Friday, 31 January 2014

Restaurant Review: Chef Samurai (Subic Freeport Zone)

Chef Samurai
Chef Samurai
This pet project of couple Bambi and Michelle Meer is said to be the best Japanese restaurant in all of Subic.  Just opened last December 21 of the previous year, this is not the couple's first venture in the food and beverage business, being owners of a longtime Subic landmark - Meat Plus Cafe.  They also own the Tender Bob's chain of restaurants and Kettle at the Shangri-la Mall.
L-R: Arabelle Jimenez, the author, Bernard Supetran, Lally Supetran, Mae Escartin
L-R: Arabelle Jimenez, the author, Bernard Supetran, Lally Supetran, Mae Escartin
According to Ms. Cherry Calderon, Chef Samurai's supervisor, this venture into the Japanese restaurant food business was born out of Bambi's and Michelle's (as well as their children's) love for Japanese food. The restaurant occupies the old Surf & Havaianas Shop (a surf shop), another of Bambi and Michelle's businesses, which transferred to the nearby Harbor Point Mall, an Ayala Land real estate development.
Chef Samurai (5)
The restaurant's bestsellers are sushi, sashimi, ramen and tempura whose ingredients came all the way from Japanese stores in Manila. The restaurant also has a 25-pax private function room.
Mio saki
Mio Saki
Daikon Salad and Beef Shahan
Daikon salad and beef shahan
Right after this interview, the restaurant's signature dishes started to come in and they came in droves.  

Our food feast consisted of Mix Sashimi (PhP550), Mixed Sushi ((PhP390), Gyoza (PhP125), Aligue and Kani Pasta (PhP225), Daikon Salad (PhP165), Salmon and Cream Cheese Maki (PhP195), California Maki (PhP175) and, of course, their huge and juicy Ebi Tempura (PhP300 for 5 pieces).  These were complimented by bowls of beef (PhP85) and seafood (PhP105) shahan (rice).
Ebi Tempura
Ebi Tempura
Aligue and Kani Pasta
Aligue and Kani Pasta
Mixed Sashimi
Mixed Sashimi - uni (sea urchin), salmon, tamago, and tuna
The food was great, the servings very generous and surprisingly very affordable and we toasted the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year with jiggers of Japanese Mio saki (PhP420 a bottle).
Mixed Sushi
Mixed Sushi
Salmon and Cream Cheese Maki
Salmon and Cream Cheese Maki
Chef SamuraiLot 2 Raymundo cor Samson Rds., Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Tel: (047) 250-0655.  Mobile number: (0917) 847-4516. Oen daily, 11 AM to 11 PM.

Drive Tourism Car Show and Parade (Subic Freeport Zone)

Drive Tourism Auto Show
Drive Tourism Auto Show

Immediately following the Asia Pacific Drive Tourism Conference held at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Conference Center was the 3-day Auto and Travel Show, also held within the same venue.  On public display were a number of “dream cars” (until the 1970s, a common US name for concept cars or show cars).
Mustang Convertible-1
A Ford Mustang convertible
They include high-performance, 2-door muscle cars with powerful engines - a 2014 Ford Mustang GT Premium, a Lamborgini Performance LP 570-4, a McLaren MP4-12C and a Lexus LFA.

Also on display are racing karts (including one driven by 14 year old Seaoil DC and Kosmic Japan karting champion Gabriel “Gabe” Tayao Cabrera) and out-of-production classic cars (including two Ford Mustangs convertibles and an iconic DeLorean DMC-12); all of which will appeal to car enthusiasts.
Mustang Convertibles
2014 Ford Mustang
The four aforementioned muscle cars were the stars of the show. 

The apple green colored, athletic-looking 2014 Ford Mustang, is a modern interpretation, achieved by Ford designers, of classic, iconic Mustang heritage. 

Its sculptured, muscular exterior design features continuous, flowing lines that emanate from highly-sculpted surfaces, adding more "muscle" to this car.
Mustang GT PremiumMustang GT Premium
The Mustang’s equally muscular, 5.0 power plant, with its high-energy coil-on, plug design designed to work in harmony, features twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT), an aluminum engine block, cylinder heads designed to optimize airflow, and cold-air induction.  It delivers 420 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, with a compression ratio of 11:1. Then there’s the exhaust which delivers a distinctive, throaty and purely Mustang roar.
McLaren MP4-12CMcLaren MP4-12C
The rear wheel drive McLaren MP4-12C, whose design was unveiled on September 8, 2009, was launched in 2011.  Powered by a mid-mounted bespoke McLaren M838T 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo engine, it also has a revolutionary "Carbon MonoCell" carbon fiber chassis. The 12C also features Formula 1-inspired technology such as brake steer (which brakes the inside rear wheel during fast cornering to reduce understeer) and a 7-speed, Seamless Shift dual clutch gearbox (SSG) with Pre-Cog technology (a system where a driver can half-pull the paddle shifter behind the steering wheel to get the transmission ready for an upshift, then instantaneous gear change once the paddle is fully pulled).
Lamborgini Performance LP 570-4Lamborgini Performance LP 570-4
The Lamborgini Gallardo (named after a famous breed of fighting bull) LP 570-4 Spyder Performante, a convertible version of the LP 570-4 Superleggera, uses the same 570 PS (419 kW; 562 horsepower) 5.2 L V-10 engine.  It has a curb weight of 1,485 kgs. (3,274 lbs.) and can go from 0 to 100 kms./hr. (62 mph) in 3.4 seconds, to 200 kms./hr. (124 mph) in 12 seconds and has a top speed of 324 kms./hr. (201 mph).
Toyota Lexus LFAToyota Lexus LFA
Go Kart of Gabriel “Gabe” Tayao Cabrera
Go kart of Gabriel "Gabe" Tayao-Cabrera
The 2-seater, 2-door Toyota Lexus LFA, the second Lexus model in the F marque line of performance vehicles, following the IS F, is one of the most expensive Japanese road cars ever built.  

It features a new 4.8L V-10 engine; a 6-speed automated sequential gearbox; and a body composed, by mass, of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP). The LFA went into production in late 2010 and ended in December 2012, with 500 vehicles completed, the final version being a Nürburgring Package model.
Also worthy of note in the car show is an antique, British-made, red colored MG (initials for Morris Garages) with its traditional vertical grille.  This 2-seater, body on frame open convertible sports car was produced in a sequence from 1936 to 1955.
MG RoadsterMG Roadster
The unusual DeLorean DMC-12, featuring gull-wing doors, a rear-mounted engine and a fiberglass "underbody" (to which non-structural, brushed SS304 stainless steel body panels are affixed), became iconic for its appearance as the modified “Time Machine” featured in the Back to the Future film trilogy (starring Michael J. Fox). Only about 9,200 DMC-12s were produced between January 1981 and December 1982.
DeLorean DMC-12DeLorean DMC-12
The next day, we saw more cars, this time in motion, as a Dream Car motorcade passed by Subic’s landmark Spanish Gate.  Four of these cars carried local and international beauty contest winners who more than held their own competing for attention with the cars they rode on.
Hummer with Mutya Ning Angeles 2013 WinnersHummer with Mutya Ning Angeles 2013 Winners
BMW Convertible with Ms. Tourism International Angeli Dione GomezBMW Convertible with Ms. Tourism International Angeli Dione Gomez
A Hummer H2 SUT carried three 2013 Mutya Ning Angeles beauties, a BMW convertible with 2013 Ms. Tourism International winner Ms. Angeli Dione Gomez, and two Mercedes Benz convertibles with 2013 Mutya ng Olongapo winner Ms. Faith Garcia and 2014 Mutya Ning Angeles winner Ms. Zaina Chandley respectively.
Mercedes Benz Convertible with 2014 Mutya ning Angeles Zaina ChandleyMercedes Benz Convertible with 2014 Mutya ning Angeles Zaina Chandley
Mercedes Benz Convertible with Mutya ng Olongapo Faith GarciaMercedes Benz Convertible with Mutya ng Olongapo Faith Garcia
Other cars that participated in the motorcade included a 1947 MG 2-seater, body on frame convertible open sports car (this time colored blue green), two Ford Explorer SUVs, 2 Toyota Hilux compact 4-door double cab pickup trucks, a box-type Mitsubishi Lancer, another Mercedes Benz sedan (this time a hard top), and a Toyota RAV 4 SUV.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Hotel and Inn Review: Buena Casa Hotel (Subic Freeport Zone)

Date of Stay: January 29-30, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ******
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ******
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******
Casa Buena HotelCasa Buena Hotel

Suite 207 (10)The 4-storey  Buena Casa Hotel, our home for our 4-day stay at the Subic Freeport Zone, where we were covering the first Asia Pacific Drive Tourism Conference, Auto and Travel Show, has 54 rooms.  

I stayed in one of its 10 airconditioned well-appointed and spacious twin (PPhP2,600) rooms with two queen-size beds, ensuite bath, 32" flat screen cable TV, mini ref, coffee-making facility, writing table, coffee table, card key locks and a small balcony (not available in other rooms).  

The hotel is located near Pancake House, Meat Plus Cafe, Yellow Cab Pizza, Alava Pier, Subic Freeport Exchange, and the Spanish Gate, Subic's famous landmark

The hotel also has three standard (PhP1,289), six superior (PhP1,950), 17 de luxe (PhP2,100), six junior suites (PhP3,000)  and 11 suites (PhP3,500).
Twin RoomTwin Room
Reception Desk
Reception desk
This DOT-accredited (economy-class), peach and white-colored hotel, according Gen. Manager Loren A. Reyes, was opened in 2010 and is owned by hotelier Mr. Nelson David who also owns Elison Hotel in Balanga City (Bataan).

The hotel lobby has a pretty seating area with Louis IV-style furniture and a grandfather clock. 

It also has a 45-pax ground floor coffee shop (Sabroso  Cafe) offering free wi-fi access, five 30-85-pax function rooms (Azalea 1 to 5, 350 pax total capacity), a small swimming pool and a secured parking area.
Sabroso RestaurantSabroso Cafe
The hotel's swimming pool
Swimming pool

Buena Casa Hotel: Betty Lane cor. Sampson Rd., Subic Bay Freeport, Zambales.   Tel: (047) 250-0663. Fax: (047) 250-0664. Mobile number: (0922) 846-0994. E-mail:, and

Restaurant Review: Ben's Kitchen (Subic Freeport Zone)

On our second day in Subic, we took time out from Drive Tourism Conference duties to try out the cuisine at Ben's Kitchen, located within the 7.5-hectare Harbor Point, a real estate development of Ayala Land.  Here, we were welcomed by  Ms. Marlene Fernando, the restaurant's Operations Manager.  During our interview with her and prior to our food being served, we were served bowls of freshly popped popcorn.
Ben's KitchenBen's Kitchen
Ben's Kitchen (2)
According to Marlene, Ben's Kitchen, opened last September 28, 2012, is the second undertaking of Catherine Foods, the first  being Xtremely Xpresso Cafe which was opened in 2003.  

The restaurant was named after the late Benson Foo, the husband of proprietor Catherine "Kathy" Foo.
The restaurant's cozy. modern interior, designed by Kathy's daughter, featured what could be described as an American diner or Italian bistro theme enhanced by vintage pieces from the Foo family's collection  all over the counter and walls (they included an M&M phone, a Coca Cola bench, an Oreo tin can, a Popeye bust, etc.).
The restaurant's interiorThe restaurant's interior
Ben's Kitchen (3)
Their very friendly staff also sported cute, light blue, retro-style diner uniforms to complement the restaurant's pretty, blue seats.  

The food served to us featured some of Ben's Kitchen's signature dishes from its delightful and wide array of food. The first to arrive was the meaty and tender Platter of Ribs (PhP380).  

Braised with barbecue sauce, it included shredded corn, lots of French fries and trimmings of tomatoes, cabbage and pipino.
Platter of RibsPlatter of Ribs
Ben's Delight
Ben's Delight Burger
The 10" diameter Ben's Delight Burger (PhP380), which almost occupied the whole plate it was served on, was truly designed to shock and awe anyone who orders it.  Love at first bite.
The Chicken Oriental Salad (PhP180), which should have arrived first (I guess some of their dishes cook faster than others), was a melange of crunchy deep-dried vermicelli (rice noodles) on a base of greens and topped with generous portions of chicken strips and Hoisin sauce (Chinese barbecue sauce).
Oriental Chicken Salad
Oriental Chicken Salad
Our last main course, coming  all the way from sister restaurant Xtremely Expresso, was the humongous, 22" diameter, extremely good and piping hot  Big Ben's Pizza (PhP749). 

The king of Xtreme Xpresso's pizzas, this thin-crust (though its ends were thick and puffy) pizza, good for 3 to 4 persons, is loaded with strips of bacon, sausage, bell peppers, onions, pepperoni, black olives, beef, garlic, mushrooms, plus gooey mozzarella cheese.  Excellent value and taste.
Big Ben's PizzaBig Ben's Pizza
Lavazza Coffee
Lavazza Coffee
The giant brownie, which we had for dessert, truly lived up to its name.  Imagine a brownie slice topped by 3 scoops each of ice cream and whipped cream.  

This is not the end of it as this is again topped by another brownie slice with another 2 scoops of ice cream and another scoop of whipped cream, all topped by a cherry. 

Flanking this towering delight are three sticks of Stk-O (crispy chocolate wafers).  Truly, the piece de resistance after our delightful meal.
Of course, what is a good meal without a cup of Ben Kitchen's (as well as Xtremely Expresso's) delicious Lavazza coffee.
Giant Brownie
Giant Brownie
During lunch and dinner peak hours, this chill hangout place, with its cozy ambiance, becomes extremely crowded when the customers pile up.  Still, it's worth queuing for 20-30 mins. if what awaits you is a very delightful meal experience. Truly a Subic must-dine worth going back to.
Ben's Kitchen: Level 1, Harbor Point River Walk, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Tel: (047) 252-1078.  Mobile number: (0917) 829-3570. E-mail:  Website: Open 10 AM-10 PM.
Xtremely Xpresso: No. 1 Dewey Ave. cor. Sta. Rita St., Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Tel: (047)252-3681.

Groundbreaking of the Subic AAP Children's Road Safety Park

The highlight during the first day of the first Asia Pacific Drive Tourism Conference, Auto and Travel Show, held at the Subic Freeport Zone, was the groundbreaking of the Subic AAP Children's Road Safety Park.  This park, the first of its kind in the country, supports the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.
L-R: Mr. Ramon Jimenez, Mr. Jean Todt and Dr. Mina GaborL-R: Mr. Ramon Jimenez, Mr. Jean Todt and Dr. Mina Gabor
Dr. Mina Gabor signing the manifesto
Dr. Gabor signing the manifesto
It will serve as an educational stage to teach the culture of road safety and discipline among youngsters (ages 7-14) so that they grow up to be become better citizens by reminding them of "the value of life and their role as models to the youth.”
Also serving as  tourism destination and a model of similar projects envisioned to be set up in every region, the park will cater to three groups - carters (which represent the cars on the road), bikers and pedestrians; all interacting with each other while playing their different roles. Operating all year round, it will be equipped with roads, signs and traffic lights.
The time capsule is lowered into the groundThe time capsule is lowered into the ground
Karting champion (in racing suit) Gabriel Tayao Cabrera
Karting champion  (in racing suit) Gabriel
The groundbreaking was attended by DOT Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr.; Paris-based Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) president Mr. Jean Todt;  Automotive Association of the Philippines (AAP) president Augusto Lagman; SBMA Chairman and Administrator Mr. Roberto Garcia; former Tourism Secretary and now AAP director and International School of Sustainable Tourism president Dr. Guillermina “Mina” T. GaborAutomobile Association of Upper India president T.K. MalhotraFIA Region 2 president Mr. Ross HeronAsian Development Bank transport specialist Mr. Nana Soetantri; Mr. Peter O’Neill of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; and the tourism ministers of Palau (Mr. Fleming Umiich Sengebau), and Bhutan (Mr. Thuji Dorji Nadik).
They all signed a manifesto supporting the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 and this document was enclosed in a time capsule which was then lowered into the ground.  Ms. Gabor and 14 year old Seaoil DC and Kosmic Japan karting champion Gabriel "Gabe" Tayao Cabrera also delivered short speeches during the ceremony.
Subic AAP Children's Road Safety Park: Corregidor Ave., Triboa Bay Area, Subic Freeport Zone, Zambales.