Tuesday, March 29, 2005


This is my first writing assignment for The Reviewer. Of all things, I had to visit a restaurant I've never been to - Banana Leaf Curry House in their Podium branch. I had to interview George Caparas, their new General Manager.

Tagging Editorial Assistant Jesy Alejo along, I had to be a writer, interviewer and photographer all in one. Being the latter was bad enough because our photographer was in Boracay (grrr!) and I had no idea how to turn off the flash on Mom's digicam. Sigh. I need a crash course in digital photography quick! I miss my friend's SLR.

So much for my first assignment.

Indian rothi with curry dip

Cool light fixtures

Yum clams!

Forgot the name of this one. Something like asian kangkong, but unlike what we are used to eating, this one's very light!

Very light Hainanese Chicken (steamed, not fried). Ignore the globs of oil. They will be erased by the editorial staff via Photoshop, tee hee!

Very tender beef and potatoes in curry sauce (very familiar to us Pinoys, si?) Very bad photo. Too much flash light.

Very light stir fried veggies

Steamed rice or me?

A cumulative shot of the seats and bamboo lamp


Only three years into its introduction to Manila from Hong Kong, Banana Leaf Curry House already enjoys name recall that the mere mention of it creates visual images of things jaded palates yearn for.

With an amazing array of choices, one may be tempted to stick to the familiar but no, a visit to Banana Leaf is wasted if this must be the case. After all, this is a restaurant that specializes in Indo-Malay-Thai cuisine (all three have exciting Indian influences), and Filipino diners must finally give the tired burger-and-fries routine a rest and explore more.

Unlike other restaurants, however, Banana Leaf does not boast about the its food but rather allows would-be customers the chance to try other places first, and then find themselves surprised by Banana Leaf’s offerings when they do come visit. It goes to great lengths in providing Manila diners the real thing, with three to four foreign chefs on duty at any given time to provide you selections that enthrall and satisfy.

This is no idle talk: the Banana Leaf Group is a member of the Conferie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, with the recent recognition as one of the Philippines’ best for 2004 as polled by the Philippine Tatler, adding a nice but equally important addition to the list of praises. The same group also brought us Red Box, China Star, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and the novelty shop Bread Talk, where long queues continue to astound the passers-by in Glorietta.

“With higher expectations come more responsibilities”, says George Caparas, Banana Leaf’s tireless new Manager. With stints in Cebu Plaza Hotel and Shangri-La Edsa tucked under his belt, he zealously oversees operations by spending a day in one or two branches. “There is still a need to improve on other areas”, he adds. There currently are four branches, with a new concept (Asian Café) just recently opened in Glorietta 4. They will make their presence felt in Eastwood City within the year, and if all goes according to plan, on to franchising Banana Leaf as a brand within two to three years.

Evidences of attention to detail are apparent: from the flavor, texture, and aroma to the visual composition, even in the way rice is served down to the neat banana leaf one uses for a plate. These alone can make you forgive them for serving your drinks in plastic glasses but what the heck. It’s the fun and satisfaction that counts.

There is freshness and delicateness in the food. This is evident in appetizers such as the Roti Canai (Php68, add Php30 for curry sauce), and in entrées such as the Stir Fried Clams in Sweet Chili Sauce (Php238) or Stir Fried Noble Green Leaves with Garlic (Php188). The über-popular Hainanese Chicken (Php248) and Malayan Beef Curry with Potatoes (Php238) are extraordinary without being overwhelming; filling but not to the point where you are rendered immobile. In short, you always look forward to your next visit to try the rest.

Clueless diners can properly make up for their blunt oversight by paying any of Banana Leaf’s branches a long overdue visit, and embark on a gustatory trip like no other.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Now that's a head scratcher. I was in Cagayan de Oro and Cebu lately so I guess that's where we are starting.

I moved to CDO from Pampanga in 1990. I was in Don Bosco Pampanga then, and my plans of becoming a Salesian have all been dashed to the ground because Mom had an altercation with Father Rector regarding my need to know how to play basketball in order to gain admission. She was incredulous, naturally. The idea was totally absurd. After all, I was already in the Volleyball varsity team. I run very fast (I tried learning soccer but I can't seem to know which goal was ours), and I was a star player in baseball in my elementary days. See, I wasn't exactly tanga when it comes to games.

Nevertheless, I had to move in with her in CDO.

CDO was home to me until 1997, after which I moved to Cebu to work. That's where our story starts.


Here are some photos I took during my overnight trip to Cebu. Forgive me for the poor quality. This is not digital.

Trips like this are never without the barbeque station on the roof deck, with ice cold beer and video to while away the time

CDO's lights fade in the distance. TransAsia China left the Puntod Port at 7PM...

...and reaches Cebu at 6AM..

Early morning arrival in Cebu...

With the highway connecting the controversial South Reclamation Project to the city proper as the backdrop, a high-speed boat crosses our path on its way to any one of the many islands surrounding Cebu.

The province is connected to Negros, Camotes and Bohol via these fast crafts. Here you can see the old abandoned building of San Miguel and the new Customs house. If you look hard enough, you might even see my favorite hotel, Waterfront Lahug

My favorite shot of all for today: a Badjao woman welcomes the ferry to Cebu with her husband and the de regieur kid...for coins! A large copy of this will be framed and displayed in my den soon.

...and more...

A bigger ship, a Sulpicio, looms while we were docking.

...to toss or not toss a coin, that is the question.

A trusted old friend...TransAsia China. I've travelled on her many times

The Fuente Osmeña circle. For the unobesrvant, that fountain is the same one found on your Php 50 bill, which also features Cebu's first contribution to the Presidency - Don Sergio Osmeña

A view of the Asia I.T. Park in Lahug. Beyond is Nivel Hill(s)

Caloy, a medical school classmate and very good friend of mine

SPI technologies' ultra-sleek building at the Asia I.T. Park. It also houses e-telecare and People Support (competitor call centers in one building?!)

What's a visit to Cebu without going to Carbon Market...Caloy, Cel and Josh amidst baskets of dried fish and squid...Me? The instant tour guide, being the only one who speaks fluent Cebuano.
I went to more places but I didn't bother to take photos. I've lived in Cebu long enough. 'Till next time, Sugbu!