Monday, 24 September 2018

Hotel and Inn Review: Winford Manila Resort and Casino

Date of Stay: September 24-25, 2018

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

Winford Hotel & Casino

The Php8-billion, 80,729 sq. ft., 22 storey Winford Manila Resort and Casino, a beautiful, elegant and classy boutique hotel and casino located in the Greater Chinatown area of Manila, offers 128 stunning, spacious, modern and smoke-free De Luxe double/king rooms and Executive Suites which can only be accessed by guests via a card access control system.  

This 4-star hotel, opened in April 2016, was designed by renowned architect Jose Pedro C. Recio of Rchitects, Inc., with structural works from SY Inc. & Associates Structural Engineers.  Its classy interiors were designed by Ms. Anja Silling of Melange Interiors.

The hotel interior

Reception Area

The 24-hour Front
A chandelier-filled
The air-conditioned, 29 sq. m. Deluxe Twin/King Room have magnetic door locks, premium bedding, a 40” flat screen TV  with over 80 Sky cable channels, in room safety deposit box, telephone, minibar with fridge, working desk, in-room ironing board, coffee/tea making facility, free bottled water, black out drapes and hair dryer.   

The private ensuite bathroom has a rainfall shower head, studio lighted mirror but no bidet.  Guests are also provided with bath robes and slippers. For security, only registered guests are allowed in the guestrooms. The hotel has connecting/adjoining rooms but they are subject to availability.

De Luxe Room
Executive Suite - Bedroom (Suite 2122)
Executive Suite - Living Area

The bigger, 52 sq. m. Executive Suite we stayed in (Suite 2122) had similar amenities plus more.  The separate bedroom had a king-size bed and a bigger (55") TV.  

Its bigger ensuite bathroom had, aside from the shower, a bath tub plus "his" and "her" lavatories and studio lighted mirrors.  

The attached living room, which has its own 55" TV, a longer work desk and a powder room, was great especially if we were to have guests coming in to visit us. The free WiFi, in our room as well as in public areas, was good and fast. 

Choi Garden Restaurant

Choi Garden Restaurant, at the second floor, was opened last August 18, 2017. It serves authentic and high quality dimsum, shabu-shabu and lauriat specialties and can accommodate 300 guests.  Its interiors were designed by Architect Jose Nazareno Antonio of Nazareno + Guerrero Design Consultancy. 

Executive Chef Ho Wai Kit (at right) at work at the kitchen

The kitchen is run by Executive Chef Ho Wai Kit (an experienced Hong Kong chef who has cooked for fine dining restaurants in Hong Kong and Thailand) along with three other chefs from Hong Kong and China who have all mastered Cantonese cuisine.  Some of their signature dishes include sumptuous Suckling Pig with Glutinous Rice, XO Sauce Shrimp with Celery, Whole Dried Scallop Ring, Australian Abalone with Mushroom, Steamed Lapu Lapu, Deep Fried Pigeon and Singapore Style Crab with Hong Kong Style Pao. Some of the authentic ingredients for their seasonal specialties are shipped fresh daily from Hong Kong markets.  This restaurant, which also has branches in Makati and Greenhills, also has 8 private rooms plus a presidential room with lavatory.

The author (left) and his son Jandy having breakfast at Copa de Manila 

Copa de Manila

Copa de Manila Restaurant, open 6 AM to 10 PM at the hotel lobby, offers Spanish and Filipino cuisine.  A children's menu is available. 

Its breakfast buffet (6-10 AM) includes beef tapa, pork tocino, corned beef, bacon, embutido, pork adobo, pancakes, waffles, plain and fried rice, cereals and congee.  It also has a bread station, noodles station, fruits/salad station, egg station and dessert station. 

VIP Lounge at the hotel lobby

Head to Toe Salon
Business Center
The outdoor, rectangular swimming pool (adult and kiddie, open  6 AM - 8 PM), salon  (Head to Toe, open 11 AM - 12 midnight), business center, fitness center and spa (SM Kenko Spa, open 11 AM - 12 midnight) are all located at the 11th floor. 

The hotel's swimming pool

Adult and children's swimming pool at night

Poolside bar
The fantastically designed, 4 ft. deep adult pool area, heated at night, has a 67-pax poolside bar (opened 8 AM - 10 PM), 15 sun loungers, male and female shower rooms, a relaxing ambiance with a good view of the city. Only hotel guests have access to it. The 1-ft. deep crescent-shaped kiddie pool has a lifeguard on standby.

SM Kenko Spa

Lounge/Relaxation Area
Massage Room
SM Kenko Spa has a lounge/relaxation area (where you can have your manicure and pedicure done) while watching TV; a sauna room which can accommodate 10 people; locker area; shower rooms and separate male (9 beds), female (4 beds) and couples (2 beds) massage rooms. 

Reception Desk
Locker Area
Shower Room
Sparomatherapy (Php980/1,300) and aromatherapy (Php920/1,300) are offered in 60-min. and 90-min. sessions.  Swedish massage; Shiatsu massage; combination massage; neck, head and shoulder massage; foot reflexology; and foot massage costs Php675 (60 mins.) and Php975 (90 mins.).  

Spa pedicure and regular manicure costs Php300; nails cleaning, for  males, are Php200 while the infinite shine manicure, for females, costs Php550.  Foot scrubs are Php600.  Facials, by Dermalogica, costs Php1,000 (30 mins. for a basic facial   and Php1,250 (60 mins.) for a special facial. 


The Ballroom, at the fourth floor, can seat up to 700 guests in a Chinese Lauriat-style setting.   The Fitness Center, open 8 AM - 10 PM, has elliptical cross-trainer strider machines and motorized treadmills; bench press, exercise bike  and assorted dumbbells and barbells. 

Fitness Center

The hotel offer concierge service, luggage storage, daily maid service, pressing, dry cleaning, 24-hour airport shuttle service (PhP1,500 per vehicle, one-way), 24-hour room service, tour/ticket assistance and laundry service.  Check in time was 2 PM and check out time was 12 noon. A cash deposit of PhP2,000 per night is required.  There are charges for early check in and late check out.


The three storey, 24-hour “Entertainment Center,” operated by PAGCOR, has two floors dedicated to 600 slot machines and the third floor offering 110 live table games and VIP gambling. At the second, you will also find an Asia Poker Tour (APT) branded poker room offering a variety of poker cash games and tournaments. The cozy Hippodrome Bar and Lounge, at the second floor, features live bands. 

Hippodrome Bar & Lounge

Free 7-level self parking (reservation is needed) was provided on site but it was just has single ramp going up and down (no dividers to separate the cars going up and going down), with a steep incline in some areas. Thus, at any one time, the ramp can only be used by cars going in one direction only (up or down) and there can be a lengthy wait while one is waiting for his or her turn to use the ramp. The very helpful and courteous parking area guards, however, patiently explain this method of parking to every single driver plus a traffic light system has been installed.

Elevator Lobby

The hotel, a 450 m. walk to SM City San Lazaro, is located 2.1 kms. From San Sebastian Church, 2.2 kms. From Quiapo Church, 2.4 kms. From Binondo Church, 2.5 kms. From Divisoria Market, 2.7 kms. From Malacanang Palace, 3.1 kms. from Lucky Chinatown Mall,  3.4 kms. from Intramuros,  4 kms. from Rizal Park, 4.6 kms. From Manila Ocean Park, 6.7 kms. From the Cultural Center, 7.1 kms. From Smart Araneta Coliseum, 7.9 kms. From Power Plant Mall. 8.2 kms. from Greenbelt Mall and 12.7 kms. from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  The Tayuman LRT Station is a 10-min. walk away.

Artwork at the hotel lobby

Its location, in Santa Cruz, makes it a great choice for travelers interested in budget-friendly travelling, tourist attractions and culturally diverse food.

The World's Finest Liquor

Winford Manila Resort and Casino:  Winford Leisure and Entertainment Complex, MJC Drive, Santa Cruz, Manila, 1014 Metro Manila.  Tel: (02) 528 3600.  Website:

Monday, 10 September 2018

Restaurant Review: Tatsumiya Asakusa (Tokyo, Japan)

Tatsumiya Asakusa

After our tour of Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa Shrine, plus shopping at Nakamise-Dori, we dropped by Tatsumiya for lunch.  They had photos of the food outside plus they had an English menu.  

Tatsumiya, opened in 1980, is a restaurant that's run like a formal ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurant focused on luxury) but does oppress the first-time visitor a little with the weight of their antiquity and the ceremonious formality of their service. Neither inaccessible nor outrageously expensive, here you actually have the feel of a rough-cut izakaya (Japanese pub). 

The restaurant interior

The restaurant, which can seat 54 patrons, had some Western-style tables but we chose to be seated in a traditional Japanese setting – removing our shoes and sitting in a stylish but comfortable horigotatsu, a type of traditional Japanese table that's low to the ground but has a recessed floor beneath it so that we can stretch out our legs. This allowed us to sit in a tatami area the same way we sat in a Western style.  

Most of the other patrons inside the restaurant were Japanese. The restaurant had a very traditional feel, with dark wood, and the rooms were decorated with antique chests, braziers, clocks, lanterns, bowls, utensils and craft work (some of it for sale). The fridge at the kitchen was full of big nihonshu sake bottles.

Cheska, Bryan, Kyle, Grace and Jandy seated horigotatsu style

Our waiter, who spoke fairly decent English, was very helpful. For lunch, we chose their smashing tempura special deal combo – Extra Special (2,580), Special (1,800) and Regular (1,480). Though slightly salty, this was, by far, some of the best tempura we’ve ever had.   They also serve unabu (steamed grilled eel on rice), hitsumabushi (chopped kabayaki eel on rice), sukiyaki set, sukiyaki bento box (sashimi tempura, sukiyaki, rice, miso soup and Japanese pickles), beef cutlet set (Kuroge wagyu), Edo-style little hot pot set (choice of beef, chicken, whale, tuna, sea bream, pork & yam), dojo (loach) hot pot set and yanagawa (loach and egg hot pot).

Tendo (tempura rice bowl)

Come evening, the restaurant’s cuisine follows the kaiseki repertoire, served only until 8:30 PM, which is derived from the tradition of the tea-ceremony meal.  Multiple courses are served, some raw, some boiled, some vinegary and some grilled. You must reserve ahead for it.  A variety of nabe (one-pot seafood and vegetable stews, prepared at your table) is served until 10 PM. The pork nabe is the house specialty. Their delicious dojo-nabe is another iconic dish from the Edo Period and famous in Asakusa. 

Tendon (tempura rice bowl)

A good place to have sukiyaki and Edo hot pot, overall, the restaurant was a decent place to experience Japanese food in a traditional setting. Nothing impressive or unique, but the food was good.

Western-style seating

Tasumiya Asakusa: 1 Chome-33-5 Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan.  Tel: +81 3-3842-7373.  Website: Open daily except Monday and 3rd Sunday of the month.

How to Get There: via subway - Ginza and Toei Asakusa lines, Asakusa Eki (Exit 1 or 3).