I was told that when you marry someone, you have no idea what kind of influence you will have on each other. I married into a family of artists, architects and interior designers. Because of this, I have learned something about myself: Never trust my personal taste when it comes to these things. I am happy to leave them up to my wife Tessa and her family.
Why? Because when I was still single and living alone in Ecology Village, I decided to renovate, decorate and arrange my room. I placed my air-con in what I thought was the best location. I realized what a big mistake that was the first time I slept on my bed. The cold air blew directly at me. I was sniffing every morning.
I also remember buying this beautiful solid wood sculpture from Baguio. It was supposed to be a chair in the figure of a hand. An open palm served as the seat and the upright fingers served as backrest. Directly underneath this palm were the shapely legs of a nude woman kneeling down, breasts and all. To me, it was the most beautiful piece of art in my room. I was very proud of it.
After becoming a part of this family, I slowly realized my most beautiful piece of furniture was actually the most baduy item I had ever acquired in my life. Eventually, it also became the most difficult item to hide, since the monstrous piece was not only huge but weighed a ton.
This piece was a turning point in my life. I promised myself that when it came to decorating, never again would I trust my own taste.
But food is where I come in. My Daza family loves to try new cuisine, while my Mendoza family loves good, simple and traditional home-cooked meals. I love our Mendoza meals because no one competes with my appetite. Well, that is, until my brother-in-law Carlos brought his new bride into the family—Charina, a fellow foodie.
When they were newlyweds, they lived in New York City where Caloy was finishing his master’s degree at NYU. Every time I would see this couple, I could see the transformation in my brother-in-law through the stories he would tell about their culinary adventures in the Big Apple. They dug into everything—from sinigang, adobo, spaghetti, callos, Gonzalez Cheesecake and Macaroni, to foie gras, pastrami, bagels, Nobu, Peter Luger steaks, Ethiopian cuisine and many others. New York, indeed, is a foodie paradise.
After their stint at the Big Apple, the couple returned home to Manila. Here, they continue to discover new places. They have become one of my sources for interesting dining places to share.
I love it when either of them celebrates a birthday. It is certain it will be in a place with fantastic food, and one I have never been to.
Last year, it was at Malou and Jay Gamboa’s Circulo, where I tried Cuchinillo Sisig and Tender Beef Belly for the first time. I forgot my name and where I was! That’s got to be two of the best-tasting dishes I have ever encountered.
Typical fare–with a twist
Caloy’s last birthday was an invitation to a Japanese restaurant along Creekside Mall, Makati. I was told I would find it right beside Pharaoh Karaoke bar and a Japanese fast-food place called Sango. I was very excited, for I had never been to this place and didn’t know what to expect.
The place was dark, with an open kitchen filled with busy Japanese-attired chefs. I noticed a lot of Japanese diners. Promising, I thought to myself.
The dishes were typical fare in Japanese restaurants but presented differently. The sushi came in balls, which I thought were outstanding. The sashimi was of superior quality. We also had sea urchin tempura and delicious Tuna Omelet. I don’t remember what Yamada Nishiki is, but I’m sure it was also good.
Everything we ate was chosen by Caloy and Charina. Other dishes we had were a wandering Mozzarella Risotto, Japanese-Style Chicken, Broccoli Mentaiko, beef steak, a salted sword fish concoction, Chili Miso Squid and Sukiyaki. I enjoyed everything and made a mental note to explore other interesting-looking items on the menu.
I was curious about some of the items in the menu, but they all made sense when I saw the name of the place, Mangetsu Japanese Fusion Restaurant (at RG4 Makati Creekside Mall, Legaspi Village, Makati City; tel. 8941553). You have to pay this place a visit.
These days, I stick to my love of food and everything and anyone associated with it, and leave the good taste for decorating to my in-laws. Whenever we have a get-together, guess what we now talk about? Definitely not decorating.