Pepe Samson's Best Bites of February

While others hunted for dates, romantic restaurants, flowers, and gifts last February, I did my usual quest as well: hunting for good food. I had a lot of things going on last month—a cognac-tasting, a trip to the Northernmost province of the Philippines, foodie events, and a lot of family day-outs—and in all of these, I tried to remember all the best stuff I ate. Below, my top picks for February:

1. The Amuse Bouche from The Tasting Room’s 5-Course Degustation (PhP3,500++)

While it's not right to judge a book by its cover, I think a fine dining restaurant should definitely be judged by its amuse bouche. The Tasting Room's not just excites us more with the real meal ahead, it also summarizes what the entire meal is: a gastronomic journey. Chef William Mahi’s creation is a trio of goat cheese coated with caramelized pork, foie gras lollipops, and limoncello jelly. If this is how all starters taste like, I don’t want to move on to the mains ever.

2. Lamb Saddle from The Tasting Room’s 5-Course Degustation (PhP3,500++)

Anybody turned off my lamb must try The Tasting Room’s French Lamb Saddle. This smoky lamb has the flavor of what seemed like rosemary, a burnt taste that was addictive instead of repulsive. This dish comes with a side of turnips and the most delicious truffle macaroni I’ve tasted. Something missing? Worry not, this lamb comes with shaved truffles as well!

3. The Remy Martin LOUIS XIII Cognac

The oldest drink (140 years) I’ve had to date, the LOUIS XIII is a fine cognac that has been passed from generation to generation among the Remy Martin owning family. A product of painstaking labor, skill, and tons of patience, this blend is the smoothest alcohol I’ve ever tasted, with flavors that are complex, assertive but not persistent. I must say I relished every sniff and sip of this drink—why wouldn’t I, it’s worth almost $150 per glass!

The Tasting Room
Ground Floor, Crown Tower, City of Dreams Manila, Roxas Boulevard, Parañaque City
For reservations, call 02.800.8080
6:00PM – 11:00PM
Degustation Menu: PhP3,200++ (5 courses); PhP3,600++ (6 courses); PhP4,200++ (7 courses); PhP4,500++ (8 courses)
City of Dreams Manila Website | Facebook | Instagram

4. Grilled Tuna Steak with Anchovy and Caper Sauce (PhP300) from Fundacion Pacita - Batanes

If you find yourself getting fed up with all the root crops and veggies in Batanes, head over to Fundacion Pacita for a Western-inspired meal created with local ingredients. Call the restaurant in advance to know what's on the menu for the day, and if you see this Grilled Tuna Steak with Anchovy and Caper Sauce on it, order it! The fish is humongous, incredibly fresh, and still moist, with the sauce giving it an acidity that is super addicting. It comes with a side of garlic pasta as well!

5. Miso Katsu Set from Yabu

How many times have I visited a mall trying to choose a restaurant I haven't tried, only to end up at Yabu? As frequently as you do? Great! My favorite is the Miso Katsu Set: Yabu's signature katsu (I like Hire), served with the usual unlimited Japanese rice, miso soup, cabbage, pickles, fruits, and ... the thing that makes this variant special, the thick, sweetish Miso Sauce! I find it not overwhelming at all, but if you do, alternate between this and Yabu's katsu sauce with crushed sesame. Or, better yet, request for some ponzu sauce because everything seems better with ponzu.

Read also: Finally, Yabu!

Yabu: House of Katsu
For info on Yabu's brances, see their official website:

6. Piri Piri Chicken from Gostoso Piri Piri

If you’re in the North and eager for some spice, dash to the newest branch of Gostoso Piri Piri in UP Town Center. The casual Portuguese restaurant offers only a small menu—a brilliant move as one should only have eyes for their specialty: piri piri chicken! The special marinade renders this roasted chicken dish a unique subtly tangy and spicy flavor, and keeps it moist and juicy. Already yummy on its own, it becomes even more delicious when doused with any of the 2 signature piri piri (red chili) sauces—but make sure you get the spicier one!

Gostoso Piri Piri

7. Strawberry Matcha Toast from Café Shibuya

The colors alone of this dessert toast are enough to tempt you like crazy. Imagine Café Shibuya’s fluffy, buttery toast, laden with sliced strawberries then topped with a scoop of matcha ice cream. The tart berries and earthy matcha see like a weird combination at first—but it works. If this doesn’t convince you, maybe this will: everyone else in the table, who ordered the Hazelnut Ferrero toast, were all digging into MY plate.

Café Shibuya
UP Town Center | Glorietta 2
Operating Hours: 10:00am - 10:00pm
Facebook: Cafe Shibuya
Instagram: @cafeshibuya

8. Gold Detox (PhP220) from Detoxify Bar

A healthy drink in a Best Bites post? Well, why not? Detoxify Bar’s Gold Detox drink just might be my favorite among all of their concoctions. A simple drink composed of raw ginger ale and chia seeds, it’s not only healthy but also refreshing and delicious! You’d be amazed at how organic ginger tastes compared to ordinary ones—as if it’s smeared with sweeteners. This may be a sad truth to people who prepare their own juices at home, but I don’t think you can replicate this one.

Detoxify Bar
Eastwood | Tuscany McKinley Hill | Westgate Alabang

9. Strawberry Fields Blonde Ale from The Perfect Pint

I always make it a point to try The Perfect Pint’s homemade brews when I’m around, and luckily one night I chanced upon the Strawberry Fields Blonde Ale (4.5% abv)—a light, malty beer with a hint of strawberries. It’s something that’s not too light and not too strong either, perfect for long talks or my idea of an “all-nighter”: the period from the time I arrived at the shop up to the time I’m forced to leave because the staff is already cleaning out.

The Perfect Pint
2/F Crossroads Bldg., 32nd Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Operating Hours: 10:00AM – 2:00AM
Facebook: ThePerfectPintPH
Instagram: @theperfectpint_ph

10. Swiss Delice and Mini Truffini Kirkland Signature Chocolates of the World

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Kirkland’s chocolate jar is any dessert lover’s dream come true. Not only is it filled to the brim with imported chocolates from all over the world, it’s also a collection of the best you will ever taste. My favorites are the Swiss Delice and Mini Truffini. Delice is milk chocolate filled with a dark chocolate ganache, liquor and cocoa, whereas Truffini is a maple truffle made of milk, vanilla, maple, milk chocolate, and chopped nuts. Yum!

What were you best bites last month?

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