About 10 months ago, we opened the doors to my first sit-down restaurant in many years. Wooden Spoon must be doing something right, because it seems our place has become smaller and smaller by the day. We are in the process of extending the space, and also expanding around the metropolis. We just broke down a wall on the second floor to accommodate a few more tables.
It is because of this that we had to travel to Palanca and Alonzo streets in Manila to shop for more restaurant equipment. On the way there, I was already wondering where to have lunch. It thrills me when I have errands around that side of town, for there are many dining places to choose from.
This time, I wanted to try a place I had never been to, but have heard so many good things about. As you know, 168 Mall is a haven to many, including my sister Nina. Like me, it thrills her when she has to buy or take someone shopping there. She is on a first-name basis with many of the tinderas and many of them are on her Christmas list.
Not knowing where to go, I called her and my cousin Penny to get tips on where to eat. “Go to the old mall, third-floor Food Court—Mitzi’s in particular,” was Penny’s tip.
The mall turned out to be a much larger version of Virra Mall in Greenhills, with everything from tsinelas to ensaymada. Interesting place, I thought. But, we weren’t there for all these other distractions. We were there for the food.
I scanned the whole area and walked around past each stall to see what was in store for me, hoping not to buy anything until I had walked the entire court. I also wanted to see if, without the tip, I would still end up stopping at Mitzi’s.
My game had began. To me, this is like opening a gift at Christmas you just don’t know what to expect. Control is the key. My goal was to walk by each stall and make a note of what attracted me. As I passed the Thai stall, I made note of its Phad Thai, or Thai noodles. Heard about this from someone, and this stall was somewhere hidden in my memory bank.
Hard to resist
Yes, even without the tip, I would have ended up at Mitzi’s, or at least would have gotten something from there. The first one I got and was eating while ordering was the sweet-and-sour fish. We also got what the owner William says he is known for—the very unhealthy but hard-to-resist lechon Macao. Sarap! Crunchy and moist, this reminded me of the San Francisco version in Chinatown.
I also got a seafood ball that was delicious, and stir-fried kangkong with a touch of Chinese bagoong. Healthy and very good. I am told the crispy noodles and three kinds of mushrooms are also good.
The siopao and siomai were nothing I’d write home about. So, on our table were Phad Thai from Chariya’s Thai Kitchen, sweet-and-sour pork, lechon Macao, seafood ball, asado and stir-fried kangkong with bagoong, all from Mitzi’s. No rice. (It makes me feel great when I can stay away from rice occasionally.)
There were other stalls worth trying. I saw one that was offering xia long bao.
I had a chat with William, and he said he’s had namedroppable clients drop by his place, my Tita Jullie Yap Daza among them. Tita Jullie is a foodie secret agent. She knows all these good hole-in-the-wall dining places.
After our meal, I got a text from Penny with more tips: oyster cake from Chopsticks stall (and don’t forget to ask for banana catsup!); broccoli with dilis and French beans at Mitzi’s; and bibingka. E, san kaya ’yon? As Arnold would say, “I’ll be back.”
Mitzi’s Cantonese Cuisine is at Unit A Shopping Mall, Sta. Elena, Binondo, Manila; tel. 2422307, 0917-5252873.
Chariya’s Thai Kitchen is right across it, tel. 2222453, 0908-5549905.