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Monday, January 24, 2011

THE MERCATO CENTRALE CHRONICLES: DAY ONE

(The night before we went to Mercato Centrale) 
Rina: I feel so sick, I don't think I can go out tonight. 
Richie: That's fine, stay home and rest. So you can't go to Mercato tomorrow?
Rina: I can.
Richie: What? I thought you were sick?
Rina: Ah basta.


      Considering our love for food (and Rina's love for Tiangge Shopping), it comes to no surprise that Rina and I enjoy going to weekend markets. When Rina and I lived in Ortigas, we would go to Banchetto along Emerald Avenue almost every weekend. Then when we moved in Makati, (and whenever Rina would wake up in time for it), we would frequent the Legazpi Sunday Market. I enjoyed both, but truth be told, The Legazpi Market was more my thing - probably because it was less congested, and, I'm not exactly a night person (Banchetto is a night market). My only problem with the Legazpi Market, was that I foundnd the stuff they had there a bit too pricey.

      It's been a while since I've been to either, so when I heard about "Mercato Centrale", the weekend market that opened in Bonifacio Global City late last year, I was eager to check it out. I had heard so many wonderful things about it, and an eclectic selection of food stands, that I knew I had to set a date for Rina and I go. 

     With Rina's work, we can never seem to match our schedules, and since i'm not going without her (I'm not allowed to, not to mention that every time I try to cover a place on my own without her, my pictures look crappy) the earliest date we managed to set was a Saturday in the second week of January. 

      Friday night, my friends from work decided to go on a spur or the moment trip to Banchetto. Looking back, especially since it was a Pay Day weekend, I guess that wasn't exactly the brightest of ideas. We got to Emerald avenue at around 11:40PM, and it was like People Power on the streets. This was not the Banchetto I would go to two years ago.. I guess things really picked up for them. But the thing was, tents were still being set up, and I was assuming they were an hour away from serving any food - and that's not including the long wait I was anticipating at the queue.

       I'm a little bit claustrophobic, so i feel kinda uneasy with large crowds, so I was thinking of calling it a night. And two other factors were on my mind - The first was, Rina wasn't feeling too well, so I thought maybe I should go home already. The second was - I REALLY wanted to go to Mercato Centrale in the morning.. and If I stay up too late, I might not wake up in time for it. 

      So in the end, I had two choices. Wait it out at Banchetto, or go home to prepare for Mercato Centrale. 


      I made the right choice. 


 

      When I'm a billionaire, I promise you, my backyard is going to look like Mercato Centrale. I'm gonna have giant tents with a wide array of food all around me - different cuisines, different styles of cooking, different cuts of meats, sausages and burgers - you name it. It really is quite an impressive set-up, with two ginormous indoor tents, and large al fresco area (where all the grilling magic happens).

     What I enjoyed about Mercato Centrale, was how pleasant everyone seemed to be. Coming from the chaotic Banchetto the night before, I was a bit worried about what the vibe would be at Mercato Centrale, but seriously, everyone had a smile on their face, and was happy to accommodate you. Given the fact that its limited seating, expect to share a table with someone, but for the two times that we were there (I couldn't resist, so YES, we went back on Sunday), the people that we ended up sharing a table with were very pleasant. 

     Whenever you order something, don't be afraid to ask about the dish that you're interested before you buy it. It's quite likely that the owner of the stall will tell you a little story about it, or to the technique in which it was made. You'll instantly feel at home - like you were talking to one of your Aunts at a garden party family gathering.     

       And if the food and ambiance weren't enough to convince me to make Mercato Centrale a weekly habit, this was the kicker - the prices for almost everything was very reasonable. In fact, some where downright steals!

       My beautiful wife is one of those people who are sweet and all sunshiny - until you get them hungry. The all of a sudden, her very stare can turn even the most heroic of men into stone (which was probably one of the reasons she married me. She knew hunger would never be a problem). Surprisingly, I'm one of those guys who can still function on an empty stomach, so sometimes, when I tend to forget the time, I get that stare (brrr). As we were along our way for Brunch, I knew that time wasn't on my side. My wife didn't have breakfast (or did she?) and she was getting a tad bit cranky. I knew I had to act fast. Luckily, I found parking right away at the lot across The Tents, and Rina quickly got a table.
     
     So it was ON. 



MANANG'S CHICKEN

            
Nice one, Manang

        My first stop was to go straight to Manang's Chicken - The famed "Bon Chon Style" Chicken stand. Since Rina had fallen madly in love with the Chicken Wings of Bon Chon, She would be the best judge of a comparison test. I did like the price however. If Bon Chon charges P125 for a 3 pc meal with rice, Manang's charges P140 for a 6pc rice meal.

 
It doesn't "glisten" like Bon Chon though



         Visually, Manang's chicken lacks the glazing that makes  Bon Chon chicken wings look so stunning. Taste wise though, It may be "Bon Chon Style", but it isn't Bon Chon. In fact, I think they should stop using "Bon Chon" in their marketing strategy. Bottom line, it's still very good chicken wings that could stand alone on its own, but when you compare it to Bon Chon, it falls a little bit short. I'm curious to try their thigh part though. I hope it's more flavorful than the drumsticks of Bon Chon. See what I mean?  I've typed the words "Bon Chon" ten times already in the past two paragraphs (And they said I couldn't count).



EDIBLE OPTIONS



It was a sausage-fest.


        There's really something about Mercato Centrale that will make you crave for sausages. The aroma of the sausages on the grill at "Edible Options" captivated me, and I was drawn to it instantly. They offered me a deal I couldn't refuse: P150 for any sausage.. Buy 1, Take 1. 

 
No ketchup for me

      Since they allowed me to try a few small pieces before I bought, I decided to go with the Chicken Longganiza. It was an amazing blend of sweet and savory, which I really enjoyed. 


Just a drizzle of Mustard at the end for Rina


         For my free one, I went for the Kielbasa, because there's a certain one that I've been on the lookout for, for quite some time now - Keilbasa that tastes pretty much like the old "Holland Sausages" (Whatever happened to that?) Unfortunately, this wasn't it. It was a good sausage, but nothing that would blow your mind away.

        Something you should know about "Edible Options", is that they're strictly a sandwich shop. Those looking for Rice Meals will be sorely disappointed.  

Resty's Roast Beef Carving Station 




Resty, I'd like to shake your hand.

           A lesser man would've had enough to eat right then and there, but I was just getting warmed up. I wasn't full from the sausages I ate (I only ate half of each btw, and gave the other half to Rina), and there was so many food choices, I knew I wasn't anywhere near done. As I stepped out from the tent, the first kiosk I saw was "Resty's Roast Beef". 

Come to daddy
          The slab of Roast Beef displayed in their stall looked beautiful, and smelled just as good. I knew I'd be a complete moron if I passed up ordering this dish, which was a steal for P100 Bucks.
 
A great deal for P100 bucks

       The dish consists of two generous slices of Roast beef, drowned in a thin (but tasty) gravy. The meat was so tender and soft, it virtually melted in your mouth. I almost regretted giving Rina that one slice hehe..


JOHNNY STEAMS
 
That's actually  a really good poster.

            There were quite a few burger stands that caught my attention there, and one of them was "Johnny Steams". Their catch is, burger patties aren't flame grilled or fried, they're steamed, supposedly making them even juicier than your average beef patty.Although i'm not usually a fan of anything steamed, I had seen something similar before in Man Versus Food, so i thought i'd give it a shot.


Don't open it up cuz it looks like.. umm.. I know you know what i'm thinking..


          It was their "Yankee Burger" (P125) that caught my attention. Apart from Bacon and cheese (two things I usually look for in a burger), I it had a very interesting ingredient that set it apart from the other burgers I've tried before - Peanut Butter. I know what you're thinking.. Peanut Butter on a burger? Isn't that.. umm.. weird? Well you'd be surprised.. it's actually quite.. well.. Who am I kidding? It's weird as hell.

         First of all, as juicy as the steamed burger was, I found the meat to be a bit bland. It lacked the tasty-smoky happiness that a flame grill brings. I honestly don't think the peanut butter went well with the Burger at all. Perhaps they shouldn't have used such a rich peanut butter, and instead they could have made a peanut sate sauce that might have worked better. (of course they'd have to change the name). 

        The Yankee Burger wasn't a complete disaster though.. It did have one stand out feature..


It was like I was playing tug of war with my burger


      THE CHEESE! Steaming the cheese instead of grilling it on the patty gave it a whole different texture. It turned the cheese into a thick coating of melted deliciousness around the patty. But truth be told, the cheese being good still couldn't make this a good burger. It was like a hot nude scene in a bad movie. So basically, the cheese was Jessica Biel in "Powder Blue". 

    When I got home that Saturday afternoon, I went through the pictures Rina took and saw that there were still so many amazing food stalls that I had yet to explore. I decided I didn't want to wait any longer, so I told Rina that as soon as she gets off from work at noon, we're going straight for a second round...


TO BE CONTINUED...

7 comments:

  1. Mercato love! Been coming back way too many times. Absolutely love the sinful offbeat burger, angus beef tapa, mochiko balls, bagnet sandwich, tina's pies, milk teas and sweeeeeeeeets!

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  2. I hear ya, Meedge! I plan to go back on Sunday.. With my cross hairs locked on the Bagnet sandwich.. I had the Offbeat Burger already when I visited the cafe, but I plan to try their new Ensymada Chori-burger :D

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  3. Ayan, I want to go there tuloy.

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  4. Clare, It gets even more awesome.. wait for my next post :)

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  5. Absolutely love the YANKEE BURGER! Perfect combi of peanut butter and melted CHEEEEESE and then Mochiko after!

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  6. Hey Tina! I share your sentiment with the cheese, but i'm still on the fence if it went well with the steamed burger hehe.. I definitely need to go back to Mercato Centrale Soon!

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  7. It was so nice seeing a couple like you so inlove with each other and the food :) Yummie photos,.. thanks for sharing :)

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