Char Casual Dining Opens In Manila

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hungry and tired office people, rejoice! The ultimate hunger busting comfort food from Singapore has made its way to Manila. And this is the kind of comfort food that's not just comfort, it's a fancy kind of comfort. This restaurant made it to Singapore's Michelin Guide for this year! And you better dine here quick because who knows, one of these days they might get bestowed their own Michelin star?

The lines at Char Casual Dining are often long in Singapore, and in Manila, I think reception will be just as warm, if not hot (is there even such a term as "hot reception?). And perhaps if their Michelin-star-deserving food does get a star for real, the lines will even be longer. Dine now or fall in long lines in the future! It's also worth saying that this place is all about the right kind of Cantonese food to hit the spot for hungry souls, with dishes that are made for sharing.

I am glad to have been invited to the press preview! I am more busy with my beauty blogging so whenever I get invites for this blog, I'm really excited mehehe. 

This is located in Uptown Parade, Uptown Mall BGC, second floor. To give an idea, this is the view outside the restaurant. For those who work nearby maybe this view will give you a better idea on how to get to the place. 

The place is brimming with fellow bloggers and members of the press. Real dining starts December 8! 

The interiors are mostly clean, just like in Singapore. Concrete walls, clean and industrial touches with the furniture.

And this is their menu. They have a temporary menu, but this is the legit one. It's on a chopping board because I think they want to make you imagine how big the wooden plate their Char Siu has (and therefore order the thing) hahaha...

These are their house specialties. 

And this restaurant has a comprehensive vegetable menu because in general, the meats they specialize in are on the oilier and heavier side, hence the need for "lighter items" to balance one's meal.

Okaaay let's get to thaaa fooooood. Homaygash looking at these photos again at night is making me hungry my pamily homaygulay. 

This I think is the soup for the day (Php150) because this is not Hot and Sour sou (Php120) and those two are the only things listed as soups on the menu. This soup involves tender, boiled pieces of what seems to be sinigang cut pork bathing in a rich broth full of herbs. The major contributor to the flavor is goji berry/wolfberry (or what the Chinoy community here fondly calls "sibut"). Goji berry, in Chinese principles, is heating to the body, and since I was recovering from a cough, I just took a good taste and didn't eat so much. Mama ate the rest. 

Whenever someone prepares soup with goji berry, we respect it and try to eat as much as we can as it's usually prepared by people who are concerned. Goji berry has many benefits and nourishes the body, so taking it is good if one isn't having an episode of too much body heat. 

Otherwise, this was a very aromatic soup. It's got just the right kind of savory and the right kind of goji. Goji berry can sometimes taste bad when too much is put at a time, so this was just right. The pork was done well (well it just has to be done well this place is like pork heaven).

The fried rice we had seemed to be a hybrid of two menu items. In their menu, there is "Chicken and Salted Fish Fried Rice (PHp180)" and "Chinese Sausage With Dried Shrimps Fried Rice (Php220)." What this seems to be is chinese sausage and dried fish fried rice. 

I could visibly tell the Chinese sausage part, while mama (who is very keen with taste) immediately spotted dried fish in the taste. 

I like the touch of Chinese sausage as it's something I don't always see in typical Chinese restaurants here. I see spam and ham often, but not Chinese sausage. There's a different kind of depth that Chinese sausage gives to a dish. Chinese sausage is often not cheap because it's typically the labor of family businesses with heavily guarded recipes.

This rice is on the less sticky side, and from the shape this seems to be jasmine rice, or maybe its close cousin? I am not a rice expert I barely eat rice please don't judge me harhar. This is good for those who like their rice on the "drier" side, because I know of people who hate soggy rice. The rice grains are still intact, like the outer coating isn't torn. The rice grains are not overexpanded or impregnated with water. They slide down the throat easily because there is no feeling of stickiness or sogginess.

There is just the right amount of fish and sausage to give flavor, but not too much to alienate the diner nor to give off a pungent or characteristic odor that the two key ingredients have on their own. Chinese sausage and dried fish have strong odors, but they do not overpower this dish. I honestly didn't even taste the dried fish part, even after my mom telling me!

And this is the stuff dreams are made of. Char's Crispy Roast Belly (Php150 for 100g; Php450 for 300g). 

This is the 300g serving and is at Php450, but honestly, a lot of other places charge even more on a per gram basis. In plenty of other places, this much belly will probably cost Php500-800. The whole time I was there I could not stop staring at the fact that this is not one, not two, but three lanes of belly! (Cue in Pag 3 pataaaaaaaas!!! jingle). Most other places probably serve just a portion of one whole lane of belly, and charge even more on a per gram basis. 

This is definitely going to be the star of many Christmas parties and barkada outings because pork belly you know. This always makes us squeal with delight here at home, so I'm sure many other families will squeal with delight at this.

Taste wise, this is a lot like Cebu lechon in saltiness. This was served with mustard and chilli sauce, but after one bite, I stopped dipping because this is already very tasty on its own. It will go very well with plain rice, and honestly, one takeaway order of this is enough to save a family dinner from blandness and despair (just add rice!).

Texture wise, I am very happy that this tastes exactly how it should be. I look for the crunching noises that the pork belly skin makes while being chewed on, and this was on the noisier side. I also loved the tenderness of the meat. This is what dreams are made of. And it's got good value for money! 11/10 would recommend (I wish I lived near this place)

And this is the star of the show. The star of the restaurant. The future star of everyone's Friday nights. 

Meet their Special Char Siew. Nope, this is not Baby Back Ribs. 

Let me ask you a question. Have you eaten asado? The dry meat with reddish color from Chinese restaurants? Yeahp, this is it, but it's not red and it's so much more moist. It's melt in your mouth. Now this is what you call char siew! 

This also retails for Php150 for 100g and Php450 for 300g. 

Homaygash this tastes too good. The meat is exactly at that perfect state of being soft, melt in your mouth, and not stringy (and tough). I don't even recall chewing on this because it almost slides down magically. This is not the tough kind of asado we are used to eating, no strings of pork getting stuck on the teeth, no toothaches, no jaw aches. Just pure melt in your mouth goodness. 

The sauce, homaygash, it's another story. This is in the exact perfect state of having a deep roasted flavor without the taste of burntness. It's savory with a touch of sweet, with soy sauce as a leading flavor. But this is so much more flavorful in real life. There is so much depth to the flavor. 

In fact, Singaporean owner (and founder and conceptualizer and lahat siya na) Anthony told me that there are more than 10 ingredients that make it to this dish's sauce. There are so many secret ingredients that come together to give different dimensions to the sauce. 

I honestly can envision my family living off the sauce. Just give us sauce and rice and we will live happily ever after. 

But seriously, this is a revolutionary way to do Char Siew here in Manila. The usual asado habit is to get the meat and get the sauce separately in another small plastic bag or canister. This, on the other hand, is already cooked in the sauce at some point (as far as I can tell) so it's moistened by the sauce. 
Reheating and take home wise, this is actually more practical than other char siew choices in the Philippines because this is more likely to stay tender with the sauce. This is also bound to fare better from drying out once in the fridge. And this is unique because I think pouring the sauce over asado not originally cooked in sauce will not produce the same effects. 

Look. At. Thissss... Sauce dripping everywhere... pork that undiscernable as it's bathing in sauce... 

Anthony told us that he and his brother Alvin took about a year to develop this perfect Char Siew. They made many friends fat because of all the trials they did. They also had to make their friends suffer with subpar prototypes hahahha

But to summarize how I feel about this Char Siew, it is exactly the kind of char siew that tastes like it took a year of research and development. This level of unprecedented quality doesn't come on a whim. This is the kind of quality that needs so much trial after trial after trial. One cannot randomly cook a slab of pork and come up with this kind of char siew. 

Moving on, here are the vegetable dishes we swere served. 

This is their Kai Lan with garlic (Php230). 

This is apparently the vegetable often paired with roast duck, so if you're ordering roast duck, this is a good partner. 

As far as vegetable cooking goes, this is alright. The kai lan stalks are moist but not soggy nor tough. Cooked just right.  

It's not exactly meant to be a flavorful dish, I think, despite all the garlic you see. I think this is really meant to harmonize one's meal and balance off the more savory items. This is not loaded with seasonings. It's steamed/blanched/boiled so it's more of the taste of the vegetable itself coming to life. For people who are looking for a refreshing balance to the meal, this is good. 

But for those who are looking for flavor, the tastier vegetable dish is their Spicy Four Seasons Beans (Php300). 

This is more of the "treat" kind of dish as the French beans are stir fried (yay oil) and in here are small morsels of what seems to be ground pork (it can be ground beef though I think this tastes more like pork). 

This is not spicy. It's more of peppery, if you ask me. To the people who are scared of spicy foods, this is OK even if it says "spicy" on the menu name.

I love the seasoning of the meat here, it's the exact kind of salt and pepper taste I always crave for. The French beans are cooked right as they're not tough. I think they can make a whole new menu item off the ground meat itself, more so that it's stir fried. It is bound to please a lot of diners..

For dessert, I went for their Mango Panna Cotta. 

I am not exactly sure as to what really happened. This was not a very silky panna cotta, but I'm not sure if it's reaally like that because the mango is infused into the panna cotta, or maybe it's part of opening day jitters. Maybe this just isn't a very good unit, and then the rest taste amazing. I am not sure. I have yet to go back sometime soon to re order this. 

But to describe it, it tastes more like Thai mango pudding rather than panna cotta. I look for the creaminess and smoothness in panna cotta, and this was more on the grainy side. Or maybe it's just the nomenclature. If they named this Mango Pudding, I'd rate this as perfect. 

What went right with this dish is the very generous helping of tapioca pearls on top. The pearls also have a special coconut flavored sauce drizzled on them. The coconut sauce added a good flavor to the whole dish. 

And this is a photo with a scene that I will probably not see from now on. This is when most of the bloggers for the lunch session left, and only the staff and owners remained. This place will be brimming with customers as soon as possible. 

And this is the aftermath. To kind of give my feedback, the pricing is so-so. This is not the cheapest place to have these dishes in, but well, one comes here for Michelin recommended high meals. But on a per gram basis, this actually may end up cheaper than a lot of other Cantonese style places (who may not even be at par in quality and ambience)...

Value for money wise, I think this is a good place. The value of all the dishes we ate was probably at Php2000 something, but my mom and I could not finish this and we took all these leftovers home. These leftovers are enough to feed the three other members of my family provided we cook more rice. At more or less Php2000, it's already a steal to be able to make 5 people reaaaaally happy at Php400 per head. And we're talking BGC location, K? Mahal ang rent mga bes ambience doesn't come cheap.  

While there are smaller servings of their specialty meat dishes, this is really the kind of place to unwind and pig out in after a very tiring workday or workweek. It's all about all the real tasty dishes to hit the spot. This is the kind of place to meet your friends in and have a good chat over good meat. This is the kind of vibe the place has.

Honestly, it's only the distance that is stopping me from coming here. Being in Northern Manila means it takes 2 hours to get here in the current traffic situation. If this were near our house I think we'd be ordering takeaways every week. If I brought my brother or father here, I think they will get one whole char siu order and one whole fried rice bowl for each of them hahaha. 

This is at 2/F Uptown Parade, Uptown Mall BGC. 
Contact them at 0917 528 1284. 
Their website is still under construction so find them on social media!
You may also want to stalk them on IG

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