A New Year’s Congee Angst at the Red Palace Seafood Restaurant

Interior of the Red Palace Seafood Restaurant along Malakas Street, Quezon City

(Disclaimer: No consideration, financial or otherwise, was solicited, offered, nor accepted for this blog entry. Plain English: I paid for the food that I ate.)

It was a slow day.
The waiters could sense that more than anyone else.
The streets were deserted, the surroundings were quiet, and virtually everything stood still.
It was no different indoors.
The restaurant was empty and no amount of cool, processed air and loud, tacky music could ever hope to fill up the tables. It was as if it was already the wee hours of the morning except that the sun was up and its rays brought a patina of sadness, of desolation to the dining area.
But then again, all this was expected.
After all, it was New Year’s Day.
And on that late afternoon, it was assumed that corporate bigwigs and cubicle warriors alike were still taking it easy, spending additional hours in bed, reading, watching television, or hanging out with their families and friends.
However, employees at the Red Palace Seafood Restaurant along Malakas St. in Quezon City’s central district had no such privilege.

The only setback of this delicious-looking congee? It didn't use ground rice.

On that day, the restaurant was open and workers were expected to fill in their regular hours.
Good thing that their duties were light, thanks to the inactivity, the general ennui, and the lack of traffic — vehicular or otherwise — during the first day of 2011.
At the same time, this was no excuse for lower food and/or service standards.
Fortunately, I had none of that when I paid a visit at the establishment on the same day.
Which is not to say I didn’t have any misgivings about their offerings.
I did, as I usually do with many other things which, in turn, are best discussed in another blog entry.
I took issue with the restaurant’s Pork and Century Egg Congee (P135).
For its price, the ingredients — raw egg and slices of pork and century egg  — were just about standard, no better or no worse than those served elsewhere.
Except that the congee itself didn’t use ground rice — the not-so-secret ingredient behind the dish — making it no different from nor better than those offered by more inexpensive establishments.
That’s all — end of congee angst.

Red Palace's asado siopao looked so yummy the idiot picture taker was prompted to take a bite first before attending to his duties.

Meanwhile, the two-piece asado siopao (P80) that I ordered was great.
It was larger — and arguably even tastier — than those served by its rivals, including Kowloon House, which has a branch around the corner along Matalino Street, and Jade Valley in the Timog Ave. area.
But next time I drop by for a visit, I’ll try other rice dishes, hoping that the cook has come around to realizing that ground rice makes for excellent congee.
Until then, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

A fly in my siopao

In celebration of the one-year birthday of this piece, I am uploading it into this blog.

EXOTIC cuisine is not for the faint of heart. Or, for that matter, the weak of stomach.

But many individuals—self-styled sophisticates and self-proclaimed
gourmets—have always looked forward to their next culinary adventure, be it Mediterranean or Asian fusion. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not one of them.

Just about the only culinary expertise that I can ever claim to have, aside
from eating, is the ability to discern the four basic types of beer. These are pale pilsen, which is marked by a pale flavor; dry, distinguished by a dry flavor; light, which has a light flavor; and, last but not least, free, which has an excellent taste that leaves a tingling sensation on the palate, a soothing effect on the throat, and a healthy, ruddy glow on the cheek. These characteristics make free beer one of the tastiest drinks of all time. However, unlike pale pilsen, dry, and light beer, free beer is not widely available, especially when you have friends who think that the world owes them a drink. (But then again, that’s another story best told as soon as one other booze buddy shares his Irish beer with me, gratis et amore.)

Although I am always on the lookout for free beer, I remain a meat and
potatoes kind of guy, always making sure that whatever I put in my mouth—at least for nutritional purposes—should be boiled, broiled, fried,
baked, or sauteed. This explains why sushi is not in my top ten list of favorite food, which, by the way, includes beer. After all, when you get down to it, beer is simply liquefied malt, hops, and barley. Nothing really exotic about that.

Which is not something I can say about my recent culinary adventure, to use the term loosely. While dining with my wife at a popular Chinese restaurant in the Greenhills shopping complex, I found a lifeless and fully cooked insect in my meal. I found a fly the size of a raisin
embedded in my Asado siopao.

Common sense told me not to put it in my mouth. Luckily, common sense prevailed.

Using my thumb and forefinger, I fished the very dead insect from flavorful chunks of meat for the viewing pleasure of my wife, the waiters, and other diners interested in what we were having for merienda.
When one customer saw that what I was holding up was not a piece of
sharksfin siomai, he looked thankful that he had gotten the beef brisket.
Unwilling to ruin anyone else’s appetite, my wife and I quietly summoned a waiter and asked for an explanation.

The response, delivered quite curtly by the manager, was slow in coming,
just like the beef wonton mami that my wife and I shared. Besides blaming their siopao supplier, the manager did not even offer to
make amends. In fact, she even had the temerity to ask us for payment,
saying that siopao was already excluded from the bill.

We promptly walked out without paying.

After all, on top of the slow service and the unexpected side dish, we felt
insulted when the establishment was unable to offer us some house tea.

The Manila Times
October 6, 2005