Holy week 2013: what’s closed and what’s open?

In a nutshell, almost everything is closed on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Except for some restaurants in Greenhills and Newport Mall, which is open on Thursday.
To see is to believe, so I went around looking for mall schedules online.
Aside from checking out your nearest mall, have fun looking at the different graphic designs :)

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf


Market! Market!
Open on March 28 and 29, 2013:
Moshi Koshi Noodle Boss, Seafood Island, North Park, Goodah!!!, Mini Stop, Café de Lipa

market market

Alabang Town Center

alabang town center

Eastwood Mall


Festival Mall

festival mall

Greenhills Shopping Center
Greenhills 2
Greenhills 1

Lucky Chinatown

lucky chinatown

Market! Market!




Power Plant Mall






For the expats
and for Pepper Lunch lovers


Estrel’s is not gold

A door greeter is someone who welcomes visitors and customers as they arrive at a restaurant, retail store, or other businesses. The greeter may also bid people farewell as they exit the premises.
Their job frequently calls them to provide answers to questions regarding store hours, merchandise location, and the like. But most of all they are supposed to make the customer feel welcome upon entering the store.

In Manila, we don’t really have greeters. We have security guards.
At S&R there are greeters and security guards, but their main purpose is to check your bag and your membership card.
Last week I was in Quezon City to take my son to a vision and hearing test required for school.
After the exam he wanted french fries and ketchup, so we made a quick drive through Jollibee.
I was still holding my pack of fries when I saw the sign Estrel’s from the car.
I had never seen the Estrel’s mothership, and the sign that said “Since 1946” made me very excited.
I told the driver to make a U-turn.


Estrel’s is a caramel cake I’ve come to know through dinner parties at home. Grace, who lives in QC, used to bring them until she had a bad experience after many years.
Estrel’s are the prettiest, daintiest cakes you’ll ever see. But I might add, they are prettier than they taste.
I think I like them more because they remind me of my grandmother’s simple, homemade cakes, God bless her.

Estrel's caramel cake

The thing with Estrel’s is you can’t just walk in, buy a cake and walk out.
There are rules: You have to order three days in advance, you have to pay a deposit. The rules are listed here.
That sounds fine to me, a would-be customer. What I didn’t appreciate was how the security guard greeted me.
It wasn’t a hi, hello, or good afternoon. Instead he said, “Anong sadya niyo?”
“What?” I said, clutching my bag and fries.
May pi-pickup-in ba kayo?”
Bawal yan dito,” he was eyeing my fries.
Ganon? Hindi ko naman kakainin dito.
I really didn’t want to throw the fries or walk away. I just wanted to see the store.

Normally you’re not allowed to eat in the supermarket or a clothing store for obvious reasons. But a cake shop that doesn’t even sell cakes to go??
I ignored the guard and pushed the door open. Once inside I saw the strangest cake shop scene of people behind desks taking orders from customers seated in front. No pretty cakes on display. Just desks, people, and papers.
Nobody greeted me. Nobody said, hi, may I help you? Nobody looked up and smiled. It had the warmth of a gestapo office.

So I left. On the way out I got myself a leaflet but not without telling the guard how I felt:
“Anong bang tinitinda niyo diyan? Ginto??”
I couldn’t believe what serious business it was to order an Estrel’s cake. No wonder Grace stopped bringing them.
I was so upset I started tweeting in the car.
Since presscons are all the rage in Manila (what with Kris Aquino and her sisters and Heart Evangelista’s parents), someone suggested I call a press conference to talk about Estrel’s.
Of course that sort of thing wouldn’t happen in real life, so I asked my sister Ana to draw me and my sisters in a presscon.
“Inapi ako ng guard sa Estrel’s! Huhuhuhu….”
My sister Diday is in the middle, my sister Ana, the artist is at right.
Makes you wonder how a place like Estrel’s has lasted since 1946 with this kind of service.

Grace Park opens at One Rockwell

Margarita Forés has a new baby—and it’s a not a new sibling for Amado.
A couple of years ago, when I heard Margarita was planning a new restaurant called Grace Park, my first thought was, I’m in.
Grace Park reminds me of something kitschy like Caloocan or a Korean student in Harvard Law School.
It turns out Grace Park refers to her paternal grandmother’s place in the former Elpo compound.

Grace Park
Work in progress: Grace Park at One Rockwell

Trivia: Elpo is a defunct brand of rubber shoes which belonged to Margarita’s family.
Short for El Porvenir, which means “the future,” it opened for business in 1933 and was popular for decades.
Back in the day, the impressive Elpo Compound covered two blocks on the 2nd and 3rd Avenues of Grace Park, Caloocan City.

Elpo shoes ad

In 2010, when Margarita brought her son Amado to study in the U.S. they took time out to dine in farm-to-table restaurants such as ABC Kitchen, Vinegar Hill House, and Joseph Leonard, where they came to know healthy, rustic food without much styling.
Her interest in organic and healing foods began when she battled and beat thyroid cancer in 2006.
Today she takes a glass of green juice every morning and looked ten years younger when I interviewed her last Friday.
This sensibility is reflected in Grace Park’s menu, offering organic juices, salads, and vegetables produced by local farmers.
The computer-printed menu, mounted on recycled corrugated board, was designed to change every two weeks—it all depends on what suppliers are offering.

Grace Park

We talked over a huge Grace Park OMG Burger, which I ate in layers.
I started with the top bun of delicious tiger bread. Underneath, bits of organic bacon over cheese and two beef patties, plus a side of salad, and chunky home fries.

Grace Park

On Sunday night I was back again with my family. I had the bone-in tenderloin with garlic buttered rice.
I don’t know what it is with Margarita’s steak and rice—I feel like Homer Simpson (bottomless pit).
This food makes me happy.

Bone-in tenderloin, Grace Park

My sister had the River Prawns in Anchovy Butter. It’s my first time to see prawns with massive heads, which should be great if you love prawn heads (read: bitin!).


Leave room for desserts developed by Margarita’s partner, Alvin Lim, such as the Key Lime pie and his famous cassava.


For starters, try Panzerotti, Mozzarella, Mortadella


The two-level loft was designed by Margarita with her cousin Jorge Yulo, who does her restaurants.
They made use of unfinished ceilings, unpainted walls, distressed floor planks, iron barricades, and gold-leafed bricks salvaged from old houses.

Grace Park
Grace Park
Grace Park

She keeps it sustainable by recycling old tables and chairs and bringing out the mismatched utensils, plates, and glasses from segunda mano sources.

Grace Park
Table setting

Don’t be surprised if they serve the fish straight on the frying pan.


Even the toilet is a surprise. (It also smells good.)

Grace Park

Soft-opened last March 21, 2013, Grace Park is still a work in progress.
The menu and interiors are still changing. Credit card payments are being fixed—so please bring cash.
The most expensive thing was probably the bone-in tenderloin I ordered. But everything else looks reasonable.

Grace Park is at One Rockwell, Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center Makati
Open 11 AM to 3 PM and 6 PM to 10 PM
Best to reserve. Pending PLDT and SMART connections*, guests can reserve via (0917) 513-8945.
To know more, go to Grace Park on Facebook.

*SMART: (0939)-93-GRACE • PLDT: 843-PARK (7275)

Trip to Solaire, Part 2

Aside from all the new restaurants plus a newly opened food court serving affordable fast meals, Solaire also has 488 hotel rooms (deluxe and grand deluxe rooms, suites) and bayside villas.
The reception counter is located inside the bustling lobby.


Nothing like a brand new hotel room, you can lie down on the carpet

Solaire Resort and Casino Manila

Bathrooms the way we like it—clean, simple, modern

Solaire Resort and Casino Manila

Let’s not forget what’s in the heart of Solaire—the casino.
Solaire Club offers high-limit tables and slots for VIPs who want to play big and win bigger.

Solaire Club

Photos were taken pre-opening. It was pretty busy the night we were there

Solaire Resort & Casino Manial

As you can see, they mean business

Solaire Resort & Casino Manial

If they cut corners, it sure didn’t show

Solaire Resort & Casino Manial
Solaire Resort & Casino Manial

As for the rest of the folks, there are many gaming options

Solaire Resort and Casino Manila
Solaire Resort and Casino Manila
Solaire Resort and Casino Manila
Solaire Resort and Casino Manila

To know more about Solaire, go to http://www.solaireresort.com/

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