The title is spin on a line from a Jack Johnson song, in case it didn't make sense to you.
Although we don't cook, Rina and I are big Gordon Ramsey fans. His confidence (or arrogance, depending how you look at it) when it comes to food preparation is really impressive. At first, I refused to watch Hells Kitchen because I was thinking I didn't want to see some British jackass screaming at the poor contestants, so I started with The UK version of Kitchen Nightmares that was being show on ETC (They don't anymore, bummer), where he was much more calmer. After every episode, I'd be more and more impressed with the man. My brother Ryan gave me a copy of few episodes of Kitchen Nightmares US, that I made Rina watch, and almost instantly she was hooked (She can't resist a show with a "makeover" portion). After that, anything Gordon Ramsey was on, we were watching it.
All of a sudden, Anyone who can call someone a "Donkey" with such conviction is OK in my book.
My brother, also a Gordon Ramsay fan, and the person you go to when you want an episode of anything that was shown on television, gave us a copy of the first few episodes of the TV Show "Ramsay's Best Restaurant". It was a different type of a contest this time, that I found very interesting. Instead of the contest being a battle between amateur and aspiring chefs, this was now an all out war between established restaurants in the UK that wanted the title of "Ramsay's Best Restaurant".
One of the places that was in contention for the title, was a huge Thai restaurant, "Mango Tree" in London. The Mango Tree was a huge snazzy place that ran like a well oiled machine, although they did bump into some problems with their kitchen and service, particularly with their Signature Dish, the Grilled Chicken (I'm guessing that wasn't the Thai Name for it). I don't want to give out any spoilers, but I highly recommend you to check out the series if you get a chance. Regardless of the outcome though, the Mango Tree still go glowing reviews from Ramsay.
After watching episode after episode of such great places getting glowing reviews from the great Chef himself, you can imagine how ecstatic I was to find out that one of those restaurants opened here in Manila, in the form of "Mango Tree Bistro".
The tranquility of the Bistro was a welcome change from the madness known as
"Trinoma's Parking Lot".
I'm honestly not sure how similar or how different it is from the original incarnations (The other branches in London, Thailand, and Dubai don't have "Bistro" in their name either), nor did I care. The logo looked exactly the same as the original, and Gordon Ramsay said it was good, so I was set. Since he's a big fan (of Gordon, not me), I invited Ryan to join us for an early lunch one weekend.
I say early lunch because, if you've been to Trinoma, you know how parking is a living hell. It is perhaps, one of the most horrible experience you'll ever have inside a building. If you don't go early - I seriously pity you. Not to mention, I find Trinoma to be among the malls with the most confusing layouts. Its almost as if the architects were trying to design a labyrinth, instead of a mall. However, as a sure sign of "destiny", despite blindly parking at the first available slot we found, we ended up just a short stroll away from the location of Mango Tree Bistro.
We're not twins, although we do get asked that a lot.
I'm cuter, however based on the way the waiter is looking at Ryan, I believe he begs to differ.
Having taken two members of my own family (My wife and brother) myself, is living proof.We had a little trouble ordering because the menu consisted of the Thai names of the dishes, wish a short description. The menu is pretty extensive, so you can imagine there was a lot of reading going on that morning.
Apparently, I didn't read it well enough, so i ended up ordering the wrong thing (I sometimes struggle even with Tagalog, so forgive me if my grasp of the Thai language isn't up to par). What was impressive though, that I believe deserves to be mentioned, were two things: First, was their waiters knowledge of the dishes. The rattled off the names in Thai like it was their native language, and second, was the speed in which the food was delivered. No more than a few minutes wait from the time of ordering, and it didn't have the taste or feel of a pre-prepared dish that was just heated up and served.
Noodles wrapped in a roll. Who said "Carbo Overload" was a myth?
I could swear that I meant to order the famous Thai Noodle Dish, "Pad Thai", (which is a staple for me whenever I go to a Thai Restaurant) but apparently, I said "Por Pia Pad Thai" (P180) instead. In fairness to me, it DID have Pad Thai noodles in it, and since I wanted to order spring rolls anyway, I told Rina that this was a good deal. Of course she saw right through me and knew I didn't want to admit I made a mistake. In all honesty, it was really quite good. The crunchy outside and the soft noodles inside was an intriguing combination.
Second best Shrimp Toast I've ever tried. (I've only tried two)
My love for Harbor City's Shrimp Toast would not allow me to NOT order the Khanom Pang Na Goong (P220). Maybe I'm being biased, but as good as this was, I still remain loyal to Harbor City's. I think the shrimp was mixed with egg, that gave it a rather plastic texture. The "toast" was a bit too oily, even for me, but I guess that's what happens when you deep fry bread, right? I was surprised that the "Cucumber Relish" it came with didn't gross me out as much as I thought it would, It was a little bit on the sour side but had a light spicy kick to it that went well with it. I still think I might have preferred the traditional sweet and sour sauce to it.Though taste-wise, it was alright, I must admit, after two pieces, the oiliness became too overwhelming, and I couldn't eat another one.
This is what plain rice wants to be when it grows up
For our rice, we ordered the Khaopad Gai (P200), which was basically mixed fried rice with chicken. As simple as the dish was, I can say it was superb. From the texture of the rice, to the flavor of the chicken, this was the perfect companion for our meal. The only question to me was if the size of the order was proportionate to the price, because we ended up having to order two of these bad boys (But it could have also been because it was so damn good).
Ahh.. what could have been..
Rina's favorite Thai dish is Green curry, so she made it clear that I can order anything I wanted, just make sure she gets her Green Curry. Since we had chicken with our rice, and planned to order another chicken dish, I got her the Gaeng Kiew Wan Nua (P380), which is Green Curry Beef. The curry sauce ranks highly among the best I have ever tried, however, the problem stems from the meat. It was quite tough and chewy, and it wasn't because of the "litid" either. Pouring the delicious curry sauce over our rice made for a better dining experience. The thick sauce had just the right amount of heat to it, so that even Ryan, a guy notorious for not being able to eat anything spicy, enjoyed it. Such a shame about the beef though.
Could this be Mango Tree's grilled famous chicken?
When I asked the waiter what he would recommended the Gai Ta Krang Yang (P280) without hesitation. It's a grilled herbed chicken, that's pierced through a lemongrass stalk. I have to say that this dish was rather excellent. I was taking a look at the chicken, and I couldn't figure out what part it was, because, although it was deboned, it didn't look like a thigh part - yet it had all the juiciness of it. The chicken was plump, and soft, and had an herb-y taste on the char marks of the skin, while the lemongrass stalk skewered through it gave the meat flavor a distinct flavor from within. I enjoyed it alone, while Rina couldn't get enough of the "Thai Dipping Sauce", which I think was a blend of chili's, and other spices.
In Gordon Ramsay's show, Mango Tree's signature dish was their grilled chicken, however it looked more like a half chicken than a "kebab". I'm not exactly sure if it's the same dish, but I would definitely order this when I go back!
Pudding for three
For Dessert, we ordered the Ka Nom Tuey (P120) Which was Thai Pudding in Coconut milk. It was perfect for us because one order comes in three separate bowls. Though I'm not too fond of Coconuts, I enjoy food with coconut milk in it (Is that weird?). The coconut milk was more of a soft froth on the top of the pudding, while the green pudding itself tasted very much like Pistachio. We all enjoyed it very much, but It was served to us a little bit lukewarm. I think it would've been better if it was cold (It's pudding for god's sakes).
I think my only comment about Mango Tree Bistro would be that the bowls they use to serve the food in, as nice looking as they are, is rather inconvenient. If you look at the pictures of the rice and the beef curry, you'll notice that the bowls their served in looks like little "Boats", with the middles sloping downwards in the middle. Rina complains that I'm a sloppy eater enough as it is, so I don't need the dinnerware helping her prove her point. As you can imagine, there was a lot of spilling of rice and sauce over the sides.
MANGO TREE BISTRO MENU