In Cartimar stands a restaurant that specializes in roasts. Named Onn Kee Roast Duck House, it compares to the best in Hong Kong. It is owned and operated by Chinese chefs Wing Ki Choi, formerly of Li Li Restaurant in New World Makati, and his partner chef Kam On Wong.
At Onn Kee Duck House, the roles of both cooks are defined. Chef Choi, who has a better command of the English language, works the room and gives the food from the kitchen his stamp of approval before it is served to his customers.
The younger chef Wong, meanwhile, oversees the preparation and, along with other cooks, fires up the wok to create their signature wok hei dishes. Chef Choi said that the literal translation of the Cantonese term wok hei is breath of a wok.
As such, their fried rice offerings are all delectable. Kissed by the wok, their yang chow is smoky and uber tasty yet refined and simply sublime. The Onn Kee yang chow is among the best I’ve tried.
Onn Kee Duck House has an ever-changing menu that is dependent on what is sold fresh at the Cartimar open market.
Roasts are their specialty. Always available are roast goose, Cantonese-style roast duck, lechon Macau, char siu, simmered chicken with dark soy sauce and simmered white chicken. An assorted roast platter is also available, should you want a little taste of everything.
I took notice of the steady stream of roast takeouts during my visit. It’s amazing how they’re all sold out by 4 p.m., the time the eatery closes.
There were so many dishes to try at Onn Kee Duck House, unfortunately, there is only so much we could eat.
Of the feast that I had before me, needless to say, the roasts were sublime, as I declared the fried rice to be top-notch. Must savor as well are the marinated tofu and the kailan.
Their sweet and sour pork was also very good.
Next time, I will make room for more wok-fired dishes. I can only imagine how their fried noodles taste like. The thought makes me hungry! (1304 Leveriza St. Cartimar Commercial Arcade and Suites, Pasay; tel. 71493224)
4,500 bowls a day
Just outside Onn Kee is Nine Fresh, a Taiwanese dessert stall that is said to sell more than 4,500 bowls a day. It originated in Singapore, Nine Fresh is the brainchild of two Singaporeans in their 20s.
Nine Fresh sells grass jelly, brown sugar jelly and bean curd topped with every conceivable flavor and color of tapioca pearls, taro balls, boiled nuts and beans. The toppings seem endless.
My personal favorite is the bean curd (theirs is like a cross between a jelly and taho) with lots of sugar syrup, topped with double servings of taro balls, black pearl, mini-taro, boiled yams and beans, honey popping jelly, and drizzled with milk ball.
Their jellies are also refreshing.
Being a tofu fan though, the bean curd by default is my favorite.
Nine Fresh cups are perfect if you want something that is refreshing and isn’t too sweet on a warm day. (@ninefreshph on Instagram)
A memorable ‘kaiseki’ experience
I perceive kaiseki as a sequence of little dishes, carefully prepared as the chef deems fit. It is at his pleasure that seasonal ingredients are transformed, presented and prepared to bring out its best flavor.
To experience this, I recommend Kyo-to, a tiny restaurant tucked in the Coyiuto House on Palanca Street in Makati.
The menu at Kyo-to prepared by chef Ryohei Kawamoto changes monthly, for as true kaiseki dictates, the food served must consist of what’s at their prime during that season.
When I visited I had oysters from Nagasaki and it was divine—meaty and intensely flavorful.
Next came sashimi: toro from Yamagata and scallops from Hokkaido.
The dobin mushi remains one of the best I’ve savored. So deep in flavor, the grilled mackerel did wonders to the soup with assorted mushrooms. The broth was an explosion of umami. It was rich. The light squeezing of lemon juice did wonders to cut down its richness.
I was enamored by the ikura sushi from Hokkaido. The roe was whole, the eggs crisp, crunchy to the bite, with a winey taste of sea on the finish, while the rice was vinegared perfectly. It was sweet and nutty, with a nice chew to it.
The anago from Tokyo made for a splendidly delicate tempura. Sweet and tender were the legs of the grilled king crab from Russia. The grilled tara from Hokkaido was fantastic. The fish was firm, yet buttery and fatty.
The Kuroushi beef from Kagoshima was simply to die for—perfectly grilled with that outer charred crust and a delicate medium rare interior. It was so decadent with a mouthful of steamed Japanese rice.
Our meal was capped with Kyo-to pudding.
Dining at Kyo-to is a multisensorial experience. It is understated dining in a private room that is designed in minimalist fashion. Though simply and cleanly presented, the food was topnotch.
The ritual lasted for over two and a half hours. A meal at Kyo-to is a zen experience overall. (Tel. 0917-5969697)
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