WE’VE made several gastronomic explorations of the restaurants located in the metro’s newest dining destination, Shangri-La Plaza’s East Wing, in the past. Just recently, we made another trip to Shangri-La Plaza’s East Wing to explore the restaurants, cafés and dessert shops on the Lower Ground Floor of the mall and in the process found some really interesting food finds – from the Singaporean dishes of Wee Nam Kee, the gourmet pizzas of Epicurious, the breakfast platters of Maple and the salads and pastas of UCC Park Café to Breadtalk’s French style breads, doughnuts and baked creations of Krispy Kreme, the fresh fruit juices of Jamba Juice, the cocktails of Vom Fass, the gelato of Gelatissimo and the exquisite cupcakes of Cupcakes by Sonja.
WEE NAM KEE
Wee Nam Kee, a Singapore-based restaurant chain, has one of the best and most authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice options in the metro. Truth is that diners come to Wee Nam Kee specifically for its Hainanese Chicken Rice. Diners have a choice of Steamed or Roasted Chicken, which is served with Chicken Rice, with dips of pounded ginger, chili sauce and dark soy sauce on the side to go with the chicken. It also serves a host of other Singaporean specialties, including the new additions to the menu, such as Wee Nam Kee Fried Rice, Prawn Paste Chicken Wings, Honey Crispy Squid and Butterflied Tilapia with Chili Crab Sauce.
All three new dishes are winners. The Butterflied Tilapia with Chili Crab Sauce is particularly good because it allows you to enjoy the delicious sweet, slightly sour and spicy Chili Crab Sauce without having to ‘labor’ over cracking and fishing out meat from the crab shell. In place of the crab is crispy tilapia fish, which has been butterflied to make eating easier and more pleasurable.
Epicurious, which is the latest culinary concept from the Cravings Group, is a foodie’s haven. It has a gourmet deli that sells cheeses and cold cuts with chilled meats and packaged greens, a mini gourmet grocery for hard-to-find foodie finds such as exquisite pasta sauces and truffle oil as well as fresh produce, a bakery that churns out freshly baked artisanal breads and pastries, a culinary studio where small cooking demos can be held, and a café where diners can enjoy deli sandwiches, cheese and cold cut platters, gourmet pizzas and more. The idea is that you shop for what you want and you can have them cooked on the spot so you can enjoy them right away. It’s like gourmet paluto concept, and diners actually like it a lot.
The Cold Kani and Cucumber Pizza and the Pulled Pork Arugula Pizza should satisfy any pizza lover’s craving.
Epicurious can also assemble cheese and deli platters for special occasions, and it can prepare such gourmet roast or carving specialties as Slow Roast U.S. Angus Belly served with Au Jus & Mustard, Confit of Garlic & Tomato Sardine and Red Onion Chutney, as well as Lemonada Rack of Lamb served with Corn & Pimiento Polenta Cakes, French Beans Amandine, Tomato Chutney and Mint Jelly.
When there, make sure to check out Epicurious’ Moringa Cucumber Lemonada. It’s a very refreshing and delightful drink, which I liked a lot.
Maple is the higher-end restaurant concept of Pancake House. It elevates comfort food to a higher level, serving pancakes and waffles with high-grade maple syrup, breakfast staples such as Prime Rib Tapa and Chicken Fried Steak in huge portions, and an all-in The Maple Burger (with bacon strips, battered onion rings and French fries on a huge burger). The Big Maple Breakfast is, in fact, a stack of pancakes or a big waffle served with whipped butter, bacon, eggs and French fries.
Maple also serves comfort dishes from other cuisines, including Chili (a mild bean, beef and pork sausage chili soup served with sour cream and scallions, plus a slice of freshly baked Jalapeño corn bread), and Huevos Rancheros (a classic Mexican breakfast made with tortillas, refried beans, grilled chicken and sunny side up egg, topped with cheese and ranchero sauce).
UCC PARK CAFÉ
UCC Park Café is all about seriously good coffee and Asian fusion dishes. It’s a Japanese coffee shop that’s famous for its coffee, which is always freshly brewed using a siphon coffee maker.
The coffee shop serves delightfully familiar dishes with a different twist among its pasta, sandwich and main meal selections. Known for exciting Curry Rice and Omurice variations, Casseroles and Risottos, and Plated Dishes, from Pork Katsu to Unagi, UCC Park Café boasts of a really good Veggie Garden Pizza Toast, Kani Mango Salad and Chili Garlic Chicken Spaghetti.
Another Singaporean brand, Breadtalk specializes in freshly baked gourmet breads, savory and sweet pastries and cakes. It is specifically famous for its Pork Floss bread, with variations such as Flosss, Hot Chic and Fire Flosss. Just recently, it added another Floss variant, the Cheese Flosss, which is the same famously delicious cream, soft sweet bun, topped with pork floss. The difference is cheese!
Other must-tries include Pizza Sticks, Rocky Rocky Milk and Beckham n’ Cheeze.
Krispy Kreme is another popular snack shop that’s represented at the Lower Ground Floor of Shangri-La Plaza’s East Wing – and just as well, since the young crowd will really look for good donuts, especially for merienda or bonding moments with the barkada.
Krispy Kreme is the place to go for soft, fluffy donuts, coffee, Baked Creations (savory filled breads), and fresh squeezed juices.
Known for its signature fruit smoothies, Jamba Juice sources its fruits from their best sources in the world and freezes them, then prepares its fruit smoothies using only the frozen fruits and fresh juices – no sugar or ice added, so they’re light, natural and healthy.
Popular blends include Five Fruit Frenzy (all-fruit smoothie with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, peaches, mangoes, mixed berry juice and peach juice) and Mango-A-Go-Go (made from whole mangoes, passionfruit-mango juice blended with pineapple sherbet).
Jamba Juice has expanded its menu, which includes soft pretzels, to include other healthy options as hot breakfast wraps, California flat breads and oatmeal. One oatmeal flavor you must not miss is Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal, which is a cup of steel-cut oats slow-cooked with soymilk, topped with brown sugar crumble and fruit toppings.
Perhaps the most unique concept store at the Lower Ground Floor of Shangri-La Plaza’s East Wing is Vom Fass, whose name has been derived from German words that mean “from the cask.”
Dubbed as “the sweet shop for grownups,” the store carries a wide and superior selection of oils, vinegars, wines and spirits stored in casks and jars. These are sold by weight, packaged in lovely bottles chosen by the customers. These oils, vinegars, wines and spirits are sourced from all over the world, including Tuscany for its spicy olive oils, Greece for fruitier and fresher tasting ones, South of France for nut oils, Germany for fruit oils, and, yes, the Philippines for its mango and calamansi vinegars.
Gelatissimo is the place for really good Australian gelato. It makes gelato fresh on a regular basis, using a secret family recipe, in a whole range of flavors that include classics like Mango and Chocolate and unique ones like Caramelized Fig, Honey Toffee Malt and Berry Pavlova. Of course, there’s also Pistachio, which is a very popular flavor when it comes to gelato.
CUPCAKES BY SONJA
Only the best cupcakes are made by Cupcakes by Sonja, and they’re not only moist, delicious and perfectly baked but they also look real good, since shop owner Sonja Ocampo pays close attention to detail, including great care in the piping of the icing. Cupcakes by Sonja started the cupcake craze in the metro in recent years and still remains the top choice among dessert lovers. Its cupcakes come in different forms: non-refrigerated cupcakes, which are best eaten at room temperature and immediately upon purchase; and refrigerated cupcakes, which can be enjoyed cold and lasts up to two days. The store also offers other goodies, such as Chocolate Chip Cookies, Crack and Whoopee Pies, and Bars.
Super famous are Red Velvet Vixen (red velvet cupcakes made with Belgian cocoa and topped with cream cheese icing) and Vanilla Sunshine (classic, fluffy cupcakes with Cupcakes by Sonja’s signature vanilla buttercream or creamy chocolate frosting). Also try the cake cups.
(Shangri-La Plaza is located at the corner of EDSA and Shaw Blvd. in Mandaluyong City.)