Agara Ramen: Fills the Tummy, Warms the Soul

If there is one thing I have been wishing to grow in number here in Baguio, that is for more ramen houses to open. Why? Well, hello! With Baguio’s perfect cold weather, having a bowl of hot ramen is what we need! Don’t you agree?

I am a self-confessed ramen person. I am fastidious with my ramen choices. I get easily disappointed if I learn that the ramen served looks and tastes like an instant noodle. My love for ramen is rooted in the fact that it is a culinary art – from the richness of its flavors, its aesthetics and the seemingly delicate techniques used on how they are prepared. A bowl of ramen holds a distinctive place in my tummy. When I slurp its soup and noodles, I feel the warmth filling my stomach, radiating happiness to my soul.I have always thought that Baguio’s weather is perfect for cafes and ramen bars/ restos. Unfortunately, we only have a few that serves really good ramen. I was delighted when Ramen Nagi opened but in the long run, one will feel burdened by the pricey cost of their ramen despite serving really good food. There are other Japanese restos here BUT the ramen they offer doesn’t come across authentic – taste most importantly.

So when I have heard of a new ramen bar (yes, it is a bar and not the usual resto) opening in my lovely city, Baguio, I got excited to try what they have to offer, hence I literally stormed my way one cold, foggy night. The place is called Agara Ramen, a 14-seater, industrial accented bar with a striking brick mural and tiled wall. Some people may have an impression that the place is a tad small in space but I think that is exactly what the owners have envisioned it to be (just like what most Japanese ramen bars are – small, intimate space for people eating ramen together).The menu of Agara Ramen is very straightforward. They offer 6 ramen styles. This includes the following:

  • Chuka Soba (a pork, chicken, fish, and vegetable broth noodles)
  • Tsukemen (a dipping ramen made with livestock, vegetable broth with soy sauce)

***These two are Agara Ramen’s menu flagship.

  • Tonkotsu Shio (sea salt base and pork broth) – if you like something light then this is for you.
  • Tonkotsu Shoyu (soy sauce and pork broth) – This I personally like.
  • Miso Ramen (strong pork miso soup) – My favorite. Because it is miso. I love anything miso.
  • Tantanmen (spicy pork broth soup in sesame seed paste) – Not my cup of tea, just because it is spicy.

Just like other ramen restaurants, you can also add tamago (Japanese soy sauce egg), chashu (braised pork belly), and/ or nori (seaweed). They also serve gyoza (dumplings) and karaage (fried chicken skin). All of these can be perfectly matched with a glass of Japanese barley tea (mugicha) or maybe a can of soda.My Agara Ramen experience was made more special because I got the chance to see how some of these ramen are prepared (and even eaten). The owner, Sir Ray Costa, gamely showed how it’s prepared. Please allow the photographs I took to further do the talking.As the weather here in Baguio becomes colder (and stormy), having a bowl (or two) of ramen is good way to quickly warm us up. I may just switch between ramen and some local noodles my brother makes (Ilocos miki). So if you are up for something “ramen-tic” belly-filling, and smile-inducing — a bowl of ramen goodness at Agara Ramen is what you probably need.

Agara Ramen is located at the Ground Floor of Rancho Guillermo Bldg. (beside Maybank), North Drive (where NBI’s entrance gate is), Engineers Hill, Baguio City. They are on their soft opening (grand opening will be on the 8th of September 2019). They are open from 11AM to 12MN (Monday to Thursday); and 11AM to 02AM (Friday to Sunday). You can also check out their social media accounts: fb.com/AgaraRamen (FB page), @AgaraRamen (both in Instagram and Twitter).So what are you waiting for? Fill your tummy, satiate your buds’ taste – “eats” a wonderful world after all. Take “eat” easy!

BADU: A Sumptuous La Trinidad Diner- Café (Benguet, PH)

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez

Most tourists/ visitors come to Baguio not only for its cool weather, but also for the various cafés and restaurants that offer palatine-satisfying cuisine. Nearby Benguet capital, La Trinidad, is frequented because of its famed Strawberry Farm. What most people do not know and recognize, is the fact that the region’s “salad bowl” is also home to an array of must try local eateries. Case in point is this very simple, yet gastronomically satiating diner – café along Km. 6 in La Trinidad, Benguet.badu7

BADU, may literally be translated as the local term for “dress”, however it is actually named after the owners surnames. This diner-café made its humble beginning in July 2016. One of the co-owners, Sir Abner Bayangan, enthusiastically talked about his eating place with a clear mission, and that is “to serve a 5-star menu to anyone and everyone at an affordable price”. It may sound too good to be true but one really has to pay them a visit and try the food they serve. Most of the meals in their menu are actually with a hint of Cordilleran flavor. Because of this, they have slowly attracted locals to come and dine their restaurant. They also boast off their signature cakes & desserts, and coffee & tea.

My friends and I were pretty fortunate that we have chanced upon Sir Abner in his food place. For me, the next best thing to eating food, is talking about it.  So, I personally love how passionate when the owner started sharing stories about BADU. So while waiting for our food to be served, we got the chance to know more about BADU. Aside from wanting to serve quality food at affordable prices, Sir Abner said that he wants BADU to be a place where people can spend time talking with each other, eventually starting a community, and remember happy moments.

BADU may not be as fancy looking as other cafe – restaurants within Baguio and La Trinidad, but its simplicity and the FOOD experience make up for it. Besides, investing on the grandiosity of a place can be superficial in the long run.

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Now on with the FOOD experience at BADU: As I have mentioned earlier, most meals and even pasta have a touch of Cordillera. In particular, the food we’ve tried has “kiniing”.

“KINIING” 101: According to “Slow Food for Biodiversity”, “kiniing” is a cured pork product made from meat obtained from locally raised native black pigs. To prepare the product, the lean parts of the meat are thinly sliced while guava leaves are first boiled in salted water. This decoction is removed from the fire, the guava leaves are removed, and the water is transferred into a container where the meat can be soaked for a few minutes. The use of guava leaves acts not only to scent the soaking water, but also creates a smell that drives away flies or other insects that might destroy the meat. It also helps to harden the meat.   Next, the meat is smoked over pinewood to help preserve it and add flavor. For tastier kiniing, the meat is hung in the “suuban“, the top of the clay stove used for daily cooking, for a month or two.

My personal verdict: Generally, all “kiniing” food were surprisingly good. I like how the kiniing blended well with the white, creamy sauce of their “Kiniing Alfredo Pasta”, the “Kiniing Poppers” (a local wine-infused kiniing) tasted really good, their signature meal called “Badu Rice” is definitely a hungry-man’s meal as it contains 3 different dishes (a Szechuan flavored pork dish, a stir-fried vegetable dish, and my favorite of the 3 – a kiniing-stuffed chicken cordon bleu). But from among the meals served, my taste buds would agree with my stomach that the “kinisig” – a kiniing-infused sisig was the star of the table.

And for dessert, we got to try an array of their saccharine delights. They have various ice cream cakes (in vanilla, chocolate, and matcha flavors). But the matcha cheesecake, ice cream cheesecake, and lemon cake all made me want to forget a possible surge in my blood glucose level. They were that good!

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It was a gastronomically delightful afternoon with new found friends at this modest place. Thank you to Sir Abner for sharing his place of love, bravery and community to us. Thank you for reminding us who also dream of owning a cafe/ restaurant someday, that putting up such business isn’t all about profit… that money will follow when we do things right. (Thanks too, to Momshie Sheryl of I am Storyteller for inviting me to join you). Shout out also to Chiki of Turistaboy, Relyn of Hello, Relyn, Demy, Shemen, and Sir Kurt (my pleasure to meet you all).

So, the next time you are in La Trinidad, whether you are there to visit the Strawberry Farm and Stobosa Houses, or climb Mount Jumbo and Mount Kalugong, drop by BADU and experience their food.

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BADU is located at the 3rd Floor of Amos Bldg., KM6 in La Trinidad. Your landmarks include the last gate of Benguet State University (this is the gate closest to its athletic/ playing area), and its walking distance from the entry point of the Strawberry Farm. You can also visit their website HERE.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

South Palms Resort Panglao (Bohol, PH)

Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard.

Sumptuous and Paradisiacal: Two words befitting to describe my visit at this prime Bohol resort in the island of Panglao called South Palms.

4South Palms Beach Resort is a 9.3 hectare tropical paradise within a 45-hectare spread of a beachfront property. I have to say it is one of the ultimate beach destinations in Bohol as it boasts off a beach with the longest coastline in Panglao. Unlike other beaches teeming with people, Bolod Beach of South Palms guarantees a relaxing leisure walk along its white sand-dotted shoreline, and enjoyable swimming in its azure to turquoise waters. Definitely PARADISIACAL!

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The resort rooms display local artistry, with utmost relaxation and a stunning view of the beach as footpath provides easy access to the lovely coast. Each of these tropically adorned rooms have AC system, a flat-screen TV, a personal safety cabinet, coffee-and-tea making amenities, and a private bathroom with toiletries and hot/cold shower facilities.

They also have a variety of luxurious recreational activities and facilities that range from ball games, different water activities (snorkeling, SCUBA diving), and even day tours to other Bohol spots. Truly an ideal place for family and friends!

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And, if you intend to come in group for a business meeting or a company outing, the beach resort is also a perfect venue as they also have conference rooms and function halls. While I was strolling along their beach area, I was thinking that it is a great area for team building.

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Another thing I like about South Palms is that they have their own restaurant. A seafood restaurant at that! I am a seafood lover so I may have a little bias here. Its resto is called Oceanica Seafood Restaurant that serves both local and international cuisines. It is an open restaurant meaning you have a wonderful view of the sea (and the pool) while you are eating. It is in close proximity to the resort’s pool bars (which offers a selection of refreshing drinks). Here are some of the really palatine-satiating food I have tried at Oceanica:

Manok Inato – a local dish of grilled chicken cooked in coconut milk with aromatic spices. First time to try this and my palate agrees that it is tasty! Then there is this “Gambas-al-ahilo”, a prawn delicacy that is both sweet and spicy. I am a seafood lover so yes, I love this one. Both dishes were a great match to my “inun-un” or crab meat rice. I also had a healthy and refreshing salad called “Watermelon Summer” salad made of lettuce, mango, and watermelon. I had cucumber lemonade for drinks, an all-time favorite drink of mine. So, it is safe to say that I really had a gastronomic experience at Oceanica. As I have said earlier, everything is SUMPTUOUS!

DSC_00743Other features of the resort include the following: a souvenir shop, an ATM, a spa, a gym, laundry service, and outdoor pools. Wi-Fi access is almost everywhere (even along the coastline, I love it!) There is a free public parking that doesn’t require reservation. It is good to know that they have a 24-hour front desk, a 24-hour room service, provides airport transfer and shuttle services (that is if you want to go to Alona Beach), and they even have currency exchange. I am also pleased to know that they have facilities for guests with disability.

 

South Palms Beach Resort Panglao is indeed a destination to keep in mind when in Bohol. I can even imagine it as a lovely setting for a romantic date or beach wedding

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Please refer to the images below for their rates and some promos:

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Old Orangewood BnB (Baguio City, PH)

The magic thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back. – Wendy Wunder

Baguio is, and will always be my favorite Philippine city. I mean who wouldn’t love the City of Pines? It seems that it never runs out of charm, well, besides the fact that a lot of people love it for its cool weather. Having spent a long time in this city, a lot of my people I know would consider me as the person to go to about places of interests, and of course, accommodation.

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So here is one homey and really cozy place I recommend called Old Orangewood Bed and Breakfast. Yes, it is an old house (one that is post WW2 I suppose) that is given a new look. And yes, it is an orange one. A hue that matches the entire vibe of this simple and laid-back home.

This once abode of a group of diverse Baguio foreigners now caters the growing population of Baguio tourists, travelers, backpackers, and even local who want to do a staycation in their own city. The house features old wood and stone pillars and which I like. I really have a soft spot for anything wooden. Since it is located at the backroads of Baguio’s main thoroughfare, it is spared from terrible traffic. Nonetheless, it is still within walking distance to the central business district and a jeepney away from most popular Baguio sites.

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It has 11 rooms of different sizes. Interesting to note that each room is named after famed landmarks and tourist attractions in the Cordillera (primarily in Baguio). Moreso, each of which has a distinct “personality”. The color of the room, the bed sheets and pillows, mural artworks by artist Kelly Ramos, and even some hand-crafted decors make each room unique. And did I mention that they also have a special playhouse for toddlers and young children that are just beside their café? Perfect while you have your coffee and at the same time, watching over your young.

So here is the current rate for each room (as of July 2017):

Name of Room # of Pax Off Peak Rate Peak Season Rate
Asin Hot Springs 4 – 6 3, 600.00 3, 800.00
Banaue 2 1, 600.00 1, 600.00
Burnham Park 8 – 10 650.00 /head 650.00 /head
Botanical 2 1, 600.00 1, 600.00
Camp John Hay 4 – 5 3, 600.00 3, 800.00
Kennon Road Rooms (1, 2, 3) 2 pax or solo 1, 100 (for 2) or 700 if solo 1, 100 (for 2) or 700 if solo
Mansion 3 – 6 3, 900.00 4, 000.00
Mt. Pulag 1 900.00 900.00
Sagada 2 – 3 2, 200.00 2, 300.00
Scout Hill 2 – 3 2, 200.00 2, 300.00
Session Road 2 – 4 2, 800.00 3, 000.00
Tam-awan 2 – 4 2, 800.00 3, 000.00
Wright Park 1 – 2 1, 600.00 1, 600.00

***Please do note that these rates are subject to change so it is best to confirm with them through the contact numbers enlisted below.

The Burnham Room is a dorm-type room wherein there are bunk beds.The Mt. Pulag room and the Kennon Road rooms are the rooms ideal for solo travelers/ tourists. The Botanical and Banaue rooms have 2 single beds while the Tamawan and Session Road rooms have 2 double beds. John Hay room has 1 queen-size bed and 2 single beds; Wright Park room has 1 King-Size bed; Sagada and Scout Hill rooms each have a double bed & a single bed. While the Mansion room, true to its name, has 3 double beds. Note that each room has its own toilet and bath except for the 3 Kennon Road rooms wherein T/B is shared. The T/B is equipped with a hot shower.

During my 2 night staycation here, I had the Mount Pulag room. I just love everything about it. It’s the topmost room so I get a beautiful view of the sunset during late afternoon, and some nightscape after sundown.

They do have a wi-fi. All rooms are inclusive of a daily breakfast, per person. It has a resident café called Hotcat Café where breakfast is served. Well, you can also opt to eat at their newly created dining area found at the back of the house. (By the way, if you intend to bring with you a private vehicle, they do have some parking space but let Sir Nic know about it in advance).

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Old Orangewood BnB’s house rules:

  • Check-in time is 2 PM, Check-out time is at 12 NN.
  • Extra mattress is Php450, inclusive of breakfast.
  • Laundry services are offered for a fee.
  • Flexibility on pricing can be discussed for a longer stay.
  • Breakfast is served between 6 AM and 10 AM only. (You can let them know your preferred time).
  • Rooms and extra beds must be paid before checking-in.
  • Pets are NOT allowed at The Old Orangewood.
  • Rooms will be cleaned only upon request.
  • Handle keys with care. Since there will be a fine for lost or damaged keys. Leave your room key at the front desk or keep it with you whenever you leave the premises.
  • Smoking is prohibited in the rooms or anywhere else in the house. There is, however, a designated area for smoking.
  • Conserve water by NOT running the faucets and showers unnecessarily and turn them OFF when not needed. Please report any signs of leakage or damage to water closets/appliance.
  • There is a QUIET TIME observed between 10PM-7AM. So refrain from shouting and running around in the common area.

FOR RESERVATIONS and INQUIRIES

Contact: 0928-970-7357 (Smart), 0956-645-2249 (Globe), 074-442-5060 or 074-244-9384 (landline)

Email: theoldorangewood@gmail.com

Location: 20 Gomez st., Lower P. Burgos, 2600 Baguio City, Philippines

You can also check their Facebook Page for promos. OLD ORANGEWOOD BnB

Shout out to Sir Nik, Mam Danette, their adorable daughter Lilu (who would come to me and have some really nice conversation), and her brother Noah for accommodating me with utmost warmth. And to all their uber friendly and helpful staff – keep it up! You truly add up more warmth to Old Orangewood BnB, and Baguio’s cool climate.

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So, the next time you look for a place to stay in Baguio, and you want some place totally relaxing and really homey, give The Old Orangewood Bed and Breakfast a try.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJUAN.

 

Sweet Stop (Baguio City, PH)

I am certain that I have a sweet tooth. And I like eating individually served desserts because I find it more fun to eat. I also love spending some time writing my thoughts, reading a book, or just allowing my mind to think about random things. And I love doing these things together a cup of tea or coffee.

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I recently discovered a small café along Session Road that presents all the good things I look for in a food nook. Sweet Stop along Session Road in Baguio City is my new favorite place to go to especially during the late afternoon. They offer a delectable range of the finely baked (and really affordable) goods, snacks and drinks. They also have all-day breakfast meals (which I yet have to try).

 

I personally love all the pastries I have tried especially their apple brownies, and green tea and strawberry cupcakes. (Well I have a very soft spot for anything matcha!) The butterscotch and cassava cake I have tasted also go well with whatever tea I chose to drink with.

From among their drinks, my palate agrees that the blueberry frappe is wonderfully thirst-quenching. I happen to have tried also their sardines pasta and I must say that anyone who likes their food spicy, must try this.

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I kind of like how simple everything is inside Sweet Stop. And it is a plus factor for me that it is located at La Azotea. Why? Spending some time at this dessert shop in the afternoon or early evening means being treated with free live music from a bar in the same building! Sweeeeet, ayt? (And did I mention that they have very polite and attentive staff? They do!)

 

So if you are in for some saccharine goodness that will satiate your palates’ cravings, stop in to taste what this café has to offer. Whether it is a “me time” on your part or you want the company of your friends or some family members, Sweet Stop is definitely a great stop!

Sweet Stop Baguio @ the Main Floor, La Azotea Building, Baguio City

Telephone Number: 423-3738/ 619-1229

Facebook: Sweet Stop Baguio

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Update: I got the chance to meet the very lovely owner of the cafe Ms. Theresa and her daughter, Andrea one afternoon. I have learned that they personally do all the baking! Now that is wonderful. Kudos for putting up this barely 3-month old, cozy cafe.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJUAN.

 

Vanilla Café (Baguio City, PH)

Since I left Baguio 2 years ago, more and more cafes and restaurants have sprouted in the City of Pines. Whenever I go home, I make sure to visit one of them. My previous stay led me to try Vanilla Café. Tucked in an unobtrusive place along Ignacio Villamor Street in Baguio City, lies this dining place that is being gradually recognized.

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My initial impression is that Vanilla (Bean) Café offers a homey, comfortable for those who would want to just hang out or those tired folks looking for something refreshing to the senses. With the café’s vividly decorated, pastel interior, anyone who enters this abode will surely be delighted. Ironic as it may sound, but I adore how inequitable everything viewed and that it actually made the cafe organized. I personally love the dining area outside where one can marvel at Baguio’s pine trees and smell the cool, fresh air. One’s palate will feel the excitement even more once they get to see the display of saccharine goodness – from cakes and other pastries. They also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Since I was alone, I can only order a meal that’s good for my tummy. With so many foods to choose from, it was a bit challenging as I wanted to taste all of them. In the end, I settled for a pasta called Spanish Armada (a linguine pasta with sardines, black olives my love, and egg – which by the way made everything in this pasta beyond palatine satiating to my taste), frozen strawberry shortcake for dessert (I am big fan of strawberries that is why I chose this), and a pot of warm Earl Grey tea. It was one, gastronomic meal!


I would definitely come back and try their other food offerings when I go home to Baguio. In the meantime, let the photos in this short write-up entice you to give them a visit. They are open as early as 6am until 12 midnight!

Vanilla Café
Kamiseta Hotel,, Ignacio Villamor St, Baguio, Benguet, Philippines
You can also check out Kamiseta Hotel as the café is its resident food place.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Let’s Eat: Gayuma ni Maria (Quezon City, PH)

Mischievous, inimitable, comfy – 3 words to describe this restaurant.

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Located at the tipmost part of Maginhawa Street in Quezon City is a quirky named restaurant called Gayuma ni Maria. It has become widespread for its outlandish interior. (The word “gayuma” means “love potion”). The menu is as eccentric as the restaurant’s theme. Every dish is named/related to love, commitment, desire and passion.

Here is a quick guide to their menu: (Photos uploaded here are those food that we have tried. I guess I have to go bac and try their desserts).

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Attraction – Appetizer

Tuliro – A nacho cheese dish with savory and yummy chicken/ pork flakes mixed in with …185.00

Forces – a fusion of “gayumatized” cheese, pesto and tomato spread served with garlic toast 105.00

Undress Me – Romaine heart salad with fruits with a choice of citrus vinaigrette, Balsamic vinaigrette, mignonette vinaigrette 185.00

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Courtship – Soup

Peek-a-Boo – Healthy, comforting yummy soup of creamy squash and just like your intentions: pure and authentic 125.00

Between the Sheets – Sandwich

Lumpiang Excited – Blushing pink lumpia wrapper encases a flavorful ubod filling with a sweet garlic sauce 120.00

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Commitment – Main Dish

Beef

Oh, Baby! – An affair so tender and sweet beef sirloin steak.  275.00

French Kissing – Ox tongue in a creamy mushroom sauce 265.00

Pork

Nilasing ni Eba si Adan – Pork belly slow roasted by herbs, apple and caramel brandy on the side with mashed potato. 275.00

Rock Me, Baby – Baby, you rock my world with this rack of BBQ pork ribs served with house-secret macaroni salad 265.00

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Seafood

Once You Go Black, You Never Go Back – Deep fried fish covered in chocolate and drizzled with home-made mango ketchup atop a hay of fries 255.00

Poultry

Chinoy in Seventh Heaven – Fried with a hint of Chinese spices seared with chinoy rice and taro fries 225.00

Please be Careful with My Heart – Half a chicken seared then slowl roasted in a concoction of garlic, lemon and herbs olive oil and garlic that’s perfect for the breast that needs a … 215.00

Come Fly with Me – Buffalo chicken wings with spiced sour cream dip 195.00

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Kabit (Add-Ons)

Plain Rice – 40.00

Garlic Rice – 50.00

Aligue Rice – 65.00

Mashed Potatoes – 55.00

Sweet Potato Fries – 50.00

Sautéed Vegetables – 50.00

Dirty Rice – 65.00

Pasta

No Boyfriend Since Birth – Shellfish with this perfect blend of pesto and cheese, who needs boys? Garlic pan de sal toasts. 225.00

Mi Amore – Perfect union of meaty Italian tomato sauce and spaghetti235.00

One Night in Paris – Cabernet Sauvignon beef stew on top of fetuccini noodles … 265.00

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Seduction – Beverage

Mango Margarita – 99.00/389.00

Baha sa Pag-Ibig – 99.00/389.00

Bayani Brew – 60.00

Softdrinks in Can – 50.00

Brewed Coffee – 75.00

Hot Tea – 65.00

Tsokolate – 75.00

Fruitshake – 85.00

Bottled Water – 35.00

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Temptation – Desserts

Beats Sex Anyday – Need we say more? Super moist chocolate cake. Just tell our servers if in fact it beats sex any day? 115.00

Twisted Pavlova – Named after the famous ballerina Pavlova who was known to be as light as a feather. Award Winning recipe merengue based cake will surely. 125.00

True Love – Double chocolate cake. Formerly known as broken promises because of popular demand we changed the name to True Love because they say they Gayuma-tized 115.00

This is the menu’s items and prices, as of May 31, 2015, may be subjected to change without notice. Service charge may apply.

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123 V. Luna Extension (Maginhawa st.) Sikatuna Village, Quezon City, Philippines
Phone: +63921-6818989; +632) 441-4872.
Email: gayuma.gourmet@gmail.com

Operating Hours: Open from 10 am -11 pm on Monday to Saturday and 10 am-10 pm on Sundays.