer, perkedel, a fried corn dumpling that reminded me of our very own squash okoy, when topped with the shallot-sambal condiment (something like a spicy atchara), made beautiful contrast.

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I love unusual drinks, so hot bandrek, a black pepper pandan drink with coconut bits, traditional in Indonesia the chef said, was surprisingly refreshing. Imagine a spiced sago at gulaman (the liquid).

Chicken sate and kukus (steamed chicken marinated in chili and sambal) went great with coconut rice. If you’re a chicken lover or on a diet, I highly recommend kukus, easily our favorite. Isi tahu (stuffed tofu) was also light and lovely.

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The langka (jackfruit) sweet course on the menu was not available, but my discontent vanished as soon as we scooped out the flavors of the two other desserts. Penyet, grilled bananas with toasted coconut flakes and cubed jelly (with the texture of Turkish delight) sent me to cloud nine. A West Javanese treat, sarang burung, which means bird’s nest, but had pseudo bird’s nest (agar-agar) has Chinese influence. I remember to have tasted a cold sweetened bird’s nest soup back in the days when I was eco-ignorant.

Chef Robby’s cooking has fantastic balance, nothing overly seasoned nor cloying, aromatic yet delicate. And spiciness was tempered as he is still in the process of feeling the local palate. But I’m sure you can request your level of hotness.

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Had to have a photo with my FB friend Trixie Ablan, who is apprenticing with the Indonesian chef.

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Ending this post with a message to Chef Robbie and Marie, naragsak a isasangbay idtoy Ilocos!

Sate Modern Indonesian Dining
NationaL Highway, Barangay 1-San Francisco, Ilocos Norte, Philippines

© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2016

The 0ne-hundred-peso lunch for two at Kristina’s Carinderia

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Was actually billed 101 pesos, but made tawar (haggled) the 1 peso. And a plate of rice was included.

Kristina’s Carinderia (facing the Jehovah’s Witnesses church on the western portion of Rizal St., and near the Iglesia ni Kristo) was Brandon’s find. Local senior citizens, families, office employees and policemen were fixed on their food when we arrived. You enter through a kitchen, (neat, btw) and point at your chosen items from among a see-through cabinet of noticeably freshly prepared viands.

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Presko a baka (raw beef), also known as kilawen here, flavored with light papaitan, was delicious. The subtle use of seasonings such as sukang Iloko, salt, etc., let out the natural flavors of the main ingredients, like dinardaran was not overly sour, but rather naturally came out with that hint of sweetness (from the pig’s blood), and the katuday (katuray/corkwood flowers) salad was not too vinegary nor salty. I’m not sure, but I didn’t detect any use of MSG.

Yes, satisfying Ilocano food this cheap still exists.

Kristina’s Carinderia
Rizal St., Laoag City

© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2016

The allure of Baguio’s Cafe Yagam

Cafe Yagam

Thanks to the digital world, we are now able to access something fast and easy, whenever, wherever. Like in the case of a crazy craving for authentic, traditional Ifugao etag (cured, smoked and aged pork), which brought us to Cafe Yagam, a homey cafe specializing in Cordilleran fare.

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At Cafe Yagam, etag is used to boost an otherwise bland pinikpikan (smoked chicken soup), and best eaten with their tapuey-based dipping sauce. I’ve never really enjoyed the controversial pinikpikan this much. A diverse spread of flavors from the mountains of Cordillera went next.

We had Kalinga binungor, a spicy vegetable stew with agurong (or what we call birabid in Ilocos), and pinuneg, a Kankanaey blood sausage that went well with the default sweetish, spicy vinegar dip. Just to differentiate kini-ing from etag, we also ordered kini-ing pasta in yogurt sauce. Etag is more gamey as it undergoes fermentation.

Pinikpikan with EtagBinungor with AgurongYogurt Sauce Pasta with Kini-ingPinuneg (Cordilleran blood sausage)Kalinga coffee and sticky rice

Pressed ethically sourced mountain coffee is a specialty here, so we didn’t leave without a fill. I had it dark and it was really good with the sticky rice dessert that was served with the meals.

If we base good indigenous food on the decent-sized local crowd present enjoying tradition, then Cafe Yagam does it well.

Service was nice and prices were reasonable.

Never had mountain food this exotically tasteful.

Cafe Yagam menu

Café Yagam
#25 J. Felipe Street, Gibraltar, Baguio City
09464550364 / 09212565677 / (074)423-0839

© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2016

Hanguk Barbeque House: Sweet Gone Sour

Hanguk BBQ House

We first planned to drive with friends to Vigan for a  food trip at this Korean restaurant I saw on Facebook a few months back. Friends cancelled and the weather was not too nice, yet the mister and I proceeded. Though famished and tired from a camping trip, he wanted couple time for us. Sweet, (thanks really)!

So we found Hanguk Korean Barbecue House not too far from the city entrance. Spotted some neighbors in Laoag inside. Adding to a seeming authenticity, Korean foodstuff like ice pops, biscuits and beverages were on one corner. With steep prices (a lot steeper than here, btw, one of the most read post on this blog), I thought food must be fantastic.

Soup arrived first. Enhanced instant noodles or so it looked like.

There are professional bloggers who actually get invited for food tasting and are expected to write a feature, some lucky ones food blog as a job, and then there are those who want to buy their food for the credibility factor (but even some chefs admit that taste is subjective), while I like paying for my own exclusive experience and the freedom of writing a review. On occasion, the food turns completely lamentable, I forego sharing the entire experience ‘coz honestly it is taxing to be harsh. But then there’s more than the questionable soup, and I want to play judge in Chopped.

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We got two kinds of barbecue, pork belly and beef. The pork was okay, but I didn’t enjoy the idea that someone cuts your barbecue with a scissors in front of you. And the beef — you don’t serve any meat that’s as durable as expensive flipflops, so much so if you are a barbecue restaurant. One doesn’t even have to be an authentic chef (whether Korean or not) to be able to spot nice meat. Sorry for being graphic, but the hubby wanted me to take photos of his chewed on beef. I told the waitress twice, but she was stone deaf. While I was yapping, he was trying to keep his cool and picked up the tab. Feeling shortchanged, I initially wanted to buy ice cream cake for dessert, but totally lost the appetite for more. As we left Hanguk, the hubby was sneezing incessantly. You know he’s mad if he does that.

More than a thousand pesos for a ripoff and one and a half hours going and two and a half hours going back home amid heavy rain, and through sneeze-provoking road repairs, makangngeg ka manen, girl.

© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2016