Sunday, 19 June 2016

Restaurant Review: 1st Colonial Grill (Legaspi City, Albay)

1st Colonial Grill branch in Daraga

After our tiring ATV ride to the base of Mayon Volcano, our media group headed to the nearby 1st Colonial Grill in Daraga for lunch.  Any visit to the Bicol Region is never complete without dining at this restaurant. Here, we got sampler of their delicious and very affordable food, dining at their second floor function room which is used for small private functions or meetings and can accommodate around 20 people. 

Opened on April 25, 2004, it was born from couple Mr. Elmer Boy Aspe and his wife Dra. Rowena Aspe’s love for Bicol and its rich culinary traditions.  It was first located in a structure in Bicol built during the American occupation, thus the name of the restaurant. Using homemade family heirloom recipes from Elmer’s grandmother, it makes the food all the more delicious and tells a lot about how Bicol cuisine has fared through the years.

Tinapa Rice
Their food, looking aesthetically-pleasing as its taste, is a favorite not only among locals (this restaurant will always be the first thing locals mention if you ask them where to get the best Bicol dishes in town) but also with the tourists as well. Over the years, 1st Colonial Grill has developed its menu, serving “Bicolano food fusion,” making traditional and authentic Bicolano dishes more flavorful, without losing its natural flavors, introducing modern twists to marry the taste of the past with the present. To get the natural Bicol flavors 1st Colonial Grill takes pride of, they source the finest local ingredients and spices for their unique, authentic, and delicious Bicolano food from the local growers themselves, thus promoting Bicol harvests.

Tinutong na Manok

Since its launch 12 years ago, it has gained numerous awards and recognitions from different culinary circles and government awarding bodies. In 2013, 1st Colonial Grill was awarded “Albay’s Best Seal of Excellence,” “Paborito ng Bayan Award” during the Karangahan Festival, and awarded a citation by the local government as Best Restaurant in Albay. In 2016, it was awarded the Choose Philippine’s “Best Panghimagas,” its most prestigious award of all.


The fare for lunch was Halaan Soup for starters followed by Tinapa Fried Rice, rice topped with salted red egg, tinapa flakes and matched with tomatoes and manggang hilaw (green mango).  Bicolanos are fond of using gata (coconut milk) when cooking, incorporating it in their classic dishes. For the main course, we were served Laing (a Bicolano dish with taro leaves and coconut milk for its base) and Tinutungang Manok (a Bicolano chicken dish with chicken stewed in coconut cream extracted from slightly scorched or toasted coconut milk that infuses a distinct smoky flavor), a local favorite and one of Albay’s culinary jewels.

Other items on its menu include Grilled Mussels, Pork Sisig, Buko Chopseuy, Crispy na Pata,  Bicol Express and Kandingga, Five-Spice Grilled Chicken, Pancit Guisado, Siopao, Bang-Col, Kalamares, Sinigang na Baboy, Bicol’s version of Bopis, but spicier and more flavorful.

Apart from their authentic Bicolano dishes, 1st Colonial Grill has also left a lasting impression and was placed on the food map of the Philippines by their unique ice cream flavors, its “Bicol’s Kakaibang Ice Cream” line - Malunggay (vegetable leaf), Melon, Coffee, Bailey, Salabat (ginger), Tinutong na Bigas (burnt rice), Gabi (taro), Pili, Kamote (sweet potato), Mais (corn), Vanilla, Kalabasa (squash), Pipino (cucumber), Cacao, etc.

The signature sili (chili) flavored ice cream is one of the restaurant’s bestsellers and most popular flavor. It comes in three different levels (1 to 3) of spiciness, with the Volcano level, the hottest of all. In 2010, when the Amazing Race Asia  show was filmed in Bicol, the sili ice cream was featured to test if the contenders can stand its piquancy.  This makes the restaurant all the more worth visiting.

1st Colonial Grill: Aspe Bldg., Jose P. Rizal St., Brgy. Sagpon, 4501 Daraga, Albay. Tel: (052) 483-1212.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Hotel and Inn Review: The Oriental Legazpi (Legazpi City, Albay)

Date of Stay: June 18-19, 2016
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: ******
Staff Performance: *****
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *******
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: ******

The Oriental Legazpi

Overlooking the city on the top of Taysan Hill, this modern, upscale, serene and exceedingly intimate, 6-storey destination hotel, owned by renowned real estate company LKY Group, offers spectacular views of Mayon Volcano from its infinity pool deck and each room’s balcony. Formerly the Mayon Imperial Hotel which dates back to the 1970's, it has seen some upgrades and changed the name to The Oriental in 2009. 

Skylight ceilings and expansive glass windows, in the big lobby, light up the space but there is no airconditioning and it can get very hot in the afternoon. Its 115 trendy and very spacious rooms and suites, with chic colors reminiscent of boutique hotels, are classified  into the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Twin Countryside, the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Twin Mayon, the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Queen Countryside, the 34-36 sq. m.  Luxe Queen Mayon, the 72.5 sq. m. Executive Suite, Executive Suite Mayon and the 112 sq. m. Governor’s Suite.  

Rooms feature private toilet and bath with rain head shower, hair 
dryer and complete bath amenities (their bathroom has no lock though); 32”” LCD/plasma screen cable TV; centralized air-conditioning, minibar; tea and coffee making facility, electronic key card access, IDD and NDD phone; executive work desk, electronic in-room safe; and  balconies or terraces with scenic city views while some have volcano views. Suites include reception and dining rooms. The beds were very comfortable but the rooms need a pesticide run as there were baby cockroaches in the cabinet and table.

There’s also complimentary bottled mineral water, newspaper and Filipino breakfast for 2 (6 - 10 AM). 

The free high-speed broadband internet was good in public areas in the rooms but can be frustrating inside the room. People at the front desk were not very helpful.  Rollaway/extra beds are available and extra-person charges may apply and vary depending on hotel policy

Jasmine, the hotel’s contemporary ground floor restaurant, serves local homegrown cuisine alongside international favorites. The buffet for breakfast (daily) and dinner (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) was also good. Its 2 ballrooms and function rooms can be arranged to 5 types of set-up: cocktail, theater, banquet, classroom, and boardroom. There’s also a terrace and a sleek lobby lounge with a grand piano. 

Other equally impressive 4-star amenities include a second floor outdoor infinity pool with ay beds, tables and volcano view; a kids' pool; jacuzzi; pool bar; business center; a spa, souvenir shop, a fitness and wellness center and full back–up generator system. The Oriental Legazpi is a winner of the 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.

They offer limousine service; tour assistance; secretarial service; concierge; laundry and dry cleaning services, babysitting; foreign currency exchange; daily maid service; airport and city transfers (available on request); 24-hour room service; wake-up call; car rental and valet parking service.

The hotel is located 7 kms. from Ligñon Hill Nature Park (a 14-min. drive) and 8 kms. from the Cagsawa Ruins (a 14-min. drive). It is also a 15-min. drive from Legazpi Domestic Airport, a 20-min. drive from the city proper, a 10-min. drive from LCC Mall and the lifestyle hub of Embarcadero de Legazpi, a 9-min. drive from Daraga Church and a 9-min. drive from Albay Park and Wildlife.

The Oriental Legazpi: Taysan Hill, Sto. Niño Village, City, Albay, Legazpi Blvd, Legazpi City, 4500 Albay. Tel: 63-52-742-8888, +63-52-4800383 and +63-53-4800385.  E-mail: Manila Sales Office: 4/F PCCI, Commerce an Industry Plaza (CIP) Bldg., Campus cor. Park Aves.,  McKinley Hill Town Center, Brgy. Pinagsama, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.  Tel: (02) 536-9999, (02) 536-1111 loc. 206, (02) 856-4116 and (02) 994-5644. Website: