Getting to Pangkor Laut Resort

Lately, it seems that beach holidays are the ‘in’ thing. Not wanting to miss out on the bandwagon, I booked a 3 day 2 night getaway to Pangkor Laut Resort for our 2nd anniversary. Yes, we’ve been married for 2 years now and it felt like forever. It was supposed to be a surprise to Saucer, so everything was planned discreetly, right up to the day of departure itself. I had informed him to make himself free for that particular 3 days, without letting him know where we were going to. Luckily for me, he’s not a curious person (unlike me!) and just followed my lead!

Pangkor Laut Resort

5-star Diamond Award

Now many people might mistake Pangkor Laut Resort (PLR) with Pangkor Island, the more well-known counterpart. In fact, they are two very different islands that happen to bear similar names. Pangkor Laut Resort resides in a private island, occupying the whole island on its own and making it exclusive only to the patrons of the resort. That is to say that the access to this island is only allowed to resort guests and no one else. On the other hand, Pangkor Island is open to public.

Pangkor Laut Resort

The Pangkor Laut Resort check in office in Lumut

After making the necessary reservations, we only had to make ourselves present at the check-in office at the stipulated time and let the resort staff take care of the rest. To get to PLR, one could either fly to Pangkor Island via Berjaya Air and take a boat to reach PLR, or one could drive, just like us. We drove to Lumut and parked our car at the multi-storey car park. The car park charged RM0.30/hour for every hour of the day, which meant RM7.20 for a full day of parking. From the car park, we made our way to the PLR check in office which was located at the corner unit of a shop house lot. Just look out for the signboard, it’d be quite hard to miss it.

Pangkor Laut Resort

Pangkor Laut Resort lounge in Lumut

Once we got our names checked and reservation confirmed, our luggage was taken care immediately and we were seated at the lounge area with glasses of welcome drink (sparkling Ribena, I suspect). We were there 20 minutes before the scheduled boat departure, so we had some time to read the newspaper and enjoy our welcome drink.

Pangkor Laut Resort

Towards the jetty

About 10 minutes before our scheduled departure, we were escorted by the staff to the jetty. For your information, the boat schedule is as follows:

  • From Lumut Jetty to Resort: 0800hrs, 1100hrs, 1300hrs, 1400hrs and 1700hrs
  • From Resort to Lumut Jetty: 0900hrs, 1200hrs, 1230hrs, 1500hrs and 1800hrs

Pangkor Laut Resort

Boats docked at the jetty

We took the 11am boat and before long, we spotted it coming from afar. The boat ride was comfortable as we did not meet with any big waves on our way there. Within 30 minutes, we already spotted the sight of the Sea Villas on stilts, pretty gorgeous really.

Pangkor Laut Resort

Our boat to PLR

Pangkor Laut Resort

Safety first

Pangkor Laut Resort

To Pangkor Laut Resort we go!

Pangkor Laut Resort

Mini lighthouse in the distance

Pangkor Laut Resort

A yacht in front of PLR’s jetty

Pangkor Laut Resort

The calm waters towards the resort

When we’re near the PLR jetty, we could observe how the waters were emerald green in colour and very calm. It gave us a sense of peace just by being there. Coupled with the fact that this resort is private, so we did not get the usual holiday crowd.

Pangkor Laut Resort

The lobby from a distance

I suppose what makes the trip to PLR so memorable is how hospitable the staff was, and how pampered we were. Right from the moment we checked in at Lumut, we were made sure that we’re comfortable and had everything we needed. And when we reached the PLR jetty, there was a group of resort staff standing by with cheery smiles, welcoming each of us individually as we stepped out of the boat. We felt like royalty! :)

Pangkor Laut Resort

The first sight of PLR

Pangkor Laut Resort

Walking towards the lobby

Once we reached the lobby, each couple was assigned to a personal escort. Our escort by the name of Ben was most cheerful and friendly, talking to us with a genuine warmth that made us feel at home immediately. He briefed us through on what was available at the resort, the activities, the restaurants and the facilities. He even helped plan our itinerary for the 3-day stay there. “It wouldn’t be just a boring beach holiday after all,” said the relieved Saucer.

Pangkor Laut Resort

The calm green waters

Pangkor Laut Resort

The jetty at PLR

Since our room was not ready yet, Ben took us for a short tour of the resort and showed us the gorgeous Sea Villas. Before long, it was time for lunch! And what perfect timing it was too, for it started to drizzle. Ah, that’s a story for another post. Til then, have a gorgeous Monday without the blues!

Pangkor Laut Resort

Saucer says Hi 😛

Pangkor Laut Resort

Welcome to Pangkor Laut Resort

Pangkor Laut Resort
Pangkor Laut Island
32200 Lumut,
Perak, Malaysia
Tel No: +603-2783 1000
E-mail: travelcentre@ytlhotels.com.my
Website: www.pangkorlautresort.com
GPS Coordinates: N 4° 11′ 58.76″, E 100° 32′ 46.92″

For the rest of my Pangkor Laut Resort experience, check out my Pangkor Laut Resort Itinerary.

That Little French Village

Situated just about 1 hour away from the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur in the town of Bukit Tinggi is this French-themed resort by the name of Colmar Tropicale, that is 2,700 feet above sea level. Inspired by the Colmar Village in France, this resort was built to look like a village when in fact, all the shop houses were really guest rooms, restaurants and amenities for the resort guests. It was our first time there and having reached just after noon, the place was warm even though it was on the hills.

Colmar Tropicale

Entrance to Colmar Tropicale, Berjaya Hills

Colmar Tropicale

The massive tower

Since our room was not ready, we took the opportunity to take pictures of the colourful buildings, and felt like we were in a foreign country. Well, that is, if you don’t look at the people around. :)

Colmar Tropicale

Towards the resort

Colmar Tropicale

A fountain that greets you just after the entrance

Colmar Tropicale

Koi pond

Many times we were told by friends that Bukit Tinggi was boring and that it wasn’t worth the time and effort driving up there. (The last 10km of the journey was actually rather winding.) But it really just depends on what your expectations are. Colmar Tropicale is a quiet and charming little resort, providing you the perfect place to relax, unwind, capture photographs and take in the fresh cool air. The village is actually quite small, just a few hundred metres long, so you would have walked the whole village to and fro within minutes.

Colmar Tropicale

French-themed design

Colmar Tropicale

Love the pink shutters of the rooms

What I would say though, is that this is a place with plenty of photography opportunities. The colourful village itself is an open studio with countless of possibilities, not to mention the surrounding landscape such as the koi pond and the mini waterfall nearby. If that is not good enough, take the complimentary shuttle from the resort to the Japanese Village.

Colmar Tropicale

Mini waterfall

Colmar Tropicale

Swimming pool

Colmar Tropicale

Photos in Colmar Tropicale

The shuttle comes and leaves every 10 minutes or so, so we didn’t have to wait long. Since it was a weekend, it was naturally quite popular with tourists and locals alike. During our visit, there’s a part of the road leading to the Japanese Village that was under construction, so we had to walk up the final stretch on our own. It took about 10 minutes, but the path was pretty steep. It’s advisable if you brought water along, something we wished we had. 😛

Colmar Tropicale

From the shuttle

Colmar Tropicale

Starting point of the walk up

Colmar Tropicale

The steep walk up

If you know Saucer well, you would have expected him to be grumbling all the way up, since he hated walking steep paths or steps. Thankfully, the walk didn’t last long and we saw the signboard that we’re really near the Japanese Garden. The second part of the walk was a hike through the tropical forest, where we were surrounded by gigantic trees that were probably more than a hundred years old. There was also the peaceful sound of water flowing from the stream and waterfall within the forest, making the walk that much more therapeutic.

Colmar Tropicale

The first Japanese Tea House in the tropical forest

Colmar Tropicale

Gigantic tree

Colmar Tropicale

Multi-tiered waterfall

Colmar Tropicale

Mini waterfall

Colmar Tropicale

Saucer didn’t look too happy 😛

Finally, we saw the sign of the tea house! There was an option to learn the Japanese tea ceremony here, but we were told that it’s not worth the RM28 price tag by the person in charge there. She suggested that we drink the tea from the Japanese restaurant nearby instead. 😛

Colmar Tropicale

The Japanese Tea House

On the other hand, she recommended that I rent the kimono yukata for photo-shooting around the forest. This was charged at RM20 for about half an hour. It was the first time I wore a yukata, what do you think?

Colmar Tropicale

Japanese for a day :)

Colmar Tropicale

Quite a challenge walking with small steps really

Colmar Tropicale

Trying to attract the koi’s attention

Colmar Tropicale

Colmar Tropicale

On the small bridge

Colmar Tropicale

One of Saucer and his pebbles :)

By the time we’re done with Japanese Village, it was past 3pm and our room was ready. Even though I booked for a Superior Room, I was upgraded to a One-Bedroom Suite since they were our of King sized beds for the former type. The room was huge! It had a living area, a dining area, a bedroom, a dressing area and a large bathroom too. In fact, it was too big that it gave us a hollow and empty feeling when we entered.

Colmar Tropicale

The balcony

Colmar Tropicale

Living area

Colmar Tropicale

Kitchen and dining area

Colmar Tropicale

Another view of the living area

Colmar Tropicale

Four-poster bed in the bedroom

Colmar Tropicale

View from our room

Colmar Tropicale

Bathroom

Colmar Tropicale

Bathtub and basin

To get a view of the size of Colmar Tropicale, we went to the end of the street and took the elevator to the highest level. It was quite a sight, really.

Colmar Tropicale

The whole of Colmar Tropicale

For dinner, where else did we have if not for the one and only French restaurant there? La Cigogne is the most popular and expensive restaurant around, but if you compare the prices with the fine-dining restaurants in KL, it is still pretty reasonable. Furthermore, the other dining options in Colmar are not exactly cheap, with most restaurants averaging around RM20+ per main course.

Colmar Tropicale

La Cigogne

Colmar Tropicale

Romantic ambience

The dining environment was romantic with dim, orange lighting and French music playing in the background. Service was impeccable too, intuitive and attentive. Our glasses of water were never empty, and our plates were only cleared when we’d completely finished our meals or when we asked them to. Dinner started with complimentary roll and butter, served warm with a crispy crust.

Colmar Tropicale

Bread and butter

Colmar Tropicale

Red wine (RM22)

My order of Escalope came with salmon, shrimps and a plump scallop. The most commendable part was the salmon, which was pan fried to perfection. The skin was aromatic and crispy, while the flesh was oh-so-smooth and flaky it melted in my mouth!

Colmar Tropicale

Escalope of Salmon, Prawn and Scallop (RM48)

As for Saucer’s Grilled Prime Rib Eye, it was a little overcooked even though we asked for medium doneness. I thought the cut was too thin, so the edges especially, were all well done. Thankfully the middle portion was still pinkish, the little saving grace for this dish. That, and the fact that this went well with red wine. :)

Colmar Tropicale

Grilled Prime Rib Eye Steak (RM48)

We enjoyed the dessert the most, even though the price could be a little steep for such a small portion. The Chocolate Fondant was served hot to the palate with that unmistakable cocoa aroma that’s just begging to be devoured. Couple the melting hot chocolate with the freezing vanilla ice-cream and you’d never go wrong. Never.

Colmar Tropicale

Chocolate Fondant (RM22)

At night, the street was all lit up, making it ever so romantic. Not to forget was the cool temperature once night came, hovering around 24C, it was natural air-conditioning. :)

Colmar Tropicale

Streets at night

Colmar Tropicale

Faceless man

If you’re lucky and get clear skies, you might even be able to spot the bright and shining city far away in the clouds, the one we call Genting Highlands.

Colmar Tropicale

Is that UFO in the sky?

Colmar Tropicale

Night view of Colmar Tropicale, Berjaya Hills

At night, there’s really not much to do in Colmar Tropicale. One could either take a walk up and down the street (something you must have done dozens of times before by then :P) or watch the TV in the room. If all else fails, sit down, enjoy the cool weather, watch the stars and take a deep satisfying breath. There’s nothing like cool fresh air up in the mountains.

Colmar Tropicale

The Chateau

The next morning before we left, we drove past The Chateau, one of the latest Spa & Organic Wellness Resort in Bukit Tinggi. It was not open to public so we could only take a picture from outside. Look at how grand it is!

Colmar Tropicale

Doesn’t The Chateau remind you of a fairy tale castle?

So if you ask me, is Bukit Tinggi a boring place to go? If you’re someone adventurous who expects a vacation to be filled with activities and fun things to do, then yes it’s boring. But if you’re looking for a weekend retreat to relax and immerse yourself with cool weather and fresh air, then this is the place for you. Never forget to admire the nature’s beauty even if it’s just clear blue skies. :)

Colmar Tropicale

Goodbye Bukit Tinggi, I’ll miss your blue skies

Getting there: If you don’t fancy driving up, there’s a shuttle operating from Berjaya Times Square that departs to Colmar Tropicale daily. For more information on the schedule and price, check out their website.

Colmar Tropicale, Berjaya Hills
KM48, Persimpangan Bertingkat Lebuhraya Karak,
28750 Bukit Tinggi, Bentong,
Pahang, Malaysia
Tel No: +609-288 8888
Fax: +609-288 3333
Email: sales@colmartropicale.com.my
Website: www.berjayahotel.com/berjayahills/index.asp

Sneak Peek: Where were we?

Good morning Thursday! I have been meaning to write about our trip to this place up in the mountains since a month ago, but there’s just always something else that came up. Here are some pictures taken from that trip, but I’m sure you would be able to guess where this was once you saw them. It’s a no-brainer! :) Anyway, while I wait for the rest of the 100++ pictures to be uploaded, here are some teasers. Remember, you’ve not seen the last of them yet!

Colmar Tropicale

The picture that gave it away 😛

Colmar Tropicale

“Do you have food for me?”

Colmar Tropicale

Peek-a-boo!

Stay tuned for more pictures very soon! :)

Take Me Home, Country Road

A weekend getaway. A retreat. A private estate. A place I can call home. It was during the weekend that we took a one hour drive to the village of Janda Baik, through the winding and narrow country road, to be immersed in the beauty of nature that is Aman Rimba. To say that I was impressed would have been an understatement, for I was blown away to know that there is a 5-star class resort tucked in the middle of a laid-back kampung. Once we parked our car, someone came out from the reception area with a huge warm smile, welcoming us to this gorgeous estate. Following closely behind, another sweet lady was bearing a warm towel and a cold cucumber drink, for us. What did I tell you? I felt at home.

Aman Rimba

Towards Aman Rimba

Situated merely an hour’s drive away from the bustling metropolitan of Kuala Lumpur, Aman Rimba is nestled within the hills, the river and the natural tropical beauty to offer the essence of kampung life and serenity to those who seek it. The idea of starting a private estate came about from the wonderfully hospitable couple of Sabri and Wati. Both of them hailing from kampung, they wanted to preserve the rustic lifestyle and the safe haven that a kampung offers, to pass on to their children. Armed with an empty piece of 3-acre land, they built a suite after another, starting with the main wooden house with a room. They used this place as their weekend sanctuary, to relax, swim in the nearby river or even to have BBQ parties. Later, when the children grew up, they started bringing friends, and more people started to fall in love with this place. The rest, as they say, is history.

Aman Rimba

Aman Rimba Private Estate

The concept of Aman Rimba is selling privacy. The whole estate consists of 6 suites that can accommodate up to 20 persons.

“The entire 3-acre estate is your private home for the entire stay. We dedicate the entire place for you and your group and no strangers will be allowed in. All the 6 suites and all the facilities are only for you and your group to use.” – from the Aman Rimba website

If that is not privacy, I don’t know what is.

Aman Rimba

Reception area

The Suites

1. Sireh

Sireh is the first ever suite to be built in Aman Rimba. It is also the one that retains the most charm, from its structure on stilts, to the wooden walls and the antique decorative items within, it certainly defines kampung-living with style. It’s obvious that much thought has been given on every detail within the house. The four-poster bed is romantic and modern, while the living area is traditional and comfortable, with wooden furniture playing the main role. If you’re bored, get a book from the nearby shelf, or lie down on the comfortable couch just next to the window while listening to the birds chirp. It’s hard not to love this house.

Aman Rimba

Sireh House

Aman Rimba

Sireh – House on stilts

Aman Rimba

The cosy living area

Aman Rimba

A day bed for siesta

Aman Rimba

Books around the house

Aman Rimba

Four-poster bed

Aman Rimba

Shower under the sky

2. Serai

Situated merely a few footsteps away from the cafe is Serai, a standalone house that is surrounded by nature and has an outdoor shower to boot. They said this is the ‘old man’s home’ because it’s just so near to everything, one can practically roll out to the dining area. :)

Aman Rimba

Entrance to Serai House

Aman Rimba

Four poster bed in Serai

Aman Rimba

Comfortable couch

3. Halia & Kunyit

Our home for that night was at Halia, a quaint suite that can sleep up to 4 persons. There’s a four-poster double bed and another pair of twin beds, presumably for the children. What I love about this suite was how it’s surrounded by so many windows! They certainly helped to keep the room temperature low, and we did not even need to turn on the air-conditioner to sleep that night. Just next to Halia is another suite called Kunyit, which has a similar bed configuration. In all the suites, there’s a shower with an open ceiling. Certainly gives a new meaning to showering under the stars, don’t you think so?

Aman Rimba

Halia House

Aman Rimba

Double bed in Halia

Aman Rimba

Twin beds for the kids

Aman Rimba

Shower with an open ceiling

4. Kantan 1 & 2

Last but not least, a huge bungalow that’s situated in the deepest part of the estate is where Kantan 1 and Kantan 2 are. These two suites can be combined into one big unit or they can be separated via a partition in the middle, creating two standalone suites that can sleep up to 4 persons each. This majestic suite has a patio where one can sit back and chill out next to the pond, a huge living area with an LCD TV, a bedroom with a gorgeous 4-poster bed, a washroom with 2 wash basins and a bathroom with jacuzzi! What more can one ask for?

Aman Rimba

Kantan 2 entrance

Aman Rimba

Patio facing the pond

Aman Rimba

Living room

Aman Rimba

Day bed

Aman Rimba

Double bed in Kantan

Aman Rimba

Bedroom in Kantan

Aman Rimba

Who says we can’t brush our teeth together?

Aman Rimba

Jacuzzi

The Food

During our 2day-1night stay, we were spoiled with delicious food by the resident chef imported from Kelantan Delights restaurant. Staying in a kampung environment, what better way to feast other than with kampung food? We stuffed ourselves silly with Ayam Masak Hitam (black sauce chicken), Pucuk Paku (wild ferns), Sup Tulang and Sambal Machang, among others. The most memorable dish has to be the Sambal Machang, made from freshly plucked machang fruit from the orchard no less. This fruit bears resemblance to mango and has a pungent, tarty flavour that is perfect to be made into sambal together with spicy chillies. This sambal was delicious even with just white rice.

Aman Rimba

The coffee house – our dining area

Aman Rimba

Free flow of beverages and mineral water all day long

Aman Rimba

Lunch on Day 1

Aman Rimba

Delicious ayam masak hitam

Aman Rimba

Sweet golden kiwi – my new love!

During dinner, we had the Korean BBQ and Steamboat, in the company of Michael Buble’s concert playing in the big projector screen. Yes, the dining environment was rather sensational, not to mention the really cool temperature at night, circa 22 degrees C.

Aman Rimba

Korean BBQ & Steamboat for dinner

Aman Rimba

Michael Buble entertaining us on the big screen

The next morning, we were treated with a breakfast feast consisting of nasi lemak, the local favourite, breads, pastries as well as cereals. Oh, don’t forget the egg station on standby too, ready to prepare whatever eggs you want them to.

Aman Rimba

Breakfast

Aman Rimba

Breads, pastries and cereal to your heart’s content

Aman Rimba

Omelette station

Aman Rimba

Freshly fried omelette

Aman Rimba

Lunch on Day 2

Aman Rimba

The legendary Sambal Machang

While we were all lazing away, chatting and catching up, Saucer went to try his luck at fishing. The poor boy was standing under the sun for quite some time, complaining about the heavy fishing rod made from a long tree branch. But he persevered, oh yes he did. And it paid off!

Aman Rimba

Happily fishing away

He ended up with a catch of catfish in the end, just in time for lunch. :)

Aman Rimba

Hard work paid off!

Aman Rimba

Freshly caught catfish

Activities

Enough about the rooms and food in Aman Rimba, what about the facilities? Tucked in the middle of nowhere, what is there to do really? Well, if lazing around so close to nature is not enough, there are plenty of activities offered in Aman Rimba itself. For starters, take a dip in the swimming pool in the centre of all the suites, or take a nap in the cute hammock.

Aman Rimba

Dip in the pool or snooze in the hammock

Aman Rimba

Take a guess, what’s this room?

Aman Rimba

Back to nature

Otherwise, spend a couple of hours in the game room, completely walled with glass so it feels like you’re playing in the middle of a jungle. There’s a pool table, a foosball table, Nintendo Wii video game and board games at your disposal. Saucer and I spent quite a lot of time during the evening, playing with the Wii. We had a friendly match in bowling, tennis and even golf! It was quite fun. At night when everyone was already asleep, we also had a hand at the pool table.

Aman Rimba

The game room

Aman Rimba

Pool table

Aman Rimba

Foosball

Aman Rimba

Bowling with Nintendo Wii

The next morning after breakfast, we took a stroll down the estate and out to the surrounding area, to smell the flowers, literally. You’d be amazed at how gorgeous nature is, if you only take some time and pay attention to the wonders of it all. The colourful flowers, the buzzing bees, the rushing water – ah, it’s a completely different world from the city.

Aman Rimba

A walk to the garden

Aman Rimba

Hibiscus

Aman Rimba

What’s this yellow flower?

Aman Rimba

Spot the bee

Aman Rimba

The calm pond

Aman Rimba

Lonely white goose

Aman Rimba

“Apa khabar?” – How are you? is his favourite phrase

Located directly in front of the estate is a river with freezing cold water, flowing gently down a slope – perfect for a dip under the hot afternoon sun.

Aman Rimba

3 guys in blue

Otherwise, you can do what Kenny does best – read.

Aman Rimba

Read a book or two

Aman Rimba

Talk and laugh away with Ciki

When you have done everything you can think of doing here, just follow Motormouth’s lead and do nothing.

Aman Rimba

Signing the guest book

Aman Rimba

Sungai Benus

Needless to say, it was a much-needed weekend that rejuvenated and revitalized our body, mind and soul. To think that such a retreat exists merely an hour away from the city is almost too good to be true. Waking up to the sounds of birds chirping, sleeping with the doors unlocked, swimming in the river without a care in the world – it was all so very kampung, so very comforting.

Aman Rimba

Spot the arrow!

To get here, you can follow the GPS coordinates below, or use Klinik Desa Janda Baik as your landmark then follow the signboards from there. Be careful with the signs though, there was one with a red arrow that was quite hard to spot!

Aman Rimba

Take me home, country road

With such amazing service, quality and environment, it’s no wonder that Aman Rimba is now fully booked on all weekends until the middle of next year! For a weekend of celebration, a weekend privacy or even a weekend of solitude, this is the place for you.

Aman Rimba

Aman Rimba entrance

Estate rental starts from RM5,500 per night for up to 20 persons. Thanks to Chris for arranging such a rewarding weekend experience and to Wati and Sabri for their hospitality.

Aman Rimba Private Estate
Kampung Janda Baik
Contact No.: +6012-232 3071 / +6017-244 9646
Email: wati@amanrimba.com
Website: www.amanrimba.com
GPS Coordinates: 3° 19’41.47″N 101° 51’46.12″E

The Charm of Juanita

Juanita – this name has always fascinated me. Apart from the fact that it reminds me of Desperate Housewives :), it is also, to me, a name that represents a strong woman, someone who is determined in achieving her goals, yet does so in an elegant and gracious manner. How will that translate when Juanita is named for a cafe then? I will never know, but my dinner at Cafe Juanita Pasig, in Manila, is one hell of an experience that I will remember for a long time to come.

Cafe Juanita

The Manila traffic jam during a rainy day

Situated at the end of a row of shop houses, customers may have difficulty finding the entrance, as it is located to the side of the restaurant, through a small door. But once we’re in, lo and behold, we were swept away by the elaborate decoration in the charming restaurant. Plenty of chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling, soft dim lights and colourful lamps and lamp stands all around the restaurant. It almost seemed mystical not to mention eclectic.

Cafe Juanita

Filipino-Spanish inspired decor of Cafe Juanita

Cafe Juanita

 Plenty of chandeliers

Cafe Juanita

Some of the hanging lamps

We were there for our final dinner in Manila before returning to Malaysia the next morning. Our gracious friend wouldn’t let us leave before trying out authentic Filipino dishes, how could we?

Cafe Juanita

Table setting at Cafe Juanita

I was recommended to order the Atis Juice, apparently a nice and sweet tropical fruit in Philippines. Truth be told, I had no idea what Atis was, and our friend’s description didn’t ring any bell. I thought I was taking a risk by ordering it, but when it came and I took a sip, I instantly knew what it was – Sugar Apple! Wait, perhaps I should have added more exclamation marks to that sentence, because I absolutely adore sugar apple! It’s a fruit that my grandma used to by for me when I was little, and I loved to suck on the sweet and creamy flesh before spitting out the black seed. Now, I don’t have to worry about the seeds since all the flesh was extracted out into a glass of juice – what’s not to love? Extremely delicious and refreshing too especially when it’s served cold.

Cafe Juanita

Atis Juice / Sugar-Apple – very good!

Sugar_apple_on_tree

Atis / Sugar Apple fruit (source)

Our first dish was Crispy Lapu-Lapu, also known as red grouper fish. It’s the first time we had grouper fish fried this way, with all the parts chopped up into pieces, including the fish head. I am very particular when it comes to deep-fried food, because I’d worry if the batter is too thick. Thankfully, they didn’t not overdose on the batter here. Each piece was lightly coated with flour and fried to perfection, while maintaining the moist fish fillet within. Best of all, it was also not overly oily – a bonus point for being somewhat health conscious. :)

Cafe Juanita

Crispy Lapu-Lapu / Red Grouper Fish

The next dish was my favourite of the night, hands down. What appeared to me as Pork Knuckle was known as Crispy Pata over there, which essentially meant the same thing. Regardless of what it’s called, this dish had the most amazing crispy skin that I’d ever tasted before. Each bite was accompanied with a loud crunch first, then followed by juicy and tender meat within. I really wonder how they do it – the meat inside was so tender until it fell off the bone effortlessly, yet the skin was so crispy. I don’t know about you but most of the time when I encountered crispy skin, it would also mean that the meat within had a tendency to be dry and rough due to the excessive frying. But this, this proved me wrong. Very well done!

Cafe Juanita

Crispy Pata / Pork Knuckle

Kare-Kare was the only dish with vegetables that we ordered, apparently also a specialty of Filipino cuisine. It was actually Oxtail and Vegetables in Peanut Sauce and it turned out to be pretty delicious. The sauce resembled very much to our own Satay peanut sauce, except that it was more milky. The oxtail was extremely tender, while the generous amount of vegetables within made this a rather wholesome dish. Very good with white rice too!

Cafe Juanita

Kare Kare ni Juanita / Oxtail and Vegetables in Peanut Sauce

Last but not least, our friend recommended for us to try the Special Cassava Cake, a local dessert in Philippines. Since it came with the tag of ‘Special’, how could we resist? The cassava cake was served with cheese on top and drizzled with caramelized sugar on the side. The texture of the cake was very similar to the Tapioca kuih bingka that we have in Malaysia, except that it’s a little softer and a lot more sweeter due to the addition of caramel on the side. This portion was good enough to be shared by 3 persons since it was quite rich and could be rather cloying if we had too much.

Cafe Juanita

Special Cassava Cake

Cafe Juanita

Staircase to the Mezzanine floor

Needless to say, our final dinner in Philippines was far from disappointing. It was, in fact, very memorable in a good way, plus we could not stop ourselves from being in awe with all the chandeliers decorating the place. The ambience was simply romantic and peaceful, it makes one want to stay on for a nice long chat over a good cup of coffee after dinner. If we ever return to Manila, we’ll definitely be back!

Cafe Juanita

Cafe Juanita

Cafe Juanita in Pasig
#19 West Capitol Drive,
Barrio Kapitolyo,
Pasig City, Metro Manila,
Philippines

Tel. No.: +632-632 0357

Antonio’s Garden Restaurant – Top 5 Restaurant in Asia

Whenever I mentioned to friends that I went to Manila, one of the most asked questions was “Did you try balut?” and my answer was a disappointing “No”. It’s not because I did not dare to do it, mind you, but our schedule was really packed that I only had the final day to look for balut, to no avail. :( On the bright side though, I managed to dine in the Top 5 Best restaurant in Asia (according to the Miele Guide) at Antonio’s Garden Restaurant, Tagaytay.

Antonio's

Entrance to Antonio’s

It was right after we witnessed the amazing Taal Volcano from Tagaytay that we were told that we would have French cuisine for dinner. The route to Antonio’s passed through a long and narrow road lined with houses upon houses, so much so that we kept slowing down and wondering if we had missed a turning along the way. It didn’t help that it was dark at night, with the rain just subsided earlier on. We continued driving anyway and looked for the occasional signboard that showed us the direction to Antonio’s. And then we saw it. Hidden in the midst of houses and what appeared to be a mini jungle, was a huge bungalow with a tall iron gate, closed. It was only after we mentioned that we had a reservation that the gate was opened to let us drive in. Yes, apparently they do not let you in unless you’ve made prior reservation.

Antonio's

Huge dining area of Antonio’s

Parking was complimentary, just at the compound of the bungalow. We walked to the majestic colonial building with high ceilings and were shown to a table just by the garden. Best of all, being located at a higher altitude, the place was cool and breezy, naturally. The temperature was perfect even without a fan or air-conditioner. We enjoyed the complimentary bread and butter first, served warm with hard crust and soft bread.

Antonio's

Complimentary bread and butter

Antonio's

Lemon-infused water

The menu was only one page, and we were told that only set menu was available that night. The set came with a House Salad, Soup of the Day, a choice of Entree, Dessert and Coffee/Tea. The price of the set was determined by the choice of entree. What made Antonio’s unique was that they try to use fresh produce as much as possible. The House Salad, for example, used vegetables grown in their own farm in the garden. We could taste the crispy freshness of the green leaves, the sweetness of cranberries and the sprinkling of glazed walnuts, giving this such a wholesome combination. I never thought salad could be this good.

Antonio's

House Salad – farm fresh mesclun

The Soup of the Day was carrot soup with a nice foamy top, sprinkled with chunky croutons. It was exceptionally smooth and sweet, with a nice velvety touch due to the addition of foam on top. The chunky and crispy croutons were just that – chunky and crispy, even after being soaked in the soup for a while. Lovely.

Antonio's

Soup of the day

Antonio's

Creamy and smooth

Antonio's

What are these for?

Of course, the main star of the night was our entree, Grilled Certified Angus Prime Rib eye Steak rubbed with Cardamom and served Antonio’s Steak Sauce. Just look at the 700g piece of gorgeous meat! It was definitely more than enough for 2 persons, not to mention we got to choose 2 side dishes as well. The piece of glorious meat was done medium, with the insides still pink and juicy but not entirely bloody. What was even more lovely was the charred exterior of the steak that gave out an irresistible aroma – literally salivating! When you cut inside, the contrast of the bright pink meat was such a welcoming sight that one could not resist biting into it right away.

Antonio's

Grilled Certified Angus Prime Rib eye Steak rubbed with Cardamom

Antonio's

Side dish: Antonio’s Black and Green Olive Rice

The outer layer of the rib eye was lined with a thin layer of fat that melted in my mouth, blending together with the tender meat to give it a sort of juicy bite. I’d never had steak this tender nor juicy before, and the taste of cardamom was distinctive but not overpowering, bringing the steak to soar new heights. Both Saucer and I agreed, it was the best steak we’d tasted in our lives! And both of us polished the 700g slab of meat clean, wishing there was room for more. :)

Antonio's

Medium cut rib eye steak

The huge piece of steak had both of us filled to the brim, but as they say, there’s always room for dessert! While waiting for desserts, we all had our choices of coffee or tea. I chose tea since I’m the type of person who can’t sleep after coffee at night.

Antonio's

Hot tea

Our dessert started with the Dark Chocolate Souffle with Cardamom Creme Anglaise. Served hot and sprinkled with icing sugar on top, the aroma of this dessert was the strongest of all, making us hungry all over again. The souffle was light, chocolatey and not overly sweet. Coupled with the rich and smooth creme anglaise, the combination was just heavenly. Fluffy, moist and simply decadent – we agreed that this was our favourite dessert that night.

Antonio's

Dark Chocolate Souffle

Antonio's

Creme Anglaise on chocolate souffle

My choice of dessert fell short comparatively, I ordered the Chocolate Mint Parfait, which was served cold and decorated with a mint leaves on the side. Only the outer layer was mint-flavoured, with the interior was filled with rich chocolate parfait, with a very smooth and dense texture. Too dense and rich, in my opinion, that we had problem finishing this.

Antonio's

Chocolate Mint Parfait

Our dining partner Aubrey, chose Felchin Maracaibo Chocolate Terrine with Double cream and Roasted Pistachio, and it looked like a piece of foie gras pate to me, don’t you think? :) I thought the chocolate terrine tasted pretty similar to the chocolate parfait, except that this had probably a harder and denser texture, something in between the texture of chocolate bar and parfait. Truthfully, at this point we’d had too much chocolate to stomach for the night.

Antonio's

Felchin Maracaibo Chocolate Terrine with Double Cream and Roasted Pistachio

At the end of the dinner, we were all more than satiated with the amazing food from Antonio’s, coupled with the cool ambience and of course, how could I miss out the wonderful company of our friends from Manila. It was thanks to them that we were introduced to perhaps the best restaurant in Philippines if I might say so.

Antonio's

Us with our friends from Manila

Antonio's

Picture taken at the garden

Dining in such a fine restaurant would usually burn a big hole in the pocket, but our set of rib eye steak (for 2 persons) came to 4,900 pesos (~RM350), which included salads, soups, desserts and tea for two, so I thought it was quite a good deal compared to many other restaurants which charge much higher but were less impressive. It is no wonder this restaurant is listed as the 5th Best Restaurant in Asia in 2010/11, we certainly hope  it will go up next year! Better still, if dining in this restaurant can be included in all inclusive holidays packages, it will be icing on the cake. :)

Antonio's

Room filled with pictures

Antonio's

Antonio’s Garden Restaurant, Tagaytay

Antonio’s Garden Restaurant
Purok 138, Barangay Neogan,
Tagaytay City, Cavite,
4100, Philippines
Contact No: +63 46 413 0975 / +63 917 899 2866
Email: antoniosfarm@yahoo.com
Opening Hours: 11am – 2pm & 5.30 – 8.30pm daily except Mondays
Website: www.antoniosrestaurant.ph