For a change, a food crawl on Valentine’s Day

Ebi Ten Soba in Nadai Fujisoba

It may not be the classic romantic date on Valentine’s Day, but maybe it’s even better.

Instead of a candlelit dinner in one restaurant, this date involves a stroll through one restaurant after another, and a variety of dishes to try. It need not even be in the evening. Lunch would do just as well.

That’s what the marketing people at Shangri-La Plaza are suggesting: a food crawl on Valentine’s Day.

With the numerous restaurants at Shangri-La’s East Wing, a date such as this wouldn’t be hard to imagine. It would be like a degustacion, except in different places.

We tried it ourselves, not with a date but with a media group.

First stop was Balboa, a neoclassic Italian restaurant with a Victorian setting. The pastas and pizzas looked tempting, but in anticipation of the various stops, we had to exercise some restraint. And so, a dish of cacio e pepe would do, a basic pasta with just cheese and pepper (in Italy, pasta is considered a first course). Or perhaps one of their luscious fruit drinks, such as raspberry lemonade.

Next was a dose of healthy eating at Green Pastures, chef Robby Goco’s farm-to-table restaurant, where nature and freshness are the battle cry. True enough, the lettuce leaves in the three kinds of salad we tried looked like they had just been picked from the garden.

The Farmhouse Salad, a cornucopia of corn kernels, grape tomatoes, crisp lettuce leaves, goat cheese and bacon bits, was drizzled with honey mustard dill vinaigrette.

Farmhouse Salad in Green Pastures

The Autumn Salad was a lavish mix of baby spinach, cubes of blue cheese, sweet potatoes, candied walnuts and hard-boiled eggs, with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Then there was the Caesar Salad, with shredded kale, chopped romaine leaves, bits of roast chicken, and shredded pecorino cheese in classic Caesar dressing.

It was just as well that it was all healthy eating at Green Pastures, because our next stop was carnivore heaven. As soon as we entered the House of Wagyu, we were overwhelmed by the heady aroma of Wagyu steaks being grilled on hot volcanic rock, right on the table (the better to make customers salivate).

Wagyu steaks are graded depending on the amount of marbling in the beef. Our rib eye steak that afternoon was a grade 6, a thick, juicy cut with a moderate amount of marbling. The cut was generous enough for two, creating, if you’re on a date, an intimate sharing of a meal.

Not a bad idea, as this would give you a chance to observe your date’s personality. Was he/she generous in sharing the steak with you (a sign of thoughtfulness)? Or did he/she grab most of the good parts for himself/herself? (Beware, your date could be a selfish oaf). Soup, vegetables and potato sidings are included in each order of steak.

The next stop involved an elevator ride up to the fifth floor, where Nadai Fujisoba offers a selection of soba and udon noodles. Part of an international chain that started in Shibuya in 1966, Nadai Fujisoba dares the palate with buckwheat noodles of varying temperatures and flavors.

The basic is a hot bowl of either udon or soba noodles with onion leeks and wakame seaweeds. Variations include noodles immersed in hot curry sauce, and a wide choice of toppings, from shrimp and fish tempura, to fish cakes and fried tofu skin.

The cold noodles come with dipping sauces and similar choice of toppings.

Finally, dessert, this time in a place that traces its origin to 1907 in Scotland. At Morelli’s we looked at all the flavors of gelato, stumped by a familiar dilemma. Which one to choose?

There were fruity flavors like the strawberry, melon and mango. Daring ones like bubble gum and cheese. Familiar ones like chocolate, vanilla and coffee. We finally settled on the caramel, a rich and buttery flavor we spooned to the last drop.

And then tea, at TWG, an elegant salon where tea is poured from teapots plated in 18-carat gold into gleaming cups of bone china. Once again, the dilemma of making a choice.

The vast selection at TWG includes teas whose leaves were born in South Africa or China, in Australia or Hawaii, in Thailand or Cambodia.

Classic choices include Earl Grey and Jasmine, but there are so many others, some with poetic names such as the Rising Stars Tea, the Eternal Summer Tea and the Double Happiness Tea.

Perhaps the latter, an exquisite blend of white tea leaves with jasmine flowers, would be most appropriate to cap a date on Valentine’s Day. It signifies happiness multiplied (and perhaps love everlasting).


Excellent ‘pampano,’ fried trout—and why Pinoys should prefer wild fish